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.
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.
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.
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!