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Halfway to Rivendell...

grendel

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This is a foolish inconsistency that has always nagged at me.

In Book 1 Chapter 10 ("Strider"), we read:
"Weathertop?" said Sam. "What's that?"
"It is a hill [said Strider], just to the north of the Road, about half way from here [Bree] to Rivendell..."

Then in Chapter 11 ("A Knife In The Dark"):
By night they had reached the feet of the westward slopes [referring to Weathertop], and there they camped. It was the night of the fifth of October, and they were six days out from Bree.

And later in the same chapter, still at Weathertop:
"How far is Rivendell?" asked Merry, gazing round wearily.
"I don't know if the road has ever been measured in miles beyond the Forsaken Inn, a day's journey east of Bree," answered Strider... "But I know how long it would take me on my own two feet, with fair weather and no ill fortune: twelve days from here to the Ford of Bruinen, where the Road crosses the Loudwater that runs out of Rivendell."

Aragorn is no dope, and has traveled a lot, but even I know that six days to and twelve days from is hardly "halfway". What am I missing?
 

Merroe

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You are right, Grendel: it's a (well known) inconsistency.

In her book "Journeys of Frodo" (Chapter 11 Bree to Weathertop), Barbara Strachey said the following about this:

At this point I must note what I believe to be a real discrepancy in the text itself. In Bree (At the Sign of The Prancing Pony; Bk 1) Aragorn tells Sam that Weathertop is halfway to Rivendell. I am sure that this was a slip of the tongue and that he meant halfway to The Last Bridge. Everything falls into place on this assumption, since the travellers took 7 days between Bree and Weathertop (involving a detour to the north) and 7 days from Weathertop to the Bridge (with Frodo in a wounded condition and unable to hurry) while there was a further stretch of 7 days from the Bridge to Rivendell. Aragorn was well aware of the distance, as he said later (A Knife in the Dark; Bk 1), when they reached Weathertop, that it would then take them 14 days to the Ford of Bruinen although it normally took him only 12. I have tried to construct a map in which the original statement would work, but it would involve carrying the road from Bree to Weathertop down in so vast a southward loop - over 200 miles - that it would run far south of the South Downs, and as the loop was merely to avoid the marshes (A Knife in the Dark; Bk 1) this is not plausible. I have therefore gone on the assumption that he meant to say 'The Last Bridge'.

Also Karen Wynn Fonstad struggled with this incompatibility of distances. She took her material from all three books TS, TH and LotR and thus noticed more of such inconsistencies. In her (excellent!) book "Atlas of Middle-Earth" (The Hobbit - Bag End to Rivendell) she observed:

The company left Bag End on April 27 and Rivendell on Midyear's Day (where they had spent "fourteen days at least"), so they could have been on the road for as much as fifty-one days. The distance from Bag End to Rivendell was slightly more than 400 miles, so the company might have averaged as little as eight miles per day. [...] Even on ponies the dwarves appeared to be travelling at snail's pace, while Frodo was in a continual forced march.

Her conclusion, apart from endorsing Barbara Strachey's conclusions, was the following:

It is possible Tolkien had longer distances in mind for The Hobbit travels, and either did not check the effect of the scale placed on the map in the later book or chose to ignore it. Had the scale of the Wilderland map been about twice that of the rest of Middle-earth, the Dwarves' pace would have been nearer normal. Tolkien "was greatly concerned to harmonize Bilbo's journey with The Lord of the Rings but he never brought this work to a definitive solution." Rather than analyze too closely, it is preferable we merely gain a general impression of the seemingly endless toil necessary to reach Lonely Mountain.

That last conclusion is also my opinion... JRRT made numerous versions of both maps and texts, made even a new version of TH to make it more consistent with LotR etc; in an opus of such complexity, some "leftovers" are close to impossible to avoid!
 

grendel

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Merroe, how awesome! Thank you for taking the time to reply. I did not know about those other writings, but it makes perfect sense that Tolkien meant for Aragorn to say "halfway from Bree to the Last Bridge." Glad it wasn't just me!
 

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