July 30, 3018 – Boromir’s Unlucky Horses and Worst Road Trip Ever (So Far)

Greetings! And welcome to early August, 3018 of the Third Age. Today is a post based purely on speculation. Fortunately, it’s not totally my own speculation, so don’t fully blame me if it’s partially misguided.

Okay, you can blame me. But really, it doesn’t much matter. Except that it almost does. You’ll see. Probably.

Catching Up With Boromir

When last we checked in on the hunky Boromir, he was leaving Minas Tirith. It was July 4th (recall the Springsteen “Independence Day” reference?). Anyway, as we all know, Boromir’s brother, Faramir, was having a crazy dream about a broken sword, a place called Imladris, and Isildur’s Bane.

Their father, Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith, could only tell them that Imladris was Rivendell and that it was generally over that way somewhere.

With that bit of information, Faramir got ready to make the trip. But Boromir was hunkier and so he made it instead.

At first it seems like we don’t know all that much about his journey. According to Boromir, the ride from Minas Tirith to Rivendell was something around 400 leagues, or 1,200 miles long. On a good horse, that would take around three weeks (at 60ish miles per day).

But while he was in a hurry, he wasn’t interested in burning out his horse to get there. So let’s say he might have ridden at half that pace, or 30 miles per day. Still, that would have taken him about 40 days. He should have been drawing very close to the end of his journey. But he wasn’t.

So what happened? Shouldn’t Boromir have arrived in Rivendell by this time?

Boromir’s Shitty Horse-luck

Following his departure from Minas Tirith, Boromir headed west towards Edoras.

In “The Riders of Rohan” chapter, Éomer tells Aragorn: “Long has Boromir son of Denethor been gone seeking an answer, and the horse that we lent him came back riderless.”

We have no idea if Boromir left Minas Tirith with a horse, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to have gone on foot. However, we have no idea what became of this possible first horse. And no idea why he lost his possible second.

There was, however, a third horse.

In the chapter “Farewell to Lórien,” Boromir describes a bit of his journey:

“When I was sent out as a messenger, I passed through the Gap [of Rohan] by the skirts of the White Mountains, and crossed the Isen and the Greyflood into Northerland. A long and wearisome journey. Four hundred leagues I reckoned it, and it took me many months; for I lost my horse at Tharbad, at the fording of the Greyflood.”

From Minas Tirith to the Gap of Rohan was 500 miles and two horses. Because we don’t know when or how he lost those horses and for how long he was on foot, it’s basically impossible to know when he covered those 500 miles. It’s likely that he lost his horse before crossing the Gap, since the horse found its way back home.

The 350 miles from the Gap of Rohan to Tharbad on the Greyflood were probably covered with one horse – the horse he acquired somewhere and lost while crossing the river.

Boromir claims that the journey took him “many months” because he lost his horse at Tharbad. He makes no mention of losing any other horses, so they seem to not have been that big of an inconvenience.

To me, this indicates that he was able to keep a fairly steady pace up until crossing the Greyflood. After that, all bets are off.

Shit, Man, I Can Hoof It From Here!

In the end, however, there’s no clue as to why it took Boromir “many months” (July 4th to October 25th). My guess is that in early August, he made it to Tharbad and lost his horse. For the next two and a half months, he was likely on foot. To hell with horses!

This means that Boromir took around 80 days to tramp the remaining 350 miles. Honestly, who knows?

Michael W. Perry, in his book Untangling Tolkien has Boromir in Rohan in late July/early August, with an arrival in Tharbad delayed until late August. Maybe he’s right. He certainly makes a good argument for it.

But Boromir’s “it took me many months; for I lost my horse at Tharbad” gives me pause. Tharbad was the turning point. It’s where his journey when to hell. He was probably dispirited, exhausted and sick to death of horses. Maybe he took some time off in Tharbad to recover.

Also keep in mind that he had no idea where Rivendell was. Or even that it was called Rivendell. He was just some beefy hunk asking about Imladris.

Let’s Involve Saruman, Okay?

