Tolkien Re-read Part II: The Fellowship of the Ring (Chapters 4-5)


Welcome back! Last time on the Tolkien Re-read, Gandalf went MIA, so Frodo, Sam and Pippin began their journey to Crickhollow without him; Black Riders (aka Ringwraiths, aka my favorite dark and nasty things) were hunting Frodo; and our little hobbit trio ran into a traveling company of Elves led by Gildor Inglorion.

Previous posts for the Tolkien Re-read (including my re-read of The Hobbit) can be found here.

A quick note: I’m reading from the Houghton Mifflin movie tie-in hardcover from 2001, but the text should match Del Rey’s more recent tie-in edition (pictured right). Each post will cover one or two chapters and include footnotes of useless trivia that you can read or ignore at your discretion—they’re mostly there to contain the worst of my nerd-babble. Also, there might be spoilers ahead. For the most part, the posts will keep in time with the chapters I’m discussing from The Fellowship of the Ring, but I can’t guarantee I won’t geek out about related things from later in the trilogy or elsewhere in Tolkien lore. If you’ve at least seen the movies, it won’t be a problem, but I shall do my best to avoid spoilery content for the sake of the uninitiated

The Fellowship of the Ring – Book I

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
     Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
     One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
     One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
     One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Chapter 4: A Shortcut to Mushrooms

When the hobbits awake the next morning, there is no sign of Gildor and his Elves. There is, however, fruit and bread left behind for them. While eating breakfast, they make plans for the next leg of their journey—essentially, get to Bucklebury as quickly as possible. There’s some concern that they might encounter the Black Riders again, which leads Pippin to pester Frodo with questions about whether or not he learned anything about them from Gildor.

Favorite Quote Break!

Frodo: [Leave] me in peace for a bit! I don’t want to answer a string of questions while I am eating. I want to think!
Pippin: Good heavens! At breakfast?

Since Frodo is being a grump, Pippin wanders off for a bit. While he’s gone, Frodo and Sam begin talking about the upcoming journey. Frodo thinks he should go alone, since it’s become so dangerous, but Sam refuses to let him do so. Apparently, back when Frodo was talking with Gildor, some of the other Elves told Sam, “Don’t you leave him!” And, so, Sam informs Frodo that he has no intention of letting him go alone, no matter how dangerous the journey becomes.

When Pippin returns, Frodo announces that they’ll be cutting across the country (rather than taking the roads) in order to get to Bucklebury Ferry by nightfall. Pippin is skeptical about this plan, since “there are bogs and all kinds of difficulties” in this area, so they could easily run into delays or get lost, but Frodo is determined to avoid the Black Riders by avoiding the roads.

Walking, A List

? They walk on not the roads
? They scramble down a steep bank
? They walk through some woods
? They get tangled in some thickets
? They slip down another bank
? They spot a Black Rider and hide in some bushes beside a stream
? They wade across the stream
? They get lost
? They find their way
? They stop for lunch

As they’re lunching, they begin to sing a merry tune, as hobbits do, but stop abruptly when they hear an eerie cry.

Relevant Quote Break!

A long-drawn wail came down the wind, like the cry of some evil and lonely creature. It rose and fell and ended on a high piercing note. Even as they sat and stood, as if suddenly frozen, it was answered by another cry, fainter and further off, but no less chilling to the blood.

(Okay, seriously, why do they keep singing when they’re trying to be stealthy?)

The hobbits aren’t certain what it was that made the sound, but they agree it can’t be anything good and quickly pack up their things.

Eventually, they come upon a turnip field and realize that they are on Farmer Maggot’s farm. Frodo is less than pleased to realize this—when he was younger and living with the Brandybucks at Brandy Hall after his parents died, Farmer Maggot caught him “trespassing after mushrooms”* several times and set his dogs after him—but Pippin isn’t the least bit concerned.  Apparently Merry is friends with Farmer Maggot, and Pippin (being BFFLs with Merry) used to come to the farm all the time.

They head up a lane to Farmer Maggot’s house, where three dogs (Grip, Fang, and Wolf) accost them at the door with much ferocious barking. But Farmer Maggot appears and calls them off once he recognizes Pippin (it’s been some time since he last saw Frodo, so he doesn’t recognize him immediately).

