The Reincarnation of Glorfindel – Tolkien’s Very Own Lazareth

Following a brief encampment at dawn, our heroes, now accompanied by Glorfindel the Elf-lord, hold a steady pace on the East Road, hoping to outrun the Nazgul.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p212, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Since we looked at Glorfindel’s happenings in the Silmarillion, let’s look at how and why Tolkien chose to use him in Lord of the Rings, especially seeing as how he was dead.

The first version of the Fall of Gondolin was written in 1916 or 1917. Though this early version was told from the point of view of Littleheart the Gong-warden of Mar Vanwa Tyalieva, the basic story (for our concerns, anyway) was the same. Glorfindel of the golden hair slew Gothmog the Balrog, son of Melko [Morgoth] and in doing so died himself.

We’re not going to get into whether or not Glorfindel from the Silmarillion was the same Glorfindel from Lord of the Rings just yet. First, I’d like to take a look at the first time Tolkien used his name when writing his sequel to The Hobbit.

Unfortunately, in Return of the Shadow, Christopher Tolkien doesn’t give us any more than a summary of this part of the draft. He explains that it was basically the same as the published version, except that Frodo was named Bingo and Strider was Trotter the wooden shoed-hobbit.

“Ai Padathir, Padathir! Mai govannen!” was how Glorfindel greeted Trotter. It means “Hail Trotter, Trotter! Well met!” So Trotter’s other name is Padathir. He also gives them a cram-cake and some water that reminded them of the same water they had at Bombadil’s house.

At this point in the writing, Tolkien wasn’t sure how many Nazgul were where and so Glorfindel was fairly vague on this point. Unlike the published version, Gandalf had made it to Rivendell prior to Glorfindel’s leaving. Also, the elf-stone had not yet come to the story. Neither had the Last Bridge or the River Hoarwell.

We’re given a small glimpse into how the Nazgul are searching: “A day’s swift riding back westward there is a company of evil horsemen, and they are travelling this way with all haste that frequent search of the land upon either side of the Road allows them. […] For when they find your trail, where it rejoined the road, they will search no longer but ride after you like the wind. I do not think they will miss your footsteps where the path runs down from Trolls-wood; for they have a dreadful skill in hunting by scent, and darkness helps and does not hinder them.”

In this version, Glorfindel thought there would be no peril ahead “but the pursuit is hard behind.” He never mentioned that there could be some at the Ford of Bruinin ahead. It’s Merry and not Sam (here named Frodo) who objects to moving the wounded Bingo. The wording of Glorfindel’s reply when he’s handed the Morgul-weapon is identical, except for the names.

This was all from the first draft, written in early 1938. By the end of that year, Tolkien had rewritten the opening chapter for a sixth time and had continued on through to Rivendell for a second. Since the published version so closely resembled the first draft, it makes sense that the second draft is even closer. Still, there are some interesting changes.

When meeting Trotter (who was now a man and not a hobbit), Glorfindel greeted him: “Ai, Du-finnion! Mai govannen!” Like Padathir, Du-finnion also apparently meant “one who trots”. Maybe Padathir was just too obvious.

The story of this draft is weirdly different than either the first or final. Odo the hobbit, a prototype of Pippin, had been traveling with Gandalf. When the Black Riders attacked them (Gandalf and Odo) on Weathertop, Odo went missing. Gandalf left a message to Trotter and Bingo telling them of Odo’s disappearance. After the Riders attacked Trotter and company on Weathertop, they concluded that the enemy must have known where they were from Odo.

Thinking that their friend was missing, Merry asked Glorfindel if Gandalf had arrived in Rivendell and if he had found Odo.

‘Certainly there is a hobbit of that name with him,’ said Glorfindel; ‘but I did not hear that he had been lost. He rode behind Gandalf from the north out of Dimrildale.’

He once more tried to hurry the wounded hobbit along, telling them “Hardly a day’s ride back westward there are horsemen, searching for your trail along the Road and in the lands on their side…” (Notice that Tolkien dropped the word “evil.”) He continues: “But they are not all: there are others, who may be before us now, or upon either hand. Unless we go with all speed and good fortune, we shall find the Ford guarded against us by the enemy.”

In the next phase of writing, circa 1944ish, Tolkien briefly revised to Books I and II (which later made up the volume Fellowship of the Ring). Here, he made some changes, both large and small. Finally, everyone but Trotter received their proper names.

Glorfindel now greets him with: “Ai, dennad Tofir!” I have no real idea what that means, though it’s probably safe to assume that Tofir = Trotter. Since Pippin was never with Gandalf (the wizard was actually traveling with a hobbit named Ham Bolger), Frodo asks whether or not Gandalf had made it to Rivendell. “‘More than five days ago,’ answered Glorfindel. ‘He rode out of the Entish Dales over the Hoarwell springs.'”

Tolkien paused in his writing to reconsider the timeline. With that, he turned mostly to the final draft.

A Few Notes

  • That Tolkien came to believe that Gandalf needed a traveling partner is just really strange to me. First Odo and then Hamfast Bolger went with the wizard.
  • While the River Hoarwell did not exist in the first or second drafts, the River Bruinin did, though it was called the Riven River (named after Rivendell). The Ford was called the Rivendell Ford.
  • Since the Last Bridge did not exist until the third draft, the elf-stone did not come into existence until the third draft from 1944ish.
  • And yes, I realize that Lazareth wasn’t technically reincarnated. But would anyone get it if I said “Tolkien’s very own Elijah”?
Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: FujiChrome 400D (RHP) expired in 08/94

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: FujiChrome 400D (RHP) expired in 08/94

About the Photo
This is the second time that I’ve used a photo of a steel through-truss bridge from Missouri to depict the Last Bridge. Hell, both were from 1923. I realize that the Last Bridge was a stone bridge, but finding a stone bridge out in this part of the country is rare. I had no idea that I’d miss stone bridges as much as I do. If you’re ever in northern Maryland, be sure to check them out. Especially over Antietam Creek.

  • Day 86
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 426
  • 33 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,353 miles to Mt. Doom

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


9 thoughts on “The Reincarnation of Glorfindel – Tolkien’s Very Own Lazareth

    • That was actually one of the complaints of the publisher’s son who read an early draft of the first three chapters. There was too much “hobbit talk,” I think he said. I suppose so, but after reading all I could about Trotter the wooden shoed hobbit, I sort of took a big liking to him. He’s not Aragorn, and by the time Tolkien created Aragorn, Trotter was already a Man.

      He definitely made the right decision, but a small part of me longs for that Trotter fellow.

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