Mark Reads ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’: Chapter 8

In the eighth chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, IS THIS REAL LIFE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.


It is simply astounding to me that:

1) I never read this book.

2) this book is so goddamn good.

3) this book totally dispels the idea that you can’t find some good scares in the classics.


Look, I am not even close to anything resembling the “main” plot for this novel, and already I am entertained and frightened. I actually had to stop and acknowledge this idea to myself: the last few chapters have virtually nothing to do with the Ring or Sauron or the Black Riders or Gandalf AND IT’S STILL SO GOOD. In chapter eight in particular, I get to witness one of Tolkien’s undeniable strengths: the use of his detailed world-building to give me nightmares.

It’s remarkable these days how easy it is for my brain to decide to dream about something that’s spooked me. I think I shall blame that on being stressed in general, therefore making my subconscious mind ~vulnerable~ to attack, but I have had nightmares about Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Luther, Torchwood, and Fringe in the last few months of my life. WHICH IS PARTIALLY AWESOME, mind you, but still. I’d rather just have pleasant dreams about those things instead.

I’m beginning to totally fall in love with the term “nightmare fuel” because it really helps to describe this concept: these are things that unsettle us and creep us out on a visceral level, that address fears that are deep-seeded and debilitating at times. Chapter eight is so scary to me on a number of levels: the fear of getting the lost, the fear of being kidnapped, and the fear of WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT A WIGHT OH MY GOD HELP ME HELP ME. And yet on top of that, this is just plain good writing: evocative, descriptive to a point where Tolkien makes it easy to understand the smallest details of this imagined world, and clever enough to keep me fully engaged in the story.

Do I understand the River-daughter or Tom Bombadil anymore than I did yesterday? LOL NOPE. The group of hobbits ready themselves on that particular morning to finally leave Tom’s house, and Tom is just so goddamn weird to me, and I love it. He’s so joyous and I have no idea why, but it’s never annoying to me. It’s not like he’s mocking the hobbits or being pervasively cheery just to spite others. He bids them goodbye with genuine happiness, so much so that the hobbits are sad to have to leave his wonderful home, no matter how strange and queer it all is.

I also really love the image of Frodo turning back to see Goldberry waving them goodbye off in the distance, of them rushing up a slope to greet her one last time in that misty valley, and then walking down the hill to see her disappear at the top of it. I don’t know that we’ll see her again, but at the very least, I’m just as intrigued by her as Frodo is. Who the hell is she, and why is she important?

As dense as this all is, it’s becoming increasingly easy to navigate through the long passages without any sort of dialogue in this book. There’s a poetic sense of wonder and appreciation for the physical environment in Tolkien’s words, and it’s something I can relate to and cherish myself. When he’s describing grass, I don’t find it boring at all:

There was no tree nor any visible water: it was a country of grass and short springy turn, silent except for the whisper of the air over the edges of the land, and high lonely cries of strange birds.

I think there’s something about loneliness and vacancy that Tolkien finds in the wilderness of Middle-earth that he always conveys well. He did it in The Hobbit, too; if you recall, one of my favorite sections was Bilbo looking back on the expanse of the Shire and feeling so terribly alone when he did. (Which was also nicely paralleled in this book as well.) I’ve spoken of my love of being outdoors before, but the context here is totally different for me. There really is something lonely about being in the forest, or going on a hike, if it’s in the right place. And I don’t think feeling lonely or alone is always this bad, negative thing. As social as I am at times, I’m at a point in my life where I really love the silence and solitude that comes with being in a place far from the bustling, active city that I live in, and that actually makes me feel more whole at times.

So in a sense, it’s that comfort that Tolkien exploits brilliantly, both in the reader and in the characters. An open field, here in chapter eight, is comforting to them. There’s no hidden entities or spirits hiding behind (or inside) trees, and being able to experience the luxury of that sort of sight is immensely helpful on their journey. When Merry spots a dark line in the distance, he knows it’s a visual marker for the Road that they need to be on. The whole group was reassured by this.

And then Tolkien destroys it all:

In the midst of it there stood a single stone, standing tall under the sun above, and at this hour casting no shadow. It was shapeless and yet significant: like a landmark, or a guarding finger, or more like a warning.

This genuinely creeps me out. I grew up in a part of Southern California where a wildlife reserve was just a quarter mile from my backyard, and it took me so many years to traverse all the hills and paths and switchbacks it provided. I remember the time my cross country team decided to run the complicated and sandy switchbacks through the bamboo forest alongside the Santa Ana River. On that afternoon, perhaps six or seven miles from where we started, we burst out of the forest into an unnatural clearing where a tiny, abandoned stone church stood before us. Like this shapeless stone, it just felt wrong, even though it was just a building. It was as if it was a sign of something we couldn’t understand, and after exploring the structure for a couple minutes, the whole group completely agreed that we weren’t meant to be there.

In hindsight, that’s entirely irrational, but we trusted our instincts and we left. That’s the mistake that these hobbits make: even though the stone feels so very wrong just existing in that space, they all decide to rest their backs against it for just a moment. That moment turns into a disaster when all four hobbits fall asleep when they had no intention to do so. It’s never spelled out in the pages here, but I imagine that stone had some power over them. Perhaps, though, it was just a case of them being full and tired. Either way, this is what they wake to:

They found that they were upon an island in the fog. Even as they looked out in dismay towards the setting sun, it sank before their eyes into a white sea, and a cold grey shadow sprang up in the East behind. The fog rolled up to the walls and rose above them, and as it mounted it bent over their heads until it became a roof: they were shut in a hall of mist whose central pillar was the standing stone.

From here until nearly the end of chapter eight, this is all just…well, fucked up. It’s executed so brilliantly by Tolkien, and the use of fog and disorientation contributes to a sense of constant danger to the hobbits. They are almost certain to get lost, I realize, and that ends up being the absolute least of their worries. They try to organize a method to travel in the thick fog, with Frodo leading them all in single file, but when he comes upon two more standing stones, I basically gave up hope that this was going to end well.

I MEAN SERIOUSLY THIS IS SUCH AN UTTER DISASTER. Frodo gets separated from the others, no one is responding to his cries, and then someone does respond AND IT’S CLEARLY NOT ANY OF THE OTHER HOBBITS. I will not apologize for this being one of the creepiest things in this book at this point.

‘Where are you?’ he cried again, both angry and afraid.

‘Here!’ said a voice, deep and cold, that seemed to come out of the ground. ‘I am waiting for you!’

‘No!’ said Frodo; but he did not run away. His knees gave, and he fell on the ground. Nothing happened, and there was no sound. Trembling he looked up, in time to see a tall dark figure like a shadow against the stars. It leaned over him. He thought there were two eyes, very cold though lit with a pale light that seemed to come from some remote distance. Then a grip stronger and colder than iron seized him. The icy touch froze his bones, and he remembered no more.

YOU IN DANGER, FRODO. Oh my god, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? Tolkien names it just a few seconds later: a Barrow-wight. My only experience with wights is from A Song of Ice and Fire and all I know is that this disturbs me DEEP IN MY SOUL. We are on chapter EIGHT and shit is already SO REAL and it has absolutely nothing to do with the Ring. Good god, I swear, WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO???

It’s here that Tolkien completely wins me over, though, because even amidst the terror, he takes the time to give me one beautiful moment of characterization for Frodo Baggins. As I pointed out from the opening chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, a lot of Frodo’s personality and beliefs comes from living with Bilbo for so long, and that comes up when Frodo wakes up in the cave of the Barrow-wight. Tolkien describes this as a “seed of hidden courage” that is in all hobbits, and I was so impressed by the idea that Frodo is able to access this because of the adventures his uncle had told him about, those queer and dangerous things Bilbo did that were unheard of for a hobbit. Being able to draw that sort of strength is really a powerful thing for Frodo, because it allows him to confront a fear he might have normally shied away from.

Can we talk about that fear? Yeah, it’s this:

Round the corner a long arm was groping, walking on its fingers towards Sam, who was lying nearest, and towards the hilt of the sword that lay upon him.

Yeah, fuck you, Tolkien. This is so unbearably creepy that I am most certainly going to have a nightmare about it forever. Is it even attached to something or is it just a sentient arm? Wait, don’t answer that. neither answer seems appealing.

