SF & Fantasy

Tolkien Re-read Part II: The Fellowship of the Ring – Chapter 3


Whew! So, weekly(ish) was a bit ambitious on my part. Apologies. Going forward I’m going to try for a bi-weekly(ish) schedule.

Now, let’s review Chapter 2! Gandalf returned from his wizardly travels with some news about that ring Bilbo gave Frodo (spoiler alert—it’s the One Ring created by the Dark Lord Sauron and is full of dangerous power); Sauron has apparently returned and is searching for the Ring so that he can regain his former glory; and Sauron knows the Ring is in the Shire and possessed by someone called “Baggins.” At the end of Chapter 2, it’s decided that Frodo (and Sam, who was caught eavesdropping, probably) will have to leave home and travel under the alias of Mr. Underhill.

Previous posts for the Tolkien Re-read (including my re-read of The Hobbit) can be found here.

A quick note: I’m reading from the Houghton Mifflin movie tie-in hardcover from 2001, but the text should match Del Rey’s more recent tie-in edition (pictured right). Each post will cover one or two chapters and include footnotes of useless trivia that you can read or ignore at your discretion—they’re mostly there to contain the worst of my nerd-babble. Also, there might be spoilers ahead. For the most part, the posts will keep in time with the chapters I’m discussing from The Fellowship of the Ring, but I can’t guarantee I won’t geek out about related things from later in the trilogy or elsewhere in Tolkien lore. If you’ve at least seen the movies, it won’t be a problem, but I shall do my best to avoid spoilery content for the sake of the uninitiated.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS
The Fellowship of the Ring – Book I

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
       Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
       One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
       One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
       One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Chapter 3: Three is Company

Frodo and Gandalf decide that Frodo will leave Hobbiton in the autumn, immediately following his (and Bilbo’s) birthday, and that he will head for Rivendell, the home of Elrond Halfelven. (Yeah, that’s right. Elrond is only half an elf.)*It is also decided that Frodo will have to leave quietly so that no one learns why he is leaving or that he is not just leaving Hobbiton, but the Shire.

To this end, Frodo sells Bag End (to the Sackville-Bagginses, no less) under the pretense that he will be moving back to Buckland (to Crickhollow, specifically) to live near his Brandybuck relatives. In reality, Crickhollow will only be a stopping point on Frodo’s way to Rivendell, but they must make the pretense convincing if they’re to keep his reasons for leaving a secret for as long as possible. Once the travel plans are settled, Gandalf leaves again.

Relevant Quote Break!

Gandalf: 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. In the meanwhile stick to your plan; but be more careful than ever, especially of the Ring.

But then summer passes, autumn comes, and there is still no word from the wizard. Finally, the day of Frodo’s birthday arrives and he begins to get anxious about Gandalf’s whereabouts, since they were supposed to set out together. Frodo eventually decides to leave that evening, as planned, and wait for Gandalf at Crickhollow (or leave him a message there if the wizard never appears) before continuing on to Rivendell.

Before leaving for good, Frodo takes one last stroll along his street and (almost) encounters one of my favorite dark and nasties when he overhears the old Gaffer talking nervously to a stranger with an “unpleasant voice.” Although Frodo can’t see this stranger, or quite make out what he is saying, it’s clear by the Gaffer’s answers that he is asking after Frodo.  This strikes Frodo as queer, but no out of the ordinary. People always seem to be poking their noses in his business, so he continues on his way without giving it much thought.

Back at Bag End, Frodo meets up with Sam Gamgee and Pippin Took, who are joining him on his journey to Crickhollow. He doesn’t mention the strange conversation he overheard, and soon they’ve gathered up their things and are on the road. (For your reading convenience, I offer this map. You’ll find Crickhollow on the far right, at the edge of the Old Forest.)