There’s something else that needs to be mentioned, and I think this is a bit of speculation. But I like it.

Camera: Argus C3 (1940)
Film: Tasma Mikrat 300 (x-12/83); 6iso
Process: HC-110; 1+200; 120min.

This is also from the book Untangling Tolkien, but I’ll paraphrase.

When Aragorn met Éomer, Éomer already knew about Boromir’s dream. When Aragorn showed him the broken sword (that was now reforged), Éomer’s response was: “Dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass.” This seems like a clear reference to Boromir’s dream, no?

Mr. Perry reasons that if Éomer knew about the dream, Boromir was probably telling everyone. In this way, Gríma Wormtongue might also have heard about it. If Gríma heard about it, he definitely told Saruman. Perry suggests that Saruman would have known by “early September at the latest.”

Saruman would have figured out that “Isildur’s Bane” was the One Ring and that the Ring was in Rivendell (which it wouldn’t be until it arrived with the unconscious Frodo on October 20th).

All of this, it must be remembered, is conjecture from the line “Dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass.” It basically seems to fit, but it also seems like a bit of stretch.

The Takeaway

If you had to take anything away from today’s post, it should probably be that Boromir was having a very bad trip that was likely to get much worse. It’s so bad that he doesn’t even complain much about it. There’s much we don’t know about the trip, but one thing is certain – Boromir reminded himself every single day that no matter how bad he was at this, his dumbass kid brother Faramir would have been a whole lot worse.

What’s Next?

Well, not much. Basically, all of August is just everyone except Boromir staying put. Frodo and friends are in the Shire, while Gandalf and Saruman are in Isengard. Even the Nazgûl are sort of milling about the Vales of Anduin – scaring people, yes, but not really getting much accomplished.

Chronologically speaking, Tolkien was not in that great of a hurry to get the journey started.

See you in early September!

Swishing His Tail and Saying Nothing – A Closer Look at Bill the Pony

For the hobbits, there had been many ponies so far on the journey. Though Frodo, Sam and Pippin had left Hobbiton without a pony, once they met up with Farmer Maggot and Merry, ponies became all part of the fun. All four rode ponies upon leaving Crick Hollow, and there was even another for baggage. After Tom Bombadil’s house and the Barrow-wights, they were joined by Tom himself on a pony (after their own were scared off by the wights).

After Tom turned back and the hobbits got to Bree, their ponies were let loose (probably) by Bill Ferny. Though they eventually found their way back to Crickhollow, the hobbits, and now Strider, were without ponies of any sort. But it was through Bill Ferny that they acquired Bill the Pony.

The as-yet-unnamed Bill the pony was “a poor old half-starved creature,” according to Bob from the Prancing Pony. And Bill Ferny was trying to make a quick buck on it. They thought it was a trick, that Ferny was trying to track them or swindle them by training the pony to return to him once they were out of town, but Strider countered: “I cannot imagine any animal running home to him, once it got away.”

And even though the poor pony was at death’s door, they paid the too-high price of twelve silver pennies (he wasn’t worth more than four) and it came along with them. Immediately, Sam took to him, and maybe after he hit old Bill Ferny in the nose with an apple, the pony took to Sam.

It was this pony, still unnamed, who carried Frodo after his wounding at Weathertop. He was “developing an unexpected talent for picking out a path, and for sparing its rider as many jolts as possible.” In fact, the pony was carrying Frodo for so long that even Tolkien referred to him as “Frodo’s pony” as they neared the Trolls. But we all know that in truth, he was Sam’s own. After they met Glorfindel and Frodo was allowed to ride his horse, Sam’s pony was once employed in carrying the baggage.

The company spent two months in Rivendell, and it was during that time that Sam grew closer to the pony. 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.

‘That animal can nearly talk,’ he said, ‘and would talk, if he stayed here much longer. He gave me a look as plain as Mr. Pippin could speak it: if you don’t let me go with you, Sam, I’ll follow on my own.’ So Bill was going as the beast of burden, yet he was the only member of the Company that did not seem depressed.

