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Synopsis of Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring

Detailed synopsis of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring (Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings), J.R.R. Tolkien, Boston, 1954, 1987,
Houghton Mifflin Company.

The title refers to the company of Frodo, Gandalf, et al, on their mission to unmake the One Ring.

The continuation of the story of Bilbo Baggins (from The Hobbit). Bilbo is about to turn 111 years old (though he looks much younger) and is planning a huge eleventy-eleventh birthday party with all of Hobbiton invited. His nephew Frodo, who he adopted twelve years ago and has lived with him that time, shares his birthday, September 22. He will be 33 this year, which is a coming of age time for hobbits. The planning went on for months before the event. Bilbo hand-wrote all the invitations and each day more acceptance letters arrived at Bag-End. Finally the grand day arrived. Any one who was forgotten, assumed they were invited anyway and they came too. The food and beer was stupendous, even by hobbit standards. Gandalf, Bilbo's fast friend, provided fireworks that left all in awe. Finally, the climax of the evening arrived. Bilbo rose and addressed his family and friends. He officially named Frodo his heir. He read some of his poetry (to the dismay of some there). And he announced that he was going away. After that, he retired to his home and did not come out again, to anyone's seeing.

Inside, he had his traveling gear ready. He left an envelope on the mantle for Frodo with all the legal papers necessary to pass his belongings and residence to his nephew. There was just one more thing. The ring. The ring that he had found in the Orc cave under Misty Mountain. The ring that Gollum had called his Precious. He had planned to leave it with Frodo, as well, but now that the time came he had second thoughts. But his friend and confident, Gandalf, in perhaps his most insistent manner ever he had addressed Bilbo, persuaded him otherwise. The ring must be passed on. Bilbo conceded and under dark of night, left Bag-End forever.

Now it was years later. Frodo is fifty though he had not seemed to age. Things were changing in the Shire. A darkness was creeping in. Unknown travelers were passing through. Gandalf has visited often during the years but not of late but finally he returned. He had been far and wide investigating the ring. He had an intuition something was amiss with it. That is why he persuaded Bilbo to leave it behind. Now he was surer. As a last test he told Bilbo to throw it in the fire. Bilbo resisted. He fingered it and made to toss it but it did not seem to want to leave his hand. Finally he flung it into the fire. The ring remained unharmed but when withdrawn now displayed Elfin runes which Gandalf interpreted as identifying it as the One Ring from which all of the other magical rings of Middle Earth derived their power. This ring provided great power to its owner but also, and more so, held great power over its owner. Bilbo felt that when he tried to leave it behind. Frodo felt it when he tried to throw it into the fire. He remembered Bilbo's tales of Gollum who constantly talked to it, calling it My Precious, even when it was not present.

There were other rings made by Elfin magic. The Three rings for the Elfin-kings. The Seven rings for the Dwarf-lords. The Nine rings for mortal Men. But the one ring was destined for the Dark Lord in the land of Mordor. This ring rules all the others. And the servants of the Dark Lord, Sauron, were even now searching for the ring. It had been thought to be lost but stories and rumors found their way to Mordor. Stories of a halfling who at times had vanished. Bilbo. Frodo was in danger. The ring was drawing the Enemy to it. To throw it away would do no good, even if it would allow itself to be discarded. The ring itself willed to be found. And if found by the Enemy, would spell a long and severe darkness. Against the ring in the hands of the Dark Lord no one could stand.

Gandalf advised Frodo to leave the Shire very soon. Perhaps, it could be destroyed by casting it into the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain. Perhaps. And only if they were not stopped. Gandalf would be along directly but he must go somewhere else first. But Sam, Frodo's gardener and the son of Bilbo's gardener would accompany him. He would sell his house and belongings and head east to Buckland, where he lived as a youth. From there they would probably head to Rivendell. Frodo waited until September 22, to celebrate his and Bilbo's combined birthdays. That proved to be his undoing. By then the Shadow was growing and on the night he left he overheard his neighbor talking to an unseen and ominous voice who was asking about a Baggins. And where was Gandalf, who had promised to be back in time to leave with him?

