The Lord of the... whatever, Book I, Chapter 8:
Fog On The Barrow-Downs
That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of
them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in
his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey
rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and
silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened
before him under a swift sunrise.
The vision melted, and Frodo awoke feeling a rather depressing sense
of predestination. Everything is fixed, and you can't change it,
echoed the ethereal chorus in his memory.
"You're a fool, Frodo Baggins," muttered Frodo, shaking his head and
looking about for some sign of breakfast. Instead, Sam was immediately
at his side, stroking Frodo's hand, kissing Frodo's hand, and sucking
Frodo's fingers, as was his wont. "Good boy, Sam," praised Frodo,
tossing Sam a scooby-snack. "How about some breakfast, then?"
After breakfast, the four Hobbits made ready to say farewell to their
host. Their quiet ponies were almost frisky, shimmying and shagging
restlessly. Tom came out of the house and waved his doll and danced
upon the doorstep, bidding the Hobbits to go speedily and reminding them
to beware of the dread Barrow-wights that haunted the Downs at night.
"They're always after my lucky charms!" he explained.
Duly warned, the Hobbits thanked Tom for his advice and trotted their
panting ponies away, in haste to be out of hearing range before Tom
started singing again. They rode off along a path that wound away from
behind the house, and went slanting up and over a high, green hill.
They had just dismounted to lead their ponies up the steep slope, when
suddenly Frodo stopped.
"Goldberry!" he cried. "My fair lady, clad all in terrycloth! We
have never said farewell to her, nor seen her since that evening!" He
was so distressed that he turned back.
Morrie rolled his eyes. "No wonder he's still a virgin," he muttered.
"What?" exclaimed Pipsqueak, looking sharply at Morrie.
"Am not," shot back Frodo.
"Are too," Morrie snidely insisted.
"Now see here--" began Sam, but Pipsqueak cut him off.
"Whatever do you mean, Morrie? What about Cassiopiea,
and...well...and...well, what about Cassiopiea?"
"For the love of Elbereth!" implored Frodo. "Please, you two, just
"Yes, I hear you're quite adept at dropping it, cousin," sneered
Morrie. He raised an eyebrow and glanced significantly at Pipsqueak.
Pipsqueak gasped. "You mean--?" He glanced at Frodo, who at the
moment could easily have been mistaken for a poppy in Farmer Maggot's
fields, and grinned back at Morrie. "Go on!" he said, laughing.
"It's true," said Morrie. "'Limp as last night's noodles left out in
the rain,' is how your cousin Cassie put it."
"Well, then, whyever did she keep--ohhh, the power of the Ring, I
"Yes, poor Cassie. Apparently the Ring only bestows the power to
seduce; the power to perform is up to the wearer."
"Enough!" cried Frodo, his face contorted in anguish. "All right! I
admit it! I can't--perform with a lass. I don't know why; it's not
that I haven't tried. Do you have any idea how humiliating it is to be
the only fifty-year-old virgin in all of Hobbiton?"
"What!" snapped Frodo defensively.
"The Shire," Morrie drolly repeated, smirking. "As far as I know,
you're the only fifty-year-old virgin in the whole of the Shire."
"Including Bucklebeltland," suggested Pipsqueak helpfully.
"For that matter, Frodo, you're probably the only virgin over thirty
in all the Shire--"
"I take your point!" Frodo stalked off up and over the hill.
"Now see what you've done," reproved Sam, jabbing a finger into
"Sam, please," sniffed Morrie, swatting Sam's hand away from
Pipsqueak. "It's not proper to treat your betters in so familiar a
"Never you mind 'proper,' Mr. Moribund, sir. You and Mr. Paragraph
here made poor Mr. Frodo feel bad, and I'll not be standing for it, and
that's a fact!"