After leaving Rivendell, Tolkien gives Bill the pony an actual personality. After Sam jokingly admonished him for not staying back in Rivendell, “Bill swished his tail and said nothing.” And then, in the snow, when they could go almost no farther, Sam spoke up saying that Bill could in fact take a bit more. To that, “the pony looked at him mournfully.” During the snowstorm, “Bill the pony stood patiently but dejectedly in front of the hobbits, and screened them a little.” When they were surrounded by Wargs, Bill “trembled and sweated where he stood.”

Of course, just as they were about to enter Moria, it was decided that Bill the Pony could not go with them. It was first discussed between Gandalf, Frodo and Gimli as a matter of practicality.

‘Poor old Bill!’ said Frodo. ‘I had not thought of that. And poor Sam! I wonder what he will say?’

But it’s Gandalf who seems to feel most for Bill: “Poor Bill has been a useful companion, and it goes to my heart to turn him adrift now. I would have travelled lighter and brought no animal, least of all this one that Sam is fond of, if I had had my way. I feared all along that we should be obliged to take this road.”

Gandalf’s last sentiment, that he wouldn’t have brought an animal at all, makes the most sense. Sam brought Bill not mostly because it would be useful to have a beast of burden, but because of his affection for him. Now that affection might cost poor Bill his life. Just as they needed to release him, the wolves began howling.

Sam, of course, was terrified for Bill and angry at Gandalf, but really, it was his own fault. He probably knew this, which made the frustration even thicker. But Gandalf did hit Sam with the practical “well, if you wouldn’t have brought a pony along…” speech. Instead, he approached the pony.

He laid his hand on the pony’s head, and spoke in a low voice. ‘Go with words of guard and guiding on you,’ he said. ‘You are a wise beast, and have learned much in Rivendell. Make your ways to places where you can find grass, and so come in time to Elrond’s house, or wherever you wish to go.

‘There, Sam! He will have quite as much chance of escaping wolves and getting home as we have.’

Did Gandalf cast some sort of protection spell over Bill? Or was he just reminding him of all he had to live for in Rivendell and very possibly later with Sam?

It was Bill, and not Gandalf, who told Sam that it would all be okay: “Bill, seeming to understand well what was going on, nuzzled up to him, putting his nose to Sam’s ear. Sam burst into tears, and fumbled with the straps, unlading all the pony’s packs and throwing them on the ground.”

 Camera: Polaroid Automatic 250 Film: Fuji FP-100C

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 250
Film: Fuji FP-100C

A Few Notes

  • Naming your pony after his previous owner/abuser is a pretty strange thing. 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.
  • Bill’s actual departure wasn’t really as wonderful as it would have been if he just would have left after the ear-nuzzling, but that’s what you get with Tolkien – a bit of heart-warming fantasy mixed with harsh reality.
  • And of course, with that comes a happy ending. Bill returned to Bree and the Prancing Pony. Nob had been watching him and Sam counted himself “born lucky, whatever my gaffer may say.”
  • Oh! And we shouldn’t forget that Tolkien allowed Bill the Pony to get back at Bill the Ferny: “As he [Ferny] passed the ponies one of them let fly with his heels and just caught him as he ran. He went off with a yelp into the night and was never heard of again.”
  • Bill the pony eventually traveled with Sam and Frodo to the Grey Havens, and went on to live with Sam and Rosie until he died a very happy passing in the Shire (we can assume).

About the Photo
So Bill is a pony and not a camel, but you get the idea. Cambells was a mid-west freight company during the 50s and into the 90s, I think. Their motto was the hilarious “Humpin’ to Please.” This, along with Chicagos “Speed Humps” makes any adult into a middle schooler.

The Escape and Paths of Gandalf the Grey (Day 33)

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (EPR) (expired 1989 - xpro as C-41)

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (EPR) (expired 1989 – xpro as C-41)

Our hobbits, led by Strider, continue east through the woody Chetwood.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 11 (p182, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
With another day of simply peaceful and uneventful walking, it gives me a chance to look back to see where Gandalf is at this time. Just like I did yesterday with the Nazgul, let’s figure out how far behind us the old wizard is.

