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has been the assumption by many of those in the world of letters
that Professor Tolkien's discovery of The
Red Book of Westmarch (and other
writings) in the early 20th century was not so much an exhumation
as a fabrication. That is, like James Macpherson and the famous
controversy of Ossian two hundred years earlier, Mr. Tolkien was
considered not an historian but a fiction writer. But unlike
Ossian, the existence of Mr. Tolkien's sources was never even
questioned: they were dismissed by all but the most credulous (or
faithful) readers out of hand. The documents were believed to be a
literary device; almost no one took them seriously. This saved
Professor Tolkien the trouble of proving his assertions, but it
has led to serious misunderstanding.
It is surprising that no one found it at all strange that a
professor of philology with no previous fiction writing
credentials, at a premier university, should be the one to
'imagine' an entire history, complete with vast chronologies and
languages and pre-languages and etymologies and full-blown
mythologies. No one thought to ask the question that was begged by
all this: if a previously unknown cache of historical documents of
a literary nature were
to surface anywhere on earth, where would
that be? At the top of the list would certainly be the archaeology
departments of Oxford or Cambridge. Who else is still digging in
the British Isles? Who else cares about such arcane (and
provincial, not to say insular) matters? And who would these
archaeologists consult when faced with unknown languages in
unknown characters in untranslatable books? They would go first to
their own philologists in their own universities, to experts on
old northern languages. This is exactly what Mr. Tolkien was.
Coincidence? I think not. And when those discoveries were found to
be of the nature they were—positing the existence of hobbits
and elves and dwarves and dragons—is it any wonder the
archaeologists washed their hands of the whole mess, never wishing
to jeopardize their careers by making any statement about the
authenticity, or even the existence, of their great find? One
would expect them
to make a gift of it all to the eccentric philologist who believed
in it, though it was not in the least believable. To let him hang
himself out to dry in any way he saw fit. Who could have foreseen,
after all, that he would publish it to ever greater wealth and
fame, and never have to explain a thing? The strange turns that
history takes, not even the historians can predict.
The truth is that The Red Book
(or a copy of it) did, and probably still
does, exist. Nor is it the only surviving document, or trove of
documents, from that part of our history. Other sources have
recently been unearthed, in related but separate locations, that
confirm this. It is true that the ruins of Westmarch were long
thought to be the only existing repository of hobbitlore and the
history of the elves. And it is also true that the present-day
location of what was then Westmarch is still under a cloud. Only
Professor Tolkien, and perhaps one or two from the archaeology
department at Oxford, ever knew its exact locus. But, as I said,
other fortuitous digs have yielded new evidence that Westmarch was
a real place, and that The Red
Book was an historical fact.
It is known to all of the wise
(in hobbitlore) that Westmarch was only one of many population
centers in the Northwest of Middle Earth. Bree, Buckland,
Hobbiton/Bywater, Tuckborough, and several others in fact predated
the settlement at Westmarch, and were not eclipsed by it until
later in the Fourth Age. What is not as well known, because it was
not included in The Red Book
or accompanying artifacts, is that other
settlements to the north and south of the Shire also gained
pre-eminence later, and were therefore the natural repositories
for important documentation. The wealth of material since
discovered in these other sites not only rounds out our
understanding of the Third Age, it often fills in gaps in the
first two ages. And, most importantly, it supplies us with
completely new information about the Fourth Age. The present
volume is proof of that.
The tale told here is taken from
The Farbanks Folios,
an anonymous compilation of oral histories and Elvish lays
probably composed sometime in the Fifth Age. None of the tales in
these folios has been given a title in Westron (such as 'There and
Back Again'), since none of the tales herein appear to have been
written by any of their protagonists. There is no first person
narrative, and much of the detail can only have been supplied by
an 'omniscient' third-person writer living at a great distance in
time from the action of the story. In that sense these are
secondary sources, just as the all the information about the Elder
days in The Red Book—that
is, 'Translations from the Elvish'—is also (but as 'There
and Back Again' is not—if it was in fact written by
Farbanks Folios as a whole deal
with any number of events and narratives, as well as poems and
songs. The present selection from them concerns only one major
event, told in a single narrative. Although the author is unknown,
he (or she) is assumed to be a hobbit. The other contents of the
folios, and their similarities and linguistic connections to the
Westmarch documents, makes this supposition unavoidable. The
author has incorporated bits and pieces from other sources, such
as from the elvish and dwarvish oral and written histories of the
day. These external sources are occasionally the subject of other
narratives among The Farbanks
Folios, and in these cases I have
taken the liberty of including pertinent information in the
present tale, either by simply putting it in the tale itself (with
a footnote), or adding it as a footnote. I have done this only
when I considered it of utmost importance. Publication of
overlapping tales, many of them incomplete, presents difficulties
which perhaps cannot be solved to the satisfaction of everyone.
All I can do is indicate my actions, and the reasons for them. It
is hoped that the audience may remain indulgent, as long as their
patience may be ultimately rewarded.
Visitor in Brown
Burdoc adjusted the skirts of her pale-blue dirndl and patted her
curly hair back into place as she approached the bridge. Over the
water she could see the round doors and windows of Farbanks and
the row of tidy gardens along Willow Way. But mostly she could
see—because she was looking that way all along—a
hobbit in a dirty yellow overall and an old straw hat kneeling
amongst his potatoes, up to his knees and elbows in mud. If she
hadn't known him immediately, he certainly wouldn't have been of
any interest to her—a hobbit lass of 24 summers and
as picky as any. In his present position, he was not likely to
impress any passing female, not if she were 8 or 80. But Primrose,
or Prim as she was called, knew the hole and the garden—yea,
she knew the very straw hat on his head and loved it, though it
was ever so unlovely.
The time of the year was mid-autumn
and though the season had so far been mild, the nights were
chilly. As the sun began to set Prim increased her step and pulled
her shawl about her shoulders. But at number 8 Marly Row she
stopped and put her basket of berries on the ground. Then she
crossed her arms.
Fairbairn!' she said to the muddy posterior and undersoles of the
grubbing hobbit. 'If you haven't noticed, it's almost dark.'
The hobbit turned round and squinted at her from under the
crackled brim of the hat. 'Oh, yes—Prim, is it? Thank you,
yes, it is late. Thank you.' And he turned back around and
continued to muck.
Fairbairn!' she continued to his backside, as if she were used to
addressing that position. 'Do you propose to go on lying in that
cold mud until your hands freeze up and the frost sets on your
toes? I should just like to know, so that I can tell the mourners
when they ask.'
and squinted at her again, with perhaps a slight twinkle in his
eye. Perhaps not. It was hard to tell in that light. 'Hm, yes, the
mud is a bit cold. Thank you. I'm almost finished. I hope your
mother is well?' And he returned to the mud.
name was Tomillimir, but everyone in Farbanks shortened it to
Tomilo. The Fairbairns were descendants of Samwise the Great,
through his daughter Elanor Goldenhair. Moving to the Westmarch in
1455 (Shire Reckoning), the Fairbairns naturally became interested
in Elvenlore and language. Tomillimir is a name of Sindarin
origin, meaning 'jewel of the sands'. The elves had intended
'tomillos' to mean the sands of the seashore, but the hobbits took
it to mean sand more generally, including the sand removed from a
With a slight humpfh Prim adjusted her
shawl, picked up her basket and returned to the lane. She looked
back once, but as Tomilo was not watching her, she humpfhed
lightly again and walked on.
About a quarter of an hour
later, as the sun finally dipped all the way behind the hill and
it was just beginning to get really dark, Tomilo looked up again.
He looked first at the road. Then he looked at his hobbit hole and
the dark round windows, shuttered with green half moons on wooden
hinges. The white curtains, looking blue in the moony light,
shivered in the evening breeze. Suddenly Tomilo felt cold and he
got up and washed his hands and feet in a pail of rainwater under
the eaves. Then he went inside and lit the candles and the fire.
In the kitchen he lit another fire and started his toast and tea.
As he put on his housecoat the kettle began to sing. In a moment
he was at the fireside, his feet roasting on the fender, and his
plate high with toast and honey and butter.
After supper he took down the candle and began to search for his
pipe. Now, it should be in his morning housecoat pocket. Barring
that, it must be at the bedside table. No, of course, he had left
it on the lawn chair. But as he rummaged in the dark, even feeling
about in the grass in case it had fallen, he thought he remembered
putting the pipe in the right-hand pocket of his green breeches.
Before he could run into the hole to test this latest theory,
though, a thing happened. Not a great thing, mind you. But
maybe one of those things that somehow leads to a great thing.
That is how he thought of it later, anyway.
For he heard the clop of a horse's hoof, and the next thing he
knew a black figure emerged out of the lane and came toward him.
Suddenly a lantern was uncovered and the figure said, 'Tomilo, is
'Of course it is me;
this is my hole isn't it? Who else would be standing outside my
hole searching for my pipe? Is that you, Bob Blackfoot?'
'Of course it is. Who else would be wandering about Farbanks after
sundown with a wizard on his heels.'
'I mean who else
but the acting mayor is qualified to make these decisions?'
'Beg pardon? Bob, have you got someone there with you?'
'Yes, Tomilo, that is the long and short of it. Invite us in and I
will introduce you.'
invite them in, and when he had re-entered the parlour and lit
another candle, he turned round to see who his other guest was.
What he saw surprised him, even though he had had some warning.
Bob had indeed mentioned a wizard, but Tomilo had assumed it was
all part of some jest. Standing there in the middle of the room,
bowing his head to keep his tall hat from crushing its point on
the low ceiling, was an old man with a white beard and a staff.
His black kneeboots were heavily weathered and caked with grey
dirt. His cloak was a rich brown, with a fur collar. On his
forearm he wore a strange leathern device that Tomilo did not
recognize. About his neck hung a heavy gold chain bearing a single
precious stone with a warm brown glint. It flashed now in the
candlelight and then went dark.
'Tomillimir Fairbairn, at your service,' said the hobbit finally,
with a bow.
