Swishing His Tail and Saying Nothing – A Closer Look at Bill the Pony

For the hobbits, there had been many ponies so far on the journey. Though Frodo, Sam and Pippin had left Hobbiton without a pony, once they met up with Farmer Maggot and Merry, ponies became all part of the fun. All four rode ponies upon leaving Crick Hollow, and there was even another for baggage. After Tom Bombadil’s house and the Barrow-wights, they were joined by Tom himself on a pony (after their own were scared off by the wights).

After Tom turned back and the hobbits got to Bree, their ponies were let loose (probably) by Bill Ferny. Though they eventually found their way back to Crickhollow, the hobbits, and now Strider, were without ponies of any sort. But it was through Bill Ferny that they acquired Bill the Pony.

The as-yet-unnamed Bill the pony was “a poor old half-starved creature,” according to Bob from the Prancing Pony. And Bill Ferny was trying to make a quick buck on it. They thought it was a trick, that Ferny was trying to track them or swindle them by training the pony to return to him once they were out of town, but Strider countered: “I cannot imagine any animal running home to him, once it got away.”

And even though the poor pony was at death’s door, they paid the too-high price of twelve silver pennies (he wasn’t worth more than four) and it came along with them. Immediately, Sam took to him, and maybe after he hit old Bill Ferny in the nose with an apple, the pony took to Sam.

It was this pony, still unnamed, who carried Frodo after his wounding at Weathertop. He was “developing an unexpected talent for picking out a path, and for sparing its rider as many jolts as possible.” In fact, the pony was carrying Frodo for so long that even Tolkien referred to him as “Frodo’s pony” as they neared the Trolls. But we all know that in truth, he was Sam’s own. After they met Glorfindel and Frodo was allowed to ride his horse, Sam’s pony was once employed in carrying the baggage.

The company spent two months in Rivendell, and it was during that time that Sam grew closer to the pony. As they were readying themselves to leave for the journey, Bill was once again burdened with the heavy load of their supplies. They apparently had other choices of animals, but “it was Sam who insisted on choosing him, declaring that Bill (as he called him) would pine, if he did not come.” In all likelihood, it would have been Sam doing the pining, though there’s no real indication that Bill wouldn’t have been upset as well.

‘That animal can nearly talk,’ he said, ‘and would talk, if he stayed here much longer. He gave me a look as plain as Mr. Pippin could speak it: if you don’t let me go with you, Sam, I’ll follow on my own.’ So Bill was going as the beast of burden, yet he was the only member of the Company that did not seem depressed.

After leaving Rivendell, Tolkien gives Bill the pony an actual personality. After Sam jokingly admonished him for not staying back in Rivendell, “Bill swished his tail and said nothing.” And then, in the snow, when they could go almost no farther, Sam spoke up saying that Bill could in fact take a bit more. To that, “the pony looked at him mournfully.” During the snowstorm, “Bill the pony stood patiently but dejectedly in front of the hobbits, and screened them a little.” When they were surrounded by Wargs, Bill “trembled and sweated where he stood.”

Of course, just as they were about to enter Moria, it was decided that Bill the Pony could not go with them. It was first discussed between Gandalf, Frodo and Gimli as a matter of practicality.

‘Poor old Bill!’ said Frodo. ‘I had not thought of that. And poor Sam! I wonder what he will say?’

But it’s Gandalf who seems to feel most for Bill: “Poor Bill has been a useful companion, and it goes to my heart to turn him adrift now. I would have travelled lighter and brought no animal, least of all this one that Sam is fond of, if I had had my way. I feared all along that we should be obliged to take this road.”

Gandalf’s last sentiment, that he wouldn’t have brought an animal at all, makes the most sense. Sam brought Bill not mostly because it would be useful to have a beast of burden, but because of his affection for him. Now that affection might cost poor Bill his life. Just as they needed to release him, the wolves began howling.

Sam, of course, was terrified for Bill and angry at Gandalf, but really, it was his own fault. He probably knew this, which made the frustration even thicker. But Gandalf did hit Sam with the practical “well, if you wouldn’t have brought a pony along…” speech. Instead, he approached the pony.

He laid his hand on the pony’s head, and spoke in a low voice. ‘Go with words of guard and guiding on you,’ he said. ‘You are a wise beast, and have learned much in Rivendell. Make your ways to places where you can find grass, and so come in time to Elrond’s house, or wherever you wish to go.

‘There, Sam! He will have quite as much chance of escaping wolves and getting home as we have.’

Did Gandalf cast some sort of protection spell over Bill? Or was he just reminding him of all he had to live for in Rivendell and very possibly later with Sam?

It was Bill, and not Gandalf, who told Sam that it would all be okay: “Bill, seeming to understand well what was going on, nuzzled up to him, putting his nose to Sam’s ear. Sam burst into tears, and fumbled with the straps, unlading all the pony’s packs and throwing them on the ground.”

 Camera: Polaroid Automatic 250 Film: Fuji FP-100C


Camera: Polaroid Automatic 250
Film: Fuji FP-100C

A Few Notes

  • Naming your pony after his previous owner/abuser is a pretty strange thing. No explanation was given, but let’s just assume that Sam was taking back the name, turning it from evil to good. He was reclaiming “Bill” for the rest of us.
  • Bill’s actual departure wasn’t really as wonderful as it would have been if he just would have left after the ear-nuzzling, but that’s what you get with Tolkien – a bit of heart-warming fantasy mixed with harsh reality.
  • And of course, with that comes a happy ending. Bill returned to Bree and the Prancing Pony. Nob had been watching him and Sam counted himself “born lucky, whatever my gaffer may say.”
  • Oh! And we shouldn’t forget that Tolkien allowed Bill the Pony to get back at Bill the Ferny: “As he [Ferny] passed the ponies one of them let fly with his heels and just caught him as he ran. He went off with a yelp into the night and was never heard of again.”
  • Bill the pony eventually traveled with Sam and Frodo to the Grey Havens, and went on to live with Sam and Rosie until he died a very happy passing in the Shire (we can assume).

About the Photo
So Bill is a pony and not a camel, but you get the idea. Cambells was a mid-west freight company during the 50s and into the 90s, I think. Their motto was the hilarious “Humpin’ to Please.” This, along with Chicagos “Speed Humps” makes any adult into a middle schooler.

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The Evolution and Incarnations of the Fellowship

Last time, we took a look at the Nine members of The Fellowship and the reasons why they were chosen. Though didn’t always make a whole lot of sense, we’ve come to know and love them in the roles they play. But it took Tolkien quite a bit of time and reconsideration to figure out just who would be going along for the journey. Actually, it took quite a long time to figure out that there would be a journey at all.