In the book, the day is October 1. The hobbits have been on the road for nine days. Two weeks back, on September 18, Gandalf escaped Orthanc. He had been kept as a prisoner by Sarumon the not-so-White since July 10th. For two months Gandalf was kept in the same tower that Sarumon used to watch the stars. Here, Gandalf could see orcs and wolves kept by Sarumon. He saw that the land around it was desolate and a thick smoke hung low to the ground, making it seem as if Gandalf “stood alone on an island in the clouds.

On September 18th, Gwaihir the Eagle rescued Gandalf. Prior to being imprisoned, Gandalf met Radagast the Brown who told him that the Nazgul were on the loose and looking for the Shire. But the message came from Sarumon, who thought to trick Radagast into sending Gandalf to Orthanc to trap him. However, before departing, Gandalf told Radagast to tell all the beasts to bring whatever news they might have to Orthanc. Radagast found the eagle Gwaihir, who went to Orthanc and found Gandalf. Gwaihir agreed to take Gandalf to Edoras so he could find a horse to take him to the Shire. (The Nazgul cross the Isen.)

On September 19th, Gandalf arrives at Edoras, but is turned away as a beggar.

The next day, September 20th, however, he has better luck and is allowed into the city. He begs King Theodin for a horse, and is told to pick whichever one he wants.

On September 21st, Gandalf chooses Shadowfax, the best horse in the land, but it takes him all day and some of the next to track him down and win him over.

September 22nd is spent by Gandalf in taming Shadowfax. (Meanwhile, the Nazgul reach Sarn Ford and battle the Rangers.)

September 23rd, Gandalf finally leaves Edoras in Rohan, riding west at a ridiculous pace. (The Nazgul enter the Shire, just as Frodo, Sam and Pippin leave it.)

On September 24th, Gandalf crosses the Isen, still riding westward. (The hobbits meet Gildor and the Elves after encountering the first Black Rider.)

For September 25th, nothing is said, and it can be assumed that Gandalf is still riding. (Hobbits dodge the Nazgul at the ferry.)

The same is true for the 26th, as Gandalf rides on. (Hobbits stay their first night with Bombadil.)

On September 27th, Gandalf, still riding, crosses the Greyflood. (Frodo and company spend the second night at Bombadils.)

The following day, the 28th, Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford in the southern part of the Shire around 2am. He has ridden 620 miles. Shadowfax’s average speed was 10mph. This seems a bit slow, but it’s the speed Toklien himself gave in one of the manuscripts which agrees with the final book. He meets with Rangers who tell him about the Black Riders. (Hobbit captured by Barrow-wights.)

And on the 29th, Gandalf finally reaches the Shire, five days after Frodo had left. There, he speaks to the Gaffer, Sam’s father. Mostly the Gaffer complains about the new residents of Bag-end, but Gandalf is able to gather that Frodo had left less than a week before, followed closely by the Nazgul. (Frodo and company arrive at Bree just before the two Nazgul.)

September 30th, Gandalf leaves the Shire, heading straight for Bree, hoping to catch up with Frodo. Along the way, he stops at Crickhollow, which had just been attacked by three Nazgul. The house was empty, but Frodo’s cloak was lying in the doorway. Gandalf became increasingly worried, not knowing that Frodo had given it to Fatty Bolger, who was staying in the house. Continuing on to Bree, Gandalf arrives near night, hours after the Hobbits, now led by Strider, left.

There, he meets Butterbur, who tells him that Frodo and company met up with Strider. Butterbur believes that to be bad news, but Gandalf is overjoyed. “May your beer be laid under an enchantment of surpassing excellence for seven years!” Gandalf stays he night at the Inn. Since the hobbits are with Strider, he probably assumes they’re in the woods and would not be able to be found.

