While the Fellowship makes its way south along the Misty Mountains in a montage of walking scenes, let’s take a look back at Rivendell and Frodo’s question ‘Is Rivendell safe?’
Gandalf had been there when Frodo woke from his mini-coma and answered a slew of questions about Ringwraits and Strider. When talking about the strength of the enemy, Gandalf explained that their numbers were growing. When Frodo asked if Rivendell and the Elves were safe, Gandalf had this to say:
“Yes, at present, until all else is conquered. The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to or serve him.”
Later, during the Council of Elrond, we’re given a tiny bit more information about this: “and many eyes were turned to Elrond in fear and wonder as he told of the Elven-smiths of Eregion and their friendship with Moria, and their eagerness for knowledge, by which Sauron ensnared them.”
We’ll get to all of that a bit later (after all, it’s still twenty pages away!). But it’s hints like this one by Gandalf that give the story a much deeper background. And like many of these mentions, we’re only given a small morsel of what was actually written. In many cases, Tolkien had extensive background notes that he kept for himself while writing. Additionally, many of the Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales stories that appear to be fleshed out from mentions in the Lord of the Rings, were written years after he wrote about Frodo and the Ring.
Anyway, Gandalf goes on to explain that the Elves are not afraid of the Ringwraiths. But that’s only part of the reason why Rivendell was safe from them. It’s actually much more simple.
Take the Prancing Pony at Bree, for instance. Merry asked Strider if he thought the Black Riders would attack the inn. Strider didn’t believe they would, and not only because they were not yet assembled.
“And in any case that is not their way. In dark and loneliness they are strongest; they will not openly attack a house where there are lights and many people – not until they are desperate…. But their power is in terror, and already some in Bree are in their clutch.”
The Prancing Pony was a place of merriment and fellowship. It wasn’t (as it was portrayed in the Peter Jackson movie) the cantina from Star Wars. “The door was open and light streamed out of it.” The hobbits found that “someone began singing a merry song inside, and many cheerful voices joined loudly in the chorus.” When the song ended, there was “a burst of laughter and clapping.”
They were greeted at the door by a gloriously cheery Barliman Butterbur. When he heard about the Black Riders, he was admittedly afraid, but after a quick (and realistic) pep talk from Strider, he said: “But spooks or no spooks, they won’t get in The Pony so easy. Don’t you worry till the morning.” And he was right. His fearlessness, combined with the atmosphere and community that he fostered in his inn was the light that kept the darkness at bay. The two Black Riders finally gathered the strength to attack the inn, stealthily sneaking into the hobbits’ room, but found them gone. But that’s hardly an attack.
It was for much the same reason that Rivendell was safe, though obviously it was The Prancing Pony multiplied almost indefinitely. And Rivendell would hold out “until all else is conquered.” Frodo was in Rivendell, and, as Gandalf comforted him, he “need not worry about anything for the present.”
“Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.’ Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”
A Few Notes
- Gandalf explained that the Black Riders’ horses were “born and bred in the service of the Dark Lord in Mordor,” but I’ve also heard that the Enemy stole the horses from Gondor. Anyone have any information on this?
- Fun thing to remember: Through these Rivendell chapters, there’s no mention of Galadriel or Lothlorien. This was actually because Tolkien had not yet invented them. When he did, he apparently never felt he urge to go back an insert them into earlier parts of the narrative.
About the Photo
“and the evening was filled with the faint scent of trees and flowers, as if summer still lingered in Elrond’s gardens.”
- Day 99
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 490
- 430 miles to Lothlórien
- 1,288 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Book II, Chapter 1. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. (map)