Midyear’s Day, 3018 – Gandalf Meets Radagast, Warns Frodo to Leave Shire

Greetings! And welcome to Midyear’s Day, 3018 of the Third Age of Middle-earth! This is an odd little day, but an important one in our story.

Midyear’s Day is not in June or July. It’s in a three-day span called Lithe which falls between June and July. It goes like this: June 30 > Lithe 1 > Midyear’s Day > Lithe 2 > July 1. In our modern calendars, we don’t have Lithe, so for the purposes of this blog, I’m just going to chuck it into the final days of June.

But keep in mind that the events in this post actually took place three days after Gollum escaped the Wood-elves (and even that date was speculation). With a bit of hand-waving, we’ll all be fine.

A Week Without Gandalf

Midyear’s Day is a turning point in the Lord of the Rings story, and we hear all about it at the Council of Elrond. Of course, we’ll remember that Gandalf had left The Shire on June 25. For the next week he rode with a “foreboding of some danger, still hidden from me but drawing near.”

Somehow or another, he had messages coming to him. These likely came from the Dunédine, though if so, they came quickly. The Battle of Osgiliath happened on June 20th, roughly 800 miles to the southeast. But rumors and news can be passed along quickly by horse, so it’s not impossible (though stretches credulity a tad).

Gandalf claims to have heard of the Nazgûl leading the attacking Enemy from “a few fugitives from the South.” This seems incredibly unlikely given the timeline, but I think it hints at the “unpublished manuscript” in which Tolkien toyed with the idea that the Nazgûl were actually unleashed a month or so before the battle. This would give the refugees time to flee those 800 miles.

The important part of this day, however, is Gandalf’s meeting with Radagast the Brown. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Radagast’s Travels and Timeline Ideas

From the text of Lord of the Rings, we learn very little about Radagast’s movements prior to meeting Gandalf (or after meeting Gandalf, for that matter). Tolkien, however, worked out a scenario, which we’ve already covered.

Briefly, around May 15, Radagast saw the Nazgûl. Now, in order for this to have happened then, we’d have to follow the timeline from the “unpublished manuscript” appearing in Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Companion.

Tolkien realized that “On June 29th Radagast could not know this [that the Nine were abroad, etc.], if Black Riders did not cross the Anduin till June 20 [Battle of Osgiliath].” And he was right.

To fix this problem, he decided not only that Sauron had released the Nazgûl to search for the Ring much earlier than Osgiliath; that Osgiliath was merely their coming out party. In actuality, he speculated, they had been called by Sauron around the end of April. They operated in secrecy, taking no forms, but still scaring the hell out of everybody.

Radagast, being a wizard, witnessed what they truly were around May 15. With that, he made his way to Saruman in Isengard, arriving in early June. In this timeline, the Nazgûl have just visited Isengard to suss out Saruman, but their potential and speculative visit doesn’t really play into this (at least, it doesn’t have to).

Radagast arrived at Isengard, and stayed until June 15ish, when he was sent by Saruman to find Gandalf. Of course, he unwittingly played this role in Saruman’s plan to capture Gandalf and ultimately get the One Ring for himself.

Over the next fortnight, Radagast searched for Gandalf, knowing that he “might be found in a wild region with the uncouth name of Shire.” Perhaps exhausted and spent, Radagast plopped himself down along the Greenway somewhere not far south of Bree.

Meeting on the Greenway

Upon their meeting, Radagast tells Gandalf that he has “an urgent errand” and that his “news is evil.” Quietly, he then whispers “Nazgûl. The Nine are abroad again. They have crossed the River secretly and are moving westward. They have taken the guise of riders in black.”

Radagast’s path (in blue) from Isengard to near Bree where he met Gandalf.

In typical Gandalf fashion, he knew about this, though he didn’t actually know about this. He feared it, and now realized that he suspected it, he “dreaded without knowing it.”

The Riders, Radagast explained, were asking “for news of a land called Shire.” He reveals that Saruman sent him with the offer to help Gandalf if needed.

Gandalf reasoned that since Saruman was “the greatest of my order,” and had “long studied the arts of the Enemy himself,” perhaps Saruman had already found a way to “drive back the Nine” just as he drove Sauron into Dol Guldur long ago.

Radagast urged Gandalf to hurry, telling Gandalf that he probably couldn’t reach Isengard “before the Nine discover” the Shire.

Before parting, Gandalf gave Radagast a mission, one that (as we’ll later discover) Saruman didn’t consider. “Send out messages to all the beasts and birds that are your friends. Tell them to bring news of anything that bears on this matter to Saruman and Gandalf.” Radagast assured him it would be done, and they parted.

Never a Greater Mistake!

Because Gandalf was so close to Bree and was already weary from the day’s ride, he decided to stay overnight at the Prancing Pony in Bree. He wanted to return to the Shire to tell Frodo to leave immediately, but thought that leaving a note for him with Mr. Butterbur, in innkeeper, would suffice.

Gandalf (the king of ‘hindsight is 20/20’) would later admit that this was his greatest mistake. And it seems a little baffling how he could make it.

When he arrived at the Prancing Pony, a pub where he was apparently well-known, he took a room and composed a letter to Frodo:

The most important takeaways were that Gandalf wanted Frodo to leave the Shire by the end of July and head to Bree. Prior to this, Gandalf suggested Bree, but basically left it up to Frodo.

In Gandalf’s mind, he would give a quick visit to Saruman in Isengard and then dash back to Bree. By that time, he hoped, Frodo would have already passed through and left a message for him.

Gandalf told Frodo that he would likely meet “Strider” who was actually named Aragorn (neither names meant anything to Hobbits). After Bree, Frodo was to go directly to Rivendell.

In a postscript, Frodo was warned not to use the Ring again. In another, Gandalf admitted that Butterbur had a horrible memory and would possibly forget to send this letter. In that event, Frodo was to confide in Elrond at Rivendell.

On the envelope he wrote: “Mr. Frodo Baggings, Bag End, Hobbiton in the Shire” – a curious address seeing as how the Nazgûl were specifically searching for “Baggins” and “Shire.” Seriously, why would Gandalf write that on the envelope?

With letter in hand, he burst into Butterbur’s office without even knocking.

“Barley, I’m off in the morning,” he said as a greeting. “Will you do something for me?”

Butterbur agreed without knowing even the nature of the favor.

“I’m in a hurry,” said Gandalf, “and I’ve no time myself, but I want a message took to the Shire. Have you anyone you can send, and trust to go?”