In the “First Phase” of his writing, Tolkien made it to Rivendell before doubling back and restarting. The second attempt made it only to Bombadil’s place. The “Third Phase,” however, is where things started to come together. The first real mention of anyone taking the One Ring to Mordor was in the Autumn of 1939 – nearly two years after he began to write. In that version, Bilbo offers to take it, but Folco [proto-Frodo] has already offered and been supported by Gandalf. At that point, Trotter [proto-Strider] turned out to be the hobbit Peregrin Boffin [there’s no real equal to him in the published version].

First Incarnationof the Fellowship
Gandalf, Trotter, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Folco, Odo, Glorfindel, and Frar
Tolkien continued on with the understanding that the One Ring would somehow get to Mordor with the character who would become Frodo. Also, that he would be joined by others, probably hobbits. It was during this time when Tolkien finally laid down the first concrete role call for the Fellowship.

From the start, Tolkien wished for the number to be nine, though you’ll notice an extra hobbit along for the ride. While Folco had been one of Frodo’s names, by the time he decided upon the first Fellowship, he had also settled on Frodo. Folco Took, in this case, is the missing Pippin, but then so is Odo Bolger.Of course, this was the same Odo who had a side-adventure with Gandalf in the early drafts. When Tolkien would combine Folco and Odo, he would lose that bit of the story.

The only other mystery is then Frar the Dwarf. Frar was probably supposed to be Balin’s son and arrived in Rivendell with Gloin. He would later be replaced by Burin, and then ultimately cut. The addition of Glorfindel to the Fellowship just makes sense, and it’s not incredibly surprising that Boromir was not included, though, curiously, he was at the Council of Elrond in this early draft.

Second Incarnation
Gandalf, Trotter, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Farmond, and Glorfindel
In this version, the number had been dropped from nine to seven. This doesn’t jive with the idea that the number of the Fellowship had to match the number of the Riders, but then, that idea didn’t yet exist, so Tolkien was not duty-bound to respect it.

In this version, Gandalf does the selecting:

“‘Taking care of hobbits is not a task that everyone would like,’ said Gandalf, ‘but I am used to it. I suggest Frodo and his Sam, Merry, Farmond, and myself. That is five. And Glorfindel, if he will come and lend us the wisdom of the Elves: we shall need it.’

‘And Trotter!’ said Peregrin form the corner. ‘That is seven, and a fitting number. The Ring-bearer will have good company.'”

Faramond is the combination of Folco Took and Odo Bolger. Peregrin is not Pippin (that would be Faramond), but a proto-Aragorn.

Incidentally, this was decided before the council had even ended.

The Third Incarnation
Gandalf, Aragorn (Trotter), Frodo, Sam, Legolas, Erestor, Boromir, and Gimli
These were merely outlines, however, and there was no real personality given to the Fellowship until about a year later. Over that time, he did much revision and writing of the backstories told in the Council of Elrond chapter. It was also during this time that he devised of the idea that there should be nine in the Fellowship to match the nine Black Riders.

Erestor was a half-elf and related to Elrond. He was from the family known as “the children of Luthien”. The rest we all know, though Legolas had more recently been named Galdor. Of course, you’ll notice the absence of Merry and Pippin (now actually named Merry and Pippin). Tolkien wasn’t yet sure what to do about them. Elrond, as in the published version, noted that they would be needed in the Shire, but Tolkien seemed willing to swap out Erestor for Pippin.

The more mathematically inclined will notice that even though Tolkien set up the idea that the number must be nine, there are only eight mentioned. This makes no sense at all, really. He fixed this almost immediately.

The Fourth Incarnation
Gandalf, Aragorn (Trotter), Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Boromir, and Gimli
Here we are again, back at the familiar. And where Erestor had gone, Tolkien never said. Though this was the last time the Fellowship would change, Tolkien wasn’t quite through with name-switching. Trotter had become Peregrin, and then Aragorn, but would soon become Elfstone. Ultimately, he would much later become Strider.

Wandering On…
For me, the biggest question that I have is why not take Glorfindel? He appeared in the first and second incarnations, so why cut him? It would be such a fun idea to sort of collect the Fellowship as they went along. First Frodo and Sam, then Merry and Pippin, then Strider, then Glorfindel and Gandalf. It would be almost like it was destined to happen before the Council of Elrond. But Tolkien gives no clues as to why he decided to throw in Legolas.

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


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

A Few Notes

  • Frodo went through a ridiculous amount of name changes: Bingo Bolger, Bingo Bolger-Baggins, Faramond Baggins, Peregrin, Folco Baggins, and probably more than I’ve missed. Also, most of these names were used and reused for other characters, some of whom don’t exist in the published version.
  • Though Legolas had been named Galdor at first, it was not the same Galdor who appears in the published version. This Galdor was sent to the Council to represent the Elves of Mirkwood. He made no appearance in the Fellowship until after the name change.
  • This was also not the first time that Tolkien used the names Legolas and Galdor. There had been Legolas Greenleaf from the Fall of Gondolin story dating back to the Book of Lost Tales era (1910s and 1920s). In that, Legolas was of the House of the Tree, over which Galdor was lord. Though he used the same names, they were not the same characters.

About the Photo
Nothing says Evolution and Incarnation quite like yet another block of condos being raised in Seattle. It’s so rare that I take a photo of something new. Actually, I have no memory of taking this.

Assembling the Fellowship: It’s So Crazy, It Just Might Work!

During my three-week or longer recovery time, I’m going to be leaving Frodo’s journey to look at a few other things that I have missed along the way thus far. Today, I’ll start a bit more easily and try to figure out just how Elrond threw together the Fellowship. It all seemed a bit slap-dash, but maybe there’s something more to it than that.

To do that, let’s start by taking a quick account of who was at the Council of Elrond. Since the Council was held in Rivendell, it’s not really surprising that Rivendell was well represented. There was, of course, Elrond, as well as Erestor and Glorfindel, both Elf-lords. There were also two other Elves present – Legolas, send by the Elves of Mirkwood, as well as Galdor, who was sent by Cirdan the Shipwright, on of the oldest Elves in Middle-earth.

To represent Men, there was Aragorn, but he was also mostly from Rivendell, and Boromir, who had come the farthest, from Minas Tirith, to attend the meeting. For the Dwarves, there was Gloin from The Hobbit, and his son, Gimli. We also have Bilbo and Frodo representing the hobbits (Sam, Merry and Pippin were not invited, though Sam makes a bit of an appearance). And lastly, Gandalf.

After deciding that the One Ring must be taken to Mordor, the first person to volunteer to do it is Bilbo. After that was shot down for obvious reasons, Frodo volunteered to continue his journey. Elrond agreed that everything seemed to be pointing to this conclusion, but he also refused to directly tell Frodo to do it. According to Gandalf, nobody at the meeting (except Gandalf) expected either Bilbo or Frodo to come forward and offer to take the ring.