That night, as many as five Nazgul attack the Inn while Gandalf is staying there. These are probably the three who attacked Crickhollow the previous night and two others (maybe from the Shire). This is in conflict with what I wrote yesterday, but only slightly.

October 1, Gandalf rides from Bree, apparently chasing the Nazgul. By the 3rd, he will catch up with them at Weathertop and do battle.

A Few Notes:

  • I realize that Eagles are very neutral with most things, but Gwihir seemed pretty okay with taking Gandalf wherever he wanted to go. He needed to get to the Shire, but instead had the eagle drop him off in Rohan, where he spent three days taming a horse. Gandalf could certainly use some better time management skills.
  • The discrepancy between today’s post and yesterdays when it comes to the Nazgul is probably a combination of my fault and Tolkien’s changing of their movements concerning Bree and Crickhollow. I’m sure it could be ironed out, but my brain is all melty now.
  • Most of this information comes from “The Council of Elrond” chapter and from the Tale of Years. I didn’t dip into the earlier manuscripts for fear of being even more confused.

About the Photo
Unlike the hobbits, Gandalf had to keep to the main road. How else could he do 620 miles in four days? Also note the gray clouds building in the east. Pretty nifty, huh?

Thoughts on the Exercising
I’m no Shadowfax. Today, I took it a bit slowly, but still managed a time good enough to make up for the doughnuts of yesterday and today (seriously, how can I resist such veganny goodnesses?). It feels good to have this kind of exchange. And in the process, I’m getting into better shape. Win/win/win!

  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 155
  • 59 miles to Weathertop
  • 305 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,624 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Somewhere in the beautiful Chetwood. (map)

The Best and the Worst of Bree (Day 30)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Our hobbits, now accompanied by Strider, attempt to leave Bree, but their ponies have gone missing. This blows the whole secrecy thing and, after paying too much for a broken-down replacement pony they’re on their way, escorted by stragglers and children. It’s not an auspicious start by any thinking.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 10 & 11 (p163-181, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
The meeting of Strider is one of the most memorable sections of the book. Because of that, I don’t want to just summarize the events. Instead, here are some things that stuck out for me on this reading.

First, there’s Barliman Butterbur. He’s mostly remembered for not delivering Gandalf’s message to Frodo and basically blowing it as far as getting the Ring safely to Rivendell in a timely manner goes. Why Gandalf trusted him with such a task is beyond me. But rather than dwell on what Strider called “a fat innkeeper who only remembers his own name because people shout it at him all day,” what about Old Butterbur’s courage?

“But spooks or no spooks, they [the Nazgul] won’t get in The Pony so easy. […] No black man [again, the Nazgul] shall pass my doors, while I can stand on my legs. Me and my folk’ll keep watch tonight.”

This was not a minute after Butterbur learned that the Black Riders were from Mordor, and right after Strider called him out. The next morning, he hooked the hobbits up with food, bought them a too-expensive pony and gave them a bit of money on the side – even though it “was a sore blow to him” financially. He had to do none of those things. If he were “smart,” he could have turned them over to the Nazgul and been rewarded. But he didn’t. He wasn’t neutral or passive – he went to great lengths to help the hobbits, though he had no idea at all what their mission might be. And let’s not forget Nob and Bob!

From Bree’s most honorable citizen, we’ll take a dark turn to its least – that nasty old Bill Ferny. We first meet the wretch when Frodo is doing the unfortunate cow jumped over the moon thing in the Prancing Pony. As soon as the Ring slips onto Frodo’s finger, Ferny and a “squint-eyed ill-favoured fellow” slipped out of the Inn. Butterbur claims him to have “an evil name in the Bree-land,” and disparages him for having “queer folk” calling at his house. “He would sell anything to anybody; or make mischief for amusement.”

Ferny is obviously in league with the Nazgul, and he probably got a pretty penny for his troubles. When Merry was found unconscious by Nob, he was “just nigh Bill Ferny’s house.” It’s from Strider that we learn that two Black Riders visited Ferny not long ago.

