Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Fellowship Of The Ring Book 1 Chapter 4 Summary

The Lord of the Rings | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lord of the Rings | The Fellowship of the Ring (Book 1, Chapter 4) : A Short Cut to Mushrooms | Summary

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Summary

When the hobbits wake up the next morning, the Elves are gone, having left food for the hobbits' breakfast. Frodo tells Sam, privately, that the two of them will need to leave the Shire right away. To the disappointment of the others, Frodo decides to cut across the countryside rather than stay on the road. This going proves difficult, and the Black Rider continues to pursue them. Eventually, though, they come to a gate at the edge of a farmer's field. Pippin recognizes the farm as belonging to Farmer Maggot. Frodo is worried Farmer Maggot will remember that, as a child, he stole mushrooms from his farm, but when they do encounter the farmer, he is helpful.

Farmer Maggot tells them a "funny customer" has come around, asking about Mr. Baggins. Seeing that Frodo is concerned, he offers to give them a ride to the ferry in his cart after dinner. As they near the ferry, they are met by Merry, riding a pony. Farmer Maggot gives them a basket of mushrooms, says good-bye, then returns home.

Analysis

Character development is an important aspect of this chapter, which takes place as Pippin, Sam, and Frodo make their way through the Shire to the Bucklebury Ferry, taking them across the Brandywine River to Buckland. The three have just spent the evening with Elves. For Frodo, talking with the Elves has solidified his resolve to leave. In addition, Pippin's carefree attitude over breakfast has made his leaving even more urgent, as it seems, to Frodo; Pippin's casual demeanor represents the simple beauty of the Shire, which the Ring threatens. Pippin, like most hobbits, is oblivious to the dangers that lurk beyond the Shire, having spent his entire life in Hobbiton.

Sam has had his own talk with the Elves, and he is resolved to go with Frodo into any danger: "I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through." Sam's experience has also inspired some deep thoughts about Elves in general. As Sam describes his impression of the Elves, Frodo notes, "[i]t did not sound like the voice of the old Sam Gamgee ... But it looked like the old Sam Gamgee sitting there, except that his face was unusually thoughtful."

Common-sense wisdom is also a feature of this chapter. When Pippin is disappointed in Frodo's desire to take a shortcut that will avoid an inn with reputable beer, Frodo remarks, "Short cuts make delays, but inns make longer ones." Farmer Maggot concludes that the Black Rider he encountered was interested in Bilbo's treasure, and assesses the situation without being told anything: "It is as plain as my nose that no accident brought you and that rider here on the same afternoon ... Perhaps you are thinking it won't be too easy to get to the Ferry without being caught?"

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