Tolkien Re-Read Part II: The Fellowship of the Ring (Chapter 2.2 cont’d)


Last time in the Tolkien Re-read, the Council of Elrond began and there was much sitting and also much talking. We learned that Balin disappeared into Moria thirty years ago, a messenger from Mordor is harassing the Dwarves of Erebor, Gondor is a pretty awesome place (according to Boromir) that is already fighting the forces of Mordor, plus all sorts of historical facts about the Rings of Power, Sauron, the One Ring, and Isildur. Oh, and Aragorn is kind of a big deal (he’s Isildur’s heir aka rightful king of Gondor).

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

A note on spoilers: there might be some ahead. Posts will mostly keep in time with the chapter(s) under discussion, but I can’t guarantee I won’t geek out about related things from later in the trilogy or elsewhere in Tolkien lore (watch out for those footnotes).

The Fellowship of the Ring – Book II

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 2: The Council of Elrond (continued)

When we left off, the Council wasn’t quite convinced that Frodo’s ring is the One Ring of Sauron, and some wanted to know why the wizard Saruman wasn’t present. Both concerns, as it turns out, are connected to Gandalf’s story, so let’s just dive right in, shall we?

Gandalf’s Story, Part 1: Identifying the One Ring

(Reminder that The Hobbit’s Necromancer in Dol Guldur was actually Sauron.)

Sometime after the Necromancer’s/Sauron’s retreat to Mordor, the White Council held a meeting, because they knew Sauron was looking for the One Ring. At that meeting, Saruman the White—who has researched the Ring extensively—insisted that the “One [would] never again be found in Middle-earth.” But Gandalf was still worried, particularly about the mysterious ring Bilbo took from Gollum and where it came from.

So, he tried to find Gollum, but was unsuccessful and eventually turned his attention to more pressing matters—until spies of a dark sort began gathering in the Shire. Concerned, Gandalf went to Aragorn and together they hunted Gollum. They tracked him to Mordor, but they were never able to find him.

After that, Gandalf started researching how to identify the One Ring. He knew from Saruman’s studies that it is “round and unadorned” except for markings that are difficult to read. He traveled to Gondor in search of more information, hoping that Isildur (its last known owner) may have left behind documentation about the Ring. There, in Minas Tirith, Gandalf found exactly what he was looking for: an ancient scroll that described the One Ring and its markings.

Once he could identify the One Ring, Gandalf left Gondor and headed back toward the Shire. On his way, he received word from Lórien (aka Lothlórien) that Aragorn had found Gollum. (This is how Gandalf learned Gollum’s story, which he shared with Frodo in Chapter 2.) Gollum was eventually taken to the elves in Mirkwood and imprisoned in the dungeons of King Thranduil.

(There will never be enough Thranduil memes.)

After sharing this, Gandalf explains to the Council what he learned from Isildur’s scroll—that if the One Ring is thrown into fire, the markings on its band become visible. Those markings are written in Elvish script, but the language is Mordor’s:

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulúk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them

Elrond gets a bit upset when Gandalf utters filthy Mordor speek at his Council, but Gandalf moves on quickly to the final proof that Biblo’s ring is the One Ring.

Identifying the One Ring, a Checklist

[x] Round and unadorned? (Anyone can see that.)
[x] Extends the life of its user? (Bilbo and Gollum prove it.)
[x] Fire reveals ominous poetry in nasty Mordor language about ruling and binding and darkness? (Gandalf successfully performed this test at Bag End in Chapter 2.)

And that settles it. Finally, the Council agrees that the ring Frodo carries is the One Ring. But does Sauron know they have it? Probably yes. Because everything that Gollum knew about the Ring—who had it, where they lived—was likely forced from him in Mordor.

Relevant Quote Break!

Boromir: He is a small thing, you say, this Gollum? Small, but great in mischief. What became of him?
Aragorn: He is in prison, but no worse. He had suffered much. There is no doubt that he was tormented…Still I for one am glad that he is safely kept by the watchful Elves of Mirkwood.
Legolas: The tidings I was sent to bring must now be told…Sméagol, who is now called Gollum, has escaped.