But it’s in this moment of utter terror that Frodo finds that kernel of courage inside of him, almost as if he wouldn’t want to let Bilbo down, and he grabs a short sword nearby and HACKS THE HAND OFF OF THE ARM THAT IS HEADING FOR SAM. Holy shit, this is such an amazing scene. Yet it becomes even greater when the other hobbits wake up and completely oout of nowhere, Frodo sings that song he learned from Tom Bombadil in the last chapter AND TOM BOMBADIL JUST SHOWS UP OUT OF THIN AIR. No, seriously, what is Tom???? How can he do that? Oh my god, is he the original Beetlejuice? HE TOTALLY IS, ISN’T HE?

So Tom saves all four hobbits from whatever doom the Barrow-wights had planned for them (WHY DID THEY DRESS SAM, MERRY, AND PIPPIN UP???) because he is the best badass of all time or something.

‘You’ve found yourselves again, out of the deep water. Clothes are but little loss, if you escape from drowning.’

DO YOU ONLY SPEAK IN LOGICAL CONUNDRUMS, TOM BOMBADIL? Oh my god, his whole existence is a huge riddle, and I kind of love it? Plus, it’s clear now that he truly means well, that he’s not some secretly sinister being. I mean, he just saved the hobbits and brought back their horses and brought them food as well. Who is this man??? Why is he so interested in the hobbits? HOW CAN I SECURE MY OWN TOM BOMBADIL FOR MY LIFE?

I admit to being a bit confused by this all, not due to reading comprehension, but because I feel like there’s a huge piece of this story that’s missing. But I appreciate the character of Tom Bombadil not because he saves the hobbits, but because he is so fascinating. He is so concerned in the very best way possible, and it’s a blessing to have him help out these four main characters. I still don’t understand exactly what Tom is the Master of, especially since it’s made clear that his knowledge and power only extends to a certain point in this part of Middle-earth. I’d forgotten that yesterday, so I guess he’s not really a god in any conventional sense. Still, he bids the hobbits goodbye as they head off to find the Prancing Pony, an inn that Tom recommends they stop at. I don’t know what’s there, and I don’t know who Tom is quite yet, but for the time being, he’s helped them further along on their journey, and I’m glad he was a part of it.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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165 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’: Chapter 8

  1. Becky_J_ says:

    I'm sorry, but this is fucking AWFUL. Somehow, every chapter, Tolkien creates a new horror that was worst than the last. And you think, "No, there's NO way that it can get worse than this." And then IT DOES. Being lost is bad. Being lost in fog? Worse. Being lost in fog AND losing your friends? TERRIBLE. Being lost in fog and losing your friends and waking up fucking underground in a Barrow, imprisoned by a Barrow-Wight, looking around to see your friends dressed up like kings and lying there as if dead…. NO FUCKING THANK YOU. And then…. AND THEN. There is a fucking ARM crawling around the corner towards you. What kind of horror is this you guys I am going to faint in a corner and DIE.

    But then Tom Bombadil comes and saves the day with his singing and everything is wonderful and picnics and ponies (WHO ARE STILL NOT TALKING I MIGHT ADD) and nothing hurts! except somehow I suspect that Tolkien will kill all of our hopes and dreams with some new nightmare that will be even worse than this. THANKS TOLKIEN. THANKS FOR THE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS.

    • settlingforhistory says:

      Being lost in fog and losing your friends and waking up fucking underground in a Barrow, imprisoned by a Barrow-Wight, looking around to see your friends dressed up like kings and lying there as if dead.

      I think that is something I'm starting to love about these books. Tolkien mixes conventional nightmare fuel,
      like getting lost, dark dank caves, being alone in a strange environment, with the High Octane Nightmare Fuel of cave dwelling maybe bodyless monsters who dress their prey before they eat it.
      The strange thing is that I want to read more of this even though it's scary as heck, not even the really queer Tom can stop me from reading now, this is just too exciting!

    • atheistsisters says:

      Lrnu, guvf fprar vf fb hggreyl ubeevslvat. V guvax gur zbfg ubeevoyr cneg bs gur jubyr frevrf sbe zr vf jura Sebqb vf fghpx va gung bep gbjre naq Fnz erfphrf uvz naq Sebqb guvaxf gur evat vf tbar, ohg guvf evtug urer vf cerggl zhpu gur zbfg fubpxvatyl tebff cneg bs gur frevrf. Nnhtu!!! <– zr rirel. fvatyr. gvzr.

    • BklynBruzer says:

      You are not prepared.

  2. Jenny_M says:

    The only true cure for being captured by a barrow wight is to run naked on the grass for a while. Seriously, the hobbits spend a LOT of time running around naked. I…kind of wish I were a hobbit.

    Also, movie stuff: Guvf vf bar fprar V jbhyqa'g unir zvaqrq frrvat nqqrq ng gur ortvaavat bs Sryybjfuvc, rira vs vg jbhyqa'g unir znqr frafr jvgubhg gur Gbz Obzonqvy fghss. Vg'f whfg fb PERRCL naq jryy-jevggra naq cnvagf fhpu n ivivq cvpgher va zl zvaq.

    • knut_knut says:

      I wish I was a hobbit too 🙁 Food, singing, adorable hobbit holes, running around naked…it all sounds so wonderful!

      V jbhyq unir ybirq gb frr guvf va gur zbivr, ohg V'z nyfb tynq vg jnfa'g orpnhfr V'z n puvpxra naq V'q cebonoyl fgvyy or univat avtugznerf.

      • flootzavut says:

        I'm the same… Vg jbhyq unir orra oevyyvnagyl qbar, I'm sure… ohg V'z xvaq bs tengrshy vg qvqa'g znxr vg va!

  3. @MeagenImage says:

    It's kind of weird to have someone who is just *happy*, who finds joy in the simple things in life, and does not in fact have a hidden agenda of any kind, is it? 😀

  4. Welcome to the chapter that made me one of the most terrified young children in all New England ten years ago. I remember being so utterly terrified by this when I first read it. I hate the dark and fog more than anything else- my worst nightmare is being trapped somewhere where I can't see anything. And agh, that incantation: "Cold be hand and heart and stone…" Yeah, no I'm stopping there. Agh. Seriously, though, this chapter terrified me so much to the point that when Tom finally came up I was practically cheering. I'd rather have nonsense songs than that horrible hand any time, thanks. And whenever I see pictures of Tolkien I get so bewildered because he looks so benevolent and yet his brain produced horrors such as this.

    But on the bright side, his brain produced Frodo's resolution to stay by his friends and try to help them. And his deciding that in the face of that nightmare is just amazing to me- I think I would have curled up and died as soon as I heard that chanting.

    And Merry's nightmare sounds horrible "The men of Carn Dum came at us in the night and we were worsted. Ah, the spear in my heart." But then I love him for "No, no. What am I saying? I have been dreaming." And Sam! The first thing he thinks of is "Dressed up like this?" They can't go traveling wearing graveyard stuff! And no, of course you can't, but I love that that is literally his first thought after they've been saved.

    So excited for Bree you don't even know and of course I would work opening shift tomorrow so I'll have to come late for all the comments… and what is my life that someone reading LOTR is almost on a par with my work shift. All your fault, Mark 🙂

    • flootzavut says:

      I can't help wondering if it was his experiences of war that came out in parts like that. Not that (one hopes…) he ever saw a disembodied hand creeping towards his friends, but I guess it just seems logical that some of the trauma and horror he witnessed in WWI must have left its marks on his imagination.

      • mulewagon says:

        Tolkien had three close school friends, and two of them were killed in WWI. He himself contracted trench fever and took a long time to recover. So he did see the hand of death crawling towards his friends…

      • fourthage says:

        I don' t know if you've read it, but the book Tolkien and the Great War may be relevant to your interests.

  5. pennylane27 says:

    Mark, no one ever told you this book is creepy as hell because we love you. But most of all we love your unpreparedness.

    LUNCH! I'd better go or my grandma will murder me.

  6. Ryan Lohner says:

    I didn't care for this one at first, as I was worried Tom would turn into a walking deus ex machina. Then I too remembered his powers don't extend beyond the forest, and could appreciate it more; it's like their last taste of being able to rely on someone else before they step into the wider world.

    Thinking about it more this past week, Tom really reminds me of a quote from Babyon 5, which I'll encode because Mark will be watching it someday (woo hoo!): V nz obgu greevsvrq naq ernffherq gb xabj gung gurer ner fgvyy jbaqref va gur havirefr. Gung jr unir abg lrg rkcynvarq rirelguvat.

