Tolkien Re-Read Part II: The Fellowship of the Ring (Chapter 2.3)


Last time on the Tolkien Re-read we learned that Frodo’s Ring is the One Ring of Doom and the wizard Saruman is a filthy traitor. Also, Frodo volunteered to toss the Ring back into the FIERY CHASM FROM WHENCE IT CAME.

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 3: The Ring Goes South

After the Council of Elrond, Frodo and Friends have a meeting of their own. A Council of Hobbits, if you will. Merry and Pippin are a bit upset that Sam didn’t get into trouble for sneaking into Elrond’s meeting, and a tiny bit jealous that he’s getting to go with Frodo on his Trip of Doom.

(Seriously, guys? You want to go on a one-way trip to Mordor?)

Frodo is baffled by his friends’ reactions, since he’d really rather just stay in Rivendell forever and never do anything adventurous or unsafe ever again.

Relevant Quote Break!

Merry: [to Frodo] If you have to go, then it will be a punishment for any of us to be left behind, even in Rivendell. We have come a long way with you and been through some stiff times. We want to go on.

Pippin emphatically agrees, insisting that the hobbits should stick together, and then Gandalf shows up with Bilbo.

Favorite Quote Break!

Pippin: I shall go unless they chain me up. There must be someone with intelligence in the party.
Gandalf: Then you certainly will not be chosen, Peregrin Took!

(Sick burn.)

In any case, Gandalf reveals that nothing has been decided yet regarding who will and will not be accompanying Frodo and Sam. For the moment, Elrond has sent out scouts to search for signs of the Enemy, and they need to wait for them to return with news of the Ringwraiths before Frodo can begin his journey.

(But wait, weren’t the Nine destroyed by the flooded Bruinen at the Ford a few chapters back?)

Relevant Quote Break!

Gandalf: You cannot destroy Ringwraiths like that. The power of their master is in them, and they stand or fall by him.

(Oh, right, of course.)

However, Gandalf does hope that they were at least unhorsed and unmasked, and thus made a bit less dangerous, in the flood. They must find out for certain, though, hence the scouts. In other news, Gandalf plans to join Frodo on his Trip of Doom, if he can.

Thus, the days slip by peacefully for the hobbits. Frodo spends some of it helping Bilbo finish his book (The Hobbit, remember) and even mentions the next one that will chronicle Frodo’s adventures. Frodo isn’t very optimistic about that book.

Soon, two months have passed and fall is turning to winter. At night, a red star begins to shine in the south “burning like a watchful eye that glared above the trees on the brink of the valley.”

(Hmm…seems suspicious and very much not good and probably related to Mordor.)

Eventually, Elrond’s scouts return, but they discovered little regarding the Ringwraiths.

News from the Scouts

? There is no sign of Gollum
? Three of the Ringwraiths’ horses were found drowned at the Ford; five more were found on the rocks of the rapids below the Ford
? Also, a tattered cloak was found in the waters, probably belonging to one of the Ringwraiths
? So, the Ringwraiths have possibly disappeared from the North, maybe?

Gandalf is hopeful that this means the Nine have been scattered, but they probably shouldn’t delay Frodo’s journey any longer.

Later, Elrond summons the hobbits to him. He takes a moment to be sure that Frodo is still willing to be the Ring-bearer (he is) and then explains that he wishes he could be more helpful to Frodo (he can’t), but that he has chosen companions for him.

Relevant Quote Break!

Elrond: The number must be few, since your hope is in speed and secrecy. Had I a host of Elves in amour of the Elder Days, it would avail little, save to arouse the power of Mordor.

(Yeah, I wish Elrond had sent Frodo off with a host of Elves.)

Elrond has decided that Frodo’s company should consist of nine people, “Nine Walkers for the Nine Riders.”

