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**A Knife in the Dark** 8. Weathertop


Jan 17 2008, 1:05pm

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**A Knife in the Dark** 8. Weathertop Can't Post

Our heroes have been ambling along the protected path on the west side of the hills, and reciting poetry as they go.

It was already mid-day when they drew near the southern end of the path, and saw before them, in the pale clear light of the October sun, a grey-green bank, leading up like a bridge on to the northward slope of the hill. They decided to make for the top at once, while the daylight was broad. Concealment was no longer possible, and they could only hope that no enemy or spy was observing them. Nothing was to be seen moving on the hill. If Gandalf was anywhere about, there was no sign of him.
On the western flank of Weathertop they found a sheltered hollow, at the bottom of which there was a bowl-shaped dell with grassy sides. There they left Sam and Pippin with the pony and their packs and luggage. The other three went on. After half an hour’s plodding climb Strider reached the crown of the hill; Frodo and Merry followed, tired and breathless. The last slope had been steep and rocky.

A. Wouldn’t there be a construction road from the days of the tower that allowed an easier ascent than “plodding tired and breathless” up a steep and rocky slope?

On the top they found, as Strider had said, a wide ring of ancient stonework, now crumbling or covered with age-long grass. But in the centre a cairn of broken stones had been piled. They were blackened as if with fire. About them the turf was burned to the roots and all within the ring the grass was scorched and shrivelled, as if flames had swept the hill-top; but there was no sign of any living thing.

B. Where are the rest of the stones from the tall tower that once was here?

C. At this point do you have to drive from your head by an act of will the image of some coin-operated binoculars and a colorful interpretive sign by the Eriador Park Service? I do.

Standing upon the rim of the ruined circle, they saw all round below them a wide prospect, for the most part of lands empty and featureless, except for patches of woodland away to the south, beyond which they caught here and there the glint of distant water. Beneath them on this southern side there ran like a ribbon the Old Road, coming out of the West and winding up and down, until it faded behind a ridge of dark land to the east. Nothing was moving on it. Following its line eastward with their eyes they saw the Mountains: the nearer foothills were brown and sombre; behind them stood taller shapes of grey, and behind those again were high white peaks glimmering among the clouds.

D. Why is it that I can see this entire prospect so clearly in my mind? What is his trick?

‘Well, here we are!’ said Merry. ‘And very cheerless and uninviting it looks! There is no water and no shelter. And no sign of Gandalf. But I don’t blame him for not waiting - if he ever came here.’

For some time now Strider has focused the hobbits on the need to get to Weathertop.
E. What was Merry expecting?

‘I wonder,’ said Strider, looking round thoughtfully. ‘Even if he was a day or two behind us at Bree, he could have arrived here first. He can ride very swiftly when need presses.’ Suddenly he stooped and looked at the stone on the top of the cairn; it was flatter than the others, and whiter, as if it had escaped the fire. He picked it up and examined it, turning it in his fingers. “This has been handled recently,’ he said. ‘What do you think of these marks?’
On the flat under-side Frodo saw some scratches: ‘There seems to be a stroke, a dot, and three more strokes,’ he said.
‘The stroke on the left might be a G-rune with thin branches,’ said Strider. ‘It might be a sign left by Gandalf, though one cannot be sure. The scratches are fine, and they certainly look fresh. But the marks might mean something quite different, and have nothing to do with us. Rangers use runes, and they come here sometimes.’
‘What could they mean, even if Gandalf made them?’ asked Merry
‘I should say,’ answered Strider, ‘that they stood for G3, and were a sign that Gandalf was here on October the third: that is three days ago now. It would also show that he was in a hurry and danger was at hand, so that he had no time or did not dare to write anything longer or plainer. If that is so, we must be wary.’
‘I wish we could feel sure that he made the marks, whatever they may mean,’ said Frodo ‘It would be a great comfort to know that he was on the way, in front of us or behind us.’
‘Perhaps,’ said Strider. ‘For myself, I believe that he was here, and was in danger. There have been scorching flames here; and now the light that we saw three nights ago in the eastern sky comes back to my mind. I guess that he was attacked on this hill-top, but with what result I cannot tell. He is here no longer, and we must now look after ourselves and make our own way to Rivendell, as best we can.’

F. What do you think of the suggestions that the stone might not be Gandalf’s message (i.e. they “might have nothing to do with us”; “I wish we could feel sure”)? Is Strider’s mind really as slow as it seems here (“and now the light…comes back to my mind”)?

Here are some passages to ponder:

‘I must have something to work on. I cannot burn snow.’ (Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, pp.
And Minas Morgul answered. There was a flare of livid lightnings: forks of blue flame springing up from the tower and from the encircling hills into the sullen clouds. (The Two Towers, (The Two Towers, Book IV, Chapter 8, “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”)
‘…there was a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments to the ground.’ (Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 4, “The Siege of Gondor”)
But at that same moment there was a flash, as if lightning had sprung from the earth beneath the City. For a searing second it stood dazzling far off in black and white, its topmost tower like a glittering needle: and then as the darkness closed again there came rolling over the fields a great “boom”. (Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 5, “The Ride of the Rohirrim”)

G. Did Gandalf make the lightning effects on Weathertop that Strider and Frodo saw? Or was it the Witch-king, the Morgul-Lord?

Now back to our regularly scheduled program:

‘How far is Rivendell?’ asked Merry, gazing round wearily. The world looked wild and wide from Weathertop.
‘I don’t know if the Road has ever been measured in miles beyond the “Forsaken Inn,” a day’s journey east of Bree,’ answered Strider. ‘Some say it is so far, and some say otherwise. It is a strange road, and folk are glad to reach their journey’s end, whether the time is long or short. But I know how long it would take me on my own feet, with fair weather and no ill fortune: twelve days from here to the Ford of Bruinen, where the Road crosses the Loudwater that runs out of Rivendell. We have at least a fortnight’s journey before us, for I do not think we shall be able to use the Road.’

H. Doesn’t Strider answer the question after first seeming not to? If Strider can walk, say, 20 miles a day, the distance is 240 miles, no?

I. Does ‘Some say it is so far, and some say otherwise' refer to the discrepancy between The Hobbit and this book regarding the length of the journey?

‘A fortnight!’ said Frodo. ‘A lot may happen in that time.’
‘Duh,’ said Strider.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

Subject User Time
**A Knife in the Dark** 8. Weathertop squire Send a private message to squire Jan 17 2008, 1:05pm
    Thoughts. Curious Send a private message to Curious Jan 17 2008, 4:33pm
        Shh! Don't tell anyone on Main! squire Send a private message to squire Jan 18 2008, 12:57pm
            LOL!// Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo Jan 18 2008, 4:57pm
    Ruins with a view FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Jan 17 2008, 5:12pm
        Stoned dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Jan 18 2008, 5:02am
        The hill is too low. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 27 2008, 7:25am
    Uncertainty in LOTR... weaver Send a private message to weaver Jan 17 2008, 5:36pm
    Rangers versus Hobbits Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Jan 18 2008, 3:03am
        Strider only added 2 days Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Jan 18 2008, 8:52am
    Ruins Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Jan 18 2008, 9:13am
    “G for Grand!” N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 28 2008, 2:18am
        I never noticed this riddle before! sador Send a private message to sador Mar 16 2011, 8:14am


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