Sam spoke up next, and Elrond pretty flippantly allowed him to tag along: “It is hardly possible to separate you form him, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not.” After the meeting, the hobbits got together and Merry and Pippin insisted upon going along to Mordor.

Still, at this point nothing was decided apart from Frodo and Sam, and nothing would be decided for quite a long while. Elrond sent out scouts and Rangers, including Aragnorn and Elrond’s sons, to various places (I think I might look into that a bit more – seems like a fun way to brush up on geography), and they were waiting until their return to settle. They were searching for some word of the Nine Riders, which were not destroyed in the flood.

The Council was held on October 25th, and nearly two months would elapse before all the scouts returned. So on December 18th, Elrond revisits the idea of Frodo going to Mordor. He determines that the number in the company should be Nine, just as the number of Black Riders. By this point, Gandalf had agreed to go, which brought the total to three.

Elrond wanted to rest to represent the “Free Peoples of the World: Elves, Dwarves, and Men.” For Elves, he didn’t choose either of his sons or Glorfindel or even Galdor from the Grey Havens, but Legolas, an Elf from Mirkwood. His dealings with Legolas prior to the Council had probably been minimal at most, but yet, there he was. To represent Dwarves, the choice was simple – Gloin was too old, and his son Gimli was just the right age (and the only other Dwarf around).

For Men, it was a sort of sticky situation. Aragorn had already told Boromir that he would go with him to Minas Tirith, so when Elrond announced that Aragorn would be accompanying the Fellowship, he added sort of as an afterthought: “Therefore Boromir will also be in the Company.” The rub was that both Aragorn and Boromir would only be with the Fellowship until the turnoff at Minas Tirith (though, granted, that was over two-thirds of the way there).

That left two vacant spaces and Elrond figured that he’d fill them with two Elves from Rivendell. That makes sense, really. Good idea. But Merry and Pippin spoke up and insisted they be allowed to go. Gandalf spoke up in their defense. Elrond was apprehensive, but (seemingly) only because it would leave The Shire unguarded – something he was pretty dead on about.

And that was the Fellowship. While it was obviously under the command of Gandalf, it featured four hobbits, of which only one made any sense to make the journey. There was a Dwarf and Elf who were basically unknown to Elrond, and two Men who would definitely not be with the party to the end. And so the best-case-scenario was that there would be a wizard who was fond of leaving (remember The Hobbit?), an unknown Dwarf and Elf, and a bunch of hobbits at the cracks of Mount Doom. This was an incredibly bad idea.

True, Gandalf says that even Glorfindel “could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the fire by the power that is in him,” but he’d probably stand a better chance than this lot. Even Elrond agrees that even his armies from the Last Alliance wouldn’t make a difference.

It really comes down to something Elrond said after Frodo had spoken up at the Council. Elrond had understood that Frodo had been chosen. At that point, the hobbit could have gone on alone, except for Sam. And so the rest of the Fellowship wasn’t there to just defend Frodo, but to report back when he failed. That is, except for the hobbits. Gandalf: “I think, Elrond, in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom.”

 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)


A Few Notes

  • Hopefully, I can keep up with this blog a bit. Anything more than lying down is a bit painful, but that will get better – quickly, I’m told.
  • The 60th Anniversary Edition of Lord of the Rings has been released, but only in the UK. This is definitive proof that the USA is not the greatest country in the world. You’ve been had.

About the Photo
This is another shot of the Diablo Dam bridge. It reminded me of Rivendell, though not as much as the other shot that I used.

The Watcher in the Water vs. The Dweller in the Pool!

The Fellowship is now poised to enter Moria. The Wargs were behind them and only the Elvish gate was between them and the passage under the mountain. At least, that was their initial conception. There was now a lake that had pooled before the Gate of Moria, and in that lake lived a many-tentacled monster.

Tolkien never really went out of his way to describe just what the critter was, how it got into the Misty Mountains or why it was even in the story at all. We first get the hint that something isn’t quite right as they’re rounding the lake.

Moving across a stream, Frodo dipped his foot and “shuddered with disgust at the touch of the dark unclean water on his feet.” When Sam and Bill followed “there came a soft sound: a swish, followed by a plop, as if a fish had disturbed the still surface of the water.” When they looked back, they saw ripples.

Though we’ll meet the source of the ripples soon enough, I wanted to take a look at the earlier drafts to see just how this strange creature evolved. Oddly, in this earlier draft, we get a bit more detail.

Firstly, Tolkien then described Frodo feeling a “curious disgust” when his foot touched the water. The plop is still heard, and when they turn “they saw in the moonlight ripples sharpened with dark shadows: great rings were widening outwards from some point near the middle of the pool.”

Okay, so it’s not much more information – we really only learned that the ripples came from the middle of the lake. So let’s fast-forward through the password scene to where they’re just entering the mine.

First, Frodo was seized by the ankle, and Bill the pony took off. Sam was faced with the Battleship Potemkin-like decision over which to rescue. He chose Frodo and ran to him, “weeping and cursing” over his friend’s distress.

The others in the Fellowship turned “And saw the waters of the lake seething, as if a host of snakes were swimming up from the southern end.”

Tolkien described the tentacles as “pale-green and luminous and wet.” They were dragging Frodo into the lake, while Sam slashed away with his knife. Due to the pain, the tentacle released Frodo, but twenty other arms burst from the water. “The dark water boiled, and there was a hideous stench.”

The original draft is quite a bit different, in a way. Rather than being near sunset, as it was in the published version, it was night – too dark to search for the door. So they camped there next to the lake. Come the morning, Frodo again hears “a soft swish and bubble in the water as on the evening before, only softer.” He again saw ripples, but this time, they seemed to be moving toward Sam and Trotter [proto-Strider] who were crossing a near by wash.

There is no Bill the Pony yet, just a few horses, which Sam was seeing off and away from the party as Gandalf tried to figure out the password. And as in the published text, just as they’re about to enter, the tentacle grabs Frodo. Rather than simply Sam seeing this go down, Trotter also sees it. The tentacle is described as “pale green-grey and wet,” though apparently not “luminous,” possibly because it was daytime.

The tentacles themselves are somewhat different in the early text, having “fingers” that wrap Frodo’s ankle. When Sam slashes at it with his knife, “the fingers let go of Frodo…” In the published version, “the arm let go of Frodo.”

In the published version, Tolkien described that “twenty other arms came rippling out,” but in the early draft, he concluded that thought with: “making for the travellers as if directed by something in the deep pools that could see them all.” For whatever reason, this idea that the arms were working in concert was deleted.