'Radagast the Brown
at yours,' returned the wizard. 'Perhaps you have heard of
'Sorry, no,' answered
'Hm. I should have
guessed as much. But you are a hobbit, so perhaps you have
heard of Gandalf. Had some connections to Hobbiton, almost two,
no, what is it, three hundred years ago now?'
'Yes, I have heard of him. I read about him in The Red Book
'Yes, that's right. Now
wait a minute,' said Radagast suddenly. 'Fairbairn. You aren't one
of the Tower Fairbairns are you, the Wardens of the Westmarch?'
'My family comes from there,
yes. I am not one of the Fairbairns. But I am a
Fairbairn. One of my cousins is a warden. I have never met
'There are a lot of
Fairbairns now, I suppose. Just like Took or Brandybuck or
Gardner. They're all over. Not room in the Shire for all of them,
I guess. I suppose that's why you're here?'
'In a word, yes. There are other reasons, but that will do for
now. But what about Gandalf?'
'Oh, Gandalf. Gandalf was a wizard, you know. One of five. I am
one of the other four, you see. He was Gandalf the Grey. Or
Gandalf the White, I should say. At the end. Or after Saruman the
White was removed from the order. I am Radagast the Brown.
That is my colour. There are other wizards, other colours. But
that is neither here nor there. It may soon be, actually,
but it isn't now.'
offered Tomilo expectantly, waiting for Radagast to state his
'I am a wizard,'
repeated Tomilo, looking to Bob for help.
Bob jumped to Radagast's side. 'Mr. Radagast here needs a message
took to the Moria. None of us could do it; we're all that busy,
you know. Besides, our families wouldn't allow it. The wives and
all. So Mr. Radagast here suggested a bacheldore. Someone who
could go to the Moria with a message and not be missed. I mean not
be missed overmuch by his family, if you see what I mean,
'Yes, Bob, not to
worry, no offense taken, none meant neither I guess. But to Moria,
you say? Dwarvish message, is it? They should run their own
errands, the dwarves; then a hobbit, or even a wizard, Mr.
Radagast is it?, could be left to his own taters.'
'It's not a dwarvish message,' answered the wizard. 'It's a
message to the dwarves. And to others. I have many such
messages to be taken all over: north, south, east and west. More
than that I cannot tell you. Except that the message is very
important. If someone from this village does not deliver it, I
shall have to go myself. But I am expected in Gondor, to take the
same message to the King; and also to Edoras. If you could see to
leaving your garden for a fortnight, Mr. Fairbairn, I am sure Bob
here could have someone keep an eye on it. And I can supply you
with a pony. Working with beasts is a specialty of mine, you might
'Well, I suppose I could
get away for a week or two, if you can scare up a pony from
somewheres. I'd rather not walk all the way there, it getting
along in the year as it is—and I do have work to do, family
'Good, then it's
settled,' said Radagast, ignoring this last part. 'We'll leave
first thing in the morning. I can ride with you as far as the
Greenway—I mean the New South Road, of course. After that
you will be on your own. Now I must go out and see to getting the
pony here in time.'
morning! Sakes! Good gracious me! If we're going to rush off, why
not go now? I can leave without any pocket handkerchiefs or warm
clothes and be miserable the whole way. And get chased by dragons
and swallowed by trolls and who knows what else. I've barely
finished my supper and now I'm expected to pack. Why, I don't even
know where my pipe is. Who can be expected to ride to Moria
without a pipe?'
'Be calm, my
good hobbit,' said Radagast, smiling to himself. He understood
Tomilo's meaning well enough: The Red Book was well-known
not only among hobbits, but now among the wider world as well.
'Nothing to get bebothered about,' he continued. 'We'll
leave in the morning when you are ready. Take your time, but don't
pack too much. The pony is long-legged and spry, but he won't like
a heavy load, even with half of it a halfling! Do try to get up
early, though. Be prepared, but don't dawdle. Oh, and your
pipe—it's on the mantel behind you.' And with that he swept
from the room and leapt on his horse, clopping away into the
'Well, he's a caution
and no mistake,' said Bob, as the sound of hooves died in the
distance. 'He came riding in about an hour ago from the west, as
if all the sons of Smaug was on his tail. Strolled right into
meeting and asked for the mayor. Never even took off his hat.
Mayor Roundhead is in Sandy Hall, of course, for the Quarters, so
I had to do the honours. You know the rest.'
'What's this message? Does it sound important?'
'Don't know. It's writ down and sealed, he says. You're not so
much delivering a message as carrying a letter—that's what I
would say, Tomilo. I wonder if it's that he don't trust hobbits?
Just to remember it, I mean. And not to tell no one else.'
'Unlikely. Probably just a letter that don't concern us. Although
if it's the same as one going to Gondor—and everywhere else,
as he says—it should concern us, too. We've probably just
been left out of reckoning again.'
'I don't know. If it means we'll be left alone, I say all to the
good. I'd just as soon be forgot and stay forgot, as far as news
goes anyway. Anything that concerns hobbits, we'll hear about it
from the Shire. You take care, now. We'd appreciate a report when
you return, if you think about it. Oh, and don't dawdle,' he added
with a chuckle and a handshake.
Tomilo sat by the fire,
thinking about tomorrow. And yesterday. First of all, he decided
not to bother with packing until the morning. It was too dark to
go looking for everything with just a candle. And he would take
his time in the morning, too. If Radagast left without him, he
left without him. As long as the pony was good, he could make it
to Moria on his own. He knew where Moria was. Due east. He'd never
been there, but he knew well enough.
Since the fall of Sauron and the end of the Third Age, times had
been peaceful and easy. No one thought of goblins or wolves, much
less dragons or black riders. Tomilo knew of them, it is true. He
had read about them in the books in the museums—in
Undertowers or Great Smials. But they were all creatures of the
past, the last ones killed by his father's fathers' fathers, he
thought. A trip to Moria was simply a good excuse to get out of
Farbanks for a spell; to be on the road again, out under the
stars. Farbanks was becoming just like the Shire. He had felt like
the last bachelor in the Shire, and now he was the last bachelor
in Farbanks. Or the last bachelor over thirty-five. It was rare
now for a hobbit male to get out of his tweens untaken. Families
were large, and the sooner they started, the larger they could
get. This was fine with Tomilo. He came from a large family, of
course, and he liked company. But he had never been one to rush
into things. At thirty-six, there seemed more reasons for not
marrying (yet) than for marrying. That was all. There were things
to do first. What things, he was less and less sure. Still,
something told him to wait.
here he was in Farbanks, almost a hundred miles south of the Three
Farthing Stone and more than fifty miles from the Old Forest. The
last hobbit settlement in Eriador. The Town Hall itself, the only
building in the village, only went up forty years ago. But it was
needed, all said. Farbanks was needed for overflow, if nothing
else. And then there was the trade with Minhiriath; and of course
the leaf grew so well down here.
There were already bustling communities in the Tower Hills (where
he had come from), the South Downs, even Fornost. Arthedain, that
the hobbits called the North Farthing, was the most populous place
west of Bree. Oatbarton alone was now bigger than Hobbiton and
Bywater put together!
Tomilo had moved from the Tower (as it was called), he had hoped
to find things different on the frontier. He had envisioned a bit
of excitement. New faces, new folks. Work to be done. But hobbits
are a proficient race, and most do not hearken to excitement.
Within the first few years Farbanks became as domesticated as Took
Hall, everything running in its groove, well oiled and pleasant.
In fact it was better, from the hobbit point of view, than Took
Hall; for Took Hall had its eccentricities still, and its strong
characters. Farbanks had no use for such things. There were no
weeds in the gardens, no dead leaves on the thatch, no stones in
the road. The mill ground its grist and the maidens sang and the
children played under the Great Mallorn.
Tomilo fell asleep with the front door and all the windows open,
satisfied with this bliss and yet somehow uneasy. He had no fear
of burglars, but his dreams were fitful nonetheless.
morning dawned clear and chill. As soon as the first ray stole
through the front window and creapt across Tomilo's bed, he was
out of the covers and collecting his gear. His packs were on the
lawn, checked and re-checked many times before Radagast appeared.
The sun had just begun to warm the dew when that wizard rode up on
a well-formed bay with untrimmed mane and tail. Behind him trotted
a slender mottled-grey pony—quite tall for a pony and a bit
intimidating to Tomilo.
I'm late,' announced Radagast, with no other greeting. 'I sent
word to Bombadil last night, but the birds took their time.
Drabdrab just arrived, and he's already tired and sleepy. We'll go
slow and make it a short day. Still, we should get to Sarn Ford
before we rest.'
equipped with a saddle of superior workmanship, long worn but
finely tooled. It had strange shapes cut into its flaps and
intricate patterns even on the girth and stirrup leathers. It was
also equipped with breastplate and breeching, but these were thin
and mostly ornamental—for the hanging of bells or other
decoration. Tomilo knew somewhat of working leather, and he asked
Radagast about the figures and the tracery.
'That saddle was made for an elf child, I believe. Where or by
whom I don't know. Imladris or the Havens, I would guess. Or
Iarwain—that is, Bombadil, I should say—may have kept
a much older saddle, from Eregion I suppose. Leather generally
wouldn't last that long, but Bombadil has his ways. Those are
tengwar, or elf letters, as you would call them, those
lines running along the edge. Certar, or elf runes, are
usually used for incising, but leather allows for the curving
lines, so that the craftsman has preferred them here. I would read
them for you, but they are too small for me to see without
dismounting, and we are already late as it is. Remind me and I
will translate them later. The larger lines are probably just
decoration. Hop up and I'll tell you more on the road.'
slung his packs behind the saddle and cinched them on. Then he
scrambled uneasily up behind Drabdrab's neck. His legs were too
short, and he had to climb back down and adjust the stirrups. Even
at their shortest they still hung below his feet. Once in the
saddle, his balance was good, so he just had to let his feet hang,
unshod and unstirruped. 'Hobbitback', he thought.
headed down the Farbanks' road, southeast, and Tomilo followed. He
gave Drabdrab no signals with the reins: it was unnecessary. The
road was straight, Radagast was ahead on Pelling (the big bay
horse) and what else was there to do but follow. As they got to
the edge of town, though, Tomilo heard someone calling to him and
he pulled Drabdrab up. Radagast stopped also. The Burdoc hole was
the last in the bank to the north of the road, and Primrose was at
the gate looking toward Tomilo. Suddenly she ran up to Drabdrab
and patted his nose.
you going, Mr. Fairbairn? You look packed for a while.'