(Seriously? YOU HAD ONE JOB!)

How Gollum Escaped, A List

? Gollum was imprisoned in Mirkwood
? Elves guarded him day and night
? The Elves pitied him, because—let’s be serious—Gollum is pretty pathetic
? The Elves, encouraged by Gandalf, also hoped to cure him
? They decided to take him outside sometimes, where he liked to climb a particular tree
? One day Gollum refused to come down from the tree, so there he stayed (under guard) into the night
? Then Orcs came and there was fighting and afterwards Gollum was discovered to be gone, his guards dead

Legolas explains that they searched for Gollum, but were unable to recapture him. Apparently Mirkwood has become full of evil creatures again, except for where King Thranduil’s realm is guarded, and they aided Gollum in his escape.

Favorite Quote Break!

Gandalf: Well, well, he is gone. We have no time to search for him again. He must do what he will.


Now we come to the second part of Gandalf’s story, namely the reason he disappeared for half the book instead of returning to the Shire to guide Frodo on his journey.

Gandalf’s Story, Part 2: Why Saruman Isn’t at the Council

After making arrangements for Frodo to leave the Shire, Gandalf zipped off to parts unknown.

He eventually ran into the wizard Radagast the Brown, who was searching for him on behalf of Saruman. Radagast told Gandalf that the Nazgûl (aka the Nine aka Ringwraiths) have returned and that they were searching for something in the Shire, news Radagast had learned from Saruman. Radagast also told Gandalf that Saruman wanted to speak with him before midsummer. So, Gandalf traveled to Isengard to meet with Saruman while Radagast worked to recruit all his furry animal friends for spying on the Nine.

In Isengard, Saruman greeted Gandalf with scorn, and talked of Radagast with scorn, and was generally unpleasant. Oh, and he’s Saruman of Many Colours now, not Saruman the White, and he’s summoned Gandalf to him to offer him a choice.

According to Saruman, the time of the Elves is over (true) and the time of Men is beginning (yes, probably) and they—the wizards—must rule the World of Men (say what now?), but they will need power to do this. Then Saruman babbled on about a “new Power rising” and how there is no hope left in Elves or Men. If they were to aid this rising Power, they would be rewarded; or if they could get their hands on the One Ring, and thus overthrow previously mentioned rising Power, that might be even better.

Translation: Sauron is back and growing in power quickly. Their old allies—Elves, Men—can’t stand against Sauron. Option 1: They must join Sauron in order to survive the coming clash and continue their work in the world. Option 2: They must get the One Ring before Sauron (because Saruman knows Gandalf knows where it is) and wield his power themselves.

When Gandalf refused both of these options (as expected), Saruman revealed his third option: stay in Orthanc¹ until Gandalf shares where the One Ring can be found, or until it is found by the agents of Sauron. And that is how Gandalf got himself imprisoned literally on top of the tower of Orthanc.

(You may recall Frodo’s dream in Chapter 7. This is what it was revealing to him.)

Lucky for Gandalf, Radagast’s animal friends sent a messenger to Orthanc with news of the Nine and of Gollum. The messenger was one of the Great Eagles, Gwaihir the Windlord (you remember these guys from The Hobbit, yes?). After speaking with Gandalf, Gwaihir carried him off to the land of Rohan (a kingdom of Men known for its swift horses) where the wizard hoped to obtain a horse in order to get to Frodo as quickly as possible.

Gandalf’s Story, Part 3: What Happened in Rohan and After

Saruman’s evil influence had begun to spread to Rohan. The king refused to listen to Gandalf’s warning, but still agreed to give him a horse. Gandalf chose the best horse—Shadowfax, which no one had been able to tame—because wizard.

Afterwards, Gandalf rode with all speed to Hobbiton, where he learned from the Gaffer that Frodo had already left. He also learned of the Ringwraith that had come to the Gaffer asking him about Bagginses. This being rather not good news, Gandalf hurried after Frodo, following his trail from Hobbiton to Bree.

