Happy 100th Anniversary, Middle-earth! (Basically)

Today Middle-earth turns 100 years old! On September 24, 1914, Tolkien wrote the poem “The Voyage of Earendel the Evening Star” while staying with his aunt at Phoenix Farm in Gedling. He was twenty-two years old and studying at Oxford.

Shortly after he wrote the poem, Tolkien admitted to a friend that he didn’t really know what it was about, but he would “try to find out.” He’d spend the next six decades on that.

The poem introduced Earendel the character, as well as the idea of him becoming the Morning Star. It was the first writing to have anything to do with what would eventually become Middle-earth.

Neither the name Earendel nor the term Middle-earth were invented by Tolkien. Both came from the Anglo-Saxon poem “Crist”:


Hail Earendel, brightest of angels,
over Middle-earth to men sent,
and true radiance of the Sun
bright above the stars, every season
thou of thyself ever illuminest.

Earendel actually meant “morning star” in Old English (in a round about way, I guess). And Middle-earth (translated from middangeard) was the term used for the parts of the land where people could live.

Curiously, Tolkien did not use the term Middle-earth right away. In fact, it wasn’t until (probably) 1937, when writing the Fall of Numenor, that he used it. Prior to that, he called it various things like Great Lands, Hither Lands, Outer Lands, and even middangeard. So maybe it’s more accurate to say that Middle-earth was conceived today, born in 1917 and then finally named in 1937. But really, that’s splitting hairs.

You can read the poem here.

Also, you can read quite a bit about all of this at John Garth’s blog.

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2 Model D Film: Kodak Verichrome (expired in 1964)

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2 Model D
Film: Kodak Verichrome (expired in 1964)


About the Photo

What better way to illustrate a poem about the ocean from 1914 than a photo of the ocean taken with a camera that was made in 1914 using film that expired in 1964? This was taken a week and a half ago at Ruby Beach along the Washington coast. Usually even film this old is in better condition, but there’s not much you can do about things like that.

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It’s Been Too Long, but Will Have to Be a Bit Longer

Three-ish weeks ago, I had a kind of minor surgery that I was told would lay me up for a week or so. And while that was mostly true, I’m still laid up. I had hoped that I’d be able to get back to exercising in three weeks, but that can’t yet happen. I had also hoped that I’d be able to start writing random bits about various Tolkieny things pretty well from the get-go. And while that technically could have happened, I felt pretty horrible, and it didn’t.

I’m feeling much better now, thanks! The recovery time was much longer than they said it would be, but not so long as to kill my summer. And speaking of not killing my summer, I’m about to leave for a ten day road trip across Nevada, Utah, some of Wyoming (seriously, like a tiny sliver), and Idaho. I’m ridiculously excited about it and hope I’m up to the task.

When I return, I suspect that I’ll be able to start exercising and thus writing and finally, finally move the Fellowship into the mines of Moria!

I really am sorry that it’s taken so long and that I’ve been unable/unmotivated to write. So what all of this means is that I probably won’t write again until early August.

One good thing to come out of all this is that I think I found the perfect photos to depict Moria, and I’m sure this trip will give me many more.

Sarah and I had a Facebook page and a blog that we used to use for journaling and recording our travels, but mostly we don’t use them anymore (which is sort of a bummer). If you are friends with me on Facebook, I’ll be posting a lot of photos, I’m sure. Some might show up on Instagram, too, though I mostly only post film photographs. Otherwise, when I return, and after I process the 40+ rolls of film I’m sure to take, you can see my antics on my photography blog. I’m weirdly easy to get a hold of.

Camera: Bolsey Jubilee Film: Kodak Max 400 (expired)

Camera: Bolsey Jubilee
Film: Kodak Max 400 (expired)

So sit tight, true believers! I’m not done yet!

The Fellowship Defeated by Caradhras: Boromir’s Finest Moment

Boromir often gets a bad rap. Sure, he makes a few questionable decisions/inadvertently tries to take over the world, but the redemption attained just before his death is well-deserved. He may be a boastful man, full of doubts, pessimism and pride, but that doesn’t mean he’s not, at least, helpful.

