You Can’t Fight the Enemy with His Own Ring

Since today is a Saturday (and I’m taking tomorrow off), I thought it would be fun to hit up a few of Tolkien’s letters. The book The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien is an absolutely essential tool in the study of all things Middle-earth – especially Lord of the Rings.

We’re been talking a bit about Gandalf and I thought it would be fun to see what Tolkien had to say about him in his letter written before the publication of Lord of the Rings. Gandalf first appeared in The Hobbit and was created specifically for the book.

Shortly after the publication of The Hobbit on September 21, 1937, author Richard Hughes wrote to Tolkien with a million questions about the larger context of the narrative. He said that it was “one of the best stories for children,” but he was “afraid that certain parts of it would be too terrifying for bedside reading.” This was, he said, “a snag.”

In his reply (No. 17, sent via his publisher), Tolkien relates that another reader wanted to know “fuller details about Gandalf and the Necromancer.” Tolkien, however, recognized Hughes’ snag – “but that is dark – much too much…”

“I am afraid that snag appears in everything’ though actually the presence (even if only on the borders) of the terrible is, I believe, what give this imagined world its verisimilitude.”

Moving on, Tolkien mentioned him again in a note (yes, even his letters had footnotes), from a February 1939 letter (No. 33). By this time, he was well into writing Lord of the Rings – 300 of 500 manuscript pages, according to his own accounting.

Here he returned to the “readers young and old who clamoured for ‘more about the Necromancer.'” But the Necromancer, he replied “is not child’s play.” In the note accompanying this passage, he gives a veritable Robot Roll Call of who we might expect to find in this sequel to The Hobbit:

“Still there are more hobbits, far more of them and about them, in the new story. Gollum reappears, and Gandalf is to the fore: ‘dwarves’ come in; and though there is no dragon (so far) there is going to be a Giant; and the new and (very alarming) Ringwraiths are a feature. There ought to be things that people who liked the old mixture will find to have a similar taste.”

The “Giant” was, of course, Treebeard. Tolkien wrote this letter as he was still kicking around the idea that Treebeard would be evil.

But for the next five years, Gandalf went unmentioned in these letters. And when he was brought up again (No. 83), it came as a surprising allegory. In a letter to his son Christopher, he complained bitterly that while Hitler was a “vulgar and ignorant little cad,” there were many other such people “who don’t speak German, and who given the same chance would show most of the other Hitlerian characteristics.”

He wrote with disdain about articles in the paper “seriously advocating systematic exterminating of the entire German nation as the only proper course after military victory: because, if you please, they are rattlesnakes, and don’t know the difference between good and evil! (What of the writer?)”

In conclusion to this thought, he wrote: “It can’t be helped. You can’t fight the Enemy with his own Ring without turning into an Enemy; but unfortunately Gandalf’s wisdom seems long ago to have passed with him into the True West.”

A Few Notes

  • There are a few other references, of course. But those were mostly incidental and maybe not as interesting.
  • Also, the version of Letters that I use is a first edition and its index is incredibly bad. I really need to update my copy.
Camera: Tru-View (vintage Diana clone, circa 1970s) Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 12/2005)

Camera: Tru-View (vintage Diana clone, circa 1970s)
Film: Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 12/2005)

About the Photo
I suppose that I’m going to have to get a few more photos having to do with war, huh? This is a Spanish-American War era cannon outside the courthouse in Mt. Vernon, Washington.


  • Day 144
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 711 (257 from Rivendell)
  • 83 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 210 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,068 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 17th night out from Rivendell. January 9-10, 3019 TA. (map)

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Gandalf, Odo and Barnabas Butterbur – Together Again for the First Time!

Due to Gandalf’s delay, he had been traveling a bit behind Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, arriving at Bree the day after they left. But this time table wasn’t worked out until later. In the early drafts, Tolkien had Gandalf arriving in Bree before the hobbits.

This scene was later spread out over three instances in the book. First, Gandalf’s message to Frodo (via Butterbur) was written on Mid Year’s Day (the day between June and July). Gandalf returned to Bree on September 30th, and then told everyone about it at the Council of Elrond.

In the published version, all that’s really said is that Gandalf arrived in Bree and left a note for Frodo. Butterbur also gives a little more detail (not much) in the “Strider” chapter. But in this original draft, Gandalf arrived at Bree a day or so before Frodo, and it was to be included as part of the narrative, rather than part of a flashback.

There were actually two versions of this. The first was written from Barnabas Butterbur’s perspective as he told the hobbits about Gandalf’s visit two days before (he was called Barnabas before Barliman). The way it’s told was pretty well carried over to the published version. The second version was given by the narrator as it happened. Tolkien abandoned this idea, returning to his original choice, but this narrative version is pretty wonderful.

I wish I could just reprint the whole thing. It’s a wonderful piece of writing. But here’s a quick synopsis.

Gandalf arrives at the gate of Bree and wakes Harry, who recognizes him. The wizard is traveling with a hobbit named Odo. Tolkien abandoned the idea of Gandalf traveling with a hobbit, and it’s probably for the best. Even he thought that the early drafts were too hobbity.

Anyway, Gandalf asks about the Black Riders and it turns out that they had been there along with many foreigners from the South. He had arrived after the Pony had closed, but his good friend Butterbur let him in.

Gandalf also saw to the care of his horse, Narothal. This was proto-Shadowfax, and in the margins of the draft, Tolkien suggested renaming him “Fairfax, Shadowfax.”

Butterbur again talked about the strange travelers on the road, prompting Gandalf to ask if there were any hobbits among them. There were not.

“‘That’s bad news’ said Gandalf, tugging at his bear. ‘I wonder where they have got to!'” And in the margin he wrote: “I trusted Tom Bombadil to keep them out of trouble.” Gandalf was worried about how they’d fair in the Old Forest.

Gandalf makes a point of wanting to be unnoticed while in Bree. When he leaves, he wants Butterbur to deliver a message to Frodo: “‘Hurry on! Gandalf’s ahead.’ Just that. Don’t forget, because it’s important.” If anyone else asked about a hobbit named Baggins, Butterbur was to tell them that “Baggins has gone east with Gandalf.”

Butterbur seemed like he expected himself to forget it and went on to talk about Bilbo Baggins and how he disappeared some twenty years back (at his birthday party). Gandalf and Odo slept and then ate breakfast in a private room. They left Bree at 11am, promising Butterbur that he would tell him the whole story someday.

