The Witch-king’s Got a Bad Feeling About This

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)

While our proto-fellowship walks its way east from Weathertop, they take care to avoid the Nazgul who are searching for them.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p200, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
In the published Lord of the Rings, we are given the details of the fight on Weathertop from Frodo’s point of view, as well as Sam’s. Sometime after publishing the book, Tolkien revisited the scene as part of a series of writings titled “The Hunt for the Ring.”

A few versions and snippets show up in Unfinished Tales, but there’s another, a manuscript, that is only (to my knowledge) in the Reader’s Companion by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull. It’s in this manuscript that Tolkien approaches the scene from the Nazgul’s perspective.

According to this manuscript, five Nazgul attack the company on Weathertop. After Frodo slips on the Ring, the Witch-king, their leader, knows who the bearer is. But he’s “greatly puzzled that it should be a small creature, and not Aragorn, who seems to be a great power though apparently ‘only a Ranger’.”

Yesterday, I talked about how Aragorn had never had an encounter with the Nazgul before this, and here’s more evidence to support that. They have no idea who this guy is, but can gather that he’s an important fellow.

As we know from the published book, the Witch-king stabs Frodo, but according to this manuscript, it seems almost like a bookmark rather than an attempt to kill him outright (though Gandalf later insisted that they tried to pierce Frodo’s heart): “But the Bearer has been marked with the Knife and (he thinks) cannot last more than a day or two.” Either way, the Witch-king believes he’s about to win.

He states that they were “driven off by Aragorn; and withdraw after wounding Frodo.” This is a different take on things than in the book, where they seem to be driven off by Frodo exclaiming “O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!” Aragorn even alludes to this idea, saying that the names were “more deadly” to the Witch-king than Frodo’s sorry attempt to stab him (which isn’t really saying much, I admit). Aragorn doesn’t mention the effect his fire-wielding had upon the Nazgul. But it now seems obvious (or at least fairly plausible) that it was Aragorn’s torches that beat them back and not Frodo’s exclamations (though both must have been a shock to the Witch-king).

Tolkien, writing in a sort of detached way, then commented that it was strange that the hobbits’ camp wasn’t watched by the Nazgul, and thus he lost track of the Ring. That fire must have really done the trick. Actually, Tolkien gives us a few reasons.


1) The Witch-king was dismayed. Two days prior to attacking Frodo, he attacked Gandalf and was not victorious. He “began to perceive that the mission on which Sauron had sent him was one of great peril to himself.” If he continued to attack, it would be incredibly difficult, and he could be defeated. If he returned to Sauron empty-handed, well, who knows how that might end (not very well). Picture ol’ Witchy pleading his case to the Dark Lord ala Han Solo: “It’s not my fault! It’s not my fault!”

2) The Bearer, Frodo, actually attacked him. He didn’t run away like Gollum. He lashed out. Though he was “timid and terrified,” he resisted. He even “dared to strike at him [the Witch-king] with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction.”

The Witch-king knew the blade, and knew that the Barrow-wights had it. For Frodo to now possess it, he must have somehow bested the Barrow-wights! This little hobbit, thought the Witch-king, was quite an impressive foe.

3) Frodo called on the name of Elbereth. This could then only mean that he was in league with the High Elves. This was bad.

The poor Witch-king must have been on a roller coaster of emotions. He had entered the Shire, finding it populated with frightened halflings. Figuring the Ring was in one of their pocketses, he must have thought his mission would be cake. He had no idea that anyone more powerful than a random Ranger or two would be involved.

But in stepped Gandalf and then this.

The following day, he called his fellow Nazgul to him. Apparently, Aragorn’s fire had scattered them. The proto-fellowship heard these calls, but, according to the published book, “they had seen and heard no sign that the enemy had marked their flight or followed them” (this was true even on the fourth day out from Weathertop – we are now at mile 286, in the middle of the second day from Weathertop).

For the next few days, the Witch-king and the four Nazgul patrol the East Road and hang around the Last Bridge “knowing that it was practically impossible to cross the Greyflood between Tharbad and the Bridge.”

There are no fords between the Last Bridge and Tharbad, located about 200 miles downriver. The same must be relatively true upriver. Basically, five Nazgul wait for Frodo, while the remaining four chase down Gandalf.

Since Frodo was pierced with the Morgul-knife, the Witch-king thought that the hobbit, the Bearer, had only a couple of days left to live. They seem not to understand that Aragorn has led Frodo and the others south of the East Road.

But in the end, Frodo would bear not only the Ring, but a shard of the Witch-king’s knife, for seventeen days. Gandalf would explain to him that if the shard had not been removed “you would have become a wraith under the dominion of the Dark Lord; and he would have tormented you for trying to keep his Ring, if any greater torment were possible than being robbed of it and seeing it on his hand.”

Gandalf, when seeing Frodo again, would be amazed that he was doing so well. “It seems that Hobbits fade very reluctantly. I have known strong warriors of the Big People who would quickly have been overcome by the splinter….”

A Few Notes:

  • The published bits of the manuscript conclude with the Nagzul watching the Last Bridge. I have no idea if there’s more. I wish things like this would be fully published. If only…
  • I’m in dire need of ideas for things to write about. Almost nothing happens for the next two and a half book-days. This translates into roughly ten to twelve blog-days. So, dear readers, make with the good ideas!
  • Khamûl: Together again, huh?
    Witch-king: Wouldn’t miss it.
    Khamûl: How we doin’?
    Witch-king: Same as always.
    Khamûl: That bad, huh?

    Witch-king: … I love you.
    Khamûl: I know.

About the Photo
Maybe if the Nazgul would have had some good, strong coffee, they would have been able to keep a better watch on Frodo’s camp.

  • Day 59
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 286
  • 174 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,493 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Still south of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop. (map)

What Did Aragorn Really Know about the Nazgul?

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

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

It’s cheerless, but our heroes continue on through a montage of grim landscapes and rough terrain.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
As our hobbits and Strider make their way east, I can’t help but wonder about Aragorn’s history with the Nazgul. What did he know? When did he learn it? And most importantly, prior to Weathertop, had he ever encountered them?

