January 4, 3019 – A Fight and Killing in Bree; Lotho the Chief

As the Fellowship is still moving south, let’s continue our look at the Shire and Bree. It’s not good news, I’m afraid.

Book Six, Chapter 7: Homeward Bound
“But he did say much on his own account.”

The Killings in Bree

As we learned last week, Bill Ferny and Harry Goatleaf let in some “bad men… full o’ thievery and mischief” from the south. The people of Bree kicked them out before the end of the year, but they soon came back.

According to Mr. Butterbur, “we had a real set-to.” Ferny and Goatleaf let these bad men back in and helped them attack Bree. In the struggle, three Men and two Hobbits were killed.

Somehow or another, the people of Bree overpowered them and forced them out. They wouldn’t trouble Bree again, but it wasn’t the last our Hobbits would hear of Bill Ferny.

Meanwhile in the Shire

In our last post on the Shire we saw the Lotho Sackville-Baggins was positioning to gain more power. He had quickly made his move, buying up pipe-weed farms in the Southfarthing and getting a huge piece of Saruman’s trade.

Early in the new year (so around now) Lotho made his boldest move. Will “Flourdumpling” Whitfoot had been Mayor of Michel Delving for some time. When Lotho began buying up property, he went to investigate. He was immediately set upon by Saruman’s men under the command of Lotho. Whitfoot was arrested and throw in “the Lockholes,” prison.

With the Mayor out of the way, Lotho declared himself the Chief Shirriff – a position which did not exist before now. The Shirriffs of the Shire were Hobbits who kept “the watch.” They were the closest thing to a police force in the Shire. There were only twelve for the entire Shire, three for each of the four farthings. One of them was the First Shirriff, a sort of commander who reported to the Mayor.

With the Mayor no more, Lotho turned the entire Shire into a military-style dictatorship. It would only get worse from here on out.

When’s Next?

We’ll get back to the Fellowship on the 8th.

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Very Best Wishes for Yule

This post was originally published on Dec 24, 2014.

Since we’re in the scattery days between Christmas and New Years, and things tend to get a bit fuzzy and lackadaisical, I thought it would be fun to break away from the story for a bit to talk about Yule, the winter-time celebration observed in The Shire.

Yule consisted of two days – the first and last day of the calendar. Curiously, the 1st day of Yule came at the end of the year (the day after December 30th), while the 2nd day of Yule came at the beginning (the day before January 1st). (You can read more about the calendar here.) Though technically the holiday lasted only two days, in true Hobbit-fashion, the merriment lasted six. This was the Yuletide, which included the last three and first three days of the year. So important was this celebration that December’s true name was actually Foreyule, and January’s was Afteryule.

Just how these Yuletide days were celebrated was never published in Tolkien’s works. In Nomenclature of the Lord of the Rings, a sort of guide for translators, Tolkien delved into some wonderful explanations for many things, though not really Yule. All he really said was that he wished for the word to be left as “Yule” and not translated into whichever local language.

That it was also a modern word didn’t seem to bother Tolkien much, though he had to figure out a connection. In reality it had come from Germanic paganism before being swallowed whole by Christianity. Similar celebrations with names like jól, jul, joulu, etc., were found all throughout nothern Europe. Though he called their connection “an accident,” he allowed that it was possible that “a form of the same word [Yule] had been used by the Northmen who came to form a large part of the population of Gondor, and was later in use in Rohan, so that some word like Yule was well-known in Gondor as a ‘northern name’ for the midwinter festival.”

The origins of the Hobbit calendar can be traced back to Númenor, and more recently to Gondor and the Dúnedane, from whom they received the concept of weeks. Before that, when they were a wandering people, they went by the moon and had only months. But once the Shire was settled and things put in order, a new Shire Reckoning was drawn up and Yule was conceived.

Apart from feasting, Tolkien never explained what else happened over Yule. He compared it with Lithe, the summer festival, which was also described as a feasting holiday. Just what the Hobbits did apart from eating he never said. The same is true for Gondor and Rohan.

At the time of writing Lord of the Rings, Tolkien seemed fine with allowing Yule to be only a part of Third Age Middle-earth. But when it came time to return to the Silmarillian writings through the 1950s and early 1960s, he included it twice when talking about the First Age.

In 1951 or 1952, Tolkien returned to The Tale of Years, which was basically a timeline/outline for the Silmarillion stories. In one of the drafts, for the year 506-507 of the First Age, he wrote: “At Yule Dior fought the songs of Fëanor on the east marches of Doriath, and was slain. There fell also Celegorn (by Dior’s hand) and Curufin and Cranthir.”

This means that these four fairly important characters all died over Yule. In the published Silmarillian, the basic story is the same, and certainly no Yule was mentioned, but we’re told that the killers “came at unawares in the middle of winter,” so some of the Yuletide idea made it through till the end.

The second (and apparently last) place it was mentioned was in Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth – The Debate of Finrod and Andreth. Andreth was of the House of Bëor, and was Beren’s great-aunt. When setting up this debate, Tolkien put the time in the spring. “For at that time Boron, Lord of the folk of Bëor, had but lately died soon after Yule, and Finrod was grieved.”

In both, the timing – winter – seemed right, but it’s use as far back as the First Age is odd. No notes or explanations were apparently given, so whatever Tolkien had planned for Yule, if anything (and really, probably nothing), will never be known.