Butterbur assured him that he could find someone the following day or maybe the next. Gandalf admonished him to make it tomorrow and handed him the letter. Butterbur “put it by safe.” Not in the safe – by the safe. (I’d love to know what Butterbur’s safe was like. Also, the combination was absolutely 1-2-3.)

It’s a little curious that Gandalf didn’t go directly to the Shire. Of course, if he did, we wouldn’t have as much tension and drama in The Fellowship of the Ring. Still, Gandalf knew this was quite possibly life or death, that the Nazgûl would likely find the Shire in the next week or so (according to Radagast), and that Butterbur was likely to forget to send it.

Ultimately it would take the Nazgûl a little longer than feared, but there’s little excuse for Gandalf’s mistake.

The next morning, Gandalf would leave for Isengard.

What’s Next?

Since we’ve already covered everything that happened tomorrow (Lithe 2), our next stop will be July 1st, which is tomorrow. See how this can get a bit confusing? But tomorrow, we’ll be back on track with the calendar, just in time for the Nazgûl to begin their search for the Ring.

Camera: Imperial Savoy (c1956)
Film: Fuji Provia 100F (x-07/12)
Process: C-41
Glendive, Montana

Lithe – A Quick Explanation (And a Bit About the Calendars of Middle-earth)

In Shire Reckoning, the period of time known as Lithe falls between the months of June and July. Typically it consists of three days: Lithe 1, Midyear’s Day and Lithe 2.

Those are the basics. If you want to know more, I’ll try to delve into a bit.

Lithe in the Shire Calendar

Shire Reckoning is probably the most practical calendar ever invented. Basically, its twelve months each contained thirty days. This took care of 360 of the 365 days of the year.

Those extra five days were set apart with two Yule Days falling between December 30 and January 1, and three Lithe Days falling between June 30 and July 1.

The only thing slightly confusing about this arrangement was that it made January 1st the second day of the year – with the second day of Yule being the first day. But since both Yule Days were holidays, that hardly mattered. January 1st was still the first “business” day of the year (though, honestly, the party likely kept going well beyond the Yules).

Lithe had three days: Lithe 1, Mid-year’s Day (also called Midsummerday), and Lithe 2.

Leap Year

Now, as we know, the earth takes roughly 365.25 days to revolve around the sun. This is why we have an extra day in February every four years. Shire Reckoning handled it a bit differently.

Rather than adding a day to some random month, they just gave themselves more holidays.

They called these leap year days “Overlithe”. This came every basically four years and would fall between Midyear’s Day and Lithe 2. This would add an extra day of feasting because why the hell not?

Days of the Week

If you’ve come this far and you don’t already know this, prepare to have your mind blown.

In our calendar, the days of the week never coincide with calendar days. Your birthday could fall on a Sunday one year and a Wednesday a few years later. Throw in leap year, and it’s basically impossible to remember from year to year upon which day that date might fall.

This was not so with Shire Reckoning.

January 1st always falls on a Sunday. Always. July 3rd is always a Tuesday, and October 28th is always a Friday.

Even in leap years, these days do not change. This is accomplished by making Midyear’s Day (and Overlithe on leap years) days all unto themselves and not a day of the week. And since they were festival days, it just didn’t matter.

To be clearer, Lithe 1 was always a Friday. Then came Midyear’s Day – a day in and of itself. The next day was Saturday, Lithe 2.

The Yules always fell on Friday and Saturday, making that Saturday always the 1st day of the year.

This meant that Hobbits had to buy only one calendar ever – which I took the liberty of making:

The Shire Reckoning – good for all years!

The Rest of Middle-earth

And that’s fine for Hobbits, but what about the rest of Middle-earth? If you want to know the gritty details of this, check out Appendix D of Lord of the Rings.

In short, the Elves had a wonky system that even Tolkien didn’t seem to fully grasp. Their year had six seasons, 365 days, and some sort of leap year every dozen years where three days were added. There was also a sort of anti-leap year that took away three days every 432 years. All of this likely varied over different times and regions.

It was the Númenóreans who took the Elvish calendar and folded it into something more like ours. They called this the King’s Reckoning. The year had 365 days across twelve months. Ten of those months had 30 days, and two had 31. The months with the extra days were June and July.

They also had three days that didn’t fall into the months. Loëndë was their Midyear’s Day, coming between June and July (the long months). Yestarë and Mettarë were the first and last days of the year, respectively.

The Stewards’ Reckoning

After the King’s Reckoning was lost with the fall of Numenor, the Stewards’ Reckoning came about. This was in use at the time of Lord of the Rings by basically everyone but the Hobbits.

Like the Shire Reckoning, each of the twelve months had 30 days. The extra five days were dispersed in a bizzare variety of ways.

Like the Númenórean calendar, the first day of the year was Yestarë, with January 1st coming the day after. Then, between the months of March and April, the day Tuilérë was added. Then came Loëndë, their Midyear’s Day. Between September and October another day was added called Yáviérë. And finally, like the Númenóreans, the last day of the year was Mettarë.

Tolkien on the Hobbit Calendar

The Hobbits took the Steward’s Reckoning and made it better. Tolkien ends this portion of Appendix D with a bit of a hurrah for the Shire Reckoning’s “Shire-reform.”

In consequence of this reform the year always began on the First Day of the week and ended on the Last Day; and the same date in any one year had the same weekday name in all other years, so that Shire-folk no longer bothered to put the weekday in their letters or diaries. They found this quite convenient at home, but not so convenient if they ever travelled further than Bree.

Deciding Upon Shire Reckoning

Because the Lord of the Rings was written from a Hobbit point-of-view, all of the days given were translated into Shire Reckoning and it is (basically) consistent throughout.

After the War of the Ring, the rest of Middle-earth would basically revert back to the King’s Reckoning. Except this time it was even more complicated and actually shifted the whole calendar by a week.

The first year of the Fourth Age began with March 25th, the day the Ring was destroyed. This was made the first day of the year with April 1st following, thus skipping March 26th – 30th. There was a three day festival which fell between September and October. In honor of Frodo, September 30th was also made a festival day. On leap years, they tacked on an extra day to that festival, calling it Ringday.

It was still more complicated than Shire Reckoning, and so the Hobbits retained their own calendar because, again, why not?

Camera: Bolsey Jubilee (c1950s) Film: Tasma Mikrat 300 (x-1975); 6iso Process: HC-110; 1+200; 120min Potholes Coulee, Washington

June 28, 3018 – Gollum Escapes the Kindly Wood-elves

Welcome to June 28, 3018, the day (well, night) that Gollum escaped from the Wood-elves. We don’t have a lot of information to go on, but let’s dive on in.

