Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Fellowship Of The Ring Book 1 Chapter 9 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 9) : At the Sign of the Prancing Pony | Summary

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Summary

The hobbits arrive in Bree, a village in which both humans (Big Folk) and hobbits (Little Folk) make their homes. At the village gate, they answer some suspicious questions before being let through. As they pass through the gate, a dark figure climbs the gate and follows them. They get rooms and supper at The Prancing Pony, where Barliman Butterbur is the harried innkeeper. After supper, Frodo, Sam, and Pippin join some of the other guests in the common room, while Merry remains in the private parlor provided by Butterbur. Frodo, going by the name Mr. Underhill, pretends to be a writer planning a book on hobbits living outside the Shire in order to account for their presence. Amidst the chatter, Frodo notices a stranger smoking a pipe and watching him. This man introduces himself to Frodo as Strider. The stranger warns Frodo not to let Pippin talk too much, and Frodo realizes Pippin is telling the story of Bilbo's disappearance during his birthday speech. Rather than let Pippin finish, Frodo interrupts with a song of his own. Yet as he finishes his silly song, he disappears, having inadvertently placed his finger through the Ring in his pocket. Strider chastises Frodo as the room erupts in suspicious and puzzled murmuring.

Analysis

Two of the major developments of this chapter and the next—Frodo's blunder with the Ring in front of the assembled residents of the inn and Merry's discovery that Black Riders are in Bree—are foreshadowed, humorously, by an exchange between Pippin and Merry. As Frodo, Sam, and Pippin prepare to leave for a bit of socializing, Merry chooses to stay behind by the fire. Merry tells them, "Mind your Ps and Qs, and don't forget that you are supposed to be escaping in secret, and are still on the high-road and not very far from the Shire!" In response, Pippin says, "Mind yourself! Don't get lost, and don't forget that it is safer indoors!" Of course, Pippin and Frodo are not careful and do seem to forget they are supposed to be secretive. Merry, for all his sound advice, fails to follow Pippin's, going outside and recklessly following the Black Riders rather than staying safe indoors.

This chapter introduces Strider, a "strange-looking weather-beaten man, sitting in the shadows," who becomes an important part of the story. Strider is known as a Ranger, and he is observant: it is he who first draws attention to Pippin's lack of discretion.

The hobbits certainly make some foolish choices in this chapter. Pippin gets carried away in his storytelling, and Frodo only makes things worse as he tries to divert attention away from Pippin's story. There is a suggestion that the Ring "wanted" to be revealed, and caused Frodo's "accident" when he placed it on his finger as he fidgeted in his pocket. Gandalf, of course, warned Frodo that the Ring has volition and wants to return to Sauron. This must be in the back of Frodo's mind, as he considers his mistake: "How it came to be on his finger he could not tell ... he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself."

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