One explanation could be because Tolkien had planned for the Silmarillion to be an account of stories told to Ælfwine, a Man descended from Eärendil, by Pengoloð the Sage, an Elf. This was to have taken place around 900AD, so it’s possible it was just a way to connect the old date to something more modern. When Christopher Tolkien did away with the story’s framing, he also did away with such references. Again, this is just a theory, as no explanation seems to be available.

In The Lord of the Rings, Yule happened twice. The first came and went without mention as the Fellowship made their way south along the Misty Mountains after leaving Rivendell, while the second came at the end of the story.

The first Yuletide after the fall of Mordor and the scouring of the Shire, came about a month and a half after Wormtongue killed Saruman. There was some consternation that there wouldn’t be enough food to celebrate, but “Great stores of goods and food, and beer, were found that had been hidden away by the ruffians in sheds and barns and deserted holes, and especially in the tunnels at Michel Delving and in the old quarries at Scary; so that there was a great deal better cheer that Yule than anyone had hoped for.”

Then, in 1972, when closing a letter mostly about language to Richard Jeffery, Tolkien wrote: “Very Best Wishes for Yule” before signing. No other reference was made to it, and whether he meant the Hobbity Yule or the normal, modern Yule was left unsaid.

But to make it even more confusing, the Shire calendar is “off” from our calendar by about eight days. We’re told that our New Year’s Day is actually January 9th by Shire reckoning. This would make the 1st and 2nd of Yule fall on December 22nd and 23rd. You’d think that the Hobbits would have been able to make Winter Solstice fall on one of the Yules, but since they seemed okay with Summer Solstice falling two-ish days before Midsummer/Midyear’s Day/1 Lithe (June 24th-ish in our calendar), we have to assume that they were pretty laid back with this sort of stuff.

I would like to see us move from the Gregorian calendar to Shire Reckoning, as the latter is a much more sensible calendar. In doing so, I’d like to somehow match up Yule with the winter solstice and Lithe with the Summer Solstice. I’m surprised they already don’t, and it makes me wonder if I’m mistaken on this.

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D; expired 10/1994; x-pro

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D; expired 10/1994; x-pro

A Few Notes

  • In earlier drafts of Appendix D (where the calendars are explained), Yuletide was originally fourteen days long, comprising the last and first week of the year.
  • Tolkien’s first instinct for how the translators should handle the word “Yule” was for it to be translated into a “word of similar status” in the local language “so long as this has no recognizable Christian reference.”
  • After writing all but the last three paragraphs, I remembered that I had addressed Yule before on this blog. You can read all about that here. It’s a very different post (except for those couple of paragraphs, which I nicked).

December 29, 3018 – Pipe-weed, the Shire and Bree

As our heroes are starting their fourth full day on the road, I thought we could check back in on the Shire. It’s been over three months since Frodo left it, and I’m sure everything is going on as normal. But let’s take a peek just to be sure.

Book Six, Chapter 8: Scouring of the Shire
“‘There isn’t no pipe-weed now,’ said Hob…”

A Quick Detour Concerning Pipe-Weed

One of the Shire’s largest cash crops was pipe-weed, tobacco. According to Merry Brandybuck’s Herblore of the Shire, pipe-weed was brought to Middle-earth from Númenór in the Second Age. It was first cultivated in Gondor, where they called it “sweet galenas.”

Soon it was exported to Bree and grown thereabouts. It was Tobold Hornblower of Longbottom in the Southfarthing who brought pipe-weed-based agriculture to the Shire. Apparently, it was Hobbits who were the first to dry it and smoke the leaves (though what the Númenórians and Gondorians were doing with it is beyond me.

Lotho and Saruman

Lotho Sackville-Baggins had wanted Bagend as his own for years. Now it was finally his. In the time since Frodo left the Shire, Lotho had become a big mover in the area.

According to one of the accounts in Unfinished Tales Saruman had visited the Shire in disguise quite a bit. He studied the area and got to know the land. When he wasn’t able to go, he sent spies and servants to keep an eye on the place.

Most curious to him was Gandalf’s love of the Hobbits and of pipe-weed. He made a big show of scolding Gandalf for smoking it, but secretly smoked it himself. “…and for this reason the Shire remained important to him.”

Saruman was powerful by this point in time, but was always looking for ways – even small ways – to become more powerful. He also enjoyed extending his reign into Gandalf’s territory. This included the Shire. With Gandalf off somewhere (it’s not likely that Saruman knew exactly where), he took advantage of his absence.

He quickly learned that pipe-weed wasn’t just good smoking, it was good for business. Money, even in the Shire, meant power. If a few Hobbit families had to be corrupted in the process, that really didn’t matter to him. The Bracegirdles owned a slew of pipe-weed plantations and were implicated almost immediately for obvious reasons.

Not too long after Frodo left, Saruman began exporting pipe-weed in mass quantities. He was building up for war by selling pipe-weed to buy supplies. To throw everyone off his trail, the exports would move south to Dunland rather than taking a straight shot to Isengard. From Dunland, the good would then make their way to Saruman. This also bought him a powerful ally in the Dunlendings.

