Dec 22 2008 1:14pm

LotR re-read: Fellowship I.3, “Three Is Company”

cover of The Fellowship of the Ring Another week, another chapter in the Lord of the Rings re-read, this time Fellowship book I, chapter 3, “Three Is Company.”

First, a non-spoiler question: is “four’s a crowd” also the conclusion of that saying in British English?

What Happens: Around the end of April, Gandalf tells Frodo he should leave soon. Frodo suggests by September 22, his and Bilbo’s birthday; Gandalf reluctantly agrees, and suggests that he head for Rivendell. At the end of June, Gandalf leaves to look into some worrying news, and says he’ll be back by the birthday/farewell party; he thinks he’ll be needed on the road.

Frodo sells Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses, and arranges to move to Buckland. Gandalf doesn’t show for the party, and Frodo sets off without him and with Pippin and Sam (Merry and Fatty Bolger having gone on ahead). As Frodo is leaving, a sinister black rider, Man-sized, asks the Gaffer next-door where Frodo’s gone; the Gaffer thinks that they’ve already left and says so. The (or a) black rider comes along the road the next day, and seems to sniff after the hidden hobbits; Frodo feels an urge to put on the Ring but does not.

That night, a black rider comes near their camp, but retreats when Elves are heard singing nearby. The Elves, upon hearing of the black riders, take the hobbits to their lodgings for the night. Their leader, Gildor, is concerned that Gandalf is late, and earnestly counsels Frodo to flee the deadly Black Riders, who are servants of the Enemy. After this conversation, Frodo falls asleep.


Logistics first. I understand why Frodo was reluctant to leave the Shire right away, I do—I procrastinate even when life-changing events aren’t at stake, after all. But I like to be practical, and if someone told me that evil was searching for me in a particular place and was coming ever closer to finding that place, I hope I would overcome my reluctance and leave the place that evil was searching for as soon as possible. Yes, even if Gandalf claimed to be okay with my delay.

I do give Frodo credit for not waiting for Gandalf, however.

* * *

This chapter also has a inn scene after the opening scene, though this one is at a further remove, not at one inn and not with named participants other than Frodo:

One summer’s evening an astonishing piece of news reached the Ivy Bush and Green Dragon. Giants and other portents on the borders of the Shire were forgotten for more important matters: Mr. Frodo was selling Bag End, indeed he had already sold it—to the Sackville-Bagginses!

This pattern will be broken with the next chapter, when the hobbits are still on the road.

* * *

Even before the black rider questions the Gaffer, the journey is ominous through Gandalf’s mysterious absence and the melancholy of leaving a beloved home. However, I think it’s not just my familiarity that makes the black rider not very scary yet. This may have benefits in terms of increasing the story’s tension gradually, but does give me a bit of a problem later when it’s revealed how deadly they are: if they’re that deadly, how have they so often managed to miss what’s almost literally under their noses?

Another thing about this conversation: the language used makes clear to me what a different place Tolkien was writing from. The Gaffer calls the rider “black-like,” and Sam interprets this as “a black chap.” Yet as becomes clear later, they’re referring strictly to the Riders’ clothes. In my idiom, of course, this use of “black” would refer to the rider’s perceived race, not to clothing. And even in the very different environment of Tolkien’s, I still find it odd that someone would describe a person overall by the color of their clothes, without specifying what they were doing.

Finally, there’s an interpretive narrative intrusion in this scene:

He had half a mind to go and ask the Gaffer who the inquirer was; but he thought better (or worse) of it, and turned and walked quickly back to Bag End.

(Emphasis added.) I found this slightly jarring on this re-read, though it is a small thing.

Later on, there’s a much-remarked-on POV shift with bonus narrative intrusion:

A few creatures came and looked at them when the fire had died away. A fox passing through the wood on business of his own stopped several minutes and sniffed.

Hobbits! he thought. Well, what next? I have heard of strange doings in this land, but I have seldom heard of a hobbit sleeping out of doors under a tree. Three of them! There’s something mighty queer behind this. He was quite right, but he never found out any more about it.

I’m less sure what I think about this. It’s also is the first indication in LotR proper that animals in Middle-earth are sentient. (In comments to a prior post, MerryArwen suggests that this is a very Bilbo kind of comment, which makes sense to me even if I still don’t believe, in my gut, in the narrative framing device.)

* * *

More echoes of the past: Sam is said to look like a dwarf as they prepare to leave Bag End.