'I'm just delivering a letter to Moria, Prim. I'll be back
'Are you working for the
post now?' she asked with a smile.
'No. Bob asked me to do this special. It's important or I
wouldn't. I'll be back.'
right. Don't burgle any dragonhoards. And if you do, bring me back
something pretty. You take care of him Radagast!' The wizard
tipped his hat to her, and they trotted the horses back into the
'Who was that?' said
mean "Who was that?" She knew you. How did she
know your name?'
'Oh, I've seen
the lass a time or two, gathering berries. I ride in this area
occasionally, looking for lost things, finding found things. She
has a bright eye, doesn't she?'
'I suppose,' answered Tomilo, grumbling.
After a couple of
hours the two riders came to the main road from the Shire to Sarn
Ford. A turn to the northwest would have taken them to Waymoot,
and beyond to Little Delving. But their way was south and then
east. Not a soul was to be seen for miles in either direction. The
traffic of Eriador stopped for the most part at Farbanks. Men did
not use this road, and the occasional elf or dwarf who did were
rarely to be caught doing it.
All that day Tomilo followed Radagast, speaking little. For a
hobbit Tomilo was rather taciturn, having lived by himself for
many years, and so having lost the habit of easy speech. As for
Radagast, he was the least social of all the wizards, and wizards
are a rather solitary lot to begin with. Whilst Gandalf had
wandered about all the Western World, having his hand in the
affairs of almost every region, and most households; and whereas
Saruman had at first attempted to befriend the elves—especially
the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn of Lothlorien—but had
in the end to make due with the company of orcs; at the same time
Radagast had always lived alone, either at Rhosgobel or in his
solitary rides through Mirkwood and Wilderland. Radagast's only
friends had been the beasts and birds, with whom speech was partly
or wholly unnecessary. So it was drawing on toward evening before
Tomilo finally thought to ask a question.
'Mr. Radagast, Sir, I were wondering if we might stop for a bit? I
do believe Drabdrab is almost done up. What with not sleeping at
all last night, as you said.'
'So he is, my boy. I almost forgot, with all this on my mind about
Moria and Gondor and everything else. I'm usually quite aware of
the beasts and their needs—I suppose I'm not really myself
these days. We'll stop just before we reach Sarn Ford—over
the next rise and down the slope. Of course, it's not a ford
anymore, not since the King built the bridge, but that's what they
still call it.
Tomilo had so far travelled quickly. The wizard had not wanted to
press Drabdrab, but the horses had been trotting or galloping much
of the way. Only on uphill stretches, or when the road turned bad,
did Radagast allow the beasts to walk. So they had made it to the
vicinity of the bridge by nightfall.
Tomilo had been over the Baranduin only a single time—on a
daytrip to Bree long ago. But the great river was much larger
here, only some 50 leagues south of the Brandywine Bridge, having
gained the flow of the Withywindle as well as several other
smaller rivers. It was still muddy and red, and Tomilo thought to
himself that he would not want to fall into it. The water looked
very cold. He and Radagast did not cross yet, but made camp to the
right of the road, under a small copse of trees, in clear view.
They were not hiding from anyone, nor did they fear to meet
travellers. In fact, Radagast quite hoped to meet travellers,
especially dwarves. He could not pass on important messages to
those met on the road, but he could learn somewhat from them about
the news on ahead, on the road or off it. And the affairs of the
various peoples had suddenly taken on a new urgency for him. To do
what was necessary over the next several months, Radagast must
learn everything possible about all those around him—their
trusts and mistrusts, new alliances and long-standing
It was in the recent
memory of Radagast that none would think of stopping near a
crossroads or a ford such as this great bridge. In these newly
prosperous times, however, such spots were the best place for
travellers to congregate, to camp after nightfall, and to expect
visitors with tales of new wealth, new discovery, and larger
families and towns. If this is what Radagast desired, he was not
disappointed. He and Tomilo had arrived early, but soon after dark
a travelling band of dwarves came over the bridge and made
directly for Radagast and Tomilo's blazing fire. The hobbit could
hear them singing as they tramped along: a proper dwarf song of
gold and silver and hidden hoards of wealth.
In a deep
dark cave in the mountain's lap
We delve straight down with a
of our pick, ho!
Then we take what we finds
the glittering mines
as long as it shines
out bright, ho!
And none can blast the great black stone
or chip and crack
the earth's backbone
like Durin's kin!
Not elves or men!
by the beard on Durin's chin!
Be it silver or gleaming gold
clear-white jewel or metal cold
we will find it
from the tools of dwarves, ho!
The song ended
as they came into the firelight—clumping loudly in the dark
as only dwarves can—and bowed low, introducing themselves in
'Frain, at your
'Bral, at your
'Kral, at your
'Min, at your
'Radagast the Brown,
at yours and your entire family's, I'm sure,' replied the wizard,
not bowing, but only touching his brown stone with his right hand
and peering again into the fire. 'Oh, and this is my travelling
companion, the estimable hobbit, Tomillimir Fairbairn, of
Tomilo bowed low, but
looked at the dwarves uneasily. Although a wide traveller among
hobbits, Tomilo had not met any of the Naugrim before, and he
found their hard-edged visages and abrupt manner disconcerting.
Their clothes, too, were exceeding strange: dark and loose-fitting
kirtles, heavier surely than the weather called for. And with
boots large and wide enough for a very large man. Even Radagast's
boots were not so large. He might have worn Frain's boots as
overshoes, with his own boots inside.
'Do you come from Khazad-dum, as I suppose?' asked Radagast. 'And
is all the news still good from there, I hope?'
'The answer to both your questions is yes and yes,' replied Frain.
'The news is good. So good, in fact, that we would have little
reason to return to our mines in the Blue Mountains but for family
that has remained there. My brother, Kim, prefers our place there.
Less competition for space, and for reknown. It is still true as
it always was that for mithril, there is no place to compare to
the mines of Khazad-dum. But for jewels, the Ered Luin still
yields great wealth.'
true,' added Kral. 'In fact, with new tools made of mithril, we
are delving deeper and discovering more than ever before. All our
mines all over Middle Earth are yielding more, due to the use of
mithril tools, as well as the abundance of dwarves to wield them.
Now that we are not constantly at war, we may work doing what
dwarves were made to do.'
Fairbairn is travelling to Moria,' interrupted Radagast. 'I hope
the roads remain in good repair.'
'They do. But I wonder why a hobbit is going to Moria?' answered
Frain. 'We have had no trade with the Shire, save for pipeweed, in
many years. Might I ask if you are a trader in leaf, Mr.
'No. I have a
message from Cirdan for King Mithi.'
'From Cirdan of the Havens? Is it important?'
'I do not know. I am only the messenger.' Tomilo left it to
Radagast to explain, if he would. But Radagast changed the
subject. It was clear he felt the message to be appropriate for
King Mithi, but perhaps not for idle conversation with every
passing dwarf, no matter how trusty they might at first appear.
'Do you know anything of the
Great South Road?' asked Radagast. 'I myself am travelling that
way and wonder if there is any news from Rohan or the Gap. Is
Orthanc still deserted?'
all we know Orthanc is as it was five years ago and fifty years
ago—naught but a haunted tower,' said Bral. 'It is rumoured
that the treemen kill any who come near. Dwarves have never had
any love for forests, or for the creatures in them, so we do not
go that way or speak of it. When we travel to the Glittering Caves
we cross far down the Isen and come in from the west, hugging the
foothills of the Ered Nimrais. As for the South Road, there is no
news. But the folk of Dunland are not ones to make news or pass it
on, and we ask no more. I think you will find everything remains
quiet. But if you are Radagast the wandering wizard, as I think,
you will know as much as we do about the ways over and around the
that Radagast, as there is no other, but I have been in Eriador on
one errand and another since the first of the year. The eagles and
lesser birds of Rhovanion do not often travel west of the
mountains, and I have been left without my usual sources of
information. I must arrive in Minas Tirith—I mean Minas
Mallor*—before the end of the month, so I must gather news
on the hoof, as it were. There is really no time to lose.'
'Sarn Ford to Minas Mallor in a fortnight? You will have need of
your friends the eagles if you desire such speed. Your mount will
be halt before you reach Edoras, though I would not let such a
beast carry me even across the river. Your feet will carry you
there more surely, though perhaps with less haste.'
'I plan to change horses in Rohan. Good Pelling here is from the
West Emnet in the fields of the Rohirrim, and he will carry me
there as surely as any, and need no prodding as we get closer to
the grasses of his home. But perhaps you can at least tell me of
the Dwarvish settlements in the Green Mountains.* Does trade
remain good between Minas Mallor and Krath-zabar?'
'It is good. We still do not mine north of Nurn. And we have yet
to explore the Ash Mountains. The fear of Barad-dur and Minas
Morgul remains strong and overcomes even our love of delving and
our need for untapped veins of ore. It is said that Sauron sapped
all the strength from the mountains about Mordor long ago, to feed
his fires and his armies, and so we have an excuse for staying
away. But in the Green Mountains, that once were the Mountains of
Shadow, we have not found this to be so, at least south of
Osgiliath where we have dared to go. The range there is mostly
untouched, since Sauron oversaw almost no work—he only stole
from the hoards of others. It is said that the dwarves of Khand
supplied him with iron for his
*The name of
Minas Tirith had been changed by King Eldarion to Minas Mallor:
'tower of the rising sun.' And upon the rebuilding of Minas Ithil,
it was also renamed: Minas Annithel, 'tower of the setting moon.'
