Lord of the Rings - Shadowfax Page

(Gandalf) wrapped himself again in his old tattered cloak, and led the way.  Following him they descended quickly from the high shelf and made their way back through the forest, down the bank of the Entwash.  They spoke no more words, until they stood again upon the grass beyond the eaves of Fangorn.  There was no sign of their horses to be seen.
'They have not returned,' said Legolas.  'It will be a weary walk!'

'I shall not walk.  Time presses,' said Gandalf.  Then lifting up his head he gave a long whistle.  So clear and piercing was the note that the others stood amazed to hear such a sound come from those old bearded lips.  Three times he whistled;  and then faint and far off it seemed to them that they heard the whinny of a horse borne up from the plains upon the eastern wind.  They waited wondering.  Before long there came the sound of hoofs, at first hardly more than a tremor of the ground perceptible only to Aragorn as he lay upon the grass, then growing steadily louder and clearer to a quick beat.
 


'There is more than one horse coming,' said Aragorn.

'Certainly,' said Gandalf.  'We are too great a burden for one.'

'There are three,' said Legolas, gazing out over the plain.  'See how they run?  There is Hasufel, and there is my friend Arod beside him!  But there is another that strides ahead:  a very great horse.  I have not seen his like before.'

'Nor will you again,' said Gandalf.  'That is Shadowfax.  He is the chief of the Mearas, lords of horses, and not even Theoden, King of Rohan, has ever looked on a better.  Does he not shine like silver, and run as smoothly as a swift stream?  He has come for me:  the horse of the White Rider.  We are going to battle together.'

Even as the old wizard spoke, the great horse came striding up the slope towards them;  his coat was glistening and his mane flowing in the wind of his speed.  The two others followed, now far behind.  As soon as Shadowfax saw Gandalf, he checked his pace and whinnied loudly;  then trotting gently forward he stooped his proud head and nuzzled his great nostrils against the old man's neck.

Gandalf caressed him.  'It is a long way from Rivendell, my friend,' he said;  'but you are wise and swift and come at need.  Far let us ride now together, and part not in this world again!'
Soon the other horses came up and stood quietly by, as if awaiting orders.  'We go at once to Meduseld, the hall of your master, Théoden,' said Gandalf, addressing them gravely.  They bowed their heads.  'Time presses, so with your leave, my friends, we will ride.  We beg you to use all the speed that you can.  Hasufel shall bear Aragorn and Arod Legolas.  I will set Gimli before me, and by his leave Shadowfax shall bear us both.  We will wait now only to drink a little.'

'Now I understand a part of last night's riddle,' said Legolas as he sprang lightly upon Arod's back.  'Whether they fled at first in fear, or not, our horses met Shadowfax, their chieftain, and greeted him with joy.  Did you know that he was at hand, Gandalf?'

'Yes, I knew,' said the wizard.  'I bent my thought upon him, bidding him to make haste;  for yesterday he was far away in the south of this land.  Swiftly may he bear me back again!'
 
Gandalf spoke now to Shadowfax, and the horse set off at a good pace, yet not beyond the measure of the others.  After a little while he turned suddenly, and choosing a place where the banks were lower, he waded the river, and then led them away due south into a flat land, treeless and wide.  The wind went like grey waves through the endless miles of grass.  There was no sign of road or track, but Shadowfax did not stay or falter.

'He is steering a straight course now for the halls of Théoden under the slopes of the White Mountains,' said Gandalf.  'It will be quicker so.  The ground is firmer in the Eastemnet, where the chief northward track lies, across the river, but Shadowfax knows the way through every fen and hollow.'

For many hours they rode on through the meads and riverlands.  Often the grass was so high that it reached above the knees of the riders, and their steeds seemed to be swimming in a grey-green sea.  They came upon many hidden pools, and broad acres of sedge waving above wet and treacherous bogs;  but Shadowfax found the way, and the other horses followed in his swath.  Slowly the sun fell from the sky down into the West.  Looking out over the great plain, far away the riders saw it for a moment like a red fire sinking into the grass.  Low upon the edge of sight shoulders of the mountains glinted red upon either side.  A smoke seemed to rise up and darken the sun's disc to the hue of blood, as if it had kindled the grass as it passed down under the rim of earth.
 
'There lies the Gap of Rohan,' said Gandalf.  'It is now almost due west of us.  That way lies Isengard.'

'I see a great smoke,' said Legolas.  'What may that be?'

'Battle and war!' said Gandalf.  'Ride on!'
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This page last updated on:  July 28th, 2002

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