Two of his cousins, Pippin and Merry, from Buckland accompanied him and Sam. Their way was treacherous. Danger followed them closely and many times they were nearly captured. Their chief pursuers were black riders, men -- rather, perhaps, unembodied spirits -- clothed in black hoods and capes riding black horses. First they say one, then another. These, it turned out bore the Nine rings and were in service to Sauron, the Dark Lord. They were searching for Baggins, the bearer of the ring. Frodo went by the name of Underhill, by Gandalf's advice. But it seemed at every turn some evil besieged them.

When they got to Buckland, the carried all of Frodo's belongings into the small house they had bought for him there. That night they saw another black rider and knew they could not rest there ever for another day. A Buckland friend, Fatty, was to stay at the house and give it the appearance of being lived in. The others (for Merry and Pippin would not allow Frodo and Sam to go on alone) sneaked out the back taking a short-cut through the Old Forest, so they would be unseen leaving Buckland. Then they would meet up with the road to Bree. Try as the did, their desired path seemed to be cut, forcing them always to the right and down toward the Withywidle River. Finally they gave up and followed the forest's will. Soon they were on a well traveled trail (though they knew not who used or made it).

As they walked a sudden drowsiness over came them. Pippin and Merry leaned up against a tree while Frodo and Sam sat down by the river and bathed their feet. But as they slept, roots of a tree would around Frodo's leg and began to pull him in. Sam woke and saved his master. They both went to look for the others and found Merry pinched within the hollow of the tree and Pippin not to be seen. They tried hacking at the tree but to no avail, and, in fact, the tree seemed to laugh at them. Frodo, for no reason discernible to himself (for they had seen no other travelers all the time they had been in the Forest) started running up and down the trail crying help, help. And whether it was because of his call (which later he was told it was not) or through mere happenstance, a song was heard coming from down the trail. Frodo ran to the sound, discarding all caution, and found a happy Tom Bombadil on his way carrying water lilies for his wife. Tom followed Frodo and saw the situation. "Old Man Willow!" he shouted and commanded the tree to do what it should be doing, eat earth, drink water, and at that he pulled Merry from the crack and then another crack opened and Pippin popped out. Then he invited them to follow him to his house and stay the night but he walked to fast for them to keep up.

After the sun went down they came to the house of Tom Bombadil. His wife, Goldberry, opened the door and graciously invited them in. There they rested for two days before setting out again for the hard road. Tom Bombadil told them a rhyme that would call him if they needed his assistance. This they used and finally reached Bree where the inn keeper told Frodo that he had a message from Gandalf -- a message that he was supposed to have sent to Frodo months ago but forgot about. Gandalf was still alive! In Bree they met a Ranger named Strider, a tall, gaunt, somber looking being, who offered to be their guide to Rivendell. Gandalf's letter mentioned him so they gratefully accepted his offer but not without some suspicion.

The morning they were to leave their ponies, and indeed, all of the pack animals in the hotel's barn, were stolen. Black riders had found them once more. They loaded what they could on packs and set off. Their way to Rivendell was hard and filled with danger. Shortly before they got to Rivendell they met Glorfindel, an Elf who had been sent by Elrond. He mounted Frodo on his steed and said, if any trouble beset them, the horse would take him safely to Rivendell. Trouble did beset. The black riders came from behind. Glorfindel's horse flew toward the ford in the river that they still needed to cross. Just before the ford, more black riders came from the trees but the horse out-distanced them all. The riders were in the ford when Glorfindel called to the waters to arise and churn and the black riders were separated from their horses.

The next thing Frodo knew he awoke in a bed in the house of Elrond. There was the rest of his company and there too was Gandalf and Bilbo. From here the adventure begins. Elrond held a council to decide what to do with the ring. It was decided that Frodo, Sam and Gandalf would have to set out on the quest. Merry and Pippin volunteered to accompany them. Also in the group were Strider (Aragorn, a man of antiquity and the descendent and heir to the throne of the kingdoms of the south, of which Gondor was one), Legolas, a Dwarf, Gimli, an Elf, and Boromir, son of the Lord of Gondor, a Man. Along their way they met

? Lester L. Noll


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