‘There Were Words in that Cry’ (Day 12)

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:

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/1994); xpro

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/1994); xpro

Another five miles and now our hobbits are out of the woods – but not before a bit of a song and a terrifying cry. When the sun comes out and they start moving again, their spirits raise and all is (sorta/kinda) well again.

Thoughts on the Passage – p 88-90, Chapter 4 – (50th Anniv. Ed.)
No matter how I try, and even though there’s other things going on, I just can’t seem to get away from the Nazgul. This is Tolkien’s fault, as his narrative only gives tiny morsels of information about these Black Riders as it develops them as characters.

Here we learn something about the way they communicate with each other. Previously, we’ve only seen how they communicate with hobbits, specifically The Gaffer. They can apparently speak in the common tongue (and hiss).

As Sam and Pippin sing a pre-drinking song after having eaten lunch, their tune is interrupted. “A long-drawn wail came down the wind, like the cry of some evil and lonely creature. It rose and fell, and ended on a high piercing note.” The call was answered, and whatever made the sound was far away.

It was, as we know, the call of the Nazgul. In “the movies,” Peter Jackson portrayed the sound as a scream. It’s effective and fairly chilling. But in the book, there’s more to it than just a shriek. Pippin first compared it to a bird, though not one that he had ever heard before. Frodo adds to the description: “It was a call, or a signal – there were words in the cry, though I could not catch them. But no hobbit has such a voice.”

Just what the one Nazgul (assumedly Khamul, the Rider who has been dogging the trio for miles and miles now) said to the other can only be imagined. It’s explained in Unfinished Tales that the Witch-king (the Nazgul leader) sent Khamul and a few other Riders into the Shire, “with orders to disperse while traversing it.” Khamul was ordered to find Hobbiton. Evidently, he was told that Baggins lived there by Saruman. So Khamul was more than likely reporting his findings to one of his nearby(ish) comrades.

Maybe it’s like listening to some screamy mid90s hardcore band. The vocals don’t sound like much, you can’t really pick out the words, yet you know they’re there.

If you want a good read, check out the “Hunt for the Ring” chapter in Unfinished Tales. It does for the Nazgul what the “Quest for Erebor” does for the Dwarves. There are a few different versions of the manuscript and goodness, it’s stocked with background information.

‘It was a call, or a signal – there were words in the cry, though I could not catch them. But no hobbit has such a voice.’

Thoughts on the Exercising
Crap. Today is the exact opposite of yesterday. No idea what’s happening to me. Usually, I don’t sweat (it’s just a thing I don’t do – I basically never sweat, no idea why). But today, it’s pouring off me in some very unflattering ways. I did five miles in about the same amount of time it usually takes me (25 minutes, give or take). Yesterday, I didn’t even bother showering (seriously, I don’t get stinky, either), but today I feel like doing nothing but showering. And that’s where I’m headed now. Smell ya later.

  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 56
    • 7 miles to Farmer Maggot’s
    • 79 miles to Bree
    • 184 miles to Weathertop
    • 402 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,723 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Out of the woods. But too far south! (Map)


7 thoughts on “‘There Were Words in that Cry’ (Day 12)

  1. Wow, this seems like a fun project. I wish I had the determination to do the elliptical part, but I am glad to meet another Tolkien fan who is well-versed enough to identify Khamul. I blog about Tolkien at least once per week, and I am trying to collect enough people who do frequent, well-informed blogging about Tolkien to give them their own section on my blogroll. I followed you because this seems an ingenious way of working through LOTR is manageable snippets, and I am glad I caught you so early in the journey.

    • Thanks! Well, half of it is fun – the other half is exhausting (though much needed). The snippets are manageable, though it has some obvious drawbacks – I’ll have to skip huge passages when the hobbits aren’t moving, or when Frodo and Sam aren’t involved.

      My other daily blog is a Civil War blog that for the past 3.5 years has taken the war day-by-day as it happened 150 years ago. I knew nearly nothing about the war, but absolutely loved delving into primary sources and learning while writing. I’ve found myself approaching LotR in much the same way and am loving it. I almost wish I hadn’t added the elliptical thing, though, again, I really need it.

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