Bob and Nob had been in the story since the earliest draft, and in this version, it’s Bob who is tending to Gandalf’s horse (now named Fairfax). Originally, both were hobbits, but now it seems like at least Bob is a Man. Gandalf and Odo rode north on the Greenway, but before leaving, told Bob to tell anyone who asked that they went east.

“‘Curry me! if these aren’t queer days!’ he [Bob] said to himself. ‘Black men riding out of nowhere, and folk on the Greenway, and old Gandalf with a hobbit on a pillion and all! Things are beginning to move in Bree! But you watch yourself, Bob my lad – old Gandalf can hand out something hotter than silver.'”

The narrative continues in Bree, noting that nothing really happened for the rest of the day until one of the Black Riders approaches Harry at the gate. The hobbits had not yet arrived, but Harry told him about Gandalf and a hobbit. The next morning, Frodo and his friends arrive and it pretty well follows the published version.

All of this was reduced to a line or two in the Council of Elrond chapter. This odd draft was soon forgotten and Tolkien continued on with the narrative almost as we know it. But soon enough, he would change the time line and add in Radagast. We’ll get to him soon enough. Saruman, too, though neither were mentioned at all in this early draft.

A Few Notes
If you want to read it, this is in The Return of the Shadow, p344, and is part of the “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony” chapter.

Typically, where there’s more to know about these kinds of stories, it’s found either in Appendix A or in Unfinished Tales. It’s nice to see that Tolkien tried to see things (and write things) from several different angles to see what worked.

Camera: Argus C3 (35mm) Film: Kodak Ektar 100

Camera: Argus C3 (35mm)
Film: Kodak Ektar 100

About the Photo
Every town has its own Prancing Pony. This is Pizza Pi, Seattle’s vegan pizza joint. Great food and great atmosphere. And really the only photo I have from inside anywhere.


  • Day 143
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 706 (252 from Rivendell)
  • 88 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 215 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,073 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 16th night out from Rivendell. January 9, 3019 TA. (map)

Many Weary Days as a Prisoner of the Giant Treebeard

Gandalf was delayed. This was a concept that Tolkien ran with from nearly the beginning, and lasted through to the published version. Most readers already know the story of how Gandalf met Radagast who told him to go see Saruman, who locked him up in the tower of Orthanc.

Today, I want to look at how that all came about. While Radagast had been mentioned in The Hobbit, at the time of even the so-called Third Phase of writing (about a year and a half into it – he started writing in December of 1937), Tolkien had yet to invent Saruman.

While the first draft of the opening Lord of the Rings chapters omitted Gandalf’s delay (as described here), the second draft (part of the Third Phase of writing) introduced it. However, it did so right when Frodo woke up in Rivendell.

“There are many powers greater than mine, for good and evil, in the world,” Gandalf says in the early drafts. A version of this line actually made it into the published edition. Rather than going on to mention the “Morgul-lord and his Black Riders,” Gandalf explained in this early draft, almost in passing, why he was delayed.

“I was caught in Fangorn and spent many weary days as a prisoner of the Giant Treebeard. It was a desperately anxious time, for I was hurrying back to the Shire to help you. I had just learned that the horsemen had been sent out.”

Treebeard? Yes! The lovable and ancient Ent might not have been so cordial when Tolkien first created him. In a note dated July 27-29, 1939 Tolkien was working out something to say during a Chaucer performance at Oxford. He got a bit sidetracked, however, and transported Frodo out of the narrative in which he was working and into … well, just see:

“When Frodo heard the voice he looked up, but he could see nothing through the thick entangled branches. Suddenly he felt a quiver in the gnarled tree-trunk against which he was leaning, and before he could spring away he was pushed, or kicked, forward onto his knees. Picking himself up he looked at the tree, and even as he looked, it took a stride towards him. He scrambled out of the way, and a deep rumbling chuckle came down out of the tree-top.

“‘Where are you, little beetle?’ said the voice. ‘If you don’t let me know where you are, you can’t blame me for treading on you. And please don’t tickle my leg!'”

The two exchanged a bit of conversation and then Frodo finally saw the Ent: “and what he had thought was the stem of a monstrous oaktree was really a thick gnarled leg with a rootlike foot and many branching toes.”

To make matters even more surreal, Tolkien wrote six lines in Elvish (Tengwar), which read: “Frodo meets Giant Treebeard in the Forest of Neldoreth while seeking for his lost companions: he is deceived by the giant who pretends to be friendly, but is really in league with the Enemy.”

The conception of Treebeard being evil lasted for quite a while. The next mention came as a note where Gandalf warned someone to beware “of the Giant Treebeard, who haunts the Forest between the River and the South Mountains.” In a margin, he wrote “Fangorn?” which removed the Ent from Neldoreth and placed him where he would remain.

Continuing in his August 1939 writings, Tolkien took even more notes about where the Fellowship might go after leaving Rivendell.

“Fangorn Forest,” read one such note which went on to talk about how Gollum must come back into the story. But it also suggested that Frodo become separated from the rest. At this point, Tolkien seemed to be rethinking the whole Treebeard thing, and was maybe even thinking of dropping him from the story completely.

“If Treebeard comes in at all,” he continued, “let him be kindly and rather good?” He continued, deciding that “Gollum pretended to make friends, but tried to strangle Frodo in his sleep and steal the Ring.” It would be Treebeard who found him and carried him up “into the Black Mountains. It is only here that Frodo finds he is friendly.”

The note goes on to explain that Sam had refused to leave Frodo’s side, and that “Ond is besieged.” Ond was the early name for Gondor, and “the tree-giants assail the besiegers and rescue Trotter &c. and raise siege.” Also of note, if this were to happen, Tolkien wanted Boromir not to be with the Fellowship, but wanted to take Gimli instead. As we know, he never really went with this scenario and ended up including both Man and Dwarf.

So anyway, I guess I didn’t really cover Gandalf’s delay so well. But in this draft, Tolkien didn’t either. Gandalf was imprisoned by the evil Treebeard and then somehow inexplicably escaped.

Though it now seemed as if Tolkien had decided that Treebeard was good, he again changed his mind. In late 1939, he took up the task of revising the story thus far and trying to figure out Gandalf’s delay once and for all. Again in notes (written after he first thought that Treebeard might be good), he wrote: “What delayed Gandalf? Black Riders or other hunters. Treebeard.”

