January 18, 3019 – The Enemy Calls Upon Uglúk and Grishnákh (and a Nazgúl)

Welcome to January 18, 3019 of the Third Age. While the Fellowship is getting comfy in Lothlórien, I thought I’d catch you up a bit with the Enemy.

Most of these details come from Tolkien’s notes (as given in Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Companion). It’s easy to pass over them, but I like these little details.

As we know, the Orcs pursued the Fellowship out of Moria. At the same time, they sent messengers to Saruman at Isengard. They mention what happened, as well as a run in with Gollum. They also sent birds to Sauron in Moria.

On this day, the messengers reached Isengard. They also apparently reach Moria (or Sauron somehow figures it out.

Saruman sends out Uglúk, the leader of the Uruk-hai scouts. Meanwhile, Sauron dispatches Grishnákh and the Orcs of Mordor. All seem to be on their way to the outskirts of Lórien. They can’t get it, but they sure can mill around outside all creepy-like.

Tolkien doesn’t explicitly say this in his notes, but it’s also pretty likely that at least one Nazgúl is en route.

Camera: Smena 8M
Film: Ilford HP5 (x-1/81); 100iso

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January 17, 3019 – Meeting Galadriel and That Other Guy

Welcome to January 17, 3019 of the Third Age. Today the Fellowship enters Lothórien proper and gets to meet Galadriel and her husband. Let’s not dilly dally.

Book Two, Chapter 6: Lothlórien
“In the morning they went on again, walking without haste.”

A Break at Cerin Amroth

For the morning walk, the Fellowship were all still blindfolded. But around noon they stopped and were met by some Elves sent by Galadriel. They told them that they could remove the blindfolds – even Gimli, who was the first Dwarf to look upon Lórien since Durin’s Day.

Even before having his blindfold removed, Frodo was enamored by Lothlorien. But once he could see, so much of it came flooding over him. This was done by direct order from Galadriel herself. Even Gimli the Dwarf was to have his blindfold removed. She knew all about the Fellowship and knew its purpose.

Elves can often be dicks. We see example upon example of this. Even Haldir, when threatening to kill Gimli, was dickish (to say the least). But now all was different and Haldir even apologized to Gimli, who was the first to have his blindfold removed. Of course, that’s a bit diminished by Haldir basically saying “Check out the most awesome place in the world! You are so lucky to see it!” Lothlorien’s Elves were out of touch, especially with Dwarvendom.

When Frodo’s blindfold was removed, he looked around and likened it to “Springtime in the Elder Days.” Just what he knew about the Elder Days is pretty unclear. Bilbo, more than any Hobbit, would be the person to talk to about such thing, and it’s likely he related much of what he knew to Frodo.

Or maybe it was a feeling put well into words. It’s not really all that different from Sam’s rough (but brilliant) estimation: “I thought Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more Elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning.”

Frodo felt the same, like “he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world.” And in truth, he did. Haldir explained that Lothlorien, and specifically Cerin Amroth, where they stopped, “is the heart of the ancient realm as it was long ago.”

For some reason we’re not told, Haldir wanted the Fellowship to rest here for a few hours so that they’d “come to the city of the Galadhrim at dusk.” There’s no real reason for him to do this. Maybe Galadriel had to tidy up the place before guests arrived and Haldir was just buying her some time. No idea, though maybe it was for show. As we’ll see later, coming into the city at dusk was quite a sight.

To Frodo’s eyes, everything seemed new and ancient all at once. This seemed to effect him more than any of the others, though Sam was definitely a close second. Even though the colors he saw were nothing new, it was as if he had never seen anything like them before. It seemed as if the world was being recreated just for his viewing. This was, as Haldir explained, “the power of the Lady of the Galadhrim.”

As Haldir led Frodo up the hill, the hobbit “felt that he was in a timeless land that did not fade or change or fall into forgetfulness.” Powerful stuff, to be sure, but an illusion. The hill upon which they stood was drastically changed from the previous age when Amroth built his house in the trees. His house was long gone, a flet (basically a platform) in its place.

As Frodo climbed up the ladder to the flet, his senses were keenly aware. He experienced this a bit when he was blindfolded, which could have been chalked up to having to rely more only upon his other senses. But now, even with sight, he was hyper-aware of everything – not just of the texture of the tree, but “of the life within it.”

“He felt a delight in wood and the touch of it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; it was the delight of the living tree itself.”

When Frodo looked around from atop the tree, he first saw all of Lothlorien, including the Anduin. But when he looked beyond, it was as if he was no longer under the spell of Galadriel, “and he was back again in the world he knew.”

What he saw beyond the river was “flat and empty, formless and vague. “The sun that lay on Lothlorien had no power to enlighten the shadow of that distant height.” The “sun” in this case was actually Galadriel’s power, and the “distant height” was Dol Guldur in Southern Mirkwood, “where long the hidden enemy had his dwelling.”

For what Ciran Amroth meant to Aragorn, see this.

Here Dwell Celeborn and Galadriel

In the late afternoon, the Fellowship, let by Haldir, went on again. In a few miles, they came upon Caras Galadhon, the main city in Lórien. They were to meet with Celeborn and Galadriel.

After a quick exchange of niceties, they got down to business. While Celeborn spoke to them, Galadriel said nothing, “but looked long upon his [Frodo’s] face.” When all eight of them had been sat before the Lord and Lady, Celeborn questioned why there weren’t nine. He figured that maybe Elrond had changed his mind and the messengers never made it to Lothlórien. But Galadriel understood that Elrond had nothing to do with this.

‘Nay, there was no change of counsel,’ said the Lady Galadriel, … ‘Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land. Now tell us where he is; for I much desired to speak with him again. But I cannot see him from afar, unless he comes within the fences of Lothlórien: a grey mist is about him, and the ways of his feet and of his mind are hidden from me.’

This was the first time we have any idea of Galadriel’s clairvoyance. Somehow she knew that Gandalf had set out with them. As soon as the Fellowship entered Lórien, she was probably aware that something was amiss or missing. It wasn’t until the Fellowship appeared before her that she could read their thoughts and tell that there wasn’t a change of counsel – Gandalf was simply not there. Currently, he was still battling the Balrog.

When she said that she could not see him from afar, exactly what she meant is a bit confusing and can be interpreted in one of two ways. It’s possible that she could usually see him from afar, but couldn’t now because of some external force (the grey mist), probably Sauron. This would go towards explaining how she knew he was originally with the Fellowship. Her sight could now only reach to the fences of Lothlórien.

However, it’s also possible that she meant that her sight only ever reached to those boundaries, and only when Gandalf didn’t show up within them, could she tell that he was missing. This would assume that she was expecting him, which is a pretty fair assumption. The grey mist, in this case, would then be everything outside of the fences of Lothlórien.

I guess It’s also possible that since Gandalf was in a battle with the Balrog under Moria, the inherent evil of the Balrog somehow cast a grey mist blocking her sight. But whatever it was, Galadriel couldn’t see Gandalf and was worried.

At this point, Galadriel stops speaking and Celeborn asks the Fellowship what happened to Gandalf and of their story so far. She speaks up only to chastise Celeborn for implying that “at the last Gandalf fell from wisdom into folly.” She also chastises him for being a dick to Gimli.

Galadriel knew about Frodo’s quest and that he was the Ring-bearer, and that in itself is a bit strange. It’s hard to believe that Elrond would send messengers to Lothlórien with the specifics. They would have news of a group of travelers, yes, but not the specific quest. Somehow or another, Galadriel knew, though when she knew it was never said. It’s possible that she heard from Elrond’s messengers and deduced it, and it’s also likely that she read Frodo’s mind – she was looking at him intently when he entered.

Here, Galadriel informs the Fellowship that she wouldn’t tell them what to do. Instead, she told them that she could see into the past, present and part of the future.

