‘They Withdrew and I Pursued Them’ – Tracing Glorfindel from Rivendell to Frodo

With Tolkien once again in montage-mode, let’s take a gander at the past week and a half in the life of Glorfindel.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p211, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
In yesterday’s post, we met Glorfindel, an Elf-lord sent from Rivendell to find Frodo. He had been on the road for nine days and even confronted the Nazgul. Let’s see how this all relates to the narrative we’ve been following. Remember – in the story, it is now the night of October 18.

September 23 – Frodo left the Shire with Sam and Pippin.

September 24 – Frodo, Sam and Pippin encounter their first Black Rider, but they also meet Gildor and some other Elves who were kind of dicks to them. Gildor advices Frodo to push on steadily for Rivendell, and promises to send messages through the lands so that they might help him in some way.

September 29 – Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry meet Strider in Bree. It’s possible that Gildor’s message might have gotten through to him.

October 3 – Gandalf attacked on Weathertop by the Nazgul. Frodo and Strider see the lights from miles away, but do not know what’s going on, and know nothing of Gandalf’s whereabouts.

October 4 – Gandalf flees Weathertop at sunrise, but is pursued by four Nazgul (neither the Witch-king nor Khamul are among them). Though the Witch-king knows that Gandalf doesn’t have the Ring, he figures that he might know who and where the Ringbearer is.

October 5 – The Witch-king and Khamul, with three other Nazgul, remain near Weathertop and soon sense the Ring coming toward them.

October 6 – Strider and the Hobbits are attacked on Weathertop by five of the Nazgul.

October 7 – After being driven off, the Nazgul patrol the East Road to the Last Bridge, “knowing that it was practically impossible to cross the Greyflood” anywhere else. The remaining four are still to the north searching for Gandalf.

October 8 – Gildor’s messages reach Elrond in Rivendell. “They said that the Nine [Nazgul] were abroad, and that you [Frodo] were astray bearing a great burden without guidance, for Gandalf had not returned.” Also, they did not know that Strider was with Frodo.

October 9 – Though only a few in Rivendell could stand up against the Nazgul, Elrond dispatched those he could to the north, south and west, as he figured that Frodo would have left the road and ended up Illuvatar-knows-where in the Wilderness. Glorfindel was ordered to take the East Road. (This was Strider and the Hobbit’s third day from Weathertop.)

October 11 – After riding 100 miles east, Glorfindel reached the Last Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Mitheithel. There, he found three Nazgul, including Khamul, the Witch-king’s second. Glorfindel “left a token” on the bridge.

According to the rather humble accounting of Glorfindel: “Three of the servants of Sauron were upon the Bridge, but they withdrew and I pursued them westward.” He drove them down the East Road until they left it and dispersed.

Still on the East Road, Glorfindel comes upon the Witch-king himself, “but they turned away southward.” It was daytime, and the Nazgul were mostly powerless, especially against Glorfindel.

We saw something like this when one of the Nazgul fled as Gildor’s party arrived on September 24. But that was only one Rider and a whole flock of Elves. On the bridge, there were three Riders and only one Elf. But it was that Elf who caused them to withdraw from the bridge. And it was that Elf who pursued them in their retreat. Not only that, but when they met up with two others, they also fled!

This was, as we’ll find out, not the first meeting of these two. The Witch-king “flees into the pathless lands.” These were the same lands recently traversed by Strider and the hobbits on the way to the Last Bridge.”

October 13 – Seeing the bridge clear and the mysterious “pale-green jewel” dropped by Glorfindel, Strider identified it as an elf-stone, a beryl. It brought him a bit of hope. They crossed the bridge and turn north off the East Road. More than likely, Glorfindel remains west of the Last Bridge.

October 14 – The five Nazgul, including the Witch-king and Khamul, regroup (remember, the other four had not yet returned from their chase of Gandalf). They sense that the Ring has crossed the Last Bridge and their chance of cutting off the proto-fellowship was wasted. But they lose its trail and waste time hunting around for it.

October 15 – 17 – Not much is recorded for these dates. Our heroes were bopping around the Trollshaws, while Glorfindel was probably on the Road west of them. The Witch-king, Khamul and three other Nazguls were probably even farther west and on the Road. The four remaining Riders who followed Gandalf break off the search and return south toward the Ford of Bruinin.

October 18 – Glorfindel finds Frodo! Gandalf finally arrives in Rivendell. We have arrived at today!

A Few Notes

  • Today is Tolkien Reading Day. For me, that’s pretty much every day. But welcome, won’t you?
  • While much of this information comes from The Lord of the Rings, the nitty grity details are from the Hunt for the Ring manuscript as parcelled out in Hammon & Scull’s Reader’s Companion.
  • It was from this manuscript that Christopher Tolkien picked and chose which morsels to drop into Unfinished Tales, but there was a lot he left out. Much (all?) of it in contained here and there in the RC.
  • I’m a big fan of time lines, as was Tolkien. In his notes, he actually gave identification letters (A, B, C, etc) to the Nazgul and specifically tracked each one as they made their way toward the Shire at the beginning of the story. He didn’t do that for their post-Bree antics.
  • When Glorfindel says that “they withdrew and I pursued them,” I’m taking it as humility, but it could also be just technically true. For my Civil War Blog, I read a lot of “after action reports” written by officers following a battle. In many cases they say much the same thing. Though when you read other accounts (diaries, etc), you find that it was actually much more dramatic.
Camera: Tru-View (vintage Diana clone) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 200 (EPD) (expired 09/1995 - xpro)

Camera: Tru-View (vintage Diana clone) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 200 (EPD) (expired 09/1995 – xpro)

About the Photo
I imagine this as the land to the south of the East Road, where Glorfindel chased the Riders. Really, it’s a grassy hill along the Columbia River in central Washington.

  • Day 84
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 416
  • 43 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,363 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Book I, Chapter 12. Quickly walking the East Road with Glorfindel. (map)


8 thoughts on “‘They Withdrew and I Pursued Them’ – Tracing Glorfindel from Rivendell to Frodo

  1. Hi! Came to have a look at your blog and this is BRILLIANT! It’s such a fun a idea, I’m looking forward to catching up with your posts so much! xx

    • Hi! Well, It was probably because of the whole “and Hobbits are so dull!” comment. That’s sort of dickish. They either meant that Hobbits were boring or dim-witted. Either way, not entirely nice (though, I admit, not entirely false).

      Also, Gildor’s sassy and sarcastic comment: “Be careful friends! Speak no secrets! Here is a scholar in the Ancient Tongue.”

      I sort of picture Gildor and pals as sort of helpful fratboys. Their behavior is dickish, but that’s to be expected.

      I’m not exactly anti-elf, but I do have a very low elf-tolerance.

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