  7. knut_knut says:

    Poor hobbits can't catch a break 🙁 but on the plus side, FATTY LUMPKIN! GREATEST PONY NAME EVER!!!

    This chapter kind of reminds me of Spirited Away, which I just realized this time around, but less adorable and containing 100% more nightmare fuel. I think it was the stone just propped up in the middle of nowhere…

    On an unrelated note: ZL PBCVRF BS GUR FVYZNEVYYVBA NAQ GUR HASVAVFURQ GNYRF BS AHZRABE NAQ ZVQQYR RNEGU NEEVIRQ LRFGREQNL!!!!! V'ir arire npghnyyl ernq gur ynggre, fb V'z fbbb rkpvgrq! V'z cebonoyl tbvat gb unir gb er-ernq Gur Fvyznevyyvba orsber fgnegvat Gur Hasvavfurq Gnyrf orpnhfr V qba'g guvax V erzrzore jub nalbar vf :'(

  8. unefeeverte says:

    Heh. Maybe no-one warned you about the creepiness because we just love it when you're NOT PREPARED? Because I can promise you one thing, we have only just scratched the surface of creepy at this point.

    V pna'g jnvg hagvy jr trg gb shpxvat ZBEVN. 😛

    • Becky_J_ says:

      UNUNUNUNUN bu vg'f nyzbfg xvaq bs phgr ubj hacercnerq ur vf. Pbzcnerq gb Zbevn, guvf vf puvyq'f cynl.

      Guvf vf tbvat gb or FB TERNG. 😀

      • unefeeverte says:

        Jura zrzoref bs gur sryybjfuvc fgneg qlvat (fvapr ur qbrfa'g xabj gung Tnaqnys pbzrf onpx), jr'er tbaan unir n svryq qnl. 🙂

        • knut_knut says:

          vf vg jebat gb fnl V'z rkpvgrq sbe gung qnl? Cebonoyl…

          • flootzavut says:

            It's probably wrong, but that doesn'y mean you're alone feeling that way…

            • AmandaNekesa says:

              Yeah, definitely not alone in those feelings. V fbzrgvzrf fgbc zlfrys juvyr ernqvat uvf erivrjf orpnhfr V ernyvmr ubj zhpu pehry fngvfsnpgvba V'z trggvat sebz xabjvat ur'f nf hacercnerq nf ur vf, naq jvyy or, hagvy gur irel ynfg puncgre.

      • Parmadil says:

        Abg RKNPGYL puvyq'f cynl… ohg lrf, gur hacercnerqarff sbe gur zbafgre bs nyy zbafgref… V pnaabg JNVG!

    • naq vs lbh whzc nurnq n obbx- gur Qrnq Znefurf. Be Furybo'f ynve.

      • unefeeverte says:

        Bu Tbq, gur Qrnq Znefurf. Jr'er nyy tbaan QVR.

        • flootzavut says:

          Angun qntrq qunre!


          • unefeeverte says:

            Srsly, I just thought I broke rot13 when I put that it, cause I didn't recognise the quote written down and not spoken, lol. <3

            • flootzavut says:

              Confession: I almost just posted it, thinking, well can it be a spoiler if it's in Elvish? But decided it would be more amusing if I rot13'd it :$

              Took me an age to find it, as I too had only heard it, not seen it written down! Eventually stumbled across a site with the scripts on it. Good ole Google!

            • flootzavut says:

              ps I only just deciphered your username 🙂

      • Parmadil says:

        UBYL SHPXVAT FUVG!!! Bu V pnaabg JNVG sbe Znex gb zrrg Furybo… BU gung'f tbvat gb or ornhgvshy… Zl SNIBHEVGR puncgref…

    • flootzavut says:

      Gebb qng.

      Nyfb, EbgX… Gur Jnl Vf Fuhg… V zrna frevbhfyl, V qba'g unir gb rira guvax bs nal zber bs gung cnegvphyne dhbgr naq vg'f nyernql tvivat zr n fuvire qbja zl fcvar.

  9. James says:

    I remember a few years ago, the morning after I'd re-read this I was going to school and rode my bike through the park (nicknamed the Mystery, just to add tension!) and it was so foggy, even with my lights I could barely see. Freaked me the fuck out and I probably pedalled way faster than I should've given the lack of visibility, but IF I SLOWED DOWN A WIGHT WOULD GET ME.

    That is to say: this chapter is so fucking creepy, I love it. And I'm so glad you like Tom Bombadil! I adore him, but he's not the most popular of characters 🙁

  10. Marie the Bookwyrm says:

    Super creepy moment–"As Frodo left the barrow for the last time he thought he saw a severed hand wriggling still, like a wounded spider, in a heap of fallen earth." *shudders*

    • saphling says:

      That creeped me out, as well. But the next sentence or so has, "Tom went back in again, and there was a sound of much thumping and stamping…"

      I like to imagine Tom Bombadil went back in and stomped that hand into the ground until it stopped moving. For some things, a song will do. Other things… a more direct approach is necessary. >_>

    • Rheinman says:

      Bu, qba’g rira fgneg jvgu gur fcvqref. V unqa’g ernyvmrq vg jnf zragvbarq guvf rneyl va SBGE, ohg V trg gur srryvat gung fcvqref ernyyl perrcrq Gbyxvra bhg. Bar bs gur guvatf gur svyzf qb oevyyvnagyl vf gur ubeevoyr perrcl jebatarff bs gur tvnag fcvqref. Furybo jnf jnl jbefr guna Nentbt naq gur bgure fcvqref sebz Uneel Cbggre, VZNB. Vg’f bar bs gur guvatf V nz abg ybbxvat sbejneq gb frrvat va Gur Uboovg.

      • Ryan Lohner says:

        Vg urycf gung Crgre Wnpxfba vf nyfb fpnerq bs fcvqref, naq unq Furybo qrfvtarq nsgre n cnegvphyne tebhaq-qjryyvat fcrpvrf gung ernyyl greevsvrq uvz nf n xvq. Naq sbe gung gb unccra, nabgure perj zrzore jub jnf nyfb nsenvq bs gurz unq gb qvt nebhaq va uvf tneqra gb pngpu bar naq oevat vg va fb gur rssrpgf thlf jub jrera'g sebz Arj Mrnynaq pbhyq unir n ivfhny ersrerapr. Abj gung vf fhssrevat sbe lbhe neg.

  11. Katarina says:

    The beginning of the chapter is fb fnq jura lbh xabj jung'f pbzvat sbe Sebqb, rfcrpvnyyl abj gung gurer'f Vagb gur Jrfg naq nyy gur nffbpvngvbaf jvgu gung fbat. (V cynlrq vg nsgre zl png qvrq, fb abj jurarire V urne vg V'z NYY FNQARFF. Gung qbphzragnel ba gur QIQf qba'g uryc rvgure.)

    Nyfb, arkg puncgre vf Oerr! OEVAT BA GUR CYBG!

    • msw188 says:

      Oh yes, I forgot that was in this chapter. Er-fcvaavat gubfr yvarf nf gurl qvq jnf, va zl bcvavba, bar bs gur nofbyhgr orfg 'gjvfgvatf' gung Crgre Wnpxfba chyyrq bss. Gurer'f nyzbfg fbzrguvat zntvpny nobhg tbvat onpx naq ernyvmvat vg jnf Sebqb'f qernz, naq lrg vg svgf ornhgvshyyl nf Tnaqnys hfrf vg. Jr zbfgyl ybfr gur tebjgu bs Sebqb vagb orvat jbegul bs orvat nppbhagrq Jvfr (nf V'z fher Gbyxvra jbhyq unir pncvgnyvmrq vg) va gur zbivrf; ng yrnfg uvf obbx-sbez vf noyr gb fhccyl gur bar Jvfr zbivr punenpgre jvgu fhpu na nznmvat yvar.

    • flootzavut says:

      Gung fbat… :'(

    • shortstuff says:

      Url jnvg, jung ner lbh thlf gnyxvat nobhg? Jung Sebqb / Tnaqnys fprar vf guvf? V'z zber snzvyne jvgu gur zbivrf abj guna gur obbxf, orpnhfr V bayl erernq zl snibevgr cnegf.

