When blogging through The Lord of the Rings the beginning seems like a good place to begin. Let’s talk about hobbits!
If there’s one thing I’m noticing on this read-through it’s how invested and preoccupied the characters are with stories, both their telling and their making.
Frodo just needs the right push to set him on the path down the road from his door—the place where all adventures begin.
"'Well, we're off at last!' said Frodo. They shouldered their packs and took up their sticks, and walked round the corner to the west side of Bag End. 'Good-bye!' said Frodo, looking at the dark blank windows. He waved his hand, and then turned and (following Bilbo, if he had known it) hurried after Peregrin down the garden-path."
What stands out to me in this chapter is the consistent move from the anxiety of danger following close behind to the respite offered by some simple, good thing. They take solace in the common graces around them: a meal and a song, familiar terrain, generous hospitality, and finally a fortuitous reunion.
Sometimes we choose our friends, true, but our friends can also choose us, even against our wishes. It’s a feeling that makes Frodo want to dance for joy, “if the danger were not so dark,” and that is exactly why he needs his friends.
If the trees talk to each other and have a life we can understand then we can’t easily destroy them, even when we find them vaguely threatening. Instead we learn to live beside them.
The ineffable quality of Tom and Goldberry make them difficult to pin down and impossible to ignore.
The hobbits say farewell to Tom Bombadil and Goldberry and set a course for the East Road that will take them to Bree. After stopping for lunch and a rather unexpected nap at the foot of a dark standing stone atop a green hill, the hobbits awake in a fog.
After dinner, Frodo draws the eye of Strider, a rough, hooded ranger—a group held in both awe and disrepute by the locals—and soon finds himself the centre of attention. The Ring works its subtle will and the hobbits once again find themselves out of their depth.
“A hunted man sometimes wearies of distrust and longs for friendship.”
“Is there no escape then?” said Frodo, looking round wildly. “If I move I shall be seen and hunted! If I stay, I shall draw them to me!”
This is why I’m convinced the greatest purpose of fantasy is to reintroduce us to a universe that sings, a cosmos.