‘And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn. None save Legolas and Aragorn could long endure her glance. Sam quickly blushed and hung his head.’

The gaze she held them in seems similar to how she looked upon Frodo when they first entered. When she was finally finished, they all “felt suddenly weary, as those who have been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly.” This was clearly more intense than her prior interaction with Frodo.

Galadriel Gets Creepy

Only after the Fellowship left her chamber did they swap notes on whatever the hell just happened to them. The most innocent and open spoke first. Pippin made fun of Sam for blushing, suggesting that he had a guilty conscious. But Sam was “in no mood for jest.”

‘If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn’t got nothing on, and I didn’t like it. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance to flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with – with a bit of garden of my own.’

Sam was rattled. He didn’t appreciate Galadriel entering his mind, and thought it was an invasion. Merry concurred, and seemed too traumatized to speak of it. Curiously Pippin didn’t share anything with them, and since he poked fun at Sam, maybe he was only gently probed by Galadriel (or maybe Merry took the invasion for both of them).

Gimli also admitted that when Galadriel had entered his mind, also offering a choice, that she told him that nobody would even know if he left the Fellowship. This was either a blatant lie, or she was coyly offering to mind-wipe every other member of the party like she was some kind of Sindarin Man in Black.

At first, Boromir seemed to be giving her the benefit of the doubt. “Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read out thoughts for her own good purpose….” But that’s quickly tossed aside, when he fairly passively suggests that “she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give.”

Whether Galadriel had the power to actually give what she offered to the hobbits and Gimli is impossible to say. But Boromir seemed incredibly certain that she could not give him what he wanted. But would this exchange ultimately be healthy for the supposedly valiant Boromir?

During the Council of Elrond, Boromir suggested that they use the One Ring to battle Sauron. This was something that would flower later, but at this point it seems that there’s a touch of germination going on. He wouldn’t say what Galadriel had offered him, but whatever it was, he refused to listen because otherwise, he would be betraying his word (apparently to stay true to the Fellowship, though I don’t remember him swearing to anything specific).

Boromir was, like Merry, rattled, but asked Frodo what she had done to his [Frodo’s] mind. Frodo, however, was keeping that close to his breast. Boromir understood and told him: “I do not feel too sure of this Elvish Lady and her purposes.” Aragorn snapped at him: “Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!”

However, Boromir wasn’t speaking evil about Galadriel in any sense. Rumor of her had gotten to Gondor, and he was uneasy about Lothlórien in general prior to their arrival. All he was doing was expressing his understandable hesitation to trust a stranger who just probed the innards of his brain, lying to him while doing so.

They soon fell asleep, and would be in Lothlórien for an entire month

When’s Next?

We’ll take a few days off, but be back on the 23rd to catch up with Gandalf!

Camera: Ricoh KR-10 (1980)
Lens: Mamiya-Sekor 55mm; f/1.8; 80B filter
Film: Kono Rotwild 400 CN

January 16, 3018 – A Lovely Stroll Through Lothlórien

Hi! Welcome to Lórien! Today is January 16, 3019 of the Third Age – a walking day, but we can chat shit about a few things. The Fellowship (minus Gandalf, of course) met Haldir and friends the day before. He put them up (literally) for the night, and this morning they’re ready for more walking.

We’ll also have a quick check in on Gandalf, so stick around for that, okay?

Book Two, Chapter 6: Lothlórien
“Day came pale from the East.”

No Peeking

After a bit of a brisk morning walk, Haldir (with the help of a nameless Elf) fashioned a rope bridge so that they could cross the Silverlode. All made it across, though Sam had the most trouble. He took it in stride, mentioning his Uncle Andy (short for Andwise Roper of Tighfield) who had never done a trick like that.

Once across, Haldir broke the news to them that they’d have to meet Celeborn and Galadriel, rulers of Lórien. They had, he told them, “entered the Naith of Lorien, or the Gore, as you would say.” Both “naith” and “gore” mean a sort triangle of land between the Silverlode and the Anduin. This was the most secret land. “Few indeed are permitted even to set food here.”

This was where Gimli was blindfolded under so much protestation. In his defense, he said that “I am no more likely to betray you than Legolas….” This might not have been the best example of loyalty, but Haldir got what he was saying, though would not change his mind as this was the law.

“This,” I assume, is that dwarves must be blindfolded before being allowed into Lorien proper. Seems like an incredibly specific law. If it was actually the law, it must have been an old one. Dwarves, apart from Balin’s party, hadn’t lived in Moria in over 1,000 years (they escaped from it in 1981 of the Third Age).

The law, it seems, wasn’t that all strangers had to be blindfolded, as the others in the party – even Boromir – were fine with eyes wide open. This was specifically leveled against Gimli. It’s possible that though Balin didn’t have any contact with the Elves while he was in Moria (about 30 years before), the Elves knew they were there and enacted the law just in case. Though for woodland Elves who communicated by bird whistles, that seems weirdly legalistic.

Before things could get too heated (Haldir threatened to kill Gimli if he didn’t cooperate), Aragorn’s passive-aggressiveness saves the day: “It is hard upon the Dwarf to be thus singled out. We will all be blindfold, even Legolas. That will be best, though it will make the journey slow and dull.”

I realize that things were tense at this point, but everybody got really whiny and petty – and by “everybody,” I mean Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn, especially the latter two. In fact, the only ones who seem to conduct themselves with any sort of dignity were the Hobbits (Pippin was the best with the rope) and Boromir, who basically kept his mouth shut. The three eldest personalities were making it miserable for everyone.

Elves as Isolationists

As they walked, conversations bubbled, the most interesting being between Haldir and Merry. For instance, Haldir’s reasoning for the blindfolds was simply that Lorien couldn’t afford to trust anyone not from Lorien (and maybe Rivendell). They blamed it upon the power of the Dark Lord, and also upon the “lack of faith and trust in the world beyond Lothlorien,” but it’s not exactly like these Elves were making a huge effort to find friends outside of their realm.

Haldir’s people were feeling isolated and threatened. The rivers on two sides were no longer a practical defense, and Orcs were clearly moving into the Misty Mountains to the west. Rumor was also playing hell with them. They had heard that Rohan, to the southwest, was no longer friendly.

Even if they wanted to give up on Middle-earth, the mouth of the Anduin was also rumored to be watched, and the Grey Havens were little more than legend, though Haldir suspected that Galdriel and Celeborn knew where they were.

There was also a bit of a divide in Lorien. Some were optimistic, insisting that “the Shadow will draw back, and peace shall come again.” They apparently held that there would come another Elder Days sort of wonderfulness. But Haldir, a bit more realistic, didn’t buy it. Those days were over.

“For the Elves, I fear, it will prove at best a truce, in which they may pass to the Sea unhindered and leave the Middle-earth for ever.”

And by “truce,” Haldir undoubtedly meant the defeat of Sauron, since an actual truce was pretty well out of the question by this time.

All of this seemed pretty bleak. Elves had been diminishing in number since the Second Age, but it seemed like there was about to be a grand exodus sometime soon. Still through all of this, Frodo, even blindfolded, felt “That he had steeped over a bridge of time into a corner of the Elder Days, and was now walking in a world that was no more.”

He had a bit of this feeling in Rivendell. Elrond’s house was a great place to rest. It was a “cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.” But even as he tramped along unable to see, Frodo could tell that Lothlorien was something more.

Frodo saw Rivendell as having “a memory of ancient things.” It was like a really fine museum – complete with Second Age history and a broken sword. There was still planning and intrigue in Rivendell. Elrond was in command in a very realistic sort of way, sending scouts, devising strategy, and actively searching for a way to defeat Sauron.

Lothlorien was turning out to be something much different. It was out of time. The future didn’t seem to be an issue no matter how bleak the present appeared. Though Haldir wasn’t so optimistic, clearly many were, thinking all this Shadow stuff would just blow over – after all, hadn’t it before?

