There Are Fell Voices on the Air – An Incredibly Horrible Night on the Mountain

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?
Camera: Argus C3 Film: FujiColor 200

Camera: Argus C3
Film: FujiColor 200

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)

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19 thoughts on “There Are Fell Voices on the Air – An Incredibly Horrible Night on the Mountain

    • Thanks so much! This definitely was a scatter brained post, but I’m just getting back into following the Fellowship. Come back soon!

  1. Ya gotta wonder whether they ever considered going down Bruinen/Mitheithel/Gwathló to the sea and thus to Gondor from the west, either by boat or through a gap (shown in some maps) in the western Ered Nimrais.

    I thought Morgoth made the Misty Mountains to obstruct the migration of the Eldar?

    Where Shelob is called a “daughter of Ungoliant” I take it to mean ‘descendant’ rather than literally; compare “daughters of Eve”.

    • I guess I always figured that they wanted to get to Rivendell first, and then figure out what to do. Till that point, they didn’t even know (for sure) that they were going to Mordor. Once they figured it out, they could have taken the Anduin south to the sea and then through Gondor and over the Ered Nimrais. But then, maybe that’s what everyone expected them to do.

      Also keep in mind that four hobbits out of Hobbiton were really unlikely to take a boat anywhere.

      The Misty Mountains were made to obstruct Orome, but he was also leading the Vanyar and Noldor (this is in Of The Coming of the Elves chapter in the Silm).

      As for “daughter of Ungoliant” – it’s what I’ve always heard. I’m looking for a reference, but am having a hard time finding it. I’ll get back to you on that one.

      • Tolkien indicates it in Letter 144.

        This is a fun letter where he talks about what’s carried over from the Silm.

        While talking about Shelob specifically (even saying that she was from the Silm times), he goes on to say “The giant spiders were themselves only the offspring of Ungoliante the primeval devourer of light, that in spider-form assisted the Dark Power, but ultimately quarreled with him. There is thus no alliance between Shelob and Sauron, the Dark Power’s deputy; only a common hatred.”

        This really isn’t specific and I wouldn’t call it proof, but it seems to lean in that direction.

        Fun fact: Shelob was first named Ungoliante, even though Ungoliante was a spider-character from the Book of Lost Tales days. I don’t believe she was to be the same character in both, however. He was just reusing the name. Lots more on both of them when I get there, I bet.

      • Pop quiz: where is the source of Bruinen?

        I’m not questioning that Shelob is introduced as “last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world.” I’m saying I don’t interpret the word child or offspring or daughter so narrowly; Ungoliant might be ancestor to more than one generation and they could all be described as her “children” or her “offspring” by someone who, let’s imagine, prefers for some reason not to use the word descendant here.

        • There’s also this: “But none could rival her, Shelob the Great, last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world.”

          If you’re going to interpret it as Shelob wasn’t Ungoliante’s daughter, alright, then she wasn’t. It’s not laid out specifically, so interpret it any way you like. It comes down to semantics and it’s really not something that interests me.

  2. Poor Legolas, getting snapped at by Gandalf like that… ah well. It seems that Legolas is the only cheery one and got grumped at for it. 😛 So, the moral of the story is, if everybody else is grumpy and you’re not, you’d better pretend to be grumpy too and commiserate, otherwise Gandalf will make references to… Elwing, maybe? And snap at you. 😛

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