Morrie and Pipsqueak burst into laughter. "Well, then," leered
Morrie, as Sam scowled and stamped his foot in protest, "why don't you
go find poor Mr. Frodo and make him feel gooood,
"Maybe I'll do just that," retorted Sam, who wouldn't recognize
subtext if it smacked him upside the head. As if to further prove the
point, he shouted, "Coming, Mr. Frodo! Coming!" while Morrie and
Pipsqueak fell to the grass, rolling and laughing hysterically.
Damn the lot of them.
Frodo grinned to himself. It sounded so fine, he said it aloud:
"Damn the lot of them!" (To say that Frodo was socially retarded
would be somewhat of an understatement.)
Damn them all. He ought to cast them all to the dread Barrow-wights
and invite the beasts to have at their lucky charms. Frodo imagined his
so-called friends lying dead and dismembered, while he himself escaped,
alive and free. Gandalf would admit there had been nothing else he
Just then a familiar, low voice interrupted his sadistic reverie:
"Mr. Frodo, sir?"
Not Sam, amended Frodo. Morrie and Pipsqueak, without a regret, but
not Sam. "Yes, Sam," he said, turning and smiling fondly; for suddenly
it struck him that he was, indeed, very fond of the young Hobbit.
Sam blushed and lowered his gaze. "Aw, Mr. Frodo, I was thinking,
maybe, you could use a bit of cheering up." He took Frodo's hand into
his own, held it up to his cheek. "You always do like it when I hold
your hand," he said shyly.
"I do, indeed," said Frodo, caressing Sam's cheek with his fingertips.
"However did you get in the habit of doing it, anyway?"
"Oh, I don't know, sir." Sam shrugged, and slipped his mouth over the
nearest fingertip. "Maybe it's just you have such beautiful hands."
A shadow fell over Frodo's face. "Morrie said I'm ugly," he said,
"You never were," protested Sam. "Why, you're the fairest Hobbit in
all the Shire, as beautiful as any Elf."
"Really?" Frodo glanced back doubtfully at Sam.
"Really and truly, sir. Mr. Morrie's just jealous, on account that he
looks like the wrong end of a pony with a bad case of the Bywater
Frodo burst out laughing. "You always could make me laugh, dear Sam,"
he said, leaning against Sam.
"Aw." Again the color rose in Sam's face. "He just knows he can't
hold a candle to you, and that's--" He stopped short, suddenly
"A fact?" Frodo's eyes shone brightly at Sam. Sam glanced up at him,
and nodded. "Fact is, sir, I always wondered how it was so handsome a
Hobbit never did wed--oh, I'm sorry, sir!" cried Sam, aghast.
Frodo winced, but patted Sam's hand reassuringly, bestowing a light
kiss upon it for good measure. "It's all right, Sam," he said. "I seem
to be cursed, doomed by forces beyond my control never to know the bliss
of conjugal relations." Sighing wistfully, Frodo lifted his eyes to the
hills; whence would come his help?
"Well, come along, Sam." Frodo looked back to Sam, and gave him a
shadowed smile. "I suppose we'd better find Morrie and Pipsqueak and be
heading out of here before it gets dark. They may be asses, but they
are my cousins, all the same."
"And they may prove useful yet, sir," added Sam, walking hand in hand
with Frodo back over the hill to where they had left Morrie and
Riding over the hills, and eating their fill, the warm sun and the
scent of turf, lying a little too long after lunch to linger over
bottles of elderberry wine, sucked drop by drop from slender fingers:
these things are, perhaps, enough to explain what happened. However
that may be, the Hobbits woke suddenly and uncomfortably from a sleep
they never meant to take. Extricating their entwined limbs, they sprang
to their feet in alarm: The setting sun throbbed crimson as it sank
below the horizon. Red sky at night, sailor's delight, hissed the
wind, chilling the companions to their very bones.
In defiance of all principles of meteorology, known and unknown, a
thick fog rolled in from nowhere, quickly enshrouding the Hobbits and
isolating them one from another.
"Sam?" called Frodo shakily. "Sam? Morrie? Pipsqueak?"