      • msw188 says:

        Ernq gur svefg cnentencu bs guvf puncgre, naq gura jngpu gur fprar va gur Erghea bs gur Xvat zbivr jurer Tnaqnys naq Cvccva ner va gur frpbaq pvepyr (V guvax) bs Zvanf Gvevgu, jnvgvat sbe Zbeqbe'f nezvrf gb oernx guebhtu. Vg vf fbzr gvzr nsgre gur znva tngr unf orra oebxra guebhtu, naq nsgre Qrargube'f qrngu, ohg orsber Nentbea neevirf jvgu gur Qrnq.

    • AmandaNekesa says:

      YES. Gubfr yvarf ner fb fnq va gur pbagrkg bs Sebqb'f wbhearl. V ybir gung gurl'er vapyhqrq va gur zbivrf – rira gubhtu vg'f va n qvssrerag cneg, V ybir gur cynprzrag naq rkrphgvba bs gur yvarf ol Tnaqnys.

  12. monkeybutter says:

    Holy crap, Tom Bombadil did reappear with a pony. Bonus points for naming said pony Fatty Lumpkin. And then he sends them off to an inn called The Prancing Pony. I take back everything I said yesterday, he is clearly all truth and beauty.

    The walls of fog, ominous mounds and stones, and the laid-out hobbits did an amazing job setting up an eerie, unsettling scene, but for me the spell was broken by the disembodied arm. All I could think of was Thing, and that they had accidentally stumbled upon the Addams family's basement. Still, the danger in this chapter was engrossing, and I love that Tom and the belief that sunlight is the best disinfectant saved the day. I think we all learned a valuable lesson about hanging out on top of burial mounds.

    • Rheinman says:

      And knowing is half the battle! Snerk.

    • alfgifu says:

      Er, I may have failed to learn this lesson, and actually sat on top of a barrow on top of one of the Wiltshire Downs and read part of the Silmarillion there on a warm afternoon in the summer.

      And I may have looked up when the sunlight faded and seen a long dark cloud stretching out to the west, and had a serious shiver-down-the-spine moment.

      (For bonus points, there was an actual iron age fort a little way away.)

      • monkeybutter says:

        I admire your commitment to finding the perfect reading spot!

        • Cereus says:

          I actually spent part of Christmas Eve this year reading the first parts of the Silmarillion (the Aulindae and the account of the Valar – and the two trees) around the Christmas tree with it's lights. It seemed like the most natural thing ever.

          *edited to correct spelling of Valar (how the hell did my keyboard manage to do an almost perfec rot13… I don't understand my own typos >_<)

      • Cylena says:

        Ooh, that sounds lovely. Me and two of my friends usually spend a night on a barrow every summer waiting for the sunrise (Which is totally shiver-down-spine-moment, especially if you're there on a day when the sunrise lines up with the barrows) but we never thought of bringing Simarillion with us. Should perhaps do that next year… Thanks for the idea!

  13. Araniapriime says:

    I love that Mark is reading this because I too never read Lord of the Rings. I saw the movies and know the parts that have seeped into the everybody's daily life, the way people who've never seen Monty Python can recognize lines and routines. I also know about Tolkien's background as a professor and his interest in creating a new mythology.

    I've heard the name Tom Bombadil but I know nothing about the character. However, I do know a lot about pagan religion and mythology. My speculation is that Tom and Goldberry are local demigods. There are plenty of myths in various cultures about "small gods" who protect a certain river, a certain grove, and so on. In Latin, the term is "genius loci" — the spirit of a place.

    If that is so, the farther we get from their home, the less likely we're going to hear from Tom and Goldberry again. SADNESS! On the other hand, now that Frodo knows his song, maybe he'll be able to call on Tom again? That would be awesome!

  14. rabbitape says:

    When I was little and my brother was reading this to me, he skipped this part. (For which I am grateful. I did not need these nightmares as a kid.) Imagine my surprise when when I re-read the books myself in junior high.

    • marie says:

      Aww, your brother read to you? I remember my older sister used to read me her old books – I loved it! Such good memories.

  15. clodia_risa says:

    Sadly, I’m having issues finding the arm walking on its fingers toward Sam frightening, and I just keep imagining a taller version of Thing. Therefore, he’s not groping toward Sam, he’s lightly running on his fingers in a humorous way. Creepy Mood=ruined.

  16. Rheinman says:

    As Mark mentioned, this chapter is a shining example of two of Tolkein's strengths: worldbuilding and storytelling. There is just enough description of the stones and wights and funeral regalia to know that JRRT had a card file somewhere that says: The Barrow Downs are here because thus and such happened to so and so a thousand years ago. And, effortlessly, you can also imagine what the soft grass and springy turf feels like as you run across it on your nekkid, furry Hobbit feet.

  17. msw188 says:

    "When your ponies stayed with me, they got to know my Lumpkin; and they smelt him in the night, and quickly ran to meet him. I thought he'd look for them and with his WORDS OF WISDOM take all their fear away."

    So we hit the true landmark of Chapter 8. Okay yeah, Frodo has a life-changing experience, but why do we care? We have here confirmation that ponies can at least talk to other ponies!!! Look folks, it's a start.

  18. msw188 says:

    As a real post, I kind of forgot just how riveting some of this chapter is. This is one where there are occasional bits of the writing I can take or leave, but the line "…his fear was so great that it seemed to be part of the very darkness that was round him…" is, to me, really chilling. Fear like this is something I'd say most people go through life never experiencing (I certainly haven't, anyway). A line like this makes it easier for me to have some inkling of what that might feel like.

    • flootzavut says:

      It makes me think of the paralysing fear of extreme anxiety, or of fearing the loss of someone you love (both of which, sadly, I have experienced). It's an incredibly evocative line.

  19. msw188 says:

    Oops, forgot to add:
    "…therefore making my subconscious mind ~vulnerable~ to attack…"
    Maybe Mark should have Professor Snape teach him Occlumency. OR SHOULD HE???
    Best Regards,
    Xenophilius Lovegood

  20. rubyjoo says:

    When I first read LotR years ago, this was the first chapter that really frightened me. For some reason, it really marked the beginning of the roller-coaster for me.

    The fear was partly generated by word associations and I'm wondering if non-English people have these associations too or whether they just carry significance for the Brits. For instance, "downs" are open areas of rolling, grassy hills, wide and featureless and lonely on which ancient people have carved in the chalk huge and mysterious images – still visible – of horses and giants. "Standing stones" are not natural features but are a term used for "sarsen" stones, those dragged from far away and set up by men long ago to mark a place that had some kind of religious or mystic significance. Apart from Stonehenge, we have plenty of others and they can be quite creepy places. They have gone down in folklore as being dangerous places too where the stones sometimes come to life and roll down to the river to drink, returning in time to squash any raiders who might be searching for treasure in the holes. Skeletons have indeed been found buried at the base of some of them. These stones were erected 4000 years ago and usually the tombs or "barrows" of kings, warriors and priests can be found nearby. Built of stone pillars and then roofed with turf so that they look like hillocks and yet, at the same time, seeming unnatural because of the way they can rise from a flat landscape, these tombs, open to the casual visitor, are also creepy places.

    The word "wight", BTW, is just an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a person or a living being. But, teamed with the word "barrow", it becomes a lot more scary.

    Anyway, as soon as I saw the finger of stone on the hill, I knew that the gang were in trouble.

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      I actually first came across the word wight as a monster in one of the Final Fantasy games, as a powerful kind of ghost, so that's always been my image of what it means. Now it's just weird.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I love how they're used in Discworld, too: they're jurer gur Anp Znp Srrtyr yvir, fb gurl ner pbafvqrenoyl yrff perrcl va gung frevrf. Naq abj V'z cvpghevat n pebffbire jurerva Ebo Nalobql naq gur tnat uryc Sebqb fnir gur bgure uboovgf. Peviraf!

      I really want to visit those, they've always sounded marvelously creepy. Plus I love really old stuff like that.

    • Saphling says:

      While studying in London, a friend and I walked about twenty miles of the Ridgeway Trail in February. We walked from Avebury (a town that has a large circle of standing stones) to Wantage over that weekend, and the mist never let up. Walking across the high, lonely hills, surrounded by fog and mist, seeing the white horses carved in the chalk, and the ruins of Saxon castles… I was thinking of this chapter the whole time. Brrrr.

      • notemily says:

        Well, now I have to do this.