When the Fellowship was stuck in the snow near Redhorn Pass and they could neither go forward nor back, it was Boromir who suggested that he and Aragorn plow a path with their hunky bodies. 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.

Anyway, back to Boromir. Gimli’s assumption that it was the mountain Caradhras itself that threw the storm at them was, to him, confirmed. It was trying to cut off their escape. But Boromir boasts that “your Caradhras has forgotten that you have Men with you… and doughty Men too, if I may say it,” before slipping in a touch of humility, “though lesser men with spades might have served you better.”

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.

A Few Notes

  • I think I blame Robert Inglis and his audio version for my impression of Legolas’ voice. He’s a wonderful reader, but his Legolas is a bit much sometimes.
  • In the early drafts, Boromir and Aragorn plow through the snow with hobbits on their backs. Honestly, that’s way cooler.
  • The idea that it might be the mountain that was trying to stop them didn’t enter into the drafts until the second version. Originally, it was just a snow storm. As Tolkien wrote, he added personality to everything, even the mountains.
  • Aragorn and Boromir – just a couple of hunks.
Camera: Ansco Shur-flash Film: Konica Pro 160 (expired)

Camera: Ansco Shur-flash
Film: Konica Pro 160 (expired)

About the Photo
This is Mt. Index in Washington’s Cascades. To me, it seems like the perfect Caradhras. In the winter months, the storms all through the Cascades, and especially along Stevens Pass, are legendary and incredibly deadly.


  • Day 152
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 751 (297 from Rivendell)
  • 43 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 170 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,028 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Backing away from Redhorn Gate and finally leaving the trail to move towards Moria. 20th day out of Rivendell. January 12, 3019 TA. (map)

The Radagast that Almost Was (but Also Sort of Was Anyway)

Though Radagast was mentioned in The Hobbit and clearly Tolkien wanted to use him in Lord of the Rings, he was at first not quite sure how to go about it. Today, we’ll take a look at the drafts that led up to the Radagast we all know and wonder about.

The first mention of this brown wizard in Lord of the Rings didn’t come as part of the narrative, but in a note written after Tolkien penned his way to Rivendell for a second time. This was after the so-called Third Phase of writing, probably finished up in December, 1938, about a year after starting. He wrote up to the conclusion of the Rivendell chapters and then tried to figure out what to do next.

Over the next several months, Tolkien took many notes. Sometimes these were outlines, other times they were full on narration with dialog. In (or just after) August of 1939, Tolkien wrote:

Island in sea. Take Frodo there in end.
Radagast?
Battle is raging far off between armies of Elves and Men v Lord.
Adventures.. Stone-Men

What this meant to him is unknowable, and exactly how he planned to use Radagast can’t even be guessed. But there he is – Gandalf’s cousin, coming in even before Tolkien dreamed up the character of Saruman.

Then, sometime in the autumn of 1939 (probably), Tolkien began to rewrite the Rivendell chapters. In a section dealing with the other Rings of Power, someone asked Elrond what would become of them once the One Ring was destroyed. He explained that they would lose their power, or course, but destroying the Ruling Ring was worth it.

The idea of sending it to the West was kicked around, but Elrond said it was too late. “But now the power of the Lord [Sauron] is grown too great, and he is fully awake. It would be too perilous – and his war would come over the Shire and destroy the Havens.”

In the margin closest to this passage, Tolkien wrote “Radagast.” This too went completely unexplained, and he was mentioned no where else in this manuscript.

From the autumn of 1939 to, perhaps, August of 1940, Tolkien added very little to the Lord of the Rings. He later returned to what would become the “Knife in the Dark” chapter. What he wrote was fairly different from what was eventually published, but here is where Gandalf first learns of the Black Riders. It is not, however, told to him by Radagast (he was informed by Trotter/proto-Strider, who learned it from Saramund/proto-Saruman).

Later in the manuscript, Tolkien writes about Gandalf being captured by Saruman only to be rescued by an Eagle. Radagast is again unmentioned, but the stage is set! In notes that followed shortly after, he names Radagast to fill the role.

Tolkien wrote (at least) five versions of “The Council of Elrond” chapter – not including those into which he dabbled the year before. It was in the fourth draft that he finally inserted Radagast, having left him out in the three previous. This draft should feel very familiar to you, as it’s nearly identical to what was published, save for the details that we love to examine so much.

