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Re: Population Levels in Middle-earth / Gandalf's "great ride"

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  • Merlin DeTardo
    Message 1 of 15 , Mar 10, 2008
      ---"Larry Swain" <theswain@...> wrote:
      << Do they guard Sarn Ford, and what do they guard against? Servants
      of Sauron, not servants of Saruman, or even men claiming to be from
      Bree (perhaps) trading with the hobbits. >>

      According to "The Hunt for the Ring" notes (HR), and
      perhaps "Bombadil Goes Boating", they do guard the ford. And I agree
      with you that they were guarding it against known enemies, not
      traders or even Saruman's men. Tolkien writes in HR in _Unfinished
      Tales_ that Saruman, gathering information about the Shire, employed
      Hobbits under the direction of Men ("of Dunlendish origin", as you
      previously noted), and that the Rangers "did not actually refuse
      entry to the servants of Saruman". Since Tolkien describes the
      Rangers as "suspicious" of these men, I would have expected them to
      share their uneasiness with their leader. However, Aragorn says in
      the Prancing Pony that he "went away on a journey of [his] own" after
      meeting Gandalf in May, and that after his return he was "watching
      the East Road anxiously", they may never have reported to him.

      And perhaps that timing is what explains what I thought strange:
      Aragorn's apparent belief that there is no open travel along the road
      from the Isen to the Brandwyine. I return to the line by Aragorn
      that started our discussion: "I know well the empty countries that
      lie between Rohan and the Shire. Neither goods nor folk have passed
      that way for many a long year, not openly. Saruman had secret
      dealings with someone in the Shire, I guess." If Aragorn's Rangers
      had obeserved "secret" travel, I think they would have told him. And
      we know from HR that his men had observed open trading. I suppose
      Tolkien could have meant for readers (remembering the southern
      travelers at Bree) to take that statement as an empty boast, one of
      Aragorn's flawed moments -- certainly it would not be his only
      mistake. But probably, to take up your helpful ideas, it just means
      that trade started up again only after he had last been on the south
      end of the Shire.

      Thanks also for the further thoughts on how to resolve
      Aragorn's "empty countries" with the other evidence of life in
      Enedwaith and Minhiriath, and also for your note about the Black
      Riders needing only four days to go from the the Crossings of Isen to
      Sarn Ford. I had overlooked the latter in Appendix B, and likewise
      misread that section when I wrote that it took Gandalf "more than
      four days" to make that journey. In fact, it seems to have taken
      Gandalf three days and nineteen hours, according to the excerpts of
      HR that were published in Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's _The
      Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion_. According to that material
      (pp. 251-2), the distance between those points is 475 miles --if my
      math is correct-- and Gandalf makes the journey between 7 a.m on Sep.
      24 and 2 a.m. on Sep. 28.

      -Merlin DeTardo
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