|Chapter 4: A Shortcut to Mushrooms
||[Mar. 12th, 2008|03:54 pm]
LOTR Community Reading Group
(originally posted at the Yahoo!group by Chris, AKA obsidianj, cross-posted with permission)|
In chapter 4 the hobbits are again on the road. The holiday feeling is slightly marred. To me it seems as if the Black Riders are herding them on. Every time it gets too comfortable (and they start to forget what brought them on the road) or the road becomes inconvenient, a Black Rider shows up and edges them on. Without Sam spotting the rider up on the ridge, I think they would have turned back from their 'shortcut'. Pippin seems to me the leader on this part of the journey. He follows Frodo's wishes, but he definitely knows exactly what to do and where to go. Frodo and Sam seem more insecure and dithering about how to go on. Maybe Pippin can be more pragmatic and stay in the here and now, since he doesn't know too much about the ring and what it means, whereas Frodo is too much in thought where this all will lead and Sam hasn't been in these parts of the Shire.
The eeriest part is at the end of the chapter when farmer Maggot brings them to the ferry and they mistake Merry for a Black Rider. It seems to me that Tolkien wants to show here how strong the imagination influences what we hear and see. Okay, fog makes everything seem strange, but how they could mistake short Merry and his pony for a Black Rider I can only explain with their imagination running away with them. And even Merry's question: "I want Mr. Baggins. Have you seen him?" sounds more like a Black Rider than Merry. What I find curious about this question is: It seems Merry assumes everyone knows Mr. Baggins. Here he comes on a group of strangers and asks them specifically whether they have seen Mr. Baggins. He doesn't describe his friend or asks whether they have seen a group of hobbits on foot going toward Crickhollow or some such. No he asks them after Mr. Baggins. Or did Merry recognize his friends in the murk?