He also tried to work out a timeline for Gandalf’s delay. In an early version of that, Treebeard is missing, but in another, later version, it’s Saramund (proto-Saruman – we’ll get to him later) that turns Gandalf “over to a giant Fangorn (Treebeard) who imprisons him?” It was written as a question, and Tolkien really didn’t know for sure.

And finally in August, 1940, Tolkien abandoned the Treebeard idea, noting: “Gandalf’s story of Saurman and the eagle”. So for nearly a year of his life, Tolkien saw Treebeard as an evil creature, but slowly and sporadically came to view him as good – then evil again, then absent, then finally good.

The next time we heard about Treebeard, he’s helping Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli break the siege of Minas Tirith. This was in late 1940, so it was not long that Treebeard was ever out of the story. But we’ll get to all of that when we do.

A Few Notes
In the post linked to above, I said that I would get to Gandalf’s delay “hopefully next weekish.” That clearly didn’t happen. It’s been a month and a half since then. For that, I apologize, but I hope it was worth the wait.

In the published book, Gandalf went right into his story about being imprisoned and then talked about going to the Prancing Pony, as they happened chronologically in the story. In the early drafts, however, Tolkien included the Prancing Pony bits as part of the narrative (rather than a sort of flashback). And that’s where we’ll head soon!

But tomorrow we’ll talk about the origins of Saruman. Excited?

Camera: Holga 120N || Film: Fuji NPS 160 (expired April 2006)

Camera: Holga 120N || Film: Fuji NPS 160 (expired April 2006)

About the Photo
I’ve been waiting since I started this blog to use this photo for Treebeard. Sure, you can get tons of photos of trees, but how many are actually caught walking? This is actually an old stump blow white by the blast at Mount St. Helens. It’s crawling over a pile of pumice.


  • Day 142
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 701 (247 from Rivendell)
  • 93 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 220 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,078 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 16th night out from Rivendell. January 8-9, 3019 TA. (map)

The Years Really Start to Add Up – Gandalf Continues

When last I left you, I gave you a fairly detailed time line of the White Council and complained bitterly that they were sort of poky. I am lamented that Gandalf believed Saruman’s lie about the Ring rolling down the Anduin into the Sea. For shame, Gandalf! You’re better than that!

But as we continue with the Council of Elrond, we see that Elrond himself takes on some of the blame. Actually, Elrond blames the entire White council. “We were all at fault,” he says, though doesn’t really go into detail.

Gandalf went on to explain why he searched for Gollum and how he came to think that Bilbo’s Ring might be the One Ring. This idea actually came from Saruman, who, because of his own research into it, was able to describe it.

The old Wizard covers a lot of ground here as far as time is concerned. If we take a look at the Tale of Years, we see that nearly fifty years had elapsed between the last meeting of the White Council and Bilbo’s farewell party – where Gandalf began to really suspect the ring to be the Ring. Fifty years.

Then eight more years pass before Gandalf even begins to wonder how the Ring came to Gollum (as per Bilbo’s story). It’s another eight years before Aragorn and Gandalf begin to search for Gollum, but by that time Gollum was wandering toward Mordor and was captured. But it was only then, a year before our story began, that Gandalf finally thought about Saruman’s description of the Ring at the last White Council meeting – sixty-four years prior., the year before our story begins, Aragorn captured Gollum in the Dead Marshes and Gandalf visits Minas Tirith and finds Isildur’s scroll.

I wrote in detail about the scroll here, so I won’t go into now.

At any rate, Gollum escaped, and it was at the Council of Elrond when everyone found out. It’s Legolas who spoke up, not realizing that Gollum was connected to the whole thing. Seriously, the lack of communication here is astounding.

This happened in June. It is now November. Why the hell didn’t Thranduil get word to Rivendell about this? Even if he didn’t know Rivendell was involved, he should have figured that Gandalf would at least pass through there. But no. It’s five months before anyone finds out. Again – communication, people.

At this, Gandalf is pretty resigned, and says: “We have no time to seek for him again. He must do what he will. But he may play a part yet that neither he nor Sauron have foreseen.” Ohh, I’d say so, yes.

Gandalf now settles in to tell “the last chapter in the Tale of the Ring.” And this is the part I’ve been waiting for. Why was Gandalf delayed? So much relied upon him meeting up with Frodo, and he failed to do so. We’ll find out why tomorrow (and we’ll find out the origins of Treebeard the day after – promise!).

A Few Notes

  • This whole section is pretty important and fun, but for some reason, I just can’t get into it enough to even write about. There’s very little to it apart from a timeline. And sure, it’s interesting, but Tolkien went into greater detail in “The Hunt for the Ring,” which appears in Unfinished Tales. Read the version in Lord of the Rings, of course, but then go read the other one.
  • Aragorn’s line: “If a man must needs walk in sight of the Black Gate, or tread the deadly flowers of Morgul Vale, then perils he will have.” is, perhaps, the greatest understatement of the saga.
  • After a few days off, I realize that I’m pretty off my game. Sorry about that. Things will pick up, I promise.
Camera: Agfa Clack  Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64x (expired in mid90s)

Camera: Agfa Clack
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64x (expired in mid90s)

About the Photo
There’s something about this fountain that reminds me of Rivendell. I’m not really sure what it is, as it doesn’t at all look like something the Elves would make. Was it a gift? Maybe it was something made in Eregion when that Annatar fellow was hanging around.


  • Day 141
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 696 (242 from Rivendell)
  • 98 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 225 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,083 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 16th night out from Rivendell. January 8-9, 3019 TA. (map)

A Strange Chance, If Chance it Was – Gandalf Begins

Boromir had voiced the biggest question of them all at the Council of Elrond. How could they know for sure that Frodo’s ring was the Ring. But he wasn’t the only one who had doubts. Galdor, an Elf sent by Cirdan the Shipwright from the Grey Havens to the Council, had a few questions of his own.

“The Wise may have good reason to believe that the halfling’s trove is indeed the Great Ring of long debate, unlikely though that may seem to those who know less. But may we not hear the proofs? And I would ask this also. What of Saruman? He is learned in the lore of the Rings, yet he is not among us. What is his counsel – if he knows the things that we have heard?”

Those are some pretty fine questions, and it’s now Gandalf’s turn to drop some knowledge. He first does this through logic, telling Galdor that if the other rings are accounted for, and Sauron wants this one so badly, it must be the Ring.

