This day was bound to come. After 33 straight months of painstakingly researched Middle-earth Monday blog posts, one of my legion of loyal fans has spotted a mistake in my calculations. And no, we’re not just talking about my infamously spotty grasp on Sindarin spelling, this time I’ve really shat the bed. This time, I got a location wrong, specifically the exact location of Rhosgobel, forest home of the Istar Radagast the Brown.
We all remember exactly where we were when certain life altering events happen. The time I accidentally scraped the spine of my new set of Lord of the Rings when I too excitedly used a knife to remove the shrinkwrap? It was in my grandma’s kitchen on Christmas Eve and I was 9 years old. The time I realized I had given factually incorrect fictional cartographic information? I was trying to squeeze a quick rom com in before work (the disappointing The Sweetest Thing) while working on drawing a black metal style Madonna logo.
www.isleyunruh.com user “Doug” sent this fateful message at 11:31 AM on Tuesday, October 9, 2012:
“If one is committed to the logic that assumes Rhosgobel was located near the Gladden Fields because the scouts passed through them on the way to Rhosgobel, one must also assume it was located near the High Pass 100 miles to the North since that was the route the scouts took immediately after leaving Rhosgobel.”
But the quote doesn’t say the scouts came back via the High Pass (with capitals); it says they took “the high pass that was called the Dimrill Stair”, i.e., the Redhorn Pass, even further south than the Gladden Fields. So I think this does argue for a more southern location for Rhosgobel.
My friend Shena, who talked me down from my initial freak-out, helpfully made me a list of the 6 stages of nerd shame that she observed as I went through a, to borrow from Schmidt from New Girl, “Taylor Swift-like range of emotions”:
STAGE 1: Denial – “No, what? I’m right! I totally know my LotR!”
STAGE 2: Make a Map – “I am drawing a map to figure this out. By hand.”
STAGE 3: Realization – ” Oh noooooooooo….”
STAGE 4: Grief/Regret – “Oh god, how could I do this? How??
STAGE 5: Acceptance – “It’s okay, Isley…you can get through this. Just don’t fuck it up next time. Don’t fuck it up…”
STAGE 6: Jerry Maguire – “Doug, you make me want to be a better nerd.”
She left out Stage 7: Troll Myself Via Open Letter, but otherwise, pretty accurate. Anyway, now that I have come out of my “dark place,” let’s get down to brass tacks here.
In my original post, I attempted to finally put to rest the argument as to whether Rhosgobel was located just north of the Old Forest Road, or whether it was instead opposite the Gladden Fields in southern Mirkwood close to the “narrows” of the forest.
In all of Tolkien’s writings, there are only four pieces of evidence as to Rhosgobel’s location. The first three are as follows:
- Gandalf’s discussion with Beorn – In The Hobbit, Gandalf asks Beorn, “perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?” Not only does this seem to rule out a Forest Road Rhosgobel, but it also makes sense in that Beorn surely would have heard of Radagast had he lived so close to the Carrock.
- Early Map in The History of Middle Earth Volume VII – An early map shows Rhosgobel in the far south of Mirkwood, perilously close to the Amon Lanc. Though, the early maps were much revised, and thus this should be considered non-canon.
- A note in The Unfinished Tales – Tolkien, in The Unfinished Tales, specifically states that Rhosgobel was “in the forest between the Carrock and the Old Forest Road.” Though this is also non-canon, it was written late in Tolkien’s life and thus carries much more weight than the early map in HoME VII.
“The hobbits had been nearly two months in the House of Elrond, and November had gone by with the last shreds of autumn, and December was passing, when the scouts began to return. Some had gone north beyond the springs of the Hoarwell into the Ettenmoors; and others had gone west, and with the help of Aragorn and the Rangers had searched the lands far down the Greyflood, as far as Tharbad, where the old North Road crossed the river by a ruined town. Many had gone east and south; and some of these had crossed the Mountains and entered Mirkwood, while others had climbed the pass at the source of the Gladden River, and had come down into Wilderland and over the Gladden Fields and so at length had reached the old home of Radagast at Rhosgobel. Radagast was not there; and they had returned over the high pass that was called the Dimrill Stair. The sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, were the last to return; they had made a great journey, passing down the Silverlode into a strange country, but of their errand they would not speak to any save to Elrond.” [My emphasis]
Initially I took this to mean that the scouts returned Via the High Pass, and thus Rhosgobel was probably located just to the east of the High Pass. With this as my tie-breaker, I concluded that Rhosgobel was indeed located just within the border of Mirkwood between the Old Forest Road and the Carrock (the top box with a question mark on the map). And then Doug pointed out the Dimrill Stair section and my world turned upside down (or at least as far down as the bottom box with a question mark on the map). I realized that the passage was not referring to THE High Pass™, but rather a high pass also known as the Redhorn Pass.
As discussed above, I quickly drew up a map of the Anduin Valley at work (what, no, Step 2 was very real), and then set to mapping out each of the five routes taken by Elrond’s scouts. With a sinking sensation I realized that yes, Doug was indeed correct, the group of scouts that visited Rhosgobel didn’t come anywhere near the High Pass to the north (their route is labeled in red pen rather than pencil like the other four routes).
There was no way around it, I was wrong.
What can I say but, I apologize to everyone who has come to trust Middle Earth Monday as their premier source of fictional cartography. So quick was I to ram my “High Pass™” theory down my reader’s throats that I didn’t even stop to look that the pass they were discussing was obviously the Redhorn Pass. I let Middle Earth Monday down. I let my readers down. I let myself down.
I can only say that Doug, you make me want to be a better nerd. Also, I bet NoJoy is kicking himself right now for not catching that mistake in the first place.
Finally, from this day forth, let it be known that I now consider Rhosgobel to be latitudinally located no higher than on the Western edge of the narrows of Mirkwood. Which also suggests a reason for Rhosgobel’s abandonment considering the fell magiks issuing from Dol Guldur just to the south at the time Radagast left his home.