Rangers and more rangers! We here at Master of Lore have spent a lot of time talking about the Dúnedain in this current cycle, and rightfully so! The Rangers of the North have finally gotten their due in our LCG. I’ve already gushed about how cool they are, so I shall stop now, and proceed to introduce the card in question and an important characteristic of the Rangers en masse.
On our last Book Club episode, we at the Grey Company discussed the Three Is Company chapter of Rings which describes Frodo’s preparations to leave the Shire. Gandalf, at the end of June, hastily rides away. Certainly this fits the MO of the grey pilgrim (‘When evening in the Shire was grey his footsteps on the Hill were heard; before the dawn he went away on journey long without a word’), but he claimed to have heard some disturbing news southways:
I have heard something that has made me anxious and needs looking into. If I think it necessary after all for you to get off at once, I shall come back immediately, or at least send word.
What could he have heard there in the heart of halfling country from so far away down south? The former is a bit tricky but, as we’re told in the earlier part of the chapter, Gandalf would go abroad at night to try and avoid the scorn of the local Hobbits and perhaps on one of these sojourns he bumped into a friend, or caught wind of something from travelling dwarves, or heard a bit of news from them hobbits themselves. The latter, though, is a bit clearer when we pan out from the humble, comfortable Hill and learn what’s been going on around the bounds of the Four Farthings. During the Council of Elrond, Mithrandir explains just what happened:
At the end of June I was in the Shire, but a cloud of anxiety was on my mind, and I rode to the southern borders of the little land; for I had a foreboding of some danger, still hidden from me but drawing near. There messages reached me telling me of war and defeat in Gondor, and when I heard of the Black Shadow a chill smote my heart. But I found nothing save a few fugitives from the South; yet it seemed to me that on them sat a fear of which they would not speak. I turned then east and north and journeyed along the Greenway
And yet still there are questions as Gandalf uses vagaries. How did messages just ‘reach’ him? We have to assume it was his Dúnedain allies.
For centuries, the Rangers of the North guarded the Shire. Perhaps out of a sense of obligation, as the Shire belonged to the kingdom of Arnor in its prime, or perhaps out of sheer care; the Shirelings were and remained an island of relative purity in Middle-earth. Whatever the reasoning we know that for a very, very long time the Shire was protected by the ‘Guardians’ as they’re called in the Prologue; the Dúnedain Rangers. A major artery of travel through the Shire was, of course, the great north-south road that flows northwards from Gondor to Rohan and Dunland, crosses Tharbad and eventually branches off to become the Greenway that passes through Bree. At that point there is a crossing called Sarn Ford.
Sarn is the Sindarin word for ‘stony’. Sarn Athrad was another famous ford that bore an identical name (athrad meaning ‘ford’ or ‘crossing’) in the Beleriand during the First Age. The Numenoreans who built the north-south road carried the name on to this place, Sarn Ford (‘Stony Ford’).
From there the Rangers set a tireless watch against trouble from the South. It was a mainstay of theirs and the place that Gandalf fled to on a quiet May evening. There he met Aragorn before returning the Shire. Months later from the same place headed northwards, encountering Radagast the Brown and a fateful summons to Isengard. Four months later, on the very day before Frodo and his friends leave Bag End for ‘retirement’ in Crickhollow, the Rangers faced the biggest blow to their watch in ages: an attack by the Nazgûl.
Sarn Ford Sentry is the card that represents the Rangers’ ceaseless vigil. She hides in the woods, the Brandywine behind her, bow slung over her back, keeping watch on the land of the Hobbits.
Sarn Ford crosses the Brandywine River at the southernmost border of the Shire. Fords were incredibly important for roads and trade routes that crossed rivers but were not serviced by bridges, a shallow point in the streams where the road could continue. This often dictated the route of trails and then roads, so that great north-south road that crossed Tharbad continued north and crossed the Brandywine (Baranduin) and on into the Shire. From the fords and the roads that follow develop the local economy and trade centers. So it stands as no coincidence that the pipe-weed of the Southfarthing went by this very ford and road on its way to Isengard.
Sarn Ford was thusly the gateway to the Shire from the south and was guarded as such. Gandalf talks about meeting southern travelers passing into both the Shire and northwards to Bree as he traveled that prior to his abduction by Saruman. These same southerners would become the ruffians, Sharkey’s Big Men, who terrorized the four farthings during the War of the Ring. All because of the Ford.
I’ve talked a bit about the lore behind the location and the character, but what about the card itself? Comment below and tell us how you’ve used this Dúnedain!