Chapter IIII: A Most Horrible Tragedy which Even our Hero Cannot Prevent (But He Avenges in a Most Exciting Fashion)



So I set out on my epic journey, wandering hither and thither in search of Boromir, and the Last Ring, avoiding the wicked agents of the High Steward Denethor and the fell servants of King Sauron the Dark Lord.  It was without hope or chance of success that I set out on this desperate mission, yet set out I did, for is it not said that, ‘the wicked reap when the good man sleeps’?1  And what gooder man is there than I?

 

Many great deeds did I do in the lonely days and weeks that followed.  Would that I had time to recall how I wrestled the wily worm Pryftan, whose breath burnt hotter than flame and whose hide was like iron, until the dreadful beast submitted and gave over a half of its treasure-hoard to me, and thus was the town of Hytbold saved.

 

Alas, at this moment, the memory of my slaying of the Wolf-master Thû brings too much pain to me, ‘tis a grim and a sad tale.  For though I lived, the maiden Rosalynndaisie met a fate which it pains me to recall, for she loved me, and I her, for verily was she fair beyond measure before she got eaten.

 

A merrier tale (and one more suited to the tender ears of children) concerns my challenging of the crafty wizard Gandalf the Grey to a game of wits, and my winning of his magic hat from his very head!  Though in truth, though I had the better of him, we both won the friendship of the other that day, and parted in good humour.

 

So it is that these great tales and deeds must be merely passed over here, but if ever you should happen across I, Lord Tallow, in some tavern or inn, then perhaps it will be that I will speak more fully of these great tales, if pressed to it, for not readily do I recall all my brilliant deeds for the gratification of others, unless I am asked very nicely.2

 

As the days passed into weeks, and the seasons changed like how the mountains don’t really change very much, I rode up and down the lands, accomplishing brilliant things and doing good.  And as I went, ever I sought for word of Boromir, but he had passed out of sight or sound, and no word did I ever receive as to where he might be, until one day early in spring, when I came across a burning camp of goblin-folk but recently destroyed, by the banks of the Anduin.

 

Fearing some trap, I cautiously made my way through the camp, sword drawn, but all had been slain.  Yet something was not right.  The camp was large, but there were but few goblins, and they were lightly armed.  However, each of the goblins bore as device upon their shield a single golden circle, shaped as it were a ring.

 

I entered the tent of their chief and behold! the foul brute yet lived, though half his head had been chopped off.  I whipped out my sword from its sheath, and held the blade up to the horrid little creature’s throat!  ‘Tell me, what is the meaning of this?’ I growled menacingly.

 

The goblin sniggered, ‘You’re too late,’ it mocked nastily.  ‘The son of Denethor is long gone, he’ll be dead before you can ever reach him.’

 

‘The Ring!’ I screamed.  ‘Where’s the Last Ring?  Does he have it?’  Yet even as I asked, I realised - this was a trap.  Boromir had indeed passed this way, but it was naught but a ruse.

 

‘The Ring?’ asked the goblin.  ‘He thinks they have it, he is going there even now - but it’s a trap.  Boromir passed this way, but our camp was a ruse, to draw him in.’

 

Heroically, I stabbed the dying goblin through the heart, and ran straight back out of the camp, following on the trail of Boromir, for happily I am skilled in the art of tracking and can follow the trail even of a butterfly across a river.  As I ran, I drew my sword, and hoped against hope that I would not be too late - that I would be able to save Boromir from whatever wicked snare he had been snared in.

 

I was swift, and within minutes I could hear the sound of battle pressed, close at hand!  I drew my sword and dashed through the forest, swift as a swift arrow.  Then, my blood ran cold, for I heard a great, booming horn call, sounding through the trees.  Once, twice, it winded, and then thrice, yet on the third blast, it faltered and was cut short mid blast, as if the hornblower had been stabbed through the guts by a sneaky sword from behind.

 

And I knew that horn call.  It was the horn of my friend, Boromir.

