Tolkien Re-read Part II: The Fellowship of the Ring (Chapter 12)


Get ready for Chapter 12, folks! Last time in the Tolkien Re-read Strider and the hobbits arrived at Weathertop, more signs pointed to trouble for Gandalf, five Black Riders ambushed them during the night, and Frodo was lucky (clumsy?) enough to get himself stabbed by one of them.

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 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 12: Flight to the Ford
(More like Walk to the Ford: A Stroll from Weathertop to the Loudwater—HAH!)

When Frodo comes to his senses some time later (and still clutching the Ring), he’s lying near a fire with Sam, Merry, and Pippin. There isn’t a Black Rider in sight and Strider is gone—which Frodo notices has Sam beginning to doubt the Ranger.

Relevant Quote Break!

Frodo:  What has happened? Where is the pale king?

Frodo is, of course, referring to the crowned wraith he saw—the leader of the Black Riders, who stabbed him on Weathertop—but the other hobbits were unable to see beneath the Black Riders’ shrouds. (Spoilers: Frodo could see the true forms of the Nine because he wore the Ring.)

Confused, but happy that Frodo is awake and speaking, his friends tell him what happened after he collapsed (fainted?).

What Transpired on Weathertop From the POV of Not Frodo

? Sam, Merry, and Pippin could see the “vague shadowy shapes” of the Riders as they approached
? Sam was the first to notice that Frodo had vanished
? At the exact moment Frodo vanished, a “black shadow” rushed passed Sam, knocking him down
? The hobbits could hear Frodo’s voice “speaking strange words” but it seemed to come from far away
? They saw nothing more until they tripped over Frodo’s unconscious body
? Strider ordered the hobbits to lay Frodo near the fire and then disappeared

Later, when Strider reappears, the now suspicious Sam stands and draws his sword.

(Really, Sam? Did you miss this part?)

Relevant Quote Break!

Strider: I am not a Black Rider, Sam, nor in league with them. I have been trying to discover something of their movements; but I have found nothing. I cannot think why they have gone and do not attack again.

(Because evil plans, that’s why.)

Then Frodo tells Strider how he saw the Riders’ faces and that he was rather a bit wounded (because apparently no one noticed?). Once Frodo is all cleaned up, Strider takes Sam aside and informs him that he believes Frodo’s wound to be a deadly one that will “subdue” Frodo to the Enemy’s will.

(Seems to me like Frodo is already pretty easily subdued to the Enemy’s will—BOOM!)

Strider tells Sam to guard Frodo and then disappears again. When he returns he finds the knife that wounded Frodo, but as he picks it up the blade melts away leaving only the hilt. (Probably a bad sign.) Strider declares with dismay that “few now have the skill in healing to match such evil weapons.” (Yep, definitely bad.)

Frodo’s Wound, a List of Symptoms

? Pain
? A spreading chill reaching down his arm and side
? Paralysis in his arm and hand
? Blurring vision that makes it hard to see in daylight, but easier to perceive shadows at night
? Dizziness and fatigue

However, he promises to do all he can for Frodo and produces what it was he went off in search of—Aethelas leaves.

Quick Facts About Aethelas

? It has healing properties
? The Men of the West brought it with them to Middle-earth
? It now grows only sparsely and near places where the Men of the West once lived or camped

As Strider boils the Aethelas and applies it to Frodo’s wound (causing some relief for the hobbit), he and the other hobbits discuss what to do next. They decide they must leave Weathertop as soon as possible and are convinced that if Gandalf did come to this place, he was forced to ride away and isn’t likely to return.

They leave in the morning, planning to avoid the Road (except to cross it). Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Strider take most of the luggage from the pony onto their backs so that Frodo may ride.

Relevant Quote Break!

There was no sign of the Riders. But even as they were hurrying across [the Road] they heard far away two cries: a cold voice calling and a cold voice answering.

They rush across the road and dive into the cover of the brush on the southern side and continue south and east, making for Rivendell.


Walking, a List in 4 Parts – The First

? They walk a pathless walk
? Four days, they walk
? They walk some more, seeing no sign of the Riders
? On the fifth day, they turn north-eastwards
? They walk up a slow-climbing slope
? They walk back to the Road
? They come to the Last Bridge and the River Hoarwell (aka Mitheithel)

On the bridge Strider finds a “single pale-green jewel,” an elf-stone. He takes it to be a sign that the Last Bridge is safe to cross, but decides they must leave the Road again once they are on the other side.

