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Old 01-05-2007, 07:30 PM   #1
luthien-elvenprincess
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Why Did the Nazgul Wait at Crickhollow?

While re-reading the chapter "A Knife in the Dark", I am puzzled about the three Nazgul's patience at Crickhollow. Why did they stand outside the house all night, waiting until just before dawn to break into the house to attack? Why didn't they storm the house right when they first met together at the gate?
The Nazgul attacks at Crickhollow and Bree appear to have happened simultaneously. But what advantage was gained by waiting. Wouldn't it have been better if the three Nazgul at Crickhollow had struck as soon as they met up there and then hurried to Bree to help out there?

I would appreciate other's thought on this matter.
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Old 01-06-2007, 08:22 AM   #2
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The Eye Did they?

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As he stared out into the gloom, a black shadow moved under the trees; the gate seemed to open of its own accord and close again without a sound. Terror seized him. He shrank back, and for a moment he stood trembling in the hall. Then he shut and locked the door.
Quote:
The night deepened. There came the soft sound of horses led with stealth along the lane. Outside the gate they stopped, and three black figures entered, like shades of night creeping across the ground. One went to the door, one to the corner of the house on either side; and there they stood, still as the shadows of stones, while night went slowly on. The house and the quiet trees seemed to be waiting breathlessly.
There was a faint stir in the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. The cold hour before dawn was passing. The figure by the door moved. In the dark without moon or stars a drawn blade gleamed, as if a chill light had been unsheathed. There was a blow, soft but heavy, and the door shuddered.
Quote:
Fatty Bolger had not been idle. As soon as he saw the dark shapes creep from the garden, he knew that he must run for it, or perish. And run he did, out of the back door, through the garden, and over the fields. When he reached the nearest house, more than a mile away, he collapsed on the doorstep. "No, no no!" he was crying "no, not me! I haven't got it!"
Ok, so I guess that the "while night went slowly on" part suggests they waited. I disagree.
Just a quick timeline:
  • Fatty Bolger sees something move outside and the gate open
  • The three shadows open the gate and enter and surround the house
  • Fatty immediately makes a run for it and calls for help
Now I don't know how quickly a hobbit runs a mile, but this is the time that passed from the moment the shadows entered to the moment the alarm was raised. Considering how afraid Fatty was I expect he ran that mile pretty fast.
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Old 01-06-2007, 06:36 PM   #3
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There was a faint stir in the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. The cold hour before dawn was passing. The figure by the door moved. In the dark without moon or stars a drawn blade gleamed, as if a chill light had been unsheathed. There was a blow, soft but heavy, and the door shuddered.
It was the hour before dawn that the black riders entered the house, regardless of when Fatty Bolger's escape happened. Though I would find it almost as puzzling that they did not hear him flee out the other door, except that elsewhere we learn that the black riders' senses are compromised by their state of existence.

Perhaps there was a plan amongst all the black riders to strike simultaneously. Perhaps the three black riders at Crickhollow did not "smell" the Ring, and were uncertain because of it. Perhaps they were suffering from overconfidence and wanted their prey to experience the terrors of the night before they attacked. These are all conjectures, but I'm not sure a more definitive answer can be had.
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Old 01-06-2007, 07:32 PM   #4
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You raise a very good question there littlemanpoet, why didn't the Nazgul follow him...this puzzles me indeed

I mean, even if they perhaps waited a bit to really make him feel fear it makes no sense to let him run away, especially if they suspected that he might have the Ring.
But as the Nazgul themselves say:

Quote:
Let the little people blow! Sauron would deal with them later.
They probably expected someone to run and raise the alarm, what they did not expect is that the house was going to be empty.

But this raises another question, if they didn't follow Fatty because they noticed he doesn't have the Ring, why did they attack the house in the first place?
Were they really so overconfident that they were blinded by this and unable to notice the Ring was no longer in the Shire?

We see them usually as very capable and useful servants, but here they clearly failed...
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Old 01-06-2007, 07:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Might
But this raises another question, if they didn't follow Fatty because they noticed he doesn't have the Ring, why did they attack the house in the first place?
Were they really so overconfident that they were blinded by this and unable to notice the Ring was no longer in the Shire?

