Hunting Gollum & Ring Lore (a timeline)

Kate Neville

Active Member
Whenever we discuss when things happen, I feel compelled to turn to the Appendices (for ten years, the Appendices were all I had of the larger Legendarium -- I read them a lot). I am fully aware that the Appendices include a large amount of retconning -- Tolkien gives enough to enable the reader to make some sense of the timeline, but does not pin any event down if to do so would create another conflict. With that in mind, I read it thus:

2941 - Bilbo finds the Ring, yadda-yadda-yadda, and sets off for home with Gandalf (and Beorn for part of the way), returning in the spring of 2942.
When did the shadow fall on Gandalf's heart? At the moment Bilbo picked up the Ring, while he was leading the dwarves out of the Misty Mountains? Unlikely. On the way back? Would that have been when Bilbo first told Gandalf the original, fictionalized story about his dealings with Gollum? Was Bilbo particularly secretive about the Ring, maybe only allowing Gandalf a brief glimpse of it? It may be that, before leaving Beorn's home, Gandalf asked him to keep an eye out for Gollum and/or had him send a message to Thranduil.

2944 - Gollum leaves the Misty Mountains -- 3 years later. He was noticed by someone, but could not be captured at the time.
Why did Gandalf let the matter drop?

2949 - Gandalf and Balin visit Bilbo in the Shire. Bilbo seems to be the comfortably settled hobbit they remember from 2941. There is no indication that he has been corrupted in any way: he is open, friendly, and welcoming. Whew! Nothing to worry about after all.

2951 - Sauron declares himself openly in Mordor. With the dragon dead and dwarves, men, and elves living in harmony once more, the focus of Middle-earth geopolitics moves south.

2953 - The White Council meets for the last time and Saruman declares that his studies prove the Ring rolled down to the sea. Would it not be easy to infer that Sauron also believed this when he allowed himself to be 'forced' out of Dol Guldur? The main concern for the Wise, then, would not be Sauron with the Ring, but Sauron as a military power, with control over the Nazgul. It was through them that the Kingdom of Arnor was destroyed; clearly Sauron's next step is going to be the destruction of Gondor. Bilbo's little invisibility ring seems, to all common sense, not to matter. [If Sauron had in fact found the Ring while at Dol Guldur, they are all screwed anyway.]

Over the next 50 years, Gandalf meets and befriends Aragorn, but apparently doesn't say anything to him about Bilbo and the Ring, as they would be primarily concerned about preparing him for the eventual war between Mordor and Gondor. Gandalf certainly visited the Shire more than once during this time, as he knew Frodo fairly well by

September 3001 - the Birthday Party. Sometime after, Gandalf 'seeks for news' of Gollum and asks the Dunedain to double the watch on the Shire. Gandalf says in the Council that he 'opened his heart to Aragorn,' but was done that immediately? Perhaps. But:

3009 - eight years after the Party, was when the actual hunt for Gollum by Gandalf and Aragorn began. Was the earlier 'seeking for news' only information-gathering by Gandalf? Did Gandalf send messages to the Beornings and the elves to learn if there were still rumors of Gollum hanging around the Anduin vale? If so, that would imply Gollum left the Misty Mountains because there were no longer enough goblins left for him to eat, not because he wanted to find the Ring. Did he first only ask Aragorn to make inquiries among the Dunedain settlements of Eriador? Unknown. Nevertheless, by 3009, Aragorn is fully aware of the implications -- it matters enormously to know whether this is indeed the One Ring and so finding Gollum is worth at least another 8 years of on-the-ground rangering.

3017 - at some point (late summer?), Gollum is let out of Mordor and found by Aragorn in the Dead Marshes. In the meanwhile, Gandalf has gone to Minas Tirith for research. Not in the Annals, but according to the text, on his way to the Shire, Gandalf hears of the capture of Gollum and goes to Mirkwood for his interrogation. The exact time of this is not said, but it might well have been the turn of the year, as Gandalf arrived back in Hobbiton on

April 12, 3018.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Good Appendix work Kate,

I particularly like your insights that the ease of the White Council pushing Sauron out of Dol Guldur might have re-inforced Saruman's insinuation that the Ring was rolled down the Anduin to the Sea, as it might indicate Sauron giving up on searching the Anduin, and sharing the same hypothesis.

I also like your insight that after the battle of the 5 Armies, and the eviction of Sauron from Dol Guldur, and subsequent relocation to Mordor, geopolitical attention (and Gandalf's and Aragorn's attention) shifted to a coming war between Sauron and Gondor.

I also like your thought that the Gandalf / Balin visit to Bag End reassures Gandalf that Bilbo's Ring is nothing to worry about. A Hobbit Dark Lord certainly does not seem to be emerging.

Good insights.
 

Taurandeth

New Member
3009 - eight years after the Party, was when the actual hunt for Gollum by Gandalf and Aragorn began
In my edition of LotR (Harper Collins 2002, 1 Volume) it says '3009: Gandalf and Aragorn renew their hunt for Gollum'. For me that sounds as if they had started the hunt before (probably right after Bilbo's party) but interrupted it, because they weren't successful and also had ofther things to so as they are both important people. Then, in 3009 something happens that causes them to start again. Maybe Aragorn talked to Bilbo who had retired to Rivendell by this time and learned from him some more details - he has reasons to be there, as just this year Arwen returns from Lothlórien.
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
In my edition of LotR (Harper Collins 2002, 1 Volume) it says '3009: Gandalf and Aragorn renew their hunt for Gollum'. For me that sounds as if they had started the hunt before (probably right after Bilbo's party) but interrupted it, because they weren't successful and also had ofther things to so as they are both important people. Then, in 3009 something happens that causes them to start again. Maybe Aragorn talked to Bilbo who had retired to Rivendell by this time and learned from him some more details - he has reasons to be there, as just this year Arwen returns from Lothlórien.
That's true -- the hunt is 'renewed'. The entry for 3001 says that Gandalf 'seeks for news of Gollum and calls on the help of Aragorn.' I think it's that hair-splitting distinction between 'hunting' and 'seeking for news' that inspired my headcanon: that the 3001 effort was more a matter of information gathering, with the physical searching not beginning until 3009. There is still no real explanation for the 8 years wait, though. It begins after Gandalf's last visit to Frodo. Was it something Frodo said or did, or a growing awareness of the odd folk wandering around the bounds of the Shire? And was Arwen's return prompted by something Gandalf or Aragorn said or did she return with news for them? Unfinished tales indeed.
 
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