Who Wrote this Thing?

Discussion in 'Questions for Narnion' started by Kyle Winiecki, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. Kyle Winiecki

    Kyle Winiecki New Member

    Upon this reread I have been wondering often to myself "who wrote this part?" From what we know about the contents of this book we know as "The Lord of the Rings" or more properly as Frodo pens at the end of the Return of the King "The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King" are written by Frodo, but the book also has been in the hands of Samwise and potentially had influence from others, perhaps such as Gandalf, Bilbo, Merry and Pippin for starters.

    What prompted me finally posting this series of questions on the authorship of "The Lord of the Rings" came to our reading of "Fog on the Barrow-Downs" when we reach the passage where Frodo has awoken in the Barrow.

    "But though his fear was so great that it seemed to be part of the very darkness that was round him, he found himself as he lay thinking about Bilbo Baggins and his stories, of their jogging along together in the lanes of the Shire and talking about roads and adventures. There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow. Frodo was neither very fat nor very timid; indeed, though he did not know it, Bilbo (and Gandalf) had thought him the best hobbit in the Shire. He thought he had come to the end of his adventure, and a terrible end, but the thought hardened him. He found himself stiffening, as if for a final spring he no longer felt limp like a helpless prey."

    Upon our reading of this passage a thought occurred to me, in reference to the underlined part of this passage, "Did Sam write this?" I wondered this because this seems like something that Sam would want to be told of Frodo more than Frodo of himself. Not to mention the fact that how could Frodo know that Bilbo and Gandalf "thought him the best hobbit in the Shire" if the passage says he did not know that himself. This could also be a case where Gandalf or Bilbo told him about it later and he then wrote it down. I know there is a lot of speculation here and it could be a number of different sources, but to me, in this passage, in this scenario, Sam seems to fit best as he would want those reading the Red Book to know that Frodo was thought the best hobbit in the Shire.

    This begs bigger and more grand questions however.

    Can we ever be certain at any point that we are reading from a specific source in The Lord of the Rings?

    If we can be certain of a source, can we possibly know if they actually wrote it, or did they relay it to someone else (like Sam telling Frodo to write this part of the passage into the book) and they wrote it down in their own words?

    Are there moments when we can specifically say that the narrator or translator (Tolkien) added something that was not in the original Red Book?

    These are all questions that have come to my mind this reading and while I personally don't see any point where I can say with certainty who wrote it, it keeps me wondering and if at the very least, speculating on these things makes my brain happy.
  2. amysrevenge

    amysrevenge Well-Known Member

    This is fantastic and I immediately accept the claim that Sam (and/or maybe Elanor?) was adding in editorial comments like this.

    I'm looking forward to watching out for more (especially in the race to Rivendell and crawl through Gorgoroth, both times where Frodo's personal recollections would be especially weak).
  3. Jim Deutch

    Jim Deutch New Member

    There are certainly moments that we can say could not have been written by Frodo, or Sam, or a Gondorian scribe. The "Thinking Fox" comes particularly to mind. None of those authors/editors could have known what a fox was thinking when it happened upon three hobbits sleeping outdoors. They couldn't even know that it had happened upon them: they were all asleep and there were no other witnesses.

    The only potential author of that passage other than Tokien himself would be Tom Bombadil, but the prose is not at all his style. <g>
  4. Marielle

    Marielle Well-Known Member

    I propose another theory -- though this, of course, is highly speculative.

    To me, the "there is a seed of courage" line sounds like the "strange though it may seem" passage from the essay on the Istari from Unfinished Tales, and both sound very much like a scholarly gloss on a text, perhaps originally a footnote. The Rohirrim, remember, have heard of hobbits, but assume them to be fictional creatures. If Men in the South have "fairy tales" featuring hobbits, perhaps these creatures are not the sort that would stand up to barrow-wights, thus making a scribe feel obligated to correct the assumption for his readers.

    Again, this is highly speculative, but Tolkien's textual history is so rich, I think it's a viable possibility.
    Lincoln Alpern likes this.

Share This Page