Travellers reach the Brandywine Bridge
Event Type: General
Age: 3rd Age - Ring War
Date: October 30, 3019
They leave Bree. The 'Travellers' come to the Brandywine Bridge at dark.
The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Chief Days from the Fall of the Barad-dûr to the End of the Third Age
It was after nightfall when, wet and tired, the travellers came at last to the Brandywine, and they found the way barred. At either end of the Bridge there was a great spiked gate; and on the further side of the river they could see that some new houses had been built..., bare and dimly lit, all very gloomy and un-Shirelike.
They hammered on the outer gate and called, but there was at first no answer; and then... someone blew a horn, and the lights in the windows went out. A voice shouted in the dark:
'Who's that? Be off!... Can't you read the notice: No admittance between sundown and sunrise?'
'Of course we can't read the notice in the dark.' Sam shouted back. 'And if hobbits of the Shire are to be kept out in the wet on a night like this, I'll tear down your notice....'
At that... a crowd of hobbits with lanterns poured out of the house.... They opened the further gate, and some came over the bridge. When they saw the travellers they seemed frightened.
'Come along!' said Merry, recognizing one of the hobbits. 'If you don't know me, Hob Hayward, you ought to. I am Merry Brandybuck, and I should like to know what all this is about, and what a Bucklander like you is doing here. You used to be on the Hay Gate.'
'Bless me! It's Master Merry, to be sure, and all dressed up for fighting!' said old Hob. 'Why, they said you was dead! Lost in the Old Forest by all accounts. I'm pleased to see you alive after all!'
'Then stop gaping at me through the bars, and open the gate!' said Merry.
'I'm sorry, Master Merry, but we have orders.'
'The Chief's up at Bag End.'
'Chief? Chief? Do you mean Mr. Lotho?' said Frodo.
'I suppose so, Mr. Baggins; but we have to say just "the Chief" nowadays.'
'Do you indeed!' said Frodo. 'Well, I am glad he has dropped the Baggins at any rate. But it is evidently high time that the family dealt with him and put him in his place.'
A hush fell on the hobbits beyond the gate. 'It won't do no good talking that way,' said one. 'He'll get to hear of it. And if you make so much noise, you'll wake the Chief's Big Man.'
'We shall wake him up in a way that will surprise him,' said Merry. 'If you mean that your precious Chief has been hiring ruffians out of the wild, then we've not come back too soon.' He sprang from his pony, and seeing the notice in the light of the lanterns, he tore it down and threw it over the gate.... 'Come on, Pippin!' said Merry. 'Two is enough.'
Merry and Pippin climbed the gate, and the hobbits fled. Another horn sounded. Out of the bigger house on the right a large heavy figure appeared....
'What's all this,' he snarled as he came forward. 'Gate-breaking? You clear out, or I'll break your filthy little necks!' Then he stopped, for he had caught the gleam of swords.
'Bill Ferny,' said Merry, 'if you don't open that gate in ten seconds, you'll regret it. I shall set steel to you, if you don't obey. And when you have opened the gates you will go through them and never return. You are a ruffian and a highway-robber.'
Bill Ferny flinched and shuffled to the gate and unlocked it. 'Give me the key!' said Merry. But the ruffian flung it at his head and then darted out into the darkness. As he passed the ponies one of them let fly with his heels and just caught him as he ran. He went off with a yelp into the night and was never heard of again.
'Neat work, Bill,' said Sam, meaning the pony.
'So much for your Big Man,' said Merry. 'We'll see the Chief later. In the meantime we want a lodging for the night, and as you seem to have pulled down the Bridge Inn and built this dismal place instead, you'll have to put us up.'
'I am sorry, Mr. Merry,' said Hob, 'but it isn't allowed.'
'What isn't allowed?'
'Taking in folk off-hand like and eating extra food, and all that,' said Hob.
'What's the matter with the place?' said Merry. 'Has it been a bad year, or what? I thought it had been a fine summer and harvest.'
'Well no, the year's been good enough,' said Hob. 'We grows a lot of food, but we don't rightly know what becomes of it. It's all these "gatherers" and "sharers", I reckon, going round counting and measuring and taking off to storage. They do more gathering than sharing, and we never see most of the stuff again.'
'Oh come!' said Pippin yawning.... 'We've got food in our bags. Just give us a room to lie down in. It'll be better than many places I have seen.'
The hobbits at the gate still seemed ill at ease....; but there was no gainsaying four such masterful travellers, all armed.... Frodo ordered the gates to be locked again..., while ruffians were still about. Then the four companions went into the hobbit guard-house.... It was a bare and ugly place, with a mean little grate that would not allow a good fire.... [On] every wall there was a notice and a list of Rules. Pippin tore them down. There was no beer and very little food, but with what the travellers brought and shared out they all made a fair meal; and Pippin broke Rule 4 by putting most of next day's allowance of wood on the fire.
'Well now, what about a smoke, while you tell us what has been happening in the Shire?' [Pippin] said.
'There isn't no pipe-weed now,' said Hob; 'at least only for the Chief's men. All the stocks seem to have gone. We do hear that waggon-loads of it went away down the old road out of the Southfarthing, over Sarn Ford way. That would be the end o' last year, after you left.But it had been going away quietly before that, in a small way. That Lotho —'
'Now you shut up, Hob Hayward!' cried several of the others. 'You know talk o' that sort isn't allowed. The Chief will hear of it, and we'll all be in trouble.'
'He wouldn't hear naught, if some of you here weren't sneaks,' rejoined Hob hotly.
'All right, all right!' said Sam. "That's quite enough.... No welcome, no beer, no smoke, and a lot of rules and orc-talk instead. I hoped to have a rest, but I can see there's work and trouble ahead. Let's sleep and forget it till morning!'
The new 'Chief' evidently had means of getting news. It was a good forty miles from the Bridge to Bag End, but someone made the journey in a hurry. So Frodo and his friends soon discovered.
The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire
Elena Tiriel 1Mar10