September 18, TA 3018

Tolkien Calendar: The Great Years

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September 28, TA 3018

Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford. The hobbits take their ponies and leave Bombadil. They sleep in the afternoon and are captured by a Barrow-wight in the evening.

"Fellowship Journey" by Alan Lee
Gandalf reaches and crosses into the Shire, but the hobbits encounter the Barrow-wights on the Downs.

It is well worth noting that the Barrow-downs were not always a place of fear and dread. They were once, indeed, favored amongst the Edain of the First Age, as the place to bury the most honored of their dead. Later the DĂșnedain came therefore to revere the hills and named them Tyrn Gorthad...'Mounds of the Dead' much the same as the Rohirrim paid tribute to their fallen kings at the mounds covered with simbelmynĂ« outside Edoras. So respected was this buriel place on the Downs that the princes of Arthedain and Cardolan also entombed their royal dead there. It was the evil that spread from Angmar that entered the ancient tombs there and caused the dead to move once their evil purpose.

On this evening the hobbits fall prey to the Barrow-wights.

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September 29, TA 3018

The hobbits take their ponies and leave the Barrows after lunch. Frodo and company reach Bree at night. Gandalf visits the Gaffer.

"Narrow Bridge of Stone" by Alan Lee
September 29 is a day of both endings and beginnings for the four hobbits, to whom so much has happened in the last six days. This morning they take leave of Tom Bombadil, who escorts them from the Barrow Downs to the edge of his country, and shows them the way to the Road they need to reach Bree. Then he disappears from both their lives and Tolkien's narrative, to where "Goldberry is waiting."

Night finds the quartet at the gates of Bree, where they had hoped to find a safe haven--but they are disappointed, for Bree is home to spies of both the Enemy and Saruman, and has been visited by Black Riders. What they do find there, however, seems in keeping with the theme of unlooked for rescuers that dominates this part of their adventures. Waiting for them at the Prancing Pony is an enigmatic Man the locals have named Strider, "one of the wandering folk--Rangers we call them."

While the hobbits are having their first encounter with Strider, Gandalf has traveled back to the Shire borne by his new friend Shadowfax, and on this day he has "many words, and few to the point," with Sam' s father, the Gaffer. Amid that worthy's complaints about the Sackville-Bagginses, the wizard ferrets out that Frodo left Hobbiton less than a week before, with a Black Rider close behind. He rides on in fear, hoping to follow Frodo's trail to Bree, where all ways seem to meet during this part of the Quest.

Calendar entry by librislove

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September 30, TA 3018

The hobbits are joined by Strider. Crickhollow and the Inn at Bree are raided in the early hours. The hobbits and Strider depart Bree at 10:00am and pursue a wandering course. Gandalf comes to Crickhollow, and reaches Bree at night.

It wasn't until I had read The Tale of Years in the Appendices that it really had sunk in just how narrowly Gandalf misses meeting up with the Hobbits and Strider on this day...just mere hours apart.

We have been introduced to the mysterious Strider, and it is evident from the onset that he is much more than he appears to be. Tolkien is quite detailed in his description if the events at Bree in the wee hours of the morning. Strider has finally been identified thanks to the recollection of Gandalf's letter by Butterbur, but it is Merry who breathlessly alerts them to their peril and the arrival of the Black Riders. Nob sets the diversion in the Hobbits' room and Strider settles against the door of the parlour for protection. It is only the next morning when they see how narrowly disaster has been diverted and must make quick alterations to their plans. All one can say is thank goodness for Strider!

I have always found Tolkien's description of the events at Crickhollow in the early hours of that same morning far more terrifying than the happenings at the Prancing Pony. There sat Fatty...all by himself...Fatty who was even afraid of the Old Forest is now being stalked by Black Riders in the dark hours of the night. Alone in a house far off the traveled lane and fear growing on him all day. Fatty it turns out is as resourceful as any Hobbit and the Black Riders ransack an empty Crickhollow only to find the Ring has gone.

The desperation of the Black Riders is mounting with their knowledge that the Ring is close. Tolkien is the master of suspense and already we have chewed our fingernails down to the first knuckle. Can anyone or anything stop these Black Riders from Mordor?

Artwork: "Narrow Bridge of Stone" by Alan Lee

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October 1, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

Gandalf leaves Bree.

'"Ass! Fool! Thrice worthy and beloved Barliman!" said I. "It's the best news I have had since mindsummer: it's worth a gold piece at the least. May your beer be laid under an enchantment of surpassing excellence for seven years!" said I. "Now I can take a night's rest, the first since I have forgotten when."'
"Blackriders" by Alan Lee
It's not until the Council of Elrond that we learn this charming bit of vintage Gandalf, whose joy and sleep were occasioned by the news that the hobbits were now in the care of Strider. But his sleep was not as restful as he had hoped: five Riders rode through Bree in the night after throwing down the gates. Gandalf rose at dawn to follow them.

Sleep, or the lack thereof, becomes something of a minor theme in The Lord of the Rings. Legolas seems to be able to sleep standing up. When was the last time I was in a proper bed?, the hobbits ask themselves. I wish I were back home in bed. Were these the thoughts of Tolkien and his companions as they slogged through the terrible battles of World War I? John Garth, in his groundbreaking Tolkien and the Great War, makes a strong case for The Lord of the Rings as a realistic soldier's memoire, similar in description to other WWI writers. Gandalf is an old campaigner here, enjoying the comforts of the Prancing Pony while he can, even with the enemy on all sides.

Calendar entry by Merry

Artwork: "Blackriders" by Alan Lee

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October 2, TA 3018

Strider takes the hobbits through the Midgewater Marshes

"The Dead Marshes" by Alan Lee
In classic fairytales, the reluctant hero must face a number of trials on his way to meet the final test. We are seeing in the Midgewater marshes the start of the trials for our heroes.

Tolkien has several heroes in this story, and all have been brought along by mentors and have to face their tests. Strider is one of these people, who after long years in hiding as a ranger, even a leader of rangers, now takes his turn as a teacher of a new group of heroes to be. Each of our hobbits will have his own heroic role to play but for now they are innocents and have much toughening to face. It begins in the Midgewater Marshes.

Have you noticed that it is the smallest things that are, at times, the most difficult to bear? For the hobbits, this is a day of tedium and irritation. As our crew pick their way through the quagmire, the flies begin to torment the hobbits and midges find their way into every gap in their clothing to bite at tender skin. The hobbits do not take this in stride.

"I am being eaten alive," cried Pippin. "Midgewater! there are more midges than water!"

"What do they live on when they can't get hobbit?" asked Sam, scratching his neck.
The marshes become more difficult and the day is a miserable one. Their camp that night is no better. It is damp and lumpy. Between the biting insects and the "neekerbreekers" as Sam named them, some evil relative of the cricket, which chirped all night long, the hobbits were nearly frantic. It was a long day for our crew. No doubt, they were grumbling about how much easier Fatty Bolger got off with a nice, dry, warm hobbit house to live in.

Artwork: "The Dead Marshes" by Alan Lee

Calendar entry by Elizabeth

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Last edited: 20 September 2012 12:07:08