In both versions, Gandalf quickly ushered them inside. In the early draft, that’s all there was to it. In the published text, there was quite a bit more drama (a paragraph’s worth) concerning the arms. The end was the same – the monster slammed and blocked the door behind them.

With the excitement dying down in both versions, Frodo asked Gandalf what the hell that thing was. This is the published text of Gandalf’s reply:


“‘I do not know,’ answered Gandalf; ‘but the arms were all guided by one purpose. Something has crept, or has been driven out of dark waters under the mountains. There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.’ He did not speak aloud his thought that whatever it was that dwelt in the lake, it has seized on Frodo first among all the Company.”

Tolkien’s original draft is quite a bit different:

“‘I could not say,’ said Gandalf, ‘-there was not time enough to look at the arms. They all belong to one creature, I should say, from the way they moved – but that is all I can say. Something that has . . . . crept, or been driven out of the dark waters under ground, I guess. There are older and fouler things than goblins in the dark places of the world.’ He did not speak aloud his uncomfortable thought that the Dweller in the Pool had not seized on Frodo among all the party by accident.”

So we see that originally, the tentacles definitely belonged to the same animal, but in the later version, they all had the same purpose. Though in both, it’s clear that Gandalf feel that Frodo was targeted, in the published text, it’s stated twice. This attack was orchestrated.

You’ll also notice the use of “goblin” rather than “Orc” in the original draft. Though Tolkien had used the word Orc for decades in his earlier writings, probably because of The Hobbit, he was still using “goblin.”

At this point in the writing, the terms were not quite interchangeable, though soon they would be (and later, “goblin” would be almost completely dropped). A few pages further into the early draft, Gandalf explains: “there are goblins – of a very evil kind, larger than usual, real orcs.”

Lastly, in the first draft, the creature is given a sort-of name: “Dweller in the Pool,” while nothing is given in the published version until a bit later, when it’s called The Watcher in the Water.

There’s oodles of speculation about the origins of the creature – from it somehow being a kraken (please, David Day!) to it being bred by Morgoth. The latter has some weight to it since it was Morgoth who raised up the Misty Mountains to block the Valar and Elves from hunting him down. Maybe he had time to do a bit of gene-splicing. Since Tolkien never went into detail and never described the thing having a squid-like head (and even backed away from it being a single creature), there’s really no way to suss this out without creating a bit of fanfiction.

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) ||Film: Fujichrome Provia 100 x-pro as C-41 (expired in 10/1997)

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) ||Film: Fujichrome Provia 100 x-pro as C-41 (expired in 10/1997)

A Few Notes
This will be my last post following Frodo’s journey for at least two weeks – maybe three. By the time this posts, I’ll be out and under the knife (seriously, nothing major). I’ll probably take the weekend off from writing, but hope to return on Monday or Tuesday with more fun.

About the Photo
“Before them stretched a dark still lake….The Sirannon had been dammed and hd filled all the valley. Beyond the ominous water were reared fast cliffs, their stern faces pallid in the fading light: final and impassable.”

This, dear friends, is Ancient Lake in Potholes Coulee in central Washington. There used to be a waterfall here (15,000ish years ago) and the lake was left over from then. We discovered this after an unexpected fourish mile hike to see what was back the canyon. This was our reward. I nearly fainted from how beautiful it was.


  • Day 161
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 794 (340 from Rivendell)
  • 97 miles to Lothlórien
  • 985 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. At the Gate of Moria! 21st day out of Rivendell. January 13, 3019 TA. (map)

The Pros and Cons of Moria

With only two days left before we reach Moria (and I am forced to take a hopefully short break from following Frodo’s journey), I want to talk a bit about the decision making skills of the Fellowship. Before being attacked by the Wargs (discussed here), Gandalf and pals were discussing the merits and drawbacks of using a certain troublesome passageway. Let’s glance in on their process.

Gandalf and Aragorn had been privately debating whether or not to enter the Mines of Moria for some time now, and it’s only at this point when they propose it to the group. Both present reasons for using it and avoiding it. Since it’s scattered throughout dialog and ramblings, let’s break it down into a traditional list of pros and cons – starting with the Cons, since that’s where the Fellowship started.

Cons

  • “Not a pleasant way.”
  • Aragorn originally against it.
  • Even the hobbits knew it as a “legend of vague fear.”
  • Unsure whether it would come out on the other side of the Misty Mountains. (This is a big one, I think.)
  • Name is an “ill omen.” (Boromir)
  • Enemy might be watching all roads, including the one through Moria. (Boromir, again)
  • Could be a trap, “hardly better than knocking at the gates of the Dark Tower itself.” (Boromir)
  • “If there are Orcs there, it may prove ill for us.” (Gandalf)
  • Though Gandalf and Aragorn had both been there before, neither had attempted to go all the way through it.
  • Aragorn’s visit left him thinking it was “very evil” and that he did not “wish to enter Moria a second time.”
  • Bill can’t come.

Pros

  • Fellowship was now more desperate after the Redhorn Pass failure.
  • Would allow Fellowship to “vanish from sight for a while.”
  • “That is a road at any rate that the Enemy will least expect us to take.”
  • It’s not the “dungeons of the Dark Lord.”
  • Most of the Orcs from the Misty Mountains were “scattered or destroyed in the Battle of Five Armies.”
  • Eagles report that the Orcs are gathering “from afar, but there is hope that Moria is still free.”
  • There’s a small chance that Dwarves such as Balin are there.
  • Gimli’s going.
  • Gandalf and Aragorn had both been there before (however, see the Con list).
  • Aragorn’s reluctantly going.
  • There are no Wargs in the mines (you know, probably).

But then there was Boromir’s suggestion. Since the Redhorn Pass was blocked by snow and a fairly pissed off mountain, he wondered why they couldn’t just continue south, “until we come to the Gap of Rohan, where men are friendly to my people, taking the road that I followed on my way hither.”

When Boromir left Minas Tirith, he tramped his way across Rohan, going right past Isengard. To this, Gandalf made a pretty fine point. Now that they had the One Ring with them, it was an incredibly bad idea to parade it right in front of Saruman who had been looking for the Ring for literally hundreds of years.

Boromir also suggested crossing the Isen into Langstrand (Anfalas) and then into Lebennin, “and so come to Gondor from the regions nigh to the sea.” (Here’s a map.)

This was actually a pretty good idea. They could continue south, pass through the White Mountains and loop around to come to Minas Tirith from the south. But Gandalf also shot down this suggestion: “we cannot afford the time.”