Walking, A List

◊ They walked at night
◊ They slept
◊ They walked in the morning
◊ They walked through the afternoon
◊ They walked some more

As the sun is setting on their second day of travel, Sam hears a horse on the road behind them. Frodo hopes it might be Gandalf, but is struck with an uncontrollable need to hide. So, all three hobbits scramble to hiding places just off the road—Sam and Pippin into a hollow, and Frodo behind a tree.

Relevant Quote Break!

Round the corner came a black horse, no hobbit-pony but a full-sized horse; and on it sat a large man, who seemed to crouch in the saddle, wrapped in a great black cloak and hood, so that only his boots in the high stirrups showed below; his face was shadowed and invisible.

This suspiciously creepy rider stops on the road just next to Frodo’s tree and then begins sniffing.Frodo starts to think it might be okay to put on the Ring—probably a supremely terrible idea—but he is saved from his own stupidity when the black rider continues on down the road and “dwindles into the distance” before possibly turning into the trees, as suspicious things do.

When the rider is gone, all three hobbits crawl out from their hiding places and try to figure out what happened, because it was definitely “queer” and “disturbing.” Then, when Frodo explains to Pippin and Sam how the rider seemed to be searching (smelling?) for him, Sam remembers he’s heard of this rider before.

Sam’s (Un)Timely Recollection, A List

◊ The black rider was in Hobbiton and is heading for Bucklebury (a necessary stopping point on the way to Buckland and, therefore, Crickhollow)
◊ The black rider spoke with Sam’s father (the Gaffer) and asked about Frodo
◊ The Gaffer told the black rider that Frodo had left Hobbiton permanently
◊ The black rider hissed at the Gaffer
◊ The Gaffer told the black rider that Frodo could be found in Bucklebury

(See, Frodo? Weird conversations that you overhear are always important!)

Sam apologizes for not saying something sooner (it’s okay, Sam), Frodo wishes that he had waited for Gandalf (it’s better this way, Frodo), and Pippin declares that Frodo must know or guess who this black rider is (fact, Pippin, fact).

Favorite Quote Break!

Frodo: I don’t know, and I would rather not guess.

(I’m going to guess that Frodo would rather not guess about the black rider because he suspects that it is one of those Ringwraiths Gandalf told him about in Chapter 2—which it is, of course.)

The hobbits decide to continue on a bit longer before nightfall, but they do so while avoiding the road and instead walk along through the trees—just in case the black rider comes back. More walking follows. (Okay, you guys know I heart Tolkien. A lot. But there is just so much walking.)

As the sun is setting, they creep back onto the road (not sure why it’s safe now, but this is what they do) and begin to hum a song, eventually singing the words aloud. The song is one Bilbo wrote to an old tune and then taught to Frodo.

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back to home and bed.
       Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
       Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
       Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
       And then to bed! And then to bed!

(Okay, sorry for the song lyrics, but I had to share them. I couldn’t not. It’s the song Pippin sings in Return of the King and…and…so many FEELS.)

When they stop singing they hear the sound of hooves on the road behind them and quickly hide in the brush. Moments later, another (the same?) black rider appears, leading his horse and sniffing, and Frodo is again compelled to use the Ring. Lucky for him, voices and laughter sound nearby and the black rider climbs quickly onto his horse and disappears.

They hear singing and from the song Frodo determines that the voices belong to High Elves,** a “strange chance” since most of that race have left Middle-earth.

Favorite Quote Break!

[The Elves] passed slowly, and the hobbits could see the starlight glimmering in their hair and in their eyes. They bore no lights, yet as they walked a shimmer, like the light of the moon above the rim of the hills before it rises, seemed to fall about their feet.

As the Elves pass by, one of them notices Frodo and greets him by name.

Relevant Quote Break!

Frodo: And how do you know my name?
Elf: We know many things. We have seen you often before with Bilbo, though you may not have seen us.

(Oooooooookay. That’s only slightly creepy.)

