Short cuts make long delays…but evidently not long chapters.

With danger already close behind, Frodo is privately considering setting out for Rivendell on his own (against the advice of both Gandalf and Gildor), not wanting to put anyone else in harm’s way.  Thankfully, Sam won’t be got rid of so easily.

‘It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back.’

‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam, ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said.

Initially, Sam said that he wanted to go on this adventure to meet Elves and such, but now that he’s already met some Elves, he’s discovered a different sort of purpose.

‘I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want – 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, sir, if you understand me.’

‘I don’t altogether. But I understand that Gandalf chose me a good companion. I am content. We will go together.’

Frodo suggests a “short cut” through the woods to take a more direct line to Bucklebury Ferry (their best route across the river) and move out of sight of the road, but Pippin responds that the road winds for a reason – it’s very thick forests and ditches.  Also there is a rather prestigious inn along the road that he wants to dine at.

‘That settles it!’ said Frodo. ‘Short cuts make delays, but inns make longer ones.’

These early chapters give a good taste of both Tolkien’s humor and suspense.  You’ll rarely find a “joke” in Lord of the Rings (or at least not a straightforward one), but there’s quite a bit of witty wordplay.

They quickly discover that Frodo and Pippin were both right: The short cut does go awry early on, but there’s also a Black Rider sniffing around at the place where they left the road.  After a long day’s trek through the woods, though, they come out onto a farm – the property of one Farmer Maggot, to be precise.  A farm that Frodo once raided frequently as young rapscallion in Buckland (primarily for its mushrooms), enough to get Farmer Maggot to threaten him with his pack of ferocious dogs.

Pippin laughed. ‘Well, it’s high time you made it up. Especially if you are coming back to live in Buckland. Old Maggot is really a stout fellow – if you leave his mushrooms alone.’

Maggot does set his dogs on them, but only because he mistook them for someone else – a certain unsavory foreigner just came through asking for Baggins…

‘I’ll tell you what to think,’ said Maggot. ‘You should never have gone mixing yourself up with Hobbiton folk, Mr. Frodo. Folk are queer up there.’ Sam stirred in his chair, and looked at the farmer with an unfriendly eye. ‘But you were always a reckless lad. When I heard you had left the Brandybucks and gone off to that old Mr. Bilbo, I said that you were going to find trouble. Mark my words, this all comes of those strange doings of Mr. Bilbo’s. His money was got in some strange fashion in foreign parts, they say. Maybe there is some that want to know what has become of the gold and jewels that he buried in the hill of Hobbiton, as I hear?’

Frodo said nothing: the shrewd guesses of the farmer were rather disconcerting.

But the farmer is more than willing to help Frodo out of his predicament, offering him a ride to the ferry after supper.  Then as they’re driving through the dark, they hear a rider approaching.

‘You’d better be hidden, Mr. Frodo,’ said Sam anxiously. ‘You get down in the waggon and cover up with blankets, and we’ll send this rider to the rightabouts!’ He climbed out and went to the farmer’s side. Black Riders would have to ride over him to get near the waggon.

Sam was serious about what he told Frodo earlier – even if this rider turns out to be Merry.  Frodo & co ended up taking a couple days longer than they’d anticipated, so Merry went out looking for them.

Suddenly [Mr Maggot] produced a large basket from under the seat. ‘I was nearly forgetting,’ he said. ‘Mrs. Maggot put this up for Mr. Baggins, with her compliments.’ He handed it down and moved off, followed by a chorus of thanks and good-nights.

They watched the pale rings of light round his lanterns as they dwindled into the foggy night. Suddenly Frodo laughed: from the covered basket he held, the scent of mushrooms was rising.

Until next time…

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