By the time our hobbits were on Weathertop, it must have been clear to them that Strider knew more about the so-called Black Riders, the Nazgul, than he was letting on. From their first mention in Bree, he tells them “They will return. And more are coming. There are others. I know their number. I know these Riders.”

But how much did Aragorn actually know? Little by little, it’s revealed to us that Strider knows they work for the Enemy, and they have something called “the Black Breath.” More is learned on Weathertop when the Riders gather below. While the Nazgul cannot see in the traditional sense, Strider explains that their horses can.

“‘And at all times they smell the blood of living things, desiring and hating it. Senses too, there are other than sight or smell. We can feel their presence – it troubled our hearts, as soon as we came here, and before we saw them; they feel ours more keenly. Also, he added, and his voice sank to a whisper,’the Rings draws them.'”

This last bit indicates that Aragorn had either intimate encounters with them or learned a great deal. Either way, it would be safe to say that whatever Gandalf and Elrond know about the Nazgul has been shared with Aragorn.

The same year he met Gandalf, in 2956, Aragorn took off on journeys into the East and South, “exploring the purposes of Sauron and all his movements.” Though Elrond had explained his ancestry to him three years before, he fought as an unknown warrior for Gondor and Rohan.

By this time, Sauron had re-established himself in Mordor, which had been prepared for him by the Nazgul. In an entry for the year 2980, when Aragorn returned to Rivendell to once again meet Arwen (still forty years before our story begins – though also forty years after the events in The Hobbit), Tolkien states, almost in passing, that he was returning “from perils on the borders of Mordor.”

When Bilbo vanished from The Shire in 3001, Gandalf began to suspect that his magic ring was maybe something a bit more weighty. While he researched its nature, he dispatched Aragorn to search for Gollum, which began in earnest in 3009. The entry in a late draft of the Tale of Years, submitted for publication, states: “Aragorn goes to the confines of Mordor.”

This is a far different thing from “the borders of Mordor,” which he had visited thirty years prior. This seems to have been dropped from the published version, which was heavily edited for space. Incidentally, the published version states that Gollum was captured by Sauron somewhere from 3009 to 3017.

In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien wrote that Gollum was captured in 3017, a year before our story takes place. This is a later writing (penned after Lord of the Rings, so it’s fairly plausible that Tolkien had decided upon this).

Sauron could get little from Gollum, but didn’t kill him because he suspected that he would track down this “Shire” and “Baggins” thing. Gollum headed immediately into the Dead Marshes, and Sauron’s minions refused to follow. Unable to find out any information about Gollum’s location, he finally decided to dispatch the Ringwraiths.

Sauron kept the Nazgul close to him, not wishing to use them at all “until he knew precisely where the Ring was.” Tolkien explains in Unfinished Tales that he was hesitant to use them until he was fully ready for open war (which he was not). “For such reasons Sauron long hesitates, since he did not desire that his chief enemies should become aware of his servants’ errand.”

So Sauron’s quest went from finding Gollum to finding the Ring. He figured that Gollum and “Baggins” were the only two individuals who knew about the Ring. But while Sauron and the Nazgul focused upon the ring, Aragon was capturing Gollum near the Dead Marshes (February 1, 3017).

“He will never love me, I fear; for he bit me, and I was not gentle.”

Aragorn brought Gollum to Mirkwood and handed him over the Thrandril. There, Gandalf questioned him and learned for near certain that this was indeed the One Ring. Also, he learned that Sauron knew about “Baggins” and the “Shire.”

But it was also in Mirkwood that the Enemy learned what had happened to Gollum. The Witch-king was headquartered in Dol Guldur, in the southern parts of Mirkwood, and news that Aragorn had entered it reached him, though this took some time. Tolkien writes in Unfinished Tales that Sauron didn’t learn of this until April. A month later, he learned that Gandalf was involved.

Here, the story is a little muddled. Sauron, it appears, did not set loose the Nazgul until this time – early summer of 3017, after learning about Gandalf and Gollum. In the middle of June, the Nazgul attacked Thranduil (and Gondor) with the intent of recapturing or killing Gollum. But Gollum escaped. In the autumn of that same year, rumor had it that Gollum was in Moria, but that was the last anyone heard about him. By August of 3018 “All track of Gollum is lost.”

It must also be remembered (according to “The Council of Elrond” chapter) that while Aragorn is on Weathertop – and until he comes to Rivendell – he believes Gollum to still be in the keeping of the Elves.

This must mean that Aragorn had left Mirkwood before June of 3017 – before the Nazgul attacked. His whereabouts from spring of 3017 until summer of 3018 are incredibly vague. From all I can tell, he doesn’t turn up again until late September in Bree.

In that month, he was with the Rangers, watching the roads into the Shire, and it can probably be assumed that’s what he was doing the whole time. When the Nazgul crossed Sarn Ford in the southern end of the Shire, the Rangers ultimately lost the engagement, but some fled north (toward Bree) to tell Aragorn the news.

This brings us nearly to the present day without Aragorn ever fighting the Nazgul himself. This would mean that on Weathertop, when Frodo caught “a glimpse of Strider leaping out of the darkness with a flaming brand of wood in either hand,” it was the first time Aragorn had ever been face to face with the Ringwraiths.

A Few Notes:

  • Is this right? Had Aragorn really never encountered the Nazgul before?
  • Was his jump at the Witch-king a suicidal attempt to save Frodo?
  • I know I’m missing some information on the whereabouts of Aragorn, especially through 3017-3018. If anyone has any other info, toss it my way.
  • Tomorrow, I’m going to try to do something less heady. We’ll see.
  • Mostly, I used Unfinished Tales and The Peoples of Middle-Earth. Also, LotR, of course.

About the Photo
I had compared Trotter, the wooden-shoed hobbit, to a cowboy, but with Aragorn’s backstory, I think he should hold that title.

  • Day 58
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 281
  • 179 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,498 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Still south of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop (map)

The Long History of the Half-Elven

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) ||Film: Fujichrome Provia 100 x-pro as C-41 (expired in 10/1997)

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) ||Film: Fujichrome Provia 100 x-pro as C-41 (expired in 10/1997)

They’re still going strong, our hobbits and Strider, triptrapping along through the cheerless lands east of Weathertop.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
For the past two days we’ve looked along the Aragorn and Arwen story and how it related to the Beren and Luthien story.