* * *

Reading this closely makes me appreciate the descriptions of the landscape, which provide a good deal of atmosphere that reinforces the story’s tone: for instance, safety as they make camp the first night (“deep resin-scented darkness of the trees”), or waking up into the unknown the next morning (“Away eastward the sun was rising red out of the mists that lay thick on the world. Touched with gold and red the autumn trees seemed to be sailing rootless in a shadowy sea.”).

* * *

Elves, never in need of flashlights?

They bore no lights, yet as they walked a shimmer, like the light of the moon above the rim of the hills before it rises, seemed to fall about their feet.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this were limited to High Elves, given the associations with light and the West. However, I don’t remember noticing this before, so I can’t say.

* * *

The famous exchange:

Gildor was silent for a moment. “I do not like this news,” he said at last. “That Gandalf should be late, does not bode well. But it is said: Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger. The choice is yours: to go or wait.”

“And it is also said,” answered Frodo: “Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.

“Is it indeed?” laughed Gildor. “Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill. But what would you? You have not told me all concerning yourself; and how then shall I choose better than you?”

In comments to the original version of this post, Calimac reported that the “both no and yes” statement is literally true, thanks to Tolkien’s constant revisions of Elvish languages. And people contributed their own favorite variants on that (e.g., “Do not ask a Librarian for advice, for she will say both No and Yes, and Have you checked this source?”) and the “Do not meddle” saying. Feel free to add yours here.

And more seriously, of course, the conversation is another underlining of the importance of choice in the moral universe of LotR.

* * *

This is the first chapter in which we get significant poetry: Frodo’s “road goes ever on” fragment, which is nearly the same as what Bilbo recited when he left the Shire (thanks again to Calimac for pointing that out); the hobbits’ walking song; and the Elves’ hymn to Elbereth. I am not very good at poetry, so I’ll just note that they are all obviously different forms, and that the Elves’ song is an example of Tolkien’s belief that sound alone can convey meaning: “Yet the sound blending with the melody seemed to shape itself in their thought into words which they only partly understood.” Tom Shippey suggests that this is not a mainstream opinion in linguistics.

* * *

Character roundup:

I had a hard time getting a handle on Pippin in my first pass through the re-read, thinking maybe he was a bit high-handed in ordering Sam around when they wake up the first morning, or maybe he was joking. I’m leaning now toward “joking,” since later he’s shown setting out food and dishes himself.

Sam is associated with more dog imagery, curled up and sleeping at Frodo’s feet.

Frodo seems to me a bit introspective and unworldly, with all his not-so-unnoticed muttering about ever looking down on that valley again, being out of shape, and so forth; it feels like there’s more emphasis on his learning than his experience.

I was interested in the summary we’re given of the three hobbits’ reactions to the Elves:

Pippin afterwards recalled little of either food or drink, for his mind was filled with the light upon the elf-faces, and the sound of voices so various and so beautiful that he felt in a waking dream. But he remembered that there was bread, surpassing the savour of a fair white loaf to one who is starving; and fruits sweet as wildberries and richer than the tended fruits of gardens; he drained a cup that was filled with a fragrant draught, cool as a clear fountain, golden as a summer afternoon.

Sam could never describe in words, nor picture clearly to himself, what he felt or thought that night, though it remained in his memory as one of the chief events of his life. The nearest he ever got was to say: “Well, sir, if I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener. But it was the singing that went to my heart, if you know what I mean.”

Frodo sat, eating, drinking, and talking with delight; but his mind was chiefly on the words spoken. He knew a little of the elf-speech and listened eagerly. Now and again he spoke to those that served him and thanked them in their own language. They smiled at him and said laughing: “Here is a jewel among hobbits!”

Pippin and Sam both are described as having much more sensory and much less articulate reactions; though to be fair they don’t know the language and it would be harder for them to focus on words as Frodo does.

* * *

I think overall this chapter also does pretty well in terms of things happening and information being revealed, but I seem to be unable to read it when I’m not having upper respiratory problems, so it’s hard for me to be sure whether I’m giving it sufficient credit.

« Flieger, “Tolkien and the Idea of the Book” | Index | Fellowship I.4 »

Dominic Wellington
1. riotnrrd
I always interpreted the fox's comment as a last return of the much lighter narrative voice from _The Hobbit_ before the much grimmer tone of LotR takes full hold of the story. In this sense it could be said to be a "Bilboism", as it is his PoV that we follow, albeit in third person, throughout _The Hobbit_.
2. rogerothornhill
(1) Sorry about the upper respiratory problems! Hope Steely Kid doesn't catch them.