Frodo’s Companions, a List

1) Gandalf – because this is sure to be his greatest task and the end of his labors in Middle-earth
2) Legolas – to represent the Elves
3) Gimli – to represent the Dwarves
4) Aragorn – because Heir of Isildur
4) Boromir – to represent Men

With Frodo and Sam, that makes seven, so there is room for two more. Elrond thinks to send some members of his household (his possibly twin sons??), but Pippin volunteers himself and Merry (shut it, Pippin!). Surprisingly, Gandalf has no objections and Elrond reluctantly agrees (dammit).

Before Frodo and his Fellowship of the Ring depart Rivendell, the Elves reforge Aragorn’s ancestral blade—the Sword of Elendil aka Narsil—and Aragorn renames it Andúril, Flame of the West.

Speaking of swords, Frodo also acquires a new blade. Bilbo gives him Sting, the sword he carried during his adventures in The Hobbit, as well as the dwarf-mail Thorin gifted to him from Smaug’s horde under the Mountain. The latter, however, is kept secret. Bilbo instructs Frodo to wear it under his normal clothes before sending him off.

Favorite Quote Break!

Bilbo: Take as much care of yourself as you can and bring back all the news you can, and any old songs and tales you can come by. I’ll do my best to finish my book before you return.

And so, at dusk, the Fellowship prepares to depart. They travel light, with few weapons, so as to arouse the least amount of suspicion possible, and bring Bill the pony as their beast of burden. Because Sam insisted.

When Elrond bids them farewell, he warns them all again of the peril of their quest and reminds them that they accompany Frodo by their own choice. They have sworn no oaths, he says, and so may “tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows.”

Favorite Quote Break!

Gimli: Faithless is he that says farewell when the path darkens.
Elrond: Maybe, but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.

(Stop questioning the words of Elrond, Gimli.)

The Fellowship of the Ring leaves Rivendell, heading south at the Ford of Bruinen. After two weeks of walking, they reach Hollin, an empty stretch of land once inhabited by Elves, where they can see the great peaks of the Misty Mountains in the distance.

Oh, look. A handy map. How convenient.


Upon seeing the mountains, Gimli bursts into an educational rambling, sharing the names of the peaks with his companions and speaking of the wonder of the ancient (also abandoned) Dwarven city of Dwarrowdelf (aka Moria) located beneath them. When Gimli finishes, Gandalf reveals the path they will travel.

Travel Plans for an Unpleasant Journey

? They will head for a valley called Dimrill Dale
? To do that, they’ll climb the Redhorn Gate pass up the forbidding mountain named Caradhras
? Then down the Dimrill Stair to the Eastern side of the Misty Mountains

But first they’ll take a long rest in Hollin, where the air is “wholesome” and untouched by evil on account of the Elves having lived there long ago. Because apparently it takes a long time for the land to forget the power of the Elves.

Relevant Quote Break!

Legolas: [The] Elves of this land were a race strange to us of the silvan folk,¹ and the trees and grass do not remember them. Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair the wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago.

(Ouch, my feels. The Elves, I can’t.)

They make camp and are relaxing the day away, but Aragorn is uneasy because it’s quiet. Too quiet. Even for a place long abandoned. Later, when Sam and Aragorn are on watch while everyone else gets some sleep, they spot a large flock of crows scouring the land and heading towards them.

Once the birds pass overhead, Aragorn wakes Gandalf and tells him that the spies of the Enemy are watching them, even here in Hollin. Obviously, they’ll have to depart sooner than planned. Pippin is not pleased.

Favorite Quote Break!

Pippin: Well if it isn’t a plague and a nuisance! All because of a pack of crows! I had looked forward to a real good meal tonight: something hot.
Gandalf: Well, you can go on looking forward!

They spend the remainder of the day hiding from sight, then depart when the sun begins to set. After three days of travel, they reach the foot of Caradhras. Frodo overhears Gandalf and Aragorn debating the path they have chosen. Apparently, Gandalf wants to take a “dark and secret“² way, but Aragorn is uneasy about that path and insists that they take the pass over the mountains.

Soon they’re climbing the mountain pass, but not before Boromir (who is experienced at climbing mountains, apparently) suggests they each gather as much wood as they can carry. You know, in case they need a fire to keep themselves from freezing to death.