Two reasons were given for switching the nomenclature (remember
that it had been 'tower of the setting
sun' and 'tower of the rising
moon'). The first reason given by Eldarion was that
the sun could be seen to rise in the east. Minas Mallor faced
east, hence the logic of the name. His Steward complained that the
Ephel Duath blocked any view of the rising sun. But the King
replied that, by that way of thinking, the name Minas Anor had
been just as senseless, since Mt. Mindolluin blocked the sunset.
The second reason given by the King was that the moon had always
been a metaphor for the elves. The age of the elves was waning,
the age of men was waxing. Therefore, after the fall of Sauron,
the name Annithel was more descriptive. The Steward agreed on this
point. And at his urging, the Ephel Duath was also renamed: Ered
Galen, the Green Mountains.
armouries; but where
it was mined, we know not. We still do not communicate with the
dwarves of the east, who fought for Sauron, or at least were under
his dominion. Most have fled into the far reaches of Rhun and
beyond, where our knowledge ceases.'
'You have a king now at Krath-zabar?'
'Yes. King Rath. The High King remains at Erebor. But we also have
kings at Moria and the Glittering Caves. They are independent but
remain under oath. Little allegiance is required in times of
peace, but we retain our all our traditions. Our kingdoms are very
'Good,' said Radagast.
'That is as it should be, my good Krain. The dwarves are a wise
people in their way, and we need your strength. I am glad that you
prosper. Now, I was wondering, can you be so good as to tell Mr.
Fairbairn here the proper ways to approach your gates at Moria? I
have not knocked on your door, so to speak, from the west—I
always pay my visits, rare though they are, from the east,
arriving from the Dimrill Dale. Is there anything a hobbit should
know about arriving at the shining portals of the
'Nothing. The way
is wide and well-marked and we have no gates. We do not fear
attack, being all but impregnable anyway. And a single hobbit on
horseback is not likely to cause much alarm. Even the great
western gates of stone that have been rehung and given new
passwords are rarely closed, save at night. Mr. Fairbairn only
need state his errand to the gatekeeper and he will be led along
the proper passages and taken good care of. Such a visitor usually
would find an audience with the King extremely difficult, if not
impossible. But the names of Radagast and Cirdan should gain you a
few moments, if I am not mistaken. Messengers are treated with due
respect, and the dwarves have not forgotten the proper forms. You
should address King Mithi as "Lord," Mr. Fairbairn.
Other than that, if you are polite you can do little, being a
stranger, that would give insult.'
Radagast and Tomilo took
their leave of the dwarves early the next morning. A heavy fog had
settled in the river valley overnight and Drabdrab was dripping
with dew as Tomilo slipped up into his saddle. Pelling snorted and
blew great draughts of smoke into the heavy air, trying to warm
his nostrils for the long day ahead. Radagast checked the horse's
hooves carefully and rubbed his ears, speaking softly to him. Then
he wiped the mist from his own saddle with his brown cloak before
mounting. The dwarves were pulling on their great packs as
Radagast and Tomilo rode past.
'My good dwarves, you said you were travelling to the Blue
Mountains? Are you crossing the Lhun?'
'Indeed,' answered Frain. 'The old mines are all in the southern
range, of course. But our new mines in the northern range of the
Ered Luin have become most profitable. The caves we seek, and the
home of Kim, are some two days journey past the river Lhun, high
in the eastern slopes.'
wonder if you would be so good as to give a message to the elves
as you pass the Havens, if it is not too much out of your way. I
know you have little love for the elves (except at times some of
the Noldor—since Aule rules the hearts of all of you), but
if you could let Cirdan know that I found someone to go to Moria,
and that I myself am gone to Gondor, it would be a great help to
me. It is a simple message and may be passed on by mouth to any
elf you meet.'
'We will if we
can. But won't you tell us what message goes to Moria and Gondor?
If it concerns the dwarves of Moria, it will concern us. And we
had rather not wait for the message to travel on the road we have
just covered and back.'
afraid that is impossible, unfortunately. It is a message from
Cirdan to Lord Mithi himself. What he may choose to do with that
information, I know not. He may proclaim it as news of general
interest. He may not. But I suspect you will hear of it soon
enough, one way or another. I fear I have been imprudent in
handling the whole affair, and I apologize. I have grown
accustomed to talking freely in these untroubled times, and I am
afraid I have said too much. I should have said nothing at all,
and saved you from needless concern. But again, thank you for your
news of the east, and give my message if you can. If you cannot it
is of little importance.'
Radagast and Tomilo left the dwarves and rode over the bridge,
passing into the open lands beyond. The day was warming quickly,
and the two riders hoped to leave many leagues behind them by the
end of it.
prosperity of the Fourth Age, the wide lands between the Baranduin
and the Greyflood remained mostly unpopulated. It was almost fifty
leagues to Tharbad, and from the bridge at Sarn Ford to the new
bridge at Tharbad there was little to see. The ground was rocky
and flat, with few trees and little vegetation of any kind. At one
time, the Old Forest had covered much of Cardolan, reaching even
to the northern parts of Enedwaith. But the cataclysms at the end
of the First Age had temporarily inundated a large part of Middle
Earth, from Beleriand all the way to the Hithaeglir. Beleriand
remained drowned to this day, and Ossiriand as well—save the
small regions of Forlindon and Harlindon. The Gulf of Lhun had
taken Mount Dolmed and the cities of Belegost and Nogrod, and many
other fair things had passed away forever. The receding waters
left Eriador changed but intact. Most of the Old Forest had been
swept away, never to return. Cardolan arose from the waters a
desolate place, and it had remained desolate in many regions to
the present age. As Tomilo looked north toward the South Downs and
the Barrow-downs, he saw nothing but low bushes and dry grass as
far as the eye could see. Brakes of hazel and clumps of thorn
there were, and dry rivulets meandering through the rough country
like a weird sunk-fence dug by a madman. To the south it was much
the same—a few stands of trees here and there in the
distance, and some old willows and oaks along the line of the
Brandywine as it snaked its way to the sea.
The two travellers had been riding all day through this empty
heath, stopping only to eat and to water the horses. Radagast had
been grumbling to himself since the bridge at Sarn Ford; and
suddenly, in the late afternoon, he spoke up, startling the hobbit
out of his musings on the landscape.
'I have made a terrible mess of the whole affair already,' he
began, almost to himself, or to Pelling. He stroked his beard and
fumbled with the brown stone about his neck. 'I either say too
much or too little. For ages I have spoken to almost no one but
the birds and beasts, and now I am expected to converse with
dwarves and hobbits and who knows what else. I am not fit for it.
I am the wrong one to trust with such things. That meeting with
the dwarves was a complete disaster. Imagine, sending dwarves with
messages to elves, and hobbits with messages to dwarves! I don't
know what I am thinking. But I can't do it all myself. It is too
big for me, I tell you.'
is too big?' asked Tomilo, somewhat surprised to see a wizard out
'This. . . this whole.
. . Oh, I can't say. That's the problem. I wish Gandalf hadn't
gone back, sailing away just when things look really bad. Bother,
I shouldn't have said that either. See, I can't be discreet, as
wisdom demands. I was always the least of the wizards, and now I'm
made to feel it. I'm surprised Cirdan even trusted me as the
messenger. Gandalf would never have told a band of travelling
dwarves of the existence of a message to their king. It is absurd.
I am a counsellor, sent here to gather information, not pass it on
like a fool at any chance meeting.'
'I don't think you did any harm. If we have all become too
trusting, it is only to be expected. Times are good.'
'For the present. Good times cannot last, my dear Mr.
Fairbairn, and being overtrusty is not a custom that ever lasts,
for it undermines itself. I must not let my tongue wag, and I must
think out my policy beforehand.'
'Well, your hints are as disquieting as any news could well be. I
won't ask you about the message, since I can see you feel you have
said too much already, and since I will likely find out soon
enough, when I am in Moria. But I wonder if you, or Cirdan, have
had the foresight to send messages to the Shire? I am sure the
Thain would be interested to hear of any news that concerns the
rest of the world. And he might take it ill hearing the news
secondhand, from the king's messengers, or from my report to
'Don't worry about
that, my friend. The Thain has likely already been told, since
your lands border on the Western Sea. The Tower Hills are only a
short ride from the Havens. On this, the hobbits will be the first
to know rather than the last. Cirdan remembers Frodo Baggins and
his companions, and the Shire will never be left out of the
reckoning of the wise again.'
'That is well, at least. Still, whatever concerns you had about
our talk with the dwarves cannot come to anything, surely. The
dwarves of Moria mean no one any harm, do they? I don't see how
what they know could be of use to anyone, even the enemy. And
there is no enemy. '
you are right. There is no enemy, for the present. Besides, it is
not that I am worried about leaking any information. I only told
them of a message they will hear of later, in the proper way. But
that is what I mean. It was not proper. They should have been told
or not told. I must relearn the proper forms. I must become more
wary. I must learn to speak to strangers as one of the wise would.
I must not say more than is necessary, or show weakness. There may
come a time when such traits might be fatal.'
'Oh my! I hope not, or we shall all be dead, and me first of all.
Surely it is not as bad as all that!'
'I have already said too much.'
'Well, then, let's change the subject, by all means. Evening is
coming on, and I can't be imagining such things. Let's see, why
don't you tell me what these letters on my saddle mean? It will be
dark soon and you won't be able to see them at all.'
'Yes, you are right. I think we have had enough riding for today.
I am in a great hurry, but I think there is no need for us to
travel after dark. When I leave you at Tharbad, I can make
whatever speed I want. For now, let us be easy with poor Drabdrab.
He is not used to these distances like Pelling.'
Soon they dismounted and unpacked the horses. Once camp had been
made and a small fire was going in preparation for the night,
Radagast approached Drabdrab and studied the saddle closely for
must have had this saddle a very long time, though how he kept it
in this condition it is beyond my skill to tell. I know something
of the tanning of hides and of the preservation of things, but I
myself could not conjure a spell to make leather last this long.
This saddle comes from Hollin, the very place you are now headed.
