That Squinty-Eyed Guy in Bree (Day 31)

Camera: Tru-View (vintage Diana clone, circa 1970s) Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 12/2005)

Camera: Tru-View (vintage Diana clone, circa 1970s)
Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 12/2005)

As Strider leads our hobbits off the East Road, they begin to deduce his plan on how to get them to Rivendell without running into the Nazgul. He describes the Midgewater Marches, through which they’ll soon have to pass. But for now, it’s a great day, the sun is shining and all seems peachy.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 11 (p181-2, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Over the next few days, the Book gives very little description of the travels. This will happen from time to time (and does for the next week or so). Instead of writing about nothing, I’m going to hang out in Bree for a bit. You know, check the place out. Today, let’s talk about the squinty eyed guy, the ill-favored fellow from the Prancing Pony and Bill Ferny’s window. What a creepster, huh? Tolkien had a bit more to say about him than we can actually know from the story.

Our first introduction to this icky chap was just as Frodo, Sam and Pippin entered the Prancing Pony. He says loudly, to nobody in particular that more people will be coming north, adding: “If room isn’t found for them, they’ll find it for themselves. They’ve got a right to live, same as other folk.” True enough, but he was clearly being an obnoxious prick.

The next time we notice him is right after the Ring slipped on Frodo’s finger at the end of the Cow Jumped Over the Moon poem. He, with Bill Ferny (Bree’s own Archie Bunker), slipped out of the Inn under some clearly nefarious reasons. But who was he and what did he have to do with that nasty old Bill Ferny?

The early part of his tale is told in “The Hunt for the Ring” from Unfinished Tales. This is the “full” story as given by Gandalf to Frodo, the edited version appearing in Return of the King. The tale, while mostly describing the antics of the Nazgul, takes us back to the good ol’ days when Saruman the White was smuggling pipeweed in from the Shire.

Saruman had taken to smoking the halfling’s leaf and was secretly importing it, hoping that Gandalf wouldn’t notice. Saruman had before given Gandalf some rather bad-natured ribbing about the stuff. Through this (or at least during it), Saruman began to suspect that the Shire had something to do with the Ring, which he badly wanted. He was right, of course, but only accidentally so. He thought Gandalf was spending so much time in the Shire because of the Ring, when in reality, he just liked to hang out there.

And so Saruman hired agents, the most trusted of whom was “yet a ruffianly fellow, an outlaw driven from Dunland, where many said that he had Orc-blood.” This was our squint-eyed friend. Just as he returned to Saruman with a pile of leaf, he was ordered back to the Shire to see if anyone had left under suspicious circumstances. This was, then, probably a month or so before Frodo actually left. He was given a map, a list of names (including Baggins and Hobbiton) and various notes that Saruman had collected about the Shire.

So was he then just an agent of Saruman sent to Bree to suss out the hobbits? Not at all. While on the way to the Shire, and while crossing the Tharbad he was cornered by several Nazguls. They had just come from Saruman’s place, where he promised them Gandalf, but couldn’t deliver (Gandalf had just escaped – which happened on September 18, the Book is now in September 30). To stall them, assured them that he and Sauron were tight and told the Nazgul to go to the “Shire,” but purposely gave them some incredibly inaccurate directions.

Fortunately for the Nazgul, they met our Southerner. The Witch-king questioned him, and out of extreme terror, he betrayed Saruman, telling him where the Shire actually was located. This revealed to the Nazgul that Saruman wasn’t in league with Sauron, but in it for himself. This is how the Nazgul received the name “Baggins” as well as Hobbiton.

Rather than gut the wretched fellow, the Witch-king gave him a mission – go to Bree, which he knew would be an important stopover for the Ring. “He put therefore the Shadow of Fear on the Dunlending, and sent him on to Bree as an agent. He was the squint-eyed southerner at the Inn.” He had come into town with a set of Southerners.

We last see him after all in Bree think he had fled after stealing all of their horses. Butterbur insisted that since the group of Southerners brought him along, they should pay for the stolen horses. As it turned out, nobody in the group really knew who he was, but Butterbur pegged him as Bill Ferny’s friend. It’s never stated how Ferny and the squint-eyed fellow came to be friends, but it was probably just through his travels to and from the Shire – birds of a feather, etc.

Anyway, the very last we see of him is in Ferny’s house. Frodo saw him as they were leaving town: ‘So that’s where that southerner is hiding!’ he thought. ‘He looks more than half like a goblin.’

A Few Notes:

  • Could Orcs and Men interbreed? One of Tolkien’s ideas for the origins of Orcs is that they were tortured Elves. And since Elves and Men can interbreed, I suppose I don’t see why Orcs and Men couldn’t, though I don’t think it’s ever actually addressed.
  • Did you know that the definition for “squint” is different in American vs. British English? In American, it means to nearly close ones eyes. In England it indicates some sort of malady of the eye. Christopher Tolkien doesn’t know which his father meant.
  • In the original manuscripts, at first, Bill Ferny and our squinty friend are one in the same. Tolkien later made them separate people, describing the fellow in question as “a southerner with a sallow face, and a sly and almost goblinish look in his slanting eyes.” In yet another, the Nazgul get Bill Ferny and the Southerner to break into the Inn. This whole series of chapters turned into what his son called a “spiderweb of arguments.” Thankfully, he toned it down and kept the ball rolling.

About the Photo
You can almost see this ill-favored fellow peeking out that window, huh?
(flickr)

Thoughts on the Exercising
Fastest time ever. I’m still panting. Holy crap. This is because we have a date to get to Pizza Pi – Seattle’s vegan pizza place. Since moving here over five years ago, we’ve only been to it twice. No idea why (actually, it’s because Sarah makes better pizza). Still, here we go. Think of it as… aww to hell with it, I just like to eat.


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 145
  • 69 miles to Weathertop
  • 315 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,634 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Not quite to Archet. (map)

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The Best and the Worst of Bree (Day 30)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Our hobbits, now accompanied by Strider, attempt to leave Bree, but their ponies have gone missing. This blows the whole secrecy thing and, after paying too much for a broken-down replacement pony they’re on their way, escorted by stragglers and children. It’s not an auspicious start by any thinking.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 10 & 11 (p163-181, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
The meeting of Strider is one of the most memorable sections of the book. Because of that, I don’t want to just summarize the events. Instead, here are some things that stuck out for me on this reading.