(2) Race in LotR was really a problem for me on this last reread, particularly in the descriptions of the "wild men" Aragorn makes peace with, as well as the Men of Harad. Then again, if I start eliminating covertly racist books from my library, I am going to have one heck of a yard sale. And is The Horse and his Boy, to pick another example at not-quite-random, any better?

Anyway, I'll be interested in seeing how you deal with that when you're reading the later volumes. There was an article in Modern Fiction Studies a few years back about race in Tolkien that didn't wholly convince me, but you might want to take a look at it.

(3) I've always loved Donald Swann's setting of "The Road Goes Ever On," although I can't seem to find a sound file of it to link to at the moment.

(4) Thanks again for the thoroughness and thought you are putting into this. Seeing there's a new post of yours up when I log on to the site is such a treat.
Iain Scott
3. iopgod
My encounter with the saying is "two is company, three a crowd".
Andrew Mason
4. AnotherAndrew
On the title, I agree with iopgod: I had always supposed that 'three is company' was Tolkien's own variation on the saying.

On the use of colour terms to refer to clothing: one obvious precedent is the colloquial names of religious orders - Black and White Monks, Black, White and Grey Friars. In the same way a 'Black Knight' might be one who wore black armour. And of course Tolkien uses terms in the same way with the titles of wizards - Gandalf the Grey, and so on.
Kate Nepveu
5. katenepveu
riotnrrd, I'll be interested to see if the tone shift comes this soon, thanks.

rogerothornhill, SteelyKid appears not to have caught my cold, fortunately, though she still freaks out when I cough. => And I've noted that article for later reading.

iopgod, AnotherAndrew--*facepalm* of course that's the saying. Err, just shows how deep an influence _LotR_ has been on me?

And I hadn't thought of that about clothing, though I'm not sure Sam and the Gaffer are the right characters to make that leap.
Sam Kelly
6. Eithin
Realistically, I don't think the Gamgees - or just about any other hobbit - would ever have seen anyone who wasn't white. Middle Earth, from the Northern Waste to the mouth of the Anduin, is so white-bread it ought to have Tesco Value written all over it. So labelling someone by the colour of his clothes and his general appearance would make sense in context.

ALso, it occurs to me that there might be another translation issue here - what we see as "black" might also be equally translatable as "dark" or even "dour".
Dave Menendez
7. Dave Menendez
Another example of using clothing color to identify people, from the end of Chapter 10 in the Silmarillion: "they were called the Laiquendi, the Green-elves, because of their raiment of the colour of leaves."

(It's time like these that I really appreciate the indexes in Tolkien's books.)
Kate Nepveu
8. katenepveu
Eithin, just to be precise, I wouldn't expect Sam or the Gaffer to use race as an identifier (generally; obviously they couldn't here). But such an *unmarked* generalization of clothes to the entire person seems weird to me, even under those circumstances.

Dave Menedez, thanks. Though, on thinking about this some more, the color-identification inituitively makes more sense to me for groups than people.

Oh, well, it's a small point really.
Dave Menendez
9. Chrisb
Compare the scots ballads, about Gypsies:

They were fifteen gallant men,
Black, but very bonnie,
And they all died for the sake of one,
The earl of Cassilis' lady.....

Where I take 'black' as meaning 'dark' or 'swarthy'.
Matt Austern
10. austern
My three year old daughter does the same. Last week at the playground, for example, she remarked on a white girl running on the grass -- by which she meant a girl wearing a white shirt. Generalizing from clothing color to the color of the whole person seems entirely natural to her, anyway! Apparently to at least some grownups too.
rick gregory
11. rickg
"And even in the very different environment of Tolkien’s, I still find it odd that someone would describe a person overall by the color of their clothes"

Really? I don't in this case because it is, I believe, all that's visible of them. I'd have to reread the barrows incident later in Fellowship, but they're shadow creatures and their attempt later is to pull Frodo to their realm, not just to kill him.

If you saw someone riding, covered completely in clothing and it was black, what else would you call them?

And please, please, don't make the analytical mistake of judging Tolkien or the books by early 21st century USA standards. Tolkien was born in the 19th century and, by the time he was writing the Hobbit and then these books he as a middle-aged man. His world is not ours and we've experienced events that he had not at the time of writing.
Alex Bradaric
12. leannonn
> I still find it odd that someone would describe a person
> overall by the color of their clothes, without specifying
> what they were doing.