It was made sometime in the Second Age, before its destruction,
and long before the destruction of Numenor. It bears the
inscription of its maker here, you see?—it says in Quenya,
the language of the Noldor, Galabor of Hollin made this.
Written quite prominently. And here below, writ even larger,
running in this great arc, the letters say, Arethule, child of
the West, Varda protect thee.* And see all the fine tracery.
These are symbols of the Noldor. The two trees and the stars.
Above Galabor's name are the phases of the moon, punched into the
leather. And these are the Silmarils—see, below the central
star—that the First House of the Noldor still used as signs
even after the defeat of Morgoth and the final loss of those gems.
saddle was made for a child—a very special child, I should
say—for most leatherwork at that time would have been
inscribed in Sindarin rather than in Quenya. Saddlework was mostly
a thing considered too vulgar for such high speech. This elfchild,
Arethule (which means "sun spirit"), was no doubt one of
the children of the contingent of High Elves living in Hollin at
that time. Celebrimbor, grandson of Feanor (who invented this
writing), was one such. His inscription was on the west doors of
Moria before they were broken. I think the dwarves keep the
fragments of that door as heirlooms in the vaults of Khazad-dum.
The parents of this child may have been of the same family as
Celebrimbor. If Galadriel were still in Middle Earth, she might be
able to tell us somewhat of this Arethule. She was of the Third
House of Finwe and Celebrimbor was of the First, but she and
Celeborn spent many years in Hollin in the Second Age, I believe,
before going on to Lothlorien. No one else but Bombadil could say
aught of such a thing as this saddle, I think. Keep it well,
Tomilo, while it is in your care! It is a thing of great worth,
and would be greatly treasured by some in Imladris or Lorien, were
it known to exist. I wonder how it came into the hands of Bombadil
in the Old Forest? It is a question for our next meeting. Come,
let us tend the fire and prepare our dinner. The light is now
*Here is a letter-for-letter
translation: galabor eregioneva essent/
arethule/ tartanno numenello fanuilos le tirai.
You will notice that two different r's
are used. The r in
Galabor is a final r,
and so is the only one that is not long. The e
in essent is
not written, since it would be understood that no word begins with
ss. Also, 'to make'
is a very common verb: it had become unnecessary to differentiate
it from words beginning iss- or
Proper names beginning with a vowel still required an initial
character, however. That is why Arethule does not begin with the
Quenya character for r.
Since the tehtar (the
super-character devices) indicated a following vowel in Quenya,
but never a preceding one, the initial A
must be indicated with the character used. The 'a'
tehtar was often also used, especially as a decorative flourish in
formal writing. This was not read Aa.
In this mode used by Galabor the Quenya y
character is a long r,
the y with a
doubled tail is rd,
and a tripled tail is rt.
The Quenya character u
The next morning Tomilo
and Radagast set out once more. Tomilo was amazed to think that he
was sitting on an heirloom of the High Elves, made in Hollin in
the Second Age. As they galloped through the empty lands, he
became lost in his own imaginings, taking him back in time—a
time when wondrous creatures still walked in Middle Earth, passing
with grandeur and terror. Elves with glittering swords and rings
of fell power, tall men with high helms and burnished shields,
great worms and foul goblins and Witchkings in black robes.
was true, the King in Gondor was yet a person of great majesty and
lineage—or so Tomilo had been told, for he had never seen
him. And elves still lived in faraway places, in towers by the sea
or in great caves in the forest or in tall trees on the other side
of the mountains. But he had never seen them either. Even when he
had lived in Westmarch, only a few leagues from the Havens, he had
not encountered a single elf. There were tales of them, to be
sure, and reported sightings. A messenger even rode through
occasionally on the main road for all to see, or so it was said.
All the same, Tomilo had not seen one. He had never even seen a
dwarf until two days ago. All borders were supposed to be open,
after the fall of Mordor and the rebuilding of Arnor. And yet
little had changed. In good times, folks kept to themselves. They
kept their thoughts to themselves, and took care of their own.
Men had passed through the
Northfarthing quite often, soldiers of Arnor and the builders and
settlers of Fornost, reclaiming all the fertile valley between the
Hills of Evendim and the North Downs. But even these, after a
quick look at the settlements of the hobbits, and maybe a stop in
the taverns for a taste of 'halfling beer', had returned to their
own towns and farms, and were mostly never heard from again.
Except for pipeweed, and the occasional trade of a pony, the
products of the Shire did not interest the men of Fornost. They
already had their own markets in the south. And the tastes of men
and hobbits, whether in food or clothing or housing, had little
overlap. Each community was content to keep to itself. No mixed
town, of the Bree sort, had formed during the expansion of the
Shire and the emigration of men from Gondor to the north
countries. It was once thought that there might be, and King
Eldarion, son of King Elessar, had promoted the mingling of man
and hobbit, or at least the sharing of economies. He had reversed
the decree of his father that had forbidden men to enter the
Shire, and had encouraged friendly relations between the two
peoples. Men were still forbidden to settle in the Shire, but they
were not forbidden peaceful excursions, or the building of
relationships, business or otherwise. And hobbits were encouraged
to settle in Arnor in any way they liked—in the towns or out
of them. But it had never come to pass. There was simply too much
resistance from within. The hobbits of the Shire were proud of
their independence and the men from Gondor were also content with
their own society.
Two more uneventful days passed on the
road. The riders met no one and saw no other beast larger than a
squirrel. Radagast searched the skies for birds of good omen or
ill, but found neither. Near the end of the third day from the
ford, he and Tomilo weathered a short storm that blew in violently
from the southwest. They could see it coming for hours and took
shelter at last under a lonely tree; but though it poured hard
enough to sting any exposed skin (and threatened to spook the
ponies with the loud thunder—only the soft words of Radagast
kept them from rearing), it did not last. They returned to the
muddy shining road and continued their progress under the still
The next day was
dry. The storms had gone on over the Misty Mountains to soak the
uplands of Lorien and the Dimrill Dale. Tomilo and the Wizard had
fallen into their accustomed silence after breakfast, and the
hobbit had been daydreaming again—thinking of the times when
adventures actually happened.
In the books he had read of the old times, a hobbit couldn't so
much as leave his hole without terrible, dangerous, interesting
things happening. Tomilo didn't really want anything
too interesting to happen, but a little minor adventure might be
welcome. Meeting someone that Radagast could zap with his staff,
for instance. But Radagast wasn't a wizard like Gandalf, thought
Tomilo. Radagast didn't even carry his staff. There it was, just
tied to his saddle, sticking up in the air, useless.
Tomilo's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Radagast himself.
They had been riding all day, with only short pauses to rest the
horses. Radagast had not spoken since midday.
'We are about five leagues from Tharbad. We will camp here and
make the crossing tomorrow. There are marshes we will have to
cross before we get there, and they will be better managed during
the day, when we can ride through them quickly. During the night
they would give the horses (and us) little rest, even this late in
the year. It is still many weeks until the first frost, except in
the mountains, and the flies in the marshes are yet a nuisance to
travellers on the road. Here the ground is firm, and there is even
a bit of dry wood for the fire. Come, let me tell you what to
followed Radagast off the road and into a loose thicket of
brambles and scrubby trees, gnarled and blasted as if by passing
flames. A white fungus covered the ground here and there, and the
roots of the little trees rippled the ground like waves,
threatening to make sleep very difficult. The earth appeared to
offer no flat spot large enough even for a hobbit to lie down upon
in comfort. Pelling and Drabdrab, meanwhile, entertained no such
fears. They would sleep standing. For now they rustled through the
undergrowth, searching for late shoots or the scent of anything
soft and green. Radagast wandered off in search of water. Tomilo
made the fire.
Over a frugal
meal of bread and sharp cheese and apple cider warmed over the
flames, Radagast gave Tomilo the directions for tomorrow. After
the bridge at Tharbad, Tomilo would be on his own. Radagast must
go south with all speed, and Tomilo must turn toward the
mountains. There was a road that followed the Glanduin for almost
forty leagues* before crossing it and turning north.
'You must take this road with good speed,' Radagast told the
hobbit. 'Drabdrab should make the journey to Moria in four days.
Five at the most. The crossing of the Glanduin is a ford, not a
bridge; but it is shallow and slow, save in the spring when the
snows melt. You should have no trouble with it now. For a few
weeks in May it is swift and treacherous, and for this reason it
is also called the Swanfleet. Swans do not frequent the upper
reaches of the Glanduin, near the mountains. But further down, in
the marshes at the confluence of Glanduin and Gwathlo, there are
great flocks of swans and geese and ducks unnumbered, especially
at this time of year. They stop over on their long flights from
the Bays of Forochel to their wintering homes in Umbar and Harad.
In a few weeks the waters of the Nin-in-Eilph, the Waterlands of
the Swans, will be white with the pausing flocks. You may also see
some from the northern vales of the Anduin, who fly over the Misty
Mountains to join their western cousins in the long flight south
over the White Mountains. These birds from the east pass over the
Misty Mountains just as we do—through the Redhorn
'Once you have crossed the
Glanduin, simply follow the dwarf road north and east some ten or
twelve leagues until you reach the Sirannon, the Gate Stream. This
you follow to the gate, of course. There were once some stairs and
some falls as you made the final approach to the Western Wall, but
I don't know if they have survived the rebuilding of the West
Gates. But I expect you will have been spotted by dwarves by this
time, and will have an escort the rest of the way.
escort?' interrupted the hobbit. 'I'll be a prisoner, you
'No, no. Don't be absurd,
Mr. Fairbairn. None of that. No one keeps prisoners in the Fourth
Age. But don't be suprised that the dwarves should want to keep an
eye on you. It is their kingdom,
after all. They can't be expected to allow strangers to wander
'After you have delivered
the letter to King Mithi, and taken some refreshment and rest, you
will no doubt wish to return as quickly as possible to your garden
and your work. Stay as long as you like in Moria. I don't mean to
rush you. Mayhaps the great caves of the dwarves will be of more
interest to a hobbit than to a wizard—what with your
instinct for burrowing, I mean. At any rate, ride back the way we
came. There is no other way, unless you want to return through
Rivendell and take a month in the journey. When you arrive in
Farbanks, simply release Drabdrab at the north end of town, and be
sure he is well watered. He will make his way back to
The next morning they rode on. The flies of the
marshes were still torpid from the cool night air, and bothered
them little. Before long they came to a grey bridge, some nineteen
ells across, made of stone and marly earth. There were carven
figures at each entrance, smaller versions of the great pillars of
the Argonath, but much less foreboding. Rather than the helm and
crown of the ancient kings, these stone heads bore only the single
star of the House of Elendil. They were carven in the likeness of
Elessar, who had refortified Arnor and rebuilt much of the road to
Arthedain and Fornost. In the right hand of each figure was a
marble bough—an image of a shoot from the White Tree of
Gondor, scion of Nimloth. And the left hand was raised, not in
warning, but in greeting.
