Our hobbits and Strider set out on a frosty morning, heading toward Weathertop. Frodo makes a joke about eating so little that he’s becoming a wraith. Strider isn’t even a little amused.
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 11 (p184 50th Anniv. Ed.)
“Do not speak of such things!” said Strider quickly, and with surprising earnestness.
A few days ago, I wrote a bit about the origins of the character of Strider (note: not Aragorn – not yet). You can read all about that here. Basically, when Tolkien first conceived of the character, he was a hobbit named Trotter who wore wooden shoes. This idea lasted through the entire “First Phase” of writing, which spanned from the beginning of the story to after Rivendell.
But once Tolkien got that far, he stepped back and thought a bit about what to do next. Generally speaking, he wasn’t a writer who looked too far ahead – he was along for the journey as well, not fully knowing where it was going. It was at this time when he asked himself some good questions and even found a few answers.
Concerning Trotter, actually concerning that idea that all of Bree and everyone at the Prancing Pony were hobbits, he wrote: “Too many hobbits.” And so he decided that “Bree-folk are not to be hobbits. In the first phase of writing, even the Rangers were hobbits! Now he was reconsidering even this.
“Rangers are best not as hobbits, perhaps. But either Trotter (as a ranger) must be not a hobbit, or someone very well known: e.g. Bilbo.” That’s right, he was seriously considering making Trotter Bilbo in disguise. The reason he gives for not going that route was the “happily ever after” ending of The Hobbit.
He then began thinking “Who is Trotter?” He batted around the idea of him bing Fosco Took, Bilbo’s first cousin, “who vanished when a lad, owing to Gandalf.” That was more or less believable. He even dreamed up the idea that Frodo sort of remembered him. This grew from the line in The Hobbit where Bilbo remembers “Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for made adventures?” See, that makes even more sense.
From this, Tolkien still couldn’t make up his mind. The Rangers were to be Men, it seems, and Trotter a Man as well… unless he was a very well known hobbit.
Tolkien then began his second phase of writing, starting again from the beginning. However, he only got as far as the Old Forest before starting in on the third phase, which again took him back to Hobbiton. Through myriad changes, we eventually come to Bree and once more to Trotter.
It’s interesting that when we do, we find that Trotter is still a hobbit. Butterbur (who is now a Man) says that Trotter isn’t really a Ranger, though he behaves like one. From this we can see that the Rangers were indeed men, but Trotter was still, as Butterbur says, “a hobbit of some kind.”
My friend Jeff will appreciate that it’s in one of the final drafts of the third phase where Tolkien notes that the Rangers “are the last remnant of the kingly people from beyond the Seas.” However, it was merely a note and was set aside for the rest of the third phase.
But time is running short, dear readers. I’ll have to pick up the story in a couple of days.
A Few Notes:
- I really wanted to finish the Trotter stuff today, but that’s just not going to happen. It’s too fun to just rush through it all.
- Tolkien was the king of retcon. I wonder what J.K. Rowling might learn from this…
About the Photo
Well, I guess it just sort of reminded me of Weathertop. In a way. It’s actually an overlook near Grand Coulee Dam in Washington. I believe the structure is a sundial of some sort.
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 216
- 25 miles to Weathertop Summit
- 244 miles to Rivendell
- 1,563 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: An encampment by a stream.(map)