The Lord of the...whatever, Book I, Chapter 6:
The Old Forest
Frodo woke suddenly. It was still dark in the room, and he
felt almost as if he were falling. A moment later he hit the
floor. Blearily he looked up to see the light of a candle flame
burning in the doorway. "What? What is it?" said Frodo, still
shaken and bewildered.
Out of the fire there spoke a voice. "What is it!" cried
Morrie. "I have been pounding on your door for five minutes.
It's nearly ten, Fatty's eaten half your breakfast and we must be
leaving soon. You'll have to make do with the scraps while I get
the ponies ready."
It was, of course, not so bad as all that. Fatty had prepared
more than enough for a hobbit twice Frodo's size and there was
plenty left. So Frodo had a nice breakfast with eggs and sausages
while the others finished preparations for the journey ahead.
Soon after twelve o'clock the five hobbits were ready to
start. Frodo was still yawning. Morrie went in front leading an
overburdened pony, and took his way along a path that went through
a small grove behind the house, and then trampled across several
In a shed they found their ponies: four sturdy beasts of the
kind loved by hobbits. They mounted, and were soon riding along
under the midday sun. Ahead of them loomed the Hedge.
"How are you going to get through the Hedge?" asked Fatty.
"I will show you!" said Morrie. He turned left along the
Hedge, and they came to a ramp leading down. A passage had been
dug into the earth and walled with brick, forming a tunnel leading
under the Hedge and into the Forest on the far side.
Here Fatty stopped, quailing at the sight of the trees. "Good-
bye friends!" he said. "I wish you were not going into the
Forest. I'm afraid there won't be anyone to rescue you, but good
luck to you."
"Tell Gandalf to go along the East Road; we shall soon be back
on it ourselves," said Frodo. They waved and disappeared into the
They passed a gate on the far side and Morrie locked it behind
"Well!" said Morrie. "We have left the Shire, and are now on
the edge of the Old Forest."
"Are the stories true?" asked Pipsqueak, casting a glance back
to the tunnel.
"I don't know which stories you mean," answered Morrie. "I
don't believe those old bogey stories such as Fatty's nurses used
to tell him. Goblins and wolves and walking trees! No, I don't
think so, but the Forest is queer. Sometimes you'll feel someone
watching you, but when you look about there's no one there. There
are queer things living deep in the Forest, and in the downs on the
far side and someone makes tracks amongst the trees. Not far from
this tunnel there should be a path which will take us northeast
through the Forest. Due east would put us onto the Downs and south
would take us to the Witherwander River which starts out on the
Downs and joins the Brandywine in the south of the Forest. No
hobbit has ever charted its full course. We don't want to go THAT
way! The Witherwander valley is the worst part of the whole wood -
full of bogs and swamps, sinking sands and unfriendly creatures."
The hobbits now left the Hedge and rode up another ramp to the
floor of the Forest. The trees were thick about them almost
immediately, trunks of innumerable sizes and shapes: straight or
bent, twisted, leaning, squat or slender, smooth or gnarled and
branched or branchless, clustered or scattered, tall, short,
lightning scarred, intertwined, infested, bewebbed, mossy, dark,
damp, shimmering, peeling, vine covered, young or old, flowering,
deciduous, coniferous, fruit bearing, creaking, cracked, hollow,
budding and dying, burned, slimy, shaggy, scaley, green, grey,
brown, and, well, just a very lot of different kinds of trees.
They went on for some time, the ponies carefully picking their
way through the twisted and interlacing roots. The ground rose
steadily, and as they went forward it seemed as if the trees became
taller, darker, thicker, danker, and a great many other ominous
adverbs as well. They could catch only occasional glimpses of the
Sun through the thick trees overhead, and each time they did they
seemed to have veered somewhat off course and would have to turn
again to the northeast. After an hour or two the trees closed
overhead completely, wrapping them in a twilight gloom that left
them guessing at their direction and able to do little more than
move steadily forward.
The afternoon was wearing away when they stumbled into a deep
fold in the ground. It was so steep and overhung that it proved
impossible to climb out of, in either direction, without leaving
their ponies behind. As that would require carrying their own
food, and rather alot of it at that, it was completely out of the
question. All they could do was to follow the fold - downwards.
The ground grew soft, and in places boggy, and soon they found
themselves following a brook that trickled and babbled through a
There was not yet any sign of a path, and the others began to
wonder if Morrie were not completely lost. Pipsqueak suddenly
felt that he could not bear it any longer, and without warning let
out a shout. "Oi! Ai! Ee!" he cried. No one was quite sure why.
"You don't have any idea where you are going, do you!"
Morrie shot him a venomous look, a glare that would have
warned any of his business associates against further words. "I
should not shout if I were you," said Morrie.
Pipsqueak, however, was undeterred. "It has not taken you long
to lose us!" Morrie's face became grim and he nudged his pony
forward with blood in his eyes. It might have gone badly for
Pipsqueak then, but just as Morrie was drawing close Sam let out a
whistle and pointed ahead.
"Look, isn't that an opening up ahead?" asked Sam.
A short distance ahead the gully came to an end and led quite
suddenly out of the gloom. The stream flowed down into a dark
river of brown water, bordered with ancient willows, arched over
with willows, blocked with fallen willows, flecked with thousands
of faded willow leaves, and otherwise heavily bewillowed. The late
afternoon sun shone golden through the break in the trees,
illuminating a faint footpath running along the bank of the river.