Tomilo rode between the figures and over the waters of Gwathlo he
thought of the King now in Gondor, great grandson of Elessar, the
fourth of his line. Tomilo had never considered that he was part
of a larger realm, that the Shire was only a kingdom within a
kingdom, suffered to exist only by the goodwill of a great man in
a faraway city of towers and flying banners and white trees. A
great man Tomilo would probably never meet. Tomilo paused at the
middle of the span, and Radagast turned also to peer at the
his name? I mean, what is he called, the King in Gondor?'
'He is Telemorn,
son of Celemorn, son of Baragorn, son of Aragorn. But he is called
King Elemmir, after the star Elemmire, one of the first stars in
the heavens wrought by Elbereth before the first days. See, there
it shines even now, the star-jewel, blazing high on the breast of
Tomilo looked up,
but he could see nothing in the bright sky but blue beyond blue.
*The Numenorean measure of distance
was the 'lar,' equal to about three English miles. I have followed
Professor Tolkien's usage of the 'league' to translate 'lar,'
making the forty leagues in question approximately 120
'Yes, the stars are there, even
during the day, my good Mr. Fairbairn,' laughed Radagast. 'They do
not run away and then scamper back, just for your delight. But the
sun drowns out their dim glow from the eyes of most.' The wizard
stared at the sky intently and seemed to lose himself for a
moment. 'Hmm, where was I? Oh, yes. King Elemmir has ruled
only a score of years, following his father King Eldamir who ruled
almost a hundred. The new king is a young man, by the measure of
the Numenoreans, being not yet seventy, I believe. I have seen him
only once, when he was a boy, in the Druadan Forest. He was
beating a small drum, trying to call out the Druedain, the Woses.
But the little men would not show themselves, not even to a future
king of Gondor. I remember Telemorn complained, and said, "They
might at least beat their drums in answer." But it was to no
avail. He and his escort had to return to Minas Mallor with no new
stories of the Pukel-men.'
'Pukel-men? Woses? Who are they? Are they dwarves?'
'No, no. They were not fashioned by Aule. They are one of the
strange creations of Iluvatar. Although of much the same stature
as dwarves, they are far more nimble. Also, they love to laugh,
when they are with others of their own kind. They do not delve and
have no love for wealth or hoards. Dwarves do not like woods, but
the Druedain will live nowhere else. There are few left in Middle
Earth, and it may be that the loss of woods and the loss of the
Druedain are not unrelated.'
you think there are Woses in the Old Forest?'
'Not now, at any rate. Before the flood, when the Old Forest
spanned much of Eriador, I should think that the Druedain
flourished there. But now, none are left. The only two-legged
creatures in the Old Forest are Bombadil and Goldberry. And
perhaps one other.'
'There I go, getting
ahead of myself again. There may be one other that you might
include. But he is not a man or elf or halfling or dwarf or wizard
or sprite. And he prefers to keep his existence to himself—much
like Bombadil and Goldberry. The Red Book
has been a source of some frustration for them, if
you must know, for they do not want visitors. The scouring of the
barrows has left them open to nosy neighbours from the east, and
they have been forced to live further down the Withywindle. This.
. . this two-legged creature also wants to be left alone, so
please forget I said anything. Besides, he is no one to go
visiting. His welcome is unlikely to be warm.'
'Well, the mysteries of the world do
accumulate, travelling with a wizard. Especially one
with a loose tongue. But back to the King. Is this King
Elemmir the one you must deliver the message to now?'
'Yes. Precisely. And if I don't train my tongue in the next
fortnight, it could be very unpleasant for me. Telemorn is said to
have a reputation for irascibility. And he is not likely to be
impressed by a wizard, a brown one least of all. A messenger with
bad news is never wanted. An unexpected one, even less. An
unexpected one with a stained cloak and overworn boots—well,
he is in some danger of being thrown into the Anduin.'
'Surely you exaggerate! Are you suggesting that I may be in some
danger in Moria? Are the dwarves likely to be inhospitable, on
account of this message?'
you are right. I am getting overexcited about this whole business.
You have nothing to fear, my dear hobbit. But do be prepared for a
few awkward moments. Especially on the day after you first meet
with King Mithi. Once he reads the message, the air in the caves
may be a bit thick for a while. I can tell you this much: there is
nothing urgent about the message—there will be no muster, no
general upheaval. You will not be caught in any call to arms or
flight to the strongholds or any such thing. But the King and his
counsellors are likely to be a bit tense. They may question you.
They may be angry that you can tell them nothing more. Or that you
are a hobbit. But I do not think it will go much beyond that.
Remind them that you are under the protection of Cirdan, the elves
of the Havens, and myself, as well as the Thain. Offer to return
with messages, if you can think of nothing else. You need not
return past Farbanks: I will have riders going west before winter,
and I will instruct them to ask in Farbanks for any letters to be
sent on to Cirdan.'
'If I can
think of nothing else? You make it sound like I will be lucky to
get out at all! I have more than half a mind to turn around
and ride back now. You never told me there was any danger!'
'Not danger, Mr. Fairbanks. Never that. Let us say,
unpleasantness. Some small unpleasantness. You know how dwarves
can be. Testy. No more than that. Now please don't get in a huff.
They will have no reason to keep you there, no matter how they
feel about the news. They really have no use for hobbits, and
dwarves don't keep slaves. No matter what else may be said about
them, they are not that.'
right, enough. Please don't say another word about slaves.
Everytime you try to relieve my fears, you end up adding to them.
I will go, Mr. Radagast. But I consider you deeply in my debt. And
I don't believe I will know how deeply until this is all over
Radagast and Tomilo passed the bridge and rode down
to the crossings beyond. About a league from the river the road
diverged. To the left it ran directly toward the Misty Mountains
hanging ominously in the distance. To the right it curved in a
long arc, disappearing amongst the trees and boulders. Somewhere
beyond it straightened out and ran almost due south into Dunland.
This was the New South Road, identical to the Old South Road but
for its improved crossings and general upkeep. Bridges had
replaced fords, and here and there a small village had taken root
where the road crossed water or skirted a wood. There was even an
inn in one of these villages, near the halfway point from Tharbad
to the Gap. The inn was run by men of Gondor, not by the
Dunlendings: indeed the entire village consisted of settlers from
Gondor. The only exceptions were the groomsmen who worked in the
stables. They, of course, were of the Rohirrim. The villages of
the native Dunlendings were mainly off the road, and these
villages contained no inns or taverns. Even after three centuries,
they neither travelled nor wanted guests or other company. Much
like the Woses, they only wanted to be left alone.
looked at the mountains in the distance. They were still small and
indeed misty. They looked much like a line of low clouds, and one
had to squint to make out where the clouds of mist stopped and the
mountains of mist began. Suddenly Tomilo heard a distant honking,
high above and to the left. He looked up and watched as a great
vee of white birds wheeled over and turned to the south. He
listened to the fading honks until they were out of sight.
He turned to Radagast. 'It makes me want to go now and see the
swans where they gather—what did you call it?'
that. I should think they would be easier to meet than the
'Now, now. Don't get
yourself all in a pother. I tell you the dwarves are more bark
than bite. And, as beautiful as the swans are in the marshes, I
must tell you that Khazad-dum is also something to see. You should
be pulling at your toes in anticipation, not grinding your hobbit
teeth. Even an avoider of palaces, as I am, would make a week's
journey to see the Dwerrowdelf for the first time, and count it
time well spent, even with no other business to be done. See, look
at Drabdrab. He knows where he is going. Hollin never forgets the
elves, and never loses its mystery, no matter how many ages come
Tomilo felt the pony quivering under him, and
fancied that the beast did indeed seem to want to gallop off down
the road. This put him somewhat at ease. Also, he thought how he
was on a saddle that might be quivering in anticipation as well.
This seemed somehow absurd, but also somehow fitting, and the
hobbit smiled to think he had thought it.
'I hope everything goes well in Gondor, with the King and all. I
guess maybe I won't see you again. In a while, I mean,' stammered
'Yes, this is good-bye
for now. I am sure I will find something to say when I get there.
Let us hope it is not too awkward. Well, I must learn to speak
sometime. And this is the time, by all appearances. Be that as it
may, we may meet again, my dear hobbit. I must say that Gandalf
was right about the halflings, as he was about everything else:
your reticence and honesty both play well, even in the ears of the
"wise"; and, for myself, I have no fears about your
ability to deliver the message to the dwarves. And I shouldn't be
surprised to see you again. Eriador is not so far out of my
reckoning as it once was. Stay on the road, and don't stay too
long in Moria. Winter is not far away, remember! Farewell!' With
that he turned Pelling and galloped down the right hand way, his
brown cloak flying out behind him and waving above the
Radagast's final words of encouragement and Drabdrab's apparent
excitement, Tomilo still felt a bit glum as he made his way along
the Glanduin road. The unknown contents of the message weighed on
his mind, as did all the veiled forebodings of Radagast. The
letter itself was in his pack, safe and sound. He reached back to
be sure the pack had not come loose, or fallen off. It was still
there, all right, but touching the leather only made him think of
the letter all the more. When Radagast had given it to him as they
parted, Tomilo had only glanced at it for a moment (he did not
want to seem too curious). But he did see that it was sealed with
wax that bore the impression of the brown stone that hung about
Radagast's neck. Tomilo assumed Cirdan's seal was inside.
