Monday, October 1, 2007

Walk to Rivendell ... or beyond

Thanks to my friend Gary for forwarding me an interesting item yesterday: an exercise challenge expressed in Middle-earth distances. As the item says, “Out-of-shape? Middle Earth [sic] geek? Why not walk to Rivendell[?]” Now that sounds like an interesting motivation — to bring a new appreciation to the adventure we’ve all read so often.

What really struck me, reading some of the proposed walking challenges, is just how far those Hobbits really walked — and barefoot, no less! According to the post (and I’m too lazy to verify this myself!), it’s “397 miles from Rivendell to Bag End.” Thinking about my own walking routine, which is something approaching ten miles a week (in a good week), it would have taken me three quarters of a year to get to Rivendell! Though I would surely pick up the pace if I had Black Riders behind me all the way! ;)


  1. A nice little walk. That 397 miles, by the way, is less than the distance the Appalachian Trail travels in Virginia alone.

    At message boards, there's a weekly thread where people check in with their updated mileage.

    Were the hobbits barefoot? What do you think of Tolkien's statement that Bilbo, at any rate, wore boots from Rivendell to Erebor and back?

  2. Thanks, N.E.B. I had no idea the “Walk to Rivendell” challenge was so well known. As to the question of shoes, I wasn’t thinking of Bilbo. Frodo and company, we know, do not wear shoes in LotR. But you raise a good question; where does Tolkien say that?

  3. Hey Jase, have you seen the Barrow Downs version?

    I found it when I was still walking every day and entering my distance every week. Very discouraging! It took me forever to get to Rivendell.

    On a more positive note, the first time I listened to the audio LotR, I listened only during my daily walks. I feel like I walked from Bad End to Mordor and back again. It really put the hobbits' journey in perspective.

    For those who haven't heard it, I can't recommend the audio book enough. It's read by Rob Inglis who has distinct voices for each character and excellent Elvish pronunciation -- he even sings the songs. (I wonder where they found the tunes, since not all are in The Road Goes Ever On.)

    Anyway, you might want to listen to LotR during your walks. You'll feel like you walked to Rivendell, regardless of what various web sites say about the distance. :)

  4. Thanks for the link to the Barrow Downs site, Cat Bastet. I love how when you enter a number of miles, it both tells you where you are (taking Bag End as the starting point), and also provides a descriptive quotation from the book. That’s a wonderful touch!

    As to the audio book, I may just have to give that a listen — even though I’m not really a big audio book fan generally.

  5. I can't recall if Tolkien's comment on Bilbo's boots appears in Letters or The Annotated Hobbit, but the gist is that Tolkien, commenting on his painting, "Conversation with Smaug", observes that Bilbo is drawn with boots though none are mentioned in the text. He says they should be: Bilbo acquired them in Rivendell.

    On the other hand, Tolkien didn't add a reference to boots in later editions. Is there anything about this in The History of "The Hobbit"?

  6. Ah, yes, N.E.B. You’re right on both counts: it’s in both Letters and The Annotated Hobbit (where Doug Anderson is quoting letter #27, p.35). I had forgotten all about that!

    As to whether there is anything in The History of The Hobbit: not that I can readily see. There is no entry on ‘boots’ or similar in the index (though I didn’t really expect there would be), and at a quick skim of the portions dealing with Rivendell and the following chapter or two, I didn’t see any mention of them. Of course, if the fact is mentioned at all, it could be almost anywhere. I really expected it, maybe, in some sort of first-draft comment while the company scrambled around in the dark under the Misty Mountains — something like, “Good thing Bilbo had acquired some boots in Rivendell or he would have scraped and bumped his poor Hobbit toes to pieces on the stones.” :)

    Anyway, I’ll bear this question in mind while I’m reading cover to cover in the next month or two.

    I may just email John Rateliff about it directly — or you might post the question to the Mythsoc Listserv, if you like. I’m curious to know the answer. I can’t smother the sneaking suspicion that Tolkien might have just been inventing a recollection of having formally booted Biblo in Rivendell as a way of explaining the inconsistency in the painting. ;)