Happy birthday to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! On this day in 1401 S.R., Bilbo disappears at his "long-expected" 111th birthday party. 17 years later (1418 S.R.), Frodo is turning 50, and about to leave Bag End on a journey to destroy the Ring.

Today in 3018 (1418 S.R.): having escaped Orthanc just under a week ago, Gandalf is swiftly travelling west on Shadowfax, hoping to catch up with Frodo (who is taking the Ring east to Rivendell).

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Meanwhile in the Shire, Frodo, Sam, and Pippin hide from a Black Rider as they are hiking from Hobbiton to Buckland. In the evening, they encounter a company of Elves led by Gildor.

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(For those following along, this brings us to the end of book 1, chapter 3, "Three is Company".)

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Today in LOTR (Sept. 25, 3018): Frodo, Sam, & Pippin take a short cut across Farmer Maggot's land. He tells them a Black Rider has been by, and drives them to the ferry over the Brandywine River. (Book 1, chapter 4, "A Short Cut to Mushrooms")

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Merry meets them at the ferry, and they arrive at the new house, Crickhollow. After (2nd) dinner, Merry, Sam, & Pippin reveal they know all about Frodo's plans and the Ring, and are going to go with him. They will leave for Rivendell at dawn. (1.5, "A Conspiracy Unmasked")

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Today in LOTR (Sept 26, 3018): the hobbits leave Crickhollow and cut through the Old Forest on their way to Bree in order to avoid the East Road. They are ensnared by Old Man Willow and rescued by the jolly but enigmatic Tom Bombadil, who they stay with today and tomorrow.

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Once I read a review of King's Quest VI that criticized the tonal mismatch—like, there's an island that is Alice in Wonderland-themed, but there's also catacombs & the Land of the Dead. For me that's part of what made the game so magical. Tom Bombadil's kind of like that.

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In LOTR, this goofy fairytale shit exists alongside the Very Serious high fantasy mythos, and it's supposed to. At heart, this is not a "grimdark" world. That doesn't mean "happy"/"no one dies". It just means it's fundamentally *good*, like Tolkien believed our own world to be.

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Today in LOTR (Sept. 27, 3018): it's raining, so the hobbits stay at Tom Bombadil's. We learn about the Barrow-downs, which the hobbits will have to pass by to reach Bree, in this lovely little passage:

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Also, interestingly, Tom Bombadil does not turn invisible when he puts the Ring on. He can also see Frodo when he's invisible.

One of Elrond's people later says, "It seems he that he has a power even over the Ring." Gandalf: "Say rather that the Ring has no power over him."

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There's a lot of Theories about Tom Bombadil, who doesn't seem to fit neatly into Tolkien's cosmology. One of the wackiest is that he is Eru Ilúvatar (the "God" of Middle-Earth) himself. For more discussion, see the Encyclopedia of Arda:

glyphweb.com/arda/t/tombombadi

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Today in LOTR (Sept. 28, 3018): the hobbits get lost on the Barrow-downs and are captured by a Barrow-wight, but Tom Bombadil rescues them. They get some sick loot. (This brings us halfway through 1.8, "Fog on the Barrow-downs".)

Meanwhile, Gandalf has reached the Brandywine.

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By the way, I count 13 different songs/poems so far. (Not counting different iterations of "The road goes ever on and on".)

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Today in LOTR (Sept. 29, 3018): the hobbits arrive in Bree and stay at the the Prancing Pony, where they meet the mysterious Strider. The innkeeper gives Frodo a letter from Gandalf, meant to be sent back in June, telling him to leave ASAP. (1.9-1.10)

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Today in LOTR (Sept. 30, 3018): in the wee hours, Nazgûl attack the house at Crickhollow and, in Bree, the rooms the hobbits were supposed to be sleeping in. Strider and the hobbits manage to get a pony and leave Bree. Gandalf learns this when he reaches Bree in the evening.

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Some notes on today's section. This bit is probably a reference to when wolves entered Paris in 1420 over the frozen Seine: johnknifton.com/2016/02/14/the

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This chapter made a big impression on me when I first read it as a child of 11 or so, where a couple of suspicious characters are specifically described as "swarthy", "sallow" and "squinty" or with "sly, slanting eyes".

