Look foul and feel fair

Longtimer

Member
This post has two parts.

First, I celebrate that after starting a journey in March I have now listened to all episodes of Exploring LotR. Note I started with the Council of Elrond which is my favorite chapter in Fellowship and have mostly stayed current but then went back and listened to everything that preceded it.

Second, in episode 209 we discuss that Frodo puts on the mithril coat and then puts on his travel-stained garments over it. Lots of good conversation about why this happens but unless I missed it nobody noticed that he is now Strider. He looks foul and feels fair. Well not quite but you get the point :). Sorry for the low-quality non-scholarly comment but I couldn't resist it.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
This post has two parts.

First, I celebrate that after starting a journey in March I have now listened to all episodes of Exploring LotR. Note I started with the Council of Elrond which is my favorite chapter in Fellowship and have mostly stayed current but then went back and listened to everything that preceded it.

Second, in episode 209 we discuss that Frodo puts on the mithril coat and then puts on his travel-stained garments over it. Lots of good conversation about why this happens but unless I missed it nobody noticed that he is now Strider. He looks foul and feels fair. Well not quite but you get the point :). Sorry for the low-quality non-scholarly comment but I couldn't resist it.
Or does he? Perhaps one might say he looks fair but feels fell?

Dressing like a normal hobbit on the outside does not seem like 'looking foul'. Dressing in normal hobbit clothes should 'look fair'. However, if you slapped Frodo (as Bilbo does) and felt the armour underneath, you might think 'he looks fair, but feels dangerous'. That is 'feels fell'. If you slapped him on the thigh, and felt Sting, you might think he 'feels even feller'. After all, a coat of mail is primarily defensive, but a sword is a dangerous threatening possibility.

I don't think that 'looks fair and feels foul' really applies to Frodo. Though it might. After all, what sorts of people try to look perfectly normal, while secretly carrying deadly weapons? Spies, Assassins, Muggers. However, I don't think we are meant to think of Frodo that way. He is not yet really dangerous nor deadly with his sword and armour (though he will become more so). He does not carry concealed weapons for nefarious ends. He conceals his weapons because he is embarrassed by them and would prefer to appear 'normal'. Still, he 'feels' more fell than he really is yet.
 

Longtimer

Member
Flammifer you are being too literal.

Frodo is now dressed in ordinary traveling close that would not get him a second look on the road and might even make him look a little seedy, thus foul. Underneath he is wearing one of the most spectacular and beautiful mail shirts in Middle Earth, thus fair.

I think it is an acceptable if joking comparison. Do I think Tolkien saw or intended the joke. I doubt it.

Note The looks foul and feels fair line has always seemed to me to mean your exterior is foul and your interior is fair.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I am also being a little tongue-in-cheek. However, I don't think that JRRT would really think that ordinary clothes, no matter how travel worn, were 'foul'. Nor that the gear of war, no matter how beautifully made, should necessarily be described as 'fair'.
 

Longtimer

Member
Flammifer I cannot find regular cloths described as foul but when Gimli sees the mithril coat he exclaims "I have never seen or heard tell of one so fair" and Eowyn receives from Theoden "a sword and a fair corslet" (isn't word search useful) so gear of war can be described as fair by a dwarf and the narrator.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
I can't help thinking of the scene in Cirith Ungol when Sam tells Frodo he looks like a proper orc, or would if he could hide his face. Frodo putting his old travel clothes over his mithril coat is kind of like Gandalf cloaked. By the time Frodo is in Mordor his light is shining through in his face.

But I agree with longtimer - the original post made me smile.
 
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