More or less answering Galdor’s first question, Gandalf moved to the second, which wasn’t so simple. Saruman, as we learned in “The Shadow of the Past” chapter, was “the chief of my order and the head of the [White] Council.” Galdor’s question as to why he wasn’t there made sense. Saruman had been at these types of gatherings since his arrival.

To Frodo, Gandalf continued saying that Saruman’s “knowledge is deep, but his pride has grown with it, and he takes ill any meddling.” The White Council had debated about the Ring before, but he seemed reluctant to tell the rest of the Council all he knew.

At the Council of Elrond, Gandalf goes into much greater detail. Not only did Saruman seem a bit dodgy about the Ring, he even “dissuaded us from open deeds against him [Sauron], and for long we watched him only.”

But as Sauron’s power grew, the Council finally acted and drove him out of Mirkwood. This happened during the events of The Hobbit, meaning that Sauron was in retreat at the same time that Bilbo found the Ring – “a strange chance, if chance it was.”

Gandalf soon learned that Sauron’s retreat from Mirkwood wasn’t a retreat at all – he “soon after came to the Dark Tower and openly declared himself.”

To set this in perspective, let’s draw up a time line. The White Council formed at the end of the Second Age, but didn’t really start meeting until about 2,500 years later. It consisted of Gandalf, Elrond, Cirdan, Galadriel, and Saruman (plus various other high-level Elves). The years given are all Third Age. In the story, it is now 3018.

2060 – Things begin to happen in Dol Guldor and the Wise believe that it might just be Sauron taking shape again.

2063 – Gandalf visits Dol Guldor, but Sauron retreats. Gandalf does not know it’s actually Sauron.

2460 – Sauron returns to Dol Guldor, taking up residence in Dol Guldor, Mirkwood.

2463 – The Council meets and decides that Gandalf should lead them. Gandalf, however, refuses and Saruman fills the role. Not much seems to have been accomplished here apart from the idea of keeping an eye upon Sauron. Incidentally, this was about the same year that Smeagol found the Ring.

2845 – King Thrain II, the Dwarf, is taken prisoner in Dol Guldor. Sauron takes his ring.

2850 – Gandalf visits Dol Guldor again, finding Thrain. He also figures out that it is indeed Sauron who was there. It was now clear to Gandalf that Sauron was after the One Ring

2851 – This was when Gandalf called for the attack on Sauron at Dol Guldur in Mirkwood. But Saruman, who was himself seeking the Ring, convinced them that it wasn’t yet time. He also makes fun of Gandalf’s smoking. It’s also the year that Saruman begins his search of the Gladden Fields, where Isildur was killed.

2885 – Sauron launches his attacked upon Gondor, which Boromir talked about at the Council.

2939 – Saruman learns that Sauron is also searching the Gladden Fields for the Ring. He keeps this bit of knowledge to himself.

2941 – The White Council meet for a third time and finally agree to attack Dol Guldor. Bilbo takes the Ring and Sauron “retreats” from Dol Guldor.

2951 – Sauron shows himself and sends three Nazgul to occupy Dol Guldor (apparently his summer home – he really seems to like this place).

2953 – The White Council meets again in (slow) reaction to Sauron’s declaration of power. Saruman lies to them, telling the Council that the Ring was lost in the Anduin, but was taken to the sea and lost forever. Saruman takes Isengard as his own and pretty much stays there full time.

Lots of stuff happens between 2953 and 3018, of course, but we’ll get to that soon enough. What’s most interesting about this time line is how much the White Council knew and for how long. Nearly 1,000 had passed between the Council’s first suspicions that Sauron was coming back and the Council of Elrond. That’s an incredibly long time to do basically nothing about it.

To give Gandalf a bit more credit, he first learned for certain that the Necromancer in Dol Guldor was Sauron in 2850. And though it took him 790 years to come to this conclusion, it only took him 91 years to convince the Council to attack.

Gandalf doesn’t explain everything in this time line (and parts of it were definitely written by Tolkien long after Lord of the Rings was published), but he covers the gist of it up to Saruman saying that the Ring was carried to the sea.

He also admits fault for the sluggishness. He apparently believed Saruman’s Ring to the Sea story in 2953. “I should have sought for the truth sooner, and our peril would now be less.”

Gandalf was finally convinced that Bilbo’s ring was the Ring in 3001. Three years later, he visited Frodo in 3004 to confirm it (by heating it in the fire to reveal the lettering). But this was nearly fifty years after the last White Council meeting. Things clearly don’t move with any sort of swiftness in Middle-earth. It’s basically the DMV – there’s tons of waiting and when it’s finally finished, you feel sort of dirty and touched by Evil.

A Few Notes

  • Tolkien recycled the name Galdor three times. First it was used as the name of the Lord of the People of the Trees in Gondolin. Then it was used here. And after that, Tolkien named Hurin’s father Galdor, and it appeared in the Silmarillion.
  • Also, a heads up – because of the (US) holiday, I’ll be taking a break from the blog until Wednesday (maybe Thursday). I’ve been pretty stressed out with doing three daily blogs and am really in need of a break. We’ll be doing a bit of traveling in Oregon, and you can follow me on Instagram – please do, actually. See you next week!
Camera: Ansco Color Clipper (c.1950) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 200 (expired in 09/1994 -- xpro as C-41)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper (c.1950) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 200 (expired in 09/1994 — xpro as C-41)

About the Photo
While it’s known that the White Council met at Rivendell at least once, it’s pretty obvious that the other meetings were held at Eat. Also, that truck is totally Cirdan’s. Totally.


  • Day 140
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 691 (237 from Rivendell)
  • 103 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 230 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,088 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 16th night out from Rivendell. January 8-9, 3019 TA. (map)

A Murder of Crows and that Precocious Shadowy Flying Thing

I don’t often say this, but… let’s talk about birds.

The morning of the sixteenth day out of Rivendell, Sam and Aragorn were on watch and saw a flock of birds. They were “flying at great speed, were wheeling and circling, and traversing all the land as if they were searching for something; and they were steadily drawing nearer.”

Aragorn knew exactly what they were, and had apparently seen them before. They were black crows out of Fangorn and Dunland (maybe) . But he didn’t know why they were flying here, but gave two possibilities. They were either fleeing from something or spying.

“Hollin is no longer wholesome for us: it is being watched.”

