Creepy Boromir and Black Swans on the River

After spending about an Age with Galadriel’s history, now would be as good a time as any to check back in on the Fellowship. When last we left our intrepid wayfarers, they had just left Lothlórien by boat and were floating down the Anduin. We rejoin them on the fifth day out. They had so far traveled 200 miles.

The text for these 200 miles is short and covers only the highlights, though Tolkien gives us some wonderful phrases, such as: “Great trees passed by like ghosts, thrusting their twisted thirsty roots through the mist down into the water.”

Hanging over everything was the fact that the Fellowship would soon have to be broken. It was discussed before leaving whether to go to Minas Tirith to “escape at least for awhile from the terror of the enemy,” or to just go straight to Mordor.

It was known prior to leaving Rivendell that both Boromir and Aragorn were breaking off to “help to deliver Gondor.” Originally, this would have left Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship still under the leadership of Gandalf. But now that Gandalf was gone, Aragorn thought the burden fell upon him.

If Frodo decided to go with Boromir to Minas Tirith, none of this mattered at all (at least for a time), but if he decided to strike straight for Mordor, Aragorn would have to ignore the summons from the dream – the prophecy of the returning king.

At the time they were trying to figure this out, the Fellowship planned to go along the river by foot. If they decided upon Minas Tirith, they’d have to stay on the eastern bank. But if it was to Moria, they’d have to tramp down the western.

Fortunately, Celeborn gave them boats and they could put off the decision at least until they got to the Falls of Rauros, nearly 400 miles downstream. And though this was a reprieve, knowing that they may soon have to part was troublesome. We’re told that they were “content that the decision… still lay some days ahead.”

The next few days were a breeze. There was no enemy in sight and they just drifted with the current. Of course, the spit & polish Aragorn made them get up early and not stop till late, but we’re told that he was worried that Sauron “had not been idle while they lingered in Lórien.”

Which brings up a fine point. The Fellowship spent about a month in Lórien doing not much of anything at all. Yes, they were catching some much-needed rest and dealing with the death of Gandalf, but why spend a month there when they already knew that they were nearly three months behind (according to Gandalf’s note to Butterbur that called for Frodo to leave at the end of June instead of the third week of September)? And despite this, they were contemplating yet another stop in Minas Tirith.

As they passed through the Brownlands (which we’ll get to in a near-future post), they saw almost no living things, except for swans. ‘Yes,’ said Aragorn, ‘and they are black swans.’

We already have seen the Saruman used birds, the raven-like crebain specifically, as spies. It’s seems likely that these black swans were used in the same way. Aragon seemed to at least suspect it.

Sam, creeped out by the swans and the land, became more and more uneasy. The lack of trees, which he had felt “harboured secret eyes and lurking dangers” were gone. And now “he felt that they Company was too naked, afloat in little open boats in the midst of shelterless lands, and on a river that was the frontier or war.”

The next couple of days passed without Tolkien even mentioning them. The Fellowship grew more and more uneasy, even paddling with the current to pass the Brown Lands more quickly. We are told that there “flowed a chill air from the East.”

This is a map from Journeys of Frodo by Barbara Strachey.

This is a map from Journeys of Frodo by Barbara Strachey.

To make matters worse, there was Boromir. While each of the Fellowship sat silently entertained by their own thoughts, “Boromir sat muttering to himself, sometimes biting his nails, as if some restlessness or doubt consumed him.”

I am very familiar with how unbelievably creepy this is. There is a guy at work who will sort of whisper/mutter to himself. You can’t make out the words, but you can hear the cadence. Sometimes, when you’re talking to him, after replying to what you said, he’ll repeat your own words under his breath several times in a whispery muttering. It sounds like something out of a horror movie and is indescribably unsettling. So yes, Boromir, you’re creeping everyone out. To heighten the discomfort, Pippin saw in Boromir “a queer gleam in his eye, as he peered forward gazing at Frodo.”

We’ll find out later the struggle which Boromir was facing – the draw of the Ring, which was consuming him.

And then there was Gollum, but I’d like to save him for his own post. He deserves at least that much.

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: Fuji Velvia 50 (expired mid90s)

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: Fuji Velvia 50 (expired mid90s)

A Few Notes

  • The original drafts of this chapter are, thus far, roughly the same as the finished. The swans were missing, however, and the Gollum bits were written separately to be included at some point along the way.
  • Journey of Frodo by Barbara Strachey is an absolutely wonderful book of maps detailing, as you’d suspect, Frodo’s journey. It’s out of print, but you need to track this down. It was lovingly produced and ridiculously helpful. I mean, come on, it’s got contour lines!
  • Still kicking around the idea of doing a Tolkien podcast. More on that soon, I hope.

About the Photo
This is the Green River in Utah (or maybe Wyoming). It’s got trees and the wide open spaces, and probably the Brown Lands looks pretty ugly, like what you can see in the distance.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1114 (200 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 189 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 659 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 20, 3019 TA. (map)

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14 thoughts on “Creepy Boromir and Black Swans on the River

    • It was really nice getting back to the Fellowship. Unfortunately, with their uneventful (thus far) voyage, there’s not a whole lot to say, so we’ll still be meandering around. Hopefully it’s interesting. Got something on mind reading coming up. That should be fun.

      The podcast is something I’ll probably post about soon. It won’t happen (if it ever happens at all) until spring. But I’m really excited about it and hope it happens. So there’s that.

  1. Yay podcast!
    I love the image of Boromir here. It makes (um spoilers?) his next fall and later redemption really powerful to me, because you see the Gollum-ness beginning.
    You work with Gollum? Gross.

    • I want to delve into his Gollumness a bit in a future post (probably a week from now). I’m kicking around the idea that he didn’t really have this feeling until he visited Lothlórien. Yeah, in Rivendell, he mentioned using it for the greater good, but that changed. Now, it’s possible that it changed just from being around the Ring, but it seemed to get a LOT worse after Galadriel tempted/tested him.

      Oh yes podcast!

  2. Hey. I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts, you’re a real inspiration to me in writing my own posts on Tolkien’s works, I just hope I can eventually know them as well as you do, and I just gotta say, a podcast from you would be awesome!

    • Thanks, Mike! Hey I checked out your linked page, and I see that you’ve studied Jackson’s Valley Campaign. Looks like we share another interest. I write a daily Civil War blog civilwardailygazette.com. Been doing it for over four years, and it’s about to wind down with the end of the 150th.

      Thanks!

  3. Eric,

    And thank you, sir. One of the best insights on Stonewall’s strategy can be found in Bevin Alexander’s How Great Generals Win. Fact-based, plus crisp, direct prose free of technical mumbo-jumbo.

    • Well, we’re not totally through with Galadriel yet (as you’ll see), but we’re wandering closer to that end.

      And definitely get the Journeys of Frodo!

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