Fog On The Barrow-Downs Pt. 1, The Lord Of The Rings | SFP010

Frodo Baggins and company have spent their final night of refreshing in the house of Tom Bombadil. It is time to travel North to Bree. To do that they must skirt the western lower slopes of the dreaded Barrow-Downs. Rumor of the Barrow-wights were tales best left forgotten in the Shire. Join us for a discussion of chapter eight of The Lord Of The Rings.

My Fair Lady, Clad All In Silver Green!

It was such a lovely morning that it prevented hobbit hearts from plummeting into despair that they were leaving the refreshing that came in the house of Tom Bombadil. Tom came out of the house dancing and waving as they packed the ponies for their next adventure. As they were setting out along the path that rounded the back of the house Frodo stopped short:

‘Goldberry!’ he cried. ‘My fair lady, clad all in silver green! We have never said farewell to her, nor seen her since the evening!’

The Lord Of The Rings, Fog On The Barrow-Downs, p. 135

So powerful is Tom’s discipling of Frodo that the hobbit is now speaking in the same rhythmic meter! We have discussed on previous episodes the idea of being “covered in the dust” of one’s rabbi, or teacher. It seems that Frodo is covered in the songs of Tom Bombadil. That is, he has begun to sound like the Master.

Fog On The Barrow-Downs

Frodo could not leave without saying farewell to Goldberry. Of all the partings he has thus far experienced this was especially painful. Just then Goldberry – River-woman’s daughter – appears:

‘Speed now, fair guests!’ she said. ‘And hold to your purpose! North with the wind in the left eye and a blessing on your footsteps! Make haste while the Sun shines!’

Ibid., p. 136

This image shows the standing stone described in Fog on the Barrow-Downs as depicted in The Lord Of The Rings Online video game.

In the midst of it there stood a single stone, standing tall under the sun above

From there the company sets out, into strange country with hills crowned with green mounds. Stones pointing upward like jagged teeth protruding out of green gums were seen on some. In the distance a lone, solitary stone monolith rose high like some ominous marker or, perhaps, a warning. The hobbits have found themselves in the very place they were told to avoid: the Barrow-Downs!

Join us as we discuss chapter eight of The Lord Of The Rings in this episode of the Secret Fire Podcast.

What stood out to you in Fog On The Barrow-Downs? Let us know in the comments below.

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.

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  • Regarding Tolkien and sexism…

    It’s sometimes said that Tolkien’s works are influenced by sexism. Very often, a response to that accusation is to point out that the female characters in his works tend to be incredibly powerful. If anything, they are held up on a pedestal: Melian, Luthien, Galadriel, Arwen, Goldberry, Eowyn; even Rosie Cotton in a way. (One mundane female character who leaps to mind, who isn’t held up as a paragon, is Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. One who comes to mind who is neither a paragon nor a villain is Ioreth in the Houses of Healing, but both are rare examples.)

    I don’t think that Tolkien was more sexist than his society at the time, and he might very well have been less so. But the thing I think about, and keep in mind, is that placing female characters on a pedestal is a form of ‘soft’ sexism. We don’t see many female characters who are just people in Tolkien’s works. They are often either inaccessibly beautiful and powerful, like Galadriel or Luthien, or in some cases supernatural forces of evil like Ungoliant and Shelob. I’m saying that I can understand the criticism of Tolkien, though I think sometimes too much is made of it.

    There are many reasons that this soft sexism isn’t surprising. The heroic literature that inspired Tolkien, that was his professional work for decades, was dominated by men. If he looked around at Oxford, his colleagues were almost all men (the first woman with a full professorship at Oxford was in 1948), as were almost all of his students (the women’s societies at Oxford only achieved full collegiate status in 1959). Like I said, I don’t think he was any more sexist than his time, and he might have been less so, but I think there is still something there worth thinking about as we read through his works from a 21st century vantage-point.

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