It has been far too long since I’ve done a post in the LotR Reread, and it’s high time I did something about that. I’ll admit to some reluctance to slog through Tom Bombadil, mind you. But still, no particular excuse for letting it go this long! So let’s get to it, shall we?
Back at the end of Chapter 4, we’d finally gotten Merry to show up, bringing all four of the main hobbit characters on camera at last. And as Chapter 5 opens, the good Meriadoc takes charge of things and brings the others right into…
… an infodump about the history of Buckland. Mercifully, though, it’s a pretty short infodump even by Tolkien’s standards. And I rather do like the namecheck of Gorhendad Oldbuck. Which is a pretty magnificent name, I gotta say. It sounds exactly like the name a hobbit patriarch and founder of a family line should have. Though I also wonder what he got called when he was young. Gorry? Henny? Also curious as to why he renamed himself Brandybuck, unless it’s for the obvious reason of “little dude liked his brandy”, which would after all be very hobbit-like.
Then we cut back to actual action. Comparatively speaking. We briefly have Sam wishing that “Mr. Frodo could have gone on living quietly at Bag End”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: oh my dear Sam. You have no idea.
Worth also noting, particularly after the last couple years that I spent re-reading The Hobbit: it’s Sam here wishing that Mr. Frodo could have stayed at home, not Frodo himself. Which is a bit of a refreshing change of pace from Bilbo constantly wishing he was back in the Shire, innit?
And why hello there Gollum. I’d forgotten that Gollum, following Frodo and the Ring, shows up this early in the story–my last several visits to the tale being in movie form rather than with the actual text. Not that Frodo actually seems to know who or what is following; only that something is. Nor can I blame him for not cluing in, given that it has after all been some years since his last conversation with Gandalf. He can be excused for not immediately realizing that Gollum could still be at large. Especially since he’s had much more recent reason to be wary of Black Riders, enough so that he’s anxious about whether horses can cross the Brandywine.
Though ha, spoke too soon. As soon as the hobbits reach Frodo’s new digs at Crickhollow, Frodo does in fact wish he was really getting to stay there.
I cannot resist my inner MST3K voice putting in “no one will be admitted during the exciting bathing sequence”, ’cause that part of me’s all cripes, can we get on with the actual plot already? Still, it’s pretty charming thinking of Pippin singing at the top of his lungs while he’s taking a bath. Particularly now that Pippin’s voice will be forever provided by Billy Boyd in my head.
One big thing, though, saves this chapter from being useless to me–Merry and Pippin both being all “well duh of course we knew you were about to leave the Shire.” This is not something we get in the movies, which play Merry and Pippin as being way less on top of things at the start of the journey. Movie!Merry and Movie!Pippin pretty much stumble into the quest. Book!Merry and Book!Pippin, on the other hand, are very much on top of things. Merry even knows about the Ring. And to top it all off, Sam is totally in on the plotting, and the three of them together are no match for Frodo’s wobbly resolve to head off all by himself.
We get a second little song in this chapter, and this one’s explicitly a callback to the Misty Mountains song from The Hobbit, and explicitly set to the same tune. Which means that now of course I try to read it and set it to the tune that the Hobbit movies used. I’m not entirely sure that works for me, either. The lyrics don’t quite scan to that melody, and the melody itself is too somber to quite fit the mood of the scene as written.
There are links on YouTube for the soundtrack from the 1977 Hobbit movie, including one for the Misty Mountains song, and that one scans better to the lyrics Tolkien gives in this chapter. Still, that tune is also rather somber given the determined cheer of Merry and the others pledging their assistance to Frodo.
But then, you could also make an argument for a somber tune being appropriate, too–because it’s not like Frodo’s holding back on warning the others that dangerous shit is about to go down. Hell, we even get a dire hint that poor Fatty Bolger isn’t going to be immune from danger either, and he’s the one on tap to stay behind and keep up the pretense that Frodo is inhabiting his new house.
We close with Frodo deciding that he’s setting out at first light in the morning, and everyone retiring to bed. Frodo has a disquieting dream, one which includes a tall white tower. It’s an interesting question as to what that tower is supposed to represent; googling for it, I find multiple links wherein Tolkien fandom discusses this very question. One such is on the Forums at TheOneRing.net here.
Next up: Chapter 6, in which the Old Forest demonstrates that yeah, actually, it’s about as scary as Fatty Bolger was making it out to be.