Weathertop Lore Time

Kate Neville

Active Member
I rarely make the live class, and I apologize for posting this last minute, but my comments relate to what will probably come up tonight.

I consider Strider's speech after Merry's question to have two parts to it, divided by the 'answered Strider' attribution. The first is a response to Merry. The rest is elaboration inspired by, but not 'answering' the question. Think how different it would read if 'answered Strider' came after 'No.'

I think two things are going on, at different levels. The first is Strider deciding to make this a teaching moment, perhaps as a counter to Frodo's earlier 'joke' about becoming a wraith. Frodo is fleeing the Shire to keep his homeland safe; Weathertop represents Strider's heritage, and his words are a reminder of the greater history that they are walking into.

The other is the author's decision, made very early on, to introduce the story of Beren and Lúthien on Weathertop. The Weathertop history is Tolkien gradually letting us know that Strider is more than a simple wilderness guide, preparing us to hear him tell stories later that night, crowning the evening with the jewel of all ancient tales. It makes for a smoother transition.

[And parenthetically, in re-reading these chapters, I am struck by how well Strider handles Sam -- so many times between Bree and Rivendell he will addresses Sam directly, with respect and without 'condescension', even taking him aside for special consultation. Sam may not value Strider yet, but Strider values him.]


I too rarely (read never) make the live class and I agree that the author is slowly revealing the hidden depths of Strider both in his actions and dialogue, and also as you point out in the lore and poetry he recites. I also had some thoughts about the discussion in episode 68 regarding barrows on Weathertop. In particular, the following text. "'No. There is no barrow on Weathertop, nor on any of these hills,' answered Strider. 'The Men of the West did not live here; though in their latter days they defended the hills for a while against the evil that came out of Angmar. This path was made to serve the forts along the walls."

Merry's question (reflecting his fear) about a barrow on Weathertop isn't so far from the mark. Elendil himself was originally entombed on the Halifirien hill in Gondor, though the hobbits probably wouldn't have known that. Moreover, I think we might be reading the line incorrectly. Our interpretations seem to be inserting an implied 'and' or 'because' that isn't actually there. Breaking this line into two separate statements removes the apparent non sequitur.

Aragorn's first statement answers the last question about whether there is a barrow. The second statement addresses the previous question about who built the now-ruined structures: the Men of the West who didn't reside here but defended these parts (first in the intra-Arnorian strife, then later against invasion by Angmar supported by Rhudaur). The road explicitly served the forts that defend the passes from the east (Rhudaur) to stop their armies from crossing into Arthedain. The screen of boulders would effectively disguise the movement of defensive troops manning the forts from any spies (or susceptible non-combatants) that might be on the west side so the tactical deployments along the walls and fortifications couldn't be betrayed to the armies on the other side. A bit of a stretch perhaps but not unreasonable.

Returning briefly to burial habits of Men, we know that the graves in the Barrow Downs were cut early in the First Age by pre-Edain migrating towards Beleriand so the oldest barrows preceded the later Dunedain culture that settled there (as well as the Numenorean civilization that gave rise to it). But the Dunedain of Arnor (at least in Cardolan) were said to have buried some of their honored dead in great barrows there and presumably did so elsewhere. The textual evidence of Minas Tirith supports the notion that the Dunedain built barrows in or near places that the lived (Rath Dinen) and I think it is interesting and appropriate the way it was extended in game in the form of the tomb-lined approach to Annuminas.