He thought that such a journey would take a year. The land they would be passing through was “empty and harbourless.” Finding forage or friends would be next to impossible. Also, since this was a good idea, both Sauron and Saruman probably figured they would attempt it, and scouts would be posted throughout hoping to find the Ring.

Boromir had left Minas Tirith on July 4th. It was now January 13th and many things had changed as far as Boromir’s status was concerned. When he made the journey that past summer, he was just one guy making his way through Gondor. But now he was with the Fellowship of the Ring. “You are in peril as long as you remain with us,” said Gandalf. “The danger will increase with every league that we go south under the naked sky.”

Two Warg attacks later and it was all “we must reach the doors before sunset!” And nobody thought Moria a bad idea (though, to their credit, nobody but Gimli was all that excited by the prospect). The Fellowship continued on, led by Gandalf and Gimli, but when they came to the Sirannon River, it was dry. In five miles, (tomorrow for us) they’ll be at the Gates of Moria!

Camera: Polaroid Colorpack 2 || Film: fuji FP-100c (negative scan)

Camera: Polaroid Colorpack 2 || Film: fuji FP-100c (negative scan)

A Few Notes

  • I don’t think it’s ever really explained why the Sirannon was dry. I mean, it was because it had been dammed to form a lake, but why? Was it natural? Orc/Man/Elf/etc-made? Maybe I’ll go into that tomorrow.
  • Poor Bill!
  • I’ll be doing another post or two about the Gate of Moria, but that’s all the farther we’ll go with the Fellowship for a bit due to me being laid up and unable to exercise. I’ve had a couple suggestions on what I might write about (hoping that I’ll feel anything like writing). More are certainly welcome.

About the Photo
“Rounding the corner they saw before them a low cliff, some five fathoms high, with a broken and jagged top. Over it a trickling water dripped, through a wide cleft that seemed to have been carved out by a fall that had once been strong and full.”

This is a bit taller than thirty feet (five fathoms) high, but the photo is also a bit of an optical illusion, so hey. I considered using this shot of it as well.


  • Day 160
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 789 (335 from Rivendell)
  • 5 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 102 miles to Lothlórien
  • 990 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Along the dry bed of the Sirannon very near to the Gate of Moria. 21st day out of Rivendell. January 13, 3019 TA. (map)

Of the Three Elvish Rings of Power and When Not to Wear Them

Sauron and the Elves of Eregion, headed by Celebrimbor made a whole mess of rings. He gave each of them some sort of power, having a hand in their construction. Before the rings could be completed, Sauron left Eregion for Mordor and began working on the One Ring that would rule over all of the others.

Sauron had been able to convince all of the Elves, except for Galadriel and Celeborn, that he had been redeemed. Even Celebrimbor had been certain that Sauron had turned over a new leaf, but when he discovered that Sauron was making a Ruling Ring, he revolted and went to see his main crush, Galadriel, who had since moved to Lorinand.

This discovery was a pretty big thing. As explained yesterday: With the One Ring, Sauron could see all that was done with the lesser rings, but there was a huge catch. The Elves, when wearing the lesser rings, were immediately aware of Sauron. This lasted about as long as it took them to remove the rings and never wear them again.

Both Galadriel and Celebrimbor knew that they should destroy all of the rings (remember, at this time, nobody but the Elves had them – they had not yet been given to the Men or Dwarves). However, they “failed to find the strength,” and could not do it.

Sometime after the lesser rings had been made and after Sauron departed, Celebrimbor had made the Three Rings of the Elves. For some reason or another (perhaps because the process was the same), while they weren’t tainted with Sauron’s touch, they were still very powerful and ultimately under the control of the One Ring. This gave them a fairly special category. These, most importantly, should be hidden and never used.

Since Sauron knew the Three Rings were in Eregion, it was decided to disperse them. Galadriel would take Nenya, the White Ring. The two other Rings were given to Gil-galad in Lindon. He either kept both of them or gave Narya, the Red Ring, to Cirdan of the Grey Havens shortly after receiving it (Tolkien had contradicted himself in a couple of places, this being one of them).

When Sauron found out about Celebrimbor’s discovery of the One Ring, he attacked Eregion, capturing Celebrimbor and confiscating the Nine Rings, though he couldn’t find the Three Elvish Rings or a certain Seven more which had been hidden. After a bit of torture, however, Celebrimbor revealed the location of the Seven, but was able to keep his mouth shut about the Three. Sauron had him killed for this and used his dead body as a flag (seriously, what the hell, Sauron?).

After a bit of battle here and there, Sauron believed that the Three Rings of the Elves were in Lindon with Gil-galad. He nearly succeeded in getting them, but the Numenorean Navy saved the day and he was beaten back before he could get to the Three Rings. With Sauron now back in his place, they could finally figure out what to do with the Rings.

Galadriel’s Ring, Nenya, was already in her possession, but, like the other Rings, it could not be used, otherwise Sauron would discover it. The Ring named Vilya, also known as the Ring of the Air and the Blue Ring, was kept by Gil-galad until just before his death, when he gave it to Elrond. It was said to be the mightiest of the Three.

The Third Ring, Narya, was the Ring of Fire, the Red Ring. This was given by Gil-galad to Cirdan (at some point), who gave it to Gandalf upon his arrival in Middle-earth “for your aid and comfort.” Cirdan could see “further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth”). He told Gandalf that in the days to come “it should be in nobler hands than mine, that may wield it for the kindling of all hearts to courage.”

Gandalf arrived in Middle-earth in the Third Age. This was after the One Ring had been lost by Isildur. With the One Ring out of Sauron’s control, the Three Rings of the Elves could finally be used.

Nenya’s power when worn by Galadriel strengthened Lorinand, making it beautiful, but it had an intense side effect. She had been banned from returning to the West and before she had her Ring, her desire to return was pretty great, but manageable. After receiving the Ring, however, it became nearly unbearable and she began to really not enjoy Middle-earth. Another, more beneficial, side effect was that the Witch-king would not defy its power and could never attack.

Elrond’s Ring, Vilya, had a similar power, but did not cause him to long for the West. In this way, Rivendell was protected and pretty much everything Bilbo says about the place regarding time has to do with Elrond’s Ring. It didn’t stop or slow time, of course, but it preserved things, giving the illusion that time might have slowed a bit.

The Last Ring, Gandalf’s red Narya, helped in doing what Cirdan said it would when he gave it to the wizard: “For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill.”

Another benefit of any of the Rings was that if Frodo failed in his mission to destroy the One Ring, and Sauron discovered it and wore it again, Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf would know immediately.

Once the One Ring was destroyed, Elrond was pretty sure that the Three Rings of the Elves would be rendered powerless. So no matter what happened, whether Sauron obtained the One Ring or the One Ring was destroyed, the power of the Three Rings of the Elves was soon to expire.