First, there’s Barliman Butterbur. He’s mostly remembered for not delivering Gandalf’s message to Frodo and basically blowing it as far as getting the Ring safely to Rivendell in a timely manner goes. Why Gandalf trusted him with such a task is beyond me. But rather than dwell on what Strider called “a fat innkeeper who only remembers his own name because people shout it at him all day,” what about Old Butterbur’s courage?

“But spooks or no spooks, they [the Nazgul] won’t get in The Pony so easy. […] No black man [again, the Nazgul] shall pass my doors, while I can stand on my legs. Me and my folk’ll keep watch tonight.”

This was not a minute after Butterbur learned that the Black Riders were from Mordor, and right after Strider called him out. The next morning, he hooked the hobbits up with food, bought them a too-expensive pony and gave them a bit of money on the side – even though it “was a sore blow to him” financially. He had to do none of those things. If he were “smart,” he could have turned them over to the Nazgul and been rewarded. But he didn’t. He wasn’t neutral or passive – he went to great lengths to help the hobbits, though he had no idea at all what their mission might be. And let’s not forget Nob and Bob!

From Bree’s most honorable citizen, we’ll take a dark turn to its least – that nasty old Bill Ferny. We first meet the wretch when Frodo is doing the unfortunate cow jumped over the moon thing in the Prancing Pony. As soon as the Ring slips onto Frodo’s finger, Ferny and a “squint-eyed ill-favoured fellow” slipped out of the Inn. Butterbur claims him to have “an evil name in the Bree-land,” and disparages him for having “queer folk” calling at his house. “He would sell anything to anybody; or make mischief for amusement.”

Ferny is obviously in league with the Nazgul, and he probably got a pretty penny for his troubles. When Merry was found unconscious by Nob, he was “just nigh Bill Ferny’s house.” It’s from Strider that we learn that two Black Riders visited Ferny not long ago.

In the morning, when they wake to see that their ponies had been let loose, Butterbur asks around to see if anyone else had horses. Nobody does – they’ve all been let loose, except one. Bill Ferny’s pony, “a bony, underfed, and dispirited animal,” was all that remained. He would sell it to them, but at three times what he was worth.

But why? What was in it for Bill Ferny? What did he get out of any of this? He must have known that the Nazgul were from Mordor (or were at least evil). And if he was truly in league with them, why would he help (well, “help”) Frodo’s party? In the end, Ferny was in it for himself. He was the man who would sell you the rope with which to hang him.

The last we see of Ferny, he’s by the road as Strider and the hobbits are leaving. After he makes a few quips at the party, Sam tell him to put his “ugly face out of sight, or it will get hurt.” With that, he chucks one of his apples at the man, hitting him “square on the nose.” But in Sam’s assessment, it was a “waste of a good apple.”

A Few Notes:

  • In the original draft of this story, Strider was named Trotter, Barliman Butterbur was named Timothy Titus and then Barnabas, but Bill Ferny was always Bill Ferny. They were all hobbits. Merry was not attacked in the first draft, and it was Trotter, not Sam (named Frodo) who threw the apple at Ferny. In the second draft, there’s a great exchange between Gandalf and Butterbur. Gandalf had not passed through in June, several months prior, but only a few days before, just missing the Nazgul.
  • More than most, this particular story was changed greatly from its original draft. In one, Gandalf and Odo (Pippin) come to the Prancing Pony together. In another, Trotter (Strider) gives Gandalf’s note to Frodo. One of the manuscripts was written from Gandalf’s point of view (as if he were retelling it). Slowly and incredibly confusingly we can see the story iron itself out as Tolkien rewrote it again and again. Trotter became human and then Strider, just as Timothy Titus became human and Barliman Butterbur. It’s maddeningly wonderful and ultimately exhausting.
  • Oh, and this probably isn’t the best place to mention this, as it doesn’t come up again until after Rivendell, but Sam names the pony ‘Bill.’ Apparently, if you rescue an animal from an owner who is abusing it, it’s completely fine to name said animal after this previous owner. In Tolkien’s original draft of “The Ring Goes South” chapter, Sam names the pony ‘Ferny.’ That’s weird, right?
  • In the coming days, the narrative breezes through the miles, covering twenty or so over the length of a paragraph. I’ve decided to take a look at a few things in Bree and the surrounding stories. For instance, what were the Nazgul doing at this point? And what does it have to do with Fatty Bolger? What about the squinty eyed Southerner with Bill Ferny? Where is Gandalf? And who can tell – maybe something else will crop up, too.

About the Photo
Of course, the Road never ends. But here, it ends for a spell for Strider and our hobbits. The Nazgul are patrolling the East Road, and so an alternate route was chosen by Strider. “My cuts, short or long, don’t go wrong.” Clearly Aragorn missed his calling as an ad exec. (flickR)

Thoughts on the Exercising
Somehow or another, the tension on the elliptical machine tightens itself a little more each day. After yesterday’s workout, my legs were killing me. Today, after this discovery, I did another five miles and am feeling awesome! I think it’s off to the comic book store to celebrate.


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 140
  • 74 miles to Weathertop
  • 320 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,639 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Just leaving the East Road east of Bree. (map)

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon (Day 29)

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100  Film: Fuji FP-100C (reclaimed negative)

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100
Film: Fuji FP-100C (reclaimed negative)

Upon reaching the East Road, our hobbits bid Tom Bombadil farewell. The ride to Bree is short, but it’s getting dark and the thought of the Black Riders comes back to them. Once in Bree, they take a room at the Prancing Pony and mingle – perhaps too much – with the locals. They meet Strider.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 8 & 9 (p147-162, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
The Prancing Pony, as portrayed in “the movies” is more like the Cantina from Star Wars than the Prancing Pony from the book. Here, Frodo, Sam, and Pippin find the inn’s patrons, especially the hobbits, to be amicable (Merry thought it would be “too stuffy” and stayed back at the room). While this must have been a welcome to them, it quickly made Sam and Pippin forget that their mission was one of secrecy.

