Gandalf plays cat and mouse like a pro

Phillip Menzies

Staff member
I think that Gandalf's tactics after leaving Weathertop on the morning of the 4th were sound but there was some miscalculation.
Gandalf, the grey pilgrim knows much about walking. He would have a pretty good idea how long it would take Aragorn and the hobbits to leg it off road from Bree to Weathertop and Gandalf would have been familiar at least with the road. If his primary purpose was to get help from Rivendell he could have ridden directly along the road, but the Nazgul would have realised quickly that they could not catch Shadowfax and may have turned back after a day of pursuit and been back at Weathertop in full force for the 6th. In addition if they suspected that help was coming in force from Rivendell at Gandalf's request that would be even more inducement for the Nine to stay together.
By heading north Gandalf chose a slower route and almost guaranteed that the Nazgul would feel closer and have a higher chance of catching him. I do this when playing with my cat. It is a fine line between being seen to be within reach and just keeping out of reach to keep the game going. If you don't let the cat catch the lure every now and then it loses interest and starts to wash. All Gandalf had to do was keep them following him for 2 days to keep them from being all present when the ringbearer got to Weathertop. In this he succeeded.
I think he then miscalculated the difficulty of the terrain and that being on horseback would be an advantage and it took him longer than he expected. There probably aren't many people in the Ettenmoors that Gandalf goes to inspire on a regular basis, hence his miscalculation with the terrain.
The decision of the 4 Nazgul to continue to the ford is not then as a force against aid from Rivendell but an attempt to pick off any small fry scouts that ride out and maybe intercept Gandalf if he comes back to the road. What they didn't bank on was Glorfindel wading into the fray with his beryl. Glorfindel encoutered Nazgul on the bridge and he said he encountered two others who fled south but he does not state if it was before or after the bridge. It would make sense that the four following Gandalf would split with two going east to the ford and two meeting with the other five on the bridge to relay their Gandalf related news to the Witchking before the Witchking laid more hopeless plans.