Back in the Shire the Sackville-Bagginses were opportunists looking for a way to get into more power. They could have stayed out of this trade, but Lotho wanted a piece. Soon he would strike some deals.

What’s Up With Bree?

Since Frodo left Bree on September 30th, much had gone downhill. Around this time “newcomers and gangrels” (according to Mr. Butterbur) came up the Greenway from the south.

Some were just poor bodies running away from trouble; but most were bad men, full o’ thievery and mischief.

These men were likely let in by Bill Ferny and Harry Goatleaf, who used to man the West-gate. The newcomers were mostly unruly and were soon kicked out by the people of Bree.

Soon they would return.

When’s Next?

Let’s pause for a couple of days to celebrate Yule!

Camera: Argus/Cosina STL 1000
Film: Kodak Vision 3 500T (x-08/00)

December 25, 3018 – The Fellowship Departs Rivendell

Hello and greetings (season or otherwise)! Welcome to December 25, 3018 of the Third Age. Today, now two months since the Council of Elrond, the Fellowship is ready to leave their safe port in Rivendell. Let’s Dig in.

Book Two, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
“It was a cold grey day near the end of December.”

The Things They Carried

The Fellowship was urged by Elrond to travel at night as much as possible. Servants of Sauron were watching, he warned.

Though the Fellowship’s “hope was in secrecy not in battle,” they still carried weapons.

Aragorn – Only Andrúil, the sword formerly known a Narsil. He was dressed as a Ranger.
Boromir – Carried a sword much like Aragorn’s “but of less lineage.” He also had a shield and his war-horn.
Gimli – A broad-bladed axe. He also wore mail.
Legolas – A bow and a long white knife.
Gandalf – His staff and Glamdring, his sword. We’re told in The Hobbit that it once belonged to the “king of Gondolin,” who was Turgon. It was the mate of Thorin’s sword, Orcrist. Both were found in the Troll’s Cave in The Hobbit.
Merry – The sword from the barrow.
Pippin – Another sword from the barrow.
Sam – Still another sword from the barrow.
Frodo – His sword, Sting, an Elvish blade. Also, he secretly wore the mithril coat. Both were given to him by Bilbo.

They also carried food, warm clothes, blankets, etc.

And Then There Was Bill

During the two months spent in Rivendell, Sam grew closer to Bill the pony – purchased form Bill Ferny the day they left Bree (September 30). As they were readying themselves to leave for the journey, Bill was once again burdened with the heavy load of their supplies. They apparently had other choices of animals, but “it was Sam who insisted on choosing him, declaring that Bill (as he called him) would pine, if he did not come.” In all likelihood, it would have been Sam doing the pining, though there’s no real indication that Bill wouldn’t have been upset as well.

A few years ago I wrote a bit about Bill. You can read that here. I’m still a bit curious as to why Sam would name the pony after Bill Ferny, the treacherous wretch who deserved more than a single apple to the face.

As I said before: “No explanation was given, but let’s just assume that Sam was taking back the name, turning it from evil to good. He was reclaiming ‘Bill’ for the rest of us.”

The Last Good-byes

They left after nightfall. Tolkien focuses quote a bit on Sam, especially when it comes to Sam wanting rope.

‘Rope!’ he muttered. ‘No rope! And only last night you said to yourself: “Sam, what about a bit of rope? You’ll want it, if you haven’t got it.” Well, I’ll want it. I can’t get it now.’

The attention then turned to Elrond, who made it very clear that the only member of the Fellowship with a defined duty and mission was Frodo. He was to “neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need.”

I’m sure nobody will try to take advantage of that.

As for everyone else, they could come and go as they pleased. There wasn’t even a thinly-veiled guilt-threat placed upon them.

After an exchange of a few proverbs, they were off!

Hate To See Them Go, But Love To Watch Them Leave

This wasn’t a big send off. Elrond’s people stood in the shadows to watch. There weren’t songs or music. Most surprisingly, the Elves weren’t even dicks. This was serious business.

In fact, the only one was a dick here was Boromir, which isn’t really a huge shock. On this occasion, he was that guy. You know, the guy who blows a war-horn for no goddamn reason. Elrond sort of chastised him for it, basically telling him not to blow the damn thing until he was back on his own land.

‘Maybe,’ said Boromir. ‘But always I have let my horn cry at setting forth, and though thereafter we may walk in the shadows, I will not go forth as a thief in the night.’

Yeah, that guy.

The Road Ahead

Tolkien soon enters into montage mode, covering two weeks in the span of a few paragraphs. We’ll cover the “typical day of the first fortnight” in the next post.

For the first night’s walk, they retraced their path to the Ford of Bruinen, where the Nazgúl were swept away in the flood. There, they hung a left, to the south.

Barbara Strachey, in her essential book Journeys of Frodo, writes that “there must once have been some sort of path leading south from Rivendell along the foothills of the Misty Mountains at least as far as Eregion [Hollin], since elves dwelt there too.

She reasoned that it would probably have went farther south to join the Old North Road. We’ll be checking in with Strachey quite a bit from here on out.

Tolkien, Christmas, and the Meaning of Today

It would be understandable for the reader to assume that Tolkien chose this day – Christmas Day – for the Fellowship to leave Rivendell. That it was somehow symbolic of his Christianity. For what it’s worth, Tolkien refuted this idea.