Just as in the final version, it was the end of June and Gandalf wanted to go to The Shire due to some foreboding. “I passed down the Baranduin as far as Sarn Ford, and there I met a messenger. I found I knew him well, for he leapt from his horse when he saw me and hailed me: it was Radagast who dwelt once upon a time near the southern borders of Mirkwood.”

We don’t learn much more about Radagast from this, as it’s just a regurgitation of his background from The Hobbit. But of note – Radagast here is not feeding his horse, but riding. This was immediately rewritten so that Gandalf was riding along the Greenway and was not far from Bree. “I came upon a man sitting by the roadside. His dappled grey horse was standing by. When he saw me he leaped to his feet and hailed me. It was Radagast my cousin, who dwelt once upon a time near the southern borders of Mirkwood. I had lost sight of him for many years.”

One thing that should jump out is that Gandalf calls him his “cousin,” just as he did in The Hobbit. Radagast’s mission was identical to that later published, but there are some curious details that were abandoned by Tolkien.

As an aside, Gandalf says, after being told that the “Wraiths” have “taken the guise of horsemen clad in black as of old,” that “the Chief of the Nine was of old the greatest of all the wizards of Men, and I have no power to withstand the Nine Riders when he leads them.”

Tolkien was also working out the colors for the wizards. Radagast told Gandalf that it was Saruman the Grey who had sent him. The word “Grey” was immediately struck out and “White” written in its place. For a minute or so, Radagast because Radagast the Grey, but just as swiftly, he was renamed Radagast the Brown.

Quickly in the narrative, they part ways and Gandalf winds up before Saruman, who says something incredibly curious: “He [Radagast] must have plaed his part well nontheless. For here you are.”

It’s been proposed that Tolkien might have first considered Radagast to be a willing participant with Saruman to deceive Gandalf. It’s possible, as Tolkien took out anything that might make Gandalf seem suspicious of Radagast when he got around to arranging the Eagles to rescue him from Orthanc.

In the fifth draft, much is the same, though Gandalf drops the “cousin” bit, and calls Radagast his “kinsman.”

As in the published version, Radagast’s story is basically complete. But Tolkien tried here and there to add him. For example, after Saruman is ousted from Isengard, he debates giving it to the Dwarves, “or to Radagast.” But in the end, he did neither, giving it to the Ents instead.

Tolkien wrote a boat load of essays later in his life, expounding on all sorts of things. Radagast is mentioned twice (as far as I can tell). The first was during a description of Saruman’s state of mind during the Lord of the Rings:

“Gandalf he [Saruman] did not understand. But certainly he [Saruman] had already become evil, and therefore stupid, enough to imagine that his [Gandalf’s] different behaviour was due simply to weaker intelligence and lack of firm masterful purpose. He [Gandalf] was only a rather cleverer Radagast – cleverer, because it is more profitable (more productive of power) to become absorbed in the study of people than of animals.” – From Morgoth’s Ring

The second was written late in his life and compares Gandalf to Saruman and Radagast. It’s a longish piece, but here’s the relevant passage:

Radgast was fond of beasts and birds, and found them easier to deal with; he did not become proud and domineering, but neglectful and easygoing, and he had very little to do with Elves or Men although obviously resistance to Sauron had to be sought chiefly in their cooperation. But since he remained of good will (though he had not much courage), his work in fact helped Gandalf at crucial moments.

Tolken, however, went on to say that “it is clear that Gandalf (with greater insight and compassion) had in fact more knowledge of birds and beasts than Radagast, and was regarded by them with more respect and affection.”

Poor Radagast! In the end, he was mostly forgotten, even by Tolkien (hell, even by Radagast!). But we’ll not forget you, you weird little wizard!