The Elf who hails Frodo turns out to be the leader of the group and introduces himself as Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod.*** Gildor asks the hobbits where they are going and why there is “a shadow of fear” upon them, and Pippin responds by asking about the Black Riders (capitalized now, you’ll notice). This sends the entire group of Elves into a concerned frenzy of low voices. After a moment of discussion, Gildor says that the hobbits had best travel and lodge with them for the night.

And that is that. Because you don’t argue with the Fair Folk.

That night, after Pippin and Sam have gone to sleep, Frodo sits and talks with Gildor about the outside world (it’s mostly not good—darkness is gathering, Men are embroiled in wars, and the Elves are fleeing Middle-earth), Bilbo (Gildor has seen him twice since the hobbit left the Shire), the Enemy (he’s pursuing Frodo and Gildor warns that peril will plague the hobbits’ journey), and the Dark Riders (since Gandalf told Frodo little about them, Gildor does no more than confirm that they are servants of the Enemy). Gildor also tells Frodo is that he’s no longer safe in the Shire.

Favorite Quote Break!

Frodo: I knew that danger lay ahead, of course, but I did not expect to meet it in our own Shire.
Gildor: […]But it is not your own Shire. Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more. The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.

After this, Frodo mentions that he hasn’t heard from Gandalf in some time, even though he expected to meet with him days ago. This concerns Gildor, but he tells Frodo little can be done about it and that the only thing to do is to decide whether he should go now or wait for the Gandalf.

Favorite Quote Break!

Gildor: It is said: Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.
Frodo: And it is also said: Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.

Sufficiently chided (and amused) Gildor decides to gift Frodo with actual counsel: “Go at once, without delay; and if Gandalf does not come before you set out, then I also advise this: do not go alone.” With that, Gildor names Frodo “Elf-friend” and promises to inform all the Wandering Companies [of Elves] of his journey so that they may help him if he has need.

USELESS TRIVIA FOOTNOTES
*Elrond Halfelven is called “halfelven” because he is the son of Eärendil (who is the son of Idril [Elf] and Tuor [Man]) and Elwing (who is the daughter of Nimloth [Elf] and Dior [half Elf]). Being the son of Eärendil is kind of a big deal—you’ll just have to trust me on that one—and being the grandson of Dior makes Elrond the great-grandson of Beren and Lúthien, which in turn means that he is descended from Melian. Why am I sharing this? Because Melian was a Maia (essentially a demi-goddess) who served the Valar during the creation of the World. Fun fact: Elrond’s brother Elros was the first king of Númenor, the kingdom of long-lived Men from which Aragorn descended. I guess this also means that Aragorn and Arwen are some sort of cousins?
**The High Elves (aka the Eldar) are related to the Calaquendi (the Light Elves, who lived in Valinor) and are not to be confused with the Moriquendi (the Dark Elves, who never lived in Valinor). High Elves are also known as the Noldorin Exiles, because they left the Undying Lands (Valinor) to return to Middle-earth (where they were born). By the time of The Lord of the Rings, most of the High Elves have departed from Middle-earth and returned to Valinor, though some linger. Oh so much more about Tolkien’s many races of Elves can be found in The Silmarillion.
***Finrod was Galadriel’s brother and the eldest son of Finarfin, brother of Fingolfin, and half-brother of Fëanor, who created the three Silmarils. The Silmarils were jewels made with the light of the two Trees of Valinor (Laurelin, the gold tree, and Telperion, the silver tree) which lit the ancient world but were eventually destroyed by Melkor (aka Morgoth). When they died, the trees’ last fruits became the sun and moon and the Silmarils became very, very coveted. Strife and sorrow follows. Tons more on that later.

***

That’s a wrap for Chapter 3! Gandalf is missing; Frodo, Sam, and Pippin are on their way to Crickhollow via Bucklebury; Black Riders (aka Ringwraiths, my favorite dark and nasty things) are hunting Frodo; and Gildor the Elf has promised to help the hobbits where he can. Stay tuned for more from the Tolkien Re-read—next up is The Fellowship of the Ring Chapters 4 and 5.


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