A ways up the path, it begins to snow. And then it snows some more. Conditions are getting rather a bit miserable when Gandalf brings up that other route again.

Relevant Quote Break!

Gandalf: This is what I feared. What do you say now, Aragorn?
Aragorn: That I feared it too, but less than other things.

(Hmm. Seems to me that if Aragorn is afraid of something, perhaps it should be avoided. But what do I know? I’m not an ancient wizard like Gandalf.)

Aragorn mentions that the snow is falling heavier than it should be, especially this low on the mountain (probably a bad sign), and Boromir wonders if it’s being caused by the Enemy, since Sauron can control the storms and weather in the mountains around Mordor (yep, definitely bad). But they trudge on.

It continues to snow, and then rocks and boulders start falling from the cliffs above them. Also, there are “fell voices on the air.” It’s determined that they must stop where they are, or go back, for the pass ahead will get only more treacherous.

Since they can’t make it back in the stormy conditions, their only option is to stop where they are and shelter against a cliff wall to wait it out. It isn’t long before the hobbits are almost completely buried in the snow, and possibly passing in and out of consciousness.

(Definitely not a sign of hypothermia. Definitely not.)

Favorite Quote Break!

Boromir: This will be the death of the halflings, Gandalf. It is useless to sit here until snow goes over our heads. We must do something to save ourselves.

In answer, Gandalf produces a flask of miruvor, an Elvish cordial, and instructs everyone to take a mouthful.

(I like the way you think, Gandalf.)

The miruvor helps to invigorates everyone and soon they’ve built up a fire (because they now fear the cold more than the eyes of the Enemy’s spies). It doesn’t last long, however, and their kindling runs out before dawn.

Once the sun is up, it’s decided that they will indeed turn back, but the path behind them is now covered in snow that goes well over the hobbits’ heads in places.

Favorite Quote Break!

Legolas: If Gandalf would go before us with a bright flame, he might melt a path for [the hobbits].
Gandalf: If Elves could fly over mountains, they might fetch the sun to save us. But I must have something to work with. I cannot burn snow.

(It should be noted here that Gandalf’s snark is probably caused by the fact that Legolas is currently prancing along above the snow, completely unhindered by it. Because Elf.)

Aragorn, Boromir, and Legolas go on ahead of the group to carve a path through the snow and, after not too long, return with news that they’ve found the end of the treacherous snowdrifts not far from where they are now. With Boromir and Aragorn carrying the frozen hobbits, they finally come to a much clearer stretch of path.

Oh, also, just as everyone rounds a bend, the snowdrifts collapse behind them, leaving Caradhras impassable. And, so, they abandon the mountain pass and climb back down its slope, defeated.


That’s it for Book II, Chapter 3! The newly formed Fellowship of the Ring—Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli—has left Rivendell, there was a lot of walking, then some mountain climbing, but the Fellowship was thwarted by snow and had to turn back.

Have some opinions to share? Sound off in the comments and stay tuned for Chapter 2.4: A Journey in the Dark!

¹Silvan folk: Legolas is referring to the Silvan (or Woodland) Elves—a branch of the Sindar (or Grey) Elves, who never made the journey to Valinor—which includes all the Elves of Mirkwood. Such Elves are collectively known as the Moriquendi (or Dark Elves) and would have had little understanding of the ways of the Calaquendi (or Elves of the Light/High Elves) who did make the journey to Valinor and lived there for a time. The Elves of Hollin were High Elves, which is why their presence has lingered in the land so long after their passing.
²Dark and secret way: SPOILERS—it’s Moria. Remember that scene in the movie adaptation of Fellowship of the Ring when Gimli was all “Let’s go through Moria!” and Gandalf was all “No, idiot! That is unwise.”? Well, that never happened. It was Gandalf arguing with Aragorn; and Gandalf was all for the dark and dangerous road.

Logan Balestrino is a minion in digital publishing for Random House and Del Rey. 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.