In the tenth chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo speaks with the mysterious and coy Strider, and Tolkien manages to take me by surprise yet again. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.
CHAPTER TEN: STRIDER
Lords and Stuff
[FRODO, PIPPIN, and SAM arrive inside the parlour of their room at the Prancing Pony. The only source of light is the dim burning of the wood in the fireplace.]
SAM: Let’s throw some faggots on the fire!
PIPPIN: Won’t that word totally scare the crap out of people who momentarily forgot that it used to have another meaning?
PIPPIN: THEN MAKE SURE TO USE IT IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH.
[Once the fire roars to life, the three discover that STRIDER is already inside their room.]
PIPPIN: SWEET BABY GANDALF, what are you doing?
STRIDER: Oh, you know. Just waiting in the total darkness for your friend Frodo so I can have a talk with him. I’m totally good and honorable and certainly have no negative intentions, despite that I hid in the fucking dark for you to arrive.
FRODO: Well, this is off to a good start, isn’t it? So what is it you want?
STRIDER: Well, I have a price for my information.
FRODO: You really don’t get this “noble stranger” thing, do you?
STRIDER: I swear upon my life that what I ask is affordable.
FRODO: I mean, hiding in the dark, making ambiguous, vague statements about some mysterious “advantage” that you have to offer me, and now saying that after all this, I have to pay you for it? Is this Hidden Hobbit or something? Will a bunch of people burst out of the other rooms to surprise me with some practical joke?
STRIDER: My price is simple: just take me with you.
THE HOBBITS: WHAT????
STRIDER: See? It doesn’t cost you anything.
FRODO: Well, wait, I need to know what you know before we agree to this. How can you help us?
STRIDER: Well, I’ve been spying on you.
SAM: Wow, you really aren’t good at this “noble stranger” thing.
STRIDER: I was looking for Frodo Baggins! I had to!
FRODO: I’m pretty sure this is the worst pitch of all time.
STRIDER: I’M TRYING TO HELP YOU EVADE THE BLACK HORSEMEN.
[At this, all the hobbits fall silent, looking at one another with fear in their eyes. Finally:]
PIPPIN: Well, that does explain a lot.
STRIDER: And Frodo, you’ve made it a hell of a lot harder since your “accident” earlier.
FRODO: I swear it was an accident!
STRIDER: Who accidentally falls onto a ring and makes it go on their finger?
FRODO: Stranger things have happened!
STRIDER: Well, it doesn’t matter, because we need to get you out of here as soon as possible. The townsfolk of Bree are not to be trusted. There’s no one who knows the lands between the Shire and the Misty Mountains as well as I. So, what do you say?
SAM: I’m sorry, why on earth should we trust this dude? This whole thing seems like a disaster.
FRODO: I’m inclined to agree. You’ve given us nothing that we can go on to trust you. And how is it that you know any of this?
[There’s a knock at the door, and both BUTTERBUR and NOB enter the room.]
BUTTERBUR: Right, so I came to say goodnight, but there is one thing I must tell you, Mr. Underhill. I was specifically asked to look for Frodo Baggins and was given a rather detailed description of him. I know it’s you.
FRODO: Damn it, what the hell is going on? Who told you that?
BUTTERBUR: Right, it was Gandalf.
PIPPIN: This is not happening.
FRODO: WHY DID GANDALF TELL YOU TO LOOK FOR ME???
BUTTERBUR: Well….[He pauses, looking about with shame.] Well, see, three months ago, Gandalf stopped by.
BUTTERBUR: See, he told me that he wanted me to do something for him, to send a message to the Shire.
BUTTERBUR: He gave me a letter and told me to send it to the Shire right away.
BUTTERBUR: Well…..well, I still have it, Mr. Baggins.
THE HOBBITS: What????
BUTTERBUR: Yeah. Ooops!
FRODO: You kept it this whole time???
BUTTERBUR: Dude, no one wants to go to the damn Shire! It’s not like I could just hand it to the mail man.
FRODO: You should have given this to me the second I arrived!
BUTTERBUR: Well, excuse me. It’s not like there’s a ton of weird shit going on around here, let alone a DISAPPEARING HOBBIT. Plus, that creep Strider has been sneaking around, and I don’t really trust him.
STRIDER [Revealing himself from the shadows.]: Why does no one trust me?
BUTTERBUR [Who gives a yelp of surprised at first]: BECAUSE YOU DO THINGS LIKE THAT. SWEET HOBBIT, STOP THAT.
STRIDER: Well, I assure you all that I am here under good pretenses.
FRODO: Yeah, I don’t trust him either. [To BUTTERBUR] I think we should leave as soon as possible. Those Black Riders are sure to find me.
STRIDER: I should probably reveal right now that the Black Riders are actually from Mordor.
PIPPIN: Mate, you’ve got to understand tact and timing if you want to be trusted. Seriously, you’re awful at this.
