(I’ve been listening to too much of the Mission Log Star Trek podcast, I think – but this is a supplemental post.) (Spoilers if you’re not familiar with the rest of the book.)
‘You ought to go quietly, and you ought to go soon,’ said Gandalf.
So – The question I asked before is: what would have been the difference if Frodo had indeed gone soon?
As it happened, Gandalf spoke to him in mid-April. Then “Two or three weeks had passed, and still Frodo made no sign of getting ready to go.” This brings us to the end of April or beginning of June. Frodo proposes going on the Birthday, and Gandalf, somewhat hesitantly, agrees – but no later, he insists.
“Gandalf stayed in the Shire for over two months” – which brings us to the end of June, upon which he leaves for parts unknown (for the moment).
Frodo finally goes on September 23, with Pippin and Samwise.
The boys find haven with Bombadil on 9/26, leave 9/28, finally get to Bree the evening of 9/29. Because of a Black Rider raid, they have to set off on foot the morning of 9/30.
Now, Gandalf gets there that same night, and leaves the next morning, probably less than 24 hours later. Best I can tell, he still has Shadowfax, so he makes really good time, reaching Weathertop on 10/3; the boys and Strider see what looks like lightning from where they are in the midst of the Neekerbreeker-filled Midgewater. Gandalf, not knowing where Frodo is exactly, makes for Rivendell. The proto-Fellowship camps and is attacked at Weathertop on 10/6. They then have a long, slow, painful ride toward Rivendell, and the mad rush across the Bruinen is on 10/20.
Now, all things being equal, what if Frodo had left at the end of April, or – call it June 1? Let a few key people hear him say “I’m off to find Bilbo”, or something, take the time to cover the furniture with dust sheets and lock up Bag End (don’t sell it to the S-B’s!), bring Sam in tow, and set off for Rivendell, as agreed with Gandalf. I wouldn’t be surprised if Merry and Pippin didn’t pop up with ponies and packs to intercept them on the path.
If they had gone then, Gandalf would certainly have accompanied them. They would have gone to Bree – there would be no stop in Crickhollow, probably – no Crickhollow at all, probably; they would not have gotten lost in the Old Forest; they would not have stopped in with Tom Bombadil, unless Gandalf thought it would be a good idea. So they would probably save a lot of time, and reach Bree on June 3 or 4; I have a feeling with Gandalf prodding them along they’d make it on the third. There would be no shenanigans involving cows and moons, and they would probably retain all of their ponies. (Bill would never get a decent master.) I don’t know where Aragorn is supposed to have been around this time; Gollum escaped from the elves on June 20. I’m not sure how long it took Gandalf to get from Weathertop to Rivendell – – oh, there it is: Gandalf reaches Rivendell, 10/18.
OK. Gandalf on (I believe) Shadowfax: Bag End to Bree: 1-1.5 days. Bree to Weathertop: two days. Weathertop to Rivendell: 15 days. Total Bag End to Rivendell: call it 19 days.
Accompanying the ponies, even if Gandalf had Shadowfax, they would have been restraining themselves.
But wait! Gandalf might never have met Shadowfax in this new timeline. So he’d be on an ordinary horse. But Gandalf was nervous, and would not have dithered or lollygagged or dawdled. I’ll need to find a map with the distances marked out in miles, and go back and find the average mph of a laden pony … but I would wildly surmise that Gandalf and the four hobbits might have gotten to Rivendell a month after leaving Bree, traveling throughout June and getting there on July 1.
From there, the timeline can realign itself to what actually happened, since Boromir was on his way because of the dreams and others were en route as well; the Council of Elrond was 10/25, and the official Fellowship left on Christmas Day. I don’t think that would have been moved up, necessarily, because there were messengers out. And Gandalf would have certainly wanted Aragorn there, wherever he’d be coming from. I never realized that Boromir only arrived the night before the CofE… But even if, given an earlier arrival by Frodo, the CofE was held earlier, I don’t think the Fellowship’s departure would have been held up… When did Legolas get there, and Gloin and Gimli? Hm. If the timeline did not realign, and the CofE was held before Legolas could show up and confess to the mislaying of Gollum – and if Frodo got there in July, that would be likely, wouldn’t it? – then … I can’t even conjecture on what the Fellowship of the Ring would have looked like.
It would have been wise to have left Bag End on June 1, in that the Black Riders didn’t get near the Shire until just about the Birthday; if their timeline was not altered, they would have to play catch-up. Frodo would not have been wounded. Fatty Bolger would have been spared a whopper of a scare.
If Frodo hadn’t been wounded, would he have been more or less likely to be successful in the journey to destroy the Ring?
But here’s the thing. If he was riding herd on the hobbits all through June, Gandalf might not have gotten the word that made him anxious and impelled him to leave Bag End. He might have done as he did with Bilbo and the dwarves and left them all on their own while he went off to check things out (and get captured at Orthanc) – but what if he made the decision to stay with them? What if he was worried enough about the Black Riders, and Gollum, and the idea that Frodo might find some way to drop anchor somewhere and dither, and decided to remain as the hobbits’ escort? He might not have proof that Saruman had gone dark (and what if then Saruman was invited to the COE? Yikes), which would have left a major threat at their margins. He might never have befriended Shadowfax, which would have hindered him at quite a few important moments.
My head is spinning a bit. That is a great deal of plot to hang on a few months’ waffling and inertia.
Back to Chapter 3 tomorrow.