"Well, I know precisely where we are," said Morrie, speaking
quickly before any more comments about his navigational abilities
might be made. "This is the River Witherwander! We have strayed
just a little from our path." Pipsqueak looked about to protest,
but Morrie spoke on unheeding. "Perhaps there is some truth to
those old stories about the trees moving of their own accord after
all. They could have cut off our path and herded us here. That
must be it."
Seeing nothing else for it, the hobbits filed out and Morrie
led them down to the riverside. There they stopped to water the
ponies and take a brief rest. The long ride had worn them down and
the soft grass beneath the willow trees was a welcome change of
seating as they refilled their own water bottles. They yawned,
lightly at first, weariness seeming to creep over them now that
they could take a break at last.
Frodo felt his chin go down and his head nod. Off to his side
Morrie and Pipsqueak had wandered over to a great knotted old
willow and were resting against it. Sam had stopped, pretty much
where his pony had, and sat blinking stupidly about himself.
Frodo felt that some cool water might help revive him and
wandered towards the riverbank, half in a daze. He did not even
know he had reached the riverbank until he tripped over a root of
the old willow and fell headfirst into the water with a great
splash. He broke back to the surface a moment later, gasping and
sputtering. "Help! Help!", he cried, as he attempted
ineffectually to reach the shore. As the slow current carried him
away Frodo could see his friends half stirring in response to his
cries, but then settling back into weary sleep.
Choking now and fearing he would follow his parents into a
watery grave Frodo thought he dimly heard a voice as he drifted out
of sight and conciousness: a deep glad voice, singing carelessly
Hey doll! merry doll! ring a ding dial-O!
Ring a ding! hop along! follow the willow!
Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadildo!
With a last gasp of effort Frodo kicked himself to the surface
of the water and cried out once more before sinking beneath the
surface. He felt the cold darkness settle over him, and knew no
Until a moment later when he was pulled coughing and sputtering
from the water by strong hands. He hung helplessly, spitting up
water and a tragically large portion of his breakfast, before he
could begin to breathe normally again and get his first clear look
at his rescuer.
It was a man, or so he seemed. At any rate he was too large
and heavy for an ordinary hobbit, if not quite tall enough for one
of the Big People. He had a long brown beard; his eyes were blue
and bright, and his face was red as a ripe apple. He wore yellow
boots, a blue coat and a battered hat with a tall crown and a long
blue feather stuck in the band. In his free hand (Frodo was
dangling precariously from the other) he carried on a large leaf as
on a tray a pile of white water-lilies and a small doll. Frodo
found himself noting that the doll looked much like the man
himself, save that its hat seemed to sport a peacock feather rather
than a kingfisher.
"Whoa! steady there!" cried the old man, and Frodo stopped
squirming as if he had been struck stiff. "Now, my little fellow.
Where be you a-going to, breathing like a fish? What's the matter
here then? Do you know who I am? I'm Tom Bombadil."
"My friends and I were lost. I fell in the water and they all
went to sleep. I could have drowned!" cried Frodo breathlessly.
"What?" shouted Tom Bombadil, leaping up in the air and giving
Frodo quite a jolt. "Friends napping when help is being needed?
Let's go and see this." He set Frodo down and they made their way
back up the path to where the other hobbits were sleeping.
Tom let out a great laugh and sang a bit of his nonsense rhyme,
though Frodo looked fit to boil. The three hobbits woke and sat
up, rubbing thier eyes at this strange apparition.
"Frodo!" cried Sam, seeing his master all wet and bedraggled.
"What happened?" yelled Frodo with some heat. "I nearly
drowned while you three had a nice nap."
The three jumped up, all trying to explain at once: "We were
bespelled!", "The sleep...", "I just closed my eyes for a moment!",
"Why'd you go fall in the water anyway..."
Looking around Sam suddenly pointed at the great grey willow
under which they had all slept. "That... that there willow, it
must be one of those walking trees. I'd bet it put us all to sleep
I would!" The others gaped and then nodded quickly in agreement.
Tom regarded the hobbits with great amusement and laughed
again. "Oh, the old 'willow-man' was it? Well, that's as may be,
but Tom Bombadil must be going. You should all come home with me.
The table is laden with yellow cream, honeycomb, and white bread
and butter. Goldberry is waiting. You follow me as quick as you
are able." With that he gave a beckoning wave and went hopping and
dancing along the path eastward, still singing loudly and
Hey! Come merry doll! daring doll! My darling!
Hop along little friends, up the Witherwander.
Tom's going on ahead to get the ponies fodder.
Goldberry will make the beds and set the board,
With bread and honey and sweet delights, the River daughter.
Hey now! merry doll! We'll be waiting for you!
They all stared after him for a long moment, but the promise of
food and good beds would draw any hobbit. And so they started
after him, still arguing amongst themselves:
"You know, now that I think of it... that willow root that
tripped me DID seem to move of its own accord."
"I think he was an entwife," opined Pipsqueak.
"An entwife. Old Bilbo told me a story about them... no, not
one of THOSE stories."
Up ahead the trees parted and a house lay beneath the dark
shapes of the Barrow-downs. Golden light spilled out over the
threshold and they hurried forward.
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
Conrad Dunkerson <conrad.dunkerson-aaaaaaat-worldnet-dawt-att.net>.
Copyright © 2000 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this
as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain
degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text,
available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books,
is to be preferred.
This product is not rated for use in fail-safe environments such as nuclear power plants.