Well, when someone around here says "a black chap", there's a 90% chance that he/she means "a chap with black hair"...
Dave Menendez
13. JayTomio
I just want to mention that I've been enjoying these thus far, and thanks for doing it.

The Rider that Gaffer was talking to has been revealed to be Khamul, who if he resembled his people (Easterlings) was not Dark-skinned (though he is at times referred to as 'the black Easterling', but I'd venture that had to do with reputation).
Kate Nepveu
14. katenepveu
Wow, I had no idea what I thought was a throw-away comment would be *the* thing people wanted to talk about.

I really don't have much more to say about this, except rickg, you'll notice that I explicitly said this was an example to me of "what a different place Tolkien was writing from."

JayTomio, a) where has it been revealed, and b) have I completely lost my memory of the books, or wouldn't the Rider have been invisible anyway?
Dave Menendez
15. Johan Anglemark
"The Rider that Gaffer was talking to has been revealed to be Khamul"

Hardly at the time of writing, though?
Jay Tomio
16. JayTomio
Khamul was revealed, I believe, in Unfinished Tales, but don't quote me on that.

Johnan, I never said it was. The discussion however did seem to gravitate to possible reason for the observation and why it would be applicable. I merely removed one possible one. Finding out 'where Tolkien was writing from" etc - though Kate's observation eliminates that. Sorry, momentary lapse of concentration, as for some reason I was thinking Sauron (possibly because he is the subject of something I was writing at the time - which would be even more odd, as it wasn't even that Sauron I was writing about!) when considering the Nine. The Nine would absolutely have been invisible excluding what they wore.
Jo Walton
17. bluejo
Why was what they wore visible for that matter? Bilbo's clothes vanished with him when he used the ring to hide from the Sackville-Bagginses, and likewise Sam's clothes when he hid from the orcs. Was the One Ring better at invisibility than the Nine, or what?

(I can't believe you know the personal names of the Nazgul.)
meredith temple
18. merryarwen
bluejo: The One was probably better, but I also suspect that the black clothes were specifically designed to give the Riders some kind of shape (sort of like their horses were specifically raised to be able to tolerate them), remembering that after they get washed away by the River they have to go back to Mordor to get "new shapes" as well as new steeds.
Matthew Brown
19. morven
I also have the impression that the Hobbits themselves were pretty unadventurous and conservative regarding dress and clothing color, which would make someone wearing all black stand out.
Jay Tomio
20. JayTomio
He's the only one given a name, so that makes it easier. If they all had names, no way I'd know it, though I'm a bit of a HoME junkie.

Blue, I'm not sure if I understand the question (or I just can't answer it!). The Nine had already faded an existed in spirit world (the 'unseen' world) and thus could not be seen by the physical world. Because they do wear armor, ride horses, and wield blades it is apparent they have the ability to interact with the physical world to that extent. The One Ring confers invisibility via transporting mortals (those who don't already or can't walk the 'unseen' world) to the unseen worlds (thus making them invisible to the physical world). Note that the one ring would not confer invisibility to everybody - it is a side effect of a mortal wearing it and entering the wraith world (Unseen). A mortal who wore the One-ring long enough would have become a wraith much like the Nine.

I'm not sure if this answers your question, but the Nine don't become invisible, they are already invisible (again, to mortals or those who walk only in one plane), and what garment they don afterwards would (I'm assuming) not be effected by that.

There actually have been times (in the Hobbit and with Sam in LOTR) when the Ring does not in fact confer complete invisibility of items.(edit) I think it may have occurred with Isuldur as well, but again I'm drawing a bit of a blank.
Kate Nepveu
21. katenepveu
JayTomio, thanks for the information. I hadn't remembered that there were times when the Ring didn't confer complete invisibility, which strikes me now as a bit odd, but I guess I'll see what I think in the context when we get there.
Dave Menendez
22. debraji
When wearing the One Ring, Bilbo's shadow could be seen in bright sunlight.

My best guess is this: the Ringwraiths apparently wear the clothes, crowns, etc. in which they crossed into the unseen world. These are invisible, just as they are. It's the clothes or armor they don after they have become wraiths that are visible in Frodo's world.
Jay Tomio
23. JayTomio
Thanks Kate!

