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In the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring (possibly in the theatrical release as well… I don't know), there's a moment after Sam and Frodo have departed where Sam makes a point about how if he takes another step it will be the farthest he's ever been from home. However, a few days of travel later, when Sam and Frodo encounter Masters Brandybuck and Took and their gleaned produce, Sam says "You've been into farmer Maggot's crop!" with some disapproval.

Is this a continuity error? What reasonable path towards Buckland and on to Bree could take Sam farther than he's ever been, but after a few days to a place where he is so familiar, he recognizes the land owner by name?

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  • 29
    You can know of a place but never have visited it
    – fez
    Aug 19, 2021 at 6:19
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    "You've been to Times Square!", he said, despite having never been to the United States before
    – Valorum
    Aug 19, 2021 at 6:22
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    Frodo could have told Sam off-screen that they were walking through Farmer Maggot's fields, and the story about being chased by his dogs when younger, as he does in the book. Aug 19, 2021 at 6:50
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    It's quite possible that it's a continuity error, given that it's made up for the film. In the book, Merry and Pippin haven't been into Farmer Maggot's crop.
    – Kyralessa
    Aug 19, 2021 at 8:45
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    Even though Sam had never been to the farm, Farmer Maggot presumably sells most of his produce, so Sam would likely have met him (and even seen his produce) at some point; meanwhile he knows whose land they're on because he was told. I had no sense of it being weird he would know farmers; they don't stay on their farms all the time. As a child in a rural area I had met many farmers whose farms I had never been to.
    – Glen_b
    Aug 19, 2021 at 17:26

3 Answers 3

45

It's easy to find an explanation. Farmer Maggot's crops might be vast and huge, known for hiring farming hands who are very aggressive towards the thieves. He might have a small farm, but he may be so infamous his name is recognisable everywhere. He may have lived closer to Sam but moved elsewhere, further away. Or he may have been the one who'd often travel to Hobbiton where he'd gain infamy known to Sam. There are so many possible logical explanations I find it difficult to call it a plot hole, even when it's not explained. And by definition something is a plot hole only if it's contradictory, not when it's unexplained.

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Frodo often in his youth raided Farmer Maggot's land for mushrooms, and was chased by the dogs. Sam knows this, which is why (in the books) he isn't too fond of Farmer Maggot. Additionally Maggot is described in the books as something of a well-known farmer in the region (maybe from all the young Hobbits trying to get his mushrooms!) so it makes sense for Sam to know of him/his farm, even if he hadn't been there, and have a sense of alarm at Merry and Pippin showing up with armfuls of his crops! The books likewise have Sam's "furthest from home I've ever been" moment come before meeting Farmer Maggot and being on his land, so rather than a continuity error on the part of Jackson, it's more a necessary editing of information/scenes for time.

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  • From the books it is not clear if Sam knew about Maggot setting his dogs on Frodo before Frodo mentioned it at the farmer's gate.
    – RedBaron
    Aug 20, 2021 at 12:49
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When I was 17, I had heard a couple stories about a magical place in Cleveland where one could pay a woman a small amount of money (not small to ME, but to fellows who bought $40 ounces of pot, it was small) and she would perform like a wife on your honeymoon hopefully would.

I knew about the whole thing, I knew where it happened, I knew how to make it happen, if there. But I had no way to get there and probably wouldn't have spent that kind of money on it even if I did have a way. I could honestly have said I've never left my county of my own volition, yet... yet... I still KNEW of it, and if presented with two lads I knew to be... scamps... right in front of me, with me now, by separate chance happening to be in the physical area of that magical place, seeing their huge grins and held-up-by-a-hand pants... I could have made the necessary connections and said what Sam said (well, something analogous). Never been there before, but fully aware of the underlying situation, and very able to make a reasonable (or unreasonable, who cares?) guess as to what had transpired.

So why can't Sam have the same (analogous, that is) situation? No continuity break.

But when my wife writes, this is the kind of thing I bring up (if I notice it) during editing. I tell her to maybe rethink how to lay some thing out, and maybe only the language used, because it might cause a reader to "stumble" on it while he works it through (or maybe doesn't work it out and starts to think you're just a bad writer) and then restarts his reading. Even if he does, he might not find the stumbling pleasant. But that's a different thing from continuity breaking. Practical problem, not a careless theoretical problem.

(And frankly, I'd be willing to spot Tolkien one or two here and there, if teensy like this one would be if it were so. A whole world, a whole universe, is a big thing to keep track of. I'm glad it wasn't much of an issue for him though!)

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    I'm not sure we really needed two whole paragraphs about Cleveland's red-light district.
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 22, 2021 at 10:34

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