Fool of a Took! Illuvatar’s Guiding Hand or Just a Really Cool T-Shirt?

‘Fool of a Took!’ he growled. ‘This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party.’

We move from one of the least-famous lines (Queen Beruthiel) to one of the most famous – “Fool of a Took.” In fact, it’s so famous that I made a shirt for it.

The Fellowship had gone roughly twenty miles into the bowels of Moria, finding themselves in a guardroom. They had only been walking a few hours, though apparently made some amazing time. Personally, I think Tolkien’s mileage here – which he is vague about – is pretty fuzzy. But that’s okay.

Anyway, Gandalf was lost and cranky – “I have no memory of this place at all!” There was a door and while Merry and Pippin tried to push their way in, Gandalf stopped them. He shined his staff-light inside and saw a well. This made grumpy Gandalf gloat a bit – “There!” And Aragorn added: “One of you might have fallen in and still be wondering when you were going to strike the bottom.”

Clearly everyone wanted to rest and were hasty and miserable to be around. Can you imagine what was going on in Boromir’s mind? Damn.

But Pippin “felt curiously attracted by the well.” This is incredibly interesting. He had no real reason to be attracted to it. There were plenty of wells in the Shire, so it wasn’t like some new amazing thing he had never seen before. Sure, it was in a mine, but by this time, and after twenty miles, the novelty of that was obviously wearing off.

So what happened? Why did Tolkien call it “curiously attracted”? There must be more to it. This phrase was there from the beginning, though it was Sam, and not Pippin, who was “curiously attracted.” He soon after changed ‘Sam’ to ‘Merry’ and only later decided that it was Pippin, after all. But that doesn’t matter.

What matters is what Pippin does next, as it completely changes everything. As we know, while the others were getting their beds ready, he peaked over the edge of the well, and then “moved by a sudden impulse,” he grabbed a stone and dropped it in. “He felt his heart beat many times before there was any sound. Then far below, as if the stone had fallen into deep water in some cavernous place, there came a plunk, very distant, but magnified and repeated in the hollow shaft.”

First Pippin was “curiously attracted” and then he was “moved by a sudden impulse.” Just what is going on here? Pippin, like all hobbits and men, has freewill, but maybe he’s got a bit less of it here. He’s most definitely not acting on his own impulses. The ramifications of this event are too important for it to be coincidence. Whether it was some dark force or even the Valar is pretty unclear – both had reasons to make this happen. But if I were a betting man, I’d say it was the Valar/Illuvatar pushing things along just so.

Gandalf immediately questioned the noise, and Pippin admitted what he had done. The wizard was “relieved,” but “angry, and Pippin could see his eye glinting.”

‘Fool of a Took!’ he growled. ‘This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance. Now be quiet!’

Several minutes passed, and then there was knocking: “tom-tap, tap-tom.” This repeated. “They sounded disquietingly like signals of some sort.” Gandalf was uneasy. And rightly so, though he was more uneasy about which path to take in the morning.

Gandalf could not see his fate, but Tolkien had plotted it out even before writing his first draft. From the very first thought of this part of the story, the well and this incident were in his notes: “A deep pit to right. A loose stone falls in. Several minutes before they hear a noise of it reach bottom. After that some of them fancy a far off echo of small knocks at intervals (like signals?). But nothing further happens that night.”

At the end of his notes on this section, he wrote: “Here follows the loss of Gandalf.” This was the first time he contemplated killing Gandalf. In an earlier jotting, written some months before, this was never mentioned and wasn’t planned.

But this was all he had, thus far. Gandalf would die, and there were unusual things (the well, and Sam/Merry/Pippin’s curious attraction and impulse to throw a rock into it) that had to happen to kick things off.

Going back to the story, Pippin was given first watch by Gandalf, while everyone slept. The attraction to the well remained (now augmented by fear of something crawling out of it), and “he wished he could cover the hole, if only with a blanket, but he dared not move or go near it, even though Gandalf seemed to be asleep.”

This continuing attraction to the well was added in the final draft, allowing the reader to know that it wasn’t just a cranky Gandalf keeping Pippin away from the well.

But Gandalf was actually awake, and trying to figure out what to do the next morning. He was trying to remember his former journey (which I really want to dig into sometime). Unable to sleep, and probably feeling a little bad for snapping at Pippin, he rose and spoke to him in a “kindly tone.”