In 1966, a dozen years after Fellowship of the Ring was published, an interviewer asked Tolkien about the December 25th departure date of the Fellowship. He asked, “How do you feel about the idea that people might identify Frodo with Christ?”

Tolkien replied:

‘Well, you know, there’ve been saviours before; it is a very common thing. There’ve been heroes and patriots who have given up for their countires. You don’t have to be Christian to believe that somebody has to die to save something. As a matter of fact, December 25th occurred strictly by accident, and I left it in to show that this was not a Christian myth anyhow. It was a purely unimportant date, and I thought, Well there it is, just an accident.’

When’s Next?

Since Tolkien’s in montage mode, we’ll check back in on December 29. I’ll also probably do something about Yule after that.

Camera: Crown Graphic (1962); Graphex Optar 90mm f/6.8
Film: Kodak Tri-X @50iso; x-09/1973
Process: HC-110; 1+90; 18mins

December 24, 3018 – The Last Day in Rivendell; Frodo and Sting

Seasons Greetings! Welcome to December 24th, 3018 of the Third Age – a day that was definitely not Christmas Eve in Middle-earth. It was actually just a Friday.

Well, it wasn’t just a Friday. It was the last day that the Fellowship would be in Rivendell. Tomorrow they’d be on their way. Let’s do a last quick check in with them to see how it’s going.

Book Two, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
“On the morning of the last day Frodo was alone with Bilbo.”

This Is Sting

Let’s go all the way back to the barrowdowns (September 29), when Tom Bombadil gave the Hobbit’s their swords – “old knives are long enough as swords for hobbit-people.” These swords were forged by the Men of Westernesse.

A week or so later, during the fight on Weathertop (October 6), Frodo’s sword cut the cloak of the Witch-king. It was evident that he didn’t pierce the Nazgúl because, as Aragorn explained, “all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King,” and Frodo’s blade was fine.

But quite another thing happened during the fight at the Ford (October 20).

‘By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair,’ said Frodo with a last effort, lifting up his sword, ‘you shall have neither the Ring nor me!’

The Witch-king then sort of Force-choked Frodo. Or, I suppose it should be said that Darth Vader Nazgúl-choked Admiral Motti. Anyway, Frodo’s tongue cleaved to his mouth and “his sword broke and fell out of his shaking hand.”

When Frodo got to Rivendell (October 24) the last thing on anybody’s mind was Frodo’s sword. Bilbo had taken it, but never got around to having it mended. It didn’t disintegrate, as if it had pierced the Witch-king, it was only broken. As the time was drawing closer for the Fellowship to leave, Bilbo decided that Frodo should carry Sting – the sword used by Bilbo in The Hobbit.

‘This is Sting,’ he said, and thrust it with little effort deep into a wooden beam. ‘Take it, if you like. I shan’t want it again, I expect.’

Bilbo also gave Frodo his dwarf-mail coat made of mithril, a light and strong metal (sort of like titanium). Bilbo received this coat from Thorin Oakenshield. Following his adventures, Bilbo had his “coat of mail” displayed in his hall at Bag End “until he lent it to a Museum,” the Mathom-house in Michel Delving. Before leaving the Shire, Bilbo said that he reclaimed it.

Frodo was warned not to tell anyone he was wearing it, but told him that he had “a fancy it would turn even the knives of the Black Riders.”

In return Bilbo wanted Frodo to bring back stories “any old songs and tales you can come by.” He was thinking about writing a second book.

When’s Next?

Tomorrow! We’ll make a merry day of it! The first day on the road!

December 21, 3018 – The Sword of Elendil is Forged Again

Welcome to December 21st! The Fellowship is about to leave Rivendell, but there’s one more thing that’s got to be done. Aragorn had been carrying around a broken sword and needed it to be reforged.

Okay, that’s obviously an over-simplification. This wasn’t just any sword, this was the Sword of Elendil, father of Isildur. But it’s got a bit of history prior to that. Let’s dig in a little.

The Longish Story of Narsil (Abridged)

If you’ve read the Children of Húrin, you’ll definitely remember the name Telchar. You know, “the smith of Nogrod, whose works were renowned.” That guy! He forged the Helm of Hador! The Dragon Helm! He also forged Angrist, the knife that would cleave iron “as if it were green wood.” It slices, it dices! You can even cut a tin can with it – but you wouldn’t want to!

Well Telchar also forced Narsil. We’ll learn later that “Telchar first wrought it in the deeps of time.”

Those deeps were in the First Age, though the sword doesn’t really show up until much later. In the Second Age, it was already an heirloom, passed down by the line of Elros, son of Eärendil and brother of Elrond. It’s not really clear if Elros used it. His sword was Aranrúth, given to him from Thingol through Elwing (Elros’ mom). Unfinished Tales mentions a few other heirlooms.

How the sword survived the “downfall” of the First Age isn’t really mentioned. “Only the Ring of Barahir father of Beren One-hand survived the Downfall.” So maybe everyone just forgot about this incredibly important sword because at the turn of the Second Age, it just wasn’t important yet.

That would change when Elendil carried it. Elendil was the son of the last of the Lords of Andúnië – a line of Númenórean leaders who remained true and did not follow Sauron. When Elendil’s father foresaw the Drowning of Númenór, he had Elendil load up nine ships to sail to get the hell off the island (I’m really cutting down the story here, I promise).

