In the fourth chapter of the second book of The Fellowship of the Ring, YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME. REALLY??? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.
CHAPTER FOUR: A JOURNEY IN THE DARK
HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DEAL WITH THIS? HOW? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?
Of course I completely forgot the detail about the “alternate” route that Gandalf suggested just a few pages ago, the one that brought fear to Aragorn’s face. SO OF COURSE I FLIPPED MY SHIT WHEN HE SUGGESTED THAT THEY TAKE IT AGAIN. Oh, right, that secret path? THE MINES OF MORIA.
ARE YOU SHITTING ME? ALSO CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT PHRASE? WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN? I HAVE USED IT SO MANY TIMES AND NEVER STOPPED TO THING ABOUT IT. YOU REALLY SHOULD BE USING “BULLSHITTING” FOR IT TO MAKE ANY SENSE. BECAUSE I’M ACTUALLY ASKING IF YOU ARE PASSING ME OUT OFâ€“
NO WAIT, I’M NOT GOING TO FINISH THAT SENTENCE. WOW. I WAS IN TROUBLE FIVE WORDS INTO THAT.
Okay, so, I didn’t even really understand what was so awful about Moria, except that Gimli was like LOL NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING GANDALF. I knew that he and Aragorn and Boromir despised the idea. And honestly? THAT IS TOTALLY ENOUGH FOR ME TO RETREAT WITH MY TAIL BETWEEN MY LEGS. Wait, that is also just an expression. I don’t literally have a tail. BUT WHAT IF I DID. Oh god, I would love to use it to freak people out by wagging it while I was furious just to fuck with their heads. “I think Mark’s angry,” they’d say, “but he’s wagging his tail and it looks kind of cute???” Wait, does that mean I’d have to cut a hole in all my shorts and jeans to accommodate for the tale?
Wow, that’s the worst tangent I’ve ever gone on. How ’bout that chapter four, y’all????
“There is even a chance that Dwarves are there, and that in some deep hall of his fathers, Balin son of Fundin may be found. However it may prove, one must tread the path that need chooses!”
I’m just putting this here, okay? I’m putting it here because I am going to need it in about a thousand words, and I am going to flip the fuck out on all of you.
In the meantime, the Company decides to place their faith that Gandalf knows what he’s doing. It’s an interesting dynamic to me because…well, I keep making jokes about Gandalf being the Sassy Gay Best Friend because he constantly acts as if he knows everything. It’s not necessarily a bad thing either, because he’s right most of the time. I think he’s the oldest member of the Company. Still, even if Gandalf does harp on everyone in his own way, there’s this unspoken subtext that even he knows he could be wrong. After failing at the Redhorn Gate, the choice they’re making to go through the Mines of Moria is just as bad or worse than what they’ve just faced.
But this is all an act of faith, and that faith isn’t even meant in a religious sense, though there’s a nice parallel to that as well. It’s all that they have left: they can have faith that Gandalf will guide them safely, or they can doubt him and refuse to follow. There still is a healthy dose of that doubt, and multiple characters outright refuse to go to Moria. They give themselves a night of sleep before they make a final decision, but I think it’s admirable that Tolkien doesn’t just force this out of them. These nine characters have to make the best choice they think is available, and for some of them, the Mines of Moria aren’t worth it.
OH RIGHT, THEN A BUNCH OF FUCKING WOLVES ATTACK THEM, AND LEGOLAS IS A BADASS WITH HIS BOW AND THEN THEY TRY TO SLEEP AND A WHOLE PACK SHOWS UP. OH GOD, IT’S AN UTTER BLOODBATH AND THEN GANDALF SETS A TREE ON FIRE WITH MAGIC? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING. I MEAN, YES, IT GIVES THEM LIGHT, BUT NOW EVERYONE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE.
