The Disaster of the Gladden Fields — April 15, 1436

The Disaster of the Gladden Fields

After the fall of Sauron, Isildur, the son and heir of Elendil, returned to Gondor. There he assumed the Elendilmir (the Star of Elendil; there were in fact not one but two gems of this name) as King of Arnor, and proclaimed his sovereign lordship over all the Dúnedain in the North and in the South; for he was a man of great pride and vigor. He remained for a year in Gondor, restoring its order and defining its bounds (as is related in the Tale of Cirion and Eorl, drawing on older histories, now mostly lost, for its account of the events that led to the Oath of Eorl and the alliance of Gondor with the Rohirrim); but the greater part of the army of Arnor returned to Eriador by the Númenórean road from the Fords of Isen to Fornost.

In the second year of the Third Age, Isildur planted a seedling of the White Tree in Minas Anor and delivered the South-kingdom to Meneldil.

When he at last felt free to return to his own realm, he was in haste and he wished to go first to Imladris; for he had left his wife and youngest son there, and he had moreover an urgent need for the counsel of Elrond. Isildur’s youngest son was Valandil, third King of Arnor. Isildur therefore determined to make his way north from Osgiliath up the Vales of Anduin to Cirith Forn en Andrath, the high-climbing pass of the North, that led down to Imladris. This pass is named only here by an Elvish name. At Rivendell, long after, Gimli the Dwarf referred to it as the High Pass. It was in this pass that Thorin Oakenshield and his company were captured by Orcs. Isildur knew the land well, for he had journeyed there often before the War of the Alliance, and had marched that way to the war with men of eastern Arnor in the company of Elrond.

It was a long journey, but the only other way, west and then north to the road-meeting in Arnor, and then east to Imladris, was far longer. Three hundred leagues and more than the route which Isildur intended to take, and for the most part without made roads; in those days the only Númenórean roads were the great road linking Gondor and Arnor, through Calenardhon, then north over the Gwathló at Tharbad, and so at last to Fornost; and the East-West Road from the Grey Havens to Imladris. These roads crossed at a point [Bree] west of Amon Sûl (Weathertop), by Númenórean road-measurements three hundred and ninety-two leagues from Osgiliath, and then east to Imladris one hundred and sixteen: five hundred and eight leagues in all. As swift, maybe, for mounted men, but he had no horses fit for riding; and safer, maybe, in former days, but Sauron was vanquished, and the people of Vales had been his allies in victory. He had no fear, save for weather and weariness, but these men whom need sends far abroad in Middle-earth must endure. Continue reading

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Bilbo’s Last Song — September 29, 1421

Bilbo’s Last Song

Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!

The Battles of the Fords of Isen — August 19, 1421

The Battles of the Fords of Isen

The chief obstacles to an easy conquest of Rohan by Saruman were Théodred and Éomer: they were vigorous men, devoted to the King, and high in his affections, as his only son and his sister-son; and they did all that they could to thwart the influence over him that Gríma gained when the King’s health began to fail. This occurred early in the year 3014, when Théoden was sixty-six; his malady may thus have been due to natural causes, though the Rohirrim commonly lived till near or beyond their eightieth year. But it may well have been induced or increased by subtle poisons, administered by Gríma. In any case Théoden’s sense of weakness and dependence on Gríma was largely due to the cunning and skill of this evil counsellor’s suggestions. It was his policy to bring his chief opponents into discredit with Théoden, and if possible to get rid of them. It proved impossible to set them at odds with one another: Théoden before his “sickness” had been much loved by all his kind and people, and the loyalty of Théodred and Éomer remained steadfast, even in his apparent dotage, Éomer also was not an ambitious man, and his love and respect for Théodred (thirteen years older than he) was only second to his love of his foster-father. Éomer was the son of Théoden’s sister Théodwyn, and of Éomund of Eastfold, chief Marshal of the Mark. Éomund was slain by Orcs in 3002, and Théodwyn died soon after; their children Éomer and Éowyn were then taken to live in King Théoden’s house, together with Théodred, the King’s only child. Gríma therefore tried to play them one against the other in the mind of Théoden, representing Éomer as ever eager to increase his own authority and to act without consulting the King or his Heir. In this he had some success, which bore fruit when Saruman at last succeeded in achieving the death of Théodred.

