Tolkien Re-read Part II: The Fellowship of the Ring (Chapter 10)


Last time in the Tolkien Re-read, the hobbits arrived in Bree, met the mysterious Strider at the Prancing Pony, caused some Ring-related commotion in the inn’s common room, and Frodo promised to speak with both Strider and Butterbur (the innkeeper) in private. Oh, and Gandalf continued to be missing.

Previous posts for the Tolkien Re-read (including my re-read of The Hobbit) can be found here.

A quick note: I’m reading from the Houghton Mifflin movie tie-in hardcover from 2001, but the text should match Del Rey’s more recent tie-in edition (pictured right). Each post will cover one or two chapters and include footnotes of useless trivia that you can read or ignore at your discretion—they’re mostly there to contain the worst of my nerd-babble. Also, there might be spoilers ahead. For the most part, the posts will keep in time with the chapters I’m discussing from The Fellowship of the Ring, but I can’t guarantee I won’t geek out about related things from later in the trilogy or elsewhere in Tolkien lore. If you’ve at least seen the movies, it won’t be a problem, but I shall do my best to avoid spoilery content for the sake of the uninitiated

The Fellowship of the Ring–Book I

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
     Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
     One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
     One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
     One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie

Chapter 10: Strider

After the incident in the common room, Frodo, Pippin, and Sam return to their private little parlour and discover that Merry has gone out.

And, also, that Strider has followed them.

Pippin is alarmed by this, since he and Strider haven’t met, but the Ranger quickly introduces himself and explains that he was promised a chat with Frodo.

Favorite Quote Break!

Frodo: What have you to say?
Strider: Several things. But, of course, I have my price.
Frodo: What do you mean?
Strider: Don’t be alarmed! I mean just this: I will tell you what I know, and give you some good advice—but I shall want a reward.
Frodo: And what will that be, pray?
Strider: No more than you can afford. [He said with a slow smile.] Just this: you must take me along with you, until I wish to leave you.

(I have no objections to this plan. Please stay.)

Frodo refuses to bring Strider along based on his suspicion factor alone. At least until he knows more about him. Undeterred, Strider takes a seat and gets comfy while declaring that Frodo’s refusal of his reward is just dandy because he knows stuff…and things…and it must be shared with the hobbits.

Favorite Quote Break!

Frodo: Go on then! What do you know?
Strider: Too much; too many dark things.

(Okay, Mr. Ranger, now you’re just being mysterious for attention. But I like it, go on.)

Here, Strider pauses to get up and check outside the door for eavesdroppers. Finding none, he sits back down and finally starts talking.

Stuff & Things, or What Strider Tells the Hobbits

He can avoid being seen, if he wishes. Which explains how…
? He saw the hobbits coming out of the Barrow-Downs with Tom Bombadil and…
? He overheard Frodo reminding the others that the name Baggins could not be mentioned anymore and that they must call him Mr. Underhill. Which is why…
? He followed the hobbits to Bree and…
? He slipped over the gate behind them (which makes him the sketchy dark figure from the last chapter, not a Black Rider)

Frodo, becoming a bit annoyed—and also concerned because, let’s face it, Strider is being suspicious—demands to know how his name is the business of anyone in Bree and “advises” Strider to explain himself.

Stuff & Things, or How Strider Explains His Spying and Eavesdropping

? He was looking for a hobbit named Frodo Baggins and…
? He wanted to find him quickly because…
? He’d learned that said hobbit was carrying “a secret that concerned [him] and [his] friends”

That Strider apparently knows all about the Ring causes Frodo (and Sam) to jump up in a alarm, but Strider quickly calms them with a “Don’t mistake me!” and an “I shall take more care of the secret than you do!” (Not hard, considering that Frodo disappeared into thin air back in the common room just a chapter ago.)

Then Strider warns the hobbits that black horseman have been seen passing through Bree, one travelling south and one traveling north. Frodo says that the innkeeper, Butterbur, seems to have heard something about this, or about him and the other hobbits, and wonders if his urging them to join the company in the common room might mean that he’s working for the Enemy.

Favorite Quote Break!