A Few Notes

  • Gandalf tells Radagast that “if I ever see the innkeeper again there will be no Butter left in Butterbur. I will melt the fat from him fingers and all.” (Get it? Butter fingers?) Oh and yes, this means that Gandalf had already left a message for Frodo in Bree, rather than the other way around as it is in the published version.
  • Through these drafts, there are tons of changes to things like the name of Gandalf’s horse and how many rivers the Black Riders must cross. It’s mind-boggling how he kept track of them all.
  • I guess that’s all we’ve got for Radagast. Tomorrow we’ll move on to Saruman. Stupid, evil Saruman.
Camera: Imperial Satellite II 127 Film: Fuji Velvia 100F xpro

Camera: Imperial Satellite II 127
Film: Fuji Velvia 100F xpro

About the Photo
Yeah, look, I have no idea which photo to pick for Radagast the Brown. So since he was found along a roadway and he’s brown, how about a brown roadway? Makes sense to me. Look, it’s some sort of river or something!


  • Day 147
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 726 (272 from Rivendell)
  • 68 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 195 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,053 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 18th night out from Rivendell. January 10-11, 3019 TA. (map)

‘Deep They Delved Us, Fair They Wrouht Us’ – Catching Up with the Fellowship

For the past several weeks, I’ve been writing about Rivendell and the Council of Elrond. That’s sort of hard to imagine, but it’s true. My first Rivendell post was in early April. The point of this blog was to follow Frodo mile-by-mile. That’s pretty easy to do, except when Tolkien enters a prolonged montage.

When the Fellowship left Rivendell, they covered over 200 miles in only a few sentences. I took that opportunity to really sink my teeth into the Council of Elrond. And while some might not find that all too exciting (I do), it’s infinitely more so than the alternative of following the Fellowship’s descriptionless tramping.

But before I jump head-first into Gandalf’s part in the Council, I thought now would be a fine time to catch up with the Fellowship. This is covered in “The Ring Goes South,” the third chapter in Book II.

Frodo and friends had made it to Hollin Ridge on the fifteenth night out from Rivendell. For most of the trek, Gandalf and Aragorn took the lead. Aragorn had traveled this way a lot and “knew this land even in the dark.” Legolas brought up the rear. The Fellowship marched only at night, establishing a camp in the morning hours, “in some hollow of the land, or hidden under the tangled thorn-bushes that grew in thickets in many places.”

They didn’t move along a road, but walked through a rough and barren country, hoping “to escape the notice of unfriendly eyes.” It was January now, and all felt the bitter cold. The scenery didn’t change much for them through the first two weeks of walking. Far off to their right as they walked south was the Anduin River. If the sun was out and the clouds weren’t too low, on their left they might see the Misty Mountains.

“South of Rivendell they [the Misty Mountains] rose ever higher, and bent westwards; and about the feet of the main range there was tumbled an ever wider land of bleak hills, and deep valleys filled with turbulent waters. Paths were few and winding, and led them often only to the edge of some sheer fall, or down into treacherous swamps.”

But after a couple of weeks, the weather changed. The clouds and mists were gone and the sky was clear, though the air was cold. Far south, 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.

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.”

They all agreed to set up camp for the day near Hollin. “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.

But 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.

They slept for the night, and the next morning, things got pretty crazy. We’ll cover that tomorrow, I bet.

A Few Notes

  • Taking a break of the Council of Elrond is probably a good thing. It reminds me of the original intent of this blog – to follow Frodo.
  • I can’t believe that the Reader’s Companion by Hammond & Scull completely skips Legolas’ passage. This kind of stuff is typically their bread and butter. What the hell?
Camera: Kodak Brownie, No. 2, Model D (1914) Film: Fomapan 100

Camera: Kodak Brownie, No. 2, Model D (1914)
Film: Fomapan 100

About the Photo
This is Mt. Index. It’s one of the peaks in Washington’s Cascade Range. I obviously can’t get to Switzerland, so these will have to do. I think they match up pretty well. Here’s a shot of Jungfrau.


  • Day 138
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 681 (227 from Rivendell)
  • 113 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 240 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,098 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 15th night out from Rivendell. January 7-8, 3019 TA. (map)

All that is Gold Does Not Wander… Or Some Such Nonsense

Oh this…. I’ve not been a Tolkien fan for too incredibly long. A couple of years or so, really. I didn’t grow up with it, and though I saw the movies, I wasn’t taken by them – especially when compared to how I was completely taken by the books when I finally got around to them.