Pippin in particular told stories, including the one of Bilbo’s birthday party. This, thought Frodo, would bring up the name “Baggins” (which it inevitably did), something he did not want. In fact, he was going by the name “Mr. Underhill” as the Black Riders were looking for “Baggins.” To keep Pippin from revealing the ending, where Bilbo Baggins magically disappeared, Frodo climbed upon a table and proceeded to sing a song about a cat with a fiddle, dancing tableware, a cow who could jump over the moon, and, well, you get the picture.

Amidst this slight of hand, we see the first instance where the Ring’s will wins out over Frodo. We’ve seen the Ring urge Frodo to put it on when the Black Riders were near, but now, at the end of his song, Frodo falls from the table and the Ring slips onto his finger causing him to disappear. Apart from tickling the suspicious (though kind) patrons to become even more suspicious, Frodo concludes that he must have been playing with the Ring in his pocket while he sang.

“For a moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt in the room.”

But it was not in the room. Outside, though the story does not yet reveal it, two Black Riders had just entered Bree and the Ring sensed it. I’m sure we’ll get more on this in the coming pages.

During all of this, Frodo was introduced to Strider, one of the so-called Rangers. Tom Bombadil mentioned the Rangers in passing, so Frodo probably had some incredibly vague idea about who they were.

When Tolkien was first writing the Prancing Pony chapter, he added the character Strider almost without thinking about it, calling him “Trotter.” He wrote in 1955: “Strider sitting in the corner at the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo.” And so as Frodo learns about this character, so do we, and so did Tolkien.

At first, there was even the idea of making Trotter a hobbit named Fosco Took, who had run away with Gandalf years before. He then evolved into Peregrin Boffin (this was when Pippin was actually named Odo), a nephew of Bilbo’s. Mr. Boffin apparently left with Gandalf in order to help track down Gollum. He was to eventually be captured by Sauron and tortured (though he was to have survived because he had wooden feet – seriously). There was thought of making him an elf-friend of Bilbo’s, sent to help Frodo along.

It wasn’t until the first book was finished that Tolkien went back and made Trotter a Man and changed his name to Strider. And it was from there that grew Aragorn and the whole conception of the Return of the King. Tolkien got this far (to the end of the first book) before even inventing Aragorn. I’m not sure how far he got before he decided upon anything else.

So what would it have been like if Tolkien had run with the idea of Peregrin Boffin, the hobbit with wooden feet? Is it really any more freaky than what we actually got? Would it have worked? If Tolkien could pull off talking coin purses and dogs that walked upright (what to speak of a Ring with a will of its own-ish), I’m sure he could have done it justice, but still….

About the Photo
Okay, a broken down Pancake House isn’t the Prancing Pony, but these little roadside dives are all the same, amiright? I have a few photos of such places. This isn’t even the most Prancing Pony-ish, but I think I like it best, so here it is.

Thoughts on the Exercising
Today was one of those days when I really really really didn’t want to do this. But I did it anyway, and I think I kept a better pace than normal. I’m exhausted and sweaty, and you know what that means – we’re heading to Violet’s Sweet Shoppe, home to Seattle’s best Vegan cakes, sweets and treats. I’ll take all three. Thanks!


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 135
    • 79 miles to Weathertop
    • 325 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,644 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: At the Prancing Pony in Bree. (map)

I Apparently Approach Tolkien like History (Day 28)

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100  Film: Fuji FP-100C (reclaimed negative)

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100
Film: Fuji FP-100C (reclaimed negative)

After passing the dike through a gap in the wall, they travel across open land, where their ponies can gallop them northward. With the sun setting, they make it to the top of a ridge and see the East Road winding its way toward Bree.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 8 (p147, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Another day, another five miles, and another paragraph down! Rather than write trying to wring words out of a somewhat vaguely descriptive few lines, I thought I’d take the time to tell you how I’m approaching Tolkien. This isn’t some policy that I have, or anything. It’s just something I’ve noticed.

Take yesterday’s post as an extreme example. While many people approach Tolkien as a mystery to solve through philosophical speculation, I generally don’t. Not that wildly speculating isn’t a barrel full of fun – it certainly is! But it’s hard for me to go in that direction, and I miss out on the fun.

This is probably because of my other daily blog, the Civil War Daily Gazette, in which I write about 1500ish words each day on what happened each specific day 150 years ago during the Civil War. Daily, I spend around two or three hours researching both primary and secondary sources to build upon writings that I started in 2010. The blog has taken off (more or less) and I get between 1,000 and 1,500 hits per day, on average. It’s got over 2,000 followers on Facebook. I’m not really sure how that happened.

But that’s my mood, so to speak. I’m approaching Lord of the Rings in the same way. I’ll read the passage for the miles that I exercised, think a bit about the larger story and the writing style, and then I’ll hit the books.

The History of Middle-earth series is a great resource for discovering the early drafts of the story. They’re edited by Christopher Tolkien and he provides a bit of commentary here and there. I also delve into Tolkien’s letters to see if he’s got something to say on the subject – this book came in handy for the Old Forest bits.

I also religiously employ the Reader’s Companion by Hammond and Scull. Seriously, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. It’s a wonderful resource. If you take anything away from this post, it’s that you need the Reader’s Companion. And if I’m looking for something a bit more scholarly, I’ll crack open the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia edited by Michael D.C. Drout – Routledge just released this in paperback! I also have at hand Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-earth. It’s been indispensable for keeping track of place names.

So while others might debate Sam’s motives or Gandalf’s origin or Tom Bombadil’s place in the cosmic order, I tend to lean toward the books and try to go to the source. This might be the “logical” thing to do, but I do miss out on the philosophical discussions.

And when I do take part in them, I’m afraid that I’m not very fun. For example, there was a little debate going on a few days ago in the comments section of The Leather Library blog about freewill in Tolkien’s legendarium. After a bit of fun and exciting back and forth, I went to the books, found what Tolkien said about it and sort of drew the whole thing to an utterly boring conclusion. (Sorry about that, by the way.) I try not to be “that guy,” but I’m afraid, I am that guy.