During the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age, the Elves of Lorien sent a column of troops into battle. But that was before Galadriel and Celeborn took over. Once they were in power, about 1,000 years before our story takes place, little was done by the denizens of Lothlorien when it came to helping others in Middle-earth against Sauron.

When armies of Orcs and other various enemies were storming across Eriador, Gondor and Rohan, the Elves of Lothlorien did nothing. Distance could be an excuse for some of that, but it falls flat when the Orcs took over Moria, not twenty miles away from their borders. Even when the Dwarves were defeated, they did nothing, even though the Orcs were a common enemy. They strongly suspected that there was a Balrog in Moria and did absolutely nothing about it, not even bothering to post a “Beware of Balrog” sign at the gate.

This was because they didn’t have to do anything to ensure their survival. Galadriel had that covered in a very Girdle of Melian sort of way. And, as true isolationists, if they were safe, the rest of Middle-earth could crumble around them for all they cared.

So it’s easy to understand why some of the Elves of Lothlorien were optimistic. This could all blow over because that’s what stuff did.

Good Night – Still No Peeking

They walked, blindfoled, the entire day. Even when they came to rest at night, they had to keep their blindfolds one. As they slept, things were taking place behind the scenes.

That night, the Elves attacked the Orcs, killing most of them. They also saw Gollum, but didn’t shoot at him since they had no idea what it was – good or bad. He had slipped by them, escaping south along (or in) the Silverlode.

A Quick Check-in on Gandalf

Tolkien gave us precious little when it comes to the Gandalf vs. Balrog fight, but whatever he gave, I’ll do my best to share.

For this date, he wrote in “Scheme” (a set of dates for LotR that is a bit more involved than ‘Tale of Years’):
‘Wrestles with the Balrog and pursues it through he deeps for many days.’

For readers familiar with other Balrog battles, that Gandalf was able to not only wrestle with the thing, but apparently send it into a retreat is pretty remarkable. Of course, we don’t get a feel for what “wrestling” here entails, but I assume it’s not all suplexes and figure-four leg locks.

In Two Towers, Chapter 5 Gandalf the White explains: “Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels.”

Whatever it powers Gandalf was using, either physical or mystical or both, he must have wounded or terrified the Balrog enough that it couldn’t even hold its ground – for days.

These dark tunnels, we learn, “were not made by Durin’s Folk,” but down that far ” the world is gnawed by nameless things.” Even Sauron doesn’t know what’s down there – “They are older than he.”

This, of course, brings up a whole slew of questions that have been mulled over since the 50s. I’ll not poke that bear.

While keeping the Balrog in retreat, Gandalf began to rely on it as he “only hope” of escaping the depths. “I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dûm: too well he knew them all.”

That last bit probably takes place in a few days, but you get the picture.

When’s Next?

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! We’ll enter downtown Lórien, and meet an Elf and her husband.

Camera: Mamiya RB67 (1974)
Lens: Mamiya-Sekor C 3.8/90mm
Film: Kodak Portra 160

January 15, 3019 – The Loss of Gandalf (and Quite a Bit More)

Welcome to January 15, 3019 of the Third Age. This is a pretty huge day, historically. And it’s a pretty busy one. Let’s go!

Book Two, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark
“He woke and found that the others were speaking softly near him, and that a dim light was falling on his face.”

The Balrog and the Loss of Gandalf

Frodo woke after pretty much everybody was up. His sleep wasn’t great, as he kept having “dreams” about whispers and “two pale lights,” which we can pretty well assume were Gollum. After breakfast, they followed Gandalf’s lead and came upon a wide corridor, and before long, Balin’s Tomb.

This gave Gandalf a good idea where they were, and also showed him the way they had to go to get out. And then there were drums.

‘Trapped!’ cried Gandalf. ‘Why did I delay? Here we are, caught, just as they were before.’

Gimli had been mesmerized by the last entry in the Book of Mazarbul “We cannot get out.” He was repeating it, and it seems as if Gandalf might have been taken under its “spell” for a second. Then he says, “But I was not here then. We will see what – ”

With that, Gandalf took charge, correcting the plans of both Aragorn and Boromir, hunks to the end. It was soon discovered that there were Orcs, Uruks and even a cave-troll. During the ensuing melee, Gandalf isn’t mentioned at all, until the end when he calls for a timely retreat. Through it, he acts as a rear guard, though Aragorn protested. ‘Do as I say!’ said Gandalf fiercely. ‘Swords are no more use here. Go!’

Through his powers, Gandalf held back the enemy for as long as he could, admitting that he was “rather shaken.” After walking for an hour without the sounds of pursuit (mostly going down stairs), Gandalf admitted that he had been “suddenly faced by something that I have not met before.”

Gandalf had heard the Orcs talking of fire, and then he felt through the door that something else had entered the chamber. “The orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent.” Gandalf could tell that the thing had “perceived” him and his spell cast upon the door.

This was the Balrog, and here we learn a bit about it (before actually knowing it’s a Balrog). Gandalf did not have any idea what it was, “but I have never felt such a challenge.” It wasn’t necessarily stronger than him, but it cast a counter-spell, which nearly broke Gandalf. He doesn’t just say that it nearly broke his own spell, but that it nearly broke him. Of course, Gandalf’s spell was fully broken by the Balrog’s counter, and he had to cast another, which ultimately broke the door.

With the door gone, Gandalf should have been able to get a look at the thing before him. But the only glimpse afforded to him before it threw the wizard down the stairs showed him that “something dark as a cloud was blocking out all the light inside.”

It can’t be stressed enough that Gandalf didn’t know that it was a Balrog. This says quite a bit about the War of Wrath that closed out the First Age. So thorough was the destruction of Morgoth that everything related to him was wiped out, including Balrogs – or so it was thought.

Gandalf knew that there were many evil things in Middle-earth that had no connection to either Morgoth or Sauron. They were evil for evil’s sake and maybe even too numerous to count. So it’s not really surprising that he didn’t know specifically what it was.

During a brief respite, Gandalf said to Frodo that he took after Bilbo. “There is more about you than meets the eye, as I said of him long ago.” Gandalf said that a couple of times to Bilbo – or something similar. “There is always more about you than anyone expects!”

As they continued, led by Gandalf, they saw the light of fire set by the Orcs. It seems to have been set before they confronted them in Balin’s Tomb, as Gandalf led them through another passageway instead of the main corridor. It placed the fire between the Fellowship and the Orcs. All that separated our heroes from escape was the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm.

The bridge was narrow and dangerous, and spanned a dark and seemingly bottomless chasm. Gimli now took the lead while Gandalf and Legolas took the rear guard position.

After giving the description of the Balrog (“a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it.”) it’s Legolas who knows what it is.

Since he was born after the War of Wrath, Legolas had definitely never seen a Balrog before. But he was probably raised with the legends enough to know exactly what one looked like. That probably seems a bit of a stretch. Why have Legolas know what it is at all? Why not Gandalf?

‘A Balrog,’ muttered Gandalf. ‘Now I understand.’ He faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. ‘What an evil fortune! And I am already weary.’

Now Gandalf understood what he saw at the door in the brief second before he was thrown down the stairs. Like Legolas (apparently), he knew the history of the Balrogs, their powers, and that they could kill all of them before breakfast.

‘Fly! This is a foe beyond any of you. I must hold the narrow way. Fly!’

The battle between Gandalf and the Balrog is really fascinating. Though Gandalf had Glamdring in his right hand, this wasn’t really a battle of physical strength. The Balrog could see what Gandalf was – an Ishtar, a wizard. Or at the very least, he could see that Gandalf was no ordinary Man or even some lofty necromancer. Just to drive that point home, Gandalf called:

“I am the servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Arnor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.”