But this poem, the “All that is gold does not glitter / Not all those who wander are lost” poem, I think I really hate it. And though it’s ridiculous, I think it’s because of how often it’s quoted. It’s easily the most overused Tolkien quote. But that’s neither the fault of the poem nor of Tolkien. So let’s try to ignore the borishness and get into the heart of this. And then probably forget it.

This was blurted out by Bilbo during the Council of Elrond when Boromir and Aragorn sort of had a disagreement about whether it was to be the House or Sword of Elendil that would come to Minas Tirith.

It is in response to the doubt in Boromir’s eyes over about Aragorns noble lineage. So, *sigh* … let’s hear it.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not whither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king.

The purport of it is pretty obvious. Though Aragorn doesn’t look like much and is a Ranger, he’s actually of nobility. Though the world has turned dark, it hasn’t touched him. And out of the darkness, the Sword of Elendil will be made anew and Aragorn will be king. The End.

As it turns out, Bilbo had made up the poem a long time ago, just after Aragorn told him who he was. He then voices a sentiment that will come back to us before the Fellowship leaves Rivendell: “I almost wish that my adventures were not over, and that I could go with him when his day comes.”

Aragorn admits that he doesn’t much resemble Isildur or his kin, so he can’t blame Boromir for doubting. But he assures him, “I am the heir of Isildur, not Isildur himself.”

This is a strange thing for him to say. In Gondor, they didn’t really know much about Isildur, other than that he was the guy who took the Ring. Boromir didn’t go into detail about knowing anything else, but maybe Aragorn (who did know more) assumed that Boromir might suspect that Isildur’s Bane would soon become Aragorn’s Bane. This would explain Aragorn’s reminder that he wasn’t Isildur himself.

He goes on to explain his life and how he was descended from Valandil and a “long line unbroken from father unto son for many generations.” Thought he days had grown darker and the Dunadain had dwindled, “ever the Sword has passed to a new keeper.”

This brings us to just why the over-used poem was so important. More than likely, it was the first time that Tolkien wrote about the Sword of Elendil being broken. If not for this poem, the writing might have continued in a very different direction. After writing that draft, in subsequent drafts and in additions, Tolkien simply added the broken sword. But he first wrote about it here, because of a poem (and possibly because “broken” rhymes with “woken” – good god!).

So are you up to a quick history of Narsil, the Sword of Elendil? Sure you are! The sword was created in the first age by Telchar the Dwarf. It was made for the Elves and eventually found its way to Elros, Elrond’s brother and the first King of Numenor. It seems to have been handed down through the different kings of Numenor until Elendil received it and saved it from the drowning of Numenor.

During the war with Sauron that closed out the Second Age, Elendil carried it with him into battle, and when he fell, he broke the sword in two. Nearby, Isildur picked up the sword and used the hilt and shard to cut off Sauron’s finger and take the Ring. He then carried it with him to the Gladden Fields where he gave it to Ohtar before being killed by Orcs. Ohtar took it to Rivendell.

But the shards didn’t stay in Rivendell. Valandil, who was Isildur’s youngest son (and Aragorn’s ancestor) took them with him when he re-established the kingdom of Arnor in the north. There, as Aragorn says, it was handed down from father to son until he finally received it from his own father.

I suppose it doesn’t matter much that it was broken. It just as easily could have been a normal sword. But that it couldn’t be reforged until Aragorn had it and Sauron returned in force adds a bit of magic to it all. And that’s a very good thing.

Aragorn ends his piece by laying it all out for Boromir: “A new hour comes. Isildur’s Band is found. Battle is at hand. The Sword shall be reforged. I will come to Minas Tirith.”

Boromir still has some questions, of course. For instance, he wants to understand how everybody can just know that it’s the One Ring. Good question, Boromir, and we’ll get to that tomorrow.

