HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Fellowship Of The Ring Book 1 Chapter 3 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 3) : Three Is Company | Summary

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Summary

Weeks pass, and Gandalf becomes impatient with Frodo's lack of preparation for leaving. Although Frodo has good reasons for his slowness—he doesn't want to create gossip—he is also feeling reluctant to leave the Shire. He is inclined to wait until his 50th birthday. Gandalf agrees to this, and advises Frodo to travel toward the Elven realm of Rivendell, ruled by Elrond.

Frodo announces he is selling Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses, his unlikable cousins, and moving to Buckland—in a different part of the Shire. The townsfolk find this surprising, but chalk it up to his various eccentricities.

One day, Gandalf announces he must leave and investigate something worrisome he has learned about, but tells Frodo he will be back for the birthday party. However, he does not show up, and Frodo decides to move forward with the plan without him. Frodo celebrates his birthday with his good friends, and then says good-bye to Bag End. Merry and another friend, Fredegar Bolger, go on ahead to get Frodo's new house ready.

Later, walking along the road in a melancholy way, Frodo overhears a strange voice asking Sam's father, the Gaffer, about "Mr. Baggins." Soon after, Sam, Pippin, and Frodo set out.

After a few days on the road, they hear another traveler coming up behind them. Frodo, feeling wary, decides they should hide and let the traveler go past. Once hidden, the four hobbits watch as a large black horse appears, carrying a figure clothed in a black robe and hood. Sniffing sounds come from inside the hood, and Frodo feels an urge to put on the Ring. He resists the urge, and the rider moves on. Sam reveals that this rider is the one that asked his father about Mr. Baggins. The hobbits decide to continue on, more cautiously.

Later that evening, the black-cloaked rider overtakes them again, and Frodo once again feels the urge to put on the Ring. A company of Elves happens by, however, and the rider retreats. The leader of the company of Elves, Gildor Inglorion, recognizes Frodo, and allows the hobbits to travel with them after hearing about the Black Riders.

The hobbits stay up late talking and eating with the Elves, and Gildor is uneasy about pursuing Black Riders, who he believes are servants of the Enemy, and that Gandalf did not show up when expected. He advises Frodo to leave for Rivendell without delay.

Analysis

This chapter introduces the Black Riders—figures dressed in black robes riding black horses—looking for a hobbit named Baggins. After Gandalf's news that Sauron is aware of hobbits, Baggins, and the Shire, it is clear that these Black Riders are agents sent to look for the Ring. However, although the threat of the Riders is uppermost in the reader's mind, it is important to recall that for Frodo, it has been months since his conversation with Gandalf, and that time has been occupied with preparations for leaving the Shire secretly. Frodo's mind has been preoccupied with leaving, and thinking about what he will miss and how his friends will take it.

Tolkien sets up parallels between Frodo's departure and Bilbo's. Frodo departs after his birthday, and on the same path Bilbo left on: "He waved his hand, and then turned and (following Bilbo, if he had known it) hurried after Peregrin down the garden-path." As he embarks, Frodo sings a little of a song. This is the same song Bilbo sings as he sets out: "The Road goes ever on and on, Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can." He even recalls Bilbo saying, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door."

When the party of hobbits meets the traveling High Elves, Tolkien reminds the reader Frodo is exceptional, not ordinary. The Elves recognize Frodo, Frodo speaks a little of their language, and they call him "Elf-friend." As the reader's first encounter with Elves, this one introduces important aspects of their character. For one thing, they love songs, stories, food, and drink. They know many things, and are wise: "The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out," says Gildor. Yet, despite their knowledge and wisdom, they prefer not to give advice, believing each individual's choice must be his or her own: Frodo recalls something he's heard: "Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes." Gildor agrees: "advice is a dangerous gift."

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