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For the few hours of daylight that were left they rested, shifting into the shade as the sun moved, until at last the shadow of the western rim of their dell grew long, and darkness filled all the hollow. Gollum leads the hobbits south, parallel to the mountains and the road, into Ithilien, an old part of Gondor that the malice of Sauron has yet to ruin. Tolkien names no less than sixteen kinds of plants that grow there in one paragraph alone. In this relative idyll, the hobbits make camp for the day. Sam asks Gollum if he could find them something to eat, and Gollum catches two rabbits for them. To Gollum's horror, Sam makes a fire to stew the rabbits. Gollum complains that cooking will ruin the meat, and the fire will draw attention. Sam wants herbs and vegetables for his stew, naming potatoes ("taters") specifically, to Gollum's great confusion. Sam even mentions fish and chips! Frodo and Sam eat the stew, but as Sam descends to the nearby stream to wash his cooking gear, he realizes to his horror that the fire is putting out a clearly visible pillar of smoke. He goes to douse it, but it's too late: four men have found their camp. Their leader introduces himself as Faramir, Captain of Gondor. Faramir briefly interrogates the hobbits, but as he's in a hurry to ambush a column of southerners heading for the Morannon, he leaves them behind, under guard. The hobbits witness the ambush, and Sam sees an Oliphaunt. ** Food plays a major part in this chapter, so let's talk about it. The Middle-earth potato is another Tolkien anachronism, only imported to Europe in the 16th century; fish and chips even more so! Anachronisms are rarer in the Lord of the Rings than in the Hobbit , but they're still around. In his comments to Forrest J. Ackerman on a completely ridiculous movie project (loosely!) based on the Lord of the Rings , Tolkien has this to say about lembas , the elven way-bread the hobbits have been subsisting on. In the book lembas has two functions. It is a 'machine' or device for making credible the long marches with little provision, in a world in which as I have said 'miles are miles'. But that is relatively unimportant. It also has a much larger significance, of what one might hesitatingly call a 'religious' kind. This becomes later apparent, especially in the chapter 'Mount Doom'. ( Letters , 210) The script Tolkien is commenting on sounds uniquely terrible. He has a prophetic line: "Practically everything having moral import has vanished from the synopsis." But lembas , then, is not just a storytelling device, but also, more importantly, a religious device. It sustains the hobbits, especially toward the end of their journey, but is completely unpalatable to Gollum. What lembas is, to cut some corners, is the communion wafer. Again, not by direct analogy, but by anticipation and metaphor. What sustains the hobbits, and remains completely alien to Gollum, is faith. There's another boundary drawn by eating here, between Gollum and the hobbits. Gollum is horrified by cooking and declares it spoils meat. Gollum's dietary preferences, too, are disgusting to the hobbits, and in the internal dialogue that Sam overhears, the height of luxury Gollum's evil tendencies can imagine is eating fish every day. Now, it should be remembered that Sméagol was originally a hobbit, and even if they weren't quite as bourgeois as the hobbits of Frodo's Shire, they seem to have lived a fairly civilized life. Gollum must have eaten cooked food. Now, though, after centuries of living under mountains and on whatever he could find, it repels him. Cooking has often been considered one of the defining features of civilization; what I think we're being told here is that the Ring has corrupted and debased Gollum so completely that he's almost become an animal. Finally, leaving food behind, I think it's worth quoting Sam's experience of the ranger ambush, as one of the Southrons is killed right next to their hiding-place. It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. 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 Again, Tolkien's relationship to war is an ambiguous one. Things like the orc-killing contest at Helm's Deep are very true to the bellicose saga traditions that are his main inspiration; passages like the above draw not only from his Christianity but a general humanity and, no doubt, a revulsion for war based on his own experience of the industrialized slaughter of the First World War. He never could reconcile the two, and I think the tension between them adds greatly to the whole work. ** Next time: an interrogation.
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