In the morning, when they wake to see that their ponies had been let loose, Butterbur asks around to see if anyone else had horses. Nobody does – they’ve all been let loose, except one. Bill Ferny’s pony, “a bony, underfed, and dispirited animal,” was all that remained. He would sell it to them, but at three times what he was worth.

But why? What was in it for Bill Ferny? What did he get out of any of this? He must have known that the Nazgul were from Mordor (or were at least evil). And if he was truly in league with them, why would he help (well, “help”) Frodo’s party? In the end, Ferny was in it for himself. He was the man who would sell you the rope with which to hang him.

The last we see of Ferny, he’s by the road as Strider and the hobbits are leaving. After he makes a few quips at the party, Sam tell him to put his “ugly face out of sight, or it will get hurt.” With that, he chucks one of his apples at the man, hitting him “square on the nose.” But in Sam’s assessment, it was a “waste of a good apple.”

A Few Notes:

  • In the original draft of this story, Strider was named Trotter, Barliman Butterbur was named Timothy Titus and then Barnabas, but Bill Ferny was always Bill Ferny. They were all hobbits. Merry was not attacked in the first draft, and it was Trotter, not Sam (named Frodo) who threw the apple at Ferny. In the second draft, there’s a great exchange between Gandalf and Butterbur. Gandalf had not passed through in June, several months prior, but only a few days before, just missing the Nazgul.
  • More than most, this particular story was changed greatly from its original draft. In one, Gandalf and Odo (Pippin) come to the Prancing Pony together. In another, Trotter (Strider) gives Gandalf’s note to Frodo. One of the manuscripts was written from Gandalf’s point of view (as if he were retelling it). Slowly and incredibly confusingly we can see the story iron itself out as Tolkien rewrote it again and again. Trotter became human and then Strider, just as Timothy Titus became human and Barliman Butterbur. It’s maddeningly wonderful and ultimately exhausting.
  • Oh, and this probably isn’t the best place to mention this, as it doesn’t come up again until after Rivendell, but Sam names the pony ‘Bill.’ Apparently, if you rescue an animal from an owner who is abusing it, it’s completely fine to name said animal after this previous owner. In Tolkien’s original draft of “The Ring Goes South” chapter, Sam names the pony ‘Ferny.’ That’s weird, right?
  • In the coming days, the narrative breezes through the miles, covering twenty or so over the length of a paragraph. I’ve decided to take a look at a few things in Bree and the surrounding stories. For instance, what were the Nazgul doing at this point? And what does it have to do with Fatty Bolger? What about the squinty eyed Southerner with Bill Ferny? Where is Gandalf? And who can tell – maybe something else will crop up, too.

About the Photo
Of course, the Road never ends. But here, it ends for a spell for Strider and our hobbits. The Nazgul are patrolling the East Road, and so an alternate route was chosen by Strider. “My cuts, short or long, don’t go wrong.” Clearly Aragorn missed his calling as an ad exec. (flickR)

Thoughts on the Exercising
Somehow or another, the tension on the elliptical machine tightens itself a little more each day. After yesterday’s workout, my legs were killing me. Today, after this discovery, I did another five miles and am feeling awesome! I think it’s off to the comic book store to celebrate.

  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 140
  • 74 miles to Weathertop
  • 320 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,639 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Just leaving the East Road east of Bree. (map)

Day 11 – There’s Something More to Our Sam

As a sort of New Years Resolution, I’ve decided to elliptical my way from Hobbiton to Mordor, following Frodo and Sam’s path from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Each day, I do a few miles and then read about the same miles the hobbits covered, before writing about the whole thing in the blog. Here’s today’s entry:

Our hobbits start their third day, and we’re with them for the first five miles. The crux of the writing is actually spent at breakfast. But soon Frodo decides to leave the road again, cutting through the woods toward Buckleberry Ferry. Pippin protests, but mostly he just wants to go to Stock and drink beer. It is good that they leave when they do, as Sam sees the Black Rider in their old campsite from a mile or so away. The woods and brambles are much slower going then Frodo figured.

