Upon reaching the East Road, our hobbits bid Tom Bombadil farewell. The ride to Bree is short, but it’s getting dark and the thought of the Black Riders comes back to them. Once in Bree, they take a room at the Prancing Pony and mingle – perhaps too much – with the locals. They meet Strider.
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 8 & 9 (p147-162, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
The Prancing Pony, as portrayed in “the movies” is more like the Cantina from Star Wars than the Prancing Pony from the book. Here, Frodo, Sam, and Pippin find the inn’s patrons, especially the hobbits, to be amicable (Merry thought it would be “too stuffy” and stayed back at the room). While this must have been a welcome to them, it quickly made Sam and Pippin forget that their mission was one of secrecy.
Pippin in particular told stories, including the one of Bilbo’s birthday party. This, thought Frodo, would bring up the name “Baggins” (which it inevitably did), something he did not want. In fact, he was going by the name “Mr. Underhill” as the Black Riders were looking for “Baggins.” To keep Pippin from revealing the ending, where Bilbo Baggins magically disappeared, Frodo climbed upon a table and proceeded to sing a song about a cat with a fiddle, dancing tableware, a cow who could jump over the moon, and, well, you get the picture.
Amidst this slight of hand, we see the first instance where the Ring’s will wins out over Frodo. We’ve seen the Ring urge Frodo to put it on when the Black Riders were near, but now, at the end of his song, Frodo falls from the table and the Ring slips onto his finger causing him to disappear. Apart from tickling the suspicious (though kind) patrons to become even more suspicious, Frodo concludes that he must have been playing with the Ring in his pocket while he sang.
“For a moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt in the room.”
But it was not in the room. Outside, though the story does not yet reveal it, two Black Riders had just entered Bree and the Ring sensed it. I’m sure we’ll get more on this in the coming pages.
During all of this, Frodo was introduced to Strider, one of the so-called Rangers. Tom Bombadil mentioned the Rangers in passing, so Frodo probably had some incredibly vague idea about who they were.
When Tolkien was first writing the Prancing Pony chapter, he added the character Strider almost without thinking about it, calling him “Trotter.” He wrote in 1955: “Strider sitting in the corner at the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo.” And so as Frodo learns about this character, so do we, and so did Tolkien.
At first, there was even the idea of making Trotter a hobbit named Fosco Took, who had run away with Gandalf years before. He then evolved into Peregrin Boffin (this was when Pippin was actually named Odo), a nephew of Bilbo’s. Mr. Boffin apparently left with Gandalf in order to help track down Gollum. He was to eventually be captured by Sauron and tortured (though he was to have survived because he had wooden feet – seriously). There was thought of making him an elf-friend of Bilbo’s, sent to help Frodo along.
It wasn’t until the first book was finished that Tolkien went back and made Trotter a Man and changed his name to Strider. And it was from there that grew Aragorn and the whole conception of the Return of the King. Tolkien got this far (to the end of the first book) before even inventing Aragorn. I’m not sure how far he got before he decided upon anything else.
So what would it have been like if Tolkien had run with the idea of Peregrin Boffin, the hobbit with wooden feet? Is it really any more freaky than what we actually got? Would it have worked? If Tolkien could pull off talking coin purses and dogs that walked upright (what to speak of a Ring with a will of its own-ish), I’m sure he could have done it justice, but still….
About the Photo
Okay, a broken down Pancake House isn’t the Prancing Pony, but these little roadside dives are all the same, amiright? I have a few photos of such places. This isn’t even the most Prancing Pony-ish, but I think I like it best, so here it is.
Thoughts on the Exercising
Today was one of those days when I really really really didn’t want to do this. But I did it anyway, and I think I kept a better pace than normal. I’m exhausted and sweaty, and you know what that means – we’re heading to Violet’s Sweet Shoppe, home to Seattle’s best Vegan cakes, sweets and treats. I’ll take all three. Thanks!
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 135
- 79 miles to Weathertop
- 325 miles to Rivendell
- 1,644 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: At the Prancing Pony in Bree. (map)