Here, Gandalf was telling the Balrog that he was one of the Ainur – that he was a Maiar. The flame of Arnor is the same Flame Imperishable that Illuvatar gave to the Ainur in the Ainulindale of the Silmarillion. And while Gandalf had within him the Flame Imperishable, the Balrog was merely the “flame of Udun,” a flame from beneath Thangorodrim, where Morgoth used to live. Unlike Gandalf, the Balrog served a dead master.

The fight then turned more physical, though both were obviously augmented by their powers. But that didn’t last long. With his staff, Gandalf purposely broke the bridge which the Balrog had now stepped upon. The demon fell, but caught Gandalf with his whip. “He staggered and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss.”

With the way out before them, and the bridge gone, the Fellowship, now minus one Grey wizard, made their escape.

On the Road to Lórien

The first thing the Fellowship did was mourn. Aragorn started it off with a bit of “I told you so” (too soon, hunk). ‘Farewell, Gandalf!’ he cried. ‘Did I not say to you: if you pass the doors of Moria, beware? Alas I spoke true! What hope have we without you?’ This sounds very similar to the Dwarves’ lamentations in The Hobbit after Gandalf left them.

Following a short pep talk, Aragorn became their leader, pointing out Dimrill Stair – a series of small waterfalls, and pointing out that they should have come that way, as if he were some Monday morning quarterback. Of note is the mountain Caradhras, which had provided the snowstorm that kept them from using the Redhorn Pass and Dimrill Stair. Now it was sunny and would have been relatively easy to cross.

This must have been very hard on Gimli. He had always wanted to see Moria and the Mirrormere, which they came upon next. He recalled Gandalf telling him “May you have joy of the sight!,” but now all seemed lost. “Now long shall I journey ere I have joy again.”

The path they traveled was once a great paved Dwarvish road. Now it was old and cracked and resembled stairs more than a highway. Along the path, there were ruins, and then a single broken column. This was Durin’s Stone.

This was not Durin’s grave, but a monument to mark where Durin the Deathless looked down into the Mirrormere and saw a crown upon his head. Actually, it was the reflection of the mountains, but Dwarves apparently dug symbolism as much as Mithril. They saw seven “stars,” which Durin had seen as well. This probably went on to represent the seven Durins that they believed would come. It was also where Balin was killed, though I’ll get to that at a later date (promise).

The Fellowship then followed the Silverload toward Lothlorien, their next destination.

Shortly after seeing the forest quite a ways before them, Frodo and Sam began to lag behind, as they had been wounded in the fighting. Aragorn, I’m noticing, can get a bit passive-aggressive. When he saw how far behind Frodo and Sam had fallen, he apologized – sort of. “You should have spoken. We have done nothing to ease you, as we ought, though all the orcs of Moria were after us.” That’s sort of dickish, no? Clearly, he was spending too much time around Elves.

Soon enough, they found a dell and took a bit of rest. They were only a few miles from Moria at this point, so resting wasn’t exactly something they wanted to do. It was around 3pm and the sun was soon going to set. If they didn’t want a repeat of the events following the Dwarves’ adventures after leaving the Misty Mountains, they better make it short.

They started a fire and Aragorn tended to Sam and Frodo’s wounds, using the same athelas leaves that he had gathered at Weathertop. Though Sam was willing to be tended, Frodo wasn’t. This is where they found that Bilbo’s Mithril armor has saved Frodo’s life.

Nobody but Frodo and Bilbo knew he had it, though Gandalf might have been suspicious back in the guard room in Moria: “Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings that Thorin gave him. I wonder what has become of it? Gathering dust still in Michel Delving Mathom-house, I suppose.”

Gandalf suggested that its worth was greater than the whole Shire put together, but once Gimli got a look at it, he noted that the wizard undervalued it. And that it saved the life of the Ringbearer several times during the fight, its value was truly immeasurable.

Welcome to Lórien

After a quick meal, they were on the road again. The dusk was turning to dark, and shortly after the stars appeared, Frodo again “heard something, or thought he had.” And again, it was Gollum, who had slipped out of Moria with the Fellowship.

Gollum’s flapping was soon overtaken by the wind rustling the leaves of the Golden Wood – Lothlórien! Legolas and Aragorn were jazzed, while Gimli figured that the Elves had long since abandoned it. Boromir, having heard the legends of what was basically known as Faerie in Gondor, wanted almost nothing to do with it. Aragorn, again, got all passive aggressive, and Boromir rolled his hunky eyes and they went on.

A mile or so later, they came upon Nimrodel, a legendary stream in the Elf-world. Even Legolas knew songs about it. After they crossed, he sang one about Amroth and Nimrodel. Nobody asked him to. He just did it. I talked at length about it here.

After a quick chat about history, they went deeper into the woods. Losing their way, Legolas scampered up a tree. While up there, he argued dickishly with the Hobbits.

Soon the Fellowship was discovered by three Elves of Lórien – Haldir, Rúmil and Orophin. After a speedy introduction, Haldir insisted they sleep in the trees, since there were squads of Orcs looking for them.

While falling asleep, some Orcs came near, but missed them as they moved deeper into Lórien (where Haldir explained they would all be slaughtered – damn, Elf!). Haldir also saw Gollum, but didn’t want to shoot him because he wasn’t sure what it was (and also didn’t want Gollom’s cries to bring the Orcs back).

A Quick Check-in with Gandalf

By this point, if you’re still reading at all, you might be wondering about the old Gandalf fellow. How is his day going?

Though the rest of the Fellowship don’t know this, his day sort of went from bad to worse. After falling off the bridge, he just kept falling.

We learn in Two Towers, Chapter 5, that Gandalf fell for a “long time.” While falling, the Balrog’s fire burned Gandalf before they both plunged into cold water.

The water extinguished’s the Balrog’s fire and he became “a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake.”

They’d continue their battle, with the Balrog clutching Gandalf and Gandalf hewing the Balrog.

When’s Next?

Tomorrow! It’s just more walking, but we’ll be here.

Camera: Bolsey Jubilee
Film: Polypan F 50

January 14, 3019 – Moria: Not a Hobbit Walking-Party

It’s January 14, 3019 – basically a walking day, though one important scene takes place. The Fellowship are facing their first full day in Moria. Let’s check in!

Book Two, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark
“‘I have no memory of this place at all!’ said Gandalf, standing uncertainly under the arch.”

Fool of a Took!

The Fellowship had gone roughly twenty miles into the bowels of Moria, finding themselves in a guardroom. They had only been walking a few hours, though apparently made some amazing time. Personally, I think Tolkien’s mileage here – which he is vague about – is pretty fuzzy. But that’s okay.

Anyway, Gandalf was lost and cranky – “I have no memory of this place at all!” There was a door and while Merry and Pippin tried to push their way in, Gandalf stopped them. He shined his staff-light inside and saw a well. This made grumpy Gandalf gloat a bit – “There!” And Aragorn added: “One of you might have fallen in and still be wondering when you were going to strike the bottom.”

Clearly everyone wanted to rest and were hasty and miserable to be around. Can you imagine what was going on in Boromir’s mind? Damn.

But Pippin “felt curiously attracted by the well.” This is incredibly interesting. He had no real reason to be attracted to it. There were plenty of wells in the Shire, so it wasn’t like some new amazing thing he had never seen before. Sure, it was in a mine, but by this time, and after twenty miles, the novelty of that was obviously wearing off.

So what happened? Why did Tolkien call it “curiously attracted”? There must be more to it. This phrase was there from the beginning, though it was Sam, and not Pippin, who was “curiously attracted.” He soon after changed ‘Sam’ to ‘Merry’ and only later decided that it was Pippin, after all. But that doesn’t matter.

What matters is what Pippin does next, as it completely changes everything. As we know, while the others were getting their beds ready, he peaked over the edge of the well, and then “moved by a sudden impulse,” he grabbed a stone and dropped it in. “He felt his heart beat many times before there was any sound. Then far below, as if the stone had fallen into deep water in some cavernous place, there came a plunk, very distant, but magnified and repeated in the hollow shaft.”