We see them usually as very capable and useful servants, but here they clearly failed...
They do "feel" the ring but the feel doesn't seem to be powerful.
They don't feel that the ring isn't in the CrickHollow house.
They don't feel that the ring is right under them when the hobbits hide under the tree (please forgive me for this example if this only happened in the movie, I can't remember)
They don't feel that the ring isn't in the room where they attack in Prancing Pony and yet don't feel that the ring is still in the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Fatty Bolger had not been idle. As soon as he saw the dark shapes creep from the garden, he knew that he must run for it, or perish. And run he did, out of the back door, through the garden, and over the fields. When he reached the nearest house, more than a mile away, he collapsed on the doorstep. "No, no no!" he was crying "no, not me! I haven't got it!"
I always envision the yard and gardens surrounded by the gate very large, in fact the home is on a bit of hill. So it is feasible to me that Fatty looked out and saw the shadow at the gate, locked the front door, escaped by the back door quietly and once beyond the back fence ran like heck.
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Old 01-06-2007, 07:53 PM   #6
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A little further on in the chapter (A Knife in the Dark), immediately following your quote regarding the hobbits blowing their horns, we have this:

Quote:
Meanwhile they had another errand: they knew now that the house was empty and the Ring had gone.
Therefore, up until they had broken into the house, they were not sure if the Ring was in the house or not. If they weren't sure of this, then it is likely that they weren't sure of many other things, such as Fatty escaping.

I also still think that there was a simultaneity to the attacks in Crickhollow and Bree, and that was part of their plan.
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Old 01-06-2007, 08:09 PM   #7
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I guess that is true, and they weren't as good as I thought they were
And the fact that they attacked at Bree and Crickhollow probably proves they were not yet completely sure where the Ring was at the time

I also remembered that Khamul was also very close to the Ring once when he talked to the Gaffer, but he also didn't feel its presence, even though we know that he was, after the WK himself, the second best
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Old 01-06-2007, 08:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by The Might
I also remembered that Khamul was also very close to the Ring once when he talked to the Gaffer, but he also didn't feel its presence, even though we know that he was, after the WK himself, the second best.
And that was in daylight.

I just noticed that one of the black riders reveals that knife that showed up on Weathertop, which suggests that the Witch King was at Crickhollow instead of Bree.
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Old 01-07-2007, 02:26 AM   #9
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In Reader’s Companion, Hammond & Scull quote Tolkien’s notes on the attack on Crickhollow. These are archived at Marquette and are the source of the Unfinished Tales chapter “Hunt for the Ring”.

Khaműl led the Nazgűl operating inside the Shire. The Witch-king was at Andrath, the narrow defile through which the Greenway passed between the Barrow-downs and the South Downs, from whence he visited the Barrow-downs and stirred up the barrow-wights.

When Frodo and his companions crossed the Brandywine River, Khaműl set one Nazgűl to watch the Brandywine Bridge, and sent two eastwards along the Great Road to report back to the Witch-king. Khaműl and the other Nazgűl from Dol Guldur (“his companion”) entered Buckland by the North Gate.
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…desiring to attract as little notice as possible he (mistakenly and against Sauron’s orders) sacrifices speed to stealth.
Khaműl and his companion search Buckland, but “they are at a loss,” since Buckland is not on the maps the Nazgűl took from Saruman’s spy. In the following citation from Reader’s Companion, p. 165, the material in square brackets appears in the text, since Hammond & Scull are in turn citing Tolkien’s notes.
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On 28 September they find Crickhollow at night, but do not attack although [Khaműl] is aware that the Ring has been, or is still, there. [Khaműl] ?lurks near, and [his companion] is sent to bring [the rider by the Bridge] and the horses. Road between Bridge and Bree is thus left unwatched. [Early on 29 September Khaműl and the other two Riders] come back to Crickhollow and watch it as the night passes.
The Tale of Years in “Appendix B” of RotK has these entries for September:
Quote:
28 The Hobbits captured by a Barrow-wight. Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford.
29 Frodo reaches Bree at night. Gandalf visits the Gaffer.
30 Crickhollow and the Inn at Bree are raided in the early hours. Frodo leaves Bree. Gandalf comes to Crickhollow, and reaches Bree at night.
Frodo left Crickhollow early on the morning of 26 September. On the same day, Khaműl gathered the other four Nazgűl who were with him. The Ring-bearer was already gone, but just gone; and it took Khaműl another two days to locate where he had been; then it took him another day to prepare an assault on the house. His orders were apparently to act as quickly as possible, but he “sacrifice[d] speed to stealth.” By doing this, Khaműl made an error at Crickhollow.