Just the day before, Gandalf had said that Hollin was safe from the Enemy because the Elves used to live there. Of course, when the Elves lived there, it wasn’t at all safe from the Enemy, so maybe Gandalf didn’t really know what he was talking about.

Anyway, Fangorn was on the other side of the Misty Mountains, southwest of Lorien. If the birds had come from there, they would had to have crossed the range, perhaps fleeing from whatever was going on east of the Misty Mountains. However, if they were spies, there was no telling where they came from.

Gandalf (in “The Road to Isengard” chapter) mentions the “crows of Saruman,” but if he thought these crows came from him, he didn’t bring it up either here or there. But the whole point was that they were clearly being watched. It wasn’t just the crows, either. Aragorn had seen hawks soaring high above.

Even worse, throughout the day, which was supposed to be a day of resting, “the dark birds passed over now and again.” And at nightfall, with the birds flying south toward the mountain Caradhras, the Fellowship continued on their journey.

This passage was fully written in the first draft of this chapter with one interesting exception. At this point, Aragorn was still known at Trotter (though he was a Man and not a Hobbit as before), and when he told the company about the hawks flying up high, he added “That would account for the silence of all the birds.” Tolkien struck this out in the second draft, but what a fun idea. It’s clear that Aragorn had some connection with animals, but maybe not as direct as this scribbled-out line might imply.

Additionally, there is another flying thing that visits them at night: “Frodo looked up at the sky. Suddenly he saw or felt a shadow pass over the high stars, as if for a moment they faded and then flashed out again. He shivered.”

He asked Gandalf if he saw anything. He didn’t, but almost dismissed it. “It may be nothing, only a wisp of a thin cloud.” But Aragorn saw it and said that it was moving fast “and not with the wind.”

Could this thing be a Nazgul? It is now January 6th, and, according to the timeline, the Nazgul, perhaps already flying in the air on their “fell beasts,” had not yet crossed the Anduin, and wouldn’t until March 6th – nearly two months from this date. According to notes taken by Tolkien for February 22nd: “A Nazgul is summoned [to Sarn Gebir on the river], but Sauron will not yet permit the Nazgul to cross west of Anduin.”

So unless this was some disobedient and wayward Nazgul out for a merry little flight without his Dark Lord’s permission, this shadow passing over the Fellowship was not a Nazgul. So what the hell was it? It’s never explained, though Christopher Tolkien takes a stab at it.

In a later chapter (“The Great River”), they are visited again by such a shadow, “like a cloud and yet not a cloud, for it moved far more swiftly, came out of the blackness in the South, and sped toward the Company, blotting out all light as it approached. Soon it appeared as a great winged creature, blacker than the pits in the night. Fierce voices rose up to greet it from across the water.”

This was most definitely a Nazgul. The night that it was seen was February 23rd, the night after they were summoned to the River Anduin, yet disallowed by Sauron to cross it. Nevertheless, about the first shadowy appearance over Hollin, Christopher Tolkien admits that “the Winged Nazgul had not yet crossed the Anduin. But it seems likely to me that the shadow that passed across the stars near Hollin was in fact the first precocious appearance of a Winged Nazgul.”

Both appearances of this shadow appear in the very first drafts. It’s possible that Tolkien wrote the initial sighting before he came up with the timeline and the idea that Sauron disallowed the Nazgul to cross the Anduin. If so, Tolkien simply neglected to change it, leaving it in for some reason he never revealed. This was actually a pretty common thing for him. It adds to the mystery of the story, but makes trying to nail things like this down fully impossible.

So was it a precocious Nazgul? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s simply no way to know for sure. Thanks, Tollers!

A Few Notes

  • Let me just say for the record how much I love that Sam still calls Aragorn “Strider.” He was always a bit iffy on him, but this is now a term of endearment. He knows who Aragorn actually is and knows the stories about how he got there, yet he still calls him Strider. Sam, you’re fucking awesome.
  • The birds were called crebain, which really just means crow in Sindarin. It’s based on the Old English “crawan,” mean meant “to crow.”
  • The time line to which I referred is actually called “The Time Scheme of the Lord of the Rings.” It would be awesome if it were printed in full, but it only appears in snippets throughout the Reader’s Companion by Hammond & Scull. That said, on page 360 of that book, you get a chunk of it from January 15th to February 25th. As far as I can tell, it’s pretty well canon.
Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: Film: FujiChrome Provia 100F (RDP III) xpro

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: Film: FujiChrome Provia 100F (RDP III) xpro

About the Photo
Maybe it was this old airplane thing we saw at Red Oak II, Missouri. Maybe?


  • Day 139
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 686 (232 from Rivendell)
  • 108 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 235 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,093 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 15th night out from Rivendell. January 8, 3019 TA. (map)

‘Deep They Delved Us, Fair They Wrouht Us’ – Catching Up with the Fellowship

For the past several weeks, I’ve been writing about Rivendell and the Council of Elrond. That’s sort of hard to imagine, but it’s true. My first Rivendell post was in early April. The point of this blog was to follow Frodo mile-by-mile. That’s pretty easy to do, except when Tolkien enters a prolonged montage.

When the Fellowship left Rivendell, they covered over 200 miles in only a few sentences. I took that opportunity to really sink my teeth into the Council of Elrond. And while some might not find that all too exciting (I do), it’s infinitely more so than the alternative of following the Fellowship’s descriptionless tramping.

But before I jump head-first into Gandalf’s part in the Council, I thought now would be a fine time to catch up with the Fellowship. This is covered in “The Ring Goes South,” the third chapter in Book II.

Frodo and friends had made it to Hollin Ridge on the fifteenth night out from Rivendell. For most of the trek, Gandalf and Aragorn took the lead. Aragorn had traveled this way a lot and “knew this land even in the dark.” Legolas brought up the rear. The Fellowship marched only at night, establishing a camp in the morning hours, “in some hollow of the land, or hidden under the tangled thorn-bushes that grew in thickets in many places.”

They didn’t move along a road, but walked through a rough and barren country, hoping “to escape the notice of unfriendly eyes.” It was January now, and all felt the bitter cold. The scenery didn’t change much for them through the first two weeks of walking. Far off to their right as they walked south was the Anduin River. If the sun was out and the clouds weren’t too low, on their left they might see the Misty Mountains.