The Lord of the Rings was not written in a vacuum. Anyone’s who’s read it knows that there’s a much larger mythology that’s taken (and taking) place around it. We are lucky that we now have the “completed” story as well as the published Silmarillion, the latter of which contains that larger mythology.

Most people think that Tolkien wrote the Silmarillion first, then The Hobbit, then Lord of the Rings, and then just fucked off and died. But it’s not nearly that simple.

Two things should always be remembered. First, that when the Lord of the Rings was originally released (1954-55), the published Silmarillion, as we know it now, didn’t exist (and wouldn’t for another two decades). Second, we need to understand that the Silmarillion as we know it now, was no where near completion. In fact, Tolkien worked out many of the things we know as canon during the writing of Lord of the Rings. For example, Galadriel as a character did not exist prior to her appearance in Fellowship of the Ring. She was later reincorporated into the Silmarillion material.

Which parts of the Silmarillion that existed and didn’t exist prior to the writing of Lord of the Rings is covered in the twelve volume History of Middle-earth series by Christopher Tolkien. It’s exhaustive and exhausting and there’s no way to even paraphrase that in a blog post.

So as an exemplar, let’s look at the evolution of the Beren and Luthien story and how it effected the mythology over all, including Aragorn and Arwen, as well as the whole halfelf, moral/immortal deal.

Tolkien began writing the tale of Beren and Luthien 1917. It’s certainly not the oldest of the Book of Lost Tales, which was what the young Tolkien was calling the material that would later become the Silmarillion, but it predated the writing of the Turin Turambar story by a couple of years.

In the original draft, Beren was an Elf (technically a “Gnome” – the word he used and then dropped for the Noldor), as was Luthien. While Beren noticed Luthien’s woodland dancing, they were not in love and never married. They had adventures that mostly echoed all through the proceeding versions of the story, but their relationship wasn’t steamy in the least.

The oldest existing draft is actually the second draft. The first was erased so that the second one could be composed over top of it. Tolkien did this (and similar things like it) regularly. Waste not, want not, I suppose.

After “finishing” as much of the Book of Lost Tales that he was going to finish, Tolkien began to transcribe and rewrite two of the longer tales into “lays,” long poems. The first, started in 1920, was the Lay of the Children of Hurin (including the story of Turin Turambar). Working on it for five years, he abandoned it for the Lay of Leithian, which he also called The Gest of Beren and Luthien (gest, pronounced “jest,” means long narrative poem).

Within the earlier Lay of the Children of Hurin, Tolkien referenced the tale of Beren and Luthien. In this retelling, Beren was still an Elf, but those two crazy kids were now in love! With this new found bit of information, it’s no wonder why Tolkien scrapped the amazingly depressing Turin Turambar story and focused instead on the love story of Beren and Luthien.

He started writing the epic in August of 1925, working on it for just over six years. Like the previous poem, he never finished it. Perhaps the line said by Aragorn to the hobbits on Weathertop, that the story of Beren and Luthien “is a long tale of which the end is not known,” was a dig at himself for never finishing the damn thing.

In 1931, the poems were abandoned and Tolkien moved onto two very different pieces of literature. First, he returned to the Silmarillion prose, which he had been dabbling with for the past year (1930). Here, some major changes occurred. Central to our story, is the idea that certain individuals, the offspring of Men and Elves, can choose to be either mortal or immortal.

But this didn’t come right away. I explained yesterday how the whole Halfelf mortal/immortal thing works – basically it was deemed so by Manwe when Earendil illegally sailed west to Valinor. In the earliest versions, contained in the Book of Lost Tales (from 1917ish), Earendil automatically had the same fate as Men because “so much of the mortal is in him.” When first written, Earendil was the only Halfelf in the legendarium – Tolkien was still writing Beren as a full Elf. He would, of course, soon change this.

Tolkien first broached the subject of a choice (though not this choice) around 1930ish, when trying to figure out what to do with the Elrond character. At this point, Elrond was the only child of Earendel and Elwing. When the Elves returned to the West, Elrond decided to stay “on earth” and be “bound by his mortal half.” In a note added to this manuscript, Tolkien first jotted that Elrond had a brother, Elros.

He then put this aside around 1932 as he took out a scrap of paper and scribbled “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” The next few years would be taken up by the writing of The Hobbit, which was published in 1937. Shortly after he was finished with it, he began to write the first draft of the Lord of the Rings, but he also returned once more to the Silmarillion material.

It was in 1938 (the year in which he finished the so-called Third Phase of writing Lord of the Rings) when he came back to the Halfelf question of Elrond and Elros. For the first time, Elrond chose to be an Elf, and Elros chose to be a mortal. Tolkien addressed this by dipping back into the tale of their father, Earendil, and his illegal journey to Valinor in the West.

“Now all those who have the blood of mortal Men, in whatever part, great or small, are mortal, unless other doom be granted to them; but in this matter the power of doom is given to me. This is my decree: to Earendel and to Elwing and to their sons shall be given leave each to choose freely under which kindred they shall be judged.” – Manwe

This was probably ironed out within the same year as he was writing about Elrond in the Lord of the Rings. This decree would be fine-tuned here and there, but it’s basically the same as alluded to in the Appendix A of Lord of the Rings. It’s nearly identical to that given in the published Silmarillion.

For about a decade, Tolkien worked on Lord of the Rings, finishing the main story in 1948. When it came time to write the Appendices, which he had fiddled with throughout the later stages of writing the main text, he penned a longer version of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, much of which made the final cut in the published Appendices of Return of the King in 1955.

After the Lord of the Rings was published, Tolkien would return to the Silmarillion material, working on it until his death in 1973.

A Few Notes:

  • Tolkien switched between the spellings of “Half-elf” and “Halfelf”. I chose the latter because I did. Same goes for Earenel/Earendil.
  • I probably should have footnoted this beast of a post, so if you have a question about sources, just ask. The books used, apart from the obvious, were History of Middle-earth, Volumes I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and IX; as well as the History of the Hobbit by John D. Rateliff.
  • Jeff and SJ both wanted longer blog posts. How’s this for size?

