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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 2, Chapter 3) : The Ring Goes South | Summary

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Summary

After the Council, the hobbits gather to talk about the situation. Merry and Pippin insist that if Sam is going to accompany Frodo, they want to come, too.

Meanwhile, Elrond is sending out scouts to gather intelligence, and they are returning with news. It looks as if Frodo and whoever goes along will set out just as winter begins. In particular, it is important they not set out until they get news of what became of the Black Riders, because they lost their horses at the ford.

Once it seems clear the Black Riders—the Nine—are at least temporarily out of the picture, Elrond summons the hobbits and asks Frodo if he is still willing to go to Mordor. Besides Sam, Elrond appoints Gandalf, Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf, Aragorn, Boromir, and finally, Merry and Pippin. This makes a Company of nine: "the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil." They are to leave in seven days.

In preparation for the journey, the Elves forge the broken pieces of Narsil into a new sword for Aragorn named Andúril. Bilbo gives Frodo a sword—Sting—and a Dwarf-made shirt of mail made of mithril, a rare metal prized by Dwarves. Frodo puts the mail under his clothing. Boromir blows a great horn. Bill, the pony bought from Bill Ferny, is made ready.

The Fellowship sets off and soon comes to a mountain range. They plan to cross by climbing the Redhorn Gate—a pass through the mountains on the far side of one high peak—Caradhras. They are overtaken by a flock of crows of a particular type known to be from Fangorn Forest. As they ascend, they find the going more and more cold and snowy. Finally, they must turn back, or risk freezing to death.

Analysis

As the Company passes through Hollin, Aragorn notices an unusual silence and has a "sense of watchfulness, and of fear" about the place. Later, the others begin to feel it as well when the crows pass overhead