        [youtube DiFq_nk8pE0 youtube]

        "But they built Stonehenge, and it's built in an area called Salisbury Plain in the South of England. The area of Salisbury Plain where they built it is very aaah aaaah, ooohh oooh, ‘cause that's good, you know. It's a mystical thing; build it in a mystical area. You don't want to build it in an area that's yat-da-dat-da-da-da, doot-doo-doo. No, there you build Trump Tower."

  21. Katie says:

    I thought that after such a lighthearted and fun-filled chapter, Mark might be doubthing whether shit will ever get real in this book. So let me reassure him. It so will.

  22. It ain't easy meeting a wight.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      there are not enough upvotes and comments appreciating this

      you are all so disappointing to me.

      • Right?? I thought it would be a huge hit. Perhaps the Lord of the Rings/Arrested Development crossover audience is not as large as I thought.

        <img src=>

  23. Suzannezibar says:

    I will confess, I deliberately skimmed this chapter the first time I read FotR because at the time I was eleven years old, had a sense of the creepiness and stuck a big giant "DO NOT WANT" label on most of it. Went back and re-read it properly a few years later, and…yep, definitely a good thing I skipped it as a young'un :P. Also, re-reading it as an adult gives me SUCH a greater appreciation for Tolkien's descriptions of M-E and his beautiful prose, whereas as a kid I was like "Okay…boring…when is Gandalf coming back??"

    Conclusion: Tolkien is like fine wine and gets better with age 😀

    Also, FATTY LUMPKIN! Wisest pony of them all 😀

  24. threerings13 says:

    So yesterday I decided to give listening to the 1979 radio play a try. And I really don't like it very much. The hobbits all have childish voices and the plot is so condensed as to be kinda pointless. And then I got to Tom Bombadil. I think his voice may be the MOST ANNOYING THING I'VE EVER HEARD. It's really high-pitched and his songs are totally rhythm-less and he sounds either really, really high or like he's someone's comic idea of what a total madman sounds like. MAKE THE BAD VOICE GO AWAY!

    Anyway. I love this chapter, cause it's so creepy, and also so fascinating. Why the mounds of treasure, why dress them up like the dead kings, why the creepy arm? Also, this may be the first instance of the arm that continues moving all on its own. The other two instances that I can think of are from Anne Rice's The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean. (Hmm, and Evil Dead? I feel like there was a walking-on-its-own-arm in Evil Dead.)

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      The 1981 radio show is tons better. And skips the entire Old Forest sequence, but sacrifices have to be made.

    • Ellie says:

      in the second evil dead, his hand is possessed so he cuts it off with a chainsaw. but it keeps moving on its own 🙂

    • Katarina says:

      Aw! I'm now glad I have the Swedish 1995 radio play, which has ALL THE GOODNESS. Seriously, they must have brought in every big-name actor in Sweden for that one, and to good effect for the most part. (And the guy playing Ham Gamgee is the actual father of the guy playing Sam, which is just awesome.)

      Um. Sorry to wax lyrically about something unavailable to most commenters. On the flipside, the play is based on Åke Ohlmark's translation, which is… not very faithful. As in, Tolkien himself openly hated it.

    • ginevra says:

      The Recorded Books – Rob Inglis version is really wonderful, especially in the Tom Bombadil chapters. The underlying song even when he's supposedly speaking prose really comes through, and I think he voices the other characters delightfully as well. It's an unabridged recording, too, which is the only way to go, I think.

  25. emillikan says:

    This is one of my favorite chapters. I blogged about it a long time ago. My favorite bit of the rhyming:

    Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!


    None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master:
    His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.

    One of the things I wrote about this: "I know Tolkien did not write allegory: but he did set down the names of hope."

    Incidentally: my grandmother died yesterday morning, after long long hours of pain when I was able to be with her. Mark Reads is still one of the things I look forward to every day – one of the best distractions. 🙂

    • MrsGillianO says:

      I'm very sorry for your loss. I hope you will feel comforted by the fact that you were able to be with her.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I'm so sorry. 🙁 *hugs* I'm glad you were able to be with her, at least.

    • flootzavut says:

      I'm sorry to hear about your gran. *hugs if you are a huggy person*

      Tolkien was definitely big on hope. ROT13 as this could be considered spoilery: VZB, ubcr vf bar bs GUR qrsvavat gurzrf bs gur jubyr guvat.

    • emillikan says:

      thank you, all! i am a huggy person, and can never get enough hugs where i live (north of boston). but i am getting enough hugs now. 🙂

    • Cereus says:

      *more hugs*
      Sorry for both of your losses. Glad you two got to be together.
      *hugs* hugs*

    • Tauriel_ says:

      I'm so sorry for you loss. You have my sincere condolences. *hugs*

    • Dreamflower says:

      (((virtual hugs)))

      I'm so sorry to hear of your loss.

      "I know Tolkien did not write allegory: but he did set down the names of hope."
      That is such a true and insightful thing to say.

    • Parmadil says:

      Thoughts with you and your family. *big hug* I'm glad she is out of pain now, and that you were able to be there.

      If I may:
      TNAQNYS: Raq? Ab, gur wbhearl qbrfa'g raq urer. Qrngu vf whfg nabgure cngu, bar gung jr nyy zhfg gnxr. Gur terl enva-phegnva bs guvf jbeyq ebyyf onpx, naq nyy gheaf gb fvyire tynff, naq gura lbh frr vg.

      CVCCVA: Jung? Tnaqnys? Frr jung?

      TNAQNYS: Juvgr fuberf, naq orlbaq, n sne terra pbhagel haqre n fjvsg fhaevfr.

      CVCCVA: Jryy, gung vfa'g fb onq.

      TNAQNYS: Ab. Ab, vg vfa'g.”

  26. Laurelluin says:

    I hate to say it, but you have to realize that if Fatty Lumpkin can't talk to hobbits in the Common Speech, probably no pony ever will. Abg rira Ovyy. 🙁

  27. blossomingpeach says:

    I can't even begin to express how happy I am that Mark somehow never read LOTR or saw the movies and is therefore so unspoiled and unprepared. It is almost like having the pleasure of reading the books again for the first time. So fun to see them through your eyes. Thank you, Mark!!

    This chapter is definitely the first chapter in the book with major creepiness. Truly the stuff of nightmares.

    Can't wait to get even further into the story. It only gets better!

  28. hpfish13 says:

    I am so glad I didn't read this when I was a child, because between this and the scene in The Hobbit where the dwarves fall asleep in the cave and get captured by goblins and pulled into the mountain I pretty much would never want to sleep, ever. This chapter terrifies me, and I think it's the fact that the wights are only described in vague terms. There is something about not being able to define them and not being able to quite picture them that makes them extra scary.

  29. tigerpetals says:

    So what we learn from this is that hobbits shouldn't take naps in places with bad reputations.

    It looked like the hobbits were going to take the place of the old kings in a way. The hand was going to cut their heads off or slit their throats.

    Also, they are running away from Black Riders and know they have a powerful enemy, yet didn't expect to fight? Tolkien really likes to hammer in their inexperience outside the Shire.

    I love that sense of loneliness associated with the wild. I don't actually get to experience it often in real life, but it's something I look to fantasy and poetry to provide me with, and Tolkien doesn't fail in that aspect. He certainly likes to show off his world – plot seems decorative so far.

    As for nightmares – I did have a nightmare the night before last that's remotely similar to Lord of the Rings-type horror, but it's more haunted-house like. With a human-looking form suddenly getting red eyes and a blue cast to the skin. And it wasn't totally a nightmare, more like a creepy story involving such elements.

  30. inessita says:

    When you started LOTR I decided to pick up my old copy and read it with you. Back then (omg, 11 years ago) my English was way to basic to be ably to read LOTR, so I read it in German. So sometimes, some small details you describe just sound different than what I read. Which is fascinating! (I can get rather excited about how translaters choose to translate things…no further comment).

    Anyways, I'm not going to say more – I'm terrified to spoil something.

    • Cylena says:

      Comparing translations is like the best thing with being bilingual! I'm just so happy I've go two translations to compare with the original text (or, well, if I actually had LotR in English…). Think LotR is among the more difficult things to translate as well since it's a lot of poems and songs in it.

    • mulewagon says:

      Professor Tolkien was fluent in several languages, and proofread some of the translations. He became rather excited at some of the translators, too 😉

    • Delta1212 says:

      One of the first things I tried reading in German was Return of the King. It didn't really work out. That was seven years ago, though, and I do still have the book sitting on my shelf. When Mark gets there, I think I'll pick up that edition to read along with.