After he’s called off the dogs, Farmer Maggot mentions that it’s lucky he recognized the trio since there are “some funny things” happening today and “queer folk” wandering about asking “funny questions.” In fact, one such person just left. Oh, and would they like to join the Maggot family for dinner?

Figuring that Farmer Maggot will tell them more about the stranger asking strange questions if they stay for dinner, the hobbits do just that. And, as it turns out, the stranger was a Black Rider (though Maggot doesn’t call him this, just mentions that he wore all black and rode a black horse) and he was asking after Baggins.

Relevant Quote Break!

Farmer Maggot: “I come from yonder,” he said, slow and stiff-like, pointing back west, over, my fields, if you please. “Have you seen Baggins?” he asked in a queer voice, and bent down towards me. I could not see any face, for his hood fell down so low; and I felt a sort of shiver down my back. But I did not see why he should come riding over my land so bold.

Farmer Maggot explains that he told the rider “there are no Bagginses here” and that he better go back to Hobbiton.

Favorite Quote Break!

Black Rider: Baggins has left. He is coming. He is not far away. I wish to find him. If he passes, will you tell me? I will come back with gold.
Farmer Maggot: No you won’t. You’ll go back where you belong, double quick. I give you one minute before I call all my dogs.

With that, the rider hissed and rode off. Maggot is very curious to know what Frodo and friends think about all this; Frodo says that he doesn’t know what to think and the farmer says that he thinks Frodo should never have left Brandy Hall and gone to Hobbiton (folks are queer up there) to live with Mr. Bilbo (whose money was obtained in a “strange fashion” in “foreign parts”).

After dinner, Farmer Maggot offers to take Frodo, Pippin, and Sam to Bucklebury Ferry in his wagon. They happily accept the offer, but the wagon ride seems slow and Frodo is anxious the whole way.

They finally reach the Ferry and are scrambling out of the wagon when they hear an approaching horse on the road ahead of them. There’s a moment of panic because they all assume it’s a Black Rider, but it turns out to be only Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck, who has been waiting for their arrival at the Ferry.

There is a brief exchange of greetings and then Farmer Maggot leaves them (but not before giving Frodo a basket full of mushrooms).

Chapter 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked

A suspicious mist gathers as Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry board the ferry and cross the Brandywine, but they reach the Buckland** side of the river without incident. Once ashore, however, Sam spots a Black Rider across the river and they have to explain to an alarmed Merry that they’re being followed and should get indoors as quickly as possible.

They head for Frodo’s new home at Crickhollow, where they meet up with Fredegar “Fatty” Bolger, who has been putting the finishing touches on Frodo’s house. (That’s right, Merry and Fatty did all the moving and unpacking for Frodo.)

After a bath and late supper, Frodo is preparing himself to confess to his friends (not including Sam, since Sam already knows) that he won’t actually  be staying in Crickhollow, when Merry rather cheerfully demands to know what’s going on because it’s clear that they “have been having adventures” without him and Fatty, which is “not quite fair.” So, Pippin explains how they spent the last two days running from Black Riders.

Relevant Quote Break!

Merry: And what are they?
Pippin: Black figures riding on black horses. If Frodo won’t talk, I will tell you the whole tale from the beginning.

There follows some prying into just how much Frodo knows about these creatures, and whether or not they have something to do with Bilbo’s adventures, until Frodo finally admits that, yes, the Black Riders are indeed connected to Bilbo and are searching for him. He’s just about to reveal that he intends to leave the Shire this very night when Merry interrupts him.

Apparently, Merry and Pippin and Fatty already know all about Frodo’s plans to leave.

Also, they know about the One Ring and the Enemy.

Also, also: They intend to come with him.

Triple also: They’ve already prepared for leaving immediately—ponies and packs and food are ready to go.