A Few Notes

  • I know that my dislike of this poem will probably shock people. I mean, not only is this the most over-used, it’s also the most over-tattooed. Just… just ugh.
  • If someone would ask me which Tolkien tattoo they should get, I would give this as advise: Get whatever moves you, whatever you have taken into your heart. Get something important, driving – something that will always make you ecstatic. Get something that, when you first read it, took your breath away, and changed your life. … Unless it’s that fucking “not all who wander are lost” poem. Seriously. Knock it off.
Camera: Mamiya C3 (1962ish) Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/94 -- xpro as C-41)

Camera: Mamiya C3 (1962ish)
Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/94 — xpro as C-41)

About the Photo
That said, this is one of my favorite shots. Certainly not glittery, but a whole lot of golden in there. Thanks, creepy closed service station! Thanks!


  • Day 136
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 671 (217 from Rivendell)
  • 123 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 250 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,108 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 13th night out from Rivendell. January 7, 3019 TA. (map)

Seek for the Sword that was Broken

It’s historyfest at the Council of Elrond! After its namesake went on about Gondor in the Third Age, Boromir picked it up and gave us a bit more. Now he believes it to be incredibly important that we all know how he got to Rivendell. He’ll also probably tell us why. Let’s find out.

Turns out Boromir had been on the road for 110 days. According to the Tale of Years, the battle of Osgiliath (which I talked about here), happened on June 20th. A couple of weeks later, on July 4th, Boromir set off from Minas Tirith (it’s October 25th now). Having basically lost the battle, it might be easy to think that he came to Rivendell to procure allies. But no. Boromir had a dream and he really needed to talk to Elrond about it.

Of course, this was no ordinary dream. The day before the battle (so, on June 19th), Boromir’s brother, Faramir, dreamed that “the eastern sky drew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:

Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.

This dream came to Faramir a few times, and once to Boromir. At this point in the story, we don’t know anything at all about Faramir. But after we learn more about it – that he was Gandalf’s student and into the mystical side of things much more than Boromir – it just makes sense.

It probably should have been Faramir and not Boromir who made the journey to Rivendell, and for a time, it seemed that Faramir would actually do it. But, as we’ll see, it was fairly dangerous, and Boromir was better suited. Anyway, it all worked out as it was supposed to be.

Taking the poem bit by bit, we can see that the Valar (I assume) are calling upon the dreamers to find Elindil’s broken sword, which was in Rivendell (Imladris). There, they would have a council, and be shown the Ring, which was now awoken and being carried by a hobbit.

Boromir admits that neither he nor Faramir had much of an idea what any of this meant. They apparently didn’t even know about Rivendell or Elrond, as their father, Denethor, had to tell them “that Imladris was of old the name among the Elves of a far northern dale, where Elrond the Halfelven dwelt, greatest of lore-masters.” It’s also explained why it took Boromir so long to get to Rivendell – he couldn’t find the place.

Denethor really didn’t want his favorite son, Boromir, leaving Minas Tirith. This makes sense since they were pretty damn close to being besieged by Orcs, Easterlings, and the Haradrim. Still, it had to be done. Their faith in the sword of Elendil, which had stopped Sauron before, was too strong to ignore.

And here’s where Aragorn finally speaks up. “Here is the Sword that was Broken!” Aragorn, as Strider, had been carrying the sword the whole time, as we saw during the attack of the Nazgul on Weathertop.

The thing about Gondoreans is that apparently they think that Gondor (and sometimes Rohan) is the only place that really exists. When Boromir saw the sword, he immediately assumed that Aragorn had something to do with Minas Tirith.

Elrond fills Boromir in on just who this Aragorn fellow actually is. He’s descended from Isildur and is “the Chief of the Dunedain in the North,” so really the sword belongs to him.

Quickly, Frodo realized that if the sword belonged to Aragorn because Aragorn was Isildur’s heir, then, logically, the Ring also belonged to Aragorn since it had been Isildur’s. Aragorn countered, saying that it didn’t really belong to either of them, and that “it has been ordained that you should hold it for a while.”

Clearly, Aragorn, Elrond and even Gandalf were taking Boromir’s dream about the Halfling thing pretty seriously. Some higher power had given this message to Boromir, who was now giving it to everyone else. Frodo (or at least some hobbit) was to stand forth, presumably with the Ring.

And so that’s what he did, as Gandalf’s request. Though some shame, loathing and reluctance, he showed the Council the Ring.

