And with my fourth day of exercising (almost ever), I have finally made it to our hobbits first encampment. After the singing, Pippen began to get sleepy, yawned a bit, and Sam let us know that he knew the lands around the Shire pretty well – twenty miles in any direction from Hobbiton. They built a fire a the foot of a large fir tree. As they were sleeping, a fox came upon them.
Thoughts on the Passage – p 71 (of the 50th Anniversary Edition)
Once again, it’s a short bit of writing, but one of Tolkien’s most interesting. Here, a fox sees the Hobbits passing and we enter into his mind.
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 might queer behind this.” He was quite right, but he never found out more about this.
This might be one of my favorite passages in all of the legendarium. More than likely, it was something Tolkien used as a sort of call back to The Hobbit. The whole first part of the book is like this, really. It starts out mostly light, and this is just one of the light parts.
The Reader’s Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, this commentary by an outside narrator was “a device Tolkien grew to dislike.” I wish they had written more about this. Did he say anything in interviews or letters about this?
The passage also appeared in the early drafts of the book, when Frodo was named Bingo, and Sam Pippen were Frodo and Odo, respectively. In the History of Middle-Earth, Christopher Tolkien has no notes about it at all.
But it’s not the only time he’s done this, and neither is it the most extreme. In the Hobbit, of course, you’ve got William the Troll’s talking purse, and Beorn’s who could walk on their hind legs while carrying things in their front paws. They too were gifted with inexplicable speech.
And it’s not just in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In the Silmarillion, Turin’s sword, Gurthang, spoke (though it could have been in Mr. Turamber’s mind, I suppose). Also, there’s Huan the dog, though he was from Valinor, so he probably doesn’t count – in the same way that Shelob, her children from the Hobbit, and Ungoliant don’t count.
Nobody in the party saw the fox, so how they knew about it to record it in the Red Book of Westmarch (started by Bilbo, continued by Frodo and compiled by Sam) is anyone’s guess. As far as the literary device is concerned, where we actually enter into the fox’s mind, I’m not sure Tolkien ever did that before or after. Maybe someone could chime in about that.
On the Exercising
It’s getting easier. Actually, I think it’s more accurate to say that I can keep going without wanting to quit longer each day. Today, I was past two miles when I thought to myself “this is stupid, I need to stop moving for a bit.” Yesterday it was before two miles. When I started, it was pretty much the exact moment when I stepped on the elliptical machine.
I’m glad I’m doing this without a goal in mind. I don’t want to lose a certain amount of weight (though it wouldn’t be a bad thing), or to be able to elliptical longer. Mostly, I just want to get into shape and to get to Mordor. And it’s the Mordor thing that’s keeping me going.
miles today: 4
miles thus far: 18 (440 miles to Rivendell – 1,761 to Mt. Doom)
stopping place: The foot of a large fir tree.