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I feel like an idiot for asking about this, since I'm currently and carefully (or so I thought) reading The Fellowship of the Ring. I'm at the chapter where they are just at the ferry with Merry pretending (apparently not on purpose) to be a Black Rider.

It suddenly struck me that, if I'm not completely wrong, he actually left Frodo, Sam and Pippin even before they had started their journey, in Bag End. Didn't he travel in advance, or was supposed to do so anyway, all the way to Frodo's new home, located somewhere on Maggot's side of the ferry?

So Merry never experienced their meeting with the elves, the repeated hunting by the Black Rider(s) and the whole meeting with Maggot? (Strange name, BTW.)

I realize of course that lots of things happen later, and that Merry certainly has no shortage of adventures even if this is true, but I must admit that I imagined all four hobbits in all the scenes from when they left Bag End up until Merry suddenly arrives at the ferry.

Did Merry in fact go on his own all that way, in spite of all the dangers, just to "prepare Frodo's home"? I realize that their journey was no joyful vacation, but it just seems strange to me that they would leave him out of the "initial bonding".

I'm confused now, and feel stupid. I just assumed that Merry spoke less than Pippin. Maybe I've completely misunderstood something.

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    iirc - they weren't really expecting any dangers between the Shire and Buckland. It's a pretty laid back journey they are planning to make. are you conflating the book w/ the films? Merry says to them he and Fatty had done their best ot get the house in order before Frodo arrived, but then thought something was up because they were so late.
    – NKCampbell
    Apr 5, 2022 at 20:56
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    @NKCampbell Oh, no... God no! I have successfully suppressed those movies from my mind! Apr 5, 2022 at 20:58
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    then I'm not sure what the confusion is :)
    – NKCampbell
    Apr 5, 2022 at 21:00
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    From the text: The next morning they were busy packing another cart with the remainder of the luggage. Merry took charge of this, and drove off with Fatty (that is Fredegar Bolger). ‘Someone must get there and warm the house before you arrive,’ said Merry. ‘Well, see you later – the day after tomorrow, if you don’t go to sleep on the way!’ Apr 5, 2022 at 21:52
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    "Frodo's new home, located somewhere on Maggot's side of the ferry?" <-- the new home was on the other side of the Brandywine. When they meet him, Merry had crossed over to check up and down the road to see if the other three were close to arriving. Apr 6, 2022 at 2:37

1 Answer 1

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It was all part of the "conspiracy" between Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Fatty Bolger to protect Frodo's plans to flee the Shire as Gandalf had recommended.

"If you can think of any way of slipping out of the Shire without its being generally known, it will be worth a little delay."

  • Gandalf to Frodo, Book I, chapter 4. "Three is Company"

Frodo's pretext for leaving Hobbiton was selling Bag End and "retiring" to a smaller house in Crickhollow, in Buckland. This made sense on its face because he had Brandybuck ancestry on his mother's side.

Frodo's cousin Merry Brandybuck was thus the ideal person to get the new place in Buckland set up. So he and Fatty Bolger went ahead to do that. "Initial bonding" was not necessary because Merry, Pippin, and Fatty had been Frodo's dear friends since childhood. That was why Sam had spilled the beans to them about Frodo's intent to leave the Shire.

Beneath all that, of course, stealth was necessary. Leaving the Shire by the Brandywine Bridge would attract too much attention. Crickhollow was right on the outer edge of Buckland, up against the High Hay. It was Merry who led the other hobbits through the door in the Hay and into the Old Forest.

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    There was no fear about being caught by the black riders in the plan, since Merry didn't know about them. The fear was that people would see them strolling out the Buckland gates on the eastern side and gossip wildly about it, contravening Gandalf's caution to leave secretly. Apr 6, 2022 at 2:39
  • @DavidRoberts Perhaps. Sam did know about them (there's a passage where he relates a conversation with the Gaffer about them to Frodo and Pippin).
    – Spencer
    Apr 6, 2022 at 13:24
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    Yes, and Sam just forgot to tell Frodo until later. Merry certainly had no idea, he left in the morning, well before the black rider spoke to the Gaffer, in the evening. Getting to Crickhollow by the Brandywine bridge would have been a silly plan, it was out of the way, and Frodo had already planned to take Bucklebury Ferry before even leaving Bag End. And crossing the Brandywine bridge is only "leaving the Shire" if you are an insular Hobbiton resident who doesn't think Bucklanders are normal :-) Apr 6, 2022 at 14:15
  • @DavidRoberts At any rate, it's too strong a claim so I've removed it.
    – Spencer
    Apr 6, 2022 at 14:23
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    @M.A.Golding yes, I had a thought and looked at the map, too, and the only thing in the text that lets me know one leaves the "greater Shire" when crossing the Bridge is when the come back at the end: the bridge has a gate and they can't get past it into the Shire. I'd forgotten that, and how far north it was. I say "greater Shire" advisedly, since Buckland is maybe not officially part of the Shire according to Westfarthingers, but Merry does say "You have left the Shire", when they go through the gate in the hedge into the Old Forest. So the Bucklanders don't see themselves as foreign. Apr 7, 2022 at 1:11

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