What was Strider expecting?

Kate Neville

Active Member
I think when trying to make sense of Strider's words, it is helpful to consider what he might have been expecting to see while waiting outside Bree. [And helpful not to remember too much about the Trotter we met in The Return of the Shadow.] He says that he met Gandalf on May 1, which would have been a couple of weeks after Chapter 2. At that point, Frodo had decided to leave around September 22, and Gandalf had drafted Sam as his companion. So as far as Aragorn knew, Gandalf would be accompanying Frodo and Sam to Rivendell at the end of September -- and he went off on a 'journey of his own.' When he returned, he learned from Gildor that Gandalf was missing and that Black Riders had come north and were heading towards the Shire. [I imagine that the Rangers had known that Gandalf rode south and had not come back, and that Gildor had learned this from them.] And then he learned from Gildor that Frodo was on the road being pursued by a Black Rider and that he had two hobbit companions -- one of whom (Sam) had told the elves that he would follow Frodo to the Moon. So he might have reason to expect to see three hobbits on the road, but then four showed up with Bombadil. Of course, Bombadil seemed to be on good terms with all of them, but then again only three showed up in the Common Room. So while Aragorn could have good reason to trust Gandalf's judgement about Frodo and Sam, the wizard had been missing for months, and these two extra hobbits are an unknown quantity. Why did Frodo bring them? Are they trustworthy? What do they know? Are they part of the quest, or just coming as far as Bree? All these unknowns, on top of Frodo's 'accident,' give Aragorn good reason to be cautious about giving away too much information about himself. On the other hand, with Black Riders nearby, he cannot waste time, and so he pushes Frodo. I liken it to how he deals with Éomer -- at first talking respectfully and reasonably, even apologizing for Gimli, and then pulling out Andúril, proclaiming his heritage and all his names, and demanding that Éomer choose sides in the greater war against Sauron. I'm not sure how much he was going to tell Frodo before Butterbur interrupted, but I expect he would have at least named Gildor as his source of information, and probably Gandalf. [I wonder whether he would have told the Gollum story? -- And where do you think he went between May 1 and mid-September? If he was visting his mother's grave in Eriador, surely he would have learned about the crossing of Sarn Ford. If he was back in Rivendell visiting Arwen, would Elrond have heard about Gandalf? Maybe he went to the Tower Hills and tried looking in the Palantír there for a glimpse of sunken Numenor, or Tirion-upon-Túna. Or maybe he went up to Annúminas and took measurements for future remodelling. Summer is probably nice up by Lake Evendim.]
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
From the Chapter "Strider":

When I returned, many days ago, I heard the ill news. The tidings had gone far and wide that Gandalf was missing and the horsemen had been seen. It was the Elven-folk of Gildor that told me this; and later they told me that you had left your home; but there was no news of your leaving Buckland. I have been watching the East Road anxiously.’
Tolkien, J.R.R.. The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (p. 172). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

I will grant you that we cannot be sure that it was Gildor himself who spoke with Aragorn, but 'Gandalf missing' is apparently big news, worthy of spreading far and wide, despite the admonition not to meddle in the affairs of wizards (on the other hand, the annals say that Aragorn became friends with Gandalf when he was 25, so a wizard has been meddling in the affairs of the Heir of Elendil for a long time, and I expect their friendship was well known among the Elves).
 
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