28

Just prior to leaving the house at Crickhollow and entering the Old Forest, Frodo has a dream:

Eventually he fell into a vague dream, in which he seemed to be looking out of a high window over a dark sea of tangled trees. Down below among the roots there was the sound of creatures crawling and snuffling. He felt sure they would smell him out sooner or later. Then he heard a noise in the distance. At first he thought it was a great wind coming over the leaves of the forest. Then he knew that it was not leaves, but the sound of the Sea far-off; a sound he had never heard in waking life, though it had often troubled his dreams. Suddenly he found he was out in the open. There were no trees after all. He was on a dark heath, and there was a strange salt smell in the air. Looking up he saw before him a tall white tower, standing alone on a high ridge. A great desire came over him to climb the tower and see the Sea. He started to struggle up the ridge towards the tower: but suddenly a light came in the sky, and there was a noise of thunder.

I have read the book many times and cannot think of anything that this relates to other than "snuffling creatures" being some relation to references of the Nazgûl appearing to sniff for the ring when the Hobbits are in the Shire. I have also always interpreted the portion regarding the Sea as some vague foretelling of Frodo ultimately leaving Middle-earth over the Sea. These are just my interpretations though and so my question is asking if there are any references in other literature as to whether this dream has any significance to other parts of the story?

1
  • 3
    I always linked the dream to the fight Gandalf has at Weathertop, being the references to the sea has a symbolism for the over-seas origins of the Wizard. In fact I do recall another dream of Frodo that tells the escape of Gandalf from Isengard, altough like this one, is not clear if is more than a dream until afterwards. Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 15:44

4 Answers 4

10

The white tower is probably Elostirion, where the palantír of Elendil was kept. I think it hints at the larger scheme that the Ring (and thus its bearers) and the Elves truly do not belong to Middle-earth and will eventually have to go back to Tol Eressëa/Aman. All the magic in Middle-earth was in a way imported and it is only a transition state, it will have to sail away or be destroyed eventually.

1
  • This was my impression as well. White tower by the sea seems to point pretty clearly to Elostirion.
    – Bubnoff
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 1:59
5

Hammond and Scull associate the beginning of the dream with Frodo's first night in Lothlórien, but note that it was written earlier, so couldn't have been Tolkien's original intent when first drafting the passage.

108 (1:118-19). a vague dream, in which he seemed to be looking out of a high window over a dark sea of tangled trees. Down below among the roots there was the sound of creatures crawling and snuffling. He felt sure they would smell him out sooner or later - Frodo’s dream seems to anticipate his first night in Lothlórien, when he hears ores pass by the tree in which he is sleeping, and Gollum sniffing and scrabbling at its foot; yet it goes back to the earliest version of the chapter, long before any idea of Lothlórien arose in Tolkien’s mind.
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion - Book I Chapter 5 - "A Conspiracy Unmasked"

The rest of the dream was originally was what ended up becoming the Orthanc.

108 (1:119). the Sound of the Sea far-off.... He was on a dark heath.... Looking up he saw before him a tall white tower, standing alone on a high ridge. A great desire came over him to climb the tower and see the Sea. He started to struggle up the ridge towards the tower: but suddenly a light came in the sky, and there was a noise of thunder. - The final paragraphs of this chapter are all that remain of a much longer dream which Tolkien introduced into the narrative in autumn 1939 to explain Gandalf’s absence. Gandalf has been pursued by Black Riders, and has taken refuge in a tower. Black Riders are watching the tower, but withdraw when summoned by another Rider; then a grey-mantled figure on a white horse makes his escape. Tolkien was uncertain when Frodo should experience this dream: he tried to place it at Bree where, as the dream ended, Frodo saw a light and heard thunder, then woke as Trotter (the hobbit ‘ranger’) drew the curtains and pushed back the shutters with a clang; then he moved it to the night at Crickhollow, adding it to a dream already written for that night. But when Tolkien replaced this idea for Gandalf’s absence with his imprisonment at Orthanc by Saruman, he removed most of the dream from the end of this chapter, leaving only the beginning in which Frodo sees a tall white tower, and added a desire to climb it for a view of the Sea (compare note for p. 7, on the Elf-towers at the edge of the Shire). Christopher Tolkien comments in The Treason of Isengard-. ‘And so the tall white tower of Frodo’s dream at Crickhollow in the final tale remains from what was the precursor of Orthanc; and the thunder that he heard goes back to the interruption of his dream by Trotter’s thrusting back the shutters at The Prancing Pony (p. 36).
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion - Book I Chapter 5 - "A Conspiracy Unmasked"

3

I always considered this bit of the story as some kind of prescience, perhaps caused by Tom Bombadil presence and his intimate knowing of things.

If we consider the theory that Tom Bombadil is some kind of spirit, he took part or can know about of the Music which describes the whole history of the World: In that case, perhaps he chose to show some aspects of the Music to Frodo, like Galadriel, to reconfort him and show him that all is not dark, and the great events to come?

In practical term, however, this dream does not have any significance to the rest the story, just as the rest of the Tom Bombadil arc and Tom himself, apart from a brief reference later during the Elrond Council.

Edit: Frodo has more of these dreams as the story progress (such as Gandalf at the top of Orthanc). One possible interpretation of these visions is that there exist some kind of Frodo-Gandalf connection, as suggested here.

6
  • 1
    But this dream is prior to Frodo meeting Bombadil.
    – bazz
    Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 11:42
  • @bazz Thanks: in this case perhaps it should be considered a case of "super-conscience" (thanks to distress, doubt and apprehension) where a mortal, Frodo, perceives some lyrics of the Music. Tom knew/deduced (from the Magotte Father) that Frodo was coming to the Old Forest, but I do not see him acting outside of its borders.
    – Eureka
    Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 12:24
  • We could even consider this episode Eru-induced for the reasons pointed in my answer... but now, we are in pure speculations.
    – Eureka
    Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 12:28
  • 2
    Tom Bombadil is NOT a maia.
    – user8252
    Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 12:56
  • 1
    @ALS: I know this is only one of many hypothesis and clarified my answer a bit: In fact, this is not even necessary, if he is some kind of nature spirit, Eru, a Maia, a Vala... it works just as fine.
    – Eureka
    Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 13:24
-1

I think it might be the tower Tuor is in when Ulmo speaks with him. In the dream there is a lot of reference to the sea and thunder; Ulmo's domain. I think it was called Vinyamar in Beleriand.

1
  • 2
    Welcome to SF.SE. Could you provide a quote for your answer to back it up with source material?
    – BMWurm
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 5:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.