It was clearly seen in Rohan, when the true accounts of the battles at the Fords were known, that Saruman had given special orders that Théodred should at all costs be slain. At the first battle all his fiercest warriors were engaged in reckless assaults upon Théodred and his guard, disregarding other events of the battle, which might otherwise have resulted in a much more damaging defeat for the Rohirrim. When Théodred was at last slain, Saruman’s commander (no doubt under orders) seemed satisfied for the time being, and Saruman made the mistake, fatal as it proved, of not immediately throwing in more forces and proceeding at once to a massive invasion of Westfold; though the valor of Grimbold and Elfhelm contributed to his delay, which proved disastrous for him. Continue reading

The Sea-Bell, or Frodos Dreme — March 24, 1421

The Sea-Bell, or Frodos Dreme

I walked by the sea, and there came to me,
as a star-beam on the wet sand,
a white shell like a sea-bell;
trembling it lay in my wet hand.
In my fingers shaken I heard waken
a ding within, by a harbour bar
a buoy swinging, a call ringing
over endless seas, faint now and far.

Then I saw a boat silently float
on the night-tide, empty and grey.
‘It is later than late! Why do we wait?’
I leapt in and cried: ‘Bear me away!’

It bore me away, wetted with spray,
wrapped in a mist, wound in a sleep,
to a forgotten strand in a strange land.
In the twilight beyond the deep
I heard a sea-bell swing in the swell,
dinging, dinging, and the breakers roar
on the hidden teeth of a perilous reef;
and at last I came to a long shore.
White it glimmered, and the sea simmered
with star-mirrors in a silver net;
cliffs of stone pale as ruel-bone
in the moon-foam were gleaming wet.
Glittering sand slid through my hand,
dust of pearl and jewel-grist,
trumpets of opal, roses of coral,
flutes of green and amethyst.

But under cliff-eaves there were glooming caves,
weed-curtained, dark and grey;
a cold air stirred in my hair,
and the light waned, as I hurried away.

Down from a hill ran a green rill;
its water I drank to my heart’s ease.
Up its fountain-stair to a country fair
of ever-eve I came, far from the seas,
climbing into meadows of fluttering shadows:
flowers lay there like fallen stars,
and on a blue pool, glassy and cool,
like floating moons the nenuphars.
Alders were sleeping, and willows weeping
by a slow river of rippling weeds;
gladdon-swords guarded the fords,
and green spears, and arrow-reeds.

There was echo of song all the evening long
down in the valley; many a thing
running to and fro: hares white as snow,
voles out of holes; moths on the wing
with lantern-eyes; in quiet surprise
brocks were staring out of dark doors.
I heard dancing there, music in the air,
feet going quick on the green floors.
But whenever I came it was ever the same:
the feet fled, and all was still;
never a greeting, only the fleeting
pipes, voices, horns on the hill.

Of river-leaves and the rush-sheaves
I made me a mantle of jewel-green,
a tall wand to hold, and a flag of gold;
my eyes shone like the star-sheen.
With flowers crowned I stood on a mound,
and shrill as a call at cock-crow
proudly I cried: ‘Why do you hide?
Why do none speak, wherever I go?
Here now I stand, king of this land,
with gladdon-sword and reed-mace.
Answer my call! Come forth all!
Speak to me words! Show me a face!’

Black came a cloud as a night-shroud.
Like a dark mole groping I went,
to the ground falling, on my hands crawling
with eyes blind and my back bent.
I crept to a wood: silent it stood
in its dead leaves; bare were its boughs.
There must I sit, wandering in wit,
while owls snored in their hollow house.
For a year and a day there must I stay:
beetles were tapping in the rotten trees,
spiders were weaving, in the mould heaving
puffballs loomed about my knees.

At last there came light in my long night,
and I saw my hair hanging grey.
‘Bent though I be, I must find the sea!
I have lost myself, and I know not the way,
but let me be gone!’ Then I stumbled on;
like a hunting bat shadow was over me;
in my ears dinned a withering wind,
and with ragged briars I tried to cover me.
My hands were torn and my knees worn,
and years were heavy upon my back,
when the rain in my face took a salt taste,
and I smelled the smell of sea-wrack.

Birds came sailing, mewing, wailing;
I heard voices in cold caves,
seals barking, and rocks snarling,
and in spout-holes the gulping of waves.
Winter came fast; into a mist I passed,
to land’s end my years I bore;
snow was in the air, ice in my hair,
darkness was lying on the last shore.