Elendil was told to “put aboard all such things as your hearts cannot bear to part with,” and one of those things was the sword somehow handed down from Elros from the First Age. Also on board were the palantíri, and a seedling of Nimloth, the White Tree of Númenor. They departed just in time.

When Númenór sank and was destroyed, the nine ships fled to Middle-earth. At sea, the ships become separated and landed in three different locations on the coast. When all was basically sorted out, Elendil became the High King of the Dúnedain.

That was great, but Sauron also returned to Middle-earth. After some years, the Elves and Men formed the “Last Alliance” and went to war against Sauron. This all ended with Gil-galad and Elendil fighting Sauron. It was then that the sword was broken. They both died. Isildur picked up the broken sword and cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand.

After the battle, Isildur collected the shards and took them with him (along with the Ring). Two years later, Isildur is hunted down and killed by Orcs. It was then that the Ring went missing. Before his death, Isildur gave the shards to to squire who took them to Rivendell.

Narsil then went with Isildur’s son, who eventually became the King of Arnor. After that, it was passed down from king to king. When Arnor fell in 1975 of the Third Age, the heirlooms went again to Rivendell, but the sword stayed with the Chieftains of the Dúnedain (the Rangers) until the start of our story, when we find Strider/Aragorn with it.

Flame of the West

So sometime around now in the year 3018 of the Third Age, Narsil was reforged after being broken for about 3,000 years. We learn that “on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes.”

Tolkien noted that the seven stars represented the seven ships that carried the seven palantíri. The moon and sun “symbolised the chief heavenly lights, as enemies of darkness.” No explanation was given for the “many runes,” but we can assume it was more of the same stuff. Aragorn renamed Narsil, calling it Andúril, Flame of the West.

Other Stuff

Not much else is going on. Frodo is spending as much time with Bilbo as he can. Aragorn and Gandalf are talking about the path ahead, looking over maps and books. At night, they’d hang out in the Hall of Fire listening to stories about Beren and Lúthien.

When’s Next?

We’ll check in with Rivendell one last time before the Fellowship departs. See you on the 24th.

December 18, 3018 – The Fellowship is Formed

Welcome to December 18, the day the Fellowship of the Ring is formed.

Book Two, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
“Elrond summoned the hobbits to him.”

The Time Has Come

The only thing clear from the start was that Frodo (and Sam, by extension) was going to attempt to bring the Ring to Mordor. Elrond couldn’t promise armies or even help. He couldn’t even foresee anything ahead.

He explained that “the Shadow has crept now to the feet of the Mountains, and drawn nigh even to the borders of the Greyflood…”

This is a far cry from Gandalf’s opinion that it was safe, though, granted, he was mostly talking about it being Nazgúl-free. Just what the Shadow had covered isn’t really clear. It seems like it would be most of Rohan and Gondor, keeping south of Lórien.

Elrond would send messages as they made their way, but first he would pick the Fellowship.

The Company of the Ring Shall Be Nine

“Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil.”

The first Elrond chose, apart from Frodo and Sam, was Gandalf. For the rest, Elrond wanted diversity and representation.

Legolas would represent the Elves. Gimli would represent the Dwarves. And Aragorn would represent Men.

That makes six, so what about the other three? Well, since Boromir was headed to Minas Tirith, he would tag along. Actually, both Aragorn and Boromir were headed that way, so they’d be part of the Fellowship until they reached that city.

This means that by design the Fellowship was to break even before reaching Osgiliath and Minas Morgul – places they’d have to pass before entering Mordor.

That makes seven. As for the other two, Elrond didn’t know just yet. It could be asked why he even bothered to call this meeting if he didn’t know the entire Fellowship. But before anyone could even think of that bit of logic, Pippin spoke up saying that he (and Merry) “don’t want to be left behind.”

Elrond wasn’t into the idea, and actually had plans for them – he wanted to send Merry and Pippin back to the Shire to warn everybody about shit about to go down. Elrond was more or less okay with Merry going (though nobody even mentioned him by name in this whole section), but barred Pippin because he was too young.

Peregrin “Pippin” Took was born in the Spring of 2990. This made him only 28 years old. He was, in hobbit-years, still a child. Adulthood was reached at the age of 33.

After threatening to follow the Fellowship on his own if he was kept from going, Elrond relented.

When’s Next?

The only thing of note that happens before now and the departure is the reforging of the Sowrd of Elendil. So… let’s say the 22nd. How’s that?

December 15, 3018 – Welcome Back(?)

Welcome to mid-December. Frodo and the Hobbits have been in Rivendell for about two months, and it’s probably time to check in on them. Behinds, Elrond’s scouts are returning. I bet they’ve got some crazy tales to tell.

Book Two, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South
“The hobbits had been nearly two months in the house of Elrond…”

Scouts Gonna Scout

Tolkien yadda-yaddas about six weeks worth of Hobbit-happenings in Rivendell before jumping right in to tell us where Elrond’s scouts had scouted. They had left around the time of the Council on October 25th – some before, some a day after. In mid-December they returned.