Reading Blue's question again, I think I have a better grasp of it. When Blue noted "The Nine" I thought he meant the Riders themselves (and thus answered regarding them as beings). It is possible what was meant were the Nine Rings of Man and their effectiveness in granting invisibility compared to the One Ring. One would surmise that all of the rings of power touched by Sauron's hand would grant invisibility on mortals (non-mortals walked both worlds already, and Dwarves specifically could not be turned to shadow) in the same degree.

As it relates to the Bree encounter, however, we learn later that The Nine were not in possession of their rings during the time frame of the trilogy, and in fact Sauron himself was in possession of them (as one would ask the question how could he control the nine without the One Ring - the answer is he had their rings).

There is only one piece within the trilogy that would make one think that the Nine still held their Rings, but it can be rationalized away via semantics and in light of the logic of Sauron's continued hold over the Nazgul.

One of the best descriptive scenes we get of the Nazgul occurs a little bit later when the Nine catch up with Frodo and Party at Weathertop. You will see that Frodo rather vividly describes the Nazgul (and I'm sure Kate will get to that when she gets there) and you will notice what he never mentions seeing.
Dave Menendez
24. Iain Coleman
The appearance of the Black Rider in this chapter is one of the decisive moments in the development of the entire tale - and the inconsistencies with how the Nazgul are later developed are symptomatic of the fact that, at this point, Tolkien was making it up as he went along.

In "The Return of the Shadow", Christopher Tolkien's compilation of his father's early drafts of this work, you can see a moment of intuitive artistic inspiration strike. In the first draft, the hobbits are walking along the road and they see a white-cloaked rider on a white horse. This turns out to be Gandalf, and it's all terribly cosy. Then Tolkien puts a line through this, and changes it to a black-cloaked rider on a black horse, for no other reason than that it seemed like the right thing to do. He had no idea who this black rider was.

I guess that by the time he'd finished the tale, and the Nazgul were revealed in all their awesome power, it was too late to undertake the radical revisions of the first book that would have been necessary if the black riders had been operating at the full strength of their powers from the beginning.

Oh, and on the point about colouring being used to refer to attributes other then skin colour, this is pretty common outwith the modern USA. "Black Irish" doesn't mean Phil Lynott, after all, and I imagine that people a few hundred years from now will regard our obsession with skin colour as a quaint eccentricity.
Linda Frear
25. tanguera
You commented that Sam referred to the rider as "a black chap". Watching for that reference, in the version I'm reading, Sam calls him a black rider.

Is it possible this person the Gaffer talks to is actually Aragorn? I can't actually imagine a Ringwraith wanting to give a message to Frodo. When Farmer Maggot encounters the Black Rider, he doesn't ask to leave a message but rather to be informed if and when Mr. Baggins shows up.

The first time the rider shows up on the road, he sniffs for Frodo. It is interesting that just as Frodo is about to give in and put on the ring, the rider leaves. Why doesn't he sense the ring at that moment? Was he maybe called away by another wraith?

The foreshadowing with the perpetual danger of the black riders is a great set up for when Frodo finally meets Strider. This is the delicious writing that Tolkien does so well.

Gildor also refers to the idea of a higher power at work in his statement "in this meeting there may be more than chance..."

A statement of Gildor that really stood out: "The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out." Tolkien states that he had no thoughts of WWII when he wrote this book. Memories of the Great War would be buried in his subconscious and may have informed the story. Or it is possible that this is "island mentality"--the feeling of imperviousness because we are surrounded by water. Living on an Island now changes how I look at certain statements made in the book.
Robert Garza
26. FunBob
Don't forget that Tolkien was building his story from this point, and transitioning from the children's story "the Hobbit" to the more sinister LotR, which included a more in depth look at the fight between good and evil than previously seen in fantasy. He was at this time transitioning the story from the past (chapter 2) to the story at hand, severing the ties with all the familiar (selling Bag End to the Sackville-Baggins? Even Bilbo was aghast at the thought when the companions reach Rivendell) to the start of the heroic quest, complete with side-kick type companionship (Sam and Pippin as comic relief). Frodo was not like other hobbits, and that was why he was chosen by Bilbo (and ultimatley by other, higher powers...)and his mannerisms were protrayed in direct contrast to his younger, more innocent companions. As will be seen in the next chapter, we see the difference in Frodo-Adult with Frodo-Child in the companions dealings with Farmer Maggot and his dogs.

Again, the Black Rider is described simply as a black fellow, which conveys a feeling of sinister evil while noting that its raiment is the only way to describe its appearance, familiar with many ascribed contrasts of good/evil in descriptions of white (Saruman/Gandalf)/black (Necromancer/the Nine).