About the Photo
The ground in this photo somewhat reminds me of the ground over which our heroes are tramping, but mostly I selected it because it was taken with a camera that is a contemporary of Tolkien’s earliest writings. The camera, a Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D hails from 1914, making it 100 years old. It still works like new.

  • Day 57
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 276
  • 184 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,503 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Still south of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop (map)

Maybe My Doom Will Be Not Unlike Hers

Camera: Kodak Duaflex II (1950) || Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 08/1994 -- xpro as C-41)

Camera: Kodak Duaflex II (1950) || Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 08/1994 — xpro as C-41)

Our hobbits and Strider continue tramping their weary way south of the East Road. It’s the 16th day of the journey, and their 2nd day from Weathertop.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Yesterday, I wrote about how Aragorn told the hobbits the story of Beren and Luthien, and assumed that he thought of that story because he was thinking about the time when he first met Arwen. I got to the point when Aragorn told Arwen that she looked an awful lot like Luthien of Silmarillion fame. I stopped short of her reply.

“So many have said,” she answered gravely. “Yet her name is not mine. Though maybe my doom will be not unlike hers.”

This is a ridiculously loaded statement that requires quite a bit of explanation. First, let’s check out the word “doom.” Tolkien used this word to mean, more or less, “fate.” It doesn’t have to be bad, as “doom” is usually defined today. Arwen seemed a bit worried that her fate might be like Luthien’s.

So what was Luthien’s fate? This is a long story, which won’t be recounted here (read it in the Silmarillion, if you like). Basically, Elves are not mortals, and though they can be killed, they have no natural death and can live “forever.” In order for Luthien (an Elf) to be with Beren (a Man), she had to give up her immortality, essentially choosing death in order to love Beren.

Arwen was in much the same boat, though the backstory is a touch more complicated. So let’s head back in time to explain all of this away.

It all started with Tuor, one of the Children of Hurin. He was a mortal, but he fell in love with Idril, an Elf. Together, they had Earendil. At this point, when a Man and an Elf had a child together, the child was fully mortal, not being “elf” enough to be considered an Elf. This would soon change.

Earendil married Elwing, who was Beren and Luthien’s granddaughter. It’s a bit tricky, so let’s explain that.

Beren and Luthien had a son named Dior. He was a strange mix of half-Man, quarter-Elf, and quarter-Maiar. He married Nimloth, a fully-blooded Elf, and together they had a daughter, Elwing, who was then a Halfelf (technically 5/8 Elf, but close enough). Elwing then married Earendil, the Halfelf son of Tuor. Both were mortal due to their not-enough-elfness.

Anyway, the story gets pretty insane, and basically, shit went down and Earendil had to go to the West, Valinor, seeking the help of the Valar to put down the Dark Lord Morgoth. But here’s the rub – Valinor was completely off-limits to mortals. If mortals stepped foot in it, they would quickly die. That’s just how it worked.

Figuring he would risk it to save both Elves and Men, Earendil landed (climbing the hill of Tuna – seriously, Tuna) and Manwe, head of the Valar, heard him out, decided not only to save him from dying, but to help the Elves and Men against Morgoth. He also went a step further.

Manwe made it so that Earendil and Elwing, as well as their children would “be given leave each to choose freely to which kindred their fates shall be joined, and under which kindred they shall be judged.”

Both Earendil and Elwing chose to be Elves, but their sons, Elrond and Elros, each chose a different fate. Elrond, of course, chose to be an Elf, eventually winding up in Rivendell, while Elros chose to be mortal. From Elros’ line came the long string of Numenorian kings, as well as Aragorn. Once Elros made the decision to be mortal, all of his offspring would then also be mortal and would not have the choice to be Elves.

And since Elrond chose to be an Elf (immortal), his offspring would also have that choice. Arwen was Elrond’s daughter, and could choose the fate of either Elf or Man. “Though maybe my doom will be not unlike hers,” she said to Aragorn. At this point, the vote was still out. Would she be immortal like her father or mortal like Luthien?

Elrond was naturally not keen on this idea. “She is too far above you,” he actually said to Aragorn. Elves can be pretty dickish sometimes. “But there will be no choice before Arwen, my beloved [daughter], unless you, Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, come between us and bring one of us, you or me, to a bitter parting beyond the end of the world.”

I guess it’s pretty obvious which she chose, and by the time of the Lord of the Rings Arwen had made her decision, much to the dismay of her cranky father. Though Arwen had pledged her love to Aragorn, they would not be married until he was king (this was at Elrond’s begrudging request).

A Few Notes:

  • Just for fun, let’s look at some dates, all from the Third Age:

241 – Arwen is born
2931 – Aragorn is born (so yeah, this makes Arwen 2,690 years older than Aragorn)
2941 – Stuff in The Hobbit happens
2951 – Aragorn and Arwen meet
2956 – Aragorn meets Gandalf and spends the next twenty-four years roving about the countryside.
2968 – Frodo is born
2980 – Aragorn and Arwen see each other again and become engaged to be married. Aragorn leaves again, doing Ranger type stuff.
3001 – Bilbo leaves the Shire and Gandalf calls upon Aragorn to help look for Gollum. This goes on for a very long time.
3018 – Frodo leaves the Shire and our story begins.

  • When I started writing this post, I was a bit shaky on how and why the whole Halfelf mortal/immortal business worked. I think I’ve got it now, but if I’m mistaken in some way, explain.
  • I know that I left a lot out of the stories, but that’s why we have books – dive in!
  • Luthien was born before the First Age – meaning that she was born before the Sun was created and thus basically before time was really all that important (eh, sorta). Beren was born in 432 of the First Age. This would make Luthien no less than 30,000 years older than Beren (though time is a bit fuzzy here). Anyway, the Beren and Luthien story takes place in the 400s of the First Age, about 7,000 years before Aragorn and Arwen meet in the Third Age.
  • Tomorrow we’ll dig into the writing history of all this. Be excited.

