Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Fellowship Of The Ring Book 1 Chapter 11 Summary

The Lord of the Rings | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lord of the Rings | The Fellowship of the Ring (Book 1, Chapter 11) : A Knife in the Dark | Summary

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Summary

Back in the Shire, Fatty Bolger has been staying in Frodo's Buckland home to make it appear Frodo is there. One night, Black Riders approach the house and attempt to enter. Fatty, however, quickly raises the alarm, and the Black Riders, realizing the Ring is no longer there, ride off.

In Bree, Frodo and the others sleep while Strider stays awake, alert and listening. When Strider wakens them in the morning, they find the bolsters placed in their beds as decoys have been destroyed. Butterbur is distraught, and Strider and the hobbits decide to leave at once. After a delay caused by missing ponies, they get on their way with one pony bought from Bill Ferny, a dubious character.

Aragorn leads them through the Midgewater Marshes, and they can see, in the distance, something "like lightning." When they get to the hill called Weathertop, Strider thinks the "lightning" they saw might have been caused by Gandalf.

That night, five Black Riders attack. Strider and the hobbits defend themselves, but Frodo feels an overpowering desire to put on the Ring. When he does so, a Black Rider stabs him in the left shoulder with a magical blade before Strider can drive the Riders off. Frodo slips the Ring off his finger before falling unconscious.

Analysis

Before the hobbits and Strider arrive at Weathertop, Frodo suggests that all the walking is causing him to lose weight, and he hopes the thinking process will not continue "indefinitely" or he might "become a wraith." Strider doesn't find this funny, because (as readers find out later in the story) he knows the Ring can have the power to cause people to become wraiths—after all, the power of the Ring caused the nine men wielding rings of power to become Black Riders/Ringwraiths/Nazgûl.

The theme of storymaking is developed in this chapter, as Strider and Sam tell or reference several important stories before the Black Riders attack. First, the story of Gil-galad makes an appearance, if only in part. Gil-galad was an Elven king who allied with Elendil to fight Sauron during the Second Age.

Aragorn also tells some of the story of Beren and Lúthien (Tinúviel). Beren, a mortal Man, fell in love with Lúthien, an Elf. The two lovers accomplished much together before Beren finally died, and Lúthien chose to become mortal so they could be together after death. This story is important to The Lord of the Rings because Beren and Lúthien are the ancestors of Elrond as well as of the kings of Númenor (Westernesse)—including Aragorn's line. So, Aragorn has a little Elvish blood in him.

The story is also significant because the romance of Aragorn and Arwen mirrors the romance of Beren and Lúthien. Aragorn, a mortal, is in love with Arwen, Elrond's daughter (although Elrond has both Elf and human ancestry, he was given a choice and has chosen the immortality of Elves). The story of their romance and life together is recounted in more detail in Appendix A, which describes Arwen's choice to become mortal to be with Aragorn and the ramifications of her choice.

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