I came to Tolkien late, having picked up the Hobbit only two years ago. I was never able to join my friends in the wandering conversations about all things Middle-earth. Like so many things, I was reluctant. I never really got into the fantasy genre, always staying close to history and various non-fictions. Even when I owned a bookstore, I never really read novels.

But when I finally got to Tolkien, I discovered that I could treat it like I treat history! Not only history in the sense of the narrative itself, but history into how and when Tolkien wrote it. It’s all so wonderfully documented and right there for the picking. Understand, I live for this kind of stuff. It’s mind-numbingly dull for most, but it’s my bread and butter.

So I guess that’s it, really. I realize that it discourages discussion – something I wish I had more of. Right now, I’m trying to strike a balance, but I’m still finding my way. So my apologies if I post awkward comments on your blog or don’t know how to reply to your comments on mine. I’m still trying to figure this out.

Here’s the arsenal as it stands today:
books

About the Photo
As the hobbits continued northward, they could see the line of the East Road in the distance. It’s not really the same as this, but this photo came to mind.

Thoughts on the Exercising
Today my calves hurt, which is unexpected as mine are freakishly muscular for no reason. It was hot and kind of exhausting, but I got a break about halfway through because my cat, Juniper Pürrito, decided to take the large blanket draped across the couch into her tiny kitty mouth and drag it behind said couch. She’s been trying to do this for a couple of days now, and I really don’t get it. But, for Frith’s sake, it’s adorable. After rescuing the blanket, I got back to work and here I am. The break did nothing for me, I think, but it was the first break I’ve taken since the first day or so of this project. Huzzah.


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 130
    • 5 miles to Bree
    • 84 miles to Weathertop
    • 330 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,649 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Almost at the East Road (map)

What Can Bring Tom Bombadil Down? (Day 27)

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64x; expired 10/96; x-pro

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64x; expired 10/96; x-pro

Tom Bombadil and our hobbits ride west and then north toward the East Road. As they cross an old dike, Tom grows quiet and seems to be thinking about something sad.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 8 (p146-7, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Another incredibly short passage, but this one shows a sense of history that could keep me researching for hours. Before the hobbits were trapped by the Barrow-wights, they saw a line of trees that they assumed was the East Road (the main road through the Shire and to Bree and beyond). It was, however, not the Road, but “a deep dike with a steep wall on the further side.”

These types of dikes were prevalent in England, denoting boundaries or established for defense. And so it was with this dike. Tom explains (through the narrator) that “it had once been the boundary of a kingdom, but a very long time ago.”

And it was. This was once the border of the kingdom of Arnor, founded at the end of the Second Age (it’s the end of the Third Age at this point in the story, 3018). It was founded, along with Gondor, by those who escaped the destruction of Numenor.

(At this point, you’re going to need a map. Here’s one that might work.)

For some 860ish years, Arnor was one kingdom, but after the king died, his three sons started a civil war which resulted in Arnor being divided into three separate kingdoms: Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. It is the border of Arthedain and Cardolan which Tom and the hobbits come across. Cardolan was the southern portion, with its northern border along the East Road. All three kingdoms met at Weathertop.

From roughly 861 till roughly 1300 (it was in 1100 when Gandalf, etc discovered the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, by the way), there was relative peace between the three separate kingdoms. But it was then that the Witch-king established Angmar, to the north of old Arnor, but still its influences could be felt even in southern-most Cardolan. This was when the orcs began to attack the Dwarves in the Misty Mountains. But it was also around this time (1300ish) that the Periannath (the ‘halflings/hobbits’) come west to live in Bree, itself on the border between Cardolan and Arthedain.

Around 1350, the king of Arthedain, Argeleb I, claimed rule over all of Arnor, as he was supposedly the only true air in the line from Isildur. While Cardolan seemed cool with this, Rhudaur did not and actually sided with Angmar and the Witch-king. On their own, Rhudaur went to war with the new and slightly smaller Arnor, killing King Argeleb I. In turn, his son pushed back, driving the troops from Rhudaur away from Weathertop.

About 50 years later, the Witch-king attacked, combining his own forces with those from Rhudaur, capturing Weathertop and King Argeleb’s son (now the king, himself) was killed. It was at the Barrow-downs and in the Old Forest where the last few of the Dunedain made their stand. This is when the dike crossed by Tom and the Hobbits was probably built. It was, at least, used during these battles. The last person was buried in the Barrow-downs in 1409.

Eventually, the Witch-king’s armies were stopped by Elrond’s forces from Rivendell, but most of Arnor, including Cardolan, was completely gutted by the enemy. But it was around this time (1601) that the hobbits migrate farther west into the Shire, in what was once Arthedain. This makes 1601 actually Year 1 in the ‘Shire reckoning’.

But 35 years late came the Great Plague, which killed pretty much everybody still living around the Barrow-downs. It was then that the Barrow-wights were sent by the Witch-king to occupy the land. For a short while, the kingdom of Arthedain, mostly unaffected by the plague, retook the Barrow-downs area, but nobody really wanted to live there (what with the wights and all). With nobody to defend it, the Witch-king once more took over the land.

For the next couple of centuries, Arnor continued to reestablish itself, even communicating with Gondor to the south in 1940. But thirty years later, the Witch-king attacked again, this time overrunning all of Arthedain, putting an end to Arnor. The next year, however, he is defeated at Fornost (northwest of Weathertop), and driven away. Five years later, he winds up in Mordor.

At this point, the action moved east, centering around Mordor and Moria. The land that used to be Arnor became sparsely populated, watched over by the Dunedain, the Rangers. For about 1,000 years it went on line this, until our story begins.

So there’s a bit of history, taken mostly from Appendix A and the Tale of Years, both contained in the Lord of the Rings. All this information is there, if you’re up to reading that kind of stuff.

And that’s what made Tom Bombadil seem kind of down for a few seconds.

About the Photo
Since we’re talking about borders, here’s a shot of an old customs sign that once stood between the border of Canada and the United States in Molson, Washington – a fine little ghost town. I don’t have my passport (yet?), so within these borders I must stay. For now anyway.

Thoughts on the Exercising
Maybe it’s just Monday, but I’m feeling laaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy! Did five miles, but it was despite my laziness. I feel about the same, and did it at around the same speed as I normally do. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this today. Huzzah!


