HASA Resources

Places in Middle-earth

Great East-West Road, The

Type: Roads, Lanes, Ways

Region: Other Middle-earth

Other Names
The (Great) East Road
The East-West Road
The Great Road
The Old Road
The Road

Location: The ancient road from the Grey Havens to Rivendell, traversing the Shire; built in the Second Age; the Old Forest Road is its continuation through the regions east of the Misty Mountains.

Description:
Table of Contents:

Description
The Route: West from Bree to the Grey Havens
The Route: East from Bree to Rivendell
History

Description

... the only Númenórean roads were the great road linking Gondor and Arnor ... and the East-West Road from the Grey Havens to Imladris. These roads crossed at a point [Bree] west of Amon Sûl (Weathertop) ... [from Bree] east to Imladris [was] one hundred and sixteen [leagues] *.... [Author's note.]

[* A league is approximately three miles.]

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 1, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields: Notes, Note 6

The village of Bree had some hundred stone houses of the Big Folk, mostly above the Road, nestling on the hillside with windows looking west. On that side ... there was a deep dike with a thick hedge on the inner side. Over this the Road crossed by a causeway; but where it pierced the hedge it was barred by a great gate. There was another gate in the southern corner where the Road ran out of the village. ...

Down on the Road, where it swept to the right to go round the foot of the hill, there was a large inn. It had been built long ago when the traffic on the roads had been far greater. For Bree stood at an old meeting of ways; another ancient road crossed the East Road just outside the dike at the western end of the village, and in former days Men and other folk of various sorts had travelled much on it. ... But ... the North Road was now seldom used: it was grass-grown, and the Bree-folk called it the Greenway.

The Inn of Bree was still there, however, and the innkeeper was an important person. His house was a meeting place ... and a resort ... for such travellers (mostly dwarves) as still journeyed on the East Road, to and from the Mountains.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 9, At the Sign of the Prancing Pony


The Route: West from Bree to the Grey Havens

... the five travellers rode up the climbing road and came to the South-gate of Bree. ...

They ... passed through the West-gate and on towards the Shire. ...

... there was a grey mist on the Barrow-downs southwards, and a deep veil over the Old Forest far away.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 5, Homeward Bound

... they faintly glimpsed a long dark line. 'That is a line of trees,' said Merry, 'and that must mark the Road. All along it for many leagues east of the Bridge there are trees growing. Some say they were planted in the old days.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 8, Fog on the Barrow-downs

... the travellers came at last to the Brandywine ...

It was a good forty miles from the Bridge to Bag End....

As evening fell they were drawing near to Frogmorton, a village right on the Road, about twenty-two miles from the Bridge. There they meant to stay the night; Floating Log at Frogmorton was a good inn. ...

It was about eighteen miles to Bywater, and they set off at ten o'clock in the morning. ...

At the Three-Farthing Stone they ... had done nearly fourteen miles with only one rest at noon. ...

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire

And when they had passed from the Shire, going about the south skirts of the White Downs, they came to the Far Downs, and to the Towers, and looked on the distant Sea; and so they rode down at last to Mithlond, to the Grey Havens in the long firth of Lune.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 9, The Grey Havens


The Route: East from Bree to Rivendell

They had not gone far on the fifth day when they left ... the marshes behind them. ... Away in the distance eastward they could now see a line of hills. The highest of them was at the right of the line and a little separated from the others. It had a conical top, slightly flattened at the summit.

'That is Weathertop,' said Strider. 'The Old Road, which we have left far away on our right, runs to the south of it and passes not far from its foot.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 11, A Knife in the Dark

"I am afraid we must go back to the Road here for a while,' said Strider. 'We have now come to the River Hoarwell, that the Elves call Mitheithel. ... There is no way over it below its sources in the Ettenmoors, except by the Last Bridge on which the Road crosses.'

'What is that other river we can see far away there?' asked Merry.

'That is Loudwater, the Bruinen of Rivendell,' answered Strider. 'The Road runs along the edge of the hills for many miles from the Bridge to the Ford of Bruinen.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 12, Flight to the Ford

The Road was still running steadily downhill, and there was now in places much grass at either side.... In the late afternoon they came to a place where the Road went suddenly under the dark shadow of tall pine-trees, and then plunged into a deep cutting with steep moist walls of red stone. ... All at once, as if through a gate of light, the Road ran out again from the end of the tunnel into the open. There at the bottom of a sharp incline they saw before them a long flat mile, and beyond that the Ford of Rivendell. On the further side was a steep brown bank, threaded by a winding path; and behind that the tall mountains climbed....

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 12, Flight to the Ford


History

[2941 III, before the Quest of Erebor:]
[When Gandalf accepted Thorin's invitation to go with him to his home in the Blue Mountains] 'we actually passed through the Shire, though Thorin would not stop long enough for that to be useful. Indeed I think it was annoyance with his haughty disregard of the Hobbits that first put into my head the idea of entangling him with them. As far as he was concerned they were just food-growers who happened to work the fields on either side of the Dwarves' ancestral road to the Mountains.'