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Fuji NPS 160 (expired 10/1999)

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Fuji NPS 160 (expired 10/1999)

A Few Notes

  • There’s a bit of fuzziness about whether it was Sauron or the Elves who gave the Seven Rings to the Dwarves. Tolkien hints at both. In the Silmarillion, it says that Sauron gave the Seven to them, but in the Appendices of the Lord of the Rings, the Dwarves claim to have gotten them from the Elves.
  • Most of this came from Unfinished Tales, which gives quite a bit more detail than even the Silmarillion. In many cases, this was Tolkien’s last writings on the subject.

About the Photo
Hey look! It’s Vilya in Rivendell! Just kidding, it’s Seattle’s ferris wheel rising above some fountain by the piers. But still…


  • Day 159
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 784 (330 from Rivendell)
  • 10 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 107 miles to Lothlórien
  • 995 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching southish to the Sirannon! 21st day out of Rivendell. January 13, 3019 TA. (map)

A Whole Mess of Rings and None for Man nor Dwarf

The Council of Elrond had to get to it at some point. The Rings of Power were things of legend, and this conversation was long overdue.

We all know the poem:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in the halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne….

At this point in the discussion, the council learns that the seven given to the dwarves were lost and the nine given to men were claimed by the Nazgul, but, asks Gloin, “what of the Three Rings for the Elves? Very mighty Rings, it is said. Do not the Elf-lords keep them? Yet they too were made by the Dark Lord long ago. Are they idle? I see Elf-lords here. Will they not say?”

Oddly enough, Gloin’s misconception of the Rings of Power ended up being many readers’ misconception about the Rings of Power. While Elrond sets him straight on just who didn’t make the Elven Rings, let’s take a look at how the Rings came to be.

Around 1500 of the Second Age (about 4500 years before the Council of Elrond), according to the Silmarillion, Sauron was on his best behavior, at least outwardly. He had seemingly befriended the Elves living in Eregion (called Hollin at the time of the Lord of the Rings). In fact, he was “friends” with nearly all the Elves except Gil-galad and Elrond who didn’t trust him (also Galadriel and Celeborn if you believe the later version of the story).

But Sauron had not changed – he was still evil and was looking for a way to take over Middle-earth. To Elves, he claimed to be starting a huge rebeautification project. Using Gil-galad’s and Elrond’s distrust against them, he openly lamented their refusal to help him with such a worthy cause.

In doing this, he was able to cozy up to the Noldorian Elves living in Eregion. They were great with metals and crafts and Sauron convinced them to make Rings of Power. This would have been a lovely idea, but his end goal was to make One Ring to rule them all.

The Elves made many rings, guided by the hand of Sauron. In secret, around 1600 of the Second Age, Sauron made the Ruling Ring and didn’t tell anyone about it. Though it’s never stated just how many rings they made, according to Gandalf in “The Shadow of the Past” chapter, some of the rings were more potent than others, and as the Elves continued to make the rings, they got better at it and could create more powerful ones.

With the One Ring, Sauron could see all that was done with the lesser rings, but there was a huge catch. The Elves, when wearing the lesser rings, were immediately aware of Sauron. This lasted about as long as it took them to remove the rings and never wear them again.

Sauron was furious and went to war with the Elves, demanding they return all of the rings. The Elves refused and scattered. It was then when Sauron began to search for any and all rings of power. He was able to gather (at least) sixteen, but mostly wanted the three Elven Rings.

These Rings were different. While all of the other rings were made under the watch of Sauron, these three, named Narya, Nenya, and Vilya, were made by Celebrimbore without any help from the Dark Lord. But because they were originally made to be used with the other rings, they were still under the rule of the One Ring.

This was why Gloin thought it a good idea to use these three Rings to do battle with Sauron. All Elrond would tell him was that they were not idle, but could not be used for war since that wasn’t their power. They were made to slow the ravages of time so that wherever they were worn would age more slowly than the rest of Middle-earth, thus preserving all that was Elvish. Sauron was obviously looking not to use them, but to destroy them and send the Elves packing.

In his war against the Elves, starting in the late 1690s (nearly 200 years after the rings of power were first made), Eregion was destroyed and many fled to Rivendell. Unable to take this new Elvish city, Sauron took the sixteen rings of power that he had managed to gather.

You’ll notice that neither Men nor Dwarves had entered the story as of yet. That’s because they didn’t come in until now. The Rings of Power weren’t originally made for them. Sauron had wanted to corrupt the Elves, and in his failure, he turned to see what he could do with Dwarves and Men.

The seven rings he gave to the Dwarves did nothing but make them lusty for gold – something he didn’t care about at all. They were more or less useless. Sauron was able to recover some of the rings, but most were destroyed by the fires of dragons.

Men, on the other hand, were pretty easy to win over. He gave them nine rings, which almost immediately made the wearers become kings, sorcerers, and warriors (they did not seem to be this before wearing the rings). The gift gave them unending life, but they became the Nazguls, first appearing in 2251 of the Second Age. It must have taken 500 or so years for them to turn completely.

Those nine rings, along with however many of the remaining rings of the Dwarves, were kept by Sauron in Mordor. And though the three Elvish Rings of Power were ridiculously powerful, the only thing they could really do was keep Elvendom alive in Middle-earth longer than it otherwise would have been.

Once the One Ring was destroyed, Elrond was pretty sure that the Three Elvish Rings would be rendered as useless as those of the Dwarves. This meant that if Sauron was defeated and the Ring destroyed, the Elves would have to soon leave Middle-earth.

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Fuji NPS 160 (expired 10/1999)

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Fuji NPS 160 (expired 10/1999)

A Few Notes
If it hadn’t been for the Rings being at Rivendell and Lothlorien, all of the Elves would have to be slumming it like Thranduil’s people.

Tomorrow, I’ll go on a bit more about the individual Elven Rings and who had them and when. You know, probably.

About the Photo
Ring of Power! Get it? C’mon.


  • Day 158
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 779 (325 from Rivendell)
  • 15 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 112 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,000 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching southish toward the Sirannon! 21st day out of Rivendell. January 13, 3019 TA. (map)

How the Wind Howls – The Wargs Have Come West!

When camping, the last thing you really want to hear are wargs. The cute “yip yip” of a coyote is lovely, and the deep howl of a wolf is majestic, but the unnatural cry of a warg is something else all together.

It’s Aragorn who first understands what they’re hearing as they debate which path to take over or through the Misty Mountains. Sam notes that the wind is howling, but he’s checked. “It it howling with wolf-voices. The Wargs have come west of the mountains!”