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So let's briefly talk about colour, race, the Middle Ages, racism, and Tolkien.

As you should already know, the concept of race as we know it has not always existed. As far as I know, it developed in the Modern era with the colonization of the Americas and Atlantic chattel slavery.

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But at the same time it did not appear out of nowhere. The conceptual framework was laid over centuries in medieval Europe. There's a LOT of scholarship on this already, as well as a lot of exciting new work happening under : acmrs.asu.edu/RaceB4Race

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(I don't know much about this, so please forgive and correct me if I get any of it wrong!)

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Equating whiteness & fairness with good, and blackness & darkness with evil, was a Thing in European cultures long before anyone thought of applying those labels to people.

(But it sure made it easier to apply it to people, you know?)

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You know how steampunk is, like, "backporting" futuristic trappings onto Victorian-era technological precursors? LOTR is like that, except with the Modern world of race, colonization, and slavery onto Old English/Norse/Scandinavian mythology.

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So we see hobbits consuming tobacco and potatoes—New World crops that only arrived in Europe post-colonization of the Americas. Bilbo portrays Ëarendil making arrows out of ebony, a tropical wood that likewise only came to Europe in modern times.

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This has been seen as a mere oversight (including by Tolkien), but I think it's essential to understanding Middle-earth, especially alongside his explicit anachronistic racialization of black/white.

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Many people point to Tolkien's repudiation of Nazism as some kind of proof of anti-racism, but, like…

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Like dude wrote a three-volume epic where he constantly talks about how beautiful and good white people are and how ugly and evil non-white people are, in the 20th-ass century. And also—! daily.jstor.org/the-question-o

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I did not know any of this at the time, of course. I was just a kid who wanted to be a beautiful elf-maiden and got harshly slapped down to reality. Sallow, squinty, hairy, with a fat beak of a Jewish nose. No elven frolics for you, little girl.

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Butterbur: There's suspicious black men about, I won't rent any rooms to them
Me: could you at least clarify that you're referring to eldritch beings merely dressed in bl—
Gandalf: stay away from the swarthy guy, who has a dark complexion
Me: oh come ON

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Okay I promise no more LOTR-posting for the next couple days. Strider & hobbits spend the next couple days in the Midgewater Marshes and being annoyed by crickets. Meanwhile Gandalf rides ahead of them, trying to draw the Nazgûl away.

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 3, 3018): Gandalf is attacked by the Nazgûl on Weathertop, and only barely manages to drive them off. From afar, Frodo & co. think they see lightning.

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 6, 3018): The hobbits and Strider reach the great hill, Weathertop. They find possible signs Gandalf was there. As night falls, they are attacked by Nazgûl. Frodo is stabbed and grievously injured.

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Later, Gandalf will explain: "You were in gravest peril while you wore the Ring, for then you were half in the wraith-world yourself, and they might have seized you. You could see them, and they could see you."

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Verses: Sam recites "Gil-galad was an Elven-king"; Aragorn tells the tale of Beren and Tinúviel. This has great personal significance to him: they are the ancestors of him and his betrothed Arwen. (See tolkiengateway.net/wiki/E%C3%A)

This brings us to chapter 1.12.

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 9, 3018): word reaches Rivendell that Frodo is blundering around in the wilderness, with Gandalf still MIA. Elrond sends out searchers in all directions, including Elf-lord Glorfindel along the east-west Road.

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Meanwhile, the hobbits and Strider are trudging through the "cheerless land" south of Weathertop, about two weeks' walk from Rivendell. Things are tense, but there's no sign of Ringwraiths.

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incidentally, I bought a multi-coloured pack of Post-Its and am really looking forwards to sitting down and adding colour-coded tabs for dates and shit

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 11, 3018): Glorfindel reaches the bridge over the River Hoarwell or Mitheithel and drives off five Ringwraiths. He leaves a small green gem ("a beryl, an elf-stone") there as a sign.

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 13, 3018): Strider, Frodo & co. cross the river Hoarwell or Mitheithel. Strider finds Glorfindel's gem. They pass into a desolate country of ancient ruins of a post-Arnor kingdom. tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Angle_

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Re-reading LOTR, it's striking how *depopulated* the land is. It's basically like the Roman Empire fell and nothing really took its place. (A similar distance in time - 1400-1600 years ago.)

