Tolkien Gateway


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The Elf-path was a little-known pathway through Mirkwood that led from a western entrance called the Forest Gate to the Elvenking’s Halls and thence to the Long Marshes in the east.[1]

Traversing the Forest

When Bilbo Baggins, Thorin, and the company of dwarves passed through the Forest Gate they found the western portion of the Elf-path to be narrow and winding between the trunks of the trees. Soon even scattered shafts of sunlight ceased and the passage became like a tunnel. Cobwebs entangled tree-branches on either side but none impeded the path. Under the forest-roof it was everlastingly still and dark and stuffy.

Roughly halfway through the forest the Elf-path was cut by the Enchanted River. Bilbo spied a boat on the eastern side, estimating that it was twelve yards away. With Bilbo's help, Fili hooked the boat with a rope and the party could move on, but not before Bombur had fallen in and fallen into a sleep that lasted for many days.

Four days beyond the enchanted stream the Elf-path entered an area where the trees were mostly beeches and the light was less dim. The party now heard distant singing and laughter. After another two days the Elf-path led downward into a valley of mighty oaks. Bilbo climbed one of the trees to see if the end of the path could be spotted but, unaware that his tree was at the bottom of the valley, reported to the dwarves that no end was in sight.

The next day, with no food left, the party saw lights off in the forest and left the Elf-path to try to obtain something to eat. When they scrambled into the ring of feasting Wood-elves all lights went out as if by magic, the party was lost, and they never returned to the Elf-path.[2]

The Eastern End

In the map of Wilderland in The Hobbit the Elf-path led to the Elvenking's Halls. The story told of a bridge to the gates of the caves and presumably the Elf-path connected to this bridge. However, at one time it also went beyond to the eastern edge of Mirkwood, yet at the time of the story it came to a doubtful and little-used end. News of this had come to Gandalf, who was in great anxiety to finish his other business and search for Thorin's company.[3]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Warm Welcome"