‘I know what is the matter with me,’ he muttered, as he sat down by the door. ‘I need smoke! I have not tasted it since the morning before the snowstorm.’

That would be the morning of the 10th. It was now the very early morning (around 1am-ish) of the 14th. Gandalf had become addicted and needed a smoke break. At least, that’s what he claimed. There was probably some truth to it, but he was also cranky at himself for not remembering the way through Moria. That crankiness was taken out on Pippin. Nevertheless, Gandalf lit his pipe and Pippin went to sleep.

Just a quick notes about the original draft (again). In this passage, Sam (who would ultimately be replaced by Pippin) wished he could cover the hole with a blanket, but didn’t get one, “even though Gandalf seemed to be snoring. Gandalf was actually not asleep, and the snores came from Boromir, who lay next him.”

The bit about the snores was cut, probably in an attempt to make the whole thing a bit more serious. After all, this really wasn’t a hobbit walking-party.

Camera: Polaroid 250 Land Camera || Film: Fuji FP-100c (reclaimed negative)

Camera: Polaroid 250 Land Camera || Film: Fuji FP-100c (reclaimed negative)

A Few Notes

  • What exactly is a ‘hobbit walking-party’? Since it’s hyphenated, I can only assume that it’s an actual party that is walking. Sort of like a party bus, except on furry feet. It is most definitely not serious business.
  • Sam openly worries about Bill the Pony once more. Sam is awesome.
  • Maybe the character who threw the rock became Pippin (from Sam and then Merry) because “Fool of a Took” sounds way better than “Fool of a Gamgee” or “Fool of a Brandybuck.” Fool of a Took is just perfect.
  • Soon we’ll be getting to Tolkien’s writers block. I’m really enjoying not only reading the story, but seeing how Tolkien first created it. I hope you are too.

About the Photo
By the time Pippin’s rock got to the bottom, this is how big it was. Well, maybe not, but it sure seemed that way. Actually, this is Yeager Rock in central Washington. It’s a 400 ton, twenty foot high glacier erratic. It’s not “supposed” to be where it is, but was carried by an Ice Age glacier, and left there when it retreated, some 15,000ish years ago. That’s basically yesterday. Young Earth creationists don’t even believe in the Ice Age. How they explain the marks left from glaciers and the huge boulders everywhere is: Noah’s Flood.

You can read and see more about all of this here.


  • Day 165
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 814 (360 from Rivendell)
  • 77 miles to LothlΓ³rien
  • 965 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s place in the narrative begins with: One of you might have fallen in… and ends with And the puff of smoke. Book II, Chapter 3. Inside the gate of Moria! 21st day out of Rivendell. January 13, 3019 TA. (map)

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23 thoughts on “Fool of a Took! Illuvatar’s Guiding Hand or Just a Really Cool T-Shirt?

    • Thanks! It’s not a huge seller, but it’s found an audience (clumsy nerds like me).

      I’ve been really enjoying the delving into his drafts. It explains so much, really. I’ve also been enjoying the relaxed schedule. In a hurry to get to Mordor? Not this fella.

  1. Great post as always, I’m also looking forward to finding out about Gandalf’s previous visit to Moria, I don’t recall seeing anything about it in Unfinished Tales, but there is probably something in Tolkien’s letters somewhere.

  2. I’m also really enjoying your descriptions of Tolkien’s writing process! I’d never considered how many drafts and changes went into it before.
    I’d also never considered the Valar being involved in Pippin’s rock dropping- I’d always thought he was just super curious. Probably because I would also want to drop a rock in to see when it hit the bottom!
    I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder.

    • That is an awesome boulder! It’s not even close to the biggest around there, but it’s got the most style.

      I can’t say for sure that it was the Valar or Illuvatar, but it definitely wasn’t just Pippin. It was too important of an event. As we’ll see on Friday, Gandalf had already been through Moria, but was quiet enough to not alarm the Orcs. If that had happened this time, if the Fellowship just passed through Moria without the Balrog killing Gandalf, the quest would have failed.

      Pippin was a swell guy, but this was too important to leave to just him alone.

