- The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil.
—Lord Elrond, FotR
The Tenth Walker is a common type of story in the Lord of the Rings fandom. In it, an extra character, usually an OC, joins the Fellowship of the Ring (which canonically numbers nine) and travels with them on their quest. As with any type of fic, Tenth Walker stories can be done well, but a Tenth Walker OC is almost always a Mary Sue—a subspecies of the type of Sue that joins the canon heroes in their work, mission, or quest.
Agents Jay and Acacia referred to a Tenth Walker Suefic as a 'Code 10'. Fanfics in which more than one Mary Sue join the Fellowship are less common, but certainly not unknown. Usually there is a main Mary Sue, and the others are just her followers. The largest Fellowship that has been recorded had nine Mary Sues, making it a 'Code 18' Suefic.
Traits of Tenth Walker Suefics
These fics tend to follow a distinct pattern. For example, the Mary Sue almost always falls in love with at least one member of the Fellowship. She may also have to prove herself to at least one Designated Misogynistic Bastard by showing off and talking smack, making him look stupid in the process. In badfics that include the movieverse scene where the Fellowship swears to help Frodo, it is common to have the Mary Sue swear last (or in the middle, or even first) and include a list of all of her abilities in the oath.
Many Tenth Walkers feel the need to steal the spotlight of other characters in critical scenes in order to give themselves something plot-relevant to do. For instance, the Mary Sue may be the one to provide Gandalf the clue to opening Durin's Doors instead of Pippin (or Frodo in movieverse), or even open the doors herself. She may take injuries in the place of others, giving herself an excuse to swoon into the arms of her Lust Object while everyone admires her strength and courage. Line-stealing is also common, as in any Suefic.
More variety is possible after the Breaking of the Fellowship, depending on her type and LO. The Sue may accompany Frodo and Sam to Mordor; or she might get captured by Orcs; or she might become one of the
Three Four Hunters for the pursuit into Rohan, further mangling the canon's numerology.
However, a common failing of the Tenth Walker is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Sue might save Gandalf, but this will rarely stop the Fellowship from breaking later; or she might save Boromir, but this will simply mean that there are now more Hunters going after the Hobbits.
Common Types of Tenth Walker
Girl from Middle-earth
The Sue is an 'ordinary' Middle-earth girl who happens to have an extraordinary talent. She could be a great swordswoman, a healer, an archer, a powerful psychic, or anything else the author deems to be cool. She joins the Fellowship and becomes indispensable to them.
There are also fanfics where the Mary Sue is the last of a forgotten race or species, such as Wood Nymph or Moon Elf. She is often a person of enormous importance in Middle-earth and is therefore invited to the Council of Elrond, where, strangely enough, no one except Elrond or Gandalf knows about her. She often has bizarre Sue-per powers that are part of being her species. Being the last of her people also allows her to spend most of the story obsessed with revenge and/or angsting in front of a hot Fellowship member.
The Sue is an Elf. Elven Sues are beautiful, wise, talented, and graceful. They have names that are meant to be Elvish, but may be made up or taken from words used in the books without regard for their meaning. Elven Sues are noted for not being Elf-like at all, as they tend to have teenage mentalities that reflect the author's own personality. Also, as noted above, they may be a type of Elf that does not exist in canon.
Girl Falls into Middle-earth
The Sue is an 'ordinary' girl from the real world who somehow falls into Middle-earth. Often she has read the books in real life or otherwise predicts events that are going to happen. She often changes key plot points, for example, saving Gandalf from the Balrog or stopping Boromir from dying. She can always speak and understand Westron, despite not having learned the language or even knowing it exists.
The Tenth Walker in Parody
Lily Winterwood won 'Most Unusual' at the 2012 Mary Sue Problems Tumblr Writing Contest by parodying the Tenth Walker with a Sue who had a crippling case of the Atlantis Complex and needed to be the tenth member to satisfy said disorder. OFUM also makes an appearance.
The Tenth Walker in Goodfic
A lot of PPCers will tell you that anything can be done well, if you have the skill to pull it off. This includes the Tenth Walker. Here are some quick points to writing a Tenth Walker well.
Who to Add and How
In the movieverse, the Fellowship was made up of everyone who volunteered to go with Frodo, so adding a tenth member is no biggie. In the bookverse, however, the number of Walkers is specifically chosen to match the number of Ringwraiths. This means that adding a tenth member requires a workaround, but is by no means impossible.
You could have Elrond match the number of the Walkers with something else, like the kings of the last Alliance, or you could up the number of Ringwraiths (and you don't even have to mess around with the number of Rings of Power; just bring the dwarf-rings into play).
A more simple solution could be to write a Ninth Walker by leaving out one of the original members of the Fellowship, the most likely candidate being Pippin, who Elrond wanted to send home. (You could even have Pippin catch up with the Fellowship some days later and make it a Tenth Walker anyway.) You could also have another elf instead of Legolas, or a Rider of Rohan instead of Boromir. For that matter, they don't have to be OCs; you could use Glorfindel or send Faramir instead of Boromir.
Please note that 'almost anyone' means anyone from the races already created by Tolkien. Adding a 'Water Elf, who is the last of her kind' or an 'heiress to the Kingdom of Caras' (yes, these are real examples) to the Fellowship will merely serve to make a couple of PPC agents angry. You won't like them when they're angry.
What to Do with Them
- But no, making a story which consists of 'And Magielf was there also' every three sentences isn't good writing.
So you've successfully added a Tenth Walker in a way that does not make PPC agents want to kill him or her on sight. Don't worry about the fact that they're leaning against the wall, casting dark looks and fingering the hilts of their swords. That's just habit. If they really wanted your story dead, it would already have happened.
Now you need to consider how your character is going to influence the story. Every member of the Fellowship ends up contributing in some way or another, and so should the tenth member.
A random Rivendell elf would, even without changing anything else, mean there were four, not three, left to consider going after Merry and Pippin — and with two elves, the right choice would be to send them into Rohan at high speed, while Aragorn and Gimli probably went straight to Gondor. Meanwhile, the two elves could probably catch up with the orcs before they reached the Forest of Fangorn, and a consequence of that could be that Merry and Pippin never meet Treebeard. Every change snowballs and grows bigger.
If you've made a Ninth Walker by omitting another member of the Fellowship, you need to consider the consequences of this also. Having Faramir try to steal the ring instead of Boromir is not just throwing him out of character, it is plain lazy writing, neither of which is going to sit well with the aforementioned agents. Éowyn, on the other hand...
Huinesoron did a very neat collection of ficlets based on some of the above-mentioned ideas.
- "Gwendolyn" (Lord of the Rings) Agents Jay Thorntree and Acacia Byrd (DMS)
- "The Sisterhood" (Lord of the Rings) Agents Jay Thorntree and Acacia Byrd (DMS)
- "Depends on the story" by Huinesoron
- "Hm..." by Ekyl
- "Depends on the 'verse" by Huinesoron
- "My own (likely atrocious) attempt..." by Scapegrace
- "My take on the tenth Walker" by darklordaakmal
- "But now you made me write more" by Huinesoron
- "An even alternater Fellowship" by Huinesoron