The Back Story

There are two main actors in the backstory of Gollum’s escape – Gollum himself, and Sauron. Gollum had been held captive by Sauron for some indeterminable amount of time (this was discussed here). Sauron allowed Gollum to escape Mordor hoping that he would flap his way back to his homeland where the Dark Lord believed “Baggins” and “Shire” might be found.

This plan was dashed when Aragorn tracked down and captured Gollum in the Dead Marshes in the suburbs of Mordor. After dragging the gross little creature to Mirkwood, Gandalf questioned him, and learned the truth of Bilbo’s Ring.

Unfortunately for everyone, Khamûl, the second-in-command Nazgûl was overseeing affairs in Dol Guldur, Southern Mirkwood. His spies learned that Gollum had been captured by a man and taken to Thranduil’s Realm in Northern Mirkwood. After a bit of making-sure, Khamûl sends word to Sauron.

Tolkien speculated that Khamûl would have waited a bit to be certain that Gandalf was involved. Word, then, didn’t get to Sauron in Mordor until late Aprilish.

Sauron’s Two Strokes

We learn in “The Hunt for the Ring” that when Sauron was told about Gollum’s capture and Gandalf’s involvement, he was “in great haste and fear.” He needed more information, but because of the Dúnedain and Saruman’s own spies were spreading disinformation, Sauron could learn nothing.

Calming some, Sauron decided to basically say “fuck it” and plan an attack. If he couldn’t be all crafty about getting his Ring back, he would just start a war.

His first move was to release the Nazgûl. Though Tolkien toyed with the idea of Sauron releasing the Nazgûl a bit earlier (April), he seems to have mostly decided that they would be unleashed for the Battle of Osgiliath. At the same time, Sauron’s forces would also attack the Wood-elves.

“The Orcs assailed the realm of Thranduil, with orders to recapture Gollum; and the Lord of Morgul was sent forth openly to battle against Gondor.”

Escaped? That Is Ill News Indeed

At the Council of Elrond, Legolas told a little bit about how Gollum escaped. It was “not through lack of watchfulness,” but “perhaps through over-kindliness.”

Under Thranduil’s totally-unfaulty watch, Gollum was guarded all day and night. He was a prisoner, but they would take him for walks in the forest. Gollum had a particular tree that he liked to climb. One day (probably today, June 28), he refused to come down. The elves, being elves, didn’t want to climb up after him. They figured that he would eventually have to come down, so why bother?

The elves kept watch on the tree after nightfall. Curiously, that same night is when Sauron’s Orcs attacked.

“It was that very night of summer, yet moonless and starless, that Orcs came on us at unawares. We drove them off after some time; they were many and fierce, but they came from over the mountains, and were unused to the woods. When the battle was over, we found that Gollum was gone, and his guards were slain or taken.”

It was obvious that the reason Gollum didn’t want to come down was because he believed the Orcs were there to recapture them. Of course, he had no desire to go with them and thus back to Mordor, but he must have figured out that within the confusion he could make his own escape.

Looking a few days into the future (so, into the beginning of July), we learn that the Wood-elves pursued the trail left by the Orcs. It seems that they believed that Gollum was still with the Enemy. The pursuit took them too close to Dol Guldur and it was called off.

Were the Nazgûl Involved?

One of the many things left vague about the early War of the Rings events is the location of Khamûl. We’re told in Unfinished Tales that he and another Nazgûl resided at Dol Guldur. The other Nazgûl is unnamed, but he is referred to as “his messenger.”

It’s not crazy to assume that this “messenger” was the individual who delivered the message of Gollum’s imprisonment by the Wood-elves to Sauron in Mordor. Of course, it’s also possible that Khamûl himself went. Or that they both went. Or neither went. We simply don’t know.

Nowhere in the Lord of the Rings is it even suggested that a Nazgûl was involved in the attack upon Thranduil’s realm. It’s made explicit that at least one (the Witch-king of Angmar) was involved in the Battle of Osgiliath.

Little more is made clear in the main text itself. For further information, we have to look to “The Hunt for the Ring” again. And there, as we know, lies madness. Or at least a bit of confusion.

Though not much is said, we read there that after Osgiliath fell “the Nazgûl were ordered to begin the search for the Ring.” We also read that seven of the Nazgûl lived in Mordor, while two others, Khamûl and “his messenger” lived in Dol Guldur.

Again looking into the future, the seven Nazgûl will meet up with the Nazgûl of Dol Guldur on July 22nd. This makes it clear that when the Orcs attacked Thranduil Khamûl was still at Dol Guldur with his messenger.

Still, no concrete evidence is there for either Nazgûl being directly involved. For that, we have to look to the “unpublished manuscript” ultimately published in Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Companion.

Though this follows a slightly different timeline (concerning just when the Nazgûl began their search for the Ring), Tolkien wrote that just before the Battle of Osgiliath, several of the Nazgûl remained in Anduin Vale while the Witch-king led the attack.

“One or more actually direct the attack on Thranduil when Gollum escapes.”

Of course, this is speculation and was likely abandoned by Tolkien (though who knows for sure). Still, it makes a lot of sense that Khamûl would have directed the attack on Thranduil. It was a basic attack and his actual presence at the battle would have been a hindrance as it would have tipped their hands that the Nazgûl were now active and in the field.

So basically, while the Witch-king personally led the attack on Osgiliath, the other Mordor-based Nazgûl were somewhere else (maybe Anduin Vale, maybe Dol Guldur). Additionally, Khamûl likely planned out the specifics of the Orc-attack upon the Wood-elves, though he was not there in person.

Curing Gollum?

The last thing I want to look at is Gandalf’s idea that Gollum might be cured. The Ring had done a number on him and without its power, Gollum’s days were coming to an end. Before Gollum died, Gandalf wanted to see him turn his life around.

So the Wood-elves decided not to throw him in their dungeons “where he would fall back into his old black thoughts.”

This says a lot. Through Gandalf’s few days with him, Gollum must have been coming out of his dark thoughts. He must have been becoming somewhat more like he used to be before the Ring. Of course, he used to be a pretty nasty Sméagol, so while it was definitely an improvement over being Gollum, it still wasn’t that great.

But maybe the Wood-elves could have cured him of that too. More than likely, Gollum was mostly cured of the immediate effects of the Ring – he was at least on the road to recovery. Unfortunately for everyone, that long road lead him straight back into his pre-Ring days of assholery.

