Summary — The Riders of Rohan

Looking on the ground, Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn at first see only their own tracks and those of Orcs; they are unable to tell whether the hobbits have passed by. Aragorn is at a loss, without a clue as to where the hobbits have gone. Suddenly, however, he notices some Hobbit prints near the river, but he is not sure when they were left.

At the foot of a steep slope, the group finds five Orc corpses huddled together. Aragorn notices that the slain creatures are from a different Orc tribe, and guesses that the Orcs have been quarreling among themselves. Gimli hopes that the captive hobbits have not suffered as a result of the Orc quarrel. Legolas, with his incredible eyesight, sees an eagle flying twelve leagues away, and guesses that the Orcs are there. If true, this suggests that the Orcs are moving with the greatest possible speed, proceeding not just at night but also by daylight, against their nature.

Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli notice that the earth becomes greener as they enter the fields of Rohan. Aragorn spots Hobbit footprints on the ground and guesses them to be Pippin’s. He also finds a brooch from an Elf cloak on the ground. As it is unlikely that the brooch was dropped by chance, Aragorn reasons that Pippin left it as a sign for his rescuers to find. They all rejoice in this proof that one of the hobbits, at least, seems to be alive.

Through the cold uplands of Rohan, the group follows the swiftly moving Orcs, whose speed is remarkable. Suddenly Legolas sees horsemen moving in the distance, though he glimpses no Hobbits among them. The riders are not Orcs, but Men. Though Gimli is cautious, Aragorn asserts that the horsemen—presumably the Riders of Rohan—are mighty but just; they would not assault strangers without listening to them first.

The horsemen approach, and the leader introduces himself as Éomer, Third Marshal of Riddermark. Aragorn announces that he is hunting Orcs, and Éomer admits that he mistook Aragorn’s group for Orcs themselves. Aragorn explains that he is in the service of no man, but is merely searching for his Hobbit friends, whom the Orcs have taken captive. Éomer relates that a great battle has just taken place between his riders and the Orcs. The Orcs were destroyed, with no sign of any Hobbit bodies among the slain.

It is not clear, however, whether Éomer even knows what a Hobbit is. Gimli explains that Hobbits are neither children nor Dwarves, but Halflings. Éomer, having thought that Halflings were merely characters from old tales, is surprised to learn that they actually exist. Éomer explains that the powerful wizard Saruman has been corrupted and is now a dangerous enemy preparing for war in nearby Isengard. Aragorn relates to Éomer that Gandalf the Grey, who has greatly aided the Fellowship, has been killed.