It’s related to us where they scouts had gone, with some traveling north and west, and “many” traveling east and south. The scouts traveling east made a point to drop by on Radagast, but the brown wizard wasn’t home. Elladan and Elrohir, Elrond’s sons, stopped by Lórien, but would only talk to their father about it.

Scouts in blue. E’s sons in yellow.

The whole point of their mission was to find the Nazgúl. And though they found eight of the nine the bodies of their dead horses and a single torn up cloak, they found no trace of the Riders.

Gandalf reasoned that it was now “safe” to start the journey. The Nazgúl were likely in Mordor by now and it would take some time for them to get their collective shit together. Now was the time to move.

More About the Nazgúl

Tolkien made some notes about what happened to the Nazgúl, which explain a bit more than the text.

We are told that the scouts found eight of the nine bodies of the horses, which means that one horse likely survived. We’re also told that a cloak was found. In the notes, Tolkien concludes that it was the “raiment of the Captain” – the Witch-king.

When the river flooded, he was able to pull his horse out of the water. After a bit of rest (remember, the horses were real horses, not spirits or something “created” by Sauron), the Witch-king would have made his way back to Mordor.

Tolkien figures that he (and probably the other Nazgúl) wouldn’t have left the area of the river until November. After they, the Witch-king alone would make time to Mordor. He figures that Sauron would be more surprised than angered. He wouldn’t see it so much as failure as he’d see just how powerful the Wise were.

The remaining, unhorsed and bespirited Nazgúl would need help to make it all the way back to Mordor. The flood thing Elrond and Gandalf whipped up was some serious business.

It would be around this time “that Sauron (likely aided by Angmar) bethought him of the winged mounts; and yet withheld them, until things become almost desperate and he was forced to launch his war in haste.”

Why Is it Taking So Long to Leave?

When Tolkien originally wrote this, he had the Fellowship leaving on November 24th. He later decided that “too much takes place in winter.” He further reasoned that this would allow Elrond’s scouts more time to poke around and to get back to Rivendell before the Fellowship had to depart.

He then changed the day of departure to December 24th, probably because it was an even month from his original date. He later changed it to December 25th when he got around to inventing the Shire and Middle-earth calendars. It just worked out better that way, astronomically speaking.

When’s Next?

Today was approximate, but we have mostly solid dates from here on out. The next post will be on December 18 when the Fellowship will be formally chosen.

October 25, 3018 – The Council of Exposition

Greetings and welcome to October 25, 3018 of the Third Age. Today is a huge day full of heaps of exposition. Today is the Council of Elrond where Tolkien goes off on everything he’s been thinking about since he started writing Lord of the Rings.

Since most of the stuff covered at the Council has already been covered in this blog (it was exposition, to be sure), there doesn’t seem to be much new material for us to go over. But we’ll hit some highlights, I’m sure.

Book Two, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond
“Next day Frodo woke early…”

The Council of Exposition

Frodo was up and walking with Sam when they came across Bilbo and Gandalf chatting away. Frodo’s big plans for the day (apart from the Council, which seemed neither here nor there to him) were “to go walking today and explore the valley.” He had his eye on some of the pine trees. Gandalf poo-poo’d the idea. And with a bell ring, it was Council time.

The Council of Elrond had seven scheduled speakers: Glóin, Elrond, Boromir, Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn.

Again, most of this material has already been covered here. We’re even told that much more was said than was related in the book. It’s also safe to assume that what is written about the Council was probably chronological, but we’re still only getting the pertinent bits.

Glóin spoke first, and we learn about Moria (which he related to Frodo the night before). Balin, Ori and Óin all went to Moria about thirty years ago. Word hasn’t come from them lately, and they are feared to be lost. He also related the story of the messenger from Sauron coming to Dáin.

Glóin and his son, Gimli, had come to warn Bilbo, as well as to get Elrond’s advice.

Elrond spoke next, giving us all the background we could ever want on Sauron and the Rings of Power. Quite a bit of history, most of which he witnessed himself, was delivered. During his talk, Elrond expands the world of The Hobbit into the world of Lord of the Rings, even dipping into the Silmarillion.

Boromir then says a bit, adding to what Elrond was saying about Gondor, Boromir’s home. He focuses mostly on the Battle of Osgiliath and the dream that he had once (but that his brother had a bunch of times).

Aragorn interjected, revealing to all (but especially Boromir) that he was the subject of “the Sword that was broken” part of the dream. Elrond does some more explaining, telling Boromir that Boromir is the Chief of the Dúnedain. With that, Gandalf tells Frodo to bring out the Ring.

He does, Boromir is grumpy about it, and Aragorn seems to challenge Boromir about the whole Sword of Elendil thing, Boromir claims that he doesn’t want a hand out – only advice, but admits that the Sword of Elendil would be pretty handy.

Aragorn then talks a bit (after Bilbo whips out the “All that is gold does not glitter” poem), mostly calling Boromir out. Honestly, Aragorn sounds fairly bitter, seemingly claiming that Gondor wasn’t all that great at keeping out evil things, and that his Rangers had to clean up quite a few messes.

Now it’s Bilbo’s turn, and he basically retold The Hobbit, which some people had apparently not yet read (looking at you, Boromir). And then Frodo told the first few chapters of Lord of the Rings, which was new to everyone but Aragorn.

