The Fellowship of the Ring
How we cite our quotes:
[T]hey looked out from the hill-top over lands under the morning. It was now as clear and far-seen as it had been veiled and misty when they stood upon the knoll in the Forest, which could now be seen rising pale and green out of the dark trees in the West. In that direction the land rose in wooded ridges, green, yellow, russet under the sun, beyond which lay hidden the valley of the Brandywine. To the South, over the line of the Withywindle, there was a distant glint like pale glass where the Brandywine River made a great loop in the lowlands and flowed away out of the knowledge of the Hobbits. Northward beyond the dwindling downs the land ran away in flats and swellings of grey and green and pale earth-colours, until it faded into a featureless and shadowy distance. Eastward the Barrow-downs rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into a guess: it was no more than a guess of blue and a remote white glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them out of memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains. (1.8.6)
As the Hobbits look out over the Old Forest, they can see the whole of the Shire (that's the place where the Brandywine River makes "a great loop in the lowlands"). And they can also see vague hints of where they're going ("out of the knowledge of the Hobbits"). But we're also struck by the Barrow-downs: the giant mounds under which lie the graves of ancient warriors. Middle-earth is covered with relics and remnants of earlier battles; after all, The Fellowship of the Ring ends near the Argonath, the giant statues of the men of Numénor who fought in the first war against Sauron. So the landscape of Middle-earth itself is written over with physical signs of old struggles. It's as though the land is a parchment for "memory and old tales." The history of Middle-earth endures not only in the minds of its residents, but also in the layout of the landscape itself.
Frodo felt a fool. Not knowing what else to do, he crawled away under the tables to the dark corner by Strider, who sat unmoved, giving no sign of his thoughts. Frodo leaned back against the wall and took off the Ring. How it came to be on his finger he could not tell. He could only suppose that he had been handling it in his pocket while he sang, and that somehow it had slipped on when he stuck out his hand with a jerk to save his fall [off the table]. For a moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt in the room. (1.9.68)
Having put the Ring on in a public place like a complete idiot, all that Frodo can do is bluster on and hope that nothing too terrible comes of this accident. But it's interesting that Frodo has no conscious memory of choosing to slip the Ring on; it tries to trip him up just as he's finishing off a popular drinking song for his happy audience. This scene works quite differently in Peter Jackson's film version of The Fellowship of the Ring. In the movie, Frodo handles the Ring intently until he overhears Pippin telling someone at the bar that he knows a Baggins – he's right over there! (pointing at Frodo). Frodo rushes over to shut Pippin up, only to trip and basically stumble into the Ring. For the sake of saving time in an already long movie, it makes sense to cut out the whole singing aspect of the Hobbits' visit to Bree. But it totally changes the tone of the whole Bree sequence: there are some unsavory characters in Tolkien's book, sure, but nothing like the muttering crowd of Jackson's film. Why do you think Tolkien includes Frodo's drinking song in the novel? How does Frodo's comfort in front of the crowd contrast with his awkwardness after his accidental disappearance? What do you think this performance makes Strider think of Frodo as a Ring-bearer?
It turned out later that only one horse had been actually stolen. The others had been driven off, or had bolted in terror, and were found wandering in different corners of the Bree-land. Merry's ponies had escaped altogether, and eventually (having a good deal of sense) they made their way to the Downs in search of Fatty Lumpkin. So they came under the care of Tom Bombadil for a while, and were well-off. But when news of the events at Bree came to Tom's ears, he sent them to Mr. Butterbur, who thus got five good ponies at a very fair price. They had to work harder in Bree, but Bob treated them well; so on the whole they were lucky: they missed a dark and dangerous journey. But they never came to Rivendell.
This little digression into the fates of the Hobbit ponies demonstrates Tolkien's love of narrative closure: he likes to see his stories through to the very end. In the middle of this tale of Frodo, Aragorn, Sam, Merry, and Pippin racing to Rivendell, Tolkien stops to tell us that the five ponies persevered and made it safely to Tom Bombadil and then back to Butterbur. Where else in the novels do we see evidence of Tolkien's intense love of tying up loose ends? Are there loose ends that he leaves dangling? What effects does it have on the pacing of this section that Tolkien stops to tell us these narrative details?