The whole point of this project is to trace the movements of Frodo mile-by-mile as he makes his journey from Hobbiton to Mordor. Since the Fellowship was formed and left Rivendell, there’s been very little description of the path they took. Tolkien went into full-on montage mode allowing me to dip back into the Council of Elrond, where I’ve been for weeks now. But today marks a fairly important day of their march: Redhorn Pass.
When last we left the Fellowship, they had seen the cloud of crows and what seemed to be a Nazgul flying overhead. That was on January 9th, and it was then that Gandalf and Aragorn debated when and where to cross over the Misty Mountains. They had three choices. They could take the pass, but that was probably covered in snow. There was another pass to the south, but that was in Rohan and nobody was really sure where their loyalties might lie. Lastly, there were the mines of Moria, but they were the mines of Moria and that seemed like an incredibly bad idea.
In the end, they decided upon taking the nearest pass – Redhorn Gate. The road to Redhorn Gate was steep and difficult as it wound its way up the mountain, Caradhras. It was hardly a path at all. And then it began to snow.
“‘This is what I feared,’ he [Gandalf] said, ‘What do you say now, Aragorn?’
‘That I feared it too,’ Aragorn answered, ‘but less than other things.'”
Boromir questioned whether the storm might be the work of the Enemy. Gandalf didn’t exactly confirm it, but seemed to indicate that Sauron was powerful enough to do something like this. Aragorn more or less agreed, but said something pretty wonderful:
“There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in this world longer than he.”
While this is undoubtedly true, that list is pretty small. Sauron came to this world (meaning Middle-earth – everyone is talking about Middle-earth, not Arda in general) when Melkor set up camp in Angband during (or before-ish) the Years of the Trees. This was a really long time ago – seemingly even before the dwarves and Ents were awakened. This would leave, perhaps, the balrogs and maybe Shelob as the evil but independent things. Frodo would face both before it’s all over.
But the truth of all that is a little shaky. Melkor called Sauron, Ungoliant (Shelob’s mother), and the balrogs to Arda long before. They all seemed to accompany him to Middle-earth and apparently at the same time.
Another possibility is hinted at by Gimli who says that “Caradhras was called the Cruel, and had an ill name.” He explains that this was from “long years ago, when rumour of Sauron had not been heard in these lands.”
But then there’s the fact that even the Misty Mountains didn’t predate Sauron’s arrival. In The Silmarillion, we’re told that “the mountains were the Hithaeglir, the Towers of Mist upon the borders of Eriador; yet they were taller and more terrible in those days, and were reared by Melkor to hinder the riding of Oreme.”
So after Melkor (and Sauron, balrogs, Ungoliant, etc) came to Middle-earth, he (Melkor) raised up the Misty Mountains to block Oreme – one of the Valar who was hunting down Melkor’s disciples. Gimli was explaining that Caradhras, the tallest of the Misty Mountains, was evil before anyone around those parts knew who Sauron was – not that Sauron didn’t yet exist.
Though nobody really mentioned it, this whole storm/rock scene was nearly identical to a scene right out of Bilbo’s story. When he was crossing the Misty Mountains with the dwarves, the wind blew and boulders tumbled down around them. Since there wasn’t time to remember that the same thing happened to Bilbo, there always wasn’t much time to decide what to do.
They couldn’t go and farther, and couldn’t go back. So here they would camp. But that was hardly the end of their troubles. To keep the hobbits alive, Gandalf took out a flask and gave each a mouthful of miruvor, the cordial of Imladris. “Pass it round!”
In The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle, Tolkien describes miruvore (which inspired the drink now offered by Gandalf) as a flavored drink. The origins of the word were from the Valar, but the Elves didn’t really know what it meant. The drink itself was originally “made from the honey of the undying flowers in the gardens of Yavanna, though it was clear and translucent.” But what it was now that they were drinking is not stated.
With the little fellows all warm and reinvigorated, they tried to start a fire to no avail until Gandalf said “naur an endraith ammen!” (that’s Sindarin for “Fire be fore saving of us!”) and magically there was a magical fire.
Through the night, the storm died down and at last the dimly lit dawn began to show. Gimli, for one, did not want to go on: “‘Caradhras has not forgiven us,’ he said. ‘He has more snow yet to fling at us, if we go on. The sooner we go back and down the better.'”
All, even Gandalf, agreed. This is where he explained to Legolas that he couldn’t burn snow and that “if Elves could fly over mountains, they might fetch the Sun to save us.” Clearly, all were getting pretty cranky.
Thankfully, Boromir the hunky snowplow came through. “The strongest of us must seek a way.”
“In places, the snow was breast-high, and often Boromir seemed to be swimming or burrowing with this great arms rather than walking.”
This is also where Legolas runs on top of the snow. Elves and Men are both show offs. Mostly, they were just happy the it was light out and the storm had finally passed and that they were all still alive.
A Few Notes
- When it comes to variations of spelling, etc on the different words in the several Elvish languages, mostly I don’t care. While it’s somewhat interesting to me, following the rabbit hole of miruvor/miruvore/mirubhoze is not why I’m here.
- Tomorrow, I’ll continue with the Fellowship, but there will be time to continue with the Council of Elrond in the near future. I still want to look at the early manuscripts about Saruman and Frodo’s dream of Gandalf at Orthanc.
- So what evil and independent things do predate Sauron?
About the Photo
It’s still incredibly snowy in the passes. This is Chinook Pass through the Cascades in Washington. Maybe not the Redhorn, but pretty bad.
- Day 151
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 746 (292 from Rivendell)
- 48 miles to the Doors of Moria
- 175 miles to Lothlórien
- 1,033 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. In the nasty, snowy Redhorn Pass. 19th Day out of Rivendell. January 11, 3019 TA. (map)