Walking, a List in 4 Parts – The Second

? They walk across the Last Bridge
? They leave the Road
? They walk northwards through a narrow ravine
? They walk and walk
? They spot the ruins of walls and towers on the hills above them

Seeing the ruins, and having a general idea of their location, Frodo wonders if they are in troll country and whether they might be near the place where Bilbo and the Dwarves encountered the three trolls in The Hobbit.

Relevant Quote Break!

Strider: No! Trolls do not build. No one lives in this land. Men once dwelt here, ages ago; but none remain now. They became an evil people, as legends tell, for they fell under the shadow of Angmar.* But all were destroyed in the war that brought the North Kingdom** to its end. But that is now so long ago that the hills have forgotten them, though a shadow still lies on the land.

Pippin asks Strider how he knows all these tales if “all the land is empty and forgetful,” to which Strider replies that the heirs of Elendil forget nothing of the past. He also tells the hobbits that even more than he knows is remembered in Rivendell.

Relevant Quote Break!

Frodo: Have you often been to Rivendell?
Strider: I have. I dwelt there once, and still I return when I may. There my heart is; but it is not my fate to sit in peace, even in the fair house of Elrond.

And then the walking continues.

Walking, a List in 4 Parts – The Third

?They continue walking, but make slow progress
?They walk for days
?They walk through rain
?They walk through wind
?Walking walking walking
?They walk too far north and must turn back
?They walk south-east along a passage leading through hills
?They climb a ridge that bars their way south

They spend a cold night on top of the ridge. Frodo’s condition is deteriorating fast, though his wound was small and has already closed. Sam is concerned, but Strider (rather uncomfortingly) tells him that Frodo has “been touched by the weapons of the Enemy” and that there is “some poison or evil at work” that is beyond his skill. Their only hope is reaching Rivendell before Frodo completely succumbs.

Walking, a List in 4 Parts –The Fourth

? They walk down the southern side of the ridge
? They walk a path that Pippin finds
? They walk that path into some woods
? They walk by an old and empty troll-hole
? They walk until they reach a clearing straight out of one of Bilbo’s stories

Merry and Pippin, having gone on ahead, come rushing back with news that there are three trolls in a clearing up ahead. But, upon closer inspection, it turns out that the three trolls have been turned to stone—they are, in fact, the trolls Bilbo encountered on his adventures with Thorin & Co. in The Hobbit.

Much relieved, they rest there for a bit. Sam sings a song about trolls, and they are all much improved in spirits. Then, more walking.

They return to the Road because it’s the best way to reach the Ford across the Loudwater (aka the Bruinen) and are just about to stop for the night when they hear the sounds of hoofs behind them. Wasting no time at all, they rush off the road and find a hiding place in the brush.

Relevant Quote Break!

The sound of hoofs grew nearer. They were going fast, with a light clippety-clippety-clip. Then faintly, as if it was blown away from them by the breeze, they seemed to catch a dim ringing, as of small bells tinkling.

(Probably not a Black Rider, guys.)

When the horse and rider finally come into view, Frodo & Friends see that the horse is white and “studded with gems like living stars,” and the rider is cloaked, but his “golden hair flowed shimmering in the wind of his speed.”

(Yep. Definitely not a Black Rider. This chapter just got a thousand times better.)

Upon seeing this shiny rider, Strider leaps up with an excited cry and runs back onto the road. They apparently know each other because when the rider sees the Ranger, he immediately dismounts and greets him with Ai na vedui Dúnadan! Mae govannen!

(Hint: It’s Elvish.)

Relevant Quote Break!

Strider: This is Glorfindel, who dwells in the house of Elrond.
Glorfindel: Hail, and well met at last! I was sent from Rivendell to look for you. We feared you were in danger upon the road.
Frodo: Then Gandalf has reached Rivendell?
Glorfindel: No.


Glorfindel informs them that Elrond received news of Frodo’s burden—and that Gandalf was late to accompany them on their travels—from some Elf-kin who had been travelling near the Shire (that would be Gildor from Chapter 3). Troubled, Elrond sent riders out in search of them nine days ago.

Favorite Quote Break!

