Back on the Road, Strider and the hobbits come across the spot where Bilbo’s gold was hidden. Not long after, there hear hoof beats behind them!
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p208-9, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
In The Hobbit, after Gandalf defeated the Trolls, the party gathered some of the weapons found in the Troll-hole (ugh) and stashed the pots of gold in a hole in the ground not far off the East Road. They put “many spells over them, just in case they ever had a chance to come back and recover them.”
When the proto-fellowship in Lord of the Rings wandered by, “not far down the bank Strider pointed out a stone in the grass. On it roughly cut and now much weathered could still be seen dwarf-runes and secret marks.”
These apparently had something to do with the “many spells.” While the published version of Lord of the Rings is fairly vague about the markings, in his first draft, Tolkien was a bit more specific:
“Not far from the borders of the Road Trotter [proto-Strider] point out a stone in the grass’ on it roughly cut and much weathered could still be seen two runic letters G • B in a circle.” An illustration was even given:
This depiction lasted through three drafts, being nixed right before the final. These were written in Old English, so maybe it’s possible that they were cut because he developed another alphabet or at least decided not to use an existing one. No idea for sure, though.
After looking over the stone, Frodo wished, possibly out loud, “that Bilbo had brought home no treasure more perilous, nor less easy to part with.” Also, Merry asked him how much of Bilbo’s gold was left. “‘None at all,’ he said, ‘Bilbo gave it all away. He told me he did not feel it was really his, as it came from robbers.'”
This sentiment was a later addition. Originally, Frodo admitted “Bilbo and he himself had long ago spent all that gold.” In the next draft, Frodo “wished that Bilbo had brought home no treasure more perilous than stolen money rescued from trolls.” But there’s no mention (at least not in Christopher Tolkien’s paraphrasing) of how the money was spent. Whatever exactly happened in this second draft, seems to have been carried onto the third.
But when it came to the final draft for publication, Tolkien painted Bilbo in a much better light and let Frodo off the hook completely.
In the final part of this scene, the hobbits and Strider are walking down the East Road, looking for a place to camp. It was getting near dark “when they heard a sound that brought sudden fear back into their hearts: the noise of hoofs behind them.” This echoed their first night out of Hobbiton, when they encountered their first Black Rider.
Just as they did then, they scrambled off the road. They took to higher ground, and they could hear “a light clippety-clippety-clip” and soon after the sound of “small bells tinkling.” They did not know what it was, but it certainly didn’t sound like one of the Ringwraiths.
A Few Notes
- Sort of cliffhangery, no? Sorry about that.
- At one time, I was actually going to write a whole post about the Nazguls’ horses. But now I can’t remember what I wanted to say. I even wrote it down. But I lost it.
About the Photo
This is from the “Chinese” cemetery in Havre, Montana. I really wanted to get a good shot of these with the sunrise, but I got this instead. I really like the town of Havre, so I’m sure we’ll be back.
- Day 82
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 406
- 53 miles to Rivendell
- 1,373 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Book I, Chapter 12. Just off the Road, east of the Trollshaws, but west of the Bruinin. (map)