Hello again, and welcome to September 5, 3018 of the Third Age. Actually, I have no real idea if it’s September 5th. Or even September. But I know that it’s around this time that Aragorn comes back. Did you miss him? Did you even know he was gone?
No, of course not. At this point in the book, we’ve not even met Aragorn (or Strider, for that matter). His work was all behind the scenes stuff.
Fast Forward to Look Back
As is so often the case, we get the story in a bit of a flashback. Actually, it’s not even a flashback as much as it’s an aside.
Fast forward about three weeks to September 29th when the Hobbits meet Strider who seems pretty worried about Gandalf.
He tells them that he last saw Gandalf on May 1st. The Wizard told him that he and Frodo would be leaving the Shire in the last week of September (which is how Aragorn wound up at the Prancing Pony when he did).
With that in mind, Aragorn “went away on a journey of my own.” He returned to the borders of the Shire “many days ago” whatever that means.
I suppose it means that it wasn’t more than a few weeks, and definitely less than a month. So let’s call it about three weeks. In other words, today-ish.
A Journey of His Own?
I don’t believe that Tolkien gave us any idea at all where Aragorn went or what he was doing. We do learn that he was apparently out of reach through most of the summer. That’s three long ass months without Aragorn.
Sure, he believed that Gandalf had things under control. I get that. But Aragorn royally wizzed this down his leg.
So What Does Aragorn Know At This Point?
Honestly, not a hell of a lot. Since he was completely out of contact for three whole months, he didn’t learn about Gandalf’s disappearance or even about the Nazgûl until right now.
Let that sink in a bit.
Here’s a timeline to help:
May 1: Aragorn and Gandalf part ways at Sarn Ford. Aragorn leaves pretty directly after this.
June 20: The Battle of Osgiliath takes place and the Nazgûl cross the Anduin.
June 25: Gandalf leaves the Shire.
June 28: Gollum escapes from the Mirkwood Elves.
July 1: The Nazgûl begin their search in earnest.
July 10: Gandalf is imprisoned at Isengard.
September 5: Aragorn shows up.
So Where the Hell Was He?
Okay, so I know what you’re thinking. He was visiting Arwen. And sure, he probably was. But that’s just in Rivendell. Are we supposed to believe that Elrond had no idea that the Nazgûl were out? Even Radagast knew this by mid to late June.
No, this doesn’t cause the story to disappear in a puff of logic, but it does make you wonder. Clearly Tolkien had some idea (right?) but never said. Even Hammond & Scull don’t touch this one in their Reader’s Companion.
I get that Rivendell is like another world, but with Gildor flitting in and out of the place, they could certainly have heard of the Nazgûl around the time Radagast did.
So basically we’ll never know. I personally hope Aragorn had an amazing summer, and that his broken sword wasn’t too much of a hindrance to whatever he was up to.
On the 7th we’ll do a quick peek in at the Dwarves! Stay tuned!