But what’s truly astounding is that everyone but Aragorn seems completely okay with that. Maybe he should have repeated it. The Wargs. Have come west. Of the mountains. Got it? This is pretty important stuff, guys.

As I explained in this post, Wargs aren’t just pissed off wolves. They are evil in nature and serve the Enemy. They are intelligent and even have a language all their own.

They are probably ancient creatures, once serving Morgoth, but now they were associated with the Orcs of the Misty Mountains, though they had (almost) always been on the eastern side. These were the first true servants of the Enemy that were encountered by the Fellowship.

But hunky Boromir rattled off a stupid proverb: “The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears.” He clearly had not read the Hobbit. But Aragorn shot back: “But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.” These might have been the rhymes of children, but they told much about both Boromir’s and Aragorn’s upbringing.

Boromir was raised in Minas Tirith, a city in Gondor. He might have been a street smart kid who cowered at the baying of wolves while on camping adventures with his little brother along the Anduin, but he didn’t know Wargs. Aragorn, while raised in Rivendell, had roamed the lands far and wide and no doubt encountered a Warg or two. Wolves might not be a deadly as Orcs, but Wargs were every bit as dangerous.

It can also be told from this exchange that they weren’t sure whether they were wolves or Wargs.

For the night, they decided to climb to the top of a hill and make their camp. But there wasn’t much sleeping to be had. The light of the fire didn’t keep the beasts at bay, and they could see their glowing eyes peering over the crest of the hill. They were surrounded.

Finally, one came forward and let loose a howl. And that was about all that Gandalf was going to take.

‘Listen, Hound of Sauron!’ he cried. ‘Gandalf is here. Fly, if you value your foul skin! I will shrivel you from tail to snout, if you come within this ring.’

Calling him the Hound of Sauron must have brought back a few memories of Draugluin, the Hound of Morgoth. Technically, he was the first werewolf, bred by the Dark Lord to be a nasty little creature. Did Wargs come from his line? It’s certainly a safe bet.

Now Wargs are intelligent creatures, but even more than that, they are egotistical. This daring Warg undoubtedly knew who Gandalf was. It’s even possible that Frodo’s Ring drew him closer. When the foolish Warg sprang forward, Legolas ended him with an arrow in the throat. And that was enough to make the other Wargs think twice about attacking Gandalf (see, Wargs are intelligent!).

And think twice, they did! Upon their second thought, they actually devised a strategy to first surround the Fellowship. Rather than howling and chattering, they kept quiet and soon they had the company in a pretty tight spot.

Gandalf had been in a similar situation before. Then, it had been with the Dwarves and Bilbo. The Wargs had chased them up into the trees and Eagles had to be employed in their rescue. This time, Gandalf came prepared.

Rather than scrambling for his life, Gandalf completely changed, growing in stature: “he rose up, a great menacing shape like the monument of some ancient king of stone set upon a hill. Stooping like a cloud, he lifted a burning branch and strode to meet the wolves. They gave back before him. High in the air he tossed the blazing brand. It flared with a sudden white radiance like lightening; and his voice rolled like thunder.”

This is a completely different Gandalf than we saw in The Hobbit. Maybe he had spent some of those ensuing years learning a few spells (magic missile? Eldridge blast?).


“Nauar an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!”

This was Sindarin for “Fire save us! Fire drive back the werewolves! [or possibly ‘wolf-host’]” Tolkien often used the words “wolves,” “werewolves,” and “wargs” interchangeably, but there were differences, at least connotatively.

Gandalf then started a forest fire, heeding not the words of Smokey. But it was okay. The fire illuminated their swords and made Legolas’ normal arrows into flaming arrows. They killed the Wargs’ chieftain, downed a bunch of others and sent the rest into a rout.

But it’s not until the next morning that Gandalf could tell they were Wargs for certain. Just how they got across the Misty Mountains is anyone’s guess, but more than likely they were still on the western side and near by.

Before the attack, the Fellowship had been arguing about which route to take to get on the other side of the mountains. There was the mountain pass, but there was also the Mines of Moria. After the attack, it was pretty unanimous – Mines of Moria it was. And in another twenty miles, there they would be.

Camera: Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Film: Konica Pro 160 (expired)

Camera: Kodak Brownie Hawkeye
Film: Konica Pro 160 (expired)

A Few Notes

  • Tolkien describes the Wargs collectively as “hunting packs.” So not only were there many, they were organized and had a commander.
  • I love/hate how Tolkien will describe these types of creatures, giving us very little to go on as if he doesn’t know himself where they came from.

About the Photo
“It was crowned with a knot of old and twisted trees, about which lay a broken circle of boulder-stones.”

Okay, this isn’t quite that, but it’s close. And actually, it’s the Stonehenge anti-war memorial in Maryhill, Washington, along the Columbia River. It was build after World War I.


  • Day 157
  • Miles today: 3
  • Miles thus far: 774 (320 from Rivendell)
  • 20 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 117 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,005 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Camping with Wargs! 20th day out of Rivendell. January 12, 3019 TA. (map)

Nothing is Evil in the Beginning? But What About…?

At the Council of Elrond, when they were trying to figure out what to do with the Ring, Elrond made a fairly long speech which contained this little gem:

“For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.”

He was using this explain why he wouldn’t wield the Ring to fight Sauron, as Boromir suggested.

This one line says so much and has been used since its publication to explain how evil works in Tolkien’s legendarium. And in a couple of letters written around the time of its publication, Tolkien explains further.

“Sauron was of course not ‘evil’ in origin. He was a ‘spirit’ corrupted by the Prime Dark Lord (the Prime sub-creative Rebel) Morgoth. He was given an opportunity of repentance, when Morgoth was overcome, but could not face the humiliation of recantation, and suing for pardon; and so his temporary turn to good and ‘benevolence’ ended in greater relapse, until he became the main representative of Evil of later ages.”

But then take a look at this passage from ‘Of the Darkening of Valinor’ in The Silmarillion about Ungoliante (Shelob’s mother/kin):

The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service. But she had disowned her Master, desiring to be mistress of her own lust, taking all things to herself to feed her emptiness; and she fled to the south, escaping the assaults of the Valar and the hunters of Oromë, for their vigilance had ever been to the north, and the south was long unheeded. Thence she had crept towards the light of the Blessed Realm; for she hungered for light and hated it.

Of course, this is from an Elvish point of view and just because some of them said that she actually came from the darkness doesn’t mean that it’s true, but no other explanation was given.

This brings us to a bit of a gray area. It’s simply not explained thoroughly in either text and taken together, both texts seem to possible contradict each other.

‘Of the Darkening of Valinor’ is an incredibly old text. Tolkien first wrote it in 1919 and worked on it until the end of the 1950s. The version that appears in the Silmarillion is actually taken from two different manuscripts, both dating from the late 50s.