    • calimie says:

      I'm reading the books in Spanish (I still don't have an English copy) and it's great to read these little snippets posted here. The songs in my copies don't rhyme or anything so they're just terrible.
      I do like that that most proper names are different but I find it hard to let go of "mine" (like using Baggins instead of Bolsón).

      • inessita says:

        Yeah, I feel the same about the names and places. The Shire is Auenland and Baggins is Beutlin, etc. and those are just the names that I've gotten used to.

  31. flootzavut says:


    I immediately went off into Bohemian Rhapsody at this point!

    The magnificent loneliness of some types of countryside is IMO a wonderful thing. It's not loneliness I suppose so much as it is the sense of solitude and awe that nature can inspire. I personally love landscapes that are vast, almost barren, the most – places like North Wales, or the Judean wilderness in Israel. Open, sweeping, STARK. I got a BBC documentary about Yellowstone for Christmas and that has a similar kind of wild beauty to it – wild and free. Very different from the Shire (which is, in a way, where I grew up and where I now live – small fields, picturesque villages, you name it… I love it, but it does not move me or inspire me in the same way… it is more soothing and comforting). Yellowstone is at one and the same time so beautiful and so savage, so grand and so unforgiving, so damn dangerous.

  32. arctic_hare says:

    Oh my stars and garters. I had completely forgotten how fucking creepy this chapter is. I have this new intense love for it and everything it chooses to be. <3 WHAT. Y'ALL KNOW I LOVE CREEPY SHIT. Nightmare fuel is some of my favorite stuff ever in stories, so this chapter gets big big points from me. Damn, Tolkien, you were badass when it came to creating stuff this scary. I am very impress.

    I also love your story about finding that ruined church, Mark. Is it weird I want to see it for myself? Yet, despite that: "In hindsight, that’s entirely irrational, but we trusted our instincts and we left." I don't really think it's irrational. Look, this may sound extremely odd coming from an athiest, but I *do* believe in ghosts and supernatural stuff, and have lived in a haunted place, so if something felt off to you all, odds are you were right to GTFO. There are places in the world that are just… weird, not right, etc. Obviously that is true in Middle-Earth as well, and I love how Tolkien explores some of that. The feeling of a world with a rich, deep history is one of my favorite things about this story, we keep getting little hints of things that happened long ago, seeing ruins and bits of kingdoms and cultures long dead. I LOVE IT. <3

    The voice that talks to Frodo before he sees that THING is pretty damn creepy too, but nothing tops the arm. OH GEEZ WTF IS THAT DO NOT WANT. The description of it seriously makes me shudder, bravo Tolkien.

    Is it even attached to something or is it just a sentient arm? Wait, don’t answer that. neither answer seems appealing.

    RIGHT??? It's one of those instances where you just don't want to know what's around the corner, if anything is at all. LET'S JUST NOT. Also, you forgot to mention this bit of EW NO:

    As Frodo left the barrow for the last time he thought he saw a severed hand wriggling still, like a wounded spider, in a heap of fallen earth.

    OH YEAH JUST MAKE IT MORE DISTURBING. The hand is still moving on its own! And he compares it to a wounded spider! I have just one thing to say at this point:

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    Yeah. So much creepy here. I love it.

  33. flootzavut says:

    Vaguely spoilery…

    "V nqzvg gb orvat n ovg pbashfrq ol guvf nyy, abg qhr gb ernqvat pbzcerurafvba, ohg orpnhfr V srry yvxr gurer’f n uhtr cvrpr bs guvf fgbel gung’f zvffvat."

    V guvax gung vf cebonoyl n cerggl nfghgr bofreingvba, tvira Gbz'f cneg va gur jubyr furonat, gur zlfgrel gung fheebhaqf uvz, rgp!

    Abg onq tbvat sbe gur nagv-oblfpbhg :Q

  34. bugeye says:

    Love this chapter. The Tempation of Frodo and His Birth of Courage. The Group have faced many scary and weird moments, but Frodo is alone in his choice. This is the true test: will you to the right thing even if no is watching, what if it means you live, even of others die. _

    _On another note. Lets compare/contrast to the ponies. The ponies, because they cannot talk, had to throw their riders off and save themselves. This is no dis to ponies, just if the hobbits would have listened to the ponies they would have already be back at Tom's with white bread and honey. Horse sense you know?_

    _Also, I see you hard-core Tolkien geeks capering and singing. How you ask, because that is what I do at this chapter.

  35. ravenclaw42 says:

    It occurred to me last night as I was finally managing to kill a barrow-wight draugr mini-boss in Skyrim that I hardly even needed to re-read this chapter – I had just played it. Tolkien's barrow-wights are lifted directly from the Old Norse legends of the draugr, undead who guard the treasure in their own graves. The legends, Tolkien's version and the game's version are pretty much identical all around. (Except no disembodied arms came crawling towards me in the game. THANK GOD. Tolkien: almost 40 years dead and still effortlessly scarier than a modern video game doing its best to scare the pants off me.)

    Skyrim is the latest product of a culture of fantasy fiction that was so deeply and permanently shaped by Tolkien's books that it doesn't even occur to 90% of people who set out to write high fantasy to not include a whole load of ancient Norse mythology. See: Fafnir-esque dragons who speak, light/dark elves, dvergr/dwarves, draugr/wights, Odin-esque wizards, temperate and/or tundra mountainous landscapes, loads and loads of names. It's not necessarily that Tolkien had the ideas first, but he did popularize them so thoroughly that even the horse & pony breeds we think of as "belonging" in a fantasy landscape are breeds native to Scandinavia and northern Europe. Skyrim, at least, is an incredibly well-executed bit of Tolkienesque fantasy – it did its own homework and unique worldbuilding after deciding to go the Norse route. There have been some real copycat stinkers since LotR came out, though.

    ANYWAY. I promise I will try to have some interesting writing process trivia again soon. My impression of the Tom Bombadil sequences, especially in the editing process, is that Tolkien would really have liked to write a Tom Bombadil short story or book and just ended up having his LotR protagonists run into him as almost a crossover. But he does serve an interesting purpose in LotR as an uncorrupted/uncorruptable force of nature present since the dawn of time, which is unchanged by passing adversity. (He reminds me of the Sara Teasdale poem There Will Come Soft Rains.) But that's not a premise for a character that you can get a whole lot of plot development from without sliding into deus ex machina territory. I'm always impressed at how real Tolkien managed to make the threat of the barrow feel, even knowing that the hobbits had a free pass to call for help from a dude who is seemingly godlike. The Old Forest and the Barrow-downs share one element of total terror for me, which is the alteration of perception. Things that make you go to sleep when you don't want to, or make you unable to think or articulate thoughts clearly… UHAKfhasdkfjsadkgjglasdlkf. NO. NO THANK YOU.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I LOVE THAT POEM. <3

    • Tom Bombadillo says:

      "My impression of the Tom Bombadil sequences, especially in the editing process, is that Tolkien would really have liked to write a Tom Bombadil short story or book…."

      It's called The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and it's reprinted in Tales from the Perilous Realm. Not exactly a short story, but it does present more of Tom's story as filtered through … well, you have to read the book.

    • SisterCoyote says:

      This! So much this. Tolkien was so influential it's really hard to imagine fantasy without him. (And it's also hard to not draw links between Skyrim and LotR! Evil dragons? Draugr? Barrows of ancient war heroes? Inns jurer nyy gur dhrfgf ortva?)

      The funnest part is making up a narrative, especially in an older style.

  36. tethysdust says:

    One of my favorite things about Tolkien is how he creates this world that is full of history, mythology, and mysteries that are not necessarily relevant to the main story. It feels as if Frodo's quest is a thing that's happening in an established world, not that the world was created as a frame for Frodo's quest. With the barrow-downs, we get all these hints about Westernesse and Angmar and a war, enough to know there's something there, but few details. Even to the brooch Tom picks out, he mentions the woman who wore it before, and that she will not be forgotten.

    And I don't think anyone's linked a version of Tom/Goldberry's song, so here's one from the Tolkien Ensemble. I kinda like a lot of their versions of the songs.

    Here it is!

