As a sort of New Years Resolution, I’ve decided to elliptical my way from Hobbiton to Mordor, following Frodo and Sam’s path from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Each day, I do a few miles and then read about the same miles the hobbits covered, before writing about the whole thing in the blog. Here’s today’s entry:
This is where our hobbits nearly have an encounter with the Black Rider. For the sake of safety, they hide alongside the road, wondering if it might be Gandalf. It’s not, of course, and the Rider sniffs for them and Frodo has the urge to slip on the Ring. After the Rider moves along, he disappears into the woods and our hobbits decide to stay off the road. They stop in Wood Hall for some rest and to eat yet again.
Thoughts on the Passage – p 73-75 (of the 50th Anniversary Edition)
This is such an important passage and it seems to have come upon Tolkien out of nowhere. Originally, the Rider was Gandalf dressed in a dark cloak to fool our hobbits. Then, Tolkien decided that Frodo and company needed to be hunted, even though they were still in the Shire. He also wrote quite a bit about this from Gandalf’s point of view. This appears in the story “Hunt for the Ring” in Unfinished Tales.
Though the Black Riders are ridiculously interesting, that’s not what caught my attention as I read this. We’re told a few times just how secluded the Hobbits and the Shire were in the Prologue and first chapter, but this is the first time it really comes into play on their journey.
Of course, in Hobbiton, Sam’s father, The Gaffer, spoke with the same Black Rider. Due to his distrust of this “strange customer,” he covered for Frodo and “sent him on to Bucklebury.” Bucklebury was the main town in the Buckland area, located on the other side of the Brandywine River, technically outside of the Shire (though it was populated mostly by Brandybucks – hobbits). The Gaffer had something to say about Bucklanders as well: “Not that the Brandybucks of Buckland live in the Old Forest; but they’re a queer breed, seemingly. They fool about with boats on that big river – and that isn’t natural.” His world was so small that he didn’t even know that name of the river.
After the Rider turns away, Pippin wondered, “But what has one of the Big People got to do with us?” The “Big People” are men, of course, and were apparently not in the Shire often. Men and Elves and Dwarves used the road through the Shire, but were watched by the Shiriffs (of which there were twelve) and the Bounders (whose numbers increased or decreased depending upon the need). The Prologue tells us that “there were many reports and complaints of strange persons and creatures prowling about the borders, or even over them….”
These strangers probably had something to do with Saruman’s little import/export deal or possibly refugees. The creatures could have been Ents, I suppose. Mostly, however, it’s just fear. Frodo answers Pippin’s wonderings, telling him that “there are some Men about. Down in the Southfarthing they have had trouble with Big People.” Though he’s never heard of anything like the Rider.
As the Rider was sniffing around, Frodo tries to convince himself to put on the Ring. Seemingly nothing bad could happen to him because he’s still in the Shire. That’s clearly not true, as by this time, no less than five Black Riders are searching the Shire for Frodo. The one they find on the Stock Road was Khamul, the only Wraith named by Tolkien. According to Tolkien, Khamul “was the most ready of all the Nazgul, after the Black Captain himself [the Witch-king], to perceive the presence of the ring, but also the one whose power was most confused and diminished by daylight.”
That’s how he missed the Ring, of course. In an early manuscript, Tolkien writes that September 24 (the date we are in now) Khamul “picks up the Stock Road, and overtakes Frodo at approaches to Woody End – probably by accident; he becomes uneasily aware of the Ring, but is hesitant and uncertain because of the bright sun. He turns into the woods and waits for night.”
Okay, so I didn’t really want to talk about the Nazgul, but I guess I did anyway.
“In the meantime, what are we to do? I should like a bite and a sup, but somehow I think we had better move on from here. Your talk of sniffing riders with invisible noses has unsettled me.”
Thoughts on the Exercising
Well, as far as that goes, today was a lot like yesterday. The fronts of the thighs hurt quite a bit as soon as I start, though it lessened more quickly than yesterday. I’d like to get to a point where my thighs don’t hurt at all, please. I’m probably not stretching enough before starting. As a screen printer, I’m standing most of the day (and not walking/running/climbing), so maybe I’m not as limber as I should be.
As a celebration, we’re headed to Pizza Pi – Seattle’s vegan pizzeria! Huzzah!
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 33
- 30 miles to Farmer Maggot’s
- 102 miles to Bree
- 208 miles to Weathertop
- 425 miles to Rivendell
- 1,746 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Woodhall