First Pippin was “curiously attracted” and then he was “moved by a sudden impulse.” Just what is going on here? Pippin, like all hobbits and men, has freewill, but maybe he’s got a bit less of it here. He’s most definitely not acting on his own impulses. The ramifications of this event are too important for it to be coincidence. Whether it was some dark force or even the Valar is pretty unclear – both had reasons to make this happen. But if I were a betting man, I’d say it was the Valar/Illuvatar pushing things along just so.

Gandalf immediately questioned the noise, and Pippin admitted what he had done. The wizard was “relieved,” but “angry, and Pippin could see his eye glinting.”

‘Fool of a Took!’ he growled. ‘This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance. Now be quiet!’

Several minutes passed, and then there was knocking: “tom-tap, tap-tom.” This repeated. “They sounded disquietingly like signals of some sort.” Gandalf was uneasy.

Most of the Fellowship tried to sleep a bit. Six hours later, they were on the move again.

Gollum Flaps His Way Back into the Story

They walked for eight hours, and towards the end of that stretch, Frodo again heard “the fall and patter of their feet, a following footstep that was not an echo.”

This was, of course, Gollum. Just how he had gotten to Moria, even Tolkien never fully discovered. Writing long after the publication of Lord of the Rings, he devised a path for Gollum that included him crossing the Anduin to escape Mordor, avoiding Lorien (for now), and then coming to Moria in the autumn of the year before Frodo left the Shire.

In this manuscript, Tolkien explained that “what then happened to Gollum cannot be known for certain.” He speculated that he was well-suited for such a life in the mines, obviously from the time he spent under the halls of the Goblin King a few decades before. “No doubt he had intended to use Moria simply as a secret passage westward, his purpose being to find ‘Shire’ himself as quickly as he could; but he became lost, and it was a very long time before he found his way about.”

Gollum, wrote Tolkien, lived in the western-end of Moria, while the Orcs were mostly in the eastern portions. “It was thus a piece of singular good fortune for Gollum that the Nine Walkers [the Fellowship] arrived when they did.”

Yes! Good fortune, though not just for Gollum. His role in all of this, as Gandalf said to Frodo earlier, was not quite finished.

Gollum’s appearance in the Mines of Moria was always part of Tolkien’s story. In the first draft of the tale, when he was doing little more than taking long notes, he wrote: “Frodo feels dread growing. Perhaps his adventures with the Ring have made him sensitive. While others are keeping up spirits with hopeful talk he feels the certainty of evil creeping over him, but says nothing. He constantly fancies he hears patter of feet of [?some creature] behind – [?this] is Gollum as it proves long after.”

The Great Hall

The Fellowship finally came to rest, after about a twenty mile walk, in a “great cavernous hall.” Gimli explained that ‘This is the great realm and city of the Dwarrowdelf. And of old it was not darksome, but full of light and splendour, as is still remembered in our songs.’

He then sang about Moria, Khazad-dûm. After the song he fell silent, and Gandalf explained to them about mithril – of which Frodo was already familiar, having been gifted in secret Bilbo’s mithril shirt.

Soon they all fell asleep. Frodo, on guard, began to get incredibly drowsy. In a dream, perhaps, he saw “two pale points of light” in the dark. These were Gollum’s eyes, watching the Fellowship.

When’s Next?

Tomorrow! Quite a bit happens, so buckle up.

January 13, 3019 – First Steps into Moria

Greetings! Welcome again. It’s January 13, 3019 of the Third Age, and our Fellowship friends are about to enter the Mines of Moria. Who knows what treasures they’ll find! But first, after a fairly horrible night spent battling Wargs, they’ll have to make their way to the Gate.

Book Two, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark
“When the full light of the morning came no signs of the wolves were to be found, and they looked in vain for the bodies of the dead.”

All Choices Seem Ill (Worst Beastie Boys Album?)

By the light of dawn, Gandalf could tell that the wolves that attacked them weren’t ordinary wolves, but Wargs – ‘These were no ordinary wolves hunting for food in the wilderness.’ This changed things. They killed a few Wargs, of course, including the pack leader, but making quick time to Moria was essential.

The day’s walk was clear and sunny, but that seemed a bit unsettling. They were exposed now, walking out in the open for all to see – Wargs, crows, anything at all.

Gandalf pointed to a sheer cliff where the Gates of Moria were located. They had only a few miles to go, and Boromir (every cheery) blurted out: “All choices seem ill, and to be caught between wolves and the wall the likeliest chance.” What a guy!

As the morning went on, Gandalf seemed lost. He was looking for a stream to follow upwards, but it was not where he thought it was. He had only been through this area once. Aragorn hadn’t been through it ever. Getting lost and wandering around at a time like this was not good.

,Nowhere could they see any gleam of water or hear any sound of it. All was bleak and dry. Their hearts sank. They saw no living thing, and not a bird was in the sky; but what the night would bring, if it caught them in that lost land, none of them cared to think.,

But soon enough, Gimli, who was excited as hell to get to Moria, found the water, Sirannon, the Gate-stream.

They climbed the stone stairs leading closer to the Gate and discovered a “dark still lake” standing between them and the Walls of Moria, where the Gate (of Elvish origin) was located. They weren’t sure how to get across the lake, as it was itself surrounded by cliffs.

There was also another problem: Bill the Pony. With a number of stairs to climb, he would have to be left behind. Gandalf felt bad, but what could be done? The parting scene between Bill and Sam is heart-wrenching, and honestly, unless I’m in a dower mood already, I can hardly stand to read it.

‘Bill, seeming to understand well what was going on, nuzzled up to him, putting his nose to Sam’s ear. Sam burst into tears, and fumbled with the straps, unlading all the pony’s packs and throwing them on the ground.’

Moving across a stream, Frodo dipped his foot and “shuddered with disgust at the touch of the dark unclean water on his feet.” When Sam and Bill followed “there came a soft sound: a swish, followed by a plop, as if a fish had disturbed the still surface of the water.” When they looked back, they saw ripples. (I wrote more about Bill here.)

Speak Something Something and Something

The next scene is a really strange one, but one of my favorites. It’s almost written as a comedy. There’s tension, to be sure. But the whole thing is like a set up to a punchline.

First, Gandalf found the door, but can’t open it. There’s an inscription and a riddle: Speak, Friend, and Enter.”

Second, the Wargs are coming back, their howls are heard closing in.

Third, the lake. Right after they heard the Wargs, Boromir and his fragile masculinity picks up a huge rock and tosses it into the lake. Frodo asked him why he did that, and Boromir finally admits that he’s compensating for more things than anyone could ever tell.

No, actually, he didn’t say that. He just said nothing. What a dick.

In the meantime, Gandalf figured out the riddle and opened the Gate.

The Watcher

But also at that moment, Frodo was seized by the ankle, and Bill the pony took off. Sam was faced with the Battleship Potemkin-like decision over which to rescue. He chose Frodo and ran to him, “weeping and cursing” over his friend’s distress (unsure which friend).

The others in the Fellowship turned “And saw the waters of the lake seething, as if a host of snakes were swimming up from the southern end.”

Tolkien described the tentacles as “pale-green and luminous and wet.” They were dragging Frodo into the lake, while Sam slashed away with his knife. Due to the pain, the tentacle released Frodo, but twenty other arms burst from the water. “The dark water boiled, and there was a hideous stench.”

Gandalf urged them to head for the Gate, but all were frozen in fear except Sam. That’s right, Sam MF Gamgee. The Wizard herded them all towards the opened door. Once inside, with the Watcher’s tentacles right behind them, Gandalf slammed the door.

Once relatively safe, though also locked inside, Frodo asked Gandalf what the hell that thing was.

