Lord of the Rings : Fellowship of the Read - Book 1, Chapter 4

Our hobbits wake rested and refreshed, with no sign of the elves except breakfast (clearly the elves are not only fantastic hosts but know hobbits).

This is a rather thoughtful bunch of hobbits.  What with Frodo ruminating over things (thinking during breakfast, of all things), Sam reflecting on the elves, and Pippin's rather astute observations about the whole situation.  I actually think that Sam and Pippin have a better handle on what's going on than Frodo, be it that the Ring is sewing confusion in his mind or he's dealing with the weight of ring bearer and realization of how dire the situation may be.  Pippin nails it with his comment about the importance of the rider's sniffing, and Sam feels he has to go, he knows they have a long way to go and will face danger, but that he has "something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire."

The reflections on the elves is perhaps the most telling of elven interactions so far (including The Hobbit).  This meeting started out with jest and a playful mien on the part of the high elves, one that was only broken by Pippin's mention of the black rider.  The visiting and feasting was all told from Frodo's point of view, now we get the thoughts and musings of the others.  As Sam puts it, the elves are "a bit above my likes and dislikes."  And maybe Gildor would have proved evasive when asked about the "sniffing," but then Frodo was rather evasive himself.

Sam's proclamations of accompaniment and protection does seem quaint and amusing in the current light.  As far as heroes and saviors go, Sam is even more unlikely than Frodo (or Bilbo, and he was quite unlikely).  However, as could be considered a refrain even this early on in The Lord of the Rings, "Courage is found in unexpected places."

Wisely, they continue their journey through the woods, with a distance road sighting of a black rider reinforcing their choice.  Their meanderings take them onto the land of a Farmer Maggot, which beyond being a somewhat awkward family name, stands out in Frodo's memory as something of a terror.  As it turns out, the fear was well earned and deserved, what with Frodo making a nuisance of himself stealing mushrooms from the farm.  "I recollect the time when young Frodo Baggins was one of the worst young rascals of Buckland," but that Farmer Maggot is a rather delightful family man who's insular hobbit nature serves them all well in the face of encounters with a black rider.  His comment about the strangeness of Hobbiton folk did crack me up some, with what Hobbiton folks say about everyone else.

What does make Farmer Maggot stand out is his pointed lack of interest in their activities.  A good bit of this is enlightened self-interest, since what he doesn't know he can't be dragged into.  However, he does Frodo and company a great kindness in transporting them discreetly down the the road, and as it happened to be right into the company of Merry Brandybuck.

The gift of mushrooms was a nice touch.

Most of this chapter does not appear in the film (scene title regardless).  But this is where our quartet meets up, and the fear of Farmer Maggot's (and his dogs') retribution for stealing appears.  We also get the "sniffing" black rider, and Frodo's overwhelming compulsion to don the ring from the previous chapter.  Extra flourishes were added (like the drawing out of insects and an almost hallucinatory visual effect) that really ramp up the tension of the encounter.

The trimming and compressing of plot for the most part works for me.  These are dense chapters, and the plot doesn't overall suffer from these changes.  What really stands out in difference is the establishment of Merry and Pippin as the troublemakers, stealing from Farmer Maggot and getting them all chased off the lands.  To this point in the book, Merry and Pippin have been incredibly steadfast and helpful to Frodo, even respecting his need for privacy without digging deeply.  While it does make Merry and Pippin into the official comic relief, and Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan embody their roles fantastically, but I think in the long run it proves detrimental to Frodo's character with some of his depth stripped away.


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