The Return of the King
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
They stood now; and Sam still holding his master's hand caressed it. He sighed. "What a tale we have been in, Mr. Frodo, haven't we?" he said. "I wish I could hear it told! Do you think they'll say: Now comes the story of Nine-fingered Frodo and the Ring of Doom? And then everyone will hush, like we did, when in Rivendell they told us the tale of Beren One-Hand and the Great Jewel. I wish I could hear it! And I wonder how it will go on after our part." (6.4.21)
There they are again—stories.When Sam says, "What a tale we have been in," this is literally true: he and Frodo are both characters in an amazing tale. As a fictional character wishing to hear his own fictional adventures told back to him in song form, Sam is blurring the distinction between the world in The Lord of the Rings and that of its readers. After all, we are listening to Sam's story just as Sam listened to Beren's tale in the Hall of Fire in Rivendell. But at the end of the day, it's all about the power of stories. The stories Sam heard in Rivendell have a big impact on him, just as the stories of "Nine-fingered Frodo" will make a splash with us.
"Nay, cousin! they are not boys," said Ioreth to her kinswoman from Imloth Melui, who stood beside her. "Those are Periain, out of the far country of the Halflings, where they are princes of great fame, it is said. I should know, for I had one to tend in the Houses. They are small, but they are valiant. Why, cousin, one of them went with only his esquire into the Black Country and fought with the Dark Lord all by himself, and set fire to his Tower, if you can believe it. At least that is the tale in the City. That will be the one that walks with our Elfstone. They are dear friends, I hear." (6.5.71)
Ah, the Gondorian rumor mill. It runs fast and strong. Even Frodo's genuinely heroic feats have become exaggerated. Nine-fingered Frodo certainly didn't set fire to any tower, although there's truth at the heart of Ioreth's version of the tale. We can imagine this story being passed down orally through the ages, with changes and embellishments added here and there. This scene reminds us that even in our world, the stories we hear about the past often have grains of truth.
They put [Butterbur] in a large chair by the wood-fire, […] and exchanged all such news as Mr. Butterbur wished to hear or give. Most of the things which they had to tell were a mere wonder and bewilderment to their host, and far beyond his vision; and they brought forth few comments other than: "You don't say," often repeated in defiance of the evidence of Mr. Butterbur's own ears. "You don't say, Mr. Baggins, or is it Mr. Underhill? I'm getting so mixed up. You don't say, Master Gandalf! Well I never! Who'd have thought it in our times!" (6.7.26)
Butterbur's a good guy, sure, but he is incapable of understanding the grand events of the Lord of the Rings series. He just doesn't have the language, experience, or even imagination for it, so the tales leave him speechless. Contrast him with a guy like Aragorn, who sings beautifully and speaks poetically from the start, and you'll see a subtle class system start to emerge—one based on education and experience, rather than money. Men like Aragorn are high and mighty, while folks like Butterbur are left to wonder at all the grandeur. We suppose it should come as no surprise that Tolkien, as a professor of languages, would give his own love of words and stories to his best characters—like Sam, and unlike Butterbur.