“‘I do not know,’ answered Gandalf; ‘but the arms were all guided by one purpose. Something has crept, or has been driven out of dark waters under the mountains. There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.’ He did not speak aloud his thought that whatever it was that dwelt in the lake, it has seized on Frodo first among all the Company.”

Inside the Mines

After catching their breath, they had a little rest and a bit to eat. Soon they were back at it. Gandalf guessed that it would take three or four days to get through to the other side. Water was also going to be an issue.

In order to put the Hobbits’ minds at ease, Aragorn assured them that Gandalf was “surer of finding the way home in a blind night than the cats of Queen Berúthiel.” I once did a deep dive into this phrase, which you can read here.

When’s Next?

As they walked on, nobody said much, but Frodo heard “the faint fall of soft bare feet.” This was, as we know, Gollum. We’ll look into his story tomorrow.

Camera: Ricoh KR-5
Film: Adox KB-21 (x-1959); 10iso
Process: Xtol; Stock; 7min

January 12, 3019 – Escaping the Snow; Attacked by Wargs

Hello and welcome to January 12, 3019 of the Third Age. The Fellowship had spent the previous day battling a snow storm and on the morning of this day they were trying to figure out how to get through it. This is a longer post, by the way. My apologies.

Book Two, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
“As the light grew stronger it showed a silent shrouded world.”

Boromir the Hunky Snowplow

Gimli, for one, did not want to go on: “‘Caradhras has not forgiven us,’ he said. ‘He has more snow yet to fling at us, if we go on. The sooner we go back and down the better.’”

All, even Gandalf, agreed. This is where he explained to Legolas that he couldn’t burn snow and that “if Elves could fly over mountains, they might fetch the Sun to save us.” Clearly, all were getting pretty cranky.

Thankfully, Boromir the hunky snowplow came through. “The strongest of us must seek a way.”

“In places, the snow was breast-high, and often Boromir seemed to be swimming or burrowing with this great arms rather than walking.”

Legolas Gets Weird

This is also where Legolas runs on top of the snow. Elves and Men are both show offs. Mostly, they were just happy the it was light out and the storm had finally passed and that they were all still alive.

It’s the weirdly-ridiculous Legolas who returned to the rest of them with news of the freshly-burrowed path.

“There is the greatest wind-drift of all just beyond the turn, and there our Strong Men were almost buried. They despaired, until I returned and told them that the drive was little wider than a wall. And on the other side the snow suddenly grows less, while further down it is no more than a white coverlet to cool a hobbit’s toes.”

Thus far in the story, we’ve not heard much from Legolas, or any Elf, except Elrond. Some, such as C.S. Lewis, complained that there was too much “Hobbit-talk,” but either I never minded it or quickly grew used to it. But I think it’ll be awhile until I’m used to Legolas’ Elf-talk. When I read it, the voice I hear in my head is quick, breathy and sort of higher pitched. It’s really annoying and I hope that I can swap it for another voice someday.

Turning Around – We Will Bear the Little Folk

Boromir wasn’t some Greek god snowplow. He did his best and admitted his shortcomings, even allowing that weaker men with the proper tools would have been better. He easily could have said “what need is there for lesser men with spades when you have the doughty chest-shovel of the mighty Boromir?”

He and Aragorn had plowed their way through the drift, but that didn’t mean the path was cleared enough for your average halfling. Pippin spoke up, asking how the hobbits were to make it down.

“‘Have hope!’ said Boromir. ‘I am weary, but I still have some strength left, and Aragorn too. We will bear the little folk.’” Boromir took Pipppin (calling him “Master Peregrin” without an ounce of irony). Aragorn wordlessly took Merry. They carried them through the snow and then came back for Sam and Frodo. As for Gimli the dwarf, he rode with the luggage on poor Bill the pony.

When they finally got down to a less snowy and more “safe” area, two things happened. First, very near to them there was a rock slide. Gimli, still assuming it was the mountain itself once more protesting their trespassing, assured Caradhras that “we are departing as quickly as we may!” And as if the mountain was listening, the slide ended and the snow dwindled and all became relatively pleasant.

The Fellowship was up pretty high in the hills. So high that when they saw the black crows return, they were flying in a valley below them. Here, Gandalf suggests that Gimli’s superstitions were right and that it was probably the mountain that was fighting them. “Whether they [the crows] are good or evil, or have nothing to do with us at all, we must go down at once. Not even on the knees of Caradhras will we wait for another night-fall!”

They stumbled down the mountain and finally came to a rest, but soon they would have to figure out a better plan.

Before a Journey in the Dark

That evening Gandalf called the Fellowship together to figure out what to do now that Redhorn Gate was blocked. They had to either go on or return to Rivendell. They could not return “and face worse defeat to come,” so they had to go on.

‘There is a way that we may attempt,’ said Gandalf. ‘I thought from the beginning, when first I considered this journey, that we should try it. But it is not a pleasant way, and I have not spoken of it to the Company before.

They would travel through the Mines of Moria. It wouldn’t be fun, and if there were Orcs inside, it would be pretty horrible. Gandalf had a bit of hope here. Following the Battle of Five Armies, the Orcs from the Misty Mounts “were scattered or destroyed.”

It didn’t take much to win Gimli over, and he was on board – “I will tread the path with you, Gandalf!”

Before the Fellowship had a chance to take a vote, Legolas noted “How the wind howls!”

Attacked By Wargs

When camping, the last thing you really want to hear are wargs. The cute “yip yip” of a coyote is lovely, and the deep howl of a wolf is majestic, but the unnatural cry of a warg is something else all together.

It’s Aragorn who first understands what they’re hearing as they debate which path to take over or through the Misty Mountains. Sam notes that the wind is howling, but he’s checked. “It is howling with wolf-voices. The Wargs have come west of the mountains!”

But what’s truly astounding is that everyone but Aragorn seems completely okay with that. Maybe he should have repeated it. The Wargs. Have come west. Of the mountains. Got it? This is pretty important stuff, guys.

As I explained in this post (from nearly five years ago), Wargs aren’t just pissed off wolves. They are evil in nature and serve the Enemy. They are intelligent and even have a language all their own.

They are probably ancient creatures, once serving Morgoth, but now they were associated with the Orcs of the Misty Mountains, though they had (almost) always been on the eastern side. These were the first true servants of the Enemy that were encountered by the Fellowship.

But hunky Boromir rattled off a stupid proverb: “The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears.” He clearly had not read The Hobbit. Aragorn shot back: “But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.” These might have been the rhymes of children, but they told much about both Boromir’s and Aragorn’s upbringing.

Boromir was raised in Minas Tirith, a city in Gondor. He might have been a street smart kid who cowered at the baying of wolves while on camping adventures with his little brother along the Anduin, but he didn’t know Wargs. Aragorn, while raised in Rivendell, had roamed the lands far and wide and no doubt encountered a Warg or two. Wolves might not be a deadly as Orcs, but Wargs were every bit as dangerous.

It can also be told from this exchange that they weren’t sure whether they were wolves or Wargs.

For the night, they decided to climb to the top of a hill and make their camp. But there wasn’t much sleeping to be had. The light of the fire didn’t keep the beasts at bay, and they could see their glowing eyes peering over the crest of the hill. They were surrounded.

Finally, one came forward and let loose a howl. And that was about all that Gandalf was going to take.

‘Listen, Hound of Sauron!’ he cried. ‘Gandalf is here. Fly, if you value your foul skin! I will shrivel you from tail to snout, if you come within this ring.’

Calling him the Hound of Sauron must have brought back a few memories of Draugluin, the Hound of Morgoth. Technically, he was the first werewolf, bred by the Dark Lord to be a nasty little creature. Did Wargs come from his line? It’s certainly a safe bet.

