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?
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)