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From Weathertop to the Ford

From Tolkien Gateway
The Return of the Shadow chapters
The First Phase
  1. A Long-expected Party
  2. From Hobbiton to the Woody End
  3. Of Gollum and the Ring
  4. To Maggot's Farm and Buckland
  5. The Old Forest and the Withywindle
  6. Tom Bombadil
  7. The Barrow-wight
  8. Arrival at Bree
  9. Trotter and the Journey to Weathertop
  10. The Attack on Weathertop
  11. From Weathertop to the Ford
  12. At Rivendell
  13. 'Queries and Alterations'
The Second Phase
  1. Return to Hobbiton
  2. Ancient History
  3. Delays Are Dangerous
  4. A Short Cut to Mushrooms
  5. Again from Buckland to the Withywindle
The Third Phase
  1. The Journey to Bree
  2. At the Sign of the Prancing Pony
  3. To Weathertop and Rivendell
  4. New Uncertainties and New Projections
The Story Continued
  1. In the House of Elrond
  2. The Ring Goes South
  3. The Mines of Moria

"From Weathertop to the Ford" is the title of the eleventh chapter of The Return of the Shadow, the sixth book of The History of Middle-earth series by Christopher Tolkien.


In this chapter, unlike the previous one, Christopher alternates between summarization and presentation of the full text. In the initial summary athelas has not been brought by the Númenóreans to Middle-earth, it is just a plant known only to the Elves and wanderers. The wound in Bingo[note 1] is described as being on his right side; it is later relocated on the left. Leaving the dell the party takes the firewood with them. The rejuvenation of their pony is missing. The eastward journey from Weathertop at first closely matches the published text, but with slightly different timing.

Before the first day ends Bingo's pain increases though he does not mention it. Three or four days pass with little change except for Weathertop becoming more distant and the mountains drawing nearer. The enemy seems to have lost their trail. They ascend from a shallow valley and on the fifth day they see the road below and a small river to their right. The next morning they cross the road and enter the hills. Trotter[note 2] leads the other hobbits in as straight a line as possible toward the Ford but their path becomes more difficult in the hills.

It is noted that in the original story there is but one nameless river between Weathertop and Rivendell instead of the Hoarwell followed by the Bruinen. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that the land south of the road near the hills is "bare and stony", meaning that there is no cover and explaining why the hobbits must cross the road. In his sketch notes for this part of the journey Tolkien wanted the hobbits to "foolishly" take a detour to visit the trolls that Bilbo had encountered (this is foolish because the delay allows the Black Riders time to catch up).

Bingo asks who lives in the hills and who built the towers. Trotter says trolls do not build. The towers were built by evil people who were overthrown by Elendil. How does Trotter know all this, asks Frodo,[note 3] and Trotter says he learned it in Rivendell. It is not his fate, says Trotter, to linger in the fair house of Elrond.

The party spends three days instead of two in the hills, which makes up for the shorter journey from Weathertop to the Road. Trotter climbs up to see the lie of the land. He says that they are too far north and must get back to the Road. It is still four or five days before they can reach Rivendell.

It is Merry (later it will be Sam) who questions Trotter about Bingo's wound. Frodo has a dream about endless dark wings but some of the descriptions of the world becoming dim and mist-like are absent. When they encounter the trolls turned to stone Trotter (unlike Aragorn) greets them by name. The troll song is not yet included. Returning to the Road, Trotter points out the stone, marked with the runes for 'G' and 'B' (for 'Gandalf'and 'Bilbo') where the trolls' gold had been buried. Bingo regrets that the gold has all been spent.[1]

The encounter with Glorfindel is nearly the same as in the published text, except that instead of greeting Aragorn with the name Dúnadan Trotter is greeted with the name Padathir, which means "Trotter".[2] Glorfindel says he was sent to look for them because Gandalf was in Rivendell, anxious and afraid (in the published text Gandalf's whereabouts are still unknown). Glorfindel knows that the Riders are a day's riding west of them and thus they must hurry along the road. Glorfindel does not think any of the Riders are ahead (in the published story he knows of five Riders behind them but does not know where the other four are).