Still, even that was the right decision.

Quick note about the date.

In the June 20th entry in the “Tale of Years” we learn that Thranduil was attacked “about the same time” as the attack on Osgiliath. However, at the Council of Elrond, Legolas tells us that it was a “moonless and starless” night.

In the book Untangling Tolkien, author Michael W. Perry suggests the date of June 28th since the 20th was three days after a full moon. “On June 28 a waning crescent moon did not rise until after 3am, giving the Orcs plenty of time to attack and disappear into the depths of Mirkwood.”

That addresses the “moonless,” but the “starless” is harder to dismiss. Perry suggests that it could have been cloudy, but that the clouds wouldn’t have obscured a nearly full moon. So I suppose he’s suggesting that the 28th is the most likely because a cloudy night would have hidden the stars and the moon wouldn’t have been an issue until 3am.

It’s shaky, but I’ll take it.

What’s Next?

We’re coming up on Midyear’s Day and Lithe! It’s then that Gandalf meets up with Radagast and heads for Isengard. Good news, right?

Camera: Pentax K-1000
Film: Kodak Tri-X (x-80s)
Process: Rodinal 1+50; 9.5min
Crater Lake, Oregon

June 25, 3018 – Gandalf Leaves the Shire

Welcome to “one evening, at the end of June [3018 of the Third Age].” It’s on this evening that Gandalf told Frodo that he was leaving. This is one of the most important events in the entire story, as it sets up nearly everything to come, so it’s worth a good looking into.

I Have Heard Something

Sometime, probably not too long before, Gandalf somehow received news – “I have heard something that has made me anxious and needs looking into.”

For the most part, it seems as if Gandalf had done little more than cloister himself away in Bag End for the past couple of months. He “kept himself very quiet and did not go about by day.” . Gandalf wanted as little attention brought to the Shire as possible. If he popped round the shops every Wednesday, there would certainly be quite a scuttlebutt around Hobbiton.

We’ve already learned that the Dwarves were passing through the Shire in increasing numbers “were the hobbits’ chief source of news from distant parts.” Lately, there were many “of far countries, seeking refuge in the West… some spoke in whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor.”

These strange Dwarves from “far countries” would not have seemed strange to Gandalf. It’s pretty clear that Frodo knew nothing of their visits (if there were any), but Gandalf was sly enough to catch some passing news.

It’s also clear that Gandalf didn’t receive his news from Aragorn and the Rangers, as we’ll see.

We do know that he kept his May 1st appointment with Aragorn at Sarn Ford, but that was going on two months ago.

What Could Gandalf Have Heard?

This is the big question, isn’t it? Whatever news he received was either not trustworthy enough to act upon or wasn’t that huge of a deal.

Gandalf, we’re told, “looked rather worried,” so it wasn’t nothing. He admitted that he was “anxious” and that the news “needs looking into.” But nothing more is revealed.

It might be tempting to speculate that he heard that the Nazgûl were searching for “Baggins” and “Shire.” Gandalf sets us straight on that account when he finally meets up with Frodo in Rivendell.

“I did not know that they [the Nazgûl] had arisen again or I should have fled with you at once. I heard news of them only after I left you in June; but that story must wait.”

Tolkien was very uncertain, even after publication, exactly when the Black Riders started off in search of the Ring. We’ll try to delve into that later, but for now we know that Gandalf would not have heard anything about them prior to leaving the Shire.

The news couldn’t have been of the Battle of Osgiliath, as it happened only a few days before. It couldn’t have been about the Orcs’ attack upon Thranduil. The news couldn’t have had anything at all to do with the Enemy’s broader and more recent movements.

Whatever news that Gandalf maybe have heard was a rumor carried on foot or horseback, and would have taken weeks at the earliest to arrive.

During the Council of Elrond, Gandalf would shed a bit of light – “At the end of June I was in the Shire, but a cloud of anxiety was on my mind, and I rode to the southern borders of the little land; for I had a foreboding of some danger, still hidden from me but drawing near.”

So Gandalf either “heard something that makes me anxious” or “had a foreboding of some danger.” Take your pick. Or maybe it was both.

In earlier drafts, he had received messages directly from the Rangers, but Tolkien has obviously abandoned that idea.

Down Beyond the Southern Borders

Gandalf’s first stop was to be “beyond the southern borders” of the Shire. That way would lead him back to Sarn Ford and perhaps Aragorn – but at least to the Rangers. Whatever news Gandalf heard could be confirmed by them.

The Hobbits and Men of Bree knew almost nothing of the Rangers guarding their safety. As Aragorn mentions in Rivendell:

“‘Strider’ I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly.”

When Gandalf and Aragorn split up in the second week of April, we learn that Aragorn “often kept watch on the borders of the Shire in the last few years.” Though the Rangers were all over the Shire’s borders, and beyond, it seems Aragorn kept his headquarters near Sarn Ford in the south.

I Shall Come Back Immediately

As has already been established, Gandalf’s sense of time is a bit different than others. Still, he probably did mean to return to Bag End as soon as he found out whatever news it was that he needed to know.

Gandalf promised Frodo that if it were necessary to leave the Shire right away, he would come back “immediately” to make sure it was done. At the very least, he would send word.

The next morning as he was setting off, Gandalf would tell Frodo that he might not be back until September. It’s unlikely that he heard any news overnight, but that he reconsidered and figured that this might take some untangling. Gandalf’s intention, we understand, was to accompany him from the start.

Stick To Your Plan – Don’t Use It!

Whatever danger there might be, Gandalf did not think it was serious enough for Frodo to leave the Shire right away.

He told Frodo to stick to the original plan to sell Bag End and prepare to move to Crickhollow.

The other bit of advice he gave was about the Ring – “Let me impress on you once more: don’t use it!

This bit of advice would eventually come in handy, but until then, Frodo decided to have a fair summer in the Shire.

What’s Next?

Gollum and Wood-elves!

Camera: Argus/Cosina STL1000
Film: Kodak Ektachrome E200 (x-12/02)
x-pro as C-41
Near Washtucna, Washington

June 22, 3018 – Frodo Baggins Is Selling Bag End!

So where were we? It seems like it’s been years. In story-time, it’s been about six weeks.

When the Hell Are We?

Let’s get you caught up. When last we left Frodo and Gandalf, on April 27, Gandalf told Frodo to “leave soon.”

Frodo decided that “soon” actually meant “in about six months.” I get it, that’s fine. But nothing really happens until about now – in early summer.