 

I leapt into the clearing.  There lay Boromir, covered in blood and bits of guts and stuff, barely breathing.  All around him lay the bodies of his enemies, yet still more stood, and even as I appeared, one of them stamped on the horn that Boromir still clutched, shattering it into pieces.  As one, they turned their horrible little pointed faces to me, staring at me with their black beady eyes, readying their cruel blades and bows to strike me down even as they had slain Boromir.

 

Yes, dear reader.  I was beset by Elves.3

 

‘For Gondor!’ I shouted, and charged into the fray, chopping off the heads of the Elves and stabbing them all over.  I was outnumbered at least twenty to one, but my skill was the greater, and my wrath ran the hotter, for they stood over the body of Boromir, my friend.

 

Some of the elves shot arrows at me, but with speed swifter than a striking thing that strikes, I ducked and dodged, and then chopped their arms off and stabbed them.  Others struck at me with their cunning swords, but I turned these aside with my great strength and skill, and slew them where they stood.  Truly, it was magnificent.

 

When at last all the elves lay dead at my feet, I dropped to my knees, tears in my eyes, cradling Boromir’s body in my arms.  Blood, blood, blood, blood, blood.  Blood.  Blood was everywhere.  Blood, and bits of guts.  Blood streamed down his face and he had been stabbed everywhere, it was really horrible.

 

‘Boromir, oh Boromir, I’m so sorry, this is really bad,’ I wept stoically.

 

Then lo! Boromir’s eyes fluttered open weakly, looking into my own.

 

‘Lord…Tallow,’ he gasped faintly.  ‘I knew you’d come.’

 

‘Save your strength, son of Gondor!’ I said.  ‘I will save you…I must save you…’

 

But Boromir reached out one finger, pressing it to my lips.  ‘My body is broken, my strength spent,’ he murmured weakly.  ‘You, Lord Tallow, must carry on.  You must triumph where I have failed.  The whole world will be destroyed otherwise.’

 

His eyes closed and his breaths grew slower, stiller.  Then, once more, he opened his eyes, finding some final strength, ‘Find…the…hobbits…’ he gasped, and then he gave a great shudder and was dead.

 

‘Nooooooo!’ I cried.

 

But it was so.  Boromir, son of the High Steward, was dead, murdered by an elvish conspiracy.

 

My mood was hard and grim as I rose.  We were on the banks of the river, and even as I looked across, I could see the boats that the nasty elves had used to come to this place.  I bore up the broken body of Boromir, and set it in one of the boats.  Around him, I arrayed weapons and tokens of his victory, for he’d also killed a few of the elves before I turned up.  His face was almost peaceful as I pushed the boat out into the river, and so set Boromir of Gondor on his last voyage, tears in my eyes.4

 

‘Why?’ I cried, angry, despairing.

 

But there was naught more I could do.  I gathered the bodies of the treacherous elves together and set them alight, and then I turned my back upon that tragic place.  Boromir’s End, was it known ever after.5  As I set out, my heart heavy with grief, Boromir’s last words rang in my ears.  What hobbits?  Find them where?  What did it mean?

 

Clearly, it was my lot to continue where Boromir had failed, for if I did not, who knows what might happen?  But the mystery of his last words, and of his death, played on me as I set forth.  What was I to do?

 

And even as I rode on, the answer came to me - I must go north, to the lands of the hobbits and the Rangers both.  In the north lay the answers to these riddles.  Probably, I guess.

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1 In my research concerning “Lord Tallow”, I happened to learn that this adage is also known in the North in a rather more rustic form.  It is intriguing that Nick prefers the Gondorian turn of phrase here - for all his general ignorance concerning these lands, he would appear to have spent enough time in Gondor to become somewhat familiar with our speech and ways.

2 Needless to say, it is difficult to find the ascription of any of these deeds to Nick Tallow credible, not least because it seems likely that Tallow was merely borrowing names and plots from the various unbelievable legends he himself heard in his travels.