Tomilo wondered what a letter could say that would make even a
wizard turn into a fool, second-guessing himself and forgetting
simple things like watering the pony. The hobbit was clever with
his fingers and he thought he could probably get the letter open
without damaging the wax. No, that would be absurd. Preposterous.
It was even more repugnant to the hobbit than the idea of living
in ignorance. Normally he would never even consider opening a
letter not addressed to him, but this situation had put him out of
sorts. This surprised him almost as much as anything: that he
would even think such a thing.
But try as he might to think of something else, his mind kept
returning to the letter. He tried to think of the swans again. He
listened to the sky for a while, hoping to hear another honk.
Anything to break his train of thought. But he had come too far
east for the swans. They were already behind him. Finally he
reached into his pack and pulled out the letter. He looked at it
closely. There was no writing on the outside save two words only:
Moria, in Cirdan's flowing script; and underneath, in
Radagast's tall letters, Khazad-dum. Both were written
directly upon the leathern wrapping. The only other thing was the
thick wax seal. This was no letter for the post. It was a message
from a wizard to a king. A message from an elf prince to a wizard
to a king! Tomilo's hand trembled as he held it up to the sun.
There were no holes in the leather, no chinks, not even a dot of
What if he lost
it? What if he were attacked by orcs or dragons? What if someone
else found the letter after he was killed? How would they know who
it was for? Tomilo assumed that anyone important would know
Radagast's seal. In such a case it would be returned to Radagast,
supposed the hobbit. But what if the terrible thing that the
letter was warning of happened before Tomilo could get to Moria?
Or what if the letter got eaten or destroyed by fire, and Tomilo
escaped? And what if Radagast died in the terrible event, the
cataclysm? Shouldn't Tomilo know what to tell the survivors?
Tomilo shook his head and
pinched himself. His mind was playing him tricks. He was not
making any sense. Suddenly he laughed. If a cataclysm befell or
Radagast were eaten by dragons, neither King Mithi nor anyone else
would need to be warned of it. In that case it would have already
happened. Still, he would like to get a glimpse of the letter.
He now had the letter right up
to his face, examining the wax in close detail. At that very
moment Drabdrab suddenly snorted and stamped. Tomilo looked up. A
crane was dancing in the grass a few yards away from the road. It
was trying to pick something up, but the thing was moving too, and
at first Tomilo could not see what it was. Then the crane stabbed
it with its beak and Tomilo saw that it was a large trout, still
alive. The crane had been flying over, had dropped the fish, and
had come down to retrieve it. At last the bird made firm its hold
on the fish and it leapt again into the air on its great grey
wings. Then it flew back west toward the marshes of the
Tomilo looked again at
the letter. For some reason he no longer felt compelled to open
it. In fact he now felt a bit ridiculous—as if he had been
in some spell. He slipped the letter back into his pack and
fastened it tightly with the thong. Then he spoke jauntily to
'That was close, my
friend,' he said to the pony. 'I don't know what might have
happened if I had read that letter. If it is as bad as Radagast
hinted it was, I might have simply run off mad into the wild and
never returned. Mad Fairbairn, like Mad Baggins. Come to a bad
end, like great aunt Pemba in the Midgewater Marshes. Or I might
have gotten caught as a spy by the dwarves—when they noticed
the hobbit prints in the wax—and been hung upside down in a
dungeon as bat fodder. If that bird hadn't dropped his dinner when
he did, I don't know what I might have done. Makes me question
myself, it does. Makes me question my strength. Can't say that's
ever happened before, but I guess I never handled a letter from a
wizard to a king before. Sort of a trial by fire, I suppose. It
appears that Radagast is not the only one being tested and finding
himself lacking. I hope we all grow a bit—before whatever it
is that is so bad happens. If I nearly melt in the presence of an
important letter, what would I do faced with a dragon, like the
great Bilbo was? But I guess hobbits were made of sterner stuff
back then. We're just mice and worms compared to the heroes of the
Drabdrab snorted an
angry-sounding snort, as if he found this speech none to his
Tomilo laughed. 'Well,
Drabbie, your family line may be as spry as ever, and I shouldn't
be surprised to find that you were a definite improvement over
your ancestry—no matter how accomplished. But I haven't your
confidence. Not at the moment, anyhow.'
The rest of that
day was uneventful. Tomilo and Drabdrab followed the road league
after league, slowly diminishing the distance between themselves
and the mountains. But even at the end of the afternoon, after a
full day of riding, Tomilo could see little change. The mountains
still loomed under the clouds—not too far away, but not too
At dusk they
stopped. A few yellowhammers were flitting about with grass in
their beaks, hurriedly patching their nests before winter. Several
drops of rain fell but it didn't look like pouring just yet. The
mist from the mountains had come out to meet them, though, and it
glazed the back of the pony and moistened the hobbit's curly hair.
Tomilo found his cloak and hood and put them on before unloading
Drabdrab. Once the packs were off, the pony wandered away a few
yards in search of the best grass. Tomilo prepared a cold supper
and glanced round for a dry spot. There were no trees, but several
very large stones lay nearby in a sort of L shape. Two of the
stones leaned together and provided just enough of a roof to keep
a hobbit dry, provided the rain did not increase and the wind did
not begin to blow. Drabdrab returned and huddled against the east
wall of the larger rock. He did not seem to find the mist too
inconveniencing. Soon he and Tomilo were asleep, the hobbit's head
almost underneath the pony's forelegs.
The next day started
much like the last had ended. The mist still fell about them,
perhaps even thicker than it had been in the evening. It either
rained or threatened to rain all day and nothing else of
consequence happened. Tomilo and Drabdrab passed another wet night
in the wilderness and awoke to another misty moisty morning.
Finally, at about noon of the third day since he had left
Radagast, Tomilo noticed a change. The road turned north and began
to descend. The fogs thickened as the hobbit and his pony went
down and down, the trees and bushes along the road becoming closer
and denser at the same time. There were even signs that the
vegetation had been cut back to keep it from overgrowing the way.
Suddenly Tomilo saw two large
shapes rise out of the gloom. At first he was startled, but
Drabdrab continued walking forward, unconcerned. Soon the hobbit
could see that the shapes were but bridgeposts, standing out on
each side of the road. As they got closer, Tomilo saw that they
were carven stone figures, in size and countenance much like the
dwarves he and Radagast had met at Sarn Ford. The figures each
gripped two-headed battle-axes and wore helms strangely shaped.
Over the bridge spanned a narrow arch, bearing a message to all
who would cross. This it said:
someone had climbed the span and scratched with a sharp stone two
words under the incised warning 'or retreat.' The words were 'in
Tomilo found this dwarf pun rather disconcerting. If it was in
fact done by dwarves. Tomilo doubted it, having great difficulty
imagining dwarves with any sense of humour at all, even
Tomilo and Drabdrab
passed under the arch and crossed the bridge. Radagast had said
the crossing would be a ford but he had obviously not known about
this new bridge. The Glanduin rushed by underneath, icy cold and
fleet from the now looming mountains. If the fog had lifted,
Tomilo would have seen that he was at their very base, the
foothills beginning in a quick rise just to his right. Over these
foothills (and on a clear day) a traveller could see the many tiny
falls that fed the Glanduin. They shone in the distance as they
rushed down the rocky tree-covered slopes and fatefully met one
another at the bottom, impelled by the curve of the vale. Now, at
the end of a long season of melt, the falls were at their ebb. But
in the late spring the water under this bridge would be white with
the raging runoff of just-melted ice.
On this late autumn afternoon, under a low sky—one that
touched the treetops and merged with the fog of the vale that rose
to meet it—no such sights were to be had. So the hobbit
trudged off down the dwarf road with his hood over his face and
his cloak pulled tight round his waist. He tried to remember what
Radagast had said. He thought he had another day or two from the
river crossing to the Gates of Moria. Tomilo did not look forward
to it. With the rain and fog it appeared to be a wet and weary two
days, at the best. The rainy weather made him think of Bilbo's
travails with the dwarves, just before they met the trolls. Did
trolls still exist? he wondered. If they did exist, where did they
live? This seemed as likely a place as any, thought Tomilo. Near
to the mountains, in the wilderness. And what about goblins?
Goblins weren't extinct, at least as far as he knew. They hadn't
all thrown themselves into a pit when the Great War had been won.
They weren't terrorizing travellers, like in the old days, but
they were corked up somewhere, biding time and doing what mischief
they could, on the sly. How much mischief could they do, Tomilo
asked himself, this close to the mountains? Maybe more than enough
for him. He whispered to Drabdrab to pick up the pace, and pulled
his cloak about him even tighter. The pony jogged on a few paces,
just to humour him, but then settled back into a walk. There was
no danger he
smell. But let him get a sign of trouble on the wind, and see how
fast he could go, he told the hobbit with a snort and wag of his
It was the end of the next day and our two heroes
were soaked through and very grumpy. It had been drizzling all
night and all day, and there wasn't a dry spot on either of them.
The night had been miserable, with no campfire and no hot food and
only a few hours of shivering sleep. The hobbit and the pony were
both cursing the name of Radagast, and recommending the dwarves to
their own messengers and mail service, and dratting the whole
interconnecting scheme of wizards and high elves and kings and
other meddling busybodies who couldn't leave well enough alone.
Tomilo thought of his potatoes and his winter lettuces and of his
woodpile that was nowhere near the size it needed to be. By the
time he got back it would be too late to catch up. What had the
dwarves ever done for him, that he should go through this misery
for nothing, as a favour to a stranger in a brown cloak?
Confusticate the whole lot of them!
