23 September 2017

A Low Place in the Hedge -- FR 1.i.36

'The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the-Water' -- © The Tolkien Estate

He paused, silent for a moment. Then without another word he turned away from the lights and voices in the fields and tents, and followed by his three companions went round into his garden, and trotted down the long sloping path. He jumped over a low place in the hedge at the bottom, and took to the meadows, passing into the night like a rustle of wind in the grass.

Frodo and Pippin jump over the same low spot seventeen years later (FR 1.iii.70).  Now I had never really thought about this until now, but we're talking hobbits here. That must have been a very low spot indeed for Bilbo and the others to jump over it. 

Think about it.

Like a foot tall.

More of a shrubbery, really.

With Tolkien's eye for detail it is no surprise to find just such a low spot () in the hedge in his painting of the Hill.  I would like to thank Kate Neville and her eagle eye for pointing me to the correct "low spot" when I had initially believed it was another. (see Kate's comments below.)




  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. OK, Tom, far be it from me to contradict so perspicacious a commentator, but I think you have the wrong spot. According to the map of the Shire, this scene is clearly looking north over The Water towards Bag End. Now, in the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, the long-expected party took place in a "large field, south of Bilbo’s front door" -- a field which also contained a tree. This is clearly the field below and to the right (south and east) of Bilbo's door. The spot you have marked would have been in full view of everyone at the party -- and Bilbo was traveling with dwarves, without the benefit of invisibility. I think he took that little lane below the third window to the left of the door, went through that arch and past what are probably apple trees, crossed into the meadow below and passed to the left (west) of the three hobbit-holes of Bagshot Row, crossing The Water west of the Mill. This is much more like what Frodo, Pippin and Sam did 17 years later (Sam having met them after dropping the keys off with his Gaffer). Still, I see two possible low spots in the picture just below the apple trees: either just to the left (west) of fence in the lower meadow, or at the far west edge of the hedgerow, just before what appears to be a fairly high section. But clearly, Tolkien was as careful with his illustrations as he was with his language, and I love that you've inspired me to look more closely at a picture I took so long for granted.

    1. Kate, feel free to correct me when you are right and I am wrong, which is precisely the case here. I have corrected the map and the post. Thank you for catching this. (I posted only the second of your two comments since the second seemed to supersede the first.)

    2. I have no idea what happened to the first. It was written after a long day, and I may have not followed directions properly.