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In his comments on this question, Omegacron insists that the Rangers rode with Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin in the chapters "Many Partings" and "Homeward Bound". I frankly don't see it. Can we settle this by saying exactly who was on that trip and when they left?

The problem arises from the following quote, where Gandalf is assuring Butterbur that things will get better soon:

'I expect it has,' said Gandalf. 'Nearly all lands have been disturbed these days, very disturbed. But cheer up, Barliman! You have been on the edge of very great troubles, and I am only glad to hear that you have not been deeper in. But better times are coming. Maybe, better than any you remember. The Rangers have returned. We came back with them. And there is a king again, Barliman. He will soon be turning his mind this way.
-The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 7: "Homeward Bound"

According to the text, the people who rode with Gandalf and co. on their return journey were Aragorn, Elrond and his family, Galadriel and whatshisname, Gimli, Legolas, and perhaps Faramir, Eomer, Eowyn, and maybe some Rohirrim. Nothing is ever said about any Rangers, aside from Aragorn, who is no longer a Ranger.

Does the text offer any reason (beyond this puzzling quote) to believe that other Rangers were ever part of this procession? Who else does the text list as being with the hobbits and Gandalf on the journey west?


Note 1: According to "Ask Middle-earth", many of the Rangers stayed behind in Gondor and/or Arnor as Aragorn's noblemen. This seems very likely to be true.

Note 2: Later, Aragorn gave Samwise Gamgee the Star of the Dunedain, so it isn't necessarily impossible that the hobbits are now considered honorary Rangers.

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    i mean, the quote seems pretty clear to me, "we came back with them..." – Himarm Jun 5 '15 at 19:07
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    @Himarm - Then Tolkien went out of his way to avoid mentioning them, but discussed everyone else on the trip at some length. "We came back with them, but no one spoke to them at all, and the narrator mentioned everyone but them, and also, they aren't here now." – Wad Cheber Jun 5 '15 at 19:12
  • There were only a few left from my understanding, they also originally traveled to aragorn with the sons of Elrond, so it would not surprise me if they travel with them back, and i believe for a while the sons of Elrond also traveled with Gandalf and co. – Himarm Jun 5 '15 at 19:15
  • @Himarm - there were 30ish, then one died. We have no reason to believe that only a few were left. – Wad Cheber Jun 5 '15 at 20:57
  • @MattGutting - I found a happy medium. – Wad Cheber Jun 5 '15 at 21:25
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Neither the text nor any other writing of Tolkien I've been able to find supports or denies any hypothesis about whether the Rangers accompanied Gandalf and the hobbits to Rivendell but not beyond, to Rivendell and part way but not all the way to Bree, or not at all. At best, the hypothesis is weakly denied (that is, denied by omission of any positive reference).

First, let's start at the beginning of the journey, with those who were in Théoden's funeral procession from Minas Tirith to Edoras. In addition to the people you mention, there are also

  • Faramir ("the Prince of Ithilien")
  • Imrahil ("the Prince of Dol Amroth")
  • "Many captains and knights" (apparently of Gondor, with whom Pippin rides)
  • Arwen
  • Éomer (whom you do mention; but Éowyn, whom you also mention, is not present)
  • "An éored of the fairest knights of the Mark" [i.e. of Rohan], who had accompanied Éomer from Rohan
  • The "folk" of Galadriel and Celeborn, seemingly Silvan or Sindarin elves from Lórien
  • The people of Rivendell, referred to directly after Théoden's funeral, who apparently include "Glorfindel, Erestor, and the whole household of Elrond," who had accompanied him from Rivendell in the previous chapter

Importantly, not all these are named characters; there are three groups which are mentioned, but not named person by person; and the Rangers are not among them. It seems reasonable to believe, though far from certain, that if the Rangers had been in the funeral procession, they (like the captains and knights of Gondor, and the people of Lórien and Rivendell) would have been mentioned.

I see four possible conclusions:

  1. The Rangers were not in this group after all, but left at some other time.
  2. The Rangers were with the funeral procession, but for some reason are the only ones not listed by the narrator.
  3. Tolkien intended to list the Rangers, but overlooked it both in the first edition and in subsequent ones.
  4. The Rangers were with the funeral procession, and counted among some other group, such as the "knights and captains".

One might speculate about which of these seems most reasonable; but none of the options is either explicitly supported or explicitly denied by the text.


Next consider the other end of the journey, in Bree. There's no mention of the Rangers coming to Bree; indeed the description of the arrival at Bree specifically states:

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.

(The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 7, "Homeward Bound"; emphasis added)

It is certainly possible, one supposes, that the Rangers did accompany Gandalf and the hobbits earlier and simply "faded away" to take positions outside Bree before the "main party" arrived there. But that seems unlikely; Chapter 6, in the description of the departure from Rivendell, states

The next day Gandalf and the hobbits took leave of Bilbo in his room, for it was cold out of doors; and then they said farewell to Elrond and all his household.

This certainly seems to imply that it was only Gandalf and the hobbits who traveled from Rivendell; and the beginning of Chapter 7 reinforces this by saying that

At last the hobbits had their faces turned towards home

(though this does certainly discount Gandalf).

Although it is therefore a possibility that the Rangers accompanied the hobbits and Gandalf partway back from Rivendell, there's no textual evidence to support this; and as I interpret it there is at least some evidence (this last line) against it.

Further than that, there's no support for any particular position. All we know is that

  1. The Rangers are not specifically mentioned after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
  2. In particular, the Rangers are not listed as leaving Minas Tirith with Gandalf and the hobbits.
  3. The narrator specifically says that only the hobbits and Gandalf arrived at Bree.
  4. Gandalf states that the Rangers "came back with" them; but one could at least imagine some other interpretation of the phrase besides the most apparent.