Actually, I’m not even sure it is now. Tolkien was pretty vague about this part of the timeline. We learn in Chapter 3, “Three Is Company,” that on “one summer’s evening an astonishing piece of news reached the Ivy Bush and Green Dragon.”

June 22nd is technically “one summer’s evening.” And this date (or somewhere near) is the only time when this works. Probably.

Camera: Pentax K-1000
Film: Tasma Mikrat 300 (x-06/74); 6iso
Process: Xtol 1+2; 21C; 9min
Lester, Washington

As we’ve seen, last week was an incredibly busy week in Middle-earth History. It’s possible that Frodo sells Bag End at the beginning of that week. Or even the one after this, I guess. But he definitely (well, probably) sells Bag End after Gandalf leaves – even though it sort of seems that it didn’t happen that way in the book.

Gandalf left the Shire sometime around when Frodo sold Bag End, probably after. We’re told that it was “late June”. The bit about Frodo selling is placed before Gandalf’s departure. Tolkien was vague and the rest of that week was packed with other stuff, so we’ll just have to settle upon Frodo selling today. Though it could have been basically any early-ish summer day.

Essentially this doesn’t matter – Tolkien could have slipped this event in anywhere, even months after Gandalf left.

What Matters?

What matters is the way that Frodo didn’t leave. Gandalf stressed that Frodo not “vanish” – a clear call back to Bilbo’s vanishing, which made news all the way in Bree. Frodo needed a much more boring way to leave Hobbiton.

What could be more boring than a real estate sale? Not much. Sure, it was all the talk down at the pub, but anyone outside of Hobbiton and Bywater probably wouldn’t have heard about it or cared if they did.

Frodo’s story – that he was running out of money and couldn’t afford to keep the house – was believable enough. It would have been a sensible thing to do.

Also important was that Frodo, unlike Bilbo, didn’t announce that he was going on a journey. He made no mention of it at all. We’re told that only Sam knew. To everyone else, “he had already chosen and bought a little house at Crickhollow in the country beyond.”

Frodo had grown up around there, and it just made sense that he would settled down in his old haunts once again.

It was also to the east – the direction in which he was going anyway – so would be on the way. Anyone who saw him on the road as far as Buckland would pay little mind to it. And anything farther east than the borders of the Shire was almost never traveled at all.

Another point is that Frodo knew that the Enemy would eventually find the Shire and would be looking for “Baggins.” If they showed up in Hobbiton, all the townsfolk would know was the he had moved to Crickhollow to the east. If the Enemy figured out where Crickhollow was, all the Bucklanders could say was that Frodo was apparently moving there, but had yet to make it.

Frodo did plan to disappear – he had to leave The Shire – but he planned on disappearing in an incredibly boring and drawn out way.

Where Is the Enemy?

We’ll get into the exact position of the Nazgûl soon enough. But for now, just know that all seven have gathered at Osgiliath. Following the victory in battle, they waited for some untold reason. The battle took place on June 20th, and they wouldn’t head west until July 1st (more on that then, of course).

Osgiliath is roughly 700ish miles southeast of Sarn Ford on the southern borders of The Shire. The Nazgûl would eventually make their way to this ford.

What’s Next?

Well, for the Hobbits, not much until September, I’m afraid. But tomorrow we’ll check in on Gandalf and Radagast.

June 20, 3018 – Sudden War Came Upon Us: The Battle of Osgiliath

Welcome to June 20, 3018 of the Third Age. Today we’ll look at the Battle for Osgiliath, which took place on this date.

But first, some background.

Like most great battles, the Battle of Osgiliath did not exist in a vacuum. The defenders didn’t wake up one morning and see some angry enemy at their gates. Though they seemed to have been caught a bit off guard, this day was not the first day of the war (though it’s usually seen as such).

The Nameless Enemy

We can begin this story over 1,000 years before this date, when the Nazgûl returned to Mordor. Sauron was at Dol Guldur, and they were preparing a place for him. As part of this preparation, Mordor took advantage of a rocky between Gondor and its neighbors.

Starting in the mid 1800s, the Wainriders (made up mostly of disjointed bands from the “east”) attacked and seized the Gondorian land of Rhovanion. This land, located north of Mordor and northeast of Gondor, started a domino effect, which resulted in Gondor losing all of its land east of the Anduin.

The fighting sputtered out until the Wainriders allied themselves with the Haradrim, people living to the south of Gondor, and the Variags, people living to the southeast of Mordor. With all the lands east of the Anduin out of Gondor’s control, Mordor saw an opportunity.

With Gondor’s forces pinned down across a wide front, in the year 2000 the Nazgûl directed a siege of Minas Ithil, a city and tower situated on the western hills of the Ephel Dúath (Mountains of Shadow, across which lay Mordor). Two years later, the city fell and was transformed into Minas Morgul.

This happened about 1,000 years before Boromir spoke at the Council of Elrond:

“When the Enemy returned our folk were driven from Ithilien, our fair domain east of the River, though we kept a foothold there and strength of arms.”

Boromir then fastforwarded to the present moment.

There was, however, a “Watchful Peace” where some Gondorians returned to Ithilien. They strengthened their defenses at first, but over the centuries of peace began to relax them.

Finally, in 2460 (around 600 years before the present time), Sauron returned to Dol Guldur and began to re-establish ties with his old allies. Before the century was over, he had invaded Ithilien and re-established his hold in Moria and along the Anduin.

With that, there was basically a stalemate. Sauron was a growing threat, but nobody in Gondor knew his timeline. He was playing the long game.

Through the 2700s, Orcs do battle with both Hobbits and Dwarves. The following century, the Enemy attacks across a broader front into Rohan and Gondor. Gandalf urges the White Council to attack Dol Guldur, but Saruman, now searching for the Ring, declines.

In the 2900s, Uruks of Mordor launch a stunning attack upon whomever was left in Ithilien, driving them across the Anduin. At last, in 2951, Sauron declares himself and three years later, Mount Doom comes alive again.

Boromir referenced this in the Council of Elrond:

“Smoke rises once more from Orodruin that we call Mount Doom. The power of the Black Land grows and we are hard beset.”

The Battle Itself

For the next seventy or so years, Sauron’s power and resources grow. His main objective is to find the One Ring. With that, there’s no real need for a war to conquer Middle-earth.

Sauron had allowed Gollum to escape, hoping that he would lead him to the One Ring. Unfortunately for Sauron, however, he lost track of Gollum and then later learned that the little creature was captured by a man. He also learned that Gandalf had passed through Thranduil’s realm in northern Mirkwood.