Lastly, the High Elves emit their own "light" due to their spiritual ties to the Blessed Realm (see Gandalf's description of Glorfindel's light as seen by Frodo at the Ford of Rivendell). This phenomenon was not fully pursued by Tolkien, and seems to be wholly abandoned in the later books, as it doesn't really appear again after the depiction of Galadriel and Celeborn. Dependent on which version of the Galdriel and Celeborn story you believe, Celeborn should not emit any light as he is a Grey Elf of Thingol's kingdom in Beleriend or a Silvan Elf of Lothlorien itself rather than having come there with Galadriel. Either way, the High Elves (Light, Deep, or Sea) who had dwelt in the Blessed Realm would have their own light nimbus as their spirits lived both within the mortal and the blessed realms simultaneously. Note that Glorfindel will be a special case, as he is the reincarnation of the elf that defended Tuor, Idril Celbrindal, Earendil and the escaping refugees from Gondolin from Gothmog the balrog on the cliffs out of the Ered Wethrin. His light is more puissant and powerful as a reincarnated elf from the Blessed Realm.
Dave Menendez
27. guntharr
I have always been fond of:
"Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup."
Torie Atkinson
28. Torie
I'm finally catching up with this re-read and I was particularly struck in this chapter by how moving and sad Frodo's departure from the Shire is. When I last read this as a teenager I was so anxious for the adventure to begin; reading it now, the farewell dinner, his frequent melancholy asides, and his uncertainty about the choices he's made stuck with me.
Dave Menendez
29. TimAllyn
I am also working on a LotR read-through on my own blog...though I haven't made much progress thus far, I've only reached this chapter.

I too was a bit puzzled by Frodo's delay, though I think to large extent it can be put down to human (or hobbit) nature.

I also found the moments when the hobbits encounter the wraiths intriguing. How does Frodo know danger is coming?

If you or anyone else is interested in another series of read-thru articles:
Dave Menendez
30. Espen S A
To the "black" reference. If I'm not completely mistaken, to dye clothes black is an expensive and complicated process. At least it was not common "back in the days". If one fellow appears in black clothes, people would probably describe him as black.

You also have: Gandalf the gray, Saruman the white and Radagast the brown. The symbolism in colors are used throughout the books and the people are also wearing the colors.
Dave Menendez
31. ETBloomfield
I'm coming late to the party and don't know whether you'll see this comment.

About the last part of your post, the three reactions to the elves. There is a strong motif running through the LOTR of levels of access to mysteries, understanding, power. It starts with Gandalf's comment about Gollum that the ring had given him "power according to his stature." The three hobbits perceive the elves according to their stature, with Frodo showing the deepest appreciation (notice the elves calling him elf-friend - a marker of this stature). The two characters in which stature is the most clearly developed are Frodo and Saruman: Frodo grows in stature (which is why he must act the ass a bit in Shadows of the Past), and Saruman dwindles to the point where from a potential contender for world domination he is reduced to meanness and despoiling the Shire. Saruman in fact sees this clearly when he tells Frodo that Frodo has grown (as Frodo refuses to let Saruman be harmed). Frodo outgrows the Shire in the End.

Sam is interesting in that he cuts across this growth idea. He understands and is more than he lets on (or his social status permits him to let on) when he recites poetry, shows strength of character and grit in Lothlorien and Mordor. But he refuses to change, to grow to lofty, scary, and uncomfortable heights. He thus represents in his background, his speech, and his servile attitude that his is rooted in a place, in the land. He knows who he is, where he comes from, and this rootedness (denied to Frodo) give Sam a strength and resilience to survive unscathed, if not altogether unchanged.

At times this stature thing is made more explicit still, for example in the transformation from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White. The interesting question is whether class plays into it: Sam is lower class and his strength lies in being the salt of the earth and knowing his place; Frodo is upper class and his strength in, um, saving the world. Is Tolkien selling us an idealized view of English class society? (Tolkien, in speeches, equated the English with the hobbits).
Kate Nepveu
32. katenepveu
ETBloomfield, that is very interesting. I have some scholarly articles on the question of hierarchy and change in _LotR_ that I've been saving for _RotK_; I'll keep your thoughts in mind when we get there. As an American I have an uneasy and sometimes, I admit, not very clear relationship to British ideas about class, but I do think it's fair to say that there is *something* about class going on there.
Dave Menendez
33. ETBloomfield
Thanks! Really enjoying the re-read.

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