About the Photo
Since we’re talking about couples, I thought I’d share the only film photo I have of both Sarah and I together. When we travel, we take a ridiculous amount of photos, but rarely any with both of us in them. To achieve this photo, I actually had to set up a tripod and take a double exposure. I took the first exposure with Sarah in it, and she took the second one with me. Since the camera was not moved, it looks like we’re in the same shot, when really, we were not. This isn’t an allegory for anything. It’s just a photo.

  • Day 56
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 271
  • 189 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,508 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Still south of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop (map)

Strider Dips into the Classics, Retells the Beren and Luthien Story

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

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

It was through thickets and wide barren spaces that our proto-fellowship was tramping. They were marching east from, and staying south of the main road. It was their second day out from Weathertop.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
What I don’t want to do is just give a synopsis of the Beren and Luthien story. If you’ve read Lord of the Rings, this tale is in there, though much abbreviated from the Silmarillion version.

Instead, I’d like to figure out why Strider selected this specific tale to tell. He and the hobbits were sitting around the fire, trying to keep their minds off of the Nazgul, which were gathering below them. Merry asked Strider to tell the story of Gil-galad, but Strider didn’t seem all that interested (since it involved Mordor).

It was Sam who suggested that he “tell us some other tale of the old days … a tale about the Elves before the fading time.” Before the telling, Strider explained that it was sad, “as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.”

This was certainly one reason that Strider would choose this. It was a romantic tale, full of intrigue and action. Like any such movie or Spanish soap opera, it took the minds of the spectators off of their present troubles. It was sad, but in the end, it would lift their spirits.

Tolkien makes no mention of Strider seeming sad or longing, but just before Merry asks him to tell them a story, he was sitting “a little apart, drawing thoughtfully at his pipe.” Perhaps the story of Beren and Luthien Tinuviel was on his mind.

If so, it wouldn’t be the first time he had found himself alone in the wilderness singing this song. In “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen,” Tolkien wrote that “Aragorn walked alone in the woods, and his heart was high within him […] For Aragorn had been singing a part of the Lay of Luthien which tells of the meeting of Luthien and Beren in the forest of Neldoreth.”

That was when he first saw Arwen, and he was so wrapped up in the Beren and Luthien story that he began to call to her, “Tinuviel, Tinuviel!”

The Silmarillion tells how an incredibly exhausted Beren wandered in the woods and discovered Luthien, the daughter of an Elf and a Maiar, “as she danced upon the unfading grass in the glades beside Esgalduin.” All the pain and exhaustion he was feeling was immediately forgotten “for Luthien was the most beautiful of all the Children of Illuvatar.”

Beren was dumbstruck and Luthien was gone! She had seemed to simply vanish. Beren then “strayed long in the woods, wild and wary as a beast, seeking for her. In his heart he called her Tinueviel, that signifies Nightingale, daughter of twilight, in the Grey-elven tongue, for he knew no other name for her.” It would many months before he saw her again.

Wishing to avoid such an inconvenience, Aragorn, wrapped up in the Lay of Luthien, and not knowing that her name was Arwen, called out “Tinueviel, Tinueviel!” And then rather than disappearing, Arwen turned to him and asked why he called her that.

“Because I believed you to be indeed Luthien Tinueviel of whom I as singing. But if you are not she, then you walk in her likeness.” Aragorn, you see, was quite the charmer.

Of course, both stories have their differences, but there were enough similarities and ties that it would be almost surprising if Strider was not thinking of his Arwen when he was on Weathertop. His heart, like the hobbits’, needed lifting.

Strider told the hobbits that the line of Luthien still existed, and that Elrond of Rivendell was her great-grandson. Being, at this point, only known to the hobbits as Strider (and not Aragorn), he left out the bit that he was also related to her through Elrond’s brother, the first Numenorian King, Elros.

A Few Notes:

  • Arwen was worried (or at least mentioned) that her “doom” might be like Luthien’s. There’s so much to explain here that I’m going to give it its own post. Tomorrow.
  • With the published Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion, this is what we know to be true. But while Tolkien was writing it, how much was figured out before hand? I think I’ll take up that task soon. It’s complex and I still need to connect some dots.

About the Photo
I don’t really know if the ground over which our hobbits are trodding was littered with boulders, but otherwise, this could be it. Yes, a photo taken in a forest would be much more appropriate to the subject matter, but as it turns out, though I’ve got over 800 photos on my flickr account, not one of them is of a forest. I tend not to like forests (and we’ve got some great ones in Washington). I should probably change this.

  • Day 55
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 266
  • 194 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,513 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Still south of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop (map)

A Detour to Tolkien on Vinyl

I just wanted to let you know that I am now on Twitter – @ToMordor – Feel free to follow my antics there as well.

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

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

Our hobbits and Strider continue their tiring trek south of the Road, moving away from Weathertop. “It was a cheerless land.”

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Since Sundays are generally the slowest of the blogging days, and because there’s not much to talk about as the Funky Four + 1 trip trap away from Weathertop, I’ll do a little bit of show and tell.

Some Tolkien bloggers like to show off their first edition books or their limited edition Frodo action figures, but since I have neither, I’d like to show you a few records.


In 1967, J.R.R. Tolkien went into a studio and was recorded reading a handful of poems – enough to fill a little over a side of a vinyl LP. This became Poems and Songs of Middle Earth, and was released by Caedmon Records. Side A is simply Tolkien reading some poems from the Adventures of Tom Bombadil collection, while Side B is made up of piano music and bombastic singing that, quite honestly, sounds like a parody of something.

Then, in 1975, Caedmon released a 1952 recording of Tolkien reading and singing selections from The Hobbit, Fellowship of the Rings, Two Towers, and Return of the King. Here, it is just his voice.

The first record, containing sections from The Hobbit and Fellowship, is quiet and the audio quality is lacking. But it’s still wonderful to hear Tolkien do the voice of Gollum.

The second, which makes up the rest of the recordings, is of much better sound quality.


What’s interesting about these recordings is that they were made in 1952, two to three years before the release of Lord of the Rings. Because of this, there are a few differences, including the poem “The Mirror of Galadriel,” which didn’t make it into the final draft.