Boromir once more proved his self-centeredness. When he saw that it’s a halfling that is holding it, he assumed that the line: “The shall be shown a token that Doom is near at hand,” meant that Doom was near at hand for Minas Tirith. But that’s not what the poem said at all, and Aragorn calls him on it.

It wasn’t just a Doom (meaning a reckoning) that was upon Minas Tirith, but for all of Middle-earth. And then Aragorn asks Boromir a pretty loaded question, maybe over-playing his hand.

“Do you wish for the House of Elendil to return to the Land of Gondor?”

But Boromir wasn’t sent to ask any favors, only to seek council about the meaning of the dream. His answer to Aragorn’s question actually side-stepped the intent: “Yet we are hard pressed, and the Sword of Elendil would be a help beyond our hope – if such a thing could indeed return out of the shadows of the past.”

Aragorn and Boromir were talking about two totally different things. Boromir came to Rivendell to get the Sword of Elendil. Aragorn made it clear that he came with the Sword and would return as King of Gondor. Boromir probably figured that’s what he meant and pretty well ignored it. When he looked at Aragorn “doubt was in his eyes.”

One thing we’ll see about Boromir is that he’s not incredibly trusting. In some cases, I’m going to argue that he’s right. But in this case, he’s of course wrong. It makes sense that he would be a bit on the fence here though. He just met Aragorn.

Besides, the dream-poem didn’t mention anything at all about the family of Elendil – only the Sword. If they were going to take the halfling part seriously, then why not take that part seriously as well?

A Few Notes
Not to spoil anything, but I think Boromir was pretty on the money when it came to Galadriel. But that’s a story for another time.

I was thinking about dipping into whatever earlier drafts I could find about this segment, but I’m going to save that for another time as well.

Camera: Mamiya C3 (1962ish) Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/94 -- xpro as C-41)

Camera: Mamiya C3 (1962ish)
Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 10/94 — xpro as C-41)

About the Photo
Well, this is really the first time that we’re exposed to the nature of Men in the Third Age of Middle-earth. It can be a bit much sometimes, and they should probably get their own room.


  • Day 135
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 666 (212 from Rivendell)
  • 128 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 255 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,113 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 13th night out from Rivendell. January 6-7, 3019 TA. (map)

Boromir’s Account of the Battle of Osgiliath, Also Nazgul (Because of Course)

When Elrond stopped talking – just for a second – Boromir stood up to say his piece. Elrond had given a quick history of Gondor and Arnor in the Third Age, but left out more of the recent history. Here is where Boromir came in to set matters straight.

This only made sense. Elrond was pretty knowledgeable on most of the comings and goings of Middle-earth, but Boromir had just come from Gondor and he thought that “it would be well to know what passes there.” He figured that even though Elrond credited the warriors of Gondor with fighting the Enemy, nobody really knew just how harrowing it was.

Boromir insisted that in Gondor, the memory of Numenor was still going strong – not like in the north, where it had been completely forgotten. It was apparently because of this prowess that the “wild folk of the East” as well as “the terror of Morgul” were kept at bay. Who else but Numenoreans could pull that off, Elrond? And if the Numenoreans weren’t there to defend the borders, the lands to the west would be destroyed for sure.

“But if the passages of the River should be won, what then?” he asks rhetorically. The answer was, of course, that the lands to the west would be destroyed for sure. That day, he warned, was coming quick.

Though there wasn’t much communication between the Men of Gondor and the Elves, they knew they had a common historical enemy – Mordor. After so many centuries of relative peace, the stories of the previous war must have been handed down and recorded.

Here, he calls Sauron “the Nameless Enemy,” and knows that he “has risen again.” This was proved by the smoke rising from Orodruin, Mount Doom, the volcano intrinsically linked with Sauron. But it wasn’t just a bit of smoke that tipped them off. They had been attacked by the forces of Mordor – “our folk were driven from Ithilien.”

This isn’t exactly the most recent of news. In fact, it had started well before Boromir was born. Mount Doom erupted in 2954, which was when Mordor attacked and drove the people out of Ithilean. They fled across the Anduin and took shelter in Minas Tirith.

