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)

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31 thoughts on “More Deadly to Him was the Name of Elbereth (Day 50)

  1. I’ve always taken “struck at the feet of his enemy” to mean he missed. Frodo’s blade didn’t perish, so… Are you thinking that since Frodo’s wearing the ring, that negates the perishing thing?

  2. Okay, so I just re-read the passage, and i think I can see why I was always confused before.

    The only hurt that it did to his enemy, I fear; for it is unharmed,

    Is the “it” referring to the Rider or to Frodo’s sword?

    Is it “yeah, you struck your enemy, but it didn’t do any good and now you’ve ruined your damn sword” or is it “you didn’t do shit, cos who cares that his cloak was ripped”??

      • Depends on if you still think of the Nazgûl as needing gender normative pronouns. :/

        I’m pretty sure I always read it as the former, but now I just don’t know.

        .

        • But “king” would be male. So I think so.

          I’m arguing to be wrong because Frodo not piercing the Witch-king would better support my premise that the Ring was essential (or super helpful) in driving away The Nazgul.

  3. To me, it seems Stider is saying that the Witch King must not have been struck bodily, that the “only hurt” was to his(?) cloak. This must be so, since Frodo’s blade is intact — “it is unharmed” — and it’s known that “…all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.” Frodo’s blade is special, tho, but Stider might not at this point know that it is.

    • I think you’re right about this. He took a swing and missed, cutting only the cloak. Though why the Witch-king would have left it behind, I don’t know.

      Refresh me on this one – what’s special about Frodo’s knife/sword at this point?

      • Ack. Well, perhaps it wasn’t. Sorry, but I was likely conflating Frodo’s sword/dagger quality w/ Bilbo’s Sting; which *was* magical (in an Elven-magic sense), right? Still, Frodo’s weapon “got[ten] at the Barrow-downs and … of Numenorian descent” was perhaps not *magical*, but maybe of sufficient quality to survive a poke into the Witch King’s foot, where a “normal” blade would not? Ack, dunno. Shrug.

        • Oh no problem! It was from the Barrows, yeah. Sting came later – Bilbo will give it to him at Rivendell.

          I’m at the conclusion that Frodo took a swing and missed, and Strider was saying that he could tell that Frodo missed because, hey, your sword isn’t all melty.

      • So, would a scrap of cut-off cloak have been left behind after the fight? This brings up an issue you alluded to earlier, I think — namely, do the nine-rings fade the wearers *and* their belongings into the shadow world? And, if so, what is their ability then to affect the non-shadow world? Why would the cut-off scrap of cloak now be part of the “real” world and no longer in shadow?

        • It seems that the whole cloak was left behind. Those Nazgul! They wouldn’t be caught undead in something with a tear in it!

          The cloaks, like the horses, are part of the real world. They have to wear the cloaks so that people can see them. Otherwise, when they’d ride into the Shire asking for Baggins, people would be even more freaked out. When Frodo put on the Ring, he could see through the cloaks to their “fading” garments. In my post tomorrow, I actually talk about this.

          Their ability to effect the non-shadow world isn’t really all that much. Their chief weapon is fear – fear and surprise. Their chief weapons are fear, surprise and an almost fanatical devotion to the Dark Lord…. Amongst their weaponry… I’ll come in again.

          During the daylight, they’re very diminished, so it’s at night where their power lies. Also in fear. Their weapons – swords, knives, etc., are in the shadow world, but can, it seems, effect the “real” world. Towards the end, the Witch-king breaks Eowyn’s arm with his mace. Historically, their power was in the armies they raised.

          I hope that answers some questions. Maybe tomorrow’s post will answer (or raise) more.

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