A Conspiracy Unmasked, The Lord Of The Rings | SFP006

In A Conspiracy Unmasked Frodo, Sam, and Pippin finally make their way over the Brandywine river and to Frodo’s new home at Crickhollow. Merry and Fredegar Bolger have worked hard to make everything as comfortable as possible. Did they succeed? Let’s explore chapter 5 of The Lord Of The Rings on this episode of The Secret Fire Podcast.

Crossing The Baranduin

Over the Brandywine river lies Buckland, a “sort of colony from the Shire” settled long ago (T.A. 2340) by one Gorhendad Oldbuck. These “half foreigners” were the most peculiar of all hobbits according to the decent and sensible folk Samwise Gamgee was brought up around. After all, they were fond of boats. And some of them could swim! Crossing the river was possibly the most unnerving part of this adventure thus far for Sam:

He had a strange feeling as the slow gurgling stream slipped by: his old life lay behind in the mists, dark adventure lay in front. He scratched his head, and for a moment had a passing wish that Mr. Frodo could have gone on living quietly at Bag End.

The Lord of the Rings, A Conspiracy Unmasked, p. 99

For Hobbits of the Shire, the Brandywine was traditionally the demarcation between the known and unknown. The name is a pun. In Sindarin it is called the Baranduin, or golden-brown river. The Hobbits named it Bralda-hîm, or heady ale – which is Brandywine in English. The river flows out of Lake Evendim in northern Eriador and has two crossings in the Shire: Brandywine Bridge and Bucklebury Ferry.

This image shows the Brandywine Bridge as depicted in The Lord Of The Rings Online.

The Brandywine Bridge looking toward Buckland in The Lord Of The Rings Online.

A Conspiracy Unmasked

Meriadoc Brandybuck and Fatty Bolger had a short time before the arrival of this company of three, and they wanted to make Frodo’s new home at Crickhollow as comfortable as possible. They had even arranged the furniture to resemble Bag End. For the road-weary travelers Merry had prepared three bathtubs with piping hot water, soap, and towels. Dinner (the second that night!) was being prepared. Great care was shown on behalf of their friends; and Frodo was both grateful and remorseful:

It was a pleasant, comfortable, welcoming place; and he found himself wishing that he was really coming here to settle down in quiet retirement. It seemed unfair to have put his friends to all this trouble; and he wondered again how he was going to break the news to them that he must leave them so soon, indeed at once.

Ibid., p. 100

Fellowship Is Unity

What Frodo doesn’t know is that his friends are completely aware of his intentions. They had been for quite some time. Nor did Frodo know that they had plans of their own: they were going to go with him wherever this adventure would lead. This was the unmasking of the conspiracy. These Hobbits from various towns of the Shire (and even Buckland!) who have differing cultural mores are of one mind and spirit. They love each other and care for one another by placing the other’s needs first. This is exactly what the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian church to do and be:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus

Philippians 2:1-5 NASB

What a wonderful lesson Christians can learn from this fellowship of Hobbits in A Conspiracy Unmasked.

Song: Bath Song from the album The Starlit Jewel by Brocelïande.

On The Secret Fire Podcast we travel chapter-by-chapter and book-by-book through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth viewing it through Christian lenses. We invite you to join us each week as we continue the adventure on the Arkenstone server in Lord Of The Rings Online. We meet at the Three Farthing Stone in the Shire.

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  • First, a response to a question: I think that the Bridge of Stonebows most likely draws its name from its architecture. Any bridge built of stone spanning something larger than a small stream would be built of multiple arches. These would be the stone bows. Here’s an example from Switzerland below:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/50be07c6b2b7c7a8a9b20a7c3d37596d5c851dff10f2cfd4cfc87f6857928d56.jpg

    Second, something to think about when looking at Hobbit society. The story of the Oldbuck founding of Buckland, and later the mention of which farmers acknowledge the authority of Brandy Hall, brought it back to mind. It’s interesting how much Hobbits are similar to the Scandinavian and Germanic chieftains that Tolkien spent time studying.

    1. They demonstrate their wealth, and strengthen their community, by throwing parties and giving gifts on their birthdays. Germanic chieftains (along with chieftains in traditional cultures all over the world) also demonstrated their power and built loyalty by hosting the biggest possible feasts and giving gifts to followers. Whereas in our culture, wealth is a measure of how much you accumulate, in other cultures, wealth is a measure of how much you give away (Germanic cultures seem to have been a mix of the two). Tolkien was of course steeped in the heroic literature of Germanic cultures, which are full of stories of chieftains whose positions and power were reinforced by hosting feasts and giving rich gifts.

    2. Just like Germanic chieftains, Hobbit chieftains go forth, claim land, and build a huge house for themselves and their extended families. Later on, other smaller families have a kind of fealty to them. Germanic chieftains would build the largest possible longhouse, and have their extended family and servants live there with them, and would demand the loyalty of other local families in the region. Tolkien was a scholar very familiar with the Icelandic Sagas for example, and of course the chieftains of Iceland almost all came from Norway. They crossed the water, built longhouses, and smaller family farms organized themselves around them. The history of the founding of Buckland reminded me of that, and it might have been on Tolkien’s mind too.

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