The Fellowship of the Ring
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring The Home Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph) / (Prologue.Section.Paragraph)
At no time had Hobbits of any kind been warlike, and they had never fought among themselves. [...]
Nonetheless, ease and peace had left this people still curiously tough. They were, if it came to it, difficult to daunt or kill; and they were, perhaps, so unwearyingly fond of good things not least because they could, when put to it, do without them, and could survive rough handling by grief, foe, or weather in a way that astonished those who did not know them well and looked no further than their bellies and their well-fed faces. (prologue.1.17-8)
Tolkien uses the Prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring to establish what's normal for Hobbits so that we get a strong sense of contrast between the Shire and Frodo's later adventures with the Ring. Hobbits are even more peaceful – much more peaceful – than humans are, so we know that it has to be something really extraordinary to get a Hobbit to leave his home. This juxtaposition between the extreme peace that Frodo is coming from and the danger into which he will go raises our appreciation for the aura of danger and risk that Tolkien is trying to create for the world of Lord of the Rings. But we also get foreshadowing that Frodo will be equal to his tasks: Hobbits are "difficult to daunt or kill" and can "survive rough handling by grief, foe, or weather." Clearly, those skills are going to come in handy as this adventure unfolds.
"You see: Mr. Drogo, he married poor Miss Primula Brandybuck. She was our Mr. Bilbo's first cousin on the mother's side (her mother being the youngest of the Old Took's daughters); and Mr. Drogo was his second cousin. So Mr. Frodo is his first and second cousin, once removed either way, as the saying is, if you follow me. And Mr. Drogo was staying at Brandy Hall with his father-in-law, old Master Gorbadoc, as he often did after his marriage (him being mighty partial to his vittles, and old Gorbadoc keeping a mighty generous table); and he went out boating on the Brandywine River; and he and his wife were drownded, and poor Mr. Frodo only a child and all." (1.1.14)
The Gaffer's homely accent and relative kindness towards the people he's gossiping about ("poor Miss Primula Brandybuck," "poor Mr. Frodo") makes this feel like a pleasant and cozy scene (even if there is a lot of talking going on behind other people's backs). What also makes these early scenes in the Shire seem so homey is the Hobbits' obsession with family history and lineage. The fact that the Gaffer knows exactly how Frodo is related to Bilbo shows a high level of intimacy among all the different people living in the Shire. They don't just know one another; they know everyone's fathers and grandfathers and even great-grandfathers like they know their own. To achieve that degree of mutual familiarity, you'd have to have a small community in which no one ever leaves or arrives from elsewhere: in other words, the Shire.
A few creatures came and looked at them when the fire had died away. A fox passing through the wood on business of his own stopped several minutes and sniffed.
"Hobbits!" he thought. "Well, what next? I have heard of strange doings in this land, but I have seldom heard of a Hobbit sleeping out of doors under a tree. Three of them! There's something mighty queer behind this." He was quite right, but he never found out any more about it. (1.3.58-9)
This moment from the perspective of a random, passing fox is totally bizarre: we can't think of any other scene in the Lord of the Rings series that takes the perspective of an animal. This may be a fantasy novel, but it's not the talking-animal kind of fantasy. Still, this brief shift of perspective allows the narrator to remind us that it's really, really weird for Hobbits to leave their homes – so weird that even passing foxes notice.