Pursuit of the Black Riders

Sarah McIntire '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

Frodo and his hobbit companions crossed paths with the Black Riders many times before reaching the safety of Rivendell. These mysterious figures pursued them from Eastfarthing to The Prancing Pony and almost captured them at Weathertop. In his fear Frodo slipped the Ring on his finger, illuminating him for the wraiths to see, and didn't realize the folly of his actions until it was too late. The Rider King stabbed him in the shoulder before he could remove the ring. As the deadly evil of the knife coursed through Frodo's body, Strider and the hobbits continued to struggle on to Rivendell. Along the way Glorfindel, an elf of Rivendell, found them and placing Frodo on his white horse, accompanied them on their hurried, exhausting journey. All were nervous and watchful, for they knew that the Black Riders were fast upon their heels.

There was still an echo as of following feet in the cutting behind them; a rushing noise as if a wind were rising and pouring through the branches of the pines. One moment Glorfindel turned and listened, then he sprang forward with a loud cry.

"Fly!" he called. "Fly! The enemy is upon us!"

The white horse leaped forward. The hobbits ran down the slope. Glorfindel and Strider followed as rear-guard. They were only half way across the flat, when suddenly there was a noise of horses galloping. Out of the gate in the trees that they had just left rode a Black Rider. He reined his horse in, and halted, swaying in his saddle. Another followed him, and then another; then again two more.

"Ride forward! Ride!" cried Glorfindel to Frodo.

He did not obey at once, for a strange reluctance seized him. Checking the horse to a walk, he turned and looked back. The Riders seemed to sit upon their great steeds like threatening statues upon a hill, dark and solid, while all the woods and land about them receded as if into a mist. Suddenly, he knew in his heart that they were silently commanding him to wait. The at once fear and hatred awoke in him. His hand left the bridle and gripped the hilt of his sword, and with a red flash he drew it.

"Ride on! Ride on!" cried Glorfindel, and then loud and clear he called to the horse in the elf-tongue: noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth!

At once the white horse sprang away and sped like the wind along the last lap of the Road. At the same moment the black horses leaped down the hill in pursuit, and from the Riders came a dreadful cry. [207-208]

Questions

1. What is the importance of the colors that are mentioned in this passage, for example, the "white horse" and "black horses" or the in the phrase "with a red flash"?

2. Tolkien uses words such as "sprang" and "leaped" to create an image of sudden motion. What is the point of contrasting this motion with images of utter stillness (seen in such words as "halted" and "statues"), and what does it do to this passage?

3. Why does Glorfindel speak only in the form of repeated exclamation throughout this passage?

4. Why would Tolkien use elfish in this climactic passage, when the reader cannot understand its meaning?

References

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.


Victorian Web Overview J. R. R. Tolkien Victorian courses

Last modified 25 February 2004