Glorfindel: There is no time for further news. Since you are here we must risk the peril of the Road and go. There are five behind us, and when they find your trail upon the Road they will ride after us like the wind. And they are not all. Where the other four may be, I do not know.*** I fear that we may find the Ford is already held against us.

Sam is quick to inform Glorfindel that Frodo is wounded and also ill (conveniently, Frodo falls into a Mordor-induced swoon at that very moment). It’s decided that Frodo shall ride Glorfindel’s horse, but the hobbit refuses to leave his friends behind and in so much danger.

Favorite Quote Break!

Glorfindel: I doubt very much if your friends would be in danger if you were not with them! The pursuit would follow you and leave us in peace, I think. It is you, Frodo, and that which you bear that brings us all in peril.

(Ooooo, ouch.)

And, so, Frodo is placed on the horse, Strider and the other hobbits lighten their loads onto the now rider-less pony, and they set off on foot with Glorfindel leading the way.

Two more days of walking follow.

Late in the afternoon on the second day, just as they come within sight of the Ford and the Loudwater, Glorfindel suddenly stops.

Favorite Quote Break!

There was [an] echo as of following feet in the cutting behind them; a rushing noise as if a wind were rising and pouring through the branches of the pines. One moment Glorfindel turned and listened, then he sprang forward with a loud cry. “Fly!” he called. “Fly! The enemy is upon us!”

Glorfindel’s horse, carrying Frodo, immediately rushes forward. Strider, Glorfindel, and the hobbits run after it, but they soon fall behind. Frodo slows the horse and looks back to see five Black Riders in the place he and his companions stood just moments before. Glorfindel urges Frodo to ride on, but he’s seized by a “strange reluctance” [*cough*the Ring*cough*] and instead draws his sword.

(Seriously, Frodo?)

Relevant Quote Break!

“Ride on! Ride on!” cried Glorfindel, and then loud and clear he called to the horse in the elf-tongue: noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth! At once the white horse sprang away and sped like the wind along the last stretch of Road.

The five Black Riders issue a “terrible cry” and race after Frodo. Unfortunately, their cry is immediately answered by four more who rush in from the left—two ride toward Frodo while the last two head to cut him off at the Ford.

Luckily, Asfaloth manages to speed away from the four newly arrived Riders and crosses the river before them. But then Frodo feels as though he’s been commanded to stop, so he does. He brandishes his sword and tells the Black Riders to return to the Land of Mordor and follow him no more. To which they, predictably, laugh at him and demand the Ring.

The leader of the Nine rides his horse forward into the water, and two others follow. With one last burst of courage, Frodo declares that they shall never have him or the Ring.

(Sorry, Tolkien. This was better.)

Very much not amused, the three Riders continue into the middle of the river where, suddenly the water rises up and washes them away. The six who held back become dismayed.

Then, beyond the Riders on the opposite shore, Frodo hears cries and sees a “shining figure of white light” and beyond that figure “shadowy forms waving flames.”Sent into madness by the flames, or perhaps the shining figure, the horses of the six remaining Black Riders leap into the flooded river and are carried away by the rushing current.

And Frodo suffers another swoon.

*Angmar: Remember Angmar? Ruled by the Witch-king, the man who received a Ring of Power from Sauron in the 2nd Age and is now the leader of the Black Riders/Ringwraiths/Nazgul/Nine? Tom Bombadil mentioned it back in Chapter 8.
**North Kingdom: aka Arnor, the kingdom of Elendil and a sort of sister kingdom to Gondor.
***Where the other four may be, I do not know: Glorfindel was replaced with Arwen in the movies. This was one of her lines.


That’s it for Chapter 12—and Book I—of The Fellowship of the Ring! Frodo and Friends have walked a lot of walking, met up with Glorfindel of Rivendell, and have finally encountered all nine of the Black Riders. Next up is Chapter 1 of Book II: Many Meetings. Until then, check out this epic new trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Logan Balestrino is the Publishing Assistant for Del Rey/Spectra and Digital Content at the Random House Publishing Group. She is prone to Doctor Who rants, anime marathons, and extensive ramblings on Elven lineage and the creation of language in Middle-earth. When Logan isn’t working or hanging upside down at her aerials class, she can usually be found saving Hyrule or talking herself out of buying another pair of shoes.