Strider: No, I don’t think any harm of old Butterbur. Only he does not altogether like mysterious vagabonds of my sort.
Frodo: [puzzled look]
Strider: Well, I have rather a rascally look, have I not? [curl of the lip, queer gleam in the eye]


After this, talk turns back to Frodo’s “accident” in the common room, which has undoubtedly “made [his] position more dangerous.” Frodo, determined to remain in denial about the severity of his predicament, tells Strider that he knows all about the horseman pursuing him, but that they seem to have lost track of him.

Relevant Quote Break!

Strider: They will return. And more are coming. There are others. I know their numbers. I know these Riders.

(We’ve been over this, Frodo. Quit denying what Gandalf told you. They’re Ringwraiths. The Nazgul. The Nine.)

Apparently there are also some evil folk in Bree who would be more than willing to share news of the disappearing hobbit traveling through town. Strider is confident that an account of Frodo’s performance in the common room would be “very interesting to certain people” and that it won’t be long until Frodo’s real name is discovered.

Relevant Quote Break!

Strider: You can do as you like about my reward: take me as a guide or not. But I may say that I know all the lands between the Shire and the Misty Mountains, for I have wandered over them for many years. I am older than I look. I might prove useful. You will have to leave the open road after tonight; for the horsemen will watch it night and day. You may escape from Bree, and be allowed to go forward while the Sun is up; but you won’t go far. They will come on you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help. Do you wish them to find you? They are terrible!

The hobbits are quiet as they consider Strider’s words, so the Ranger presses on.

Relevant Quote Break!

Strider: Perhaps I know more about these pursuers than you do. You fear them, but you do not fear them enough, yet. Tomorrow you will have to escape, if you can. Strider can take you by paths that are seldom trodden. Will you have him?

But Frodo & Friends are still, rightfully, suspicious of Strider and hesitate to agree to have him as a travelling companion. Frodo is silent, Sam’s answer is a straight no, but Pippin disagrees. He thinks Strider is “not really as [he chooses] to look” and wonders why the Ranger has come to them in disguise.

(Spoilers, Pippin. SPOILERS.)

Strider praises the hobbits for their caution, but warns them they will never make it to Rivendell on their own. He’s just about to answer their questions and tell them more about himself, when Barliman Butterbur appears at the door.

What Butterbur Tells Frodo, a List

? He was asked to look out for hobbits from the Shire—in particular, a hobbit named Baggins going by the name Underhill
? He was asked to do this by Gandalf, who came to the inn three months ago
? Gandalf gave him a letter to send to Frodo as soon as possible
? He forgot about all about sending the letter until Frodo showed up at the inn
? Gandalf told him that if Frodo showed up without him, the hobbit would be in trouble

Butterbur goes on to explain how it seems they are, indeed, in trouble. Black Riders came to the Prancing Pony asking after a hobbit named Baggins. The innkeeper sent them off with nothing, but he hears they’ve been asking the same question throughout Bree-land. Oh, and that Ranger, Strider, has been asking about him, too.

It’s at this moment that Butterbur notices Strider is in the room. (Awkward.) He warns the hobbits not to trust him (rude), and asks Frodo about all these “queer goings on” and what the Black Riders are after, and where they come from.

Relevant Quote Break!

Frodo: I’m sorry I can’t explain it all…But if you mean to help me, I ought to warn you that you will be in danger as long as I am in your house. These Black Riders: I am not sure, but I think, I fear they come from—
Strider: They come from Mordor. From Mordor, Barliman, if that means anything to you.
Butterbur: Save us! This is the worst news that has come to Bree in my time.

But Butterbur is still willing to help Frodo & Friends and agrees to do what he can to get the hobbits on the road as early as possible, and with provisions for their journey. It’s then that everyone remembers Merry is missing, and Butterbur promises to send one of his staff to look for him.

Once Butterbur is gone, Strider reminds Frodo about Gandalf’s letter, which the hobbit quickly opens and reads to himself before passing on to Pippin and Sam.

Gandalf’s Letter, a Summary

? Received bad news, must be off immediately.
? Leave Bag End ASAP; will return and follow when possible.
? Leave a message with Butterbur at the Prancing Pony if traveling through Bree.
? Trust Butterbur.
? Trust Strider.
? Head to Rivendell; Elrond will advise.
? PS Don’t use the Ring again. Ever. At all. Don’t travel at night.
? PPS Make sure Strider is the real Strider. True name is Aragorn.