In Bree, he learned from Butterbur, the inkeeper at The Prancing Pony, about the Ringwraiths and the attack in the hobbits’ rooms. But there was good news too: Frodo & Friends left under the protection of Aragorn (though Butterbur didn’t see it as good news, since he’s suspicious of the mysterious “Strider”).

Hoping to catch up with them, Gandalf rode on to Weathertop. There, he encountered the Ringwraiths and left the mark that Aragorn found in Chapter 11. When he was unable to find Frodo & Friends in the wilderness, Gandalf finally decided to trust in Aragorn and came at last to Rivendell.

So ends the lengthy account of Gandalf the Grey. Finally, we’ve come to the true purpose of the Council of Elrond: what to do with the One Ring and how to prevent Sauron from obtaining it.

In answer, Elrond suggests giving it to Tom Bombadil² in safe-keeping, since he seems to have some power over the Ring (evidenced by Frodo’s story about him wearing it without becoming invisible). But Gandalf quickly points out that the Ring simply has no power over Bombadil. So, sending the Ring to him wouldn’t exactly be useful.

It is also determined that the Ring can’t stay in Rivendell because the Elves don’t have the power to hide it from Sauron. But it can’t be destroyed, either, at least not by means at the Council’s disposal. Glorfindel suggests casting it into the Sea, where it could remain hidden for some time, but that option is quickly dismissed as merely a temporary solution.

Relevant Quote Break!

Elrond: Now at this last we must take the hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril—to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.


Boromir is not pleased, and wonders why they can’t use the Ring to defeat Sauron. He acknowledges the wizard Saruman is a traitor, but thinks that perhaps there was wisdom in his council to use the Ring against Mordor.

Favorite Quote Break!

Elrond: We cannot use the Ruling Ring…It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. [As] long as it is in this world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.

(Reminder that Sauron was once a good little Maia in the service of Aulë the Smith, one of the Valar, before he was seduced by the power of Melkor aka Morgoth.)

Glóin points out that they could use the other rings of power—the Dwarves’ Seven³, if any can be recovered, and the Elves’ Three, none of which are lost.

Quick Facts about The Three, Or Why They Can’t be Used Against Sauron

? They can’t be used for war or conquest
? Their power lies in understanding, making, healing, and the preservation of things
? If Sauron regains the One Ring, they will be corrupted and those who wield them will fall under his power
? If the One Ring is destroyed, the Three will be free of its power, but their own power will likely fade

If they can’t use the One Ring, and the Three can’t aid them against Sauron—except to preserve and heal lands against his spreading influence—they must destroy it. An added bonus to this course of action is that Sauron will never suspect that anyone could resist using the Ring, let alone manage to cause it harm.

Now they must decide who to task with the journey to Mordor. Bilbo immediately volunteers, as the one who most recently found the Ring he feels he should be the one to see to its destruction. Gandalf, however, advises him against it.

Favorite Quote Break!

Bilbo: I have never known you to give me pleasant advice before. As all your unpleasant advice has been good, I wonder if this advice is not bad.

After a long silence, Frodo finally volunteers.

Relevant Quote Break!

Elrond: If I understand aright all I have heard, I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.

(No pressure, Frodo.)

Then Sam, who has been hiding someplace since the beginning of the Council, pops up and declares that they can’t send Frodo off alone. There is much agreement on this point, and that is how Sam became Frodo’s traveling bro.


That’s it for Book II, Chapter 2! Frodo’s Ring is the One Ring of Doom, the wizard Saruman is a traitor, Frodo has volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor and kill it with fire, and Boromir did not say the thing. Have some opinions to share? Sound off in the comments and stay tuned for Chapter 2.3: The Ring Goes South!

¹Orthanc: The great tower of Isengard. It was built by the Dúnedain.
²Tom Bombadil: He’s known as Iarwain Ben-adar, oldest and fatherless, by the Elves; Forn by the Dwarves, and Orald by the Northern Men.
³The Seven: The last of the Seven was in the possession of Thrór, who gave it to Thráin (Thorin’s father), but it was taken from Thrain under torture in Dol Guldur.

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.