Putting two and two together, Sauron understood that the Wise knew about Gollum and the Ring and that he would have to act before he was ready. With urgency being the prime motivation, he unleashed the Nazgûl.

From Unfinished Tales we learn that along with capturing Gollum, Sauron had other objectives in mind. He knew that Gondor was going to be a problem. Because of this, he decided to launch a surprise attack upon Osgiliath, the city spanning the Anduin. If his forces could hold the bridge, the Nazgûl could cross. This battle would also give him an idea of Gondor’s strength.

Boromir told the Council of Elrond a bit about the battle:

“But this very year, in the days of June, sudden war came upon us out of Mordor, and we were swept away. We were outnumbered, for Mordor has allied itself with the Easterlings and the cruel Haradrim….”

Tolkien tells a bit more in Unfinished Tales, and we learn that “the passage of the bridge was effected.” Though Boromir would later explain that Gondor was “outnumbered,” Tolkien seems to doubt that. “The forces there used were probably much less than men in Gondor thought.”

The reason for this was known to Boromir, though he didn’t fully grasp it, explaining “but it was not by numbers that we were defeated. A power was there that we have not felt before.”

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“Some said it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon. Wherever he came a madness filled our foes, but fear fell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled.”

This was, Tolkien explains, the Witch-king, who was “allowed to reveal himself briefly in his full terror…”

But the battle was not quite at an end. “Only a remnant of our eastern force came back,” Boromir continued, “destroying the last bridge that still stood amid the ruins of Osgiliath.”

“I was in the company that held the bridge, until it was cast down behind us. Four only were saved by swimming: my brother and myself and two others.”

Tolkien later put into context what Boromir was trying to explain.

“Without belittling the valour of Gondor, which indeed Sauron found greater far than he had hoped, it is clear that Boromir and Faramir were able to drive back the enemy and destroy the bridge, only because the attack had now served its main purpose.”

That “main purpose” was to test Gondor’s strength and to cross the Nazgûl, both of which were accomplished.

In another telling published in Unfinished Tales, Tolkien claims:

“Thus Sauron tested the strength and preparedness of Denethor [Steward of Gondor], and found them more than he had hoped. But that troubled him little, since he had used little force in the assault, and his chief purpose was that the coming forth of the Nazgûl should appear only as part of his policy of war against Gondor.”

In truth, Sauron needed the Nazgûl to cross the Anduin to find the Ring.

What’s Next?

Just how many Nazgûl were at the battle is up for some debate. Obviously, the Witch-king was present, but what of the others? All of this will be discussed shortly. Following a battle, there is often a bit of down time – a few days, perhaps. The Nazgûl crossed the Anduin, to be sure, we the date given for when they begin their search for the Ring is July 1st. We’ll return to this story then.

The attack upon Thranduil’s realm was to happen “simultaneously” with the attack on Osgiliath. It’s likely, however, that they were separated by a few days. We’ll get to that shortly, and we’ll also check in on the Shire.

June 19, 3018 – Not Boromir’s Dream

Welcome to June 19, 3018 of the Third Age. Let’s talk about Boromir’s dream. Actually, let’s first talk about why it’s called Boromir’s dream – the name says a bit more about Boromir than it does anything.

Boromir’s Dream

At the Council of Elrond (which would take place in the coming October), we will learn that Boromir had come to Rivendell to ask Elrond “for counsel and the unravelling of hard words.”

Boromir had a dream. In truth, Boromir’s brother (whose name he never mentioned during the council) had the dream first. And often. Boromir had it once. Just one time.

Boromir’s unnamed brother is Faramir, who wouldn’t get a name until much later. This was due to Tolkien wishing to stir up a bit of mystery in that later, but it also seems like leaving out his name is something that Boromir would likely do.

By the end of the story, we’ll learn more about Faramir than Boromir, but since we’re taking the whole thing chronologically, let’s introduce both.

Their father was Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith. A widower, with his wife passing nearly forty years before our story, Denethor (and his court) raised Boromir and Faramir basically alone. Denethor was not a king, but a Steward of Gondor – a sort of placeholder king until the line was restored.

Boromir, the first born, was in line to succeed his father. He was ambitious, a warrior, and looked forward to ruling Gondor. Faramir wasn’t exactly a warrior, though he wasn’t a pacifist. He’ll later explain: “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.”

And sure, Boromir cares a whole bunch about all that stuff at the end, but really he loved bright swords, swift arrows, and glorious warriors.

Faramir’s Dream

The same dream came to both Boromir and Faramir, though it came to Faramir first and often (and eventually to Boromir only once).

But it’s Boromir that described it at the Council of Elrond:

In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:

Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.

Boromir explained that they couldn’t really understand the poem, so they brought it up to their father.

Again, it’s probably important to note that Faramir had the dream on this day. He also had it one subsequent days. Then, sometime later (early July) Boromir had it. Finally taking his brother’s dreams seriously, they both would go to their father.

To those who know the story, the poem is pretty self-explanatory. But Boromir had no clue to pretty much any of it.

After telling the Council about it, everything he couldn’t wrap his head around was quickly covered – from the “Sword that was Broken” to the “Halfling.”

A Quick Parting Word about Luck and Chance

In the book The Road to Middle-earth, Tom Shippey digs a bit into the relationship between luck and Providence in Tolkien’s writings. He notes that Tolkien used the word “chance” quite a bit in Lord of the Rings, and it was clear that he meant, as Tom Bombadil said “if chance you call it.”

Before Tom, Gildor also put forward the same sentiment – “In this meeting there may be more than chance….”

What they’re driving at is what Shippey keys upon. For that, he uses Boromir’s dream as an example:

“In Middle-earth, one may say, Providence or the Valar sent the dream that took Boromir to Rivendell. But they sent it first and most often to Faramir, who would no doubt have been a better choice. It was human decision, or human perversity, which led to Boromir claiming the journey, with what chain of ill-effects and casualties no one can tell. ‘Luck’, then, is a continuous interplay of providence and free will, a blending of so may factors that the mind cannot disentangle them, a word encapsulating ancient philosophical problems over which wars have been fought and men burn alive.”

In Middle-earth, there is a higher power. In this case, Shippey calls it “providence” – the intervention of the divine, Illuvatar. Or, he considers, it could be the Valar.

Whichever, the dream came to Faramir first and on this day, “on the eve of the sudden assault.”

What’s Next?

