Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Book Four

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A couple of nights ago, while reading The Lord of the Rings again, I read a passage that’s stuck with me. I know I’ve read it a dozen times at least but I’d never noticed it until this reading. Lately, when I read the LOTRs, I’ve tried to pause, and by taking my time, to notice how Tolkien weaves time and space into the novel.

That last sentence might only make sense if you knew that after my first reading of LOTRs for many years I leapt through the books from plot-point to plot-point and seldom lingered over any passage. I took this to such an extreme that I went years without reading any of Sam and Frodo’s journey, deeming it too dull. Instead I preferred the speed of Gandalf and the other companions as they rushed south to Rohan and to Gondor.

These days I’m trying a different tact as I read Tolkien again. I’m trying harder to listen. I’m trying to notice all the vistas and landscapes that he lays out for me. I’m trying to read at the pace at which he writes and in doing so I’ve found him a master of quiet description.

I’ve also found that Sam and Frodo’s journey is one of the richest stories in the book. The passage that follows is the one that’s stuck with me. It’s from Chapter Two of Book Four (about half way through The Two Towers). Sam and Frodo have just captured Gollum and are considering whether their supplies can support a third companion.

It’s an agonizing moment for Frodo and he can’t bring himself to do more than allude to the implications of his reasoning. And the folksy, good-hearted Sam comes to silence and tears. It’s a quiet moment and one that I’m glad I paused to read.

I guess it’s an interesting lesson in pace to me. I can intake all the words rather quickly collecting the plot point and following the storyline. But if I read the passage with the pace I imagine appropriate, pausing in silence to envision Sam’s tears and think his thoughts, it’s a moment that I’ve found hard to forget.

‘About the food,’ said Sam. ‘How long’s it going to take us to do this job? And when it’s done, what are we going to do then? This waybread keeps you on your legs in a wonderful way, though it doesn’t satisfy the innards proper, as you might say: not to my feeling anyhow, meaning no disrespect to them as made it. But you have to eat some of it every day, and it doesn’t grow. I reckon we’ve got enough to last, say, three weeks or so, and that with a tight belt and a light tooth, mind you. We’ve been a bit free with it so far.’

‘I don’t know how long we shall take to – to finish,’ said Frodo. ‘We were miserably delayed in the hills. But Samwise Gamgee, my dear hobbit – indeed Sam my dearest hobbit, friend of friends – I do not think we need give thought to what comes after that. To do the job as you put it – what hope is there that we ever shall? And if we do, who knows what will come of that? If the One goes into the Fire, and we are at hand? I ask you, Sam, are we ever likely to need bread again? I think not. If we can nurse our limbs to bring us to Mount Doom, thati is all we can do. More than I can, I begin to feel.’

Sam nodded silently. he took his master’s hand and bent over it. he did not kiss it, though his tears fell on it. Then he turned away, drew his sleeve over his nose, and got up, and stamped about, trying to whistle, and saying between the efforts: ‘Where’s that dratted creature?’

J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, Book Four, Chapter Two.


Written by furthermusings

April 7, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Posted in Reflections, Reviews

One Response

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  1. I am only about two chapters ahead of you in TT. Weird. This is only my second time all the way through, though. 🙂


    January 24, 2010 at 10:23 pm

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