    I'm failing at embedding…

    • Parmadil says:

      I LOVE TOLKIEN ENSEMBLE!! Theirs is the only version I can hear when I read Tom Bombadil…. They are so fantastic!

  37. Rheinman says:

    Luke: "I'm not afraid."
    Yoda: "Heh, you will be."

  38. Geolojazz says:

    Oooh all the creepiness. And Tom Bombadil! So many memories, reading this when I was 12. 🙂

    Tis my birthday today, and so far reading this is one of the highlights!! My Tolkien geekery, dormant for a long while, is roaring back to life, thanks Mark!! 😀

    I did a walking holiday from Stratford to Oxford inspired by LotR, I wanted to see countryside that inspired Tolkien. Came across a stone circle, and had some of the feeling this chapter evoked…of being in a place alien, which held strong memories that did not belong to me…

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  39. thimbledore says:

    Vs zrzbel freirf, vfa'g guvf gur cynpr jurer Zreel cvpxf hc gur rapunagrq Aúzraberna oynqr gung unq orra jebhtug fcrpvsvpnyyl nf n jrncba ntnvafg gur Jvgpu Xvat bs Natzne? Gur bar jvgu juvpu Zreel riraghnyyl wnof uvz, guhf nyybjvat Rbjla gb qrfgebl uvz sbe tbbq?

    Guvf unf arire bppheerq gb zr orsber, ohg qb lbh guvax Obzonqvy XARJ guvf jbhyq unccra? B_B Ur vf xvaq bs n wbyyl travhf.

    AUGH. TOLKIEN. <3 <3 <3

    • msw188 says:

      Guvf vf qrsvavgryl gung oynqr, nygubhtu V'z abg fher vg jnf znqr jvgu gur Jvgpu-Xvat fcrpvsvpnyyl va zvaq, whfg uvf nezvrf (abg pregnva urer). Va zl bcvavba, Gbyxvra cebonoyl qvq abg vzntvar Obzonqvy cerqvpgvat Zreel'f hfr bs gur oynqr; vs ur unq, V guvax ur jbhyq unir uvagrq ng vg, rvgure jura Gbz tvirf gur oynqrf, be va gur cnentencu gung erpnyyf fbzr bs gur uvfgbel bs gur oynqr nf vg zrygf njnl nsgre qbvat vgf qrrq.

      Gung fnvq, gurer'f abj ernfba bar pna'g ernq vg gur jnl lbh ner qrfpevovat!

    • Katarina says:

      Oooh, that's awesome! I hadn't thought of that connection before.

    • Tauriel_ says:


      How did I not think of this before?


      Genius. Pure genius.

    • msnaddie says:

      Jbj. V arire abgvprq guvf orsber rvgure!

      Gbz Obzonqvy vf njshyyl urycshy va cebivqvat nyy gurfr guvatf gb rafher Fnheba'f snyy… YBY BX jvyy fgbc qjryyvat va zl urnq pnaba.

    • Parmadil says:

      Ur znl unir unq fbzr vaxyvat… V zrna, ur xabjf gung gur Evqref ner uhagvat gurz, naq gurer'f bayl bar jnl n uhag bs gung fbeg pna raq- jvgu pbasebagngvba. Fb ur cebonoyl jnf qbvat uvf cneg gb nez gurz ntnvafg gur sbeprf bs Qnexarff.

    • notemily says:

      YBY, guvf vf penpxvat zr hc va yvtug bs gung gurbel fbzrbar cbfgrq gung Gbz npghnyyl VF gur Jvgpu-Xvat. Ur ratvarrerq uvf bja qrfgehpgvba!

  40. Dreamflower says:

    Oh, J.R.R.T. could have easily given modern horror writers a run for their money! If you want some more samples of his skill without any spoilers for LotR, check out some of his poems like "The Dragon Hoard" "The Mewlips" (oh golly, is THAT creepy) or "The Shadow Bride". *shudder* They are more or less independent of any of the LotR stories. They can be found in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" or in The Tolkien Reader, but there are a few other spoilery bits elsewhere in those volumes. You can also find some of the poems posted online, on their own.

    Frodo was AWESOME here. We saw in the "Conspiracy" chapter what Merry, Pippin and Sam were willing to sacrifice for Frodo. In THIS chapter we get to see what Frodo was willing to sacrifice for THEM!

    Naq crbcyr jub fnl gurfr puncgref qba'g pbagevohgr gb gur fgbel nf n jubyr sbetrg whfg ubj vzcbegnag gubfr oneebj-oynqrf (Zreel'f va cnegvphyne) ner tbvat gb or va gur shgher! Naq nyfb, Gbz erirnyf n srj bgure sberfunqbjl guvatf urer, gbb!

  41. AmandaNekesa says:

    Hahaha…Oh, Mark, I do love your complete unpreparedness for this chapter. 😀

    "Chapter eight is so scary to me on a number of levels: the fear of getting the lost, the fear of being kidnapped, and the fear of WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT A WIGHT OH MY GOD HELP ME HELP ME."
    —I know right? The first time I read this chapter, it really freaked me out. Not what I was expecting AT ALL. Movie spoilers—Nf n sna gung jnf svefg vagebqhprq gb YbgE guebhtu gur zbivrf, V jnf FHHHCRE perrcrq bhg ol guvf puncgre. Orgjrra Gbz Obzonqvy, Byq Zna Jvyybj, naq gur Oneebj-Jvtugf, V qba'g guvax V pbhyq shyyl pbzceruraq jung unq unccrarq ba zl svefg ernq guebhtu gur obbxf. Juvyr gur zbivrf ner irel qnex naq qnatrebhf, guvf jnf n pbzcyrgryl qvssrerag yriry bs qnexarff, jvgu n urnil qbfr bs fcvar-fuvirevat perrcvarff.

    "The group of hobbits ready themselves on that particular morning to finally leave Tom’s house, and Tom is just so goddamn weird to me, and I love it. He’s so joyous and I have no idea why, but it’s never annoying to me."
    —I love how much Mark is enjoying these chapters with Tom Bombadil. While they're some of the more debated/disliked chapters of LotR, Mark just embraces the character, even with all of the unknowns, and it's just great. <span class="idc-smiley"><span style="background-position: 0pt 0pt;"><span>:)</span></span></span>

    "I’m at a point in my life where I really love the silence and solitude that comes with being in a place far from the bustling, active city that I live in, and that actually makes me feel more whole at times."
    —Yeah, I love the feeling of being out in the quietness of nature, away from the noise and busyness of populated areas. I will forever remember going out into the bush of Africa, camping right out on the savannah, looking up at the clear night sky, and being in complete awe at the beauty of the night sky. Tolkien is the master of conveying the feel and the atmosphere of the natural world of Middle Earth.

    I'm finding it hard to say much else that isn't in some way spoilery, so I'll just stop here.

  42. Malyn says:

    Oh good (or very bad). I'm not the only one who has nightmares from books…Some of them were from books we read in school – English classes love books where people die violently at the end. Yeah, this is some seriously creepy stuff. It's also good to know I wasn't the only one to COMPLETELY distrust Tom Bombadil 🙂

  43. Parmadil says:

    I love how Tolkien is like “yeah, MAYBE it was the food and sunlight and riding and all that that made them fall asleep… Maybe”. I love the description of night-fall. This is Tolkien at his atmospheric finest.

    The disappearing standing stones????

    When I was little, the part where he hears them yelling, then “help”, then “ending with a last ‘help!’ that trailed off into a long wail suddenly cut short” was the scariest thing I could ever imagine. It STILL gives me the willies.

    Favourite quote: “Frodo was neither very fat nor very timid; indeed, though he did not know it, Bilbo (and Gandalf) had thought him the best hobbit in the Shire.” D’aww….. So much love!!!

    The image of one long sword on their necks… So creepy.

    Also, that song, turning into the incantation, is one of the coolest yet creepy things ever. I love that the darkness rails against the light. I love that Frodo can understand that. And that it freaks him out even more. (well, duh) And I love that he has a moment where he totally considers running away and saving himself- and then is just like “Fuck this, I’m gonna cut this fucking hand off if it even TRIES to hurt my friends!”

    Tom banishes the Wight- which is awesome! “Then there was a long trailing shriek, fading away into an unguessable distance; and after that silence.” What a sentence!

    Lnl, Gbz xabjf nobhg gur Enatref!!! Naq Nentbea vf gbgnyyl sberfunqbjrq- "naq ynfg pnzr bar jvgu n fgne ba uvf oebj".