As they approach the Ford, Black Riders pursue Bingo on Glorfindel's horse. Bingo sees seven Riders behind; there are none ahead as in the published text. Bingo makes it across the Ford and turns to face his enemies, feeling it is useless to try to escape when long miles still lay ahead before reaching Rivendell. He also feels an urgent command to halt. In return, Bingo attempts to order the Riders to leave him alone but they laugh at him. "To Mordor we will take you," introducing this name for the first time. Bingo raises his sword, but the leader of the Riders raises his hand and the sword breaks. Suddenly the flood arrives with a plumed cavalry of waves. Three Riders in the river are swept away, two ride to the south, and the others are driven into the flood by Bingo's friends waving flames. Bingo then passes out.[1]


Christopher Tolkien notes that this chapter makes it clear that the Ring-wraiths can telepathically send commands to the bearer of the Ring. Also, a wound from a Ring-wraith's knife slowly produces the same effect as wearing the Ring, entering a dim and shadowy world.[3]

Road between Weathertop and Rivendell

As noted before, originally there was but one river between Weathertop and Rivendell. J.R.R. Tolkien later developed the geography and placed two rivers in this area. In the manuscript and in the first edition of The Lord of the Rings, as well as in two of Tolkien's sketch maps, the Road loops well to the north between Weathertop and the Last Bridge and then conspicuously loops well to the south from the Bridge to the Ford of Bruinen. These loops were shown in a map that Christopher made in 1943. However, in 1954 Christopher hastily made a new map with only a feeble northward loop before the Bridge and then a straight shot from the bridge to the Ford. In the second or revised edition of the story, made in 1966, Tolkien altered the text to match the map that Christopher had made. As an aside, Christopher notes that Barbara Strachey, in her atlas Journeys of Frodo, must have used the text of the First Edition to accurately deduce the course of the Road. However, Christopher rejects Strachey's rerouting of the Loudwater in a dramatic bend to the west to explain how Aragorn and the hobbits could stand on high ground and see both rivers simultaneously. He says the objection is real but cannot be resolved in this way.[4]

Note on the river Hoarwell

Originally the Hoarwell was not included in the story. In the original story of The Hobbit, Thorin and Company come upon an unnamed red rushing river and cross it at a ford. By that work's third edition in 1966 the river has an ancient stone bridge but Tolkien changed little else, which means that the encounter with the trolls occurs very close to the river Hoarwell. In The Lord of the Rings it takes Aragorn six days to get the hobbits to the point that the Dwarves reached in an hour. In 1960 Tolkien began a rewrite ofThe Hobbit which would have inserted a whole day's travel between the river and the trolls, but he never completed this project.[5]

Note on the river of Rivendell

In the manuscript the second river, where the Black Riders are washed away by the flood, is identified as the one that flows through Rivendell. In the published story Aragorn names this river the Bruinen,[6] Bilbo's room looks south across the ravine of the Bruinen,[7] and Frodo walks on terraces above the Bruinen.[8] All perfectly clear except that various maps introduce ambiguity.

In the map of Wilderland in The Hobbit[9] the unnamed river forks and the house of Elrond is set between them. In one sketch map for The Hobbit Tolkien labeled the upper stream the Bruinen and the lower branch the Merrill. While interesting, Christopher says that no conclusion may be reached from the sketch-map.[10]

Note on the Entish Lands

In the sketch map the words Entish Lands appear north of the sources of the Hoarwell. Christopher says that this was used in the Old English sense of ent meaning "giant" and has nothing to do with the Ents of Fangorn Forest.[11]


  1. Bingo would later become Frodo Baggins.
  2. Trotter (a hobbit) would later become Aragorn.
  3. Frodo would later become Samwise Gamgee.