            All that is gold does not glitter,
                 Not all those who wander are lost;
            The old that is strong does not wither,
                 Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
            From ashes a fire shall be woken,
                 A light from the shadows shall spring;
            Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
                 The Crownless again shall be king.*

? PPPS Hope Butterbur sends this promptly.

This letter causes Frodo some frustration (in that Butterbur failed to send it right away) and some concern (as it’s obvious Gandalf has run into some danger that has kept him from meeting them on the road), but at least it confirms that Strider can be trusted.

If he is Strider, that is.

Relevant Quote Break!

Strider: I am the real Strider. I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.

(Well, that settles that, then.)

Favorite Quote Break!

Frodo: I believed you were a friend before the letter came, or at least I wished to…I think one of [the Enemy’s] spies would—well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.
Strider: I see. I look foul and feel fair, is that it? All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.

When Strider quotes lines from the verse in Gandalf’s letter, Frodo asks how he knew that they were in there, and did the verse apply to him, because Frodo doesn’t understand why Gandalf included it. Strider says that he didn’t know the verse was in the letter, but that he is “Aragorn, and those verses belong with that name.”

(Please, sir, be more mysterious.)

Then Strider unsheathes his sword,** revealing to the hobbits that it is broken a foot beneath the hilt, and says that “the time is near when it shall be forged anew.”

(Renewed shall be blade that was broken! I do love me a man of prophesy.)

At this point, Sam relents. So, it’s decided that Strider should be their guide, and they plan to head for Weathertop, a landmark between Bree and Rivendell which Gandalf will head to if he is, indeed, following them. Frodo asks when Strider last saw the wizard, and whether Strider knew what he was up to.

Stuff & Things, or What Strider Tells the Hobbits About Gandalf

? He last saw Gandalf in the spring, at Sarn Ford on the Brandywine
? Gandalf told him he would be heading for Rivendell with Frodo in the fall
? He has not heard from Gandalf since
? He’s troubled by Gandalf’s absence, since the wizard would have sent messages if something had detained him
? Gandalf is “greater than [the] Shire-folk know” and this business with the Ring will be “his greatest task”

Just as Strider finishes speaking, Merry finally shows up. Frodo introduces him to Strider, and then Merry tells them he encountered a horseless Black Rider while on his stroll. Merry bravely (stupidly?) followed the Black Rider to the edge of town, where he overheard it speaking with someone before he fainted (something Strider explains was caused by the Black Rider itself).

Relevant Quote Break!

Strider: They will know the news now…Something may happen in the night, before we leave Bree.
Merry: What will happen? Will they attack the inn?
Strider: No, I think not. They are not all here yet. And in any case, that is not their way. In dark and loneliness they are strongest; they will not openly attack a house where there are lights and many people—not until they are desperate.


It’s decided that the hobbits should not go to their rooms, but spend the night in the parlor, since it would be easy for the Black Riders to figure out which of the hobbit rooms Frodo & Friends are staying in. Strider fetches their luggage for them, and once he returns they settle in for the night—Strider seated against the door, the hobbits sleeping on blankets near the fireplace.

*The Crownless again shall be king: *cough*foreshadowing*cough*
**Aragorn’s Sword: The broken sword Aragorn carries is called Narsil and was forged in the First Age. It has historical importance in that [SPOILER in white] it was the sword of Elendil, the last king of Men, and was used to cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand in the last battle against Mordor. It shattered in doing so and the pieces were carried off the battlefield by Isildur, Elendil’s son.


That’s it for chapter 10! Strider’s real name is Aragorn; Butterbur has (belatedly) delivered at letter to Frodo from Gandalf, who has likely run into some trouble; Merry encountered a Black Rider in town; and the hobbits, with Aragorn, plan to head for Rivendell, via Weathertop, first thing in the morning.

How great is Strider/Aragorn? I had forgotten how much he livens up the narrative with his rather playful conversational manner. He’s definitely a character with more personality than some of the others in Lord of the Rings. Next up is Chapter 11: A Knife in the Dark. See you soon!

Logan Balestrino is the Publishing Assistant for Del Rey/Spectra and Digital Content at the Random House Publishing Group. She is prone to Doctor Who rants, anime marathons, and extensive ramblings on Elven lineage and the creation of language in Middle-earth. When Logan isn’t working or hanging upside down at her aerials class, she can usually be found saving Hyrule or talking herself out of buying another pair of shoes.