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 125
    • 10 miles to Bree
    • 89 miles to Weathertop
    • 335 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,654 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Still moving north toward the East Road (map)

Tom’s Stronger Songs and a Few Naked Hobbits (Day 26)

When it seemed darkest, our hobbits were rescued by Tom Bombadil! After a costume change and a bite to eat, they’re off again, but this time Tom is coming with them.

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 8 (p142 – 146, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
We learn a few new things about Tom Bombadil in this passage. For one, Tom Bombadil is apparently an incredibly powerful being. When Frodo calls upon Tom, he answers, singing that “None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master: His songs are strong songs, and his feet are faster.”

Tom then enters the barrow where our hobbits are trapped and sings to the Barrow-wight. He tells him to vanish and shrivel and wail away into the land beyond the mountains and to never come here again. But that is not all: “Lost and forgotten be, darker than the darkness, Where gates stand for ever shut, till the world is mended.”

Tom didn’t just banish them from his land, and he didn’t just send them back to Angmar in the north. He banished them to he darkness, the Timeless Void, where Melkor was cast. So apparently Tom Bombadil is so powerful that he can do this. That’s incredibly intense. But why didn’t he do it before? Was he afraid that Sauron would notice? That the Witch-king would invade?

The idea that Tom’s songs are stronger songs is obvious here – his song beat out the Barrow-wight’s song that enchanted Frodo and the others. But it also brings to mind Finrod and Sauron’s battle fought only by singing.

When the hobbits emerge from the tomb, they’re dressed in thin white rags, wearing crowns and trinkets. The wights had dressed them so, probably because this is how the dead were prepared for burial. Anyway, Tom tells them to nude up while he finds their ponies. “Cast off these cold rags! Run naked on the grass, while Tome goes a-hunting!”

Before too horribly long, he returns and has named the five ponies: Sharp-ears, Wise-nose, Swish-tail, Bumpkin, and White-socks. There is a sixth, Fatty Lumpkin, who turns out to be Tom’s. He explains as they’re getting dressed that when they visited Tom’s house, their ponies became friends with Mr. Lumpkin. When they were scared at the barrows, they ran to him.

After a small meal, they’re ready to leave, and Tom decides to accompany them to the border of his land. He seems to have known he would have to do this, as when he arrived, he brought food already prepared. Here is also where the hobbits received swords. Actually, they were Numenorian (Westernesse) knives taken from the tombs. This is a callback to The Hobbit, but it’s also something we’ll have to remember. The knives were made by the same people who were defeated by the Witch-king, who will be, in turn, defeated by one of the knives.

Right before the start, Tom waxes over the remaining descendants of the makers of these knives. “Yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.” The hobbits had no idea what he was talking about, but Tom apparently gave them a vision of a line of Men, the last one with a star on his brow.

The one with the star is Aragorn. This tradition was started on Numenor, as explained in one of my favorite stories from Unfinished Tales: “The Mariner’s Wife.” I won’t get into that long and strange story, but basically, she was a Queen of Numenor and rather than a crown or a necklace, she wanted a jewel to be placed in a fitting upon her forehead. From that time on, it became the tradition, and she was known as the “Lady of the Star Brow.” Though she was queen, she was not the ruling queen, being married to the king. Her daughter, however, was the first Ruling Queen of Numenor.

At any rate, though Tom seems aloof from everything, and is in many ways, he’s not completely isolationist. He apparently knew of Aragorn, just as he knew of the history of The Shire, and just as he knew of the Prancing Pony in Bree. He doesn’t get around and seems to never leave his land (anymore?) but he still appears to be in the loop. He’ll have more to share with the hobbits before his borders are reached.

About the Photo
This is a photo of a Native American burial mound in Moundsville, West Virginia. The building is not a tomb, of course, but I think an old visitors center. Though now the mound is sort of revered in this town, that wasn’t always the case. It’s been abused and desecrated. In the early 1900s, there was a bar (for drinking) built on top of it. It’s such a shame we have to ruin so many things with thoughtlessness.

Thoughts on the Exercising
It’s becoming routine. I don’t know if I should push myself or just revel in the normality of this. My time is getting better, so maybe I should just focus upon that. But there will come a time when I’ll have to do more. That might effect the project (or I might simply not care and continue doing five-ish miles per day). We shall see.


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 120
    • 15 miles to Bree
    • 94 miles to Weathertop
    • 340 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,659 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Moving north toward the East Road (map)

Who Are These Wights on the Barrow-downs (Day 25)

As Frodo and company continue on their way through the Barrow-downs, they believe they see the East Road not too far off. After stopping to rest by a standing stone, they fall asleep. When they awaken, the fog has rolled in and soon they become separated. All have been captured by the Barrow-wights!

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (EPR) (expired 1989 - xpro as C-41)

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (EPR) (expired 1989 – xpro as C-41)

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 9 (p137-142, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
No matter how strange Tom Bombadil is, I think the Barrow-wights outclass him. But they don’t come upon our hobbits without warning. Before leaving Bombadil’s house, they are cautioned by Tom that when crossing the Barrow-downs, not to stop.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, “barrows” means gravesites, specifically, burial mounds, and “wights” simply means people. It was probably because of Tolkien that “wight” came to be widely known as someone who is undead. But Tolkien was not the first person to use “Barrow-wight” to mean grave-dweller. That honor goes to Andrew Lang in 1891, who described “Barrowwights” as “ghosts that were sentinels over the gold.”

Rather than wildly speculating over their nature, let’s hit the books. The Barrow-wights are first mentioned in the poem “Adventures of Tom Bombadil,” complete with the hill and ring of stone. They threaten Tom, entering his house: “He’s got loose to-night: under the earth he’ll take you/Poor Tom Bombadil, pale and cold he’ll make you!” Tom, of course, casts off the wights with his song.

When Tom warns our hobbits of the wights, he begins by telling them a bit about the green mounds and standing stones. These are fairly common burial ground, really. At least upon first glance. For a further description, there’s Appendix A. Evil spirits from Angmar and Rhudaur entered the deserted mounds, claiming them as their own. If “Angmar” rings a bell, it might be because that’s the residing place of the Witch-king of Angmar, the head Nazgul. Rhudaur was an adjacent kingdom that fell to the Witch-king.