Last edited by Alcuin; 01-07-2007 at 02:53 AM.
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Old 01-07-2007, 08:56 AM   #10
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I think that much of the text in "A Knife in the Dark" suggests some passage of time between the arrival of the first Nazgul and the attack..

Quote:
As he stared out into the gloom, a black shadow moved under the trees; the gate seemed to open of its own accord and close again without a sound. Terror seized him. He shrank back, and for a moment he stood trembling in the hall. Then he shut and locked the door.
The first Nazgul arrived and merely opened and closed the gate. I don't know if he changed his mind about attacking and waited for back up or if he was doing this as a terror tactic.

Quote:
The night deepened. There came the soft sound of horses led with stealth along the lane. Outside the gate they stopped, and three black figures entered, like shades of night creeping across the ground. One went to the door, one to the corner of the house on either side; and there they stood, still as the shadows of stones, while night went slowly on. The house and the quiet trees seemed to be waiting breathlessly.
There was a faint stir in the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. The cold hour before dawn was passing. The figure by the door moved. In the dark without moon or stars a drawn blade gleamed, as if a chill light had been unsheathed. There was a blow, soft but heavy, and the door shuddered.
"The night deepened" is an interesting sentence. I don't know what time qualifies as the deep of the night, but "deep" has an overtone of the middle or most intense part of something. As The Might already pointed out, "while night went slowly on" can imply a passage of time. The Nazgul didn't attack until just prior to dawn.


Quote:
Fatty Bolger had not been idle. As soon as he saw the dark shapes creep from the garden, he knew that he must run for it, or perish. And run he did, out of the back door, through the garden, and over the fields. When he reached the nearest house, more than a mile away, he collapsed on the doorstep. "No, no no!" he was crying "no, not me! I haven't got it! It was some time before anyone could make out what he was babbling about. At last they got the idea that enemies were in Buckland, some strange invasion from the Old Forest. And then they lost no more time"
Fatty didn't make a run when he saw the first shadow move under the trees, he ran when he saw "dark shapes creep from the garden". The words imply that he waited until all three Nazgul were there and moving toward the house.

The text seems to indicate that the Nazgul came and stood by the house while the night went slowly on and the house and the quiet trees waited breathlessly. Again, the sense of time passing.

Fatty had to run over a mile to the nearest house. His name suggests that he was not an accomplished long-distance runner, however fear and terror very likely put speed to his feet! But, once there, "It was some time" before anyone could figure out what he was saying. ONce they understood, they lost no more time in action. The Horn-call of Buckland sounded just as the Nazgul passed swiftly into the house.
So the Nazgul, at the very least, waited the amount of time for a fat hobbit to run over a mile and in a highly excited state of mind finally communicate the danger to others.

Thanks for all the great comments on this thread.

Another interesting fact of the Crickhollow event...the Nazgul carring Frodo's cloak and dropping it on the step as they ran.
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Old 01-07-2007, 12:16 PM   #11
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very good quote there Alcuin, I was not aware that these comments existed
so I guess the Nazgul did wait longer until they attacked instead of using spead
perhaps an explanation for this is Khamul's great weakness
We know he was second best in finding the ring after the Wk, but he was of the 9 the one who suffered most from sun light, so perhaps he sacrificed speed for stealth also because of his problem
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