Since we’re on the “eve” of the assault, tomorrow we’ll talk about the assault upon Osgiliath.

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June 15, 3018 – Maybe Radagast Arrives in Isengard?

Tolkien never settled upon anything specifically happening on June 15th. But then, he never fully settled on a lot of dates that we take as more or less canon. This date, however, I think matches up well with a few different timelines that Tolkien was working on after writing Lord of the Rings.

Radagast Arrives at Isengard?

As Gandalf established at the Council of Elrond, he met up with Radagast on Midyear’s Day. This is a day that’s not on our calendar, but falls between June and July. Think of it as June 32nd. Technically it falls between the first and second days of Lithe. (See the calendar here.)

On that date yet to come, Radagast would Gandalf that the Nazgûl have crossed the Anduin and were moving westward. Because of this, Gandalf would race to see Saruman who sent Radagast with the message.

And it’s exactly here that Tolkien found a problem.

The Problem

Two dates are established for certain:

      1. June 20th, the date the Nazgûl attacked Osgiliath and crossed the Anduin.
        Midyear’s Day (twelve days later), the date that Radagast found Gandalf.

Given that Gandalf would arrive at Saruman in Isengard on July 10th (eleven days later), it seemed pretty unlikely that news of Osgiliath’s fall and the Nazgûl’s return would have spread so quickly.

But those are the dates he had to work with, and since he wasn’t changing them, he had to figure out a way for them to work.

The Solution-ish

We’ve talked for some time now about the “unpublished manuscript” appearing in Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Companion, but here is where it all comes together.

Tolkien seemed to figure that there was no real reason why the Nazgûl had to wait until June 20th to cross the Anduin for the first time. They could have, he reasoned, crossed sometime in April.

“The Nazgûl were ordered to steal over Anduin one by one and make enquiries” into “Shire” and “Baggins.” They search Anduin’s Vale (especially the Gladden Fields where the One Ring was lost of Isildur and found by Gollum) and then move on to Rohan.

Here is where Radagast comes in.

“Radagast becomes aware that Nazgûl are abroad in Anduin Vale spreading panic and searching for ‘Shire.’ He becomes very alarmed and can think of nothing but to go and consult Saruman head of order of Wizards. He does so … not long after visit of the Nazgûl to Isengard.”

That was another issue. Tolkien found it necessary for the Nazgûl to visit Isengard. The “accepted” date for that is September 18th or 20th. This would have been the exact day that Gandalf escaped or two days later. Tolkien had reasons for both, but never settled on it. (Most people call it the 20th.)

However, in this timeline, Tolkien had the Nazgûl visit Isengard before Gandalf arrived.

You see, while the Nazgûl searched and Radagast started for Isengard, Sauron was communicating with Saruman via the Palantír. He soon discovered that Saruman wasn’t his ally, but wanted the One Ring as his own. When Sauron discovered this, he sent the Nazgûl to visit him. In this timeline, they show up “not long after visit of the Nazgûl to Isengard.”

The Unpublished Manuscript Timeline

Let’s lay it all out and see how things fall.

April 12 – Gandalf Arrives in the Shire
Late April* – The Nazgûl cross the Anduin
May 1 – Gandalf meets up with Aragorn at Sarn Ford (and returns to Hobbiton)
Early May* – Sauron Suspects Saruman of treachery; Sends Nazgûl to Saruman
Mid May* – Radagast sees that the Nazgûl have crossed the Anduin; heads for Isengard
Early June* – The Nazgûl arrive in Isengard; Leave for Osgiliath, Mirkwood
Mid June – Radagast arrives in Isengard; Leaves with message for Gandalf
June 20 – Nazgûl attack both Osgiliath and Thranduil’s realm; Gollum freed
June 25 – Gandalf leaves the Shire; heads south
Midyear’s Day – Radagast finds Gandalf at Sarn Ford; Gandalf en route to Isengard
July 10 – Gandalf arrives and is imprisoned in Isengard
Mid September* – Nazgûl learn Shire’s location somehow
September 18 – Gandalf escapes Isengard
September 22 – Frodo leaves Shire; Nazgûl arrive in Shire, speak to the Gaffer

* = Dates specific to the “Unpublished Manuscript” timeline

As can be seen, the Nazgûl’s early visit to Isengard fits neatly within the canonical dates. Keep in mind that the dates with an asterisk (*) are not the generally accepted dates.

The Accepted Timeline

April 12 – Gandalf Arrives in the Shire
May 1 – Gandalf meets up with Aragorn at Sarn Ford (and returns to Hobbiton)
Mid June – Radagast arrives in Isengard; Leaves with message for Gandalf
June 20 – Nazgûl attack both Osgiliath; Gollum freed
June 25 – Gandalf leaves the Shire; heads south
Midyear’s Day – Radagast finds Gandalf at Sarn Ford; Gandalf en route to Isengard
July 10 – Gandalf arrives and is imprisoned in Isengard
Mid July* – Nazgul Move across Anduin
July 22* – Nazgul Meet Up at Field of Celebrant
Early September* – Sauron suspects Saruman of treachery
September 18 – Gandalf escapes Isengard; Nazgûl arrive at Isengard
September 19* – Nazgûl learn location of Shire from Wormtongue
September 22 – Frodo leaves Shire; Nazgûl arrive in Shire, speak to the Gaffer
* = Dates specific to the accepted timeline

Defending the Unpublished Timeline

The problem with the “accepted” timeline is the utterly impossible distance the Nazgûl had to travel in four days from Isengard to Hobbiton. This is a distance of 600 miles.

Travel by horseback can be incredibly fast. For example, Pony Express riders did 75 miles a day, changing horses every ten miles at established stations. In four days, they would have made 300 miles. This is only half the distance the Nazgûl were to have traveled, which means that they were making 150 miles a day, which is impossible, even with fresh horses and full support.

This fact alone is enough for me to accept the “unpublished manuscript” timeline. But there’s more.

In the “unpublished manuscript,” Tolkien drifts off around the time of the Battle of Osgiliath (June 20), for which the Witch-king must be present. The book, however, only mentions the Witch-king. Because of this, Tolkien spread out the Nazgûl. Some remained at Anduin Vale, while “one or more actually direct the attack on Thranduil when gollum escapes.”

In this timeline, Tolkien also explored the weaknesses of the Nazgûl. “They are rather timid and ineffectual with the Witch-king. Also they will not cross Greyflood into ‘enemy Elvish country’ without his leadership or express command.”

