Welcome to July 22, 3018 of the Third Age. On our previous post, seven of the Nazgûl crossed to the eastern side of the Anduin. There, they got horses and clothes. Their ethereal bodies now took on more human-like shapes. Today, we’ll meet up with the two remaining Nazgûl.
Hello, Khamûl, How’s the Wife and Kids?
After crossing over the Anduin to the eastern shore, we’re told in “The Hunt for the Ring” in Unfinished Tales that they “passed northward seeking for the Shire, the land of the Halflings.”
On this day, July 22nd, “they met their companions, the Nazgûl of Dol Guldur, in the Field of Celebrant.” The Nazgûl of Dol Guldur were Khamûl and his messenger.
Here, the Witch King learned two important things. First, he learned that Gollum had escaped both the Orcs and the Elves. This wasn’t the greatest of news. Khamûl was put in charge of Dol Guldur and thus in charge of the Orcs who made the strike against Thranduil and the Wood-elves in Mirkwood.
On June 28th, the Elves had been holding and even rehabilitating Gollum when the Orcs attacked. In the confusion of battle, Gollum slipped away. Nearly a month later, Khamûl finally told someone about it. This seems like an incredibly long delay.
But Khamûl also had some good-ish news. Sauron had believed that the One Ring was located in what he believed to be Gollum’s homeland. He thought that this was possibly called “Shire.” This, he speculated, was probably in the Vales of Anduin.
We learn in Unfinished Tales that “no dwelling of Halflings could be discovered in the Vales of Anduin, and that the villages of the Stoors by the Gladden had long been deserted.”
Khamûl seems to have discovered Gollum’s homeland. Sméagol, as he was known before becoming Gollum, was one of the Stoors, a sort of cousin of the Hobbits. But those villages near the Gladden Fields had been deserted years before.
A Quick Aside about Gollum
Though it’s not really about today’s post, I’m thinking now of Gollum. After escaping the Orcs and Elves, I wonder if he flapped his way back to his old hometown. With the Elves, he seemed to be making some headway into overcoming the effects of the Ring.
It’s something fortunately hard to fathom. We don’t know much about Gollum’s travels, but after moving south towards Dol Guldur, all he had to do was turn west, head through the Old Forest, and he’d be home.
We do know that he ended up at the western gate of Moria, and so he must have crossed the Anduin somewhere around his old village.
If he returned to his former home only to find it long-abandoned, how lonely he must have felt.
Or Maybe there Were Stoors
In another version of this story, Tolkien had the Nazgûl (probably just Khamûl and his messenger) find that the Stoor villages were still inhabited by Stoors – “and such of the Stoors as dwelt there were slain or driven away by the Nazgûl.”
Years later, Tolkien seemed to split the difference. The Stoors “appear indeed to have died out altogether (except, of course, for Sméagol); or to have fled from the shadow of Dol Guldur.”
Of course, from Gollum’s point of view, by the time he would have gotten to his old homeland, the villages would have been deserted. Rather than simply finding empty homes, however, he would have found scenes of death, bodies and killing all around.
A quick note: It’s possible that in this version all of the Nazgûl attacked the Stoors together. In another manuscript, Tolkien references the Witch King’s “violent onslaught” of the Stoors. But Tolkien was very scattered in these notes, so it’s not easy to tell when what is going on.
Regardless of how or when it happened, by the time Khamûl met up with the Witch King, there were no longer any Stoors in the Vales of Anduin. And when it came to “Shire” and “Baggins,” they were no closer to figuring all of this out.
Still, the Witch King wanted to push northward “hoping maybe to come upon Gollum as well as to discover the Shire.” This would all take some time. It would take quite a bit of time, actually. And this delay would cost the baddies dearly.
In a few days we’ll check in with Boromir (very quickly), but after that we’ll take a bit of a hiatus as literally nothing is going on in the story until the end of August. I’m sure there will be a post here and there, but nothing of much substance until then.
After that, however, the posts will be almost daily from here on out (hopefully).