I haven't given up! Travel is hell on posting schedules.
What Happens: Frodo wakes up; the elves are gone. Frodo fails to tell his companions about the danger they're currently in, and resolves to leave the Shire immediately. Sam vows to go with him.
Frodo decides to go across country, avoiding both a loop in the road and the Golden Perch inn. They get muddy and scratched, lose their way, and see and hear Black Riders. They find themselves on Farmer Maggot's land. Maggot welcomes them, tells them that a Black Rider had just been asking after Mr. Baggins, feeds them dinner, and gives them a ride to the ferry, where they are met by Merry.
Farmer Maggot puzzled me at first, because I'd been sensitized to the whole insular = bad thing in the earlier chapters, and he's just as insular, except that he's clearly also supposed to be admirably shrewd. So, I have A Theory (which is mostly what I want to say about this chapter, really):
Farmer Maggot prefigures Tom Bombadil.
There. What do you think?
(And is the first example of "seem fairer and feel fouler.")
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Thanks to papersky for pointing out that avoiding the inn is a deliberate break in the pattern. It's a short and relatively benign trip into the wilderness, but it's still a bit more wilderness than they'd had before.
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The ever-popular Sam issue:
'Do you feel any need to leave the Shire now — now that your wish to see them has come true already?' [Frodo] asked.
'Yes, sir. I don't know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want — I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.'
'I don't altogether. But I understand that Gandalf chose me a good companion. I am content. We will go together.'
That's not exactly a ringing choice, but it at the very least is a non-complaining assumption of duty.
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As my summary may have suggested, I disapprove of Frodo not telling Sam and Pippin about the Black Riders. Yes, it's one thing to take your young friends into danger—but they're in danger now, you're just not telling them.
Yeah, that's about all I've got for this chapter. Anyone else?