Camera: Tru-View (Diana Clone, circa 1960) || Film: FujiChrome RDP (100D), x-pro as C-41, expired 10/1997

Camera: Tru-View (Diana Clone, circa 1960) || Film: FujiChrome RDP (100D), x-pro as C-41, expired 10/1997

Thoughts on the Passage – p 86-90 (of the 50th Anniversary Edition)
Today we learn a bit more about Samwise Gamgee. In the first part of the book, Sam is little more than Frodo’s gardener. Sure, they’re friends well enough, but mostly he’s not Frodo’s peer. Early on, we see a slight hint of what’s to come with Sam, however. Sam is in the Green Dragon with the miller’s son, Ted Sandyman (the Shire’s very own Scut Farcus). They’re talking about the Elves moving west and Ted is being a chump. Anyway: “‘They are sailing, sailing, sailing over the Sea, they are going into the West and leaving us,’ said Sam, half chanting the words, shaking his head sadly and solemnly. But Ted laughed.”

Sam, here, is nearly a poet. This is more than we might have expected. And in today’s passage, Sam is more, still. Frodo was thinking of what to do next, and trying to figure out how to dump everyone off at Crickhollow (where he was supposedly going to live) while he set off for Rivendell. Frodo said to himself: “It is one thing to take my young friends walking over the Shire with me, until we are hungry and weary, and food and bed are sweet. To take them into exile, where hunger and weariness may have no cure, is quite another – even if they are willing to come. The inheritance is mine alone. I don’t think I ought even to take Sam.”

For me, it was easy to recall the idea that Sam was merely going along to protect Frodo. That, like a good servant, friend and gardener, Sam would follow Frodo into Hell itself. But next I was reminded that there was something more.

Frodo then asked Sam if he felt any need to leave the Shire now that he had finally seen Elves for himself. Sam replied:

“Yes, sir. I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want – I don’t right know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.”

Frodo did not, but concluded that “Gandalf chose me a good companion. I am content. We will go together.”

When I read this, it sort of took me by surprise. It’s easy to miss. Because of his nature, it’s easy to miss a lot of what Samwise Gamgee says. And I’ll admit, I missed this the first few times I read it. But if we’re smart, we’ll pay attention. Sam is no ordinary Hobbit and he’s not simply following his master. He’s not even just following his friend. Tolkien argued in a 1964 letter that Sam only becomes paternal after Frodo is injured at Weathertop (and we’re not there yet).

What drove Sam was never explained, and soon his love for Frodo would take over whatever selfish motives he had (I don’t mean ‘selfish’ in a nasty way). But it could possibly have been the same thing that drove Bilbo to have his adventure with the Dwarves. Maybe there was a line of Took in Sam’s blood, or maybe he was just influenced by Bilbo as Pippin and Merry were. But be watchful, there’s something more to our Sam.

“Shortcuts make long delays.”

Thoughts on the Exercising
I love this project. I’m feeling so great right now (I’m writing a few minutes after getting off the elliptical). Five miles hardly seemed like enough. And to be honest, before hopping on the machine, I seriously contemplated just skipping today. I felt sort of washed out. But now I’m quite the opposite. My thighs, which had been hurting a great deal, hurt a lot less. My arms are now what’s aching. But now it’s a good ache. I sprinted (well, “sprinted”) the last quarter mile, and now I think I’ll try to do that more and more each day. We’ll see how that works out.

  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 51
    • 12 miles to Farmer Maggot’s
    • 84 miles to Bree
    • 189 miles to Weathertop
    • 407 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,728 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Walking south (but not too south) through the woods. (Map)

Day 8 – A Conspiracy Remembered

As a sort of New Years Resolution, I’ve decided to elliptical my way from Hobbiton to Mordor, following Frodo and Sam’s path from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Each day, I do a few miles and then read about the same miles the hobbits covered, before writing about the whole thing in the blog. Here’s today’s entry:

Camera: Polaroid Big Swinger 3000 || Film: Fuji FP3000B

Camera: Polaroid Big Swinger 3000 || Film: Fuji FP3000B

Ill at ease because of the Black Rider, our hobbits leave the road, though are only a stone’s throw away from it. The road splits, and they take the right fork to Woodhall (rather than the left to Stock). After climbing inside a hollow tree and resting/supping, they sing a song under the stars as they continue their journey. But hoofbeats! And another Black Rider!