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 3, The Quest of Erebor: Appendix

[3018, before Frodo's fiftieth birthday:]
There were rumours of strange things happening in the world outside ... Elves ... could now be seen passing westward ... they were leaving Middle-earth.... There were ... dwarves on the road in unusual numbers. The ancient East-West Road ran through the Shire to its end at the Grey Havens, and dwarves had always used it on their way to their mines in the Blue Mountains. ... But now Frodo often met strange dwarves of far countries, seeking refuge in the West. They were troubled, and some spoke in whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 2, The Shadow of the Past

[29 September 3018, the Hobbits leave the Barrow-downs:]
... at last they saw a line of tall trees ahead, and they knew that they had come back to the Road after many unexpected adventures. ... At this point it ran nearly from South-west to North-east, and on their right it fell quickly down into a wide hollow. It was rutted and bore many signs of the recent heavy rain.... They rode down the bank and looked up and down. There was nothing to be seen. ...

The shadow of the fear of the Black Riders came suddenly over them again. Ever since they had entered the Forest they had thought chiefly of getting back to the Road; only now when it lay beneath their feet did they remember the danger which pursued them, and was more than likely to be lying in wait for them upon the Road itself. ...

'Tom will give you good advice...: four miles along the Road you'll come upon a village, Bree under Bree-hill.... There you'll find an old inn that is called Prancing Pony. Barliman Butterbur is the worthy keeper. There you can stay the night' ...

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 8, Fog on the Barrow-downs

[29 September 3018, the Hobbits enter Bree:]
It was dark ... when Frodo and his companions came at last to the Greenway-crossing and drew near the village. They came to the West-gate and found it shut, but at the door of the lodge beyond it, there was a man sitting. He jumped up and fetched a lantern and looked over the gate at them in surprise.

'What do you want, and where do you come from?' he asked gruffly.

'We are making for the inn here,' answered Frodo. 'We are journeying east and cannot go further tonight.' ...

He ... slowly opened the gate and let them ride through.

'We don't often see Shire-folk riding on the Road at night,' he went on, as they halted a moment by his door. 'You'll pardon my wondering what business takes you away east of Bree! What may your names be, might I ask?'

'Our names and our business are our own' ... said Frodo, not liking the look of the man or the tone of his voice. ...

'All right, all right!' said the man. 'I meant no offence. But you'll find maybe that more folk than old Harry at the gate will be asking you questions. There's queer folk about.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 9, At the Sign of the Prancing Pony

[29 September 3018, Merry encounters a Nazgûl in Bree:]
Merry came in with a rush followed by Nob. ... he gasped: ... 'I have seen them! Black Riders! ... I went out for a stroll. ... Suddenly I shivered and felt that something horrible was creeping near: there was a sort of deeper shade among the shadows across the road' ...

'Which way did it go?' asked Strider, suddenly and sharply. ...

'It seemed to make off up the Road, eastward,' continued Merry. 'I tried to follow. Of course, it vanished almost at once; but I went round the corner and on as far as the last house on the Road. ... and suddenly I heard voices by the hedge. One was muttering; and the other was whispering, or hissing. I couldn't hear a word that was said. I did not creep any closer, because I began to tremble all over. Then I felt terrified, and I turned back, and was just going to bolt home, when something came behind me and I... I fell over.'

'I found him, sir,' put in Nob. 'Mr. Butterbur sent me ... I went down to West-gate, and then back up towards South-gate. Just nigh Bill Ferny's house I thought I could see something in the Road. ... it looked to me as if two men was stooping over something, lifting it. I gave a shout, but where I got up to the spot there was ... only Mr. Brandybuck lying by the roadside. ... as soon as I had roused him, he got up and ran back here like a hare.'

'I am afraid that's true,' said Merry, ... 'I had an ugly dream, which I can't remember. I went to pieces. I don't know what came over me.'

'I do,' said Strider. 'The Black Breath. The Riders must have left their horses outside, and passed back through the South-gate in secret. They will know all the news now, for they have visited Bill Ferny; and probably that Southerner was a spy as well.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 10, Strider

[11 October 3018, Glorfindel drives the Nazgûl from the Last Bridge:]
'It was my lot to take the Road, and I came to the Bridge of Mitheithel, and left a token there.... Three of the servants of Sauron were upon the Bridge, but they withdrew and I pursued them westward.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 12, Flight to the Ford

[18 October 3018, Glorfindel finds Strider and the Hobbits:]
They were beginning to look out for a place off the Road, where they could camp ... when they heard ... the noise of hoofs behind them. ...

Strider sprang from hiding ... but ... the rider had ... halted.... When he saw Strider, he dismounted and ran to meet him calling out: Ai na vedui Dúnadan! Mae govannen! ... But there seemed to be a note of haste or fear in his call, and they saw that he was now speaking quickly and urgently to Strider.

Soon Strider beckoned to them, and the hobbits left the bushes and hurried down to the Road. 'This is Glorfindel' ...