So the people buried in the tombs originally, were not the Barrow-wights. According to the “Tale of Years” (Appendix B), he evil spirits came into them around 1636 of the Third Age (it’s now 3018 of the Third Age), during the Great Plague. The tombs themselves date to much earlier, being built in the First Age “by the forefathers of the Edain (ancestors of the Numanorians / Dunedain), before they crossed the Blue Mountains into Beleriand.” The treasures found within the tombs probably belonged to these kings and queens.

How these evil spirits came to inhabit the burial mounds is another story, recounted in “The Hunt for the Ring” in Unfinished Tales. According to one of the versions, the Witch-king had sent the evil spirits there himself.

In another version, things get more complicated (but that’s why we read Tolkien, no?). The current day in the story is September 28. Six days earlier, the Rangers (sans Stryder) were guarding Sarn Ford. They’re driven away by the Black Riders. They pursue the Rangers, killing some and then making camp near the Barrow-downs. This party included the Witch-king, who visited the Barrow-downs, staying there until late on the 27th (when Frodo and company were with Tom Bombadil).

“This proves a main error,” writes Tolkien in a manuscript, “though in fact it was nearly successful, since the Barrowwights are roused, and all things of evil spirit hostile to Elves and Men are on the watch with malice in the Old Forest and on the Barrowdowns.” That would explain why the Barrow-wight who captured Frodo said, “I am waiting for you.”

This also explains why the Old Forest was even creepier than it had been – the Witch-king was around and stirring up everything that could keep watch for anything not evil. This was fairly clever, as it linked not just the Barrow-wights to Sauron, but the Old Forest as well.

What Tolkien never seems to lay down is the origin of these evil spirits. Any ideas?

About the Photo
The way the standing stones are described, they sound like obelisks. I’ve got quite a few photos of those. This one in particular is in Montana and marks the nearby campground of Lewis & Clark, called Camp Disappointment.

Thoughts on the Exercising
I really pushed it today. I was watching a Kevin Smith show, and that always motivates you to exercise. Anyway, another five miles and I’m thrilled and feel great. Sweaty though. I guess I worked off the Regular Saturday Morning Mighty-Os (Seattle’s own vegan doughnuts!).


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 115
    • 20 miles to Bree
    • 99 miles to Weathertop
    • 345 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,664 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Inside the tomb of the Barrow-wight! (map)

Tramping Across the Downs (Day 24)

And our hobbits are on their way once more! But “the distances had now all become hazy and deceptive.” They passed no trees, only hill upon hills for miles.

Camera: Kodak Brownie Jr. Six-20 (1940s) || FujiChrome Provia RDP II (expired 10/97 - xpro)

Camera: Kodak Brownie Jr. Six-20 (1940s) || FujiChrome Provia RDP II (expired 10/97 – xpro)

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 9 (p136, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
From having almost too much to write about, I’m suddenly faced with a paragraph about land and nothing else. This is such a fascinating project in that respect. While I must have read Chapter 8 about eight times (still, no doubt, missing important things), I could read this paragraph just as much. If you’re interested in which one I’m talking about and you don’t have the 50th Anniversary Edition, it’s the one that starts with “Their way wound along the floor of the hollow….”

Basically, Tolkien describes a rolling, almost bubbly land. To me, it sounds like some parts of norther Arkansas where the hills are like bubbles. Eastern Ohio is like this in some places. I absolutely love it. Eastern Washington has similar landscape, but they’re actually ripples (seriously, they’re gigantic ripples from a series of floods 10,000ish years ago).

Tolkien talks of wind and ridges, and how hot the day became. When they could catch a glimpse of the Old Forest by looking west (to their left), they could see the rainwater evaporating.

When reading short passages like this, I’m always tempted to read too much into it. Take the last sentence of this one: “A shadow now lay round the edge of sight, a dark haze above which the upper sky was like a blue cap, hot and heavy.”

Am I supposed to be thinking about the darkness coming from Mordor? It seems a bit too early for that. He doesn’t explicitly tell in which direction they’re looking, though they’re walking mostly north, toward the East Road. But words like “shadow” and “dark haze” are ominous and hardly seem accidental.

About the Photo
Since I don’t have any photo that really rings true to this landscape, I picked the one that most closely matches. This is a line of glacier erratics in Douglas County, Washington. They were carried here by the glaciers of the last ice age. The hills, though it’s difficult to see here, are somewhat bubbly, though not nearly as much as the Downs over which Frodo and company are walking.

Thoughts on the Exercising
Only four miles today, but it’s Friday and why not? It was nice to wrap up early. Worked on the heart rate, but really, I need a heart rate monitor. Then I’d also get a feel for how many calories I’m burning. I suppose that’s important for something.

Also, I’ve stopped tagging my posts with anything having to do with fitness. It was ridiculous how much spam I was getting from that. I realize that fitness is big business, but big business is fairly nauseating.


  • Miles today: 4
  • Miles thus far: 110
    • 25 miles to Bree
    • 104 miles to Weathertop
    • 350 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,669 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Still on the way to the Barrow-downs! (map)

O Spring-time and Summer-Time, and Spring Again After! (Day 23)

Today our hobbits leave Tom Bombadil’s house – but not before a lovely chat with Goldberry herself! Then it’s along the zig-zagging path towards the Barrow-downs.

Since I am also ridiculously under-qualified to talk about Goldberry, I welcome anyone and everyone to give your opinions on the merry fellow. What do you think of him?

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: FujiChrome Provia 100D RDP(expired mid 90s) (xpro)

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: FujiChrome Provia 100D RDP(expired mid 90s) (xpro)

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 8 & 9 (p123-136, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Just like I did yesterday with Tom Bombadil, I’m going to follow the hobbits in how they learned about Goldberry. They, of course, first heard of her from Tom’s song. When they were dealing with Old Man Willow, they could hear Tom singing about the River-woman’s daughter, who was slender as a willow-wand. She was Goldberry, and she was waiting.