There still afloat waited the boat,
in the tide lifting, its prow tossing.
Weary I lay, as it bore me away,
the waves climbing, the seas crossing,
passing old hulls clustered with gulls
and great ships laden with light,
coming to haven, dark as a raven,
silent as snow, deep in the night.

Houses were shuttered, wind round them muttered,
roads were empty. I sat by a door,
and where drizzling rain poured down a drain
I cast away all that I bore:
in my clutching hand some grains of sand,
and a sea-shell silent and dead.
Never will my ear that bell hear,
never my feet that shore tread,
never again, as in sad lane,
in blind alley and in long street
ragged I walk. To myself I talk;
for still they speak not, men that I meet.

Perry-the-Winkle — November 3, 1419

Perry-the-Winkle

The Lonely Troll he sat on a stone
and sang a mournful lay:
‘O why, O why must I live on my own
in the hills of Faraway?
My folk are gone beyond recall
and take no thought of me;
alone I’m left, the last of all
from Weathertop to the Sea.’

‘I steal no gold, I drink no beer,
I eat no kind of meat;
but People slam their doors in fear,
whenever they hear my feet.
O how I wish that they were neat,
and my hands were not so rough!
Yet my heart is soft, my smile is sweet,
and my cooking good enough.’

‘Come, come!’ he thought, ‘this will not do!
I must go and find a friend;
a-walking soft I’ll wander through
the Shire from end to end.’
Down he went, and he walked all night
with his feet in boots of fur;
to Delving he came in the morning light,
when folk were just astir.

He looked around, and who did he meet
but old Mrs Bunce and all
with umbrella and basket walking the street;
and he smiled and stopped to call:
‘Good morning, ma’am! Good day to you!
I hope I find you well?’
But she dropped umbrella and basket too,
and yelled a frightful yell.

Old Pott the Mayor was strolling near;
when he heard that awful sound,
he turned all purple and pink with fear,
and dived down underground.
The Lonely Troll was hurt and sad:
‘Don’t go!’ he gently said,
but old Mrs Bunce ran home like mad
and hid beneath her bed.

The Troll went on to the market-place
and peeped above the stalls;
the sheep went wild when they saw his face,
and the geese flew over the walls.
Old Farmer Hogg he spilled his ale,
Bill Butcher threw a knife,
and Grip his dog, he turned his tail
and ran to save his life.

The old Troll sadly sat and wept
outside the Lockholes gate,
and Perry-the-Winkle up he crept
and patted him on the pate.
‘O why do you weep, you great big lump?
You’re better outside than in!’
He gave the Troll a friendly thump,
and laughed to see him grin.

‘O Perry-the-Winkle boy,’ he cried,
‘come, you’re the lad for me!
Now if you’re willing to take a ride,
I’ll carry you home to tea.’
He jumped on his back and held on tight,
and ‘Off you go!’ said he;
and the Winkle had a feast that night,
and sat on the old Troll’s knee.

There were pikelets, there was buttered toast,
and jam, and cream, and cake,
and the Winkle strove to eat the most,
though his buttons all should break.
The kettle sang, the fire was hot,
the pot was large and brown,
and the Winkle tried to drink the lot,
in tea though he should drown.

When full and tight were coat and skin,
they rested without speech,
till the old Troll said: ‘I’ll now begin
the baker’s art to teach,
the making of beautiful cramsome bread,
of bannocks light and brown;
and then you can sleep on a heather-bed
with pillows of owlet’s down.’

‘Young Winkle, where’ve you been?’ they said.
‘I’ve been to a fulsome tea,
and I feel so fat, for I have fed
on cramsome bread,’ said he.
‘But where, my lad, in the Shire was that?
Or out in Bree?’ said they.
But Winkle he up and answered flat:
‘I aint a-going to say’.

‘But I know where,’ said Peeping Jack,
‘I watched him ride away:
he went upon the old Troll’s back
to the hills of Faraway.’
Then all the People went with a will,
by pony, cart, or moke,
until they came to a house in a hill
and saw a chimney smoke.

They hammered upon the old Troll’s door.
‘A beautiful cramsome cake
O bake for us, please, or two, or more;
O bake!’ they cried, ‘O bake!’
‘Go home, go home!’ the old Troll said.
‘I never invited you.
Only on Thursdays I bake my bread,
and only for a few’.

‘Go home! Go home! There’s some mistake.
My house is far too small;
and I’ve no pikelets, cream, or cake:
the Winkle has eaten all!
You Jack, and Hogg, old Bunce and Pott
I wish no more to see.
Be off! Be off now all the lot!
The Winkle’s the boy for me!’