What is notable, however, is that this passage would appear to reveal something of Tallow’s true motivation in writing this lurid book.  For at least a score of years following the War of the Ring, Tallow’s path can be sketched with some certainty throughout the lands of Middle-earth.  From records in various Northern settlements, a pattern in Tallow’s movements can be deduced.  His normal operation was to come to town, and stay for a few weeks (perhaps even several months, in towns blessed with a thriving (or burdened with a gullible) population).  While in town, Tallow would shamelessly use the repute of his legend to come by free board and drink, and entertain locals and travellers alike with his astonishing tales (and, often, also employ a side hustle consisting of various charlatan’s games, tricks and schemes to swindle a little additional coin).  Then, when his welcome began to wear thin, he would move on to the next settlement, often being welcomed with open arms, his better reputation having preceded him by virtue of the travellers he had entertained in the previous town.  In this way, Tallow made his way from place to place in relative comfort and ease for many years.

Hence, the writing of his book likely served several diverse purposes.  Primarily, it doubtless aided him in keeping his story somewhat straight.  However, an indeterminate number of copies were produced during his life, doubtless at great monetary gain to the swindler Tallow.  These copies also likely served to further Tallow’s legend, and Tallow’s glossing over his supposed deeds here is thus a canny business decision, promoting the promise of additional tales and leaving open a certain adaptability depending on his audience for the evening.

Whether the book I worked from is actually of Tallow’s own hand or not cannot be claimed with any certainty, not without additional sources for comparison.  Mr Hayward vehemently claims that this is indeed Tallow’s original, and I do not doubt that Mr Hayward truly believes it to be so.  But I also do not doubt that Tallow may have sold many ‘originals’ in his dubious travels.  The truth of the matter will likely never be known, though it is worth recording that I personally believe Mr Hayward’s volume to be one of the later copies, primarily due to Tallow’s promise of a sequel.

3 It may seem from this passage (and others) that Nick Tallow considered the Eldar to be servants of the Enemy, which is perhaps not entirely accurate.  Tallow was undoubtedly suspicious of Elves, and seems to have borne them some particular dislike.  However, Tallow’s general view of Elves seems to have been that they were capricious, dangerous, and untrustworthy creatures, rather than necessarily evil - a conception similar to that of many Northern folk in those days.  To be sure, Tallow’s dislike of the Eldar often seems to bend beyond mere rustic ignorance into outright hostility, and it would not surprise me if Tallow indeed had had some limited dealings with Elvish folk.

A tendency found throughout the story is for Tallow to villainise those whom he felt had ‘wronged’ him in some manner, and it seems likely enough that Tallow would have found whatever Elves he met to be less credulous audiences than he was accustomed to entertaining.  This, coupled with whatever unenlightened superstitions he may have held may explain why the Elves encountered in his tale are invariably adversarial.

4 Though obviously a wholly fictional (and indeed fantastical) account of Boromir’s end, it is nonetheless instructive to consider several congruences between the historical accounts and Nick Tallow’s tale.  Boromir dies by the Anduin, on an errand revealed to him through a dream.  Boromir’s horn, which was a relic of the Stewards of Gondor, is broken in battle.  And Boromir is laid to rest in an Elvish boat, with elvish tokens upon him and the weapons of his foes about him.  (Notably, Boromir’s mention of “hobbits” in this passage would seem to be congruent with the actual circumstances of Boromir’s death by mere chance.  It is doubtful that Tallow knew that Boromir fell in defence of Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck, and as will be seen, the halflings in Tallow's tale are markedly at odds with the actual companions of Boromir and the Fellowship of the Ring.)

Such details were doubtless included by Tallow in order to further credibility of his tale, for any who might have already heard some rumour of the great War then recently fought.  Yet, crucially, it means also that Tallow himself knew something of the passing of Boromir, the news of which indeed came to Gondor ere the Siege of Minas Tirith was fought.

5 No such name is attested in any reputable history.