Actually, I’m sort of more concerned about the fact that when the sun rises, the bodies of the wolves they killed disappeared? YEAH THAT BOTHERS ME A WHOLE LOT. How is that even possible? Is that what wargs are? Did they turn back into humans after they “died”? I am so terribly confused right now. AND THIS TURNS OUT TO BE THE LEAST OF MY WORRIES!
It’s really a good thing this is all so fascinating to me, because I’m starting to realize that this book should have an alternate title, something like, The Lord of the Rings; or Nine Dudes Spend Most of the Time Walking. Again, I really am enjoying myself, but if you count the hobbit, I think I’ve spent at least a couple hundred pages reading about characters walking. There’s a context to it all, obviously, and I want to treat it fairly. It’s not like they aren’t walking with a purpose in mind, and it’s also not like it’s all the same. Even here, it’s really the first time that the characters are intentionally walking into a disaster. I mean, do they honestly expect this to be uneventful and perfect? No, but they have to move on. All the choices they have are pretty damn awful when you think about it, but what can they do?
After a brief moment where everyone worries that Gandalf may be wrong about the trail that leads up to the entrance of Moria, Gimli is able to find the path, and the Company presses on. But since so many years had passed since Gandalf was last here, the road is not what he thought it was, and that’s when we have to begin to deal with the loss of the first Company member: Bill the horse. The path inside the mine is far too perilous and narrow for Bill to come along, and suddenly I am really upset? You can’t even make horses talk, and now Sam has to leave his horse outside the mine?
As Sam, the last of the Company, led Bill up on to the dry ground on the far side, there came a soft sound: a swish, followed by a plop, as if a fish had disturbed the still surface of the water. Turning quickly they saw ripples, black-edged with shadow in the waning light: great rings were widening outwards from a point far out in the lake.
NO, THIS IS ALREADY A HORROR MOVIE AT THIS POINT. STOP IT, TOLKIEN. JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME? Oh, now you’re going to have Gandalf tell Sam that he can’t take Bill inside? So you’re going to make me both sad and terrified at the same fucking time? OH, BE GLAD YOU’RE DEAD BECAUSE I WOULD WRITE YOU THE ANGRIEST LETTER EVER FOR THIS. I REALLY WOULD. AND I WOULD UNDERLINE CERTAIN PASSAGES LIKE HOW DARE YOU BREAK SAM’S HEART I WILL FIND A WAY TO BREAK YOURS.
OH, AND THAT’S STILL NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU? GANDALF CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO OPEN THE DOOR???? JUST GREAT. JUST FANTASTIC. IT’S NOT LIKE I WANTED TO GET THROUGH CHAPTER FOUR WITHOUT HAVING A HEART ATTACK OR ANYTHING. NO, I TOTALLY PLANNED THIS INTO MY DAY.
Oh, you are joking. You are not doing this on purpose, are you? Wolves are howling nearby? The wolves found them? And Gandalf is still stumped by the door? Oh, so they’re going to get eaten alive because they’re stuck? This is great! This is everything I have ever wanted from life!!!
And then Gandalf figures out that a question Merry asked hours ago was really the answer to the code and I start thinking that everything is pretty fine! That’s neat! All he had to do was speak the Elvish word for “friend” and it opened the door! Phew! At least they can focus on getting in the mine, right?
Frodo felt something seize him by the ankle, and he fell with a cry. Bill the pony gave a wild neigh of fear, and turned tail and dashed away along the lakeside into the darkness. Sam leaped after him, and then hearing Frodo’s cry he ran back again, weeping and cursing. The others swung round and saw the waters of the lake seething, as if a host of snakes were swimming up from the southern end.
WHAT THE FUCK?!?!!?!?1
Out from the water a long sinuous tentacle had crawled; it was pale-green and luminous and wet. Its fingered end had hold of Frodo’s foot, and was dragging him him into the water. Sam on his knees was now slashing at it with a knife.