He thought he heard a dim, answering call of Frodo but he could not
be sure. "Sam? Sam, where are you? Morrie, Pipsqueak? Please answer
me! Where are you?" Blindly he stumbled through the fog and the dark,
his curls plastered damply against his brow.
Frodo halted. "Sam?" he queried in a quavering voice.
Hey, sailor, where are you going?
"Who are you?" demanded Frodo. "And what have you done with Sam?"
Falling silent, he waited, but there was no answer, only the slither of
the wind beneath the fog.
"Sam! Where are you?" Frodo cried out miserably.
There was no reply. He was suddenly aware that it was getting very
cold, and the wind was growing stronger, dispersing the mists as
improbably quickly as they had descended. A glance showed him that he
was now standing on a high hilltop, which he must have climbed in his
frantic chase, which would explain why his clothes and hair were soaked
with perspiration. Out of the east a biting wind was blowing. To his
right there loomed against the westward stars a dark black shape. A
great barrow stood there.
"Where are you?" he cried again, both angry and afraid.
"Here!" said a voice deep and mellow and strangely seductive. "I am
waiting for you!"
"No!" said Frodo; but he did not run away. Trembling, he looked up to
see a tall, dark, and handsome figure silhouetted against the stars. It
leaned over him, and Frodo felt his knees grow weak. He thought he saw
an appraising glimmer in the two pale eyes gazing intently down into his
own, and he stood transfixed, silently yearning for he knew not what.
Then strong, manly hands seized him, and a body hard as iron bore
against him, pressing him insistently to the ground, and he remembered
He awoke feeling curiously sticky, and, even more curiously, strangely
satiated. He had no desire to move, but was content to lie as he found
himself: naked, on the ground, his clothes scattered around him, a
crushed cigarette butt smoldering in a bare patch of dirt. Languidly
Frodo reached over and twisted the cigarette butt into the ground,
Hmm. He'd never been one for smoking, but now he felt a sudden and
powerful craving for a good pipe full of weed. Damn. Frodo supposed
that he would have to bestir himself to find where his companions had
got to; Sam alone could be counted on to pack half a year's crop of leaf
whenever he undertook so much as a trip to the post office. Hopefully,
thought Frodo, he hadn't smoked it all by now.
Groaning, he stretched and sat up and set about reclothing himself,
pausing to wipe off the curiously sticky night dew which had condensed
upon certain regions of his skin. He looked about in vain for his pony.
"Sam! Morrie! Pipsqueak!" called Frodo. "Where are you? Sam!
Morrie! Pipsqueak! Hullo! Rise and shine! Here comes the sun, and I
say, it's all right!"
From the barrow emerged Sam, Morrie, and Pipsqueak, blinking, bemused,
and naked as the day they were born. "Mr. Frodo?" murmured Sam, gazing
blearily in Frodo's direction. "Mr. Frodo, I had the queerest dream."
"Hm. So did I," said Frodo, straining to hold back a wide grin. "I
say, Sam, you wouldn't happen to have any pipeweed about you, would
"Pipeweed?" repeated Sam. "You, sir? I mean, begging your pardon,
sir, but no, it's in my pack, on the pony--" Sam snapped to, looked
about, as if only then becoming cognizant of their situation. "Now
where in tarnation are those ponies, anyway? And why am I standing here
in my birthday suit--why, and Mr. Pipsqueak--and Mr. Morrie, too!"
"Don't fret, Sam; it suits you well," laughed Frodo. Then Frodo
suddenly blushed, and wondered why.
"Well, it doesn't suit me at all!" cried Pipsqueak indignantly. "We
must find our ponies, and our packs. Either that or you must lend us
some of your clothing, Frodo."
"I haven't any to lend, except what I'm wearing," said Frodo. "I am
afraid my pony has likewise wandered, and with it my pack."
"Oh, this is terrible!" wailed Pipsqueak. "We can't go walking to
Bree stark naked!"
"Hm," said Morrie, pointedly regarding Pipsqueak's nether regions.
