After several days scrambling over rocks in the Trollshaws, our proto-fellowship finally has some better ground for walking.
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p204, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Since Strider and the lads had an easy five miles, so should I! But there are a couple of things to talk about here. The passage opens just after breakfast on the twelfth day from Weathertop and twenty-fifth of their journey. Strider decides that he needs to check out the surroundings and takes Merry with him.
Merry is the most well-traveled of all the hobbits in the party, so it makes a bit of sense, though he doesn’t really say much and the conversation is all topical. They had just come over a pass and Strider walked back up to the summit to see what he could see. When they passed over it the day before, night had already fallen. In the daylight, however, he could see that they were going in the right direction (“more or less”).
They had strayed too far north and now they were pointed southeast. If they continued down this valley, the Misty Mountains would be on their left. Had they been going east, the mountains would be on their front. While descending the summit, Strider caught glimpses of the Loudwater River, also known as the Bruinen (which apparently means “noisy water” – go figure). The Loudwater flowed southwest until it met the Hoarwell, which the company had crossed not too long ago. Both rivers flowed out of the Misty Mountains. At the confluence, they form the Greyflood.
When he saw the Loudwater, Strider knew the East Road was close at hand. It was the only way to cross the river – at the aptly-named Ford of Bruinin. That it was the Ford of Bruinin indicated that there weren’t other fords. If they were going to cross the river, it would have to be on the East Road. Otherwise, they’d end up in the Misty Mountains and away from Rivendell, now incredibly close at hand.
But an obvious crossing, such as the Last Bridge had been, was dangerous. The party still had no idea why the Nazgul pursuing them had not cut them off at the bridge spanning the Hoarwell. And likewise, they (or at least Strider) could think of no reason at all why the Enemy wouldn’t be waiting for them at the obvious crossing of the Ford of Bruinin.
As for Frodo and his wound, he was feeling better, even after the nightmare-laden sleep of the previous night, when he dreamed of Nazguls on large winged creatures (!!!). Still, every once in a while, “a mist seemed to obscure his sight, and he passed his hands over his eyes.” I guess that helped.
Now that they were walking downhill, things were going more smoothly. Frodo was even able to mount the pony, who was able to pick out the smoothest path. Horses will do that.
Though the way was easy when compared to the past few days, it wasn’t any real type of path. But soon enough, Pippin, walking ahead of the group, came across one that came out of the hills behind them and led down into the woods below. Since it was pointed in the direction they needed to travel, they took it.
The path was purposefully made, with large boulder heaved out of the way. It hadn’t been used for some time, but it seemed as if it had been well traveled before. The path eventually became wider so that it was basically a rode. This made everybody more apprehensive. Though they had to go back to the East Road, maybe a road leading to it wasn’t the best idea if they were trying to ignore the Nazguls.
Following the path, it made a switchback to the left where it ran along a cliff. “In the stony wall there was a door hanging crookedly ajar upon one great hinge.”
To readers of The Hobbit, it should be clear where they are. And to Pippin, who was more than a little familiar with Bilbo’s stories, it was certain. “Surely this is a troll-hole, if ever there was one!” If Pippin knew where he was, though, he would not have been afraid.
This wasn’t just a troll-hole, but the Troll-hole from Bilbo’s tales. In The Hobbit, after escaping the Trolls. Though then it was hidden by bushes, “they came on a big door of stone leading to a cave.” Gandalf tried to open it with incantations, but it was Bilbo who had found a key. This is where Bilbo received his sword, Sting. Apparently, someone had left the door open when last visiting the troll-hole.
A Few Notes
- Troll-hole is a nasty sounding word.
- Sometimes I need these simple retelling days (with a bit of extra info) just to give me a bit of a break. It also helps to ground us to the narrative as it’s going along.
About the Photo
Speaking of well-made paths that once had heavy traffic, this is an old railroad cut that I wandered into while poking around a ghost town in Eastern Washington. It fits well enough.
- Day 79
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 391
- 68 miles to Rivendell
- 1,388 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Book I, Chapter 12. Deeper into the Trollshaws. (map)