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Only two dates out of this five-day period of travel earn entries in the Tale of Years:
1. Gandalf leaves Bree.
3. He is attacked at night on Weathertop.
But all five days can be supplied with events by counting mornings and evenings in the narrative and adding details that Gandalf offers at the Council of Elrond. And two of these dates are mentioned explicitly in the story:
October 3rd is the evening on which Gandalf is besieged on Weathertop, which we know thanks to his scratching a ‘G’ rune plus three marks (for the day of the month) on a rock for Aragorn to find.
October 5th is named in the narrative itself: ‘By night they had reached the feet of the westward slopes, and there they camped. It was the night of the fifth of October, and they were six days out from Bree.’
Before dawn, a company of at least five Nazgûl fling down the west-gate of Bree, gallop through town, and head east along the Road. Gandalf leaves the Prancing Pony and rides out after them on Shadowfax.
Strider and the four hobbits begin their second day of hiking through the Chetwood. They have been swerving to avoid pursuit, but now start taking paths that lead more directly east.
They leave the Chetwood ‘On the third day out from Bree’, where their first day out from Bree was the day they departed, September 30th.
Strider and the hobbits reach the edge of the Chetwood and walk out into the open country. The ground here is lower than in the Bree-land behind them, and is beginning to get boggy.
The hobbits and Strider camp, now several miles inside the Midgewater Marshes. They are swarmed by insects as they try to sleep.
Sam wonders, ‘What do they live on when they can’t get hobbit?’
‘The next day, the fourth, was little better, and the night almost as comfortless.’
Strider and the four hobbits spend a second day picking their way east through the Midgewater Marshes.
All nine Nazgûl are now gathered at Weathertop. Sensing Gandalf’s anger as he rides towards them, they abandon the hill to the wizard while the sun remains up.
Gandalf and Shadowfax reach Weathertop and climb to the crown of the hill. The Nazgûl surround them as the sun starts to set.
The battle between Gandalf and the nine Nazgul offers the first moment in The Lord of the Rings in which the narrative of one of the main characters—Gandalf will relate the battle on Weathertop at the Council of Elrond—comes into view for other characters, as Strider and Frodo watch the lightning-flashes from their camp many miles to the west.
Gandalf takes his stand in the ruined ring of the fortress of Amon Sûl. The nine Nazgûl move forward in the dark and begin their attack.
Frodo and Strider, awake in their camp two days’ march to the west, see lightning leaping into the sky in the direction of the Weather Hills.
With the approach of dawn, the nine Nazgûl end their overnight attack. Gandalf cannot now search for Frodo without leading the Nazgûl to him, so the wizard rides north, away from the Road. Four Nazgûl ride after him.
‘They had not gone far on the fifth day when they left the last straggling pools and reed-beds of the marshes behind them.’
Strider and the hobbits reach the eastern edge of the Midgewater Marshes where the land begins rising. The hobbits see the Weather Hills for the first time, standing ahead of them along the horizon.
‘It was already night when at last they halted and made their camp under some stunted alder-trees by the shores of the stream.’
It’s already dark when Strider and the four hobbits finally stop, camping beneath alder trees on the banks of a small stream that runs down from the Weather Hills. For the first time on their journey they set a watch.
‘Next morning they set out again soon after sunrise.’ And here we reach the explicit October 5th reference mentioned at the top of the page:
After another day’s hike—their sixth since leaving Bree—Strider and the four hobbits reach the Weather Hills and camp where their slopes rise abruptly from the plain. For a second night in a row they set a watch.
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