The concept that Ungoliante came from the darkness appeared in the very first draft (1919 – Book of Lost Tales). But in this version “even the Valar know not whence or when she came.” It continues: “Mayhap she was bred of mists and darkness on the confines of the Shadowy Seas, in that utter dark that came between the overthrow of the Lamps and the kindling of the Trees, but more like she has always been….”

To be honest, I was hoping that Tolkien would have given a final verdict on this one, but it doesn’t seem like he did.

The concept of things being, at first, good was important to him. This should trump pretty much everything. Add to it the fact that those who did not know Ungoliante’s origin changed from the Valar in the early versions to just the Eldar in the later gives us a big clue.

If the Valar didn’t know of her then I’d say it was incredibly possible that she was just some freaky evil Bombadil or something. If Ungoliante was there from the beginning, certainly the Valar would have at least heard of her (since she’d be one of the Maiar). In the “final” versions, it seems, it’s just the Elves who don’t know her origin. And though the Elves are wise, they’re not Valar, so if she originally came from Valinor, there’s a good chance they just wouldn’t know it.

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2 Model D Film: Fomapan 400

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2 Model D
Film: Fomapan 400

A Few Notes

  • It’s crazy how much more to the story there is in both the Book of Lost Tales and the later drafts that became the published Silmarillion. The book containing the Annals of Aman is Morgoth’s Ring. I’ve mentioned before how ridiculously essential this is. Get it and read it, please.
  • I didn’t really want to get into Ungoliante, but Elrond left me no choice. Stupid, chatty elf.

About the Photo
“In a ravine she lived, and spun her webs in a cleft of the mountains; for she sucked up light and shining things to spin then forth again in black nets of chocking gloom and clinging fog. She hungered ever for more food.”

Also, I can’t look at pictures of spiders.


  • Day 156
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 771 (317 from Rivendell)
  • 23 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 120 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,008 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Moving south along the foothills of Caradhras. 20th day out of Rivendell. January 12, 3019 TA. (map)

Let’s Give Tom Bombadil the Ring (and Other Bad Ideas)

Frodo’s only real mission before reaching Rivendell was simply to reach Rivendell. After that, the next step was uncertain. That he might have to go to Mordor was certainly on the table, but for the most part, nobody knew what was to be decided (or even if he could reach Rivendell).

But there he was, and after Gandalf’s tale explaining why the grey wizard was delayed, talk turned to what they might do with the Ring. After quickly recalling Frodo’s journey thus far, Elrond brought up Tom Bombadil, or “Iarwain Ben-adar… oldest and fatherless.” He allowed that Bombadil was “a strange creature, but maybe I should have summoned him to our Council.”

But, as Gandalf explains, “he could not have come.” And though a message could be gotten to them and though Bombadil seemed to have a power over the Ring (it had no effect on him whatsoever), he might not be the best choice.

Gandalf clarified that it wasn’t so much that Tom had power over the Ring, but that the Ring had no power over Tom. “He is his own master. But he cannot alter the Ring itself, nor break its power over others. And now he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set, though none can see them, waiting perhaps for a change of days, and he will not step beyond them.”

People always have so many questions about Tom Bombadil, but I really try hard not to question it. I don’t much care if he’s a Maiar or some Vala in disguise. He’s Tom Bombadil and Tom Bombadil is he. Obviously, he used to range far and wide (or at least farther and wider than he ranges now), but these days, he’s more or less retired. And by the state of the Old Forest, he’s really into the whole “live and let live” philosophy. “I’m okay if you’re okay,” and so on.

So maybe he’s not the best guy for the job. Sure, he might take it if everyone begged him to, “but he would not understand the need. And if he were given the Ring, he would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind. He would be a most unsafe guardian; and that alone is answer enough.”

With Bombadil out, the idea of keeping the Ring in Rivendell or the Haven or Lorien was brought up. But no, that wouldn’t really work either. Elrond confessed that he didn’t have the strength to withstand what would obviously become a siege. Then, like with Bombadil, it would be only a matter of time.

That left two options. The first was to send it over the Sea to Valinor (which was not really across the Sea, but removed from the Earth completely). This actually seems like a pretty good idea. But Elrond says that “they who dwell beyond the Sea would not receive it: for good or ill it belongs to Middle-earth; it is for us who still dwell here to deal with it.”

It’s true – the Ring would not have existed without Middle-earth. It was forged there and was made to control it. But still, you think they could at least ask. If anyone would know, it would have been Cirdan of the Grey Havens, but he didn’t come to the Council, sending a representative instead. But they didn’t even ask him. Seems like a missed opportunity. Of course, it would have made the story short and kind of pointless.

Before talk could turn of destroying it, Glorfindel had a bad idea, which sort of bridged the two proposed better ideas. During the days of the White Council, Saruman lied and said that the Ring had been washed out to the Sea. Why not just take it there… where Saruman said it was… because he’d never figure it out, and… yeah, Glorfindel is a pretty swell guy, but don’t count on him for things like this.

And yet, it was seriously considered – “there are but two courses… to hide the Ring for ever; or to unmake it.” Elrond finally (finally) made the decision that they must do what they tried to get Isildur to do 3,000 odd years ago.

“Now at the last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril – to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.”

And Boromir said: “One does not simply …” wait… no. He suggested using the Ring for good instead of evil. “Take it and go forth to victory!” Elrond thought better and said it couldn’t work because that’s not how evil works, son. “Boromir looked at them doubtfully, but he bowed his head.”

We’ll have to keep an eye on the Boromir fellow. He might just be a mixed bag.

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64X (EPX) expired mid90s

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64X (EPX) expired mid90s

A Few Notes

  • Maybe you should have summoned Tom Bombadil to the Council, Elrond? Maybe. But why not Galadriel? You’d think she might like to be involved… (there’s actually a reason for this, but we’ll get to that later).
  • It’s Erestor who suggest sending a message to Bombadil. He’s the chief councilor in Rivendell. Remember him? No? Yeah, me neither. Glad he got a couple of lines though. The kid stays in the picture.
  • I think I might actually be able to finish up the Council of Elrond before the Fellowship gets to Moria! You know… I hope you readers still have some idea what I mean by this. If not, check out the About the Journey page.
  • Note: Sometimes when Elrond says “we”, he doesn’t actually mean the kind of “we” that also involves him.

About the Photo
Over the Sea? Under the Sea? Seriously guys, we allowed this to happen, so we’ve got to destroy it.


  • Day 155
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 766 (312 from Rivendell)
  • 28 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 125 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,013 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Moving south along the foothills of Caradhras. 20th day out of Rivendell. January 12, 3019 TA. (map)