Then, in 1977, to accompany the publication of The Silmarillion, Caedmon Records released a recording of Christopher Tolkien reading most of chapter 19, “Of Beren and Luthien,” as well as “The Darkening of Valinor” and “The Flight of the Noldor.” These are, unsurprisingly, of much better sound quality.

These are incredibly important recordings, and thus incredibly important records. You digital folks can get them on The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection CD, but I’ll keep my vinyl, thanks.

The first person who I heard read Tolkien was Rob Inglis, who, for my money, absolutely nailed it. Also, Martin Shaw’s rendition of The Silmarillion was pretty spot on (with less mispronunciations that you might imagine).

Obviously, the professional voice actors are going to do a better job at dramatic readings than either Tolkien or his son. These are professionals and they really bring the books to life. That said, hearing Tolkien read and sing brings the writing to life in ways that no voice actor could.

A Few Notes:
I’m actually missing the second Silmarillion record and am still on the hunt for it. Maybe someday, it’ll wind up in my collection.

When I first heard the recordings, to be honest, I was sort of turned off. Tolkien seems to read too quickly and it’s not very dramatic. But listening to them now, I think I like them. It’s something you’ve got to settle into.

About the Photo
This photo was taken by Sarah of my turntable and jackalope decanter (plus a few cameras). The negative was reclaimed by me and the weird smudges are from the bleach used in the process.

  • Day 54
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 261
  • 199 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,518 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: South of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop (map)

It Is a Strange Road – The Impossible Distance from Weathertop to Rivendell

Camera: Tru-View (Diana Clone, circa 1960) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten (expired 12/1994, x-pro)

Camera: Tru-View (Diana Clone, circa 1960) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten (expired 12/1994, x-pro)

Our heroes are beat. As they walk along, Frodo notices how “their back bowed under their burdens. Even Strider seemed tired and heavy-hearted.” There are many miles to go – but how many?

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Yesterday, I reached the milestone of 250 miles since leaving Hobbiton. And so, by this point in the story, our hobbits had tramped 250 miles. When they got to Weathertop (240 miles from Hobbiton), Merry asked Strider how far it was to Rivendell. Strider didn’t know, and he gave some vague answer like “Some say it is so far, and some say otherwise.” This road was a “strange road,” he said.

He claimed that he could do it in twelve days under the right conditions. With the hobbits, however, he gave himself two extra.


In a project such as this, I need exact measurements. Unfortunately, those do not exist. In some places, Tolkien was just fuzzy. Fortunately, we’ve got two sources – the Atlas of Middle-earth and Journeys of Frodo that contain much of the work we might use to figure it out.

The chart I’m employing for the mileage is based off of the Atlas, which itself is vague in some areas. For example, the mileage given for October 18th, when the proto-fellowship comes across the Trolls, is 34-21 miles (whatever that means – why the larger number is first, I have no idea). The chart I use seems to split the differences.

So to answer Merry’s question, we’ve got to do some math and some estimating. In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien gives the mileage from Bree to Rivendell as 348 miles. The distance from Bree to Weathertop isn’t given, so we have to look at the maps and give it our best guess, which is 95 miles by the East Road. Since the hobbits didn’t stick to the road, their actual mileage was about 106.

Answering Merry’s question is now simple, though not perfect. It’s 253 East Road miles from Weathertop to Rivendell. So then why is it, according to the Atlas, between 196 and 232 miles from Weathertop to Rivendell? I have absolutely no idea. Tolkien was vague, the world is imaginary, and there’s no actual way to tell. If you think about this for too long, you’ll end up in a puddle of frustrations. Repeat to yourself it’s just a book, you should really just relax.

In an early draft (as given in The Return of the Shadow), Tolkien did try to nail it down by having Strider (Trotter, actually) tell Merry that it was 120 miles from Bree to Weathertop by the East Road, and “close on 200 from Weathertop to the Ford [of Bruinen – near Rivendell].” It should tell us something that Tolkien backed off of the specifics. For this part of the story, it’s a detail, but hardly an interesting one (which is why I’m writing about it?)


For my own travels in Middle-earth, I’m sticking by the chart here, and the figure of 218 miles from Weathertop to Rivendell. It’s a nice, middle of the road number. I have no real idea how it was figured out, but that’s okay, as I’m just along for the journey and am perfectly fine with some things just not adding up.

A Few Notes:

  • There’s actually a rather large (in distance) mistake in the published Lord of the Rings. At the Prancing Pony, Strider tells Sam that Weathertop was halfway between Bree and Rivendell. This, even according to Tolkien’s own maps, is impossible. What he probably meant to write was that Weathertop was halfway between Bree and the Last Bridge. This is actually a leftover from an early draft where Weathertop really was halfway between Bree and Rivendell (which always seemed to be the same distance away from each other. When he moved the mountain, he forgot to adjust the relative distances.
  • I’m really glad that someone before me figured out all this stuff. Even with my unhealthy love of maps, I couldn’t have sussed out the details.

About the Photo
Oh hell, I had to use something, didn’t I? I figure that if the road wasn’t measured beyond the Forsaken Inn, it must have been fairly primitive.

  • Day 53
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 256
  • 204 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,523 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: South of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop (map)

A Desperate Desire to Disregard All Warnings

Camera: Holga 120N Film: Fujichrome Provia 100F x-pro as C-41

Camera: Holga 120N
Film: Fujichrome Provia 100F x-pro as C-41

After crossing the East Road, our Hobbits and Strider, the proto-Fellowship, make their way across a wild and pathless slope full of bushes and stunted trees. “It was a cheerless land, and their journey was slow and gloomy.”

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
For the next week or so, as the hobbits tramp uneasily across a barren land, let’s continue to take a look at the happenings at Weathertop from the night before. When I read the passage of the attack, something about the Ring struck me. Tolkien mentions that three parties had very different reactions to it.

