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In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, on page 129, I found an unfamiliar to me use of the phrase "fell to."

Then suddenly the trap-doors fell to with a boom and their voices faded away.

Here are the meanings of "fall to" that I found in my vocabulary:

fall to () 1) (adverb) to begin some activity, as eating, working, or fighting 2) (preposition) to devolve on (a person) the task fell to me 3) - fall to the ground

None of them seem to fit.

So, my question is, why did Tolkien use 'fell to' instead of just fell, like this:

Then suddenly the trap-doors fell with a boom and their voices faded away.

Is there a subtle difference that warrants the use of "fell to" instead of just "fell"?

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2 Answers 2

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We can use 'to' after an verb of action, sound, etc, involving a door, when that action or sound closes the door or accompanies its closing. When a door slams to, falls to, bangs to, crashes to, or is pushed to, then it becomes closed.

to

adverb mainly UK

into a closed position:

I'll just push the door to.

To (adverb) Cambridge Dictionary

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  • Thank you very much!
    – Antipups Z
    Feb 17, 2023 at 21:10
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In this case it is simply a literal fall. The trap-doors dropped shut.

I usually think of trap doors as falling open, as in"The gallows door fell open to the condemned prisoner's doom" but it certainly works the other way as well.

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  • The question is asking us to say whether fell to means something different than simply fell. Feb 19, 2023 at 21:03

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