'Hail, and well met at last!' said the Elf-lord to Frodo. 'I was sent from Rivendell to look for you. We feared that you were in danger upon the road.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 12, Flight to the Ford

[20 October 3018, Frodo escapes across the Ford of Bruinen:]
At once the white horse sprang away and sped like the wind along the last lap of the Road. At the same moment the black horses leaped down the hill in pursuit ...

There seemed no chance of reaching the Ford before he was cut off by the others that had lain in ambush. ...

A breath of deadly cold pierced him like a spear, as with a last spurt ... the elf-horse ... passed right before the face of the foremost Rider.

Frodo heard the splash of water. ... He felt the quick heave and surge as the horse left the river and struggled up the stony path. ... He was across the Ford.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 12, Flight to the Ford

[Around the New Year of 3018-3019, Trouble in Bree:]
'No one comes nigh Bree now from Outside,' [Barliman Butterbur] said. 'And the inside folks, they stay at home mostly.... It all comes of those newcomers and gangrels that began coming up the Greenway last year ... most were bad men, full o' thievery and mischief. And there was trouble right here in Bree, bad trouble. Why, we had a real set-to, and there were some folk killed, killed dead!' ...

[Said Gandalf,] 'How many?'

'Three and two,' said Butterbur, referring to the big folk and the little. '... all good fellows.... And Harry Goatleaf that used to be on the West-gate, and that Bill Ferny, they came in on the strangers' side, and they've gone off with them; and it's my belief they let them in. On the night of the fight, I mean. And that was after we showed them the gates and pushed them out: before the year's end, that was; and the fight was early in the New Year, after the heavy snow we had.

'And now they're gone for robbers and live outside, hiding in the woods ... It isn't safe on the road and nobody goes far.... We have to keep watchers all round the fence and put a lot of men on the gates at nights.'

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 5, Homeward Bound

[5 October - 2 November 3019: Gandalf and the Hobbits travel from Rivendell to the Shire:]
At last the hobbits had their faces turned towards home. They were eager now to see the Shire again; but at first they rode only slowly, for Frodo had been ill at ease. When they came to the Ford of Bruinen, he had halted, and seemed loth to ride into the stream ...

So it was that near the end of a wild and wet evening in the last days of October the five travellers rode up the climbing road and came to the South-gate of Bree. It was locked fast; and the rain blew in their faces ... and their hearts sank a little, for they had expected more welcome. ...

In a little while they came to the point on the East Road where they had taken leave of Bombadil.... But there was no sign of him ...

They halted and Frodo looked south wistfully. 'I should dearly like to see the old fellow again,' he said. 'I wonder how he is getting on?'

'As well as ever, you may be sure,' said Gandalf. ... 'There may be a time later for you to go and see him. But if I were you, I should press on now for home, or you will not come to the Brandywine Bridge before the gates are locked.'

'But there aren't any gates,' said Merry, 'not on the Road' ...

'There weren't any gates, you mean,' said Gandalf. 'I think you will find some now. ... But you'll manage all right. Good-bye dear friends! Not for the last time, not yet. Good-bye!'

He turned Shadowfax off the Road, and the great horse leaped the green dike that here ran beside it; and then at a cry from Gandalf he was gone....

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 5, Homeward Bound

[3 November 3019, before the Battle of Bywater:]
Merry ... came riding in about ten o'clock. 'There's a big band about four miles away,' he said. 'They're coming along the road from Waymeet, but a good many stray ruffians have joined up with them. There must be close on a hundred of them; and they're fire-raising as they come. Curse them!'

'Ah! This lot won't stay to talk, they'll kill, if they can,' said Farmer Cotton. 'If Tooks don't come sooner, we'd best get behind cover and shoot without arguing.' ...

The Tooks did come sooner ... a hundred strong, ... with Pippin at their head. Merry now had enough sturdy hobbitry to deal with the ruffians. Scouts reported that they were keeping close together. They knew that the countryside had risen against them, and plainly meant to deal with the rebellion ruthlessly, at its centre in Bywater. But however grim they might be, they seemed to have no leader among them who understood warfare. They came on without any precautions. Merry laid his plans quickly.

The ruffians came tramping along the East Road, and without halting turned up the Bywater Road....

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire

[4 November 3019:]
The day after the Battle of Bywater Frodo rode to Michel Delving and released the prisoners from the Lockholes.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 9, The Grey Havens

[22-29 September 3021, the Last Riding of the Keepers of the Rings:]
Then Elrond and Galadriel rode on; for the Third Age was over, and the Days of the Rings were passed.... With them went many Elves of the High Kindred who would no longer stay in Middle-earth; and among them ... rode Sam, and Frodo, and Bilbo, and the Elves delighted to honour them.

Though they rode through the midst of the Shire all the evening and all the night, none saw them pass, save the wild creatures; or here and there some wanderer in the dark who saw a swift shimmer under the trees, or a light and shadow flowing through the grass as the Moon went westward.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 9, The Grey Havens

Contributors: Lyllyn 1Jun03
Elena Tiriel 27Sep04, 16Nov04

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