At the end of chapter six, Tom goes on ahead to his house singing about how he and Goldberry were fond of parties and were awaiting their arrival as our hobbits followed. As they drew closer, they heard another song in a clear voice. She beckoned them onward, singing mostly of water imagery.

They first met Goldberry as they stepped through the door. She appeared enthroned, regal, and almost like a queen. In fact, Tolkien compares it with going to a cottage for a drink of water and meeting an Elf queen dressed in living flowers (whatever that might be like). They were immediately taken with her, suddenly understanding why Tom Bombadil sang about her (or about anything, really).

She requested they come forward, and when they did, she dropped the royal feel and “sprang lightly up and over the lily-bowls, and ran laughing towards them.” Tolkien uses almost endless watery words in her description. This is fitting, she being the River’s daughter. They immediately feel at ease as she tells them to “Fear nothing!”

Frodo was incredibly nervous, but admitted “Now the joy that was hidden in the songs we heard is made plain to me.” This joy was then spontaneously expressed in poetry.

O slender as a willow-want! O clearer than clear water!
O reed by the living pool! Fair River-daughter!
O spring-time and summer-time, and spring again after!
O wind on the waterfall, and the leaves’ laughter!

I loved this poem so ridiculously much that I actually used it as part of my wedding vows. Crazy, eh? But let’s take a closer look at it. The first two lines are nicked from Bombadil’s many songs, but the last two are Frodo’s.

Goldberry is like the spring and the summer, he claims, leaving out autumn and winter, and going back to spring. She isn’t just spring and summer, but also she is the wonderfulness of skipping out on the death and cold of autumn and winter! This is more or less evident in how Tom is bringing her water lilies “to flower at her pretty feet till the snows are melted” (it’s now late September).

She thanks Frodo, thinking that hobbits are not always so “sweet-tongued.” She then reveals that she can “see that you are an Elf-friend; the light in your eyes and the ring in your voice tells it.” If Tom saw it, he made no mention. This is, I think, the third time Frodo’s been called that. Each time he is, it seems to take on a more profound meaning.

Like the perfect hostess, when Tom Bombadil is ready to eat, she reminds him that while he might be ready, their guests may not be. At the end of the dinner, both Tom and Goldberry clear the plates. This might be the first indication that she was not and Elf queen. Would Galadriel have bussed the table?

As the hobbits are heading to bed, she tells them to “Heed no nightly noises!” Nothing can touch them in Tom Bombadil’s house. Each, but for Sam, have varying nightmares (Frodo actually dreams of Gandalf atop the tower at Orthanc, and his escape by Eagle). In Pippin’s and Merry’s, the voice of Goldberry entered their thoughts.

To Pippin her voice told him again: “Fear nothing! Have peace until the morning! Heed no nightly noises!” And to Merry he seemed to remember: “Nothing passes doors or windows save moonlight and starlight and wind off the hill-top.” It’s not explicitly said whether they just remembered the words or that Goldberry came to them through their dreams, but either way, she had the power to ward off even nightmares – except for Frodo, who dreamed about something that had actually happened.

The next morning at breakfast, neither Tom nor Goldberry were around, though both could be heard about the house. From above them, however, they could hear Goldberry’s clear voice singing, and though they couldn’t make out the words, they could tell it was a rain song. And it was raining. It’s heavily implied that Goldberry made it rain, as it was her washing day. Though Galadriel could certainly sing up a literal storm, she wouldn’t be doing her laundry in it, would she?

As Tom and the hobbits talked about all sorts of things (which were discussed yesterday) Goldberry appeared in the doorway. “‘The rain has ended,’ she said; ‘and new waters are running downhill, under the stars. Let us now laugh and be glad!'” It seems like a strange way to interrupt, but it broke Tom and the hobbits out of the room and to the kitchen table, again set by both Tom and Goldberry (and again, the fare is vegetarian).

Tolkien then describes Tom and Goldberry’s interactions: “so fair was the grace of Goldberry and so merry and odd the capering of Tom. Yet in some fashion they seemed to weave a single dance, neither hindering the other, in and out of the room, and round the table.” And before our hobbits noticed, both were arrayed in the finest of clothing – fit for a dinner. After the meal, Goldberry sang and enchanted them with many songs. Goldberry is the perfect wife for Tom Bombadil, because Tom Bombadil is the perfect husband for Goldberry.

That night, none had dreams, and the next morning, they made to leave. Frodo was remiss that Goldberry was not there so they could say their good-byes. And just like that, she was near, atop a hill. They hurried to her. At the top of the hill, they could see for miles, and it sort of seems like it might have been her doing. That the fog and mists were cleared away by the wave of her arm.

In her good-byes, she gave them advice, mostly practical, and said to Frodo: “Farewell, Elf-friend, it was a merry meeting!”

If I didn’t know better, I would almost insist that Goldberry was an Elf. Tolkien described Frodo’s thoughts at their first meeting: “He stood as he had at times stood enchanted by fair elven-voices; but the spell that was now laid upon him was different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvelous and yet not strange.”

And that is our Goldberry. She is the River’s daughter. Maybe she isn’t as lofty as an Elf, but she is more relatable. She’s not human, but more human-like than any Eldar. She has a “magic” about her, but it makes perfect sense.

About the Photo
The photo was taken in Havre, Montana’s Underground, which is incredibly interesting, if you feel like doing a bit of research about it. I talk about it here. It reminds me of Tom and Goldberry’s house, where the hobbits ate breakfast.

Thoughts on the Exercising
Another day another fives miles, I guess. Nothing really special going on at this point. But that’s not a bad thing. At this point, if I missed a day, it would feel really strange. I wouldn’t feel lazy or anything, but something would feel as if it’s missing. I’m in a good spot. Time for some Sweet & Sara’s Vegan Mini-Marshmallows!


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 106
    • 29 miles to Bree
    • 108 miles to Weathertop
    • 354 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,673 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: On the way to the Barrow-downs! (map)

Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling! (Day 22)

Our rescued hobbits bound down the path to Bombadil’s house, and Tom leads the way with a song. Along the route, the trees grumble and moan to themselves, unhappy that they’ve been chastised. Once in Tom’s house, we learn quite a bit about this strange personality.