      • Yes! X-D
        I wonder what Legolas had to say about that?
        Legolas rolls Boromir over. Boromir doesn’t wake up and keeps snoring. Legolas smacks Boromir with a pillow. Boromir finally wakes up. “HEY! What was that for?!”
        “You were snoring. I can’t sleep when you snore!”
        “Well, it’s not my fault elves have super-sensitive hearing!”
        “Seriously, you need to go see a healer for your sleep apnea!”
        X-D

          • Now it’s pretty clear that Elves didn’t get sleep apnea, so it must have REALLY annoyed them when they had to be around Men who did. Every single Elf would have been like “ugh… Children of Illuvatar INDEED!”

            • Yeah, I think sleep apnea is on the list of purely mortal ills. Poor Elves. My brother wheezes oddly when he’s asleep….
              In the mind palace, Anakin snores up a storm every night and the only person of Elven-kin who can stand it is Obi-Wan, who had to put up with it ever since he was twenty-five (in the canon… in my head, ever since I started this LotR crossover, Obi-Wan is actually three years younger than Aragorn, Qui-Gon is Numenorean, and Obi-Wan trained one apprentice before the beginning of the Phantom Menace…oh what a crazy place my mind is….), and Obi-Wan’s only half-Elf anyway. πŸ˜›
              (Yes, my life is pretty wacky. Also, somehow Sauruman and Dooku got mixed up in my head and now I have a plot bunny for a Sauruman redemption fanfic… If anyone in college knew about this, I doubt they would view me as even semi-responsible any more, even if they didn’t run away screaming.)

            • I’ve always found it a good idea to never let anyone around you know the real you.

              Wait no! That’s a horrible idea! You’ll find your people and they’ll be awesome.

              So Obi-Wan would be in his 90s? And Qui-Gon, what? 300ish? When 300 years old you become, make this much sense, you will not. πŸ™‚

            • Hey! Yoda doesn’t even make that much sense in the first place! πŸ˜›
              Yeah… for some reason it’s verboten in polite conversation, not over the Internet. (My secret hobby is scrawling in a notebook, then bursting out things like, “No, no, NO! He’s supposed to only remember scraps! And why the heck is that UV dye turning up so early?! That’s what triggers his subconscious memory! He’s not supposed to KNOW he’s not this dorky, charming person he is to his police officer friend, but really a very highly trained assassin!” .. I love my life. πŸ˜› Yes, that’s a plot of a story in the making… *blushes* basically a sort of sub-culture dystopia in which certain ruthless individuals use patterns in a specific UV dye to control their secret assassins/pawns… my protagonist, Connor, actually has total amnesia due to the “conditioning” process, because he was more mentally resilient than the other people in the program. And he’s psychologically colorblind… what a lovely mess I have created. X-P )
              Mmmm, by the time TPM rolls around? Uh, no… in my mind, the War of the Ring actually occurred around the same time as the Clone Wars, which means that Anakin was being a pest at that point and Obi-Wan is WAY better at multitasking than most people think. Which means that Obi-Wan would have been about seventy during the Phantom Menace, and yeah Qui-Gon was nearing the second century. πŸ˜› Of course, most people had no idea how old they were, simply assuming that they were “normal” and blah blah blah. Being sent on missions a lot, too, meant that not that many of the Jedi realized either….
              Yeah, my world is crazy. πŸ˜› It’s better than being in a world that’s irrational and beyond the reaches of logic. Random does not equate lack of logic, you know. πŸ˜›
              *bangs head on table* Why, why, why do I have the urge to write a Sauruman redemption fic?! I BLAME DOOKU.

            • Oh Yoda does okay. The whole “wars do not make one great” thing has stuck with me for a long, long time.

              Sometimes I forget that you’ve combined the legendarium with the Star Wars saga. I’ll read what you’re saying and then read the next thing, thinking that I must have skipped a line or something. But no, it’s all there where it’s supposed to be.

              Is there a world that you’d say was irrational and beyond the reaches of logic? Even the nutty one that we live in has fits of both rational and logic.