Now Wargs are intelligent creatures, but even more than that, they are egotistical. This daring Warg undoubtedly knew who Gandalf was. It’s even possible that Frodo’s Ring drew him closer. When the foolish Warg sprang forward, Legolas ended him with an arrow in the throat. And that was enough to make the other Wargs think twice about attacking Gandalf (see, Wargs are intelligent!).

And think twice, they did! Upon their second thought, they actually devised a strategy to first surround the Fellowship. Rather than howling and chattering, they kept quiet and soon they had the company in a pretty tight spot.

Gandalf had been in a similar situation before. Then, it had been with the Dwarves and Bilbo. The Wargs had chased them up into the trees and Eagles had to be employed in their rescue. This time, Gandalf came prepared.

Rather than scrambling for his life, Gandalf completely changed, growing in stature: “he rose up, a great menacing shape like the monument of some ancient king of stone set upon a hill. Stooping like a cloud, he lifted a burning branch and strode to meet the wolves. They gave back before him. High in the air he tossed the blazing brand. It flared with a sudden white radiance like lightening; and his voice rolled like thunder.”

This is a completely different Gandalf than we saw in The Hobbit. Maybe he had spent some of those ensuing years learning a few spells (magic missile? Eldridge blast?).

“Nauar an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!”

This was Sindarin for “Fire save us! Fire drive back the werewolves! [or possibly ‘wolf-host’]” Tolkien often used the words “wolves,” “werewolves,” and “wargs” interchangeably, but there were differences, at least connotatively.

Gandalf then started a forest fire, heeding not the words of Smokey. But it was okay. The fire illuminated their swords and made Legolas’ normal arrows into flaming arrows. They killed the Wargs’ chieftain, downed a bunch of others and sent the rest into a rout.

But it’s not until the next morning that Gandalf could tell they were Wargs for certain. Just how they got across the Misty Mountains is anyone’s guess, but more than likely they were still on the western side and near by.

Before the attack, the Fellowship had been arguing about which route to take to get on the other side of the mountains. There was the mountain pass, but there was also the Mines of Moria. After the attack, it was pretty unanimous – Mines of Moria it was.

When’s Next?

Tomorrow! We’re going to be daily for a bit as the Fellowship enters Moria. Hold on!

Camera: Kodak Signet 40
Film: Ferrania Solaris 100

January 11, 3019 – The Snow Became a Blinding Blizzard

Welcome to January 11, 3019 of the Third Age. Our travelers have turned west now in hopes of crossing Redhorn Pass. But will a storm block their way? Let’s find out!

Book Two, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
“On the third morning Caradhras rose before them, a mighty peak, tipped with snow like silver, but with sheer naked sides, dull red as if stained with blood.”

Perils Known and Unknown

Through the morning and afternoon of January 11th, Gandalf and Aragorn debated when and where to cross over the Misty Mountains. They had three choices. They could take the pass, but that was probably covered in snow. There was another pass to the south, but that was in Rohan and nobody was really sure where their loyalties might lie. Lastly, there were the mines of Moria, but they were the mines of Moria and that seemed like an incredibly bad idea.

In the end, they decided upon taking the nearest pass – Redhorn Gate. The road to Redhorn Gate was steep and difficult as it wound its way up the mountain, Caradhras. It was hardly a path at all. And then it began to snow.

“‘This is what I feared,’ he [Gandalf] said, ‘What do you say now, Aragorn?’
‘That I feared it too,’ Aragorn answered, ‘but less than other things.’”

The Storm

Boromir questioned whether the storm might be the work of the Enemy. Gandalf didn’t exactly confirm it, but seemed to indicate that Sauron was powerful enough to do something like this. Aragorn more or less agreed, but said something pretty wonderful:

“There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in this world longer than he.”

While this is undoubtedly true, that list is pretty small. Sauron came to this world (meaning Middle-earth – everyone is talking about Middle-earth, not Arda in general) when Melkor set up camp in Angband during (or before-ish) the Years of the Trees. This was a really long time ago – seemingly even before the dwarves and Ents were awakened. This would leave, perhaps, the balrogs and maybe Shelob as the evil but independent things. Frodo would face both before it’s all over.

But the truth of all that is a little shaky. Melkor called Sauron, Ungoliant (Shelob’s mother), and the balrogs to Arda long before. They all seemed to accompany him to Middle-earth and apparently at the same time.

Another possibility is hinted at by Gimli who says that “Caradhras was called the Cruel, and had an ill name.” He explains that this was from “long years ago, when rumour of Sauron had not been heard in these lands.”

But then there’s the fact that even the Misty Mountains didn’t predate Sauron’s arrival. In The Silmarillion, we’re told that “the mountains were the Hithaeglir, the Towers of Mist upon the borders of Eriador; yet they were taller and more terrible in those days, and were reared by Melkor to hinder the riding of Oreme.”

So after Melkor (and Sauron, balrogs, Ungoliant, etc) came to Middle-earth, he (Melkor) raised up the Misty Mountains to block Oreme – one of the Valar who was hunting down Melkor’s disciples. Gimli was explaining that Caradhras, the tallest of the Misty Mountains, was evil before anyone around those parts knew who Sauron was – not that Sauron didn’t yet exist.

A Callback and Camp

Though nobody really mentioned it, this whole storm/rock scene was nearly identical to a scene right out of Bilbo’s story. When he was crossing the Misty Mountains with the dwarves, the wind blew and boulders tumbled down around them. Since there wasn’t time to remember that the same thing happened to Bilbo, there always wasn’t much time to decide what to do.

They couldn’t go and farther, and couldn’t go back. So here they would camp. But that was hardly the end of their troubles. To keep the hobbits alive, Gandalf took out a flask and gave each a mouthful of miruvor, the cordial of Imladris. “Pass it round!”

In The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle, Tolkien describes miruvore (which inspired the drink now offered by Gandalf) as a flavored drink. The origins of the word were from the Valar, but the Elves didn’t really know what it meant. The drink itself was originally “made from the honey of the undying flowers in the gardens of Yavanna, though it was clear and translucent.” But what it was now that they were drinking is not stated.

With the little fellows all warm and reinvigorated, they tried to start a fire to no avail until Gandalf said “naur an endraith ammen!” (that’s Sindarin for “Fire be fore saving of us!”) and magically there was a magical fire.

Through the night, the storm died down and at last the dimly lit dawn (of the 12th) began to show.

When’s Next?

I’ll see you all back here tomorrow!

Camera: Kodak Signet 40
Film: Ferrania Solaris 100

January 8, 3019 – Regiments of Black Crows – And Maybe Something Darker

Greetings and welcome to January 8, 3019 of the Third Age. The Fellowship is encamped at the foot of Caradhras and Celebdil, and about to make their way through Redhorn Pass.

Book Two, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
“That morning they lit a fire in a deep hollow shrouded by great bushes of holly, and their supper-breakfast was merrier than it had been since they set out.”

The Dark Birds Passed Over

The morning of January 8th, Sam and Aragorn were on watch and saw a flock of birds. They were “flying at great speed, were wheeling and circling, and traversing all the land as if they were searching for something; and they were steadily drawing nearer.”

Aragorn knew exactly what they were, and had apparently seen them before. They were black crows out of Fangorn and Dunland (maybe) . But he didn’t know why they were flying here, but gave two possibilities. They were either fleeing from something or spying.

“Hollin is no longer wholesome for us: it is being watched.”

Just the day before, Gandalf had said that Hollin was safe from the Enemy because the Elves used to live there. Of course, when the Elves lived there, it wasn’t at all safe from the Enemy, so maybe Gandalf didn’t really know what he was talking about.

Anyway, Fangorn was on the other side of the Misty Mountains, southwest of Lorien. If the birds had come from there, they would had to have crossed the range, perhaps fleeing from whatever was going on east of the Misty Mountains. However, if they were spies, there was no telling where they came from.