Since I am ridiculously under-qualified to talk about Tom Bombadil, I welcome anyone and everyone to give your opinions on the merry fellow. What do you think of him?

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100 || Film: fuji FP-100c (negative scan)

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100 || Film: fuji FP-100c (negative scan)

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 6 & 7 (p120-134, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
It really does blow my mind that people skip over the poems and songs in this chapter. This is where the real fun begins. This is where we learn about Tom Bombadil! Since I’m following the hobbits’ footsteps, I think I’ll talk about Tom as they discovered him in Chapters 6 and 7.

After freeing them from Old Man Willow, the hobbits certainly know that they’re in the presence of a powerful being. But he’s singing all this nonsense! The first thing they really hear him sing about it Goldberry. She’s apparently waiting for water lilies. When they arrive at Tom’s house, they meet this Goldberry (who I’ll get to in much more detail tomorrow). She seems more or less normal (at least compared to Tom) and so they ask her: “who is Tom Bombadil?”

Her answer is almost all we ever know: “He is.” She also answers the implied question, “What is Tom Bombadil?” “He is as you have seen him. […] He is the Master of wood, water, and hill.” When Frodo asks if “all this strange land belongs to him,” she’s taken aback: “‘No indeed,’ she answered, and her smile faded. ‘That would indeed be a burden,’ she added in a low voice, as if to herself.” As if she never thought of it.

This, of course, didn’t really answer their question. They don’t get another chance to really broach the subject until later, after dinner (which is noticeably minus meat – Tom and Goldberry are probably vegetarians) when they asked him why he stopped at Old Man Willow. Through verse, he explains that he was gathering water lilies for Goldberry, and that this was his last trip in that direction, so “just chance brought me then, if chance you call it.” Obviously, it was more than chance.

We also learn that Tom heard about their travels. This was probably from Gildor or one of his companions, though he never says. The next day, they have a much longer talk with Tom, where he goes on and on about different stories. Sometimes he spoke, sometimes he sang, but he almost always does either in meter. Even the lines that aren’t in formal stanzas are rhythmic.

Though our hobbits seems lost in it all, “they began to understand the lives of the Forest, apart from themselves, indeed to feel themselves as the strangers where all other things were at home.” This is an incredibly valuable lesson that I wish we could all learn.

As Tom talks, he reveals bit by bit his true age. First, he speaks of the ancient history of the Old Forest. This is stuff from the early First Age, before the ancestors of the Edain crossed the Blue Mountains into Beleriand. He talks of kings and battles and of the Barrow-wights (which we’ll get to later). This sort of talk frightened the hobbits, and they “lost the thread of his tale.”

In the next passage, Tom is relating parts of the Silmarillion, which, if we’ll remember, wouldn’t be published for another 25 years or so. He talks of “when the world was wider, and the seas flowed to the western Shore.” He mentioned the “Elf-sires,” who were alive before Men, and even before the world was lit by the sun. But thus far, these are just stories, repeatable by anyone who’s read the Silmarillion.

Curious, they asked: “Who are you, Master?” Again, they more so meant “what.” But Tom plays it off (sort of): “Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer.”

But it’s not the only answer. Here, Tom spills it. “I am old. Eldest, that’s what I am.” In an earlier manuscript, Tolkien used: “I am, the Aborigine of this land.”

And he continued, giving us the scoop: “Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remember the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made paths before the Big People, and saw the little People arriving.” It seems strange and unlikely that Tom was here before the Ainur, supposedly Illuvatar’s first creations. Maybe he arrived with them, which would make him one of them – but there’s just no way to tell (and thus no reason to speculate with the idea that we can come to an actual conclusion). If Tom did arrive in the world with the Ainur, he was apparently in Middle-earth, as he makes no reference to being anywhere but.

He then gives other, more recent events that he pre-dates, but then gets obscure: “He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless – before the Dark Lord came from Outside.” This is a strange passage. Obviously, it’s talking about a time before the Sun and before the destruction of the Trees of Valinor. The Dark Lord is Melkor, but what is “Outside”? My thought would be the Void, which is anything outside of Arda (the world). Before Arda, there was the Void, where Illuvatar and the Ainur existed. Then Arda was created, and maybe Tom Bombadil with it?

Quick Silmarillion early history – The Valar come to the universe, but find that they need to make it. As they do, Melkor wants to control the Earth and enters it (from the Void). Other Valar want to stop him (since he’s evil), and go to Earth to kick him out. They accomplish this, but Melkor returns with a vengeance. I assume that this was what Tom was talking about.

So Tom is really incredibly old and clearly aloof. This would then explain why the Ring which Frodo is carrying has no power over him. He makes light of it, peeps through the hole, slips it on his finger and doesn’t turn invisible. Tom then performs a cheap parlor trick, making the ring disappear until he hands it back to Frodo, showing that Tom isn’t magical – he is Tom Bombadil, a merry fellow.

Tolkien himself enjoyed leaving Tom in a vague state. There was some speculation that he was Illuvatar, but Tolkien shot that down. “I don’t think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it,” he wrote in a 1954 letter. In another, he claims to have left Tom in the story “because I like him.”

He did, however, explain further. “…but more seriously, because in any world or universe devised imaginatively… there is always some element that does not fit and opens as it were a winder into some other system.” He also explained: “So Bombadil is ‘fatherless,’ he has no historical origin in the world described in The Lord of the Rings.”

Tom Bombadil, as Tolkien said, “is best left as he is, a mystery.”

That said, we’re not quite finished with Tom Bombadil, so hold tight.

About the Photo
Alstows is a ghost town in central Washington, and though I know Tom’s house looks nothing like this, well, I don’t really have anything that really screams “Bombadil!” at me. So here you go!

Thoughts on the Exercising
Today was easy, but sweaty. It was also the first day that I had a headache since I started this. For a while in December, I was getting them every other day. That was pretty intense. Excedrin is the only thing that takes them away, but it makes me feel horrible. Absolutely horrible. It’s most likely the caffeine, which isn’t a lot for most people, but you’re looking at the only adult in Seattle who has never even tasted coffee. So, there you go.


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 101
    • 34 miles to Bree
    • 113 miles to Weathertop
    • 359 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,678 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: The House of Tom Bombadil! (Map and Map)