That's all we get.

  • Does someone have to begin their journey or end it at the same time as someone else to have been on the trip? – Mr. Mascaro Jun 5 '15 at 19:30
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    To say "they came back with us" implies "as we came back [sc. back to Bree] they were with us." So I'd say "no, they don't have to have ended it at the same time in order to have been on the trip; but yes, they do have to have ended it at the same time in order to 'come back with us'." – Matt Gutting Jun 5 '15 at 19:33
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    @MattGutting, I would say that my friend came back with me from Seattle even if he got out of the car at his house and I had to continue a small distance further to LA... – Mr. Mascaro Jun 5 '15 at 20:13
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    You said "anyone else", so I left out what you had already listed. – Matt Gutting Jun 5 '15 at 23:44
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    @maguirenumber6 Eowyn went back to Rohan with her brother in the first week of May, shortly after Aragorn's coronation. When Eomer returned for Theoden's body, Eowyn remained in Edoras; after the funeral she returned to Gondor. – Matt Gutting Jul 6 '16 at 13:38
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TL;DR : the Rangers were part of the overall convoy that returned from Edoras, but they did not travel as far as Bree.


According to the timeline shown in Appendix B of "Return of the King", here is a breakdown of the convoy that originally left Minas Tirith. Keep in mind that this "funeral escort" was a gigantic group including hundreds of people:

July 19: Full funeral escort for King Theoden sets out from from Minas Tirith, heading for Edoras.

August 18: Funeral for King Theoden. Majority of the escort then leaves for Isengard. Most of the Rohirrim would have stayed at Edoras.

August 22: Aragorn and his group leaves Isengard for Minas Tirith. This would have included the majority of Gondorian soldiers. Rest of the party continues heading west.

September 6: Celeborn & Galadriel (along with many of the other elves) part from the group, headed for Lothlorien.

September 21: Party arrives at Rivendell. THIS group would have included Elrond's party members AND (most likely) any Rangers who were traveling back to their territories in the North.

October 5: Gandalf & the four Hobbits leave Rivendell for Bree.

October 28: Gandalf & the four Hobbits arrive at Bree.

Now, we don't have the details, so we don't know the exact number of travelers at each point. However, we know two things for sure:

  • Gandalf says flat-out that they came back with Rangers
  • ONLY Gandalf and the four Hobbits travelled from Rivendell to Bree
  • The Rangers originally passed through Rivendell on their way to join Aragorn (as mentioned in Chapter 2 "The Passing of the Grey Company)

This tells us that, at some point in the journey - most likely between September 6 and October 5 - Gandalf and the Hobbits parted ways with any larger group that would include Rangers.

Also, keep in mind that although Tolkien mentions the "heroes" of the group (Elrond, Galadriel, Aragorn, etc.), he never mentions the numerous individuals who are travelling WITH each named person.

  • The group that departed for Minas Tirith with Aragorn (now King Elessar) would be comprised of several Gondorians.
  • The group that left with Galadriel would include numerous elves from Lothlorien.
  • The Rivendell group would include not only Elrond, but numerous retainers & other Elves who would also be returning to Rivendell. This group is the most likely to have Rangers in it, since they originally came from this way.

The fact that Tolkien doesn't go into detail describing each group should not be taken to indicate that - for example - Elrond's group was simply Elrond on a horse. Up until Rivendell, there was still quite likely anywhere from 30 to 60 people travelling together, perhaps even more.

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    This makes the most sense. The context of the question is a conversation where Butterbur (essentially) says, 'The Rangers are gone. We needed them for protection.' Gandalf's response is meant to comfort Butterbur, 'The Rangers have returned. We came back with them.' Gandalf's point is that the Rangers accompanied the overall group back North, not that they specifically came with Gandalf and the Hobbits to Bree. – user33616 Jun 5 '15 at 19:42
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    +1, but you use the word "presumably" an awful lot. And "we came back with them" doesn't seem to be true for a guy in Bree talking about guys in Rivendell. And how big is Rivendell? Can it hold a large number of Gondorian soldiers? – Wad Cheber Jun 5 '15 at 19:42
  • Snip. Take ongoing discussions to chat, please. – Valorum Jun 5 '15 at 20:41
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For the benefit of anyone who answers, here is the list of people described as being with Gandalf and the hobbits at various points along the journey. Note that this isn't intended to be an answer, merely a resource.

  • Eomer and a company of Rohirrim, who go as far as Edoras.
  • Aragorn and his knights, who go as far as the Gap of Rohan.
  • Legolas and Gimli, who go as far as the Gap of Rohan.
  • Faramir and Imrahil, who stay at Edoras.
  • Arwen, who stays at Edoras.
  • Elrond and his sons, who go as far as Rivendell.
  • "Many captains and knights", presumably those already mentioned as accompanying Aragorn and Eomer, plus a few riding with Imrahil and Faramir.
  • "Celeborn and Galadriel with their folk".

When they pass Saruman and Grima, Saruman specifically mentions everyone we know to be there, except Elrond and his sons, but he says to everyone except the hobbits that he has really won, because they all (including Elrond and his sons) have to go to the Undying Lands. The Dunedain can't go there, so he probably doesn't see any Dunedain.

Later, after Bilbo's party at Rivendell, Gandalf and the hobbits say goodbye to Bilbo and to "Elrond and all his household", which would include Elrond, his sons, and whoever lives at Rivendell, but not the Dunedain, who aren't part of his household.

Earlier, we heard Aragorn say goodbye to the hobbits and Gandalf and Elrond and his sons, but not to his kinsmen of the Dunedain, which would be odd if they were there.

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