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 18, 3018): the hobbits and Strider come across the stone trolls from The Hobbit, who were so occupied fighting over how to cook Bilbo and the dwarves that they were caught unawares by the dawn and literally petrified!

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Later, Glorfindel the elf finally finds them, and they begin making their way to Rivendell as fast as they can, barely pausing to rest. This is especially rough on Frodo, who as you recall was stabbed by the head Ringwraith a couple weeks ago.

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A little back-story: the head Ringwraith is the old "Witch-King of Angmar", like Sauron Lite, but in the northwest. He was the major reason the Dúnedain got practically wiped out in the North, reducing their once proud kingdom to wandering Rangers. +

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At the final battle, Glorfindel showed up and the Witch-King turned tail and ran like a little bitch. Glorfindel was like, leave him, because "not by the hand of man shall he fall". WOW I WONDER IF THIS PROPHECY WILL COME UP AGAIN LATER.

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 20, 3018): the hobbits, Strider, and Glorfindel reach the Ford of Bruinen. The Ringwraiths confront Frodo, and as he defies them, they are suddenly washed away in a mighty flood. Frodo blacks out. End of Book 1!

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Something that didn't translate at all in the movies is how subtly and ambiguously transformations and visions are portrayed - things the hobbits "seem to see", like how here Frodo "half fancies" the waves are like white horses. It's very subjective.

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Examples yet to come: when Frodo shows the Ring to Bilbo, and Galadriel describing what would happen if she took the Ring. It's Frodo's PERCEPTIONS that are being transformed, not his reality. This has roots in traditional European Christian understandings of magic.

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 24, 3018): Frodo wakes up in Rivendell. Gandalf (who arrived several days ago, I forgot to mention) brings him up to speed. Bilbo recites the Song of Ëarendil in the Hall of Fire.

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Today in LOTR (Oct. 25, 3018): the Councli of Elrond. The history of the Ring is told in full. Frodo volunteers to take the Ring to Mordor. The Company, or Fellowship, is assembled.

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@wohali well now i have to do work. but after that maybe spoders

@nev @wohali need lots of spiders to wash that back out of my head

@nev that's an observation I've made too, and that the there is a focus in past greatness. Everything that is good and impressive has some link to the past greatness of the elves in the first age.

I think that an important message is that the elves, being immortal and powerful, are the ones holding back progress of the humans. The real reason why the elves leave middle earth is so that they will no longer stand in the way of human progress. Note how thousands of years have passed and there have been essentially no progress since the first age. In fact, every advanced thing (the palantirs, Frodos sword, etc) were all made by or with the help of the elves.

And that's why the world is so desolate. No one believes that humans are capable of anything, and the only glory that remains is the fragments of elven greatness. Look at a character like Denethor who does nothing but look back at past glory. He represents everything about the world that is portrayed in the book.

@loke that's a very interesting reading!

We do see some industrialization but of course it is linked with Saruman, evil, and degradation. Elf-stuff is magic and surpasses mortal ability and limitation.

The evolution of Middle-Earth seems to be from a world of magic and myth to one more like our own - the flat world turning round, Atlantis-analogue sinking, etc.

Perhaps the passing of the Elves is also the passing of supernatural evils like Sauron?

@loke this also helps crystallize a thought I had, of LOTR as "dying earth". Thank you

@nev That is indeed the case, and my understanding is that Tolkien himself considered us living in the 5'th age.

It is made clear in Tolkien's writings (especially the fragments that was published by his son) that humans were considered to have the potential to grow to more than even the capabilities of the Valar.

It is said that both the Valar, the Maiar and even the Elves were all "bound to middle earth". They were given some powers at creation, and those were the powers they had. Humans are explained to be different, in that they are not constrained by the limits of what was given, and has the capability to grow.

What's interesting is that Tolkien didn't see human progress as being always a good thing. He was very much an anti-industrialist, and perhaps he was thinking that unchecked progress is a bad thing. I'm wondering if this clash comes from his own changing opinions over the course of the development of the world, which he worked on for all his life.

@nev "but no hand shall use I!" cried glorfindel, smothering the witch-king to death with his butt

EQUALLY VALID, JRR

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