YOU HAVE TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!! WHAT IS THIS, TOLKIEN? IS THERE A GIANT SQUID IN THE LAKE OH MY GOD J.K. TOTALLY STOLE THIS SOMEONE HELP ME BECAUSE I DID NOT EVEN KNOW THAT THIS WAS A THING THAT COULD EVEN OCCUR IN THIS BOOK???? WHAT THE FUCK
Many coiling arms seized the doors on either side, and with horrible strength, swung them round. With a shattering echo they slammed, and all light was lost. A noise of rending and crashing came dully through the ponderous stone.
NO, I JUST GIVE UP. WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING? THE THING GUARDS THE DOOR? DID IT DO THAT ON ITS OWN? ALSO, I KIND OF ADORE THAT TOLKIEN SPENDS APPROXIMATELY FIVE SECONDS EXPLAINING THIS THING TO US, BARELY GIVING US ANY SORT OF ANSWER, AND THEN HE JUST MOVES ON. GOOD SHOW, SIR. I TAKE BACK WRITING THAT ANGRY LETTER. YOU HAVE REDEEMED YOURSELF.
And then: walking. Okay, I know I’m poking a lot of fun at this concept, but they really do walk so much. What makes this work, though, is how Tolkien brilliantly combines notions of exhaustion and terror. At this point, the Company truly is tired, hungry, cold, and miserable. There’s little to find joy in in the Mines of Moria; it’s dark, the passages are narrow, it’s dark, the silence is creepy, and it’s really fucking dark.
Yet Frodo began to hear, or to imagine that he heard, something else: like the faint fall of soft bare feet. It was never loud enough, or near enough, for him to feel certain that he heard it; but once it had started it never stopped, while the Company was moving.
Sorry, this is like…legitimate nightmare fuel for me???? WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS??
‘Poor old Bill!’ said Sam. ‘I wonder where he is. I hope those wolves haven’t got him yet.’
I literally had not even had this thought at all. Until the moment I read this. Then I realized that Bill was out with the tentacle creature and a pack of wolves and was probably being devoured.
what is this book doing to me
And if there was even a chance of me being bored by this, Tolkien assures that he’s prepared to make me feel terrible things for the rest of the day. Possibly week. No, you don’t get it. When I’m tired, I dream about whatever it was I was thinking about the most during the day. Here are things that have consumed my thoughts on this fine day:
- Pippin looking into the well. I honestly thought he’d fall in.
- Gandalf being upset. Why does that, in turn, upset me so much? An angry Gandalf scares me.
- More pattering of feet. I don’t like this, and I hate that Tolkien still hasn’t told me what or who this is. Damn it!
- Gandalf creating a flash of lightning. The action itself? Pretty cool! But I expected so much awful shit to be hiding in the shadows and it’s still creeping me out right now just thinking about it.
- WHAT ARE ORCS? Like, I know everyone in the world knows what they are, but I’ve never encountered them before! I don’t even know what they look like.
- Frodo seeing two luminous eyes in the dark. Yeah, no. No thank you. No thank you forever. Is that yet another creature driven out of the depths of Moria by the Orcs? God, this is going to ruin me.
I was totally blown away by the reveal that Frodo’s mail was made of mithril. UM THAT IS GOING TO BE AN IMPORTANT PLOT POINT, YES??? But good lord, can you imagine what it feels like to know you’re wearing the most expensive thing EVER? oh god WHAT
But let’s just get to the real shit. After all of thisâ€“losing Bill, the terrors of the wolves and the tentacle-thingy, the pitter-patter of feet and the glowing eyes, the uncertainty of the Mines of Moriaâ€“the Company finds a tomb in a chamber lit by natural light. On the one hand, it’s a good sign; they’re close to getting out. But then Gandalf reads what it says:
BALIN SON OF FUNDIN LORD OF MORIA
‘He is dead then,’ said Frodo. ‘I feared it was so.’ Gimli cast his hood over his face.
YOU ARE KIDDING ME!!!! THIS IS HOW YOU END THE CHAPTER? SON OF A MOTHERLESS BUMBLEBEE I AM SO UPSET