How Frodo’s Friends Know All the Things, a List

? Frodo began to act differently when Bilbo after The Party
? Sam “investigated” and reported back to the others (so, he was eavesdropping when Gandalf caught him under the window at Bag End back in Chapter 2)
? From Sam, they learned
          ? That Frodo was planning to leave the Shire
          ? That he’s leaving because of Bilbo’s ring and something to do with the Enemy
          ? That Gandalf told Frodo to take someone he trusts with him
? From Pippin, they learned that Bilbo’s ring is magical—years ago, Pippin once saw Bilbo slip it on and disappear

Relevant Quote Break!

Sam: Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring. We are horribly afraid—but we are coming with you; or following like hounds.

Frodo is quite distressed that he’s done such a terrible job of keeping the Ring and his leaving a secret, but his friends assure him they’re the only ones who know, at least for now. Word is sure to get out eventually, which is where Fatty Bolger comes in. (Finally! I was wondering what Fatty’s purpose was, because I sure couldn’t remember.) Fatty will remain behind at Crickhollow and make it appear as though Frodo is living there for as long as possible. (Oh, right. That’s why I forgot all about poor Fredegar.)

Favorite Quote Break!

Frodo: You are a set of deceitful scoundrels!

Long story short, it’s agreed that Merry, Pippin, and Sam will accompany Frodo while Fatty remains behind. They’ll leave at first light, though Frodo is still concerned that he hasn’t seen or heard from Gandalf (especially since Gildor was “disturbed” when Frodo told him Gandalf hadn’t appeared when expected to), but it can’t be helped. Fatty will be there to tell Gandalf which way they’ve gone when he finally shows up at Crickhollow.

Where are they heading, exactly? Don’t know. But to avoid the Black Riders they must take an unexpected path, so they choose to cut through the Old Forest, a place where few people (especially hobbits) go.

That night, Frodo has an uneasy sleep.*** He dreams that he can hear the sound “of a great wind coming over the leaves of the forest,” but then realizes it is the sound of the Sea; a sound he has never heard before. He can smell salt in the air and sees a “tall white tower” on a high ridge. He is overcome with a desire to climb that tower and see the Sea, but as he starts toward it lightening breaks the sky and is followed by thunder.

*Mushrooms. Hobbits love them. Like, a lot.
**Buckland is considered to be a colony of the Shire since it is located east of the Brandywine and nestled right up against the Old Forest. Hobbits fear the Old Forest, so those in Buckland built the High Hay (essentially a giant hedge wall) between it and the boundaries of Buckland. Buckland was founded by Gorhendad Oldbuck of the Marish, who excavated Brandy Hall (a sprawling hobbit hole and the ancestral home of the Brandybucks). Bucklebury is Buckland’s largest village.
***Frodo’s dream: This white tower is likely an Elven tower, possibly one of three, and I’m guessing the high ridge it stands on is in the Tower Hills, near the Grey Havens, an Elvish port (check out the top left corner of the Middle-earth map for reference]. The significance of this is spoilery, but I think it’s safe to mention that Elves sail from the Grey Havens on their final journey from Middle-earth to Valinor. Meaning of the dream in white [SPOILER]: At the end of The Lord of the Rings, Frodo is granted passage on a ship to the Undying Lands/Valinor. The dream is prophesying this in that the Sea (or Valinor) is calling to him, but he has a storm (the One Ring and Sauron) to weather before he can travel there.


That’s it for Chapters 4 and 5! Gandalf continues to be missing; the hobbits continue to run into Black Riders; Frodo’s friends have been spying on him and know all about the Ring; and Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin are set to journey through the Old Forest while Fatty remains behind at Crickhollow. Stay tuned for more from the Tolkien Re-read—next up is The Fellowship of the Ring Chapters 6-7.

In related news, the trailer for The Desolation of Smaug (aka The Hobbit movie #2) premiered yesterday. I squeed pretty hard over all the fabulous Elf-action, plus, there’s that bit of awesome at the end. Check it out!

Logan Balestrino is the Publishing Assistant for Del Rey/Spectra and Digital Content at the Random House Publishing Group. She is prone to Doctor Who rants, anime marathons, and extensive ramblings on Elven lineage and the creation of language in Middle-earth. When Logan isn’t working or hanging upside down at her aerials class, she can usually be found saving Hyrule or talking herself out of buying another pair of shoes.