The Pursuit is Now Swift Behind Us – Only Remembering Tolkien’s First Rivendell

Still weary, the hobbits, along with Strider and Glorfindel, set off early in the morning.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p212, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
“There were many miles yet to go between them and the Ford, and they hobbled forward at the best pace they could manage.”

At this point, the “many miles,” was really only ten. But they had covered around 54 miles over the past two days. They were exhausted, but had to keep going.

“‘Our peril will be greatest just ere we reach the river,’ said Glorfindel; ‘for my heart warns me that the pursuit is now swift behind us, and other danger may be waiting by the Ford.”

Glorfindel’s heart was not wrong. He knew that five Nazgul, including both the Witch-king and Khamul, his second, were closing in on them from the west. He also knew that the other four Riders were out there somewhere. Though he couldn’t be certain, he figured that the Enemy would bar their way across the River Bruinen, blocking their only route to the safe haven of Rivendell.

If the Nazgul could block their passage to the front as well as fall up them from the rear, Frodo and the Ring were as good as lost.

But if the way was not blocked, and they kept a pace, there was still a chance. Once in Rivendell, the Nazgul would not enter, even if all nine of their number were together. Their power was in darkness and loneliness – two things which Rivendell was not.

When Lord of the Rings was first published, the only other account of Rivendell the readers had was from The Hobbit. There, it was merely “A Short Rest.” It was the “Last Homely House.” The place sounded to Bilbo as “nice and comforting.” It was nestled in a “secret valley,” and as the party from The Hobbit wound their way down, the air grew warmer and the trees changed to beeches and oaks.

Bilbo and company were welcomed to Rivendell by the Elves singing the ridiculous “O! What are you doing, and where are you going?” song. It was “pretty fair nonsense,” but “they were elves of course.” And that meant good people. Sure, they were kind of dicks (“Don’t dip your beard in the foam, father!”), but that’s just how Elves are. Take the good with the bad, okay?

The account from The Hobbit wasn’t just all the readers knew, it was also all Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry knew, as they had heard Bilbo’s tales for decades now. To them, Rivendell would be just like that.

“His [Elrond’s] house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or storytelling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley.”

Of course, there was a bit more urgency now, what with the Nazgul chasing them and Frodo about to die. But in Bilbo’s story, “their clothes were mended as well as their bruises, their tempers and their hopes.” If only they could cross the Ford.

A Few Notes

  • In this reading, I’ve been trying to figure out just who believed that they would be stopping their journey at Rivendell (at this point in the story, I mean). Frodo mentioned once that he might have to go to Mordor and Sam (I think it was Sam) vowed to stay by his side. But did Merry and Pippin have any idea that they would be going beyond Rivendell? Did Frodo even know for sure?
  • Later this week, our proto-Fellowship will enter and leave Rivendell. Since this project only deals with the journey mile-by-mile, there’s technically no “time” for stopping. There are 60+ pages of the book that take place in Rivendell, not moving. There’s also about a paragraph that follows Rivendell where the Fellowship covers two weeks of travel. Because of this montage, I’ll be able to dip back into Rivendell and really take a look at the Many Meetings and Council of Elrond chapters.
Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 01/2003)

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 01/2003)

About the Photo
This photo represents a Rivendell of the mind. It’s just a short resting place, the last homely cocktail lounge west of the mountains. You digging me?

  • Day 90
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 445
  • 14 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,334 miles to Mt. Doom

One thought on “The Pursuit is Now Swift Behind Us – Only Remembering Tolkien’s First Rivendell

  1. It’s always such a sort of culture shock for me, if I read LotR immediately following The Hobbit because of the difference in Elrond et al.

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