Our hobbits and Strider arrive at their campsite on the western edge of the Midgewater Marshes only to pass a horrible night.
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 11 (p182-3, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Their night was horrible, but it’s interesting in how it was so bad. It was certainly better than the night of bad dreams at Tom Bombadil’s House. It was leaps and bounds better than the night in Bree (which was only three nights before).
Tolkien describes (from the hobbits’ point of view) that the camp site was “damp, cold, and uncomfortable.” Also, the biting insects wouldn’t let them sleep. From personal experience, I know this is miserable. I mean, it’s not like being tracked down by undead Ring Wraiths, but it’s not too far behind.
On top of that was this: “There were also abominable creatures haunting the reeds and tussocks that from the sound of them were evil relatives of the cricket.” Words like “abominable,” “haunting,” and “evil,” are hardly words that would commonly be used to describe loud crickets, but by this point in the journey, our hobbits are clearly nearing their wits end. The marshes have really taken their toll.
In an earlier manuscript, from the “First Phase” of writing, Tolkien described the same scene quite differently: “Their camping places were damp and cold, for there was no good fuel. Armfuls of dry reeds and rush and grass blazed away all too soon. And of course the biting things would not let them sleep. There were also some abominable over-grown cousins of the cricket that squeaked all round, and nearly drove Bingo [Frodo] wild. He hated crickets, even when he was not kept awake by bites to listen to them. But these crickets were shriller than any cricket he had met, and even more persistent.”
In the first version, we get so much more detail on the camp site, and a strange peek into Frodo’s detestation of crickets. For whatever reason, Tolkien dropped it all, kept the word “abominable,” and decided to build up on it. Rather than incredibly shrill cricket cousins, we get “evil relatives.” These are the Sackville-Bagginses of cricketdom.
About the Photo
Just as I had no marshy photos, I don’t have any of campsites. But I do have a photo of abominable creatures haunting damp ground! (flickr)
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 180
- 34 miles to Weathertop
- 280 miles to Rivendell
- 1,599 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: At the western border of Midgewater Marsh! (map)