BUTTERBUR: At any rate, I’ll do my best to keep y’all safe. Speaking of such, where’s your other friend? Merry?
[THE HOBBITS all look at one another, fright dawning on their faces.]
FRODO: Oh, great. We have no idea where he is. We…we probably should have thought about that earlier.
SAM: I swear we are good friends!
BUTTERBUR: Well, Nob and I are off to go see if we can locate him. Good night!
[With that, BUTTERBUR and NOB disappear. Everyone moves towards FRODO, who is now holding GANDALF’S letter in his hands. He begins to read aloud.]
FRODO: “Hey, y’all! Just silly ol’ Gandalf here. How y’all doing? Hope everything’s fine in the Shire. What am I saying, of course it is! You’re all hobbits, so everything’s just fine. Just wanted to write to say that the Shire is a dangerous warzone of trouble and you should get out as soon as possible! I’m too busy to come tell you myself, so let’s just hope this gets to you quickly, or else…well, let’s just not think about that!”
PIPPIN: Gandalf is fucking weird, man.
FRODO: Shush, Pippin.
PIPPIN: I’m just saying! This all seems like a bad idea.
FRODO: Can I finish? Ahem…”If you make it to Bree, leave a message for me with Butterbur. You can trust that man with your life! So be nice to him and don’t refuse his desserts. They’re to die for! Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. Also, if you meet someone named Strider, you can trust him to. See you in Rivendell, sillies! Love ya! Yours in haste, Gandalf.”
SAM: Is that for real? Is he being serious?
FRODO: Wait, there’s more. “PS: Don’t use that goddamn ring again, Frodo, or you’re going to ruin everything. Toodles! PPS: Oh, right, make sure that you talk to the right Strider. His real name is Aragorn, and here’s a poem that makes no sense at all to anyone but me, and it will allow you to identify him. Hope to see you soon! KIT!”
PIPPIN: I don’t trust any of these people, if I can be honest.
FRODO: Wait, there’s one last bit. “PPPS: Butterbur is trustworthy, but about as dependable as a tissue. Let’s hope he actually sent this letter. If not, lol!”
SAM: Well, this is just great.
STRIDER: You have to admit it sounds exactly like Gandalf.
[The HOBBITS nod in agreement before SAM speaks up.]
SAM: Wait, how do we know you are the actual Strider? How does that letter help at all?
STRIDER: Well, if I’d somehow killed the real Strider, do you think we’d all be standing around right now chatting merrily? [STRIDER stands, towering over the other hobbits.] That being said, I am the real Strider. I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn.
PIPPIN: You sound like the dwarves.
FRODO: Well, that settles it. At least we’re finally getting to Gandalf’s plan.
SAM: What exactly is his plan, by the way? We’re going to Rivendell, and then…what comes after that?
FRODO: I don’t really know.
PIPPIN: Fuck this. I’m going to bed. What a waste of time.
[At this point, NOB and MERRY BRANDYBUCK burst into the room, MERRY frightened and exhausted.]
MERRY: Yeah, we’re screwed.
FRODO: What happened? Where were you?
MERRY: The Black Riders are here. They’re in the village. And two of them attacked me.
SAM: Why are we doing this again? This just keeps getting worse and worse.
FRODO: Go on, Merry. What happened?
[MERRY eyes STRIDER with suspicion.]
FRODO: I can’t even begin to explain who that dude is. Just accept that he’s on our side so we can move along.
MERRY: Fair enough. I followed two of them and tried to spy on them when something overcame me.
NOB: They’re dementors, Frodo.
NOB: You know, they’re just like the dementors from Harry Potter.
PIPPIN: DUDE. SHHHHHH. YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW ABOUT THEM YET. YOU HAVE LIKE 40 YEARS.
NOB: Well, it’s true!
STRIDER: Well, these came first, and the Black Breath is a frightening thing. At least Merry is alive.
MERRY: Who is this guy again?
FRODO: He’s with Gandalf.
MERRY: Why does that seemingly explain everything?
PIPPIN: Because Gandalf’s a weirdo.
FRODO: Hush, both of you. Strider, how much danger are we in at this inn?
STRIDER: I think we’ll be fine, but I’ll lead us out of here in the morning along a secret path that only I know about.
SAM: Again, you aren’t good at making yourself sound trustworthy.
STRIDER: Cut me some slack. I’m working with Gandalf. Surely you understand how he works.
SAM: Good point.
PIPPIN: Can I go to bed now? The lack of sleep is the most dangerous thing in my horizon, for your information.
FRODO: I suppose we should all get some rest before we leave in the morning.
[The lights dim slowly over the course of a couple minutes as we watch the HOBBITS pull blankets out of rooms and settle down near the fire. We see (but do not hear) MERRY, FRODO, and STRIDER talking as the lights go out.]
To be continued….