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Non-native speaker here. Be kind :)

From TLOTR Book 1, Chapter 7, "In the house of Tom Bombadil"

'Let us shut out the night!' she said. `For you are still afraid, perhaps, of mist and tree-shadows and deep water, and untame things. Fear nothing! For tonight you are under the roof of Tom Bombadil.'

I have doubts about the exact meaning of "for" in the previous sentences.

I believe the first time it indicates causation. Something like "Because you are still afraid ...". Am I right?

The second one is more difficult for me. In this case, it could be causation (the reason why the hobbits should not fear is that they are in a safe place), or just used to set a specific time (tonight) like in "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face". Which one is correct?

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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

For can have a lot of meanings, as its long dictionary entry shows. In the first sentence, "for" is a conjunction. It means:

  1. seeing that; since
  2. because

Your intuition is right--it indicates causation. It says, "Let us shut out the night...because you are still afraid."

The second "for" could either be another indication of causation ("Fear not!...because you are in the house of Tom Bombadil!"), or it can take on the meaning of a length of time. For tonight indicates that the hobbits are in Tom Bombadil's house for the set period of time -- just for tonight.

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Simchona is correct, the meaning in both cases is "because". However, I wanted to add that using "for" in this manner sounds quite old fashioned to me. Which is ok, because, from my memory, Mr. Bombadil is a pretty old fellow. –  Fraser Orr Aug 4 '11 at 3:32
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@Simchona, I don't think that the second "for" is indicating the causation for "shutting out the night". The "for" is, but the second "for" is stating the reason for "fear nothing!" –  Thursagen Aug 4 '11 at 3:42
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@Thursagen I saw that and edited. Thanks for catching that! –  simchona Aug 4 '11 at 3:44
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+1 @simchona - "For your answer deserves it." –  Rachel Aug 4 '11 at 4:23
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You are right about "for" being causation in the first sentence.

In the second sentence, the "for" has the meaning of "because" as well, but for a different reason, from the first "for". The second "for" is stating the reason for not fearing.

Fear nothing...

Before the second "for", is the above phrase. Thus, the second "for" is stating the reason for fearing nothing, not indicating the reason for "shutting out the night" (no offence to simchona.)

Thus stated, the sentence with a little interpretation might look like this:

Fear nothing! The reason for you not to fear anything is because we are in Tom Bombadil's house!

To sum up, the second "for" is explaining the statement "fear nothing."

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Yes, for means because in these sentences. She suggests that they "shut out the night" because her guests are afraid of things outside, like "mist and tree-shadows" and whatnot. She then tells them they don't need to be afraid now, because they're in Tom Bombadil's house; he'll keep them safe.

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