            • Yeah, he sometimes is a model of pithiness and sense, but other times it’s lost in translation. Maybe I’m just dyslexic or something…
              I had a bit of a bad day today… people were talking before class and it was like stones rattling down a mountain and nails on a chalkboard combined, and I nearly screamed at them; fortunately, though, I didn’t. I don’t know what’s wrong with me today; I normally can tolerate background noise just fine… *sigh*
              Yeah… :-3 My mind is hyperactive and tends to jump on things like crazy… *sigh* Unless I’m really exhausted, I can’t get to sleep easily because my mental monologue just keeps going on and on and on and on…
              Yes, but they tend to be spasmodic and easily overwhelmed by such ridiculous things as pranks on sticky notes in bathroom stalls… “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened… Muggles beware”? That just reeks of stupidity to me. In my world, there is no such thing as a muggle–there are only idiots like old Noakes (in “Smith of Wooton Major.”) When Anakin, Obi-Wan and Siri end up in Middle-Earth in this bizarre mash-up of mine, Obi-Wan explains it best, I think: “Anakin, put aside whatever assumptions of superiority you have now. There are no non-[Force-]sensitives here; they have different traditions, true, but they really are not that different from us. The only people here who do not understand are those who’ve made it that way.” (Anakin needs this warning. He’s just marvelous at being insensitive and obnoxious… at least he is when he’s a teenager and/or grownup. Cute little Anakin is fine. Teenaged angsty Goth Anakin is severely annoying.)

            • I totally get what you’re saying about background noise sometimes. Especially when it’s just inane chatter. I wear headphones at work, so most of it’s not a problem. Sometimes I don’t even have anything playing – I just use them to a) cut out the noise and b) so that people won’t talk to me. I’m not really anti-social. Except there.

              I dunno, I like ridiculous pranks on sticky notes. I don’t do many, but they can be fun. Notes in general can be fun. I left a note on an open bag of chips the other day which said: “This is why we have rats. Knock it off.” I wasn’t really trying to be funny. We have rats and that’s why. So it’s not really a prank. Though I probably would have done it even if we didn’t have rats. Ugh, whatever.

              Cute little (Ep 1) Anakin nearly killed the series for me. I’ve mellowed out about the prequels, but they’re still not canon for me. Though the quote from Obi-Wan is absolutely worth a million “yippies!”

            • I know, right?! I sometimes put in my earbuds just so people won’t talk to me. However, they don’t cut noise so I might just use them to be sneaky and pretend to be listening to something so people don’t realize that I’m actually listening in on what they’re talking about… >:-D
              Heehee, I can be so devious sometimes… πŸ˜› What’s creepy is that sometimes when I open my mouth, I sound like Sherlock… 0_0
              X-D I should think up witty responses and start carrying post-its in my backpack, then. Maybe I could have put “WHO ARE YOU CALLING MUGGLE?!” underneath the Harry Potter prank… >:-D
              Yeah, in my opinion the prequels are flawed but I watch them because Obi-Wan is awesome. Teenaged Anakin, though, bothers me a lot because one, he’s obnoxious and two, he can’t seem to get past his own angst. I really prefer cute little Anakin, though some people like dark adult Anakin, and then there are the people who write AUs where Anakin never was a Jedi, in which they can have a range from Anakin being really nice and just having occasional anger issues to totally psycho Vader. The reason why I write mostly prequels fanfiction is just because Obi-Wan’s mental dialogue is so fun to write… His mind does the oddest things sometimes. X-D Whenever things get really morbid, though… then I blame myself…. πŸ˜›
              I still read Jedi Apprentice, believe it or not… but there are fanfics out there which are WAY better than Jedi Apprentice. Some of them are for adults (I tend to steer clear of those), but I’ve written more than one story myself, and it’s creepy sometimes how well they tie in to the larger story…

            • It’s always good to prank the pranksters. Leave counter notes *as* Harry or something. Or as Luna. Then you can get fairly freaky.

              Have you read the book Kenobi? I super seriously suggest it. Granted, it sort of plays like a Western, so it might not be your thing. But I absolutely loved it. Definitely better written than 99% of the EU material that’s out there.

              I’ve never written fanfic, but I like the idea. It allows you to play within the story in ways that simply studying (or reading) the work can do. It looks like great fun.

            • Never having read the books, I don’t know how… unless… *grins evilly* unless it’s a good idea to make Harry sound like an arrogant goose… >:-D
              My mom was looking at that a while back… I may have to check it out. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the recommendation.
              Oh, it is! ^_^ I share an account with my friend Iris, we go by “AnotherBook” on fanfiction. I have a couple of stories on there, mostly one-parters.

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