Hi. Welcome to September 3, 3018. Or something. Really, I have no idea. But this will be quick. Let’s talk about Sauron.
No wait. First, let’s talk about Saruman. Remember a couple of days ago when Saruman learned all that stuff about Boromir and the dream from Gríma? Well, as it turns out, Saruman wasn’t the only one listening.
Taking a peek into Unfinished Tales, we learn that Sauron also had his ear to the ground.
“Sauron had now learned of the words of prophecy heard in Gondor, and the going forth of Boromir, of Saruman’s deeds, and the capture of Gandalf.”
Now, we aren’t given a clue as to exactly how the Dark Lord learned all of this stuff. It certainly wasn’t through the Nazgûl who were trampsing around Anduin’s Vale looking for Shire and Baggins (still!).
And it wasn’t from Saruman, even though he was in a bit of communication with Sauron. The capture of Gandalf was definitely something he’d rather keep to himself (for now anyway).
But however Sauron learned of this stuff – all of which was accurate – he drew a few logical conclusions.
1) None of the Wise actually had the Ring.
2) Saruman probably knew where it was hidden.
3) “Speed alone would now serve, and secrecy must be abandoned.”
Wait… So Who Told Sauron?
It’s a good question, and I’m honestly not sure. It would have to have been someone pretty connected. I believe Tolkien played around with the idea of the information coming from Gríma through the Nazgûl, but that’s not possible with the timeline that he finally settled upon.
This person would have to know of Boromir, of the specifics of Boromir’s dream, of Saruman’s deceptions, and of Gandalf’s capture. Really, the only person it could be was Gríma. But it definitely wasn’t him because at this time the Wormtongue was with King Théoden in Edoras.
There’s a bigger reason why it can’t be Gríma as Tolkien was saving him for a future meeting with the Nazgûl that wouldn’t happen until September 20th.
Tolkien wrote a few other notes about this. These are published in Scull & Hammonds’ Readers Companion. By reading these, it’s clear that Tolkien had no idea how Sauron knew.
“Belated Sept. 1 he [Sauron] has learned of the ‘oracular words’ and of Boromir’s mission (July 4). How? The words became widely? known in Gondor and Rohan, and Boromir’s [?departure] was also known. This is enough to make S[auron] suspect that the Wise know abou tthe Ring, and that some tryst is arranged in Rivendell. His suspicions of Saruman are redoubled. He has caught S[aruman] again in palantír.”
Again, more handwaving. Basically everybody knew about Boromir. Which, honestly, knowing Boromir, that was probably the case.
Let’s face it, looking at the many conflicting notes taken by Tolkien about this time in the chronology, he had absolutely no idea what happened between June 20th and the escape of Gandalf.
From his notes:
“What happens between June 20 and escape of Gandalf which cannot be earlier than night of Sept. 16/17? Some 86 days!”
Tolkien tried to work this out and just didn’t. He never got it all sorted. In some versions, the Nazgûl actually showed up at Isengard before Gandalf’s escape! We’ll cover that in a bit, I’m getting ahead of myself.
So my conclusion is this – Tolkien probably wanted it to be Gríma who told Sauron via the Nazgûl, but couldn’t get it to work out. And with a bit of handwaving (“For Sauron had now learned of the words of prophecy heard in Gondor….”) it didn’t really matter.
In a couple of days we’ll check in on Aragorn!