A Rocky Range of Hills that Crossed the Anduin

“The hobbits stood now on the brink of a tall cliff, bare and bleak,
its feet wrapped in mist; and behind them rose the broken highlands crowned with drifting cloud.
A chill wind blew from the East.


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The Emyn Muil was an arc of rocky hills that ran southwest along the River Anduin, crossing it at its southern most end. It is remembered because the Ringbearer Frodo Baggins and his companion Samwise Gamgee crossed it’s razor-sharp peaks on their way to Mordor. They were followed by the creature Gollum, whom they caught and who became their guide through the Dead Marshes, to the Black Gate and finally to the Secret Stair and the Pass of Cirth Ungol.

These ancient hills marked the northern border of Gondor. Where the Anduin cut through the hills on its southward course, the river narrowed and passed through Sarn Gebir. There the river plunged between towering cliffs, until it passed between the two great statues of the Argonath, cut from the living rock by the men of Gondor.

This spur of rocky crags was difficult to navigate, because it was surround on three sides by by sheer cliffs… west, east and south. The Emyn Muil grew gradually out of the Brown Lands in slowly rising hills and then formed a rocky finger pointing southward. To the West lay the East Wall of Rohan, to the South the River Anduin which eventually cascaded down over the falls of Rauros and to the East the hard ridges of rock looked down upon the Dead Marshes.

EmynMuil2Frodo and Sam tried desperately to make their way through the sheer cliffs…

It was the third evening since they had fled from the Company, as far as they could tell: they had almost lost count of the hours during which they had climbed and laboured among the barren slopes and stones of the Emyn Muil, sometimes retracing their steps, because they could  find no way forward, sometimes discovering that they had wandered in a circle back to where they had been hours before. Yet on the whole they had worked steadily eastward, keeping as near as they could find a way to the outer  edge of this strange twisted knot of hills. But always they found it’s outward face sheer, high and impassible, frowning over the plain below: beyond its tumbled skirts lay livid festering marches where nothing moved and not even a bird was to be seen.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Taming of Sméagol’


The hobbit could find no way down out of the hills to the marshes below…

All that day the outer ridge of the Emyn Muil had been bending gradually northward, as they struggled on. Along its brink there now stretched a wide tumbled flat of scored and weathered rock, cut every now and again by trench-like gullies that sloped steeply down to deep notches in the cliff-face. To find a path in these clefts, which were becoming deeper and more frequent, Frodo and Sam were driven to their left, well away from the edge, and  they did not notice that for several miles they had been going slowly but steadily downhill: the cliff-top was sinking towards the level of the lowlands.
As last they were brought to a halt. The ridge took a sharper bend northward and was gashed by a deeper ravine. On the further side it reared up again, many fathoms at a steep leap: a great grey cliff loomed up before them, cut sheer down as if by a knife stroke. They could go no further forwards, and must turn now either west or east. But west would lead them only into more labour and delay, back towards the heart of the hills; east would take them to the outer precipice.
‘There is nothing for it but to scramble down the gully, Sam,’ said Frodo. ‘Let’s see where it leads to!’
‘A nasty drop, I’ll bet,’ said Sam.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Taming of Sméagol’




The hobbits struggled on, searching for a way out of the Emyn Muil

The cleft was longer and deeper then it seemed. Some way down they found a few gnarled and stunted trees, the first they had seen for days: twisted birch for the most part, with here and there a fir-tree. Many were dead and gaunt, bitten to the core by the eastern winds. Once in milder days there must have been a fair thicket in the ravine, but now, after some fifty yards, the trees came to an end, though old broken stumps straggled on almost to the cliffs brink. The bottom of the gully, which lay along the edge of a rock-fault, was rough with broken stone and slanted steeply down. When they came at last to the end of it, Frodo stooped and leaned out.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Taming of Sméagol’


A storm came out of the East and with it a nameless terror…

The hurrying darkness, now gathered great speed, rushed up from the East and swallowed the sky. There was a dry splitting crack of thunder right overhead. Searing lightening smote down into the hills. Then came a blast of savage wind, and with it, mingling with it’s roar, there came a high shrill shriek.
The hobbits had heard just such a cry far away in the Marish as they fled from Hobbiton, and even there in the woods of the Shire it had frozen their blood. Out here in the waste its terror was far greater: it pierced them with cold blades of horror and despair, stopping heart and breath. Sam fell flat on his face. Involuntarily Frodo loosed his hold and put his hands over his head and ears. He swayed, slipped, and slithered downward with a wailing cry.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Taming of Sméagol’



‘Oh yes? Just a simple matter of finding our way through Emyn Muil, an impassable labyrinth of razor-sharp rocks?
And after that, it gets even better! A festering stinking marshland, as far as the eye can see!’


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 Posted by at 2:28 pm