“Big as a house, much bigger than a house, it looked to him, a grey-clad moving hill. Fear and wonder, maybe, enlarged him in the hobbit’s eyes, but the Mumak of Harad was indeed a beast of vast bulk, and the like of him does not walk now in Middle-earth; his kin that live still in latter days are but memories of his girth and majesty.”
Book IV
Chapter 4
Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

For a while there I had nothing to say… not that the story isn’t good. Our protagonists continue to miss great danger as it sweeps close by.

I find it fascinating that Tolkien can fill chapters with what he does. Maybe one really noteable thing hapens or two, but the chapter gets filled up with descriptions of this and that, musings of different characters, and the litle things they notice that may or may not be important later.

In all, even the slow chapters aren’t boring, they just don’t have much to talk about–or not until the story is all through and the reader can look back and see the significance of the minor details.

For example, in this chapter Gollum gets mad at Sam and disappears when Men from Gondor show up and battle with other Men–servants of Sauron (and Oliphaunts!!). As it plays out it’s far more interesting and gripping (especially the Mumak scene) than my paraphrase, but that is what happens.

The first question is whether/when/how will we meet Gollum again (he’s come this far, I doubt he’ll give up the chase now!). Question two has to do with what these Men of Gondor will do for or to our Hobbits. Finally, Sam’s brief musings of the dead Harad warrior: “He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace…” This quote toward the end of the chapter realy jumped out at me. This is the kind of thing I would think myself–increasing my identification with Sam. Given Tolkien’s own war-time experience I’d be surprised if Tolkien hadn’t thought the same thing himself.

till next time,
keep thinking,

Kanazawa, Japan