“South of Rivendell they [the Misty Mountains] rose ever higher, and bent westwards; and about the feet of the main range there was tumbled an ever wider land of bleak hills, and deep valleys filled with turbulent waters. Paths were few and winding, and led them often only to the edge of some sheer fall, or down into treacherous swamps.”

But after a couple of weeks, the weather changed. The clouds and mists were gone and the sky was clear, though the air was cold. Far south, they could see three mountain peeks. The two highest were Caradhras and Celebdil, also known as the Redhorn and Silvertine, respectively. Southwest of them was Fanuidhol, also called Cloudyhead.

Incidentally, Gimli recognized the mountains, having seen them once before. In the Dwarf language, they were called Barazinbar, Zirakzigil and Bundushathur. Tolkien had a long and detailed struggle with what to name these three peaks in several different languages. Apparently, they were based upon his memory of the mountains in Switzerland – specifically Jungfrau and its surrounding peaks (more on that later).

Between Caradhras and Celebdil was Redhorn Pass, which was where the Fellowship planned to finally cross the Misty Mountains. This was the only pass between Rivendell and the Gap of Rohan (near Isengard, the Fords of Isen, Helm’s Deep, etc), and that was 250 or more miles farther.

They camped on Hollin Ridge, which was near the land known as Hollin, named after the holly bushes that were in abundance. The Elves, however, called the place Eregion. In the Second Age, this had been ruled by Galadriel and Celeborn, and then Celebrimbor. It’s most famous for being the place where the Elves befriended Sauron, mostly thinking that he had turned over a new leaf. It was where the Rings of Power (except for the One Ring) were created.

Anyway, Gandalf explained that they were headed for Dimrill Dale, just on the other side of Redhorn Pass. This also had a bunch of names. The Elves called it Nanduhirion, but it’s most famously known as Azanulbizar. It was there where the Orcs killed Thror and the Dwarves attacked in retaliation.

The battle was actually for Moria, which was under Celebdil/Silvertine. Gandalf was hoping to bypass the mines of Moria and take Redhorn Pass over the mountains.

As Gandalf was explaining that they must go from Redhorn Pass, down the River Silverloade, into the “secret woods” (Lorien), “and so to the Great River,” he cut himself off. Merry asked him where they would go after that, but all Gandalf would say was: “We cannot look too far ahead. Let us be glad that the first stage is safely over.”

They all agreed to set up camp for the day near Hollin. “Much evil must befall a country before it wholly forgets the Elves, if once they dwelt there.” He never told the Fellowship about the whole trusting Sauron/forging the Rings of Power thing.

But Legolas wasn’t so sure about this: “But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them. Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago.”

This is such a beautiful and weird little passage. In the Silmarillion, we’re told: “Eregion was nigh to the great mansions of the Dwarves that were named Khazad-dûm, but by the Elves Hadhodrond, and afterwards Moria. From Ost-in-Edhil, the city of the Elves, the highroad ran to the west gate of Khazad-dûm, for a friendship arose between Dwarves and Elves, such as never elsewhere there had been, to the enrichment of both those peoples. In Eregion the craftsman of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the People of the Jewel-smiths, surpassed in cunning all that have ever wrought, save only Fëanor himself, and indeed greatest in skill among them was Celebrimbor.”

These Elves were more like Dwarves in a way, and Legolas was touching upon that. Though they were Elves – a race typically associated with trees – it was the stones that remembered them, not the plants. This was because of their association with the Dwarves.

They slept for the night, and the next morning, things got pretty crazy. We’ll cover that tomorrow, I bet.

A Few Notes

  • Taking a break of the Council of Elrond is probably a good thing. It reminds me of the original intent of this blog – to follow Frodo.
  • I can’t believe that the Reader’s Companion by Hammond & Scull completely skips Legolas’ passage. This kind of stuff is typically their bread and butter. What the hell?
Camera: Kodak Brownie, No. 2, Model D (1914) Film: Fomapan 100

Camera: Kodak Brownie, No. 2, Model D (1914)
Film: Fomapan 100

About the Photo
This is Mt. Index. It’s one of the peaks in Washington’s Cascade Range. I obviously can’t get to Switzerland, so these will have to do. I think they match up pretty well. Here’s a shot of Jungfrau.


  • Day 138
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 681 (227 from Rivendell)
  • 113 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 240 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,098 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 15th night out from Rivendell. January 7-8, 3019 TA. (map)

Bilbo and Tolkien Change Their Stories

“I have seen a bright ring in the Halfling’s hand; but Isildur perished ere this age of the world began, they say. How do the Wise know that this ring is his? And how has it passed down the years, until it is brought hither by so strange a messenger?”

Boromir raises a fine question. How does everyone know for sure that this ring is the One Ring? For that answer – or at least part of it – Elrond called upon Bilbo to tell his tale.

Bilbo’s tale is, of course, The Hobbit, and if, as readers, we know just how the story evolved, it’s all the more interesting.

When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he had no idea that Bilbo’s ring was anything more than a magical ring of invisibility. It wasn’t until he was well into writing its sequel, Lord of the Rings, that its true importance came to him.

In the originally-published Hobbit, Bilbo received the ring from a very willing Gollum, after winning the riddle game. The rules of the game as we know them now were that if Bilbo won, Gollum would show him out of the mountain. If Gollum won, he’d get to eat Bilbo. In the original version, while Gollum’s spoils would be the same, Bilbo’s prize was to be a present from Gollum.

“Must we give it the thing, preciouss? Yess, we must! We must feetch it, preciouss, and give it the present we promised.” Gollum wanted to give Bilbo the Ring, but when he could not find it (because Bilbo already had it), he was upset and apologized profusely.

The original narrator explained: “I don’t know how many times Gollum begged Bilbo’s partdon. He kept on saying: ‘We are ssorry; we didn’t meant to cheat, we meant to give it our only pressent, if it won the competition.’ He even offered to catch Bilbo some nice juicy fish to eat as a consolation.”

This version remained unchanged until 1950 when it was altered without Tolkien’s permission (though he never requested that it be reverted). He had submitted some notes in the form of narration to his publisher and they mistakenly thought that it was a final draft. It was not. And so he worked it into his story.

During the Council of Elrond, Bilbo explained the change:

“‘But I will now tell the true story, and if some here have heard me tell it otherwise’ – he looked sidelong at Gloin – ‘I ask them to forget it and forgive me. I only wished to claim the treasure as my very own in those days, and to be rid of the name of thief that was put on me. But perhaps I understand things a little better now. Anyway, this is what happened.'”