When the Nazgul attacked, Merry and Pippin threw themselves on the ground out of fear and weren’t part of the picture. Sam, who “shrank to Frodo’s side,” was just as scared. Frodo’s fear, which was as great as the other hobbits’, was overtaken by the urge to put on the Ring. His fear was enough to make him shake and to freeze him, but the Ring’s call was even stronger.

In the first draft (as given in The Return of the Shadow), which is strikingly similar, Tolkien goes on to explain a bit more of what was going on in Frodo’s mind:

“It [the temptation to put on the Ring] seized him, and he could think of nothing else. He did not forget the Barrow, nor the message of Gandalf, but he felt a desperate desire to disregard all warnings. Something seemed to be compelling him; he longed to yield. Not with the hope of escaping, or of doing anything, good or bad. He simply felt that he must take the Ring and put it on his finger. He could not speak. He struggled for a while, but resistance became unbearable; and at last he slowly drew out the chain, unfastened the Ring, and put it on the forefinger of his left hand.”

Just as Frodo was about to slip on the Ring, Sam looked at him “as if he knew that his master was in some great trouble.” Frodo was in trouble, and it probably didn’t take a genius to figure this out. And then Frodo vanished.

Sam “to his horror” saw it happen. One second, Frodo was there, petrified before him, and the next, he was gone. This had happened once before at Tom Bombadil’s house, but this was incredibly different. Just as Frodo disappeared, a black shadow (one of the Nazgul) rushed past him. He heard Frodo’s voice, seemingly from far away, saying strange words (like “O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!”), but then it was quiet and he saw nothing more.

When Frodo slipped on the Ring, everything around him – the land, the sky, the rocks, the whole of the scenery, remained the same. The Ringwraiths, once seen only as shadows “became terribly clear.” He was even able to see beneath their black wrappings. The Nazgul were clothed in real cloaks made of real fabric. This was because otherwise they were not perceptible by anyone.

Under these cloaks, Frodo saw that they actually wore long gray robes. They had gray hair and “helms of silver.” Their leader, the Witch-king of Angmar, actually wore a crown and came at Frodo armed with a long sword and a knife. Both the knife and the hand glowed.

When Frodo wore the Ring, and as soon as he became “invisible,” he was visible to the Nazgul. Immediately, “Their eyes fell upon him and pierced him, as they rushed towards him.” Later, Gandalf will explain to Frodo that he was half in the wraith-world and half in the real world. With the Ring upon his finger, they could not only see him, but could also have seized him. “You could see them, and they could see you.”

In an early manuscript of “The Hunt for the Ring,” as given in A Reader’s Companion, written after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien personifies the Witch-king’s reaction after noticing it was Frodo who bore the Ring: “[The Witch-king] now knows who is the Bearer, and is greatly puzzled that it should be a small creature, and not Aragorn, who seems to be a great power though apparently ‘only a Ranger.'”

There’s much more to this manuscript, which I’ll get into at another time. Same goes for Gandalf’s words about the Nazgul. Stay tuned, true believers!

A Few Notes:

  • Do you have any idea how difficult it is not to just ramble on about theories and stray from this topic to others? I do my best to keep things orderly here.
  • I started writing about the Nazgul’s horses, but figured I’d save that until later, after we meet Glorfindel. Seriously, it’s interesting.
  • Lastly, is anyone else reading Grumpy Elrond? I love it.

About the Photo
I’m not exactly in love with this one. It was taken on a dark and gloomy day atop a rise near Baker City, Oregon. It’s actually overlooking the Oregon Trail. Apart from the bits of houses below, this is a fine match for the “cheerless land” dotted with bushes and stunted trees. The mountains in the background could very well be the Misty Mountains (why not?). Is that the East Road etched into the side of the hill? Of course it is, what else would it be?

  • Day 52
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 251
  • 209 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,528 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Just across the East Road, south of Weathertop (map)

And They Cried with the Voices of Death

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

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

Despite Frodo’s wound, our hobbits and Strider must carry on. They make it down the hill and cross the East Road. As they do, they hear the Nazgul screaming in the distance.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Over the next couple of weeks, our proto-Fellowship covers much ground, but with little description by Tolkien. Because of this, I thought I’d stick around Weathertop for a bit and do some exporing – both geographically and historically (and probably philosophically or whatever). Today, we’ll talk about the Nazgul. Yes, again.

I’ve given much of their history starting at around 1300 in the Third Age when they re-emerged to take over Arnor. But what were they doing before that? How did they come into existence?

As we all know, Sauron commissioned a mess of rings, giving scads of them to Elves, Dwarves and Men. The ones made for the Elves, were made by the Elves (well, Celebrimbor), and Sauron never had a hand in them. The ones for the Dwarves proved to be duds (relax, I’m simplifying here), but the ones made for Men, well, let’s back up a bit.

Around 1,000 years into the Second Age (roughly 5,500 years before Lord of the Rings), Sauron began to set up shop in Mordor and takes his time convincing he local Elves that he’s actually a pretty swell guy. In 1500, Sauron convinced them that making the Rings of Power would be an awesome idea. Basically, these were to be “magic” rings – they were gifts from Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, as Sauron was calling himself in those days.

But what they didn’t know was that Sauron also created the One Ring, which would, as the saying goes, rule them all. The Elves quickly caught on and thus the war broke out and the three Elven rings were hidden. The same could not, however, be said for the nine rings given to Men.

Sauron feared the Numenorians and for a time kept away from the shores where they were landing their ships. Nevertheless, when he gave the nine rings to Men, there were three among them who were “great lords of Numenorian blood” – not kings or anything like that, but still, Numenorians of high standing. The other six when to “kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old.” This was probably during the reign of Tar-Minastir, I think.

While the rings given to Men and Dwarves were basically the same (and possibly even forged at the same time – though maybe not – Tolkien said different things about this), they effected Men in some pretty nasty ways.

“They [the Men wearing the nine rings] obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, has it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron.

And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thraldom of the ring that they bore and under the domination of the One, which was Sauron’s. And they became for ever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows.

The Nazgul were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy’s more terrible servants’ darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.” – Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”

This sheds a bit of a different light on things that we might normally think (especially if you take that Peter Jackson fellow at his word). The nine men did not die. That’s the thing – they never died at all. They simply stopped being men, they stopped living. Some lasted longer than others. Some appear to have had good intentions. But in the end, and by 2251 of the Second Age, all of them became Nazguls.