Thoughts on the Passage – p 77-78 (of the 50th Anniversary Edition)
Well, not another one. This is still Khamul, better able to sense the Ring at night. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about (seriously this time).

What caught my eye was a line right before the poem (“Upon the Hearth, the Fire is Red”), which explains how the poem came to Frodo: “Bilbo Baggins had made the words, to a tune that was as old as the hills, and taught it to Frodo as they walked in the lanes of the Water-valley and talked about Adventure.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Bilbo and Frodo. To Frodo, Bilbo must have seemed like quite the adventurer. But to us, we know that Bilbo’s Tookish side barely won out over the Baggins side. Remember in The Hobbit – “Struck by lightening! Struck by lightening!”? That’s the Bilbo we know – the arch-typical hobbit.

But Frodo was much more Took than Baggins. He was also more than a dash of Brandbuck. Bilbo, no doubt, inspired him, but Frodo was clearly bound for Adventure even without him. Just what kind of adventures, he had only the slightest clue.

When Bilbo left with the Dwarves, nobody seemed to have much of an idea what they were doing. For Bilbo, it was almost adventure for the sake of adventure (much to the chagrin of Thorin). But Frodo had reasons. He knew of the Enemy, he knew what the Ring was about, and he knew the Shire was in trouble. With confidence, Frodo agreed to leave the Shire, even to the surprise of Gandalf, even knowing that this wasn’t a ‘there and back again’ sort of treasure hunt.

This reminded me of what our three hobbits on the road to the Brandywine River actually believed. Having started the book at the time when Frodo left Hobbiton, it’s easy for me to forget that Frodo agreed only to hang onto the Ring until Gandalf found “some other better keeper.” He wanted only to leave the Shire. In his heart, however, he wanted only to see Bilbo again. While Gandalf suggested that Frodo might have to go to Mt. Doom, though for the time, Rivendell was the goal. This was all important to him, for sure, but mostly he wanted to see Bilbo again. He missed his uncle, his old friend, and longed to be in his company again, talking of Adventure and reciting poetry.

It was Gandalf who selected Sam, and Frodo put up no argument. Pippin came into the picture, but not by chance (as we’ll find out soon enough). He, along with Merry, were helping Frodo pack up and move to Buckland. Merry was to go on ahead, while Pippin was to travel with Frodo and Sam. And so Frodo believed that Sam would accompany him, but that Pippin and Merry were going only as far as Buckland.

Of course, this will all come into play not too long from now, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. Even when there’s a Nazgul around.

Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed;
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.

Thoughts on the Exercising
For the next week, Sarah is visiting her kin in the great (as in large) commonwealth of Pennsylvania. When she’s here, she’s not checking up on me or anything, but I admit that I try extra hard to be truthful about the miles I do on the elliptical. If I say that I do five, I make sure that it says 5.1 on the odometer. Now that’s she’s away, however, I have no separate reason to be truthful. I’m telling you that I did five, but what if I only did four? Or didn’t even do it at all?

Well, apart from lying to you dearhearts, I would be lying to me. Not that I haven’t done that a billion times before, but this time (I swear!) I’m not bamboozling myself. I did five miles and this time, I really do feel like I did every inch of that. I mostly kept my pace up, but I’m just beat. Tomorrow, I think I’ll do four and see if I feel differently. I don’t think I could dip below that (unless I’d have to miss a day or something).

  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 38
    • 25 miles to Farmer Maggot’s
    • 97 miles to Bree
    • 203 miles to Weathertop
    • 420 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,741 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Off the path, under the shade of oak trees.