Just as he was working himself into a real steam, mumbling audibly
and beginning to wave his arms about, Drabdrab stopped. Tomilo
became still and mute as stone. He listened to the road in front
of him, straining to see through the fogs. Suddenly he heard the
sound of marching feet. Just as he began to see some small shapes
looming in the distance, he heard a cry:
'Halt there! This is a dwarf road. It serves the kingdom of the
Khazad. State your purpose.'
am alone and unarmed,' called out Tomilo. 'I bear a message from
Cirdan of the Havens for Lord Mithi your King. I beg leave to pass
in the name of Radagast the Brown, who gave this message to
For a moment there was no
answer. Tomilo could hear a low discussion from the direction of
the dwarves. Then one of them called out again.
'Come forward. Dismount first if you do not come on foot.'
Tomilo dismounted and walked forward slowly, leading Drabdrab. As
soon as he came out of the fog, he could see that there were only
four dwarves, also unarmed and looking rather unprepared and
confused. But when they saw Tomilo, they all relaxed. One (not the
leader) said, 'A halfling?' The leader immediately snapped,
'Silence, Galka!' and walked a pace forward.
'You say you have a message for Lord Mithi? May I ask what it
'It is a sealed
letter. I do not know the subject. Only that it is urgent and that
it comes from Cirdan.'
business, eh? Delivered by a halfling. Perhaps it concerns
'I do not think so,'
'No. The elves
probably don't smoke. Galka! Have you ever heard that the elves
Galka looked at
the others. They only shrugged. 'I don't think so, Sir.'
'You don't think so?'
never seen an elf, Sir. But I have not heard that they
'No. It doesn't seem
like something an elf would
does it? Not pretty enough, is it?'
'I say, is it,
'All right, then. I am Kavan,
Second Marshal of the West Gate (to Tomilo). And your name,
of Farbanks, Southmarch, the Shire.' He was about to add, 'and you
can call me Tomilo,' but he thought better of it. As soon as the
dwarves became accommodating, he would become accommodating, too.
But not until then.
Fairbairn, we shall lead you to the gates. We wouldn't want you to
get lost in the fogs and go tumbling into a ravine,' said Kavan,
with little or no expression. The hobbit wasn't sure if the dwarf
was being friendly or impertinent. The five of them proceeded
north along the dwarf road, Kavan leading and the hobbit in the
rear with Drabdrab. The pony seemed calm. He at least was not
offended by the Second Marshal's manner, despite what he had said
They had gone about a league, all silently
plodding through the heavy air and soggy ground. It was not
raining, but it threatened all the time to begin again in earnest.
The hobbit hoped to reach the gates before that happened. In his
present mood, any more rain might break the dam in his spirit, and
he might say something truly impertinent to the Second Marshal or
the Gatekeeper or the King himself. If he could just get
near a bit of a fire and have a bowl of hot soup, he might be in
proper spirits again. These two wishes took hold of his mind, and
he passed the next hour going from fire to soup and back again.
Just as Tomilo was beginning to
get dizzy from the circularity of his thoughts, and was beginning
to think of climbing back on Drabdrab to save a bit of strength,
the dwarf in front of him dropped back and whispered something. It
was Galka, the smallest (and youngest looking) of the four
dwarves. He was little taller than the hobbit (although Tomilo
thought to himself that a hobbitchild could live in one of the
dwarf's boots). Galka's beard, though full, was short and pointy.
It barely reached to his breastbone. His hood was red, and it
crumpled over to the left. Galka occasionally fixed the point, as
if self-consciously aware of its inadequacy, but it was of no use.
It always returned immediately to the left.
an elf, you know,' is what Galka had first whispered. Tomilo
looked at him as if there might be some follow-up to this
information. But as none was coming, he finally nodded and said,
Nothing was said on either
side for at least five minutes. Tomilo thought the conversation
had hit its one and only peak, when suddenly Galka turned again
and whispered, 'On the bridge!'
'What bridge?' pursued the hobbit, mostly to be polite.
'Over the Aksul—I mean the Glanduin. He—the elf—he
was riding over it. I
'Why did you tell the
Second Marshal you had never seen one, then?'
'Oh, Marshal Kavan—I never tell him anything. He wouldn't
believe me anyway. If I said I had seen one he would have told me
I hadn't. I don't think he even believes in elves.'
'Ah!' answered Tomilo, to fill the pause.
'Have you ever seen one?' asked Galka.
'No. But I believe in them. This message is from one. It would be
hard to have a real message from an imaginary person.'
'Hah! That's just what I think, too! But Kavan. . . no. I think he
thinks you are just a salesman of the leaf, with a good story to
see the King. He never believes anybody.'
Tomilo thought about this for a moment. It really did not matter
what Kavan thought. He had the letter in his pack. That was all
that was necessary.
continued Tomilo, 'were you doing under the bridge?'
'My hood blew off and fell through a crack in the timbers. I had
to climb down and fish it from the stream. Just as I got into the
water I heard bells tinkling. So I stood very still. I looked up
through the crack and saw him. He had golden hair!'
'Galka?' cried Kavan from the front of the line. 'Did you say
'No, Sir. Mr. . .
ah. . . Mr. . . ah . . . what's
(he whispered to the hobbit).
'Fairbairn,' the hobbit whispered back.
'Yes. Mr. Fairbairn asked me how much longer and I told him we
were almost there.'
'Is that it,
eh?' called back the Second Marshal. 'Nothing at all about
'All right. We'll be there in a few minutes, Mr. Fairbairn. See
that shoulder of rock? We go round that, turn right, and we are on
the steps. Come up to the front so I can pass you through to the
Gatekeeper. You'll have to give up your pony, but we'll take care
of him while you're under.'
Tomilo and Drabdrab went up to Kavan's side as the little troop
passed the shoulder of rock. A series of low steps began almost
immediately, climbing slowly over a low prominence and down. Just
beyond, a great depression in the mountains opened up and the
hobbit and the pony could see before them a small plain surrounded
on three sides by the cliffs. Tomilo could not actually see the
mountain walls, obscured as they were by the fogs and vapours. But
straight ahead, on the eastern side of the plain, the cliff wall
was sheer, rising some five and thirty fathoms at its highest
points before breaking into rough mountainside. On the north and
south sides the rise was less sheer; indeed, the road on this side
of the plain curved back and forth as it dodged around fallen
boulders and small arms of the hill that reached out into the
grassland. The open area was somewhat more than a mile across,
north to south; from the shoulder of rock to the east wall was two
furlongs. This is the area that had been filled by the lake when
the Nine Walkers had arrived from Rivendell. Tomilo remembered the
description of the lake well, and was relieved to find that the
dam had been broken by the dwarves and that the plain was now dry.
As he and the dwarves progressed east along the winding road, they
crossed several rivulets, spanned by short low bridges of stone.
These rivulets snaked across the plain to meet the Sirannon, the
gate stream, which had now regained its old banks. It now filled
the Stair Falls with its turbid waters before continuing on to
meet the Hoarwell far to the west.
The dwarves had also replanted the holly trees along the eastern
wall. Tomilo counted at least a hundred on the south side of the
gate, and he guessed (rightly) that there must be the same number
on the north side as well. During most of the two hundred and
ninety odd years since the last of the old trees of Hollin had
been uprooted by the Watcher in the Lake, these new trees had
stood as a symbol of the rebirth of Eregion. Legolas and Gimli
themselves had helped to plant them in the first years of the
Fourth Age, and the elf and the dwarf hoped that they would be a
sign to both their peoples that the years of enmity were at an
end. It was even thought for a time that the elves might start a
settlement near the gates. However, the loss of all wooded areas
in that region had doomed any such plans, as had the diminishing
number of elves remaining in Middle Earth. In the first three
centuries of the Fourth Age, the elves had found it difficult to
maintain their settlements in Lorien and Greenwood, and so they
found it necessary to abandon any talk of resettling Hollin. Since
the departure of Legolas, no elf (save the occasional messenger)
had been closer to Moria than the western edge of Lorien. And the
elves of the Golden Wood did not often pass its borders,
especially on the mountain side of the kingdom. This may account
for the doubts of Kavan.
addition to the holly trees, the dwarves had also planted a line
of cypresses along the Sirannon. Dwarves were not usually overfond
of trees, but cypresses held a strange and unique appeal. The
cypress was a tree after their own kind: simple, hardy,
long-lived, and fond of rocky places. The cypresses on the plain
of Moria thrived, and the dwarves came to love them.
Tomilo and his escort reached the gate without further incident.
The hobbit entrusted Drabdrab to a very short dwarf with hay in
his blue hood. The hobbit stroked the pony's nose and told him
they would be back soon. But Drabdrab seemed less nervous than
Tomilo: he just swished his tail and snorted. Tomilo took it as a
good sign and breathed out a long breath. They were finally here.
The stone doors stood open and
Kavan led Tomilo and the other dwarves past four sentries lightly
armed, under the great arch. Just inside were two guards in full
dwarvish regalia: mail, high helms, and battle-axes, all of
shining mithril. Beyond them Kavan selected a torch from a line on
the wall and continued straight up the long stairway. At the top,
the hobbit continued to follow his leader, but the other dwarves
did not. Their tour of duty over for the day, they returned on
their own to their various posts or families. At the first opening
on the left, Kavan asked the hobbit to wait outside. The dwarf
entered and Tomilo could hear him speaking to someone beyond the
doorway. After a moment he called Tomilo in.
'This is Mr. Fairbairn, from the Shire. Mr. Fairbairn, this is
Captain Gnan, Gatekeeper of the Third Watch, West Door. I have
told him your story. He will sign you in. Mr. Fairbairn, good
day.' And without another word, Kavan turned and strode from the
'So, Mr. Fairbairn. You
have a message for Lord Mithi? I think I can be sure that he gets
it. Thank you for coming. Sign this and leave the letter here and
we will see to getting you some dinner and a bed.'
'I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Gnan. . . I mean Captain Gnan. I mean I
am supposed to deliver the message to King Mithi personally. It
comes from Cirdan of the Havens. Radagast the Brown entrusted me
with it. I am afraid I really must see King Mithi myself, if just
for a moment. It is really quite important.'
'Yes. Quite important. Something about pipeweed, I
here to continue