About 1,000 years later, Sauron (sans Ring) was taken prisoner by the Numenorians and taken to Numenor. This was during the rule of Ar-Pharazon. It wasn’t that the good Numenorians were battling against the evil Sauron. By this point, they had mostly rejected the Valar in the West (except for the king previous to Ar-Pharazon).

The strife between Sauron and Numenor was due to rivalry. Each wanted what they other had. And when the Numenorians captured Sauron, he soon convinced them that not only was he a fine fellow, but that worshiping Morgoth was the thing to do. Before long, the Numenorians, with Sauron’s nudging, decided to attack the West.

That ended badly. In 3319 of the Second Age, the Numenorians were defeated, Numenor was sunk, Middle-earth completely changed, and Sauron was rendered without a body. He wasn’t made of normal flesh, of course, but it was made that he could “never again appear fair to the eyes of Men.”

Sauron’s spirit rose and went back to Middle-earth, finally coming to rest in Mordor, where he once more took up the Ring. It was in Mordor where the Nazgul had been waiting. Sauron was not finished.

Some faithful Numenorians (the Dunedain), led by Elendil, escaped the destruction and came to Middle-earth. Sauron wasn’t at all happy with this, and waged war upon them. Eventually, he was beaten back to Mordor and Isildur defeated Sauron, cutting the Ring from his hand. With this, “Sauron forsook his body, “and his spirit fled far away and hid in the waste places.” He was then mostly forgotten.

The Nazgul, from all I can tell, were hardly mentioned in all of this. It can be assumed that they played a large roll in the fighting, of course. With Sauron vanquished, they went into hiding until around 1050 of the Third Age when Sauron returned to Middle-earth as the Necromancer, setting up shop in Mirkwood. Less than 300 years later, the Nazgul returned and waged war from Angmar against Arnor.

A Few Notes:

  • For some reason, this one was incredibly difficult to write. Tracking down this information isn’t easy. Most of it came from the Silmarillion, but other stuff came from Appendix A and Unfinished Tales.
  • I’m sort of bummed that I didn’t uncover some little-known fact about who the nine ring bearers originally were. There’s just not much information about them.

About the Photo
Loose at night – get it? I took a few shots of this sign with a few different cameras. This was taken with a Polaroid. It’s a “reclaimed negative.” The red sky was due to bleach (used in the process) getting on the photo-side of the negative.

  • Day 51
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 246
  • 214 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,533 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Just crossing the East Road, south of Weathertop (map)

More Deadly to Him was the Name of Elbereth (Day 50)

Camera: Holga 120N Film: FujiChrome Provia 100 (x-pro as C-41)

Camera: Holga 120N
Film: FujiChrome Provia 100 (x-pro as C-41)

Here comes peril! Our hobbits and Strider make it to Weathertop, but split up before seeing a number of Black Riders on the plain below. After Strider tells them stories to calm them, the Nazgul attack! Frodo’s will loses out to the Ring, but he still manages to make them flee – but not before he is seriously injured.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 11-12 (p186-199 50th Anniv. Ed.)
There is so much to talk about with this scene on Weathertop. In fact, there is so much that I’ll be talking about it for days. The miles following Weathertop are scantly described and time is compacted into another walking montage. I’ll take that time to talk more about any number of things concerning this passage.

But as far as overall observations, the thing that really struck me this time was how quickly the attack came and went. It’s really just a lunge, a counter-lunge, and a retreat – with a couple of stabs thrown in for good measure. It’s dramatic, but not overly so. Hell, the related story of Baren and Luthien takes up several times as much space.

For today, my question is this:
Would Frodo have been able to drive off the Nazgul if he had not put on the Ring? It was because of Ring-o-Vision that he was able to see them. Everyone else saw “nothing but vague shadowy shapes coming towards them.” More than likely, if he had not slipped on the Ring, that’s all Frodo would have seen.

Once the Ring was on his finger, “their eyes fell on him and pierced him, as they rushed towards him.” Jumping ahead a touch, Gandalf will tell Frodo that “You were in the gravest peril while you wore the Ring, for then you were half in the wraith-world yourself, and they might have seized you. You could see them, and they could see you.” But, if Frodo had remained as he was, sans Ring, would the Nazgul have come specifically for him? Apparently not.

Frodo had cut the Nazgul leader’s cloak and pierced his foot – something he wouldn’t have been able to do without the Ring (since he wouldn’t have been able to see them). To that, Strider says: “This was the stoke of Frodo’s sword […] The only hurt that it did to his enemy, I fear; for it is unharmed, but all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.”

Strider is saying that the only hurt that Frodo’s sword did to the Nazgul was to cut the King’s cloak. Frodo “struck at the feet of his enemy,” apparently hitting both the cloak and piercing the King. [see comments below about this]

Strider then concludes: “More deadly to him [the Witch-king] was the name of Elbereth.” Since Strider said “more deadly,” it should be okay to conclude that Frodo’s sword (which he got at the Barrow-downs and was of Numenorian descent) did at least some damage.

So the question is, then, would Frodo have called the name of Elbereth if he had not put on the Ring?

A Few Notes:

  • Through the next week or two, while writing about this, I’m sure I’ll have tons of questions and few answers. It would be great if you, dear friends, could help me out. Also, if you have ideas for topics specifically concerning this passage, post it in the comments section and we can address them.
  • I’ve actually got a list of things I want to discuss – from the Nazgul’s horses, to the distance from Rivendell; from Frodo’s wound to (of course) the older manuscripts; from Baren and Luthien to the Nazguls’ movements.
  • My suggestion to you would be to read this passage. It begins with “It was already mid-day when they drew near the southern end of the path….” in chapter 11, and ends right before “They made their way slowly and cautiously round the south-western slopes….”
  • Did I just give a homework assignment? Crazy. See you tomorrow!

About the Photo
Yeah. You tell me this isn’t Weathertop. Go ahead.

  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 241
  • 219 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,538 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: On Weathertop. Lookout! (map)