Gandalf (in “The Road to Isengard” chapter) mentions the “crows of Saruman,” but if he thought these crows came from him, he didn’t bring it up either here or there. But the whole point was that they were clearly being watched. It wasn’t just the crows, either. Aragorn had seen hawks soaring high above.

Even worse, throughout the day, which was supposed to be a day of resting, “the dark birds passed over now and again.” And at nightfall, with the birds flying south toward the mountain Caradhras, the Fellowship continued on their journey.

This passage was fully written in the first draft of this chapter with one interesting exception. At this point, Aragorn was still known at Trotter (though he was a Man and not a Hobbit as before), and when he told the company about the hawks flying up high, he added “That would account for the silence of all the birds.” Tolkien struck this out in the second draft, but what a fun idea. It’s clear that Aragorn had some connection with animals, but maybe not as direct as this scribbled-out line might imply.

The Dark Shadow

Additionally, there is another flying thing that visits them at night: “Frodo looked up at the sky. Suddenly he saw or felt a shadow pass over the high stars, as if for a moment they faded and then flashed out again. He shivered.”

He asked Gandalf if he saw anything. He didn’t, but almost dismissed it. “It may be nothing, only a wisp of a thin cloud.” But Aragorn saw it and said that it was moving fast “and not with the wind.”

Could this thing be a Nazgúl? It is now January 8th, and, according to the timeline, the Nazgúl, perhaps already flying in the air on their “fell beasts,” had not yet crossed the Anduin, and wouldn’t until March 6th – nearly two months from this date. According to notes taken by Tolkien for February 22nd: “A Nazgúl is summoned [to Sarn Gebir on the river], but Sauron will not yet permit the Nazgúl to cross west of Anduin.”

So unless this was some disobedient and wayward Nazgúl out for a merry little flight without his Dark Lord’s permission, this shadow passing over the Fellowship was not a Nazgúl. So what the hell was it? It’s never explained, though Christopher Tolkien takes a stab at it: “the Winged Nazgúl had not yet crossed the Anduin. But it seems likely to me that the shadow that passed across the stars near Hollin was in fact the first precocious appearance of a Winged Nazgúl.”

This shadow (as well as a second to come later) appeared in Tolkien’s original drafts. It’s possible that Tolkien wrote the initial sighting before he came up with the timeline and the idea that Sauron disallowed the Nazgúl to cross the Anduin. If so, Tolkien simply neglected to change it, leaving it in for some reason he never revealed. This was actually a pretty common thing for him. It adds to the mystery of the story, but makes trying to nail things like this down fully impossible.

So was it a precocious Nazgúl? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s simply no way to know for sure. Thanks, Tollers!

When’s Next?

We’ll meet back up on January 11!

Camera: Argus C3 (1953)
Film: Tasma Mikrat 300 (x-06/1974); 6iso

January 7, 3019 – Three Mountains Before Them

Welcome to January 7, 3018 of the Third Age. The Fellowship has been on the road now for 15 days. Let’s check back in with them to see how it’s going. I’m sure it’s fine.

Book Two, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
“They had been a fortnight on the way when the weather changed..”

A Day in the Life

Over the past two weeks or so, the Fellowship kept basically the same schedule. They walked generally south after sunset and covered about 15 miles each night. During they day, they camped.

“They slept uneasily during the middle of the day, in some hollow of the land, or hidden under the tangled thorn-bushes that grew in thickets in many places.”

It doesn’t appear that they ever made a campfire, as their meals were “cold and cheerless.” They also stayed away from paths or roads, though they likely paralleled an old road.

The weather was almost always cold with “an icy blast” coming off the Misty Mountains.

This was their toil for two weeks. But today something was a little different.

Seeing into the Past

On this day the weather changed. The clouds, which had hung low for most of the journey, lifted. Out came the sun and the Fellowship could see the land before them.

To their front were mountains “that seemed now to stand across the path the Company was taking.” This isn’t really shown on the maps, they could see three mountain peeks. The two highest were Caradhras and Celebdil, also known as the Redhorn and Silvertine, respectively. Southwest of them was Fanuidhol, also called Cloudyhead.

Incidentally, Gimli recognized the mountains, having seen them once before. In the Dwarf language, they were called Barazinbar, Zirakzigil and Bundushathur. Tolkien had a long and detailed struggle with what to name these three peaks in several different languages. Apparently, they were based upon his memory of the mountains in Switzerland – specifically Jungfrau and its surrounding peaks (more on that later).

Between Caradhras and Celebdil was Redhorn Pass, which was where the Fellowship planned to finally cross the Misty Mountains. This was the only pass between Rivendell and the Gap of Rohan (near Isengard, the Fords of Isen, Helm’s Deep, etc), and that was 250 or more miles farther south.

‘We have reached the borders of the country that Men call Hollin; many Elves lived here in happier days, when Eregion was its name.’

They camped on Hollin Ridge, which was near the land known as Hollin, named after the holly bushes that were in abundance. The Elves, however, called the place Eregion. In the Second Age, this had been ruled by Galadriel and Celeborn, and then Celebrimbor. It’s most famous for being the place where the Elves befriended Sauron, mostly thinking that he had turned over a new leaf. It was where the Rings of Power (except for the One Ring) were created.

Anyway, Gandalf explained that they were headed for Dimrill Dale, just on the other side of Redhorn Pass. This also had a bunch of names. The Elves called it Nanduhirion, but it’s most famously known as Azanulbizar. It was there where the Orcs killed Thror and the Dwarves attacked in retaliation.

The battle was actually for Moria, which was under Celebdil/Silvertine. Gandalf was hoping to bypass the mines of Moria and take Redhorn Pass over the mountains.

As Gandalf was explaining that they must go from Redhorn Pass, down the River Silverloade, into the “secret woods” (Lorien), “and so to the Great River,” he cut himself off. Merry asked him where they would go after that, but all Gandalf would say was: “We cannot look too far ahead. Let us be glad that the first stage is safely over.”

“Much evil must befall a country before it wholly forgets the Elves, if once they dwelt there.” He never told the Fellowship about the whole trusting Sauron/forging the Rings of Power thing.

Legolas wasn’t so sure about this: “But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them. Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago.”

This is such a beautiful and weird little passage. In the Silmarillion, we’re told: “Eregion was nigh to the great mansions of the Dwarves that were named Khazad-dûm, but by the Elves Hadhodrond, and afterwards Moria. From Ost-in-Edhil, the city of the Elves, the highroad ran to the west gate of Khazad-dûm, for a friendship arose between Dwarves and Elves, such as never elsewhere there had been, to the enrichment of both those peoples. In Eregion the craftsman of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the People of the Jewel-smiths, surpassed in cunning all that have ever wrought, save only Fëanor himself, and indeed greatest in skill among them was Celebrimbor.”

These Elves were more like Dwarves in a way, and Legolas was touching upon that. Though they were Elves – a race typically associated with trees – it was the stones that remembered them, not the plants. This was because of their association with the Dwarves.

Figuring out the Days

Since the Fellowship are hiking at night, it’s not easy trying to figure out when to write about the events that happened. If we keep to our modern schedule where the next day begins at midnight, then the conversation above took place on January 8th.

But prior to clocks (which were absent in Middle-earth [neverminding Bilbo’s clock]) “midnight” didn’t really mean anything. The days likely began at dawn. And even with that, the conversation would still have taken place on the 8th.

But there’s a lot I want to write about this day, so I’m going to make an exception. Since the Fellowship’s days began when they awoke in the afternoon, we’ll just say that the conversation happened on the 7th, as it would have been the 7th to the Fellowship – the 8th not starting for them until they awoke hours later.

When’s Next?

The 8th, of course! See you and a bunch of crows tomorrow!

Camera: Zeiss-Ikon Ikoflex (1939)
Film: Fuji NPS 160L (x-11/91)