"Those of us with a little more to show off have no reason to be
"Even I am not lacking in that respect," Frodo observed.
"Thank you very much, noble cousin." Pipsqueak crossed his arms and
"Payback's a bitch," grunted Sam, thrusting his hips forward so to
better show off his considerable assets.
"Now, Sam," chided Frodo teasingly, "there's no need to flaunt it.
Anyway, none of this is helping us to find the ponies; I suppose we'll
have to call on Tom Bombadil again."
"Oh, no," groaned Pipsqueak.
"Here." Frodo reached into his pocket and produced a handkerchief.
"Cover up," he said, handing it to Pipsqueak.
Pipsqueak glowered at him, but he took the handkerchief, all the same.
"Thank you," he sullenly muttered. Meanwhile, Frodo cupped his hands
about his mouth and called out:
Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
The ground makes a cold bed, and stones a hard pillow!
Our ponies have wandered! Bring your help near
So we can high-tail it out of here!
And, sure as deus ex machina is a fantasy writer's best friend, came
the answering call:
Old Tom Bombadil is a merry old fellow!
There's simply no end to the things he does know!
Come, ponies, and fly to your bareback riders!
Bring backpacks with breeches to cover backsiders!
Morrie and Pipsqueak exchanged erudite expressions of aesthetic angst,
but Sam was simply delighted. "Sheer poetry," he sighed, beaming
blissfully. Laughing and singing, Tom Bombadil greeted the Hobbits.
"Run naked in the grass, my merry friends, and let the light of day warm
heart and limb! Run naked, run naked, I say! Cast away that thin rag,"
he whipped the handkerchief from Pipsqueak's clutching hands, "and run
naked, I say!"
A rather curious thing to exhort of grown men, one would think, yet
Frodo and Sam and Morrie and Pipsqueak followed Bombadil's directive
without question. Frodo again cast his clothing aside, running about
nude with his friends under the morning sun because, we are given to
understand, it is the natural thing for Hobbits to be so carefree and
innocent and unashamed, even though heretofore we have been led to
believe that Shire Hobbits were quintessential starched-and-buttoned
Victorian Brits who were as likely as Queen Victoria herself to be found
cavorting naked in the grass.
"And here are your ponies!" said Bombadil, as the ponies trotted gaily
over the crest of the hill behind him, each running to its respective
rider. The Hobbits opened their packs and clothed themselves, while
Bombadil gave them directions to the road that would lead them to Bree.
"And in Bree you will find an old brothel called The Prancing Pony;
Barliman Butterball is its worthy keeper, and his buxom wife Bella the
fetching mistress of the house. There you will find food and drink, and
a warm fire, and a warm wench or two to keep you the night; and the
morning will speed you on your way. Be bold, but wary! Keep gay your
hearts, and ride to meet your fortune!" Then he turned and tossed up
his doll and caught it again, leaping and skipping and dancing away back
over the hill whence he had come.
"Well, Mr. Frodo," remarked Sam, "I am sorry to take leave of Master
Bombadil, but I won't deny I'll be glad to see this brothel he spoke of.
I wonder if it'll be like the Green Dragon back home? D'you suppose
they have Hobbit wenches, or only wenches of the Big Folk?"
"There are Hobbits in Bree," said Morrie, "as well as Big Folk. Take
your pick! I myself have partaken of both varieties, with perfect
"Well, now, Mr. Frodo," Sam heartily exclaimed. "This Prancing Pony
might just be the place to turn your luck for the better! I daresay
you'll no longer be a virgin on the morrow."
"Be that as it may," Frodo sharply hissed, "please, please watch
your tongues, and remember not to mention that I have never known a
woman in conjugal embrace!"
"Oh, no, of course not, Mr. Frodo. Right, Mr. Morrie? Mr.
"Oh, certainly. Of course." They snickered, and began to sing ribald
songs as they rode toward the soft, sultry red lights of Bree.
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