The Fellowship of the Ring
How we cite our quotes:
At first their choice [to leave the path and go north] seemed to be good: they got along at a fair speed, though whenever they got a glimpse of the sun in an open glade they seemed unaccountably to have veered eastwards. But after a time the trees began to close in again, just where they had appeared from a distance to be thinner and less tangled [...] Each time they clambered out, the trees seemed deeper and darker; and always to the left and upwards it was most difficult to find a way, and they were forced to the right and downwards. (1.6.36)
The first mistake the Hobbits make when they enter the Old Forest is to underestimate the damage that a bunch of sentient trees can do; they may not be actively attacking the Hobbits (yet), but they are making it impossible for the Hobbits to get where they want to go. Second, this section of the Old Forest actively foreshadows the troubles Frodo and Sam are going to face later in the series. The Old Forest's dreary sense of oppression and hopelessness sounds like the effects of Ring possession to us. And the struggle to find the best path through the wilderness pretty much defines 85% of their travels in Mordor. What have Sam and Frodo learned between this adventure in the Old Forest and their later travels through Mordor? How do they relate differently to the wilderness later on in the series?
[Frodo] imagined suddenly that he caught a muffled cry, and he made towards it; and even as he went forward the mist was rolled up and thrust aside, and the starry sky was unveiled. A glance showed him that he was now facing southwards and was on a round hill-top, which he must have climbed from the north. Out of the east the biting wind was blowing. To his right there loomed against the westward stars a dark black shape. A great barrow stood there.
"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!" (1.8.26-8)
It's tough to overlook the similarity between this Barrow-wight episode and the whole run-in with Old Man Willow: there is the same confusion about where the Hobbits think they are going, the same sudden separation from the other members of the traveling party, and the same inability to stay conscious. The Old Forest's tricks all seem to be the same, whether they're caused by warrior ghosts or angry, ancient trees. What traditional ghost story elements does Tolkien use in this passage? Why does he include both the Barrow-wights and Old Man Willow? Does having both of them increase or decrease your appreciation of the scariness of the Old Forest?
"Of course there's a mistake!" said Frodo. "I haven't vanished. Here I am! I've just been having a few words with Strider in the corner."
He came forward into the firelight; but most of the company backed away, even more perturbed than before. [...] Most of the Hobbits and the Men of Bree went off then and there in a huff, having no fancy for further entertainment that evening. [...] Before long no one was left but Strider, who sat on, unnoticed, by the wall. (1.9.84-5)
This moment in The Prancing Pony with Frodo's unexpected disappearance is one of the only sections in all of The Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo and his friends frighten other people, instead of being frightened themselves. Frodo's sudden disappearance weirds out everyone at the inn; in fact, he manages to clear the room. Why does Frodo's "conjuring trick" have such an effect on the crowd? How would you respond if one of your friends disappeared from in front of your eyes after singing a rollicking drinking song?