Now Perry-the-Winkle grew so fat
through eating of cramsome bread,
his weskit bust, and never a hat
would sit upon his head;
for Every Thursday he went to tea,
and sat on the kitchen floor,
and smaller the old Troll seemed to be,
as he grew more and more.

The Winkle a Baker great became,
as still is said in song;
from the Sea to Bree there went the fame
of his bread both short and long.
But it weren’t so good as the cramsome bread;
no butter so rich and free,
as Every Thursday the old Troll spread
for Perry-the-Winkle’s tea.

Cat — January 14, 1419

Cat

The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps upon his meat
where woods loom in gloom —
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
kept as a pet
he does not forget.

The Hunt for the Ring — January 13, 1419

The Hunt for the Ring

Of the Journey of the Black Riders according to the account that Gandalf gave to Frodo

Gollum was captured in Mordor in the year 3017 and taken Barad-dûr, and there questioned and tormented. When he had learned what he could from him, Sauron released him and sent him forth again. He did not trust Gollum, for he divined something indomitable in him, which could not be overcome, even by the Shadow of Fear, except by destroying him. But Sauron perceived the depth of Gollum’s malice towards those that had “robbed” him, and guessing that he would go in search of them to avenge himself, Sauron hoped that his spies would thus be led to the Ring.

What Gollum revealed to Sauron of the Ring and the place of its finding was sufficient to warn Sauron that this was indeed the One, but that of its present whereabouts he could only discover that it was stolen by a creature named Baggins in the Misty Mountains, and that Baggins came from a land called Shire. Sauron’s fears were much allayed when he perceived from Gollum’s account that Baggins must have been a creature of the same sort. From all accounts it is clear that Gollum did at least know in which direction the Shire lay; but though no doubt more could have been wrung from him by torture, Sauron plainly had no inkling that Baggins came from a region far removed from the Misty Mountains or that Gollum knew where it was, and assumed that he would be found in the Vales of Anduin, in the same region as Gollum himself had once lived. This was a very small and natural error – but possibly the most important mistake that Sauron made in the whole affair. But for it, the Black Riders would have reached the Shire weeks sooner.

After his release from Mordor, Gollum soon disappeared into the Dead Marshes, where Sauron’s emissaries could not or would not follow him. Yet all his ordinary spies and emissaries could bring him no tidings. And this was due largely both to the vigilance of the Dúnedain and to the treachery of Saruman, whose own servants either waylaid or misled the servants of Sauron. Of this Sauron became aware, but his arm was not yet long enough to reach Saruman in Isengard. Therefore he hid his knowledge of Saruman’s double-dealing and concealed his wrath, biding his time, and preparing for the great war in which he planned to sweep all his enemies into the western sea. He had been reluctant to use the Ringwraiths, until he knew precisely where the Ring was, for several reasons. They were by far the most powerful of his servants, and the most suitable for such a mission, since they were entirely enslaved to their Nine Rings, which he now himself held; they were quite incapable of acting against his will, and if one of them, even the Witch-king their captain, had seized the One Ring, he would have brought it back to his Master, But they had disadvantages, until open war began (for which Sauron was not yet ready). All except the Witch-king were apt to stray when alone by daylight; and all, again save the Witch-King, feared water, and were unwilling, except in dire need, to enter it or to cross streams unless dry-shod by a bridge. At the Ford of Bruinen, only the Witch-king and two others, with the lure of the Ring straight before them, had dared to enter the river; the others were driven into it by Glorfindel and Aragorn. Moreover, their chief weapon was terror. This was actually greater when they were unclad and invisible; and it was greater also when the were gathered together. So any mission on which they were sent could hardly be conducted with secrecy; while the passage of Anduin and other rivers presented an obstacle. For such reasons Sauron long hesitated, since he did not desire that his chief enemies should become aware of his servants’ errand. It must be supposed that Sauron did not know at first that anyone save Gollum and “the thief Baggins” had any knowledge of the Ring. Until Gandalf came and questioned him (Gandalf, as he recounted to the Council of Elrond, questioned Gollum while he was imprisoned by the Elves of Thranduil), Gollum did not know that Gandalf had any connection with Bilbo; he had not even known of Gandalf’s existence.

Gollum, however, was before long captured by Aragorn, and taken to Northern Mirkwood; and though they were followed, Gollum could not be rescued before he was in safe keeping. Continue reading