Tom Bombadil and our hobbits ride west and then north toward the East Road. As they cross an old dike, Tom grows quiet and seems to be thinking about something sad.
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 8 (p146-7, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Another incredibly short passage, but this one shows a sense of history that could keep me researching for hours. Before the hobbits were trapped by the Barrow-wights, they saw a line of trees that they assumed was the East Road (the main road through the Shire and to Bree and beyond). It was, however, not the Road, but “a deep dike with a steep wall on the further side.”
These types of dikes were prevalent in England, denoting boundaries or established for defense. And so it was with this dike. Tom explains (through the narrator) that “it had once been the boundary of a kingdom, but a very long time ago.”
And it was. This was once the border of the kingdom of Arnor, founded at the end of the Second Age (it’s the end of the Third Age at this point in the story, 3018). It was founded, along with Gondor, by those who escaped the destruction of Numenor.
(At this point, you’re going to need a map. Here’s one that might work.)
For some 860ish years, Arnor was one kingdom, but after the king died, his three sons started a civil war which resulted in Arnor being divided into three separate kingdoms: Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. It is the border of Arthedain and Cardolan which Tom and the hobbits come across. Cardolan was the southern portion, with its northern border along the East Road. All three kingdoms met at Weathertop.
From roughly 861 till roughly 1300 (it was in 1100 when Gandalf, etc discovered the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, by the way), there was relative peace between the three separate kingdoms. But it was then that the Witch-king established Angmar, to the north of old Arnor, but still its influences could be felt even in southern-most Cardolan. This was when the orcs began to attack the Dwarves in the Misty Mountains. But it was also around this time (1300ish) that the Periannath (the ‘halflings/hobbits’) come west to live in Bree, itself on the border between Cardolan and Arthedain.
Around 1350, the king of Arthedain, Argeleb I, claimed rule over all of Arnor, as he was supposedly the only true air in the line from Isildur. While Cardolan seemed cool with this, Rhudaur did not and actually sided with Angmar and the Witch-king. On their own, Rhudaur went to war with the new and slightly smaller Arnor, killing King Argeleb I. In turn, his son pushed back, driving the troops from Rhudaur away from Weathertop.
About 50 years later, the Witch-king attacked, combining his own forces with those from Rhudaur, capturing Weathertop and King Argeleb’s son (now the king, himself) was killed. It was at the Barrow-downs and in the Old Forest where the last few of the Dunedain made their stand. This is when the dike crossed by Tom and the Hobbits was probably built. It was, at least, used during these battles. The last person was buried in the Barrow-downs in 1409.
Eventually, the Witch-king’s armies were stopped by Elrond’s forces from Rivendell, but most of Arnor, including Cardolan, was completely gutted by the enemy. But it was around this time (1601) that the hobbits migrate farther west into the Shire, in what was once Arthedain. This makes 1601 actually Year 1 in the ‘Shire reckoning’.
But 35 years late came the Great Plague, which killed pretty much everybody still living around the Barrow-downs. It was then that the Barrow-wights were sent by the Witch-king to occupy the land. For a short while, the kingdom of Arthedain, mostly unaffected by the plague, retook the Barrow-downs area, but nobody really wanted to live there (what with the wights and all). With nobody to defend it, the Witch-king once more took over the land.
For the next couple of centuries, Arnor continued to reestablish itself, even communicating with Gondor to the south in 1940. But thirty years later, the Witch-king attacked again, this time overrunning all of Arthedain, putting an end to Arnor. The next year, however, he is defeated at Fornost (northwest of Weathertop), and driven away. Five years later, he winds up in Mordor.
At this point, the action moved east, centering around Mordor and Moria. The land that used to be Arnor became sparsely populated, watched over by the Dunedain, the Rangers. For about 1,000 years it went on line this, until our story begins.
So there’s a bit of history, taken mostly from Appendix A and the Tale of Years, both contained in the Lord of the Rings. All this information is there, if you’re up to reading that kind of stuff.
And that’s what made Tom Bombadil seem kind of down for a few seconds.
About the Photo
Since we’re talking about borders, here’s a shot of an old customs sign that once stood between the border of Canada and the United States in Molson, Washington – a fine little ghost town. I don’t have my passport (yet?), so within these borders I must stay. For now anyway.
Thoughts on the Exercising
Maybe it’s just Monday, but I’m feeling laaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy! Did five miles, but it was despite my laziness. I feel about the same, and did it at around the same speed as I normally do. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this today. Huzzah!
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 125
- 10 miles to Bree
- 89 miles to Weathertop
- 335 miles to Rivendell
- 1,654 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Still moving north toward the East Road (map)