Galdor of the Havens

One of the members at the Council was Galdor. When Frodo admitted that he wanted to hear more about Gandalf’s travels of late, Galdor cried out “You speak for me also!”

Galdor is an interesting addition. He is one of the (few?) Elves from the Grey Havens. He was there as a representative for Cirdan the Shipwright. While not a whole lot is known about Galdor, Cirdan is a force to be reckoned with. He was one of the Teleri – a clan of Elves who were slaughtered in the Kinslaying. He was one of the oldest Elves in Middle-earth, and will be the last Elf to leave in the Fourth Age (but we’re getting ahead of ourselves). When Gandalf arrived from Valinor, it was Cirdan who gave him his Elvish Ring of Power. So it’s a pretty big deal that he’s there.

What Galdor wanted was proof that Frodo’s Ring was the Ring. He also wondered why Saruman wasn’t there. Of course, Gandalf had a lot to say about both – much of which we’ve already covered.

Word then turns to Gollum. Aragorn quickly relates that he is prison in Mirkwood. Legolas then breaks the news that Gollum had escaped.

Gandalf then continues his story about being imprisoned by Saruman and of his rescue, his taming of Shadowfax, journey to Bree, and battle on Weathertop.

Finally Gandalf asked the big Ring-based question: “What shall we do with it?”

What Shall We Do With It?

The most obvious suggestion was to give it to Tom Bombadil. Seems logical – the Ring had no power of him, and he was relatively unknown. Gandalf figured that Tom would just throw the Ring away, and Glorfindal added that it “would only postpone the day of evil.” Galdor agreed.

There was a quick mention of keeping it from Sauron by force, but Elrond quickly knocked that down. This left two options: send it over the Sea or destroy it.

Sending it over the sea, says Elrond, wouldn’t work. The Valar wouldn’t receive it because it belongs to Middle-earth, and Middle-earthlings have to be the ones to deal with it.

Fair enough, but he also reminded everyone that Gandalf said that they couldn’t destroy it by any means available to Elrond.

Glorfindel came up with a third option: “let us cast it into the deeps.” Saruman had made up a story that the Ring was at the bottom of the ocean. It wasn’t, but Glorfindel thought it wasn’t such a bad idea.

Gandalf reasons that it wouldn’t be safe forever, and forever was what they should be concerned about.

Finally Elrond could see only one solution: “To walk into peril – to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.”

And then Boromir paused, took a breath, and muttered, “one does not simply walk…” Wait no. He didn’t. Nobody said anything because nothing needed to be said.

Let the Ring Be Your Weapon

But what Boromir did was important: “Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory!”

Elrond shot this down as well (though probably not as convincingly as he had hoped). The Ring was Sauron’s and only Sauron could wield it. Anyone else who does might overthrow Sauron, but he would essentially become Sauron 2.0.

So then if the Ring couldn’t be a weapon, what about the other Rings of Power? Well, the Seven Dwarvish Rings are gone, and the three Elvish Rings weren’t made for war (perhaps a bit of an oversight, looking back).

The Road Must Be Trod

Through all this quibble, they decided that the Ring must indeed be taken to Mordor. But who would take it? Bilbo, of course! “Bilbo the silly hobbit started this affair, and Bilbo had better finish it, or himself.”

All respectfully declined the offer (except Boromir, who disrespectfully declined it to himself).

After a long, long silence, Frodo spoke up.

‘I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.’

Elrond then said something that I think is the very definition of Tolkien’s writings (at least as far as LotR goes:

‘If I understand aright all that I have heard,’ he said, ‘I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.’

Tolkien then adds Frodo’s name to a short list of kick-ass Silmarillion names that only about three people know of when Fellowship of the Ring was published: “Hador, and Húrin, and Túrin, and Beren himself…”

Also, Sam. Sam was going too. Because Sam is the real hero here. Sam F. Gamgee.

Later That Day…

In a chat later on, Pippin insists upon going as well, but nothing is decided just yet.

Elrond sends out Elves to meet up with Rangers and the Mirkwood Elves. Aragon heads out with Elrond’s sons. All this means that nobody would be leaving on the journey to Mordor for a very long time.

The biggest reason for the delay, accord to Gandalf was that nobody could leave “until we have found out about the Riders.”

Gandalf then tells Frodo that he was going along too.

The Hobbits spent the rest of the day chit chatting about various things, trying to forget the task ahead. It was going to be awhile.

When’s Next?

That’s a very good question. We have a paragraph covering the next few weeks, then a sentence about November and most of December. I suspect we’ll meet back up in the middle of December, unless something big happens. You okay with that?

Camera: Pentax Spotmatic F (c1973)
Lens: Takumar 3.5/35mm
Film: Kodak Vericolor III (x-01/2009)

October 24, 3018 – Frodo Lives!

Greetings and welcome to October 24, 3018 of the Third Age. We have just finished up Book One of Lord of the Rings and pick up a few days later with Book Two. By the evening of the 21st Glorfindel, Aragorn, Frodo and the rest of the Hobbits arrive at Rivendell. Frodo was unconscious and would remain so until 10am on this date.

The night previous, Elrond cured Frodo and they were all just waiting for him to wake up. Gandalf, who had been in Rivendell since the 18th, was with Frodo when he woke.

Book Two, Chapter 1: Many Meetings
“Frodo woke and found himself lying in bed.”

Previously on Lord of the Rings

Frodo had not seen Gandalf since the wizard left the Shire on June 25th – nearly four months ago. He and Gandalf catch up a bit, quickly recalling many of the events we’ve read about in Book One. But a refresher is always good.

For the sake of convenience, Frodo talked in his sleep quite a bit and Gandalf was caught up that way as well. Gandalf puts off telling his part of the story for now – there will be more than enough time for exposition soon enough.

Through all of this, Frodo learns that not only is Aragorn in the line of Kings, but all of the Rangers are “the last remnant in the North of the great people, the Men of the West” – the Númenóreans.

Now For A Merry Meeting – More than a Meal! A Feast!

Following several pages worth of exposition, “evening drew on.” Frodo took a nap and woke up feeling great. Sam enters the room and they both go down to the dinner party.

When Pippin saw Frodo, he awkwardly exclaimed “Make way for Frodo, Lord of the Ring!” And suddenly we have our title! Huzzah for that! Back in 2014, I wrote a bit about the first time Tolkien used the phrase.

The seating at the dinner party was a great way to layout all of the character. Elrond was at the head. Gandalf and Glorfindel were on either side (Glorfindel seems to have been on Elrond’s right). Arwen, Elrdon’s daughter, was in the middle of the table.

Frodo sat across from Arwen (probably). On his right was Glóin the Dwarf from The Hobbit. He gives Frodo (and the reader) a bit of catching up concerning the characters in The Hobbit.

At the kids’ table were the rest of the Hobbits – Sam, Pippin and Merry.

These are the only names mentioned, though it seems like Gandalf was there as well. Possibly some other Elves too.

The Hall of Fire

Following the feast, they all follow Elrond and Arwen into the Hall of Fire. Hammond & Scull, in the Reader’s Companion remind us that this idea is similar to one Tolkien used in the Book of Lost Tales: “the Room of Logs with the Tale-fire in the Cottage of Lost Play.”

And here, finally, finally is where Frodo sees Bilbo again. It’s been seventeen years since Bilbo left following the Long-expected Party. Bilbo wasn’t at the feast because “I don’t go in for such things much now.” He had something else to do – sitting and thinking.

Bilbo talks a bit about how he got to Rivendell and how he traveled to Dale with the Dwarves. He quips (sort of) that it was a pity that Gandalf took so long to figure out what the Ring was: “I could have brought the thing here myself long ago without so much trouble.”

Bilbo asked to see the Ring and Frodo showed it to him. When Bilbo laid his eyes upon it, Frodo saw that “a shadow seemed to have fallen between them, and through it he found himself eyeing a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands.”

And while we’re told only that Frodo was distressed and amazed by this, it’s Bilbo’s reaction that is interesting. It’s not incredibly dramatic. He moved his hands across his eyes, sort of shaking himself away from the Ring. And he apologized. “I am sorry: sorry you have come in for this burden; sorry about everything.” He questioned whether he should even bother finishing his book and then immediately changed subjects, asking Frodo for news from the Shire.

Errantry was a Mariner

The rest of the night fills out the rest of the chapter. For the most part, it involves Bilbo singing the “Eärendil” poem and the Elves being dicks about it (go to hell, Lindir).

Most people probably skip over the poems and songs when they read it. They’re definitely worth a second look, but it’s understandable. I did as well.

The Eärendil poem is a rewrite of the “Errantry” poem from the early 1930s. Its final form was published in Oxford Magazine in 1933. Christopher Tolkien gives the full story in Treason of Isengard, as well as the poem itself.

For Bilbo, Tolkien revisited and revised “Errantry” until it was reformed into “Eärendil,” though I personally prefer the former best.

Curiously, the version appearing in Lord of the Rings was not the final version. Tolkien apparently misplaced the final final version when submitting the manuscript to his publisher. Tolkien had no idea what happened to them, and they didn’t turn up again until many years later.

In Reader’s Companion, Hammond & Scull explain that they were tempted to restore the full version of “Eärendil” in the 2004 edition of Lord of the Rings, but ultimately decided not to do so. Their reasoning was space, and also the fact that Tolkien himself chose not to do so for the 1965 revision of the text – even though he had, by that time, found the full version of Eärendillinwë, as it was then called.

Curiously, three years prior to that, in 1962, Tolkien published another version of “Errantry” in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book. In-story, it was explained that Bilbo wrote “Errantry” shortly after returning from his adventure to the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit. The meter was so odd, however, that he felt that it fit in well with the Elvish poetry, so that when he arrived in Rivendell, he rewrote it.

Following the song, the Hobbits retire to their rooms. As Frodo was leaving, he saw Aragorn and Arwen together. He was enchanted by Arwen as the Elves sang the song to Elbereth. Frodo and Bilbo spoke for awhile, and then Sam came to make sure Frodo got some sleep for the Council the next morning.

With that, they all went to sleep.

Sometime later that night Boromir finally found his way to Rivendell. He had been traveling for 110 days, having left Minas Tirith on July 4th.

What’s Next?

You ready for some exposition? Tune in tomorrow.

Camera: Mamiya m645j (1979)
Lens: Mamiya-Sekor C 45mm f/2.8
Film: Kodak Tri-X (x-06/1987)