But Boromir also plays into this timeline! Through rumors flying around Rohan and Gondor, on September 1st, Sauron “learns of Boromir’s mission” to get to Rivendell. It’s this that clues him in to the Wise knowing about the One Ring “and that some tryst is arranged in Rivendell.”

And it’s because of that that Sauron fully begins to suspect Saruman is trying to play him – and apparently catches Saruman in a lie (though Tolkien doesn’t elaborate upon it).

Ultimately, it seems that Tolkien didn’t decide upon this timeline. The one in Unfinished Tales – the “accepted timeline” – is likely his “official and final” version. But I like this one better, as it’s a bit more realistic and make the Nazgûl even more sneaky. It also gives Saruman a lot more time to sweat it out over Sauron’s suspicions.

The “unpublished manuscript” timeline does have a problem, however. It’s the same problem that Tolkien worked on for two other timelines – how do the Nazgûl figure out where the Shire is located.

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Since this blog will be sticking to the “accepted” timeline (as well), we’ll get into much more detail then. But in this version, he concludes that “… the race of the Black Riders for Shire in September must be due to some new definite information obtained just before Gandalf’s escape.”

It’s likely he would have worked out some definite means as in the other two timelines (Grima Wormtongue or one of Saruman’s spies), but we’ll never know.

As students of Tolkien, we’re fortunate to have all of this background information, even if it is wildly contradictory. Prior to the release of Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth Series, and The Reader’s Companion, we’d have been mostly piecing this together ourselves.


What’s Next?

Putting this “unpublished manuscript” mostly behind us, we’ll head on back to the story. On July 19th Boromir has a dream. We’ll take a look at it.

June 5, 3018 – Looking at an Early Nazgûl Visit to Isengard

Welcome to June 3018 of the Third Age. Or is it September? That’s not really so clear. Let me explain.

After Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings, he began to notice a few problems with the chronology. Mostly this involved his “head canon” and could likely have been waved away by any normal reader.

One of these issues was with the Nazgûl and their visit to Saruman at Isengard – an event that isn’t even mentioned in the book. Due to the appearance of several manuscripts published in Unfinished Tales, the generally-accepted date for their arrival is September 20th, two days after Gandalf escapes.

Saruman had been playing both sides in the build up to the War of the Ring. But now that Gandalf had escaped, he knew the jig was up. His only way out was to gain the Ring for himself.

The Liar, the Witch-king, and the Wardrobe

In the Unfinished Tales version, the Witch-king, leader of the Nazgûl, arrived at the gate of Isengard. Using the Voice of Saruman™ he was able to talk to the Witch-king without confronting him personally. He told him that he didn’t know where the Ring was, but that Gandalf, who had just escaped, likely knew.

Because it was the Voice of Saruman™, the Nazgûl believed him without question and rode into Rohan searching for Gandalf.

The next day, however, they found Gríma Wormtongue en route to Saruman with word that Gandalf was in Edoras to warn King Théoden that Saruman was a traitor. He told the Nazgûl that Gandalf had come from the “land of the Halflings” and needed a horse to return. He also gave them directions to “the Shire.”

Tolkien wrote that the Nazgûl didn’t kill him because they knew that he was filled with so much terror that he would never speak of this again. Really, he was incredibly integral to the already-written plot and couldn’t die.

The Nazgûl then took off for the Shire, allowing them to join the Lord of the Rings saga already in progress.

The Other Unfinished Tales Version

Tolkien wrote a slightly different version, supposedly taking place on September 18th – the day Gandalf escaped.

When the Nazgûl arrived, Saruman told them that he had Gandalf as a prisoner and wished to hand him over. His real plan, though, was to race up the tower to Gandalf and beg for mercy. With both of them together, they could defeat the Nazgûl.

But when he got to the top, he found that Gandalf had just escaped! Utterly pissed off, he returned to the gate and told the Nazgûl that Gandalf had confessed where the Ring was and gave them directions to the Shire. He told them that he’d let Sauron know himself.

Again, due to the Voice of Saruman™, they believed him and were off. Just after they left, Saruman let loose his spies and Orcs and birds to chase down Gandalf, mess up Rohan and find the Ring.

The Nazgûl made for the Shire, learning along the way that Saruman had known for a long time where the Shire was, but neglected to tell Sauron.

So What Does Any of This Have To Do With Now?

Christopher Tolkien used the first story in Unfinished Tales because it was the “most complete.” He summarized the second as it was of some interest. There was, however, another version a bit less complete that was written, it seems, a little later.

We’ve looked at this “unpublished manuscript” ultimately published in Hammon & Scull’s Reader’s Companion a few times before. And we’ll dip into it again now.

In this version, the Nazgûl visited Saruman before he captured Gandalf. According to the text, “towards early? June.”

As discussed before, the Nazgûl crossed the Anduin soon after Sauron learned that Gollum had been captured by Aragorn and Gandalf (probably in mid-April, as discussed here). They can’t find him in Anduin’s Vale and split up to search Rohan.

Meanwhile, Sauron reads enough of Saruman’s mind to know that he’s playing both sides and wants the Ring for himself. Because of this, the Nazgûl are ordered to Isengard.

Saruman is very frightened at Sauron’s suspicion of himself and his knowledge of the Ring. Though he dislikes Gandalf intensely and is very jealous of him, he believes Gandalf knows something vital about the Ring because the Nazgûl ask of the Shire which has always been a great concern of Gandalf, and because his [Saruman’s] agents have discovered that it is extraordinarily closely guarded; also that Gandalf is now actually there since 12 April. He [Saruman] therefore thinks of getting his [Gandalf’s] help…

This is obviously just Tolkien’s quickly-jotted-down thoughts on the matter, but it does, I think, create a bit more urgency. Later in the manuscript, Tolkien wonders “What happens between June 20 and escape of Gandalf …?” This new story would certainly fill in those details.

Tolkien continues, explaining that Saruman “was helped at this point by good fortune.” This good fortune comes in the form of Radagast the Brown, who noticed that the Nazgûl were poking around Rohan. Radagast headed to Isengard to inform Saruman. In this timeline, he would be on his way there now. The Nazgûl, being on horses, beat him there.

At this point, however, Saruman wouldn’t know that Radagast was on his way, and would be fairly worried. From the time the Nazgûl left (early? June) until Radagast showed up (June 15, according to the manuscript), Saruman must have been freaking out.

What’s Next?

What’s next is that we’ll finally finish the unpublished manuscript and we’ll sort out this whole timeline. I’ll ever try to figure out if I actually like it better because it’s better or because it’s different. Until next time…

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