How Fast Do Hobbits Go?

According to this resource http://lotrproject.com in The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo leaves Bag End on September 22 and arrives (almost dead) at Rivendell on October 20 or 21. That same site has a neat distance time graph for both The Hobbit and Frodo’s journey in Lord of the Rings. http://lotrproject.com/timedistance/

Looking at both the site above and other maps, the distance to Rivendell to Bag End is about 420 miles as one of Saruman’s crows flies or 460 miles with assorted diversions. So the party of Hobbits went about 15-16 miles per day in that first part of the journey. Given the circumstance, the various diversions, and avoiding the main road, it is a decent pace.

50 mile intervals

The next stage of the journey has the Fellowship walk from Rivendell to the foot of the Misty Mountains. They leave December 25 and arrive at the base of Caradhras on January 10 having travelled 260 miles. That gives an average daily speed of 15 miles a day again. It looks like Tolkien used that as his rule of thumb for a kind of narrative speed with Hobbits.

Would they have got to Rivendell quicker with bicycles? Geographically, yes but narratively no. If it was a simple chase between Hobbits on bikes and Ringwraiths on horses then maybe with a sufficient head start, a cyclist could out-endure a horse rider (even an undead one given that the horses were spooky but otherwise still just horses). As it was, the Hobbits had riders behind them and ahead of them. It would be implausible that Hobbits could cycle faster at a sprint than a horse at a gallop if the Nazgul had them in their sights.

If, for some bizarre reason, we really wanted to speed up Lord of the Rings with better transport options then ships would be better. The Grey Havens are much closer to Hobbiton than Rivendell. It’s a bit further than Bree but not by a lot. Then it is a fast Elvin ship round to Gondor! Of course then the Hobbits and the ship-bound Fellowship get to have an encounter with pirates near the estuary of the Anduin. Presumably Gandalf would have been eaten by a sea-monster as they rounded Andrast (don’t worry, he’ll recover) and the whole of The Two Towers ends up back to front in this scenario. However, this version has pirates in it and given that Tolkien went to all the trouble of adding pirates as a plot point to the book then it would make sense to actually meet some pirates.


9 responses to “How Fast Do Hobbits Go?”

  1. My main source for potential Hobbit speed is the Bakshi animated version of LotR, with enforced Hobbit running.

    However, the bit that I always remember for some reason goes to *dwarven* long distance running at around 22 mins in this clip – “I cannot *run* all the way to Isengard”

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  2. If they’re riding an Eagle, very fast.

    If they fall off the Eagle, even faster.

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  3. Their hiking speed when they leave Rivendell is pretty damned good, having hiked in the mountains lately and seen hiking speeds much slower even among really fit people.15 miles a day

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      • Hmm, I’ve always pictured the area west of the Misty Mountains to be relatively flat, , so both the journey from The Shire to Rivendell and from Rivendell to Moria would be mostly easy terrain. (but with the Misty Mountains looming to the east when going southwards from Rivendell). It’s only the last few days up towards Caradhras that’s really hilly. (But I may very well have missed some giant hint in the book saying they climbed up and down hillsides.)

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  4. IIRC Tolkien tok travel speed and time seriously. I vaguely recall that there’s some notes in one of the “History of Middle-Earth”-books showing he did meticulous calculations about how fast various groups could travel and how this affected the narrative. In particular when several groups are traveling near each other, he took care to make the narrative match the map and avoid plot holes. Journeys like Gandalf’s ride north on Shadowfax, Aragorn et al’s chase after the Uruk-Hai, the Ride of the Rohirrim, and the march of Gondor’s armies towards the final battle are all mapped out.

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    • Yes, the maps are genuine parts of his planning and the distances make sense. One thing I noticed the other day is the slight curve to the misty mountains matches (more or less) an arc of a circle centred on Hobbiton. Rivendell and Isengard are similar distances away from Hobbiton

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