    My favourite part of this whole chapter, which is one of my favourite chapters so this is saying a lot, is that, after ALL OF THAT, they get onto the Road, and Frodo’s like ‘Oh the delay will be useful, it may have put them off our trail.” And Tolkien’s like, Oh yeah, while you were busy getting all freaked out by monster trees and undead spirits, you totally forgot that there are these freaky Black Riders chasing our heroes. Oops. My bad.
    After ALL THAT, Tolkien throws us right back into running from the Riders, and having false names, and Frodo’s like “Remember, it’s not the Shire! We have to be careful!” No rest for the wicked, I guess.

  44. emillikan says:

    Also, can I just say, this might be one of the saddest moments in LOTR, and I almost have to skim it because it’s so unbearable:

    ‘Where are you?’ he cried out miserably.

    And then a space. I love that there’s a space there – it just emphasizes his aloneness. SADFACES.

    • emillikan says:

      shoot, I don't know my HTML for here. help? I've only commented like five times so I haven't figured it out yet :/

      • Darth_Ember says:

        Replace the square brackets with the kind you just used:
        [i] gives you italics [/i]
        [b] is for bold [/b]
        And there are others, but they're harder to remember offhand, and these ones are of the most immediate use for emphasis.
        EDIT: My link is not working no matter what I do, when it's always worked before. So I'm removing it. I'm too sick of this. Sorry, but I'd rather limit my outbursts of screaming rage, and since I had to switch computers to edit this… Well. Computer-freezing antics tire me out. 😉

      • monkeybutter says:

        Borrowing this html guide that echinodermata made:

        <img src=""&gt;
        Hope that helps!

    • emillikan says:

      thanks! that helps. (not that i need to be online any more than i already am. BUT when i need to comment, it will be prettier?)

  45. Oh my god I am finally caught up to were you actually are currently. THIS IS EXCITING because I AM NEW.

    Tom is easily one of my favorite characters because he is so nonsensical and awesome. He reminds me of Xenophilius Lovegood in that he is friendly but odd, while also genuinely not giving a fuck about how odd he appears to others. It's a trait that I love seeing in books and one wish I had.

    I will say that it annoys me that there are so few female characters in Tolkien's books (there are some, but as you pointed out, there are like NO FEMALES IN THE HOBBIT AT ALL). I don't know if it's because they were written at a point in time when women were just more marginalized or if Tolkien was extra sexist as a person or if he didn't want womenfolk messing with the manly-man-quests-of-manliness or what.

    • notemily says:

      I think it was more like he just didn't think about it. Men went off to have the quests; women stayed at home. That's just how it was to him. Not cool, but not surprising.

  46. Darth_Ember says:

    The wight's hand… Yeesh. I was never sure if it was attached, or what.
    Rot13 for nightmare fuel:
    Greevoyr zragny vzntr bs gur unaq ernpuvat fybjyl nebhaq gur pbeare, qenttvat vgfrys sbejneq, juvyr oruvaq vg pbzrf fybjyl nybat gur tebhaq gur jvtug vgfrys, qrnq rlrf svkrq ba gur gnetrg, n gjvfgrq qrnq fzvyr svkrq va cynpr… N guvat gung vf qrngu vgfrys gb ybbx ba.
    Vg zhfg unir fbzr jnl gb fcrnx, nsgre nyy. Fb gur bayl dhrfgvba vf, vf vg va bar cvrpr? Be qbrf gur erfg bs vg yvr jnvgvat sbe gur guvatf vgf unaqf pna xvyy?

  47. JWBraun says:

    I always thought this was a very well written chapter, and this is another well written look at it – thanks!

  48. divAndrule says:

    Hello… long time lurker here! I came here eagerly this morning for my daily fix of LOTR and couldn't find a post. Is MarkReads taking a break for the New Year weekend? When will the posting resume?

    • Iamwinterborn says:

      If there's a break, it wasn't announced.

      Over at Markspoils there is a mild panic setting in. =P

      Best guesses are: It's taking Mark an extra long time to write, WordPress ate his post and he hasn't come back on to check that it made it, or the Wights got him.

      • AmandaNekesa says:

        Yeah I was wondering too… Thought my phone was broken or something. Hmm…now I need to figure out what to do with my lunch hour.

  49. claretstock says:

    Oh… yeah, I remember when I read LoTR for the first time I was freaked out by all the creepy scary stuff in it. Couldn't stop reading it though, so that's a nod to how good it was!

  50. Majc says:

    Travels in chapter 8: the hobbits managed to leave Tom Bombadill's house and then the Barrow-wight interrupted a perfectly good pony ride. According to The Atlas of Middle-Earth the hobbits made it 17 miles on September 28th from Tom's house to the barrow they were trapped in over night.

    • Majc says:

      And then the chapter didn't end….don't know what I was thinking. On September 29th, after Tom helped the hobbits out of the barrow and banishing the wight, they all rode their ponies to the Great East Road where Tom left them about four miles from Bree and the Prancing Pony. The hobbits continued on towards Bree and got pretty close by the end of the chapter: they went 20 miles from the barrow to Bree.

  51. ladysugarquill says:

    Man I love this chapter. This is where things get good.

    Now I've almost forgotten it, but I didn't like Frodo on my first read. He seemed too whiny and kinda useless. But in this chapter is where he starts being herioic, and I liked that.

    Oddly enough, I only really warmed up to him while watching the first movie: specifically in that scene where Sebqb pevrf bire gur qrngu bs Tnaqnys. Elijah's acting there – it hit me in a way Tolkien's writing couldn't. Only then I understood how awful Frodo's situation was. And I was halfway through Two Towers at the moment.

    I finished the story loving Frodo.

    When he’s describing grass, I don’t find it boring at all
    Do we need a Twilight comparision here?

    • msw188 says:

      Gung'f vagrerfgvat, fvapr V'q fnl ol gur raq bs gur obbxf Sebqb unf tebja vagb n jbaqebhfyl jvfr ureb, hggreyl qrsrngvat Fnehzna guebhtu uvf zrepl nybar. Ohg va gur zbivrf, guvf nfcrpg bs uvz vf ybfg (abg whfg jvgu Fnehzna, ohg jvgu uvf cneyrl jvgu Snenzve, be uvf pbzznaq bs Fzrntby, be uvf pbairefngvba jvgu Tnynqevry… gur yvfg tbrf ba).

      PS: Is your name a reference to that HP fanfiction site? Or just a general appreciation for 'pretending' to take notes in class?

  52. notemily says:

    Right, so the barrow-downs are TERRIFYING. Jesus fucking Christ. I love the idea of standing-stones, because they make me think of Stonehenge, but these are like Stonehenge's evil cousin. What the hell happened to their clothes. And a creepy arm walking on its fingers what the fuck.

    Also, if their clothes are gone DOES FRODO STILL HAVE THE RING OH GOD I HOPE SO. Is he carrying it on a chain around his neck instead of in his pocket at this point? Because dear god YOU CAN'T LOSE THE RING GUYS.

    Standing stones also remind me of The Mists of Avalon, where they play various significant roles. I really love that book.

    [Qvq nalbar ryfr abgvpr gung Sebqb qernzrq bs Inyvabe urer?]

    • msw188 says:

      Fbzrbar ryfr oebhtug guvf hc. Gur vagrerfgvat guvat vf, jr bayl pbafvqre vg gb or nobhg Inyvabe orpnhfr gung'f ubj gur svyz pubfr gb hfr gurfr jbeqf ivn Tnaqnys. Ohg V'z abg fher vs gung jnf Gbyxvra'f bevtvany vagrag. Ertneqyrff, vg'f n zntavsvprag vzntr, vfa'g vg?

      • Tilly says:

        Gur qrfpevcgvba erphef ng gur nccebcevngr zbzrag va gur ynfg puncgre bs EbgX, fb vg cebonoyl jnf Gbyxvra'f vagragvba. Naq vg vf fb ornhgvshy.

  53. Smurphy says:

    Oh wow. How did I get so far behind… Seriously. This is sad. I'm perfectly up to date with Buffy. Which just goes to show how television has ruined my life and I need to read more.

    Mark. As usual you are unprepared.

    Jnvg… vf Nentbea vagebqhprq arkg puncgre? Be nz V trggvat nurnq bs zlfrys.

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