Today we check in with the hobbits and Strider. For real! Let’s see what they’ve been up to.
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p200, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve not paid much attention to the actual story because there isn’t much actual story. At the top of page 200, Tolkien begins “Before the first day’s march was over” and by the middle, he’s “At the end of the fifth day….”
Meaning the first and fifth day since leaving Weathertop, Tolkien gives us a montage of walking across a cheerless landscape as “behind them Weathertop slowly sank, and before them the distant mountains loomed a little nearer.” On the first day out, they heard the Nazguls’ cry, but there had been nothing since.
During the nights, which went undescribed, they expected “at any time to see black shapes stalking in the grey night, dimly lit by the cloud-veiled moon.” But they never saw a thing, but they feared that the Riders were waiting “to make some ambush in a narrow place.”
Finally, at the end of the fifth day, which is, according to the mileage that I’m using, at mile number 336 (which I’ll hit tomorrow, so I guess I’m getting a bit ahead of the proto-fellowship), the ground began to rise, leading them out of the valley they had been in for days. Strider turned them northeast and they made camp.
They wouldn’t reach the top of the rise until the next day, the fifth from Weathertop. In Tolkien’s original draft, however, it was the fourth day. Otherwise, the wording was nearly identical. Of note, they carried Gandalf’s firewood with them. The missing day would be made up later, after crossing the Last Bridge. There, the original version has one more day than the published version.
I’m sorry there’s not a whole lot more to say about this – there’s just not. But for the next four days, we’ll be filling the montage with quite a bit of fun, covering the original chapters two and three, as well as the very first origins of Isildor, including the seed of how he lost the Ring. I can’t wait to dig in!
A Few Notes
- I’m excited to dig into the early story of the death of Isildor. Tolkien told it three times (LotR, Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales) and each presented a different Isildor (and thus each should be taken on their own and not mashed into some composite). But what’s not generally looked into was where and how it evolved.
- Chapters Two and Three eventually became Chapters Three and Four in the published Lord of the Rings, though there are some bits which were added to the published Chapter Two. This is exciting!
About the Photo
I’m not sure if this is the perfect photo, but Tolkien describes the weather as sort of gloomy. This is a shot of the original Oregon Trail near Baker City, Oregon.
- Day 68
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 331
- 129 miles to Rivendell
- 1,448 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Still south of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop. (map)