Top! in Lord of the Rings

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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 9: At the Sign of the Prancing Pony


Suddenly Frodo noticed that a strange-looking weather-beaten man, sitting in the shadows near the wall, was also listening intently to the hobbit-talk. He had a tall tankard in front of him, and was smoking a long-stemmed pipe curiously carved. His legs were stretched out before him, showing high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much wear and were now caked with mud. A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-green cloth was drawn close about him, and in spite of the heat of the room he wore a hood that overshadowed his face; but the gleam of his eyes could be seen as he watched the hobbits.

'Who is that?' Frodo asked, when he got a chance to whisper to Mr. Butterbur. 'I don't think you introduced him?'

'Him?' said the landlord in an answering whisper, coking an eye without turning his head. 'I don't rightly know. He is one of the wandering folk—Rangers we call them. He seldom talks: not but what he can tell a rare tale when he has the mind. He disappears for a month, or a year, and then he pops up again. He was in and out pretty often last spring; but I haven't seen him about lately. What his right name is I've never heard: but he's known round here as Strider. Goes about at a great pace on his long shanks; though he don't tell nobody what cause he has to hurry. But there's no accounting for East and West, as we say in Bree, meaning the Rangers and the Shirefolk, begging your pardon.'

'Who is that next to him?'

Frodo had only just now noticed that a stranger-looking weather-beaten person sat next to Strider, also listening intently to the hobbit-talk or trying to, turning their body this way and that. A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark rainbow cloth was drawn close about them and nearly obscured all their features, their head bowed or so small as to be unnoticeable. This person had a taller tankard in front of them, and they were as short as the shortest of hobbits, their legs, if there were any to be spoken of, too short to reach the floor.

'Who? That fellow? Haven't seen them in here before,' said Mr. Butterbur. 'They sat right down next to Strider as if they'd known each other for years. Funny you should ask about them.' But at that moment Mr. Butterbur was called away by a demand for more ale, and his last remark remained unexplained.

Frodo found that Strider was now looking at him, as if he had heard or guessed all that had been said. Presently, with a wave of his hand and a nod, he invited Frodo to come over and sit by him. As Frodo drew near he threw back his hood, showing a shaggy head of dark hair flecked with grey, and in a pale stern face a pair of keen grey eyes. The short one next to him seemed to turn to Frodo as if just noticing him.

'I am called Strider,' he said in a low voice. 'I am very pleased to meet you, Master—Underhill, if old Butterbur got your name right.'

'He did,' said Frodo stiffly. He felt far from comfortable under the stare of those keen eyes.

'I call myself Top!' the short fellow said in a high voice, leaping into Strider's legs. 'Wait, we're supposed to use aliases. Uhh. I am now called Dave.'

Top—or Dave—removed some of their cloak, revealing red skin and two dark circles of glass connected by a strip of metal on their chest, but upon removal of the glass Frodo saw it covered two small, black eyes. Frodo scuffled away at the sight.

'Pay them no heed, Master Underhill,' said Strider, pushing Dave back to their seat, 'but if I were you, I should stop your young friends from talking too much.'

'Yeah, that's my job,' interrupted Dave.

'Drink, fire, and chance-meeting are pleasant enough,' continued Strider, glancing at Dave for a moment, 'but, well—this isn't the Shire. There are queer folk about. Though I say it as shouldn't, you may think,' he added with a wry smile, seeing Frodo's glance.

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