The Escape and Paths of Gandalf the Grey (Day 33)

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)

Our hobbits, led by Strider, continue east through the woody Chetwood.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 11 (p182, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
With another day of simply peaceful and uneventful walking, it gives me a chance to look back to see where Gandalf is at this time. Just like I did yesterday with the Nazgul, let’s figure out how far behind us the old wizard is.

In the book, the day is October 1. The hobbits have been on the road for nine days. Two weeks back, on September 18, Gandalf escaped Orthanc. He had been kept as a prisoner by Sarumon the not-so-White since July 10th. For two months Gandalf was kept in the same tower that Sarumon used to watch the stars. Here, Gandalf could see orcs and wolves kept by Sarumon. He saw that the land around it was desolate and a thick smoke hung low to the ground, making it seem as if Gandalf “stood alone on an island in the clouds.

On September 18th, Gwaihir the Eagle rescued Gandalf. Prior to being imprisoned, Gandalf met Radagast the Brown who told him that the Nazgul were on the loose and looking for the Shire. But the message came from Sarumon, who thought to trick Radagast into sending Gandalf to Orthanc to trap him. However, before departing, Gandalf told Radagast to tell all the beasts to bring whatever news they might have to Orthanc. Radagast found the eagle Gwaihir, who went to Orthanc and found Gandalf. Gwaihir agreed to take Gandalf to Edoras so he could find a horse to take him to the Shire. (The Nazgul cross the Isen.)

On September 19th, Gandalf arrives at Edoras, but is turned away as a beggar.

The next day, September 20th, however, he has better luck and is allowed into the city. He begs King Theodin for a horse, and is told to pick whichever one he wants.

On September 21st, Gandalf chooses Shadowfax, the best horse in the land, but it takes him all day and some of the next to track him down and win him over.

September 22nd is spent by Gandalf in taming Shadowfax. (Meanwhile, the Nazgul reach Sarn Ford and battle the Rangers.)

September 23rd, Gandalf finally leaves Edoras in Rohan, riding west at a ridiculous pace. (The Nazgul enter the Shire, just as Frodo, Sam and Pippin leave it.)

On September 24th, Gandalf crosses the Isen, still riding westward. (The hobbits meet Gildor and the Elves after encountering the first Black Rider.)

For September 25th, nothing is said, and it can be assumed that Gandalf is still riding. (Hobbits dodge the Nazgul at the ferry.)

The same is true for the 26th, as Gandalf rides on. (Hobbits stay their first night with Bombadil.)

On September 27th, Gandalf, still riding, crosses the Greyflood. (Frodo and company spend the second night at Bombadils.)

The following day, the 28th, Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford in the southern part of the Shire around 2am. He has ridden 620 miles. Shadowfax’s average speed was 10mph. This seems a bit slow, but it’s the speed Toklien himself gave in one of the manuscripts which agrees with the final book. He meets with Rangers who tell him about the Black Riders. (Hobbit captured by Barrow-wights.)

And on the 29th, Gandalf finally reaches the Shire, five days after Frodo had left. There, he speaks to the Gaffer, Sam’s father. Mostly the Gaffer complains about the new residents of Bag-end, but Gandalf is able to gather that Frodo had left less than a week before, followed closely by the Nazgul. (Frodo and company arrive at Bree just before the two Nazgul.)

September 30th, Gandalf leaves the Shire, heading straight for Bree, hoping to catch up with Frodo. Along the way, he stops at Crickhollow, which had just been attacked by three Nazgul. The house was empty, but Frodo’s cloak was lying in the doorway. Gandalf became increasingly worried, not knowing that Frodo had given it to Fatty Bolger, who was staying in the house. Continuing on to Bree, Gandalf arrives near night, hours after the Hobbits, now led by Strider, left.

There, he meets Butterbur, who tells him that Frodo and company met up with Strider. Butterbur believes that to be bad news, but Gandalf is overjoyed. “May your beer be laid under an enchantment of surpassing excellence for seven years!” Gandalf stays he night at the Inn. Since the hobbits are with Strider, he probably assumes they’re in the woods and would not be able to be found.

That night, as many as five Nazgul attack the Inn while Gandalf is staying there. These are probably the three who attacked Crickhollow the previous night and two others (maybe from the Shire). This is in conflict with what I wrote yesterday, but only slightly.

October 1, Gandalf rides from Bree, apparently chasing the Nazgul. By the 3rd, he will catch up with them at Weathertop and do battle.

A Few Notes:

  • I realize that Eagles are very neutral with most things, but Gwihir seemed pretty okay with taking Gandalf wherever he wanted to go. He needed to get to the Shire, but instead had the eagle drop him off in Rohan, where he spent three days taming a horse. Gandalf could certainly use some better time management skills.
  • The discrepancy between today’s post and yesterdays when it comes to the Nazgul is probably a combination of my fault and Tolkien’s changing of their movements concerning Bree and Crickhollow. I’m sure it could be ironed out, but my brain is all melty now.
  • Most of this information comes from “The Council of Elrond” chapter and from the Tale of Years. I didn’t dip into the earlier manuscripts for fear of being even more confused.

About the Photo
Unlike the hobbits, Gandalf had to keep to the main road. How else could he do 620 miles in four days? Also note the gray clouds building in the east. Pretty nifty, huh?

Thoughts on the Exercising
I’m no Shadowfax. Today, I took it a bit slowly, but still managed a time good enough to make up for the doughnuts of yesterday and today (seriously, how can I resist such veganny goodnesses?). It feels good to have this kind of exchange. And in the process, I’m getting into better shape. Win/win/win!


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 155
  • 59 miles to Weathertop
  • 305 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,624 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Somewhere in the beautiful Chetwood. (map)

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3 thoughts on “The Escape and Paths of Gandalf the Grey (Day 33)

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