Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Fellowship Of The Ring Book 1 Chapter 8 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 8) : Fog on the Barrow-Downs | Summary

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Summary

The next morning, the hobbits breakfast alone and are seen off by Tom and Goldberry. They make their way across the countryside as the sun rises in the sky and the temperature warms. Coming to a tall stone pillar, they let their ponies stray about on the grass as they sit in the cool shade of the stone and have lunch.

The next thing they know, they wake "from a sleep they had never meant to take." The air is heavy and the ponies distressed, and they swiftly pack up and leave, but the mist only becomes thicker. Frodo, suddenly alone, becomes disoriented, wanders in the dark, and finally hears a cold voice saying, "I am waiting for you!" A dark figure takes him in a cold grip, and he falls unconscious.

When he wakes, he realizes he has been captured and entombed by a Barrow-wight. As he gathers his courage, he sees his friends lying nearby, arrayed with treasures and dressed in white. A long sword has been laid across their three necks. Frodo hears an incantation, and sees a creeping hand going toward Sam. Grabbing a sword, Frodo hacks the hand from its arm, and calls out for Tom Bombadil. After a short silence, Frodo hears Tom's voice singing as he approaches. Tom banishes the Wight, and helps Frodo carry the others to safety. Sam, Merry, and Pippin wake up.

Tom finds the ponies which had wandered off, and has each hobbit claim a sword from the many treasures in the wight's barrow. He accompanies them to the borders of his lands, and advises them to make for The Prancing Pony, an inn in the village of Bree.

Analysis

The events of this chapter develop the connection between the larger history of Middle-earth and the story unfolding in The Lord of the Rings. The Barrows were, in a time long past, part of Cardolan, a kingdom of the Dúnedain—Men of Númenor (Westernesse) such as Aragorn. Cardolan was destroyed by the Witch-king of Angmar, who became the Lord of the Nazgûl, and evil creatures called Barrow-wights were sent there to make sure the land was not reclaimed by the Dúnedain. The battles that took place on this land are the source of the weapons claimed by the hobbits in this episode.

The presence of the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs, just outside the borders of the Shire, also serve as a reminder that the Shire is an island of peace in a sea of wildness and evil. The hobbits living in the Shire, for the most part, are not troubled by the terrors of the world outside its borders. It is clear the sheltering of the Shire is an active endeavor: Aragorn and his people protect it at great cost to themselves, as Tom says, "guarding from evil things folk that are heedless." While Tom relates this history to the hobbits, they have a vision of "tall and grim" men and one man with "a star on his brow." This star—a gemstone—was placed upon the brows of the kings of Westernesse.

The idea that some people must fight to make sure the innocent are protected occurs elsewhere in the story and may reflect Tolkien's experiences as a soldier in World War I.

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