Lord of the Rings : Fellowship of the Read - Book 1, Chapter 5

"A Conspiracy Unmasked" always struck me as a most sinister chapter title, especially in the clearly darkening setting of this story.  But more than anything, this chapter serves to partially alleviate the clearly encroaching threat and to showcase the stalwart nature of hobbits.

Since the film completely skipped over the relocation farce, 99% of this chapter never makes it to the screen.  Tolkien has been introducing notes of danger all along, but the ramp up is slow.  Jackson instead has not only compressed the timeline and excised most of the history lessons, but is giving us greater extremes of tension offset by moments of levity.  The one thing from this chapter that makes it to the film is taking the ferry across the river, and making note that the rider will have to go miles to the nearest bridge.  But rather than the almost casual crossing our hobbits make in the book, the film has them racing in terror with a black rider in hot pursuit.

The history lesson that Tolkien does include also gives us insights on hobbit society.  The idea that Buckland is basically a Shire colony and "virtually a small independent country," to me speaks volumes on the scale of geographic spread of the hobbits.  The Shire is not a small country community, it's a sprawling collection of communities and towns.  With the general insular (and gossipy) nature of hobbits, the Bucklanders and those from the old Shire view the others as peculiar.  Beyond their "odd" enjoyment and of water activities, what actually sets Bucklanders apart is their closeness to the wilds.  The know there are unusual and dangerous things on the other side of the hedge.

Sam's life has been changed simply by virtue of his close relationship with the Bagginses, then further when he was designated Frodo's companion.  By the time they cross the Brandywine, he has repeatedly pledged himself to Frodo's quest.  Crossing the water is a new experience, but nothing on par with the earlier meeting of the elves.  But meeting the elves doesn't have the symbolism of water, and it's the taking of the ferry that triggers the feeling that his old life is slipping away as he moves forward into something new.  Tolkien is giving Sam a baptism of sorts, with the water washing away who he was to make room for who he will become.

Frodo's new home is quite nicely set up, and we get some delightful playfulness and domesticity from the friends as they scrub off the road and enjoy dinner.  I'm personally quite impressed by three bath tubs with sufficient hot water.  That is quite a bit of effort and luxury.

Frodo's friends are really quite clever and insightful, far beyond what we'll see in the films.  Merry flatly says "you are miserable, because you don't know how to say good-bye."  His four friends have known all along that he was making plans to leave, to the point where they've been expecting it since Bilbo did.  Honestly, I feel that hobbits in general have the potential to be incredibly insightful and cunning, but by and large they live a quite complacent and sedentary life that fails to provide opportunities for this to emerge.

The revelation that his friends have been tracking his activities and making plans of their own to accompany him doesn't thrill Frodo.  His immediate reaction is one of betrayal and dismay, and I don't think this is a side effect of the ring by any means.  Instead I think it's a normal reaction to finding out that your friends are effectively spying on you and making plans behind your back.  It's not a particularly comforting situation to encounter.
"But it does not seem that I can trust anyone," said Frodo

Sam looked at him unhappily.  "It all depends on what you want," but in Merry.  "You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end.  And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you keep it yourself.  But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word."
The decision to be happy and thankful for the company is probably one of the best that Frodo has made so far.  The prologue and snippets of history so far imply that hobbits have made their mark on world events in subtle ways.  This journey is far more than simply taking the Ring to Rivendell, and Frodo knows it with his future framed as unknown, with the possibility of never returning to the Shire.  Merry, Pippin, and Sam will all have just as important roles as Frodo in the story that follows.  Even Fatty is playing an important role in maintaining the illusion of Frodo's residence in Crickhollow.

Frodo's dreams I think will prove somewhat prophetic, with the sea and the towers, but to what extent I cannot be sure at this stage in the game.  I do find it particularly interesting that the sea is "a sound he has never heard in waking life, though it had often troubled his dreams."


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