Episode 238 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

A whole regiment of birds:
  • Note: While in the film version, the attempt of the Company to hide from the crebain seems to succeed, the book version implies that because the Company is asleep, there is nothing they can do about being seen, and Sam is left with a sense of helplessness in his watch not helping them.
  • Aragorn’s command to lay flat and be still seems to be his answer to Sam’s original question.
  • He doesn’t identify the birds, but he clearly communicates that they’re a threat to the Company.
  • The Company is probably well concealed, as they are hidden by the holly bushes, and the place where they have camped is described as a “deep hollow”, and probably out of sight anyway.
  • This would have protected them from the weather, as well, as it acts like a small cave for them.
  • Aragorn doesn’t seem to be concerned about the camp being seen, since he doesn’t warn them.
  • While Gandalf had tried to cheer the Company up by suggesting that Hollin would be friendly, and while Legolas felt the Elves to have been forgotten, the holly trees do in fact protect them.
  • The use of “regiment” emphasizes the strangely systematic way they are canvassing the area.
  • Describing the main group as a “host” is in keeping with the birds as a military formation.
  • Note: The depiction in the film version is more like naturalistic bird behavior, while in the text, the unnaturalness of their formation flying is emphasized, in order to add to the sense of horror.
A kind of crow of large size:
  • Since crows are large birds normally, the unusual size of the birds stands out even more to Sam.
  • Sam insists on remaining calm, especially in front of Aragorn, and responds only with curiosity.
  • There is no sense of Sam’s emotional response, and he seems to focus only on his observations.
  • As a gardener, especially coming from the Shire, Sam would be used to large groups of animals.
  • Sam might see crows as just pests, and therefore not have the same sense of danger as Aragorn.
  • The use of “throng” continues the avoidance of normal bird language, making it more ominous.
  • The sky had been beautiful and clear, but the presence of the crows has broken that feeling.
  • For the crows to be silent is most disturbing, as crows are normally extremely gregarious birds.
  • The one harsh cloak being described in the passive voice makes it disembodied among the throng of birds, and the source or reason for the sound is unknown, though it is like an order.
  • It doesn’t seem like the Company has been spotted, as this would probably have gotten a bigger response, though the ambiguity could mean anything, nor do we know by whom it was heard.
  • The uncanny silence before the crows seems to be on them, too, so they aren’t the source.
  • Whatever it was that sent the crows seems to also be present in some fashion across the land.
  • The word “croak” is slightly abnormal in describing the sound of a crow, though onomatopoetic.
  • Note: The only other times the word “croak” is used in The Lord of the Rings, it is associated with Gollum and the fell beasts. However, in The Hobbit, it is specifically associated with crows.
The sky again clear:
  • The entire group of crows seems to break off into both the north and west, toward the rivers.
  • It’s possible that the arrival of the good weather was conjured to help the crows in their search, which emphasizes why they have been traveling during the night so far, avoiding the sunlight.
  • Aragorn’s internal feeling is revealed in his unwillingness to rise until the sky was again clear.
  • It’s implied that Sam would have risen sooner, but that Aragorn would not allow it before.
  • It is not a lack of urgency shown, but an abundance of caution, though he reports immediately.
  • Aragorn may also be waiting to see what happens around them after the birds have passed.
  • This entire episode could have lasted quite a while from spotting the birds to their passing.