Study Guide

The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1, Chapter 8

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Book 1, Chapter 8

Fog on the Barrow Downs

  • After breakfast, Frodo and the Hobbits say goodbye to Tom Bombadil.
  • Frodo calls out a farewell to Goldberry, who appears when Frodo speaks her name. She tells them to keep traveling swiftly; to Frodo, she says, "Farewell, Elf-friend, it was a merry meeting" (1.8.8).
  • Frodo, Merry, Sam, and Pippin make good progress. In the distance, they can see a line of trees marking the road.
  • They decide to stop for lunch at a hollow circle with a single stone in the center, "standing tall under the sun above, and at this hour casting no shadow" (1.6.13).
  • The Hobbits fall asleep (they never learn, do they?).
  • When they wake up, they find the fog rolling in quickly. They plunge into the mist, going north down the hill, and hope that they are going to hit the road eventually.
  • As Frodo continues, he calls for Sam, Merry, and Pippin to follow him, but he soon realizes that no one is answering his calls. Not good.
  • He can occasionally hear thin voices in the mist, shouting, "Frodo! Hoy!" (1.8.22) and even "help! help!" (1.8.22).
  • Finally, it grows completely dark, and Frodo can find no sound of his friends.
  • Frodo tries to feel his way in the direction of the calls he heard. He cries out, "Where are you?" (1.8.27), and a deep voice answers, "Here! [...] I am waiting for you!" (1.8.28).
  • Frodo sees a tall, dark figure leaning over him.
  • An icy grip seizes him, and Frodo falls unconscious. Cut to commercial.
  • When he wakes up, he finds himself on a slab of rock, laid out with his hands folded on his chest.
  • He genuinely believes that he is going to die, but that thought gives him surprising courage to look around and see what's happening.
  • Frodo finds Sam, Merry, and Pippin laid out on stones, richly decked out in jewels and gold.
  • But across their necks lies a long sword.
  • A song begins: "Cold be hand and heart and bone,/ and cold be sleep under stone:/ never more to wake on stony bed" (1.8.33).
  • Frodo sees a white arm in the corner, groping toward the handle of the sword.
  • For a split second, Frodo considers running away. But he can't leave his friends behind.
  • He picks up his short sword and starts hacking at the arm.
  • The light suddenly goes out and Frodo falls forward.
  • He remembers that Tom Bombadil taught them all a rhyme to sing if they ran into trouble again.
  • He calls out, and in answer, he hears a voice singing from far away.
  • A low opening appears in the wall and Tom Bombadil's head comes poking in.
  • Merry, Pippin, and Sam don't wake up, but they look healthier.
  • As Tom sings, there are loud crashes and a shriek that recedes into the distance.
  • Tom asks Frodo to help him get the Hobbits outside, and he sings a song that wakes them.
  • Merry remembers, "The men of Carn Dûm came on us at night, and we were worsted. Ah! The spear in my heart!" (1.8.46). But this is just a fading memory of the ghosts of the Barrow-downs.
  • Soon, he, Pippin, and Sam are back to normal. Phew.
  • Tom tells them that their ponies were smart enough to smell the danger of the Barrow-wights.
  • They went back to find Tom's pony friend, a fat pony the Hobbits call Fatty Lumpkin.
  • This means that all of the Hobbits' supplies and clothes are still intact. Phew again. That was lucky.
  • Tom Bombadil looks through the Barrow to find an ornament for Goldberry and a dagger for each of the Hobbits.
  • These daggers were made by the Men of Westernesse in their first battle against the Dark Lord.
  • Tom guides the Hobbits back to the road himself (since they can't seem to stay out of trouble).
  • Once they get back on the road, Pippin begins to worry about Black Riders. Tom can't predict whether the Riders will come, but he does direct the Hobbits to go to The Prancing Pony inn at Bree.
  • Sam wonders if The Prancing Pony will be anything like The Green Dragon in the Shire.
  • Merry thinks it'll be like home – there are both Hobbits and Big Folk in Bree.
  • Frodo doesn't want to publicize his name, so he insists that they call him Mr. Underhill in Bree.
  • The Hobbits hurry on, ready for what's next.

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