The narrator admits to us that “to some there Bilbo’s tale was wholly new.” To most who were familiar with The Hobbit as it was originally published, this tale would have been wholly new. But Tolkien does not go into how it was new. He doesn’t give away the newly rewritten “Riddles in the Dark” chapter of The Hobbit. For that, the reader was to pick up a new copy of his first book.

When this change appeared in 1950 (four years before Fellowship of the Ring was published), Tolkien was not happy. Now, in the writing process and within the story, he had to figure out how to make this work.

“I have now on my hands two printed versions of a crucial incident,” he wrote to his publisher in September of 1950. “Either the first must be regarded as washed out, a mere miswriting that ought never to have seen the light; or the story as a whole must take into an account the existence of two versions and use it.”

Faced with this decision, he thought on it for a few days until he finally decided “to accept the existence of both versions of Chapter Five, so far as the sequel goes.”

He decided to explain it away in the prologue, which, if you haven’t read it, you need to. Basically, Bilbo wrote down the story as it was first published in the 1937 version of The Hobbit. But he did not personally change it, not even after revealing its untruth at the Council of Elrond.

“Evidentially, it still appeared in the original Red Book, as it did in several of the copies and abstracts. But many copies contain the true account (as an alternative), derived no doubt from notes by Frodo or Samwise, both of whom learned the truth, though they seem to have been unwilling to delete anything actually written by the old hobbit himself.”

So Tolkien was forced to make the change and then really ran with it, making the change all part of the story. Brilliant, no?

A Few Notes
We’re slowly creeping toward Gandalf’s tale, I promise!

Have you seriously not read the prologue? For shame!

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D  expired 10/1994 x-pro

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D
expired 10/1994
x-pro

About the Photo
Concrete, you say? Maybe not…
The town of Concrete, Washington is known for one thing – their reaction to Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. I suggest you read this, because it is hilarious.


  • Day 137
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 676 (222 from Rivendell)
  • 118 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 245 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,103 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 15th night out from Rivendell. January 7-8, 3019 TA. (map)

All that is Gold Does Not Wander… Or Some Such Nonsense

Oh this…. I’ve not been a Tolkien fan for too incredibly long. A couple of years or so, really. I didn’t grow up with it, and though I saw the movies, I wasn’t taken by them – especially when compared to how I was completely taken by the books when I finally got around to them.

But this poem, the “All that is gold does not glitter / Not all those who wander are lost” poem, I think I really hate it. And though it’s ridiculous, I think it’s because of how often it’s quoted. It’s easily the most overused Tolkien quote. But that’s neither the fault of the poem nor of Tolkien. So let’s try to ignore the borishness and get into the heart of this. And then probably forget it.

This was blurted out by Bilbo during the Council of Elrond when Boromir and Aragorn sort of had a disagreement about whether it was to be the House or Sword of Elendil that would come to Minas Tirith.

It is in response to the doubt in Boromir’s eyes over about Aragorns noble lineage. So, *sigh* … let’s hear it.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not whither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king.

The purport of it is pretty obvious. Though Aragorn doesn’t look like much and is a Ranger, he’s actually of nobility. Though the world has turned dark, it hasn’t touched him. And out of the darkness, the Sword of Elendil will be made anew and Aragorn will be king. The End.

As it turns out, Bilbo had made up the poem a long time ago, just after Aragorn told him who he was. He then voices a sentiment that will come back to us before the Fellowship leaves Rivendell: “I almost wish that my adventures were not over, and that I could go with him when his day comes.”

Aragorn admits that he doesn’t much resemble Isildur or his kin, so he can’t blame Boromir for doubting. But he assures him, “I am the heir of Isildur, not Isildur himself.”

This is a strange thing for him to say. In Gondor, they didn’t really know much about Isildur, other than that he was the guy who took the Ring. Boromir didn’t go into detail about knowing anything else, but maybe Aragorn (who did know more) assumed that Boromir might suspect that Isildur’s Bane would soon become Aragorn’s Bane. This would explain Aragorn’s reminder that he wasn’t Isildur himself.

He goes on to explain his life and how he was descended from Valandil and a “long line unbroken from father unto son for many generations.” Thought he days had grown darker and the Dunadain had dwindled, “ever the Sword has passed to a new keeper.”

This brings us to just why the over-used poem was so important. More than likely, it was the first time that Tolkien wrote about the Sword of Elendil being broken. If not for this poem, the writing might have continued in a very different direction. After writing that draft, in subsequent drafts and in additions, Tolkien simply added the broken sword. But he first wrote about it here, because of a poem (and possibly because “broken” rhymes with “woken” – good god!).

So are you up to a quick history of Narsil, the Sword of Elendil? Sure you are! The sword was created in the first age by Telchar the Dwarf. It was made for the Elves and eventually found its way to Elros, Elrond’s brother and the first King of Numenor. It seems to have been handed down through the different kings of Numenor until Elendil received it and saved it from the drowning of Numenor.

During the war with Sauron that closed out the Second Age, Elendil carried it with him into battle, and when he fell, he broke the sword in two. Nearby, Isildur picked up the sword and used the hilt and shard to cut off Sauron’s finger and take the Ring. He then carried it with him to the Gladden Fields where he gave it to Ohtar before being killed by Orcs. Ohtar took it to Rivendell.

But the shards didn’t stay in Rivendell. Valandil, who was Isildur’s youngest son (and Aragorn’s ancestor) took them with him when he re-established the kingdom of Arnor in the north. There, as Aragorn says, it was handed down from father to son until he finally received it from his own father.

I suppose it doesn’t matter much that it was broken. It just as easily could have been a normal sword. But that it couldn’t be reforged until Aragorn had it and Sauron returned in force adds a bit of magic to it all. And that’s a very good thing.

Aragorn ends his piece by laying it all out for Boromir: “A new hour comes. Isildur’s Band is found. Battle is at hand. The Sword shall be reforged. I will come to Minas Tirith.”

Boromir still has some questions, of course. For instance, he wants to understand how everybody can just know that it’s the One Ring. Good question, Boromir, and we’ll get to that tomorrow.

A Few Notes

  • I know that my dislike of this poem will probably shock people. I mean, not only is this the most over-used, it’s also the most over-tattooed. Just… just ugh.
  • If someone would ask me which Tolkien tattoo they should get, I would give this as advise: Get whatever moves you, whatever you have taken into your heart. Get something important, driving – something that will always make you ecstatic. Get something that, when you first read it, took your breath away, and changed your life. … Unless it’s that fucking “not all who wander are lost” poem. Seriously. Knock it off.
Camera: Mamiya C3 (1962ish) Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/94 -- xpro as C-41)

Camera: Mamiya C3 (1962ish)
Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/94 — xpro as C-41)

About the Photo
That said, this is one of my favorite shots. Certainly not glittery, but a whole lot of golden in there. Thanks, creepy closed service station! Thanks!


  • Day 136
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 671 (217 from Rivendell)
  • 123 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 250 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,108 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 13th night out from Rivendell. January 7, 3019 TA. (map)

Seek for the Sword that was Broken

It’s historyfest at the Council of Elrond! After its namesake went on about Gondor in the Third Age, Boromir picked it up and gave us a bit more. Now he believes it to be incredibly important that we all know how he got to Rivendell. He’ll also probably tell us why. Let’s find out.

Turns out Boromir had been on the road for 110 days. According to the Tale of Years, the battle of Osgiliath (which I talked about here), happened on June 20th. A couple of weeks later, on July 4th, Boromir set off from Minas Tirith (it’s October 25th now). Having basically lost the battle, it might be easy to think that he came to Rivendell to procure allies. But no. Boromir had a dream and he really needed to talk to Elrond about it.

Of course, this was no ordinary dream. The day before the battle (so, on June 19th), Boromir’s brother, Faramir, dreamed that “the eastern sky drew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:

Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.

This dream came to Faramir a few times, and once to Boromir. At this point in the story, we don’t know anything at all about Faramir. But after we learn more about it – that he was Gandalf’s student and into the mystical side of things much more than Boromir – it just makes sense.

It probably should have been Faramir and not Boromir who made the journey to Rivendell, and for a time, it seemed that Faramir would actually do it. But, as we’ll see, it was fairly dangerous, and Boromir was better suited. Anyway, it all worked out as it was supposed to be.

Taking the poem bit by bit, we can see that the Valar (I assume) are calling upon the dreamers to find Elindil’s broken sword, which was in Rivendell (Imladris). There, they would have a council, and be shown the Ring, which was now awoken and being carried by a hobbit.

Boromir admits that neither he nor Faramir had much of an idea what any of this meant. They apparently didn’t even know about Rivendell or Elrond, as their father, Denethor, had to tell them “that Imladris was of old the name among the Elves of a far northern dale, where Elrond the Halfelven dwelt, greatest of lore-masters.” It’s also explained why it took Boromir so long to get to Rivendell – he couldn’t find the place.

Denethor really didn’t want his favorite son, Boromir, leaving Minas Tirith. This makes sense since they were pretty damn close to being besieged by Orcs, Easterlings, and the Haradrim. Still, it had to be done. Their faith in the sword of Elendil, which had stopped Sauron before, was too strong to ignore.

And here’s where Aragorn finally speaks up. “Here is the Sword that was Broken!” Aragorn, as Strider, had been carrying the sword the whole time, as we saw during the attack of the Nazgul on Weathertop.

The thing about Gondoreans is that apparently they think that Gondor (and sometimes Rohan) is the only place that really exists. When Boromir saw the sword, he immediately assumed that Aragorn had something to do with Minas Tirith.

Elrond fills Boromir in on just who this Aragorn fellow actually is. He’s descended from Isildur and is “the Chief of the Dunedain in the North,” so really the sword belongs to him.

Quickly, Frodo realized that if the sword belonged to Aragorn because Aragorn was Isildur’s heir, then, logically, the Ring also belonged to Aragorn since it had been Isildur’s. Aragorn countered, saying that it didn’t really belong to either of them, and that “it has been ordained that you should hold it for a while.”

Clearly, Aragorn, Elrond and even Gandalf were taking Boromir’s dream about the Halfling thing pretty seriously. Some higher power had given this message to Boromir, who was now giving it to everyone else. Frodo (or at least some hobbit) was to stand forth, presumably with the Ring.

And so that’s what he did, as Gandalf’s request. Though some shame, loathing and reluctance, he showed the Council the Ring.

Boromir once more proved his self-centeredness. When he saw that it’s a halfling that is holding it, he assumed that the line: “The shall be shown a token that Doom is near at hand,” meant that Doom was near at hand for Minas Tirith. But that’s not what the poem said at all, and Aragorn calls him on it.

It wasn’t just a Doom (meaning a reckoning) that was upon Minas Tirith, but for all of Middle-earth. And then Aragorn asks Boromir a pretty loaded question, maybe over-playing his hand.

“Do you wish for the House of Elendil to return to the Land of Gondor?”

But Boromir wasn’t sent to ask any favors, only to seek council about the meaning of the dream. His answer to Aragorn’s question actually side-stepped the intent: “Yet we are hard pressed, and the Sword of Elendil would be a help beyond our hope – if such a thing could indeed return out of the shadows of the past.”

Aragorn and Boromir were talking about two totally different things. Boromir came to Rivendell to get the Sword of Elendil. Aragorn made it clear that he came with the Sword and would return as King of Gondor. Boromir probably figured that’s what he meant and pretty well ignored it. When he looked at Aragorn “doubt was in his eyes.”

One thing we’ll see about Boromir is that he’s not incredibly trusting. In some cases, I’m going to argue that he’s right. But in this case, he’s of course wrong. It makes sense that he would be a bit on the fence here though. He just met Aragorn.

Besides, the dream-poem didn’t mention anything at all about the family of Elendil – only the Sword. If they were going to take the halfling part seriously, then why not take that part seriously as well?

A Few Notes
Not to spoil anything, but I think Boromir was pretty on the money when it came to Galadriel. But that’s a story for another time.

I was thinking about dipping into whatever earlier drafts I could find about this segment, but I’m going to save that for another time as well.

Camera: Mamiya C3 (1962ish) Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/94 -- xpro as C-41)

Camera: Mamiya C3 (1962ish)
Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/94 — xpro as C-41)

About the Photo
Well, this is really the first time that we’re exposed to the nature of Men in the Third Age of Middle-earth. It can be a bit much sometimes, and they should probably get their own room.


  • Day 135
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 666 (212 from Rivendell)
  • 128 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 255 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,113 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 13th night out from Rivendell. January 6-7, 3019 TA. (map)