Ithien was settled 3,000 years ago, at the end of the Second Age by Isildur. He had established Minas Ithil and the land around it was called Ithien. It consisted of everything between the Anduin and the Ephel Duath mountain range, which constituted the border of Mordor. To the south, its border was the River Poros. And to the north, it sort of sputtered out around Henneth Annun, little more than an outpost. Looking into the future, Henneth Annun is where Sam and Frodo will meet Boromir’s brother, Faramir.

At any rate, this whole land was cleared in 2954 (of the Third Age) and all the survivors had to flee across the Anduin. Boromir was born twenty-four years later in 2978 (making him around forty years old when he set out on this quest).

But even more recently, Boromir got a chance to experience the attacks of the Enemy. On the 20th of June, 3018, Mordor launched a surprise assault. This was the same time that Thranduil was attacked in Mirkwood, allowing Gollum to escape.

Sauron attacked Osgiliath, the city which spanned the Anduin. Originally, Osgiliath was the capital of Gondor. It was where Isildur and his brother Anarion shared their thrones.

This battle started the War of the Ring. Sauron’s forces, made mostly of Orcs and their kind, were bolstered by Easterlings and Haradrim. Easterlings come from the east and live mostly “off the map” beyond the Sea of Rhun (also off the map). The Haradrim came from Harad to the south of Mordor.

Both Boromir and Faramir fought at this battle, where they held the bridge across the Anduin until it could be destroyed, barring its use by the Enemy. Though the small Gondorean army made it to the western banks and safety, the company holding the bridge was not so fortunate. Only Boromir, Faramir and two others escaped – and only by swimming.

Boromir insisted that the attacking enemy had not only outnumbered Gondor’s armies, but that “a power was there that we have not felt before.” This was due to Sauron’s forces being led by the Witch-king. “Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon. Wherever he came a madness filled our foes, but fear fell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled.”

Tolkien confirms this for us in Unfinished Tales (“The Hunt for the Ring”): “The Lord of Morgul was sent forth openly to battle against Gondor.” Sauron used this battle to test “the strength and preparedness of Denethor,” the Steward of Gondor in Minas Tirith. However, Sauron “found them more than he had hoped.” Though the army of Gondor was outnumbered, they must have killed a good number of the Enemy’s forces. This didn’t seem to bother Sauron at all. Though his attacking force was greater in number, it was only a small portion of his entire army.

It’s explained in “The Hunt for the Ring” that Sauron’s “chief purpose was that the coming forth of the Nazgul should appear only as part of his policy of war against Gondor.” So rather than press the attack across the broken bridge, Sauron ordered the Witch-king to halt, gather his fellow Nazgul and begin to search for the Ring.

Boromir explained that though the Witch-king had left, the Enemy still pressed against the Anduin. In this relative lull, Gondor apparently called for help, but only those from Rohan came.

Rohan was the land a bit to the north of Gondor, just across the White Mountains. The people were distantly related to the Men who became Numenoreans, but they did not go to Numenor. The Gondoreans saw the Rohirrim as “Middle Men.” They were not as high as themselves, but they also weren’t as low as, say, the Easternlings. This hardly seems like a compliment, but at least Rohan answered the call.

Boromir then goes on to explain his journey to Rivendell, but since time is short, I’ll pick that up again tomorrow.

A Few Notes

  • Look! No Boromir meme! — Actually, this blog contains zero images from “the movies.” It’s not really because I hate them or anything (I don’t), I’d just rather not be yet another Tolkien blog that uses stills from Peter Jackson’s movies.
  • The people from Numenor are called Numenoreans, while the people from Rohan were called the Rohirrim. But what are people from Gondor called? Gondoreans? Gondorians? Gondorrim? I really have no idea, though I used the suffix “-eans” after Numenoreans.
Camera: Imperial Savoy  Film: FujiChrome Provia 100F (not expired)

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: FujiChrome Provia 100F (not expired)

About the Photo
While I’ve got photos of bridges galore, I don’t have a ton of city bridges, like might be in Osgiliath. The only one that I could think of was the old Route 66 bridge in Tulsa, Oklahoma – though I hardly think Tulsa rates as an Osgiliath.

  • Day 134
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 661 (207 from Rivendell)
  • 133 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 260 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,118 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. 13th night out from Rivendell. January 6-7, 3019 TA. (map)