Tolkien fact 40 – Fog on the Barrow-downs

It’s not a secret that Peter Jackson left out many parts from the LotR books in the making of the movies. Some find fault in him for this, wanting a more pure LotR experience with every character, location, and piece of dialogue included. Perhaps the more open-minded allow some things to be left out of the theatrical version of the story. One of these scenes is of the more dreadful parts of the story that, personally, I would have enjoyed seeing on the big screen: that is the Barrow-downs sequence.

After the four hobbits are rescued from Old Man Willow in the Old Forest by Tom Bombadil (all of which are also left out of the movies) they are sent off from Tom’s house toward Bree. The tales of the Barrows-downs are known to them from stories when they were young, but are mere stories and they had meant to steer clear of that said-to-be-haunted area. Of course, their journey leads them there, lost in a sea of fog, and eventually they all get separated. Frodo hears the screams of his companions far off and desperately searches for them in the fog. Not long after, he is overcome by fear and is imprisoned by a dreadful Barrow wight. These wights are little described, but it can be gleaned that they are the remnants of the ancient kingdoms of Man that ruled that area of Eriador long ago, cursed to endure the long ages by some evil spells, living in their own tombs and terrorizing any who dare come near.

barrow downs

Frodo wakes up in the Barrow wight’s tomb to see his friends lying next to him, under some dark sleeping spell, with a sword lying across their necks. He hears the moaning of the wight approaching and sees a cold, pale hand reaching around the corner towards the hobbits. He finds his courage in that barrow, takes up a sword, and cuts the hand off with it. He then remembers what Tom Bombadil had said to them before they left, about calling to him if they were in need. He sings the song Tom taught them and Tom bursts through the wall of the barrow and carrying he hobbits to safety. He banishes the wight and raids the tomb for the treasures hoarded within. To the hobbits he gives small swords made long ago by the Men that lived there.

These swords are particularly important and it is a shame this detail was left out of the movies. The swords were forged by the Men in the North Kingdom to combat the Witch-king and his servants. They were made and bound with spells on them to help slay these foes. This same sword is kept by Merry throughout the rest of the story and is the sword he uses to stab the Witch-king in the Battle of Pelennor Fields. An interesting fate indeed for that sword and it was fortunate that the hobbit acquired it.

This is a particularly good scene for suspense and a darker tone for the movies, but one that almost necessitates including Tom Bombadil, something Jackson decided against as a rule. It may have also allowed the movie to show Frodo’s character grow a little more as he finds his courage in the barrow. It’s unfortunate that many people will not get to experience this scene without reading the novel, but I suppose it wasn’t completely necessary for the story and the movie works fine without it.

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One thought on “Tolkien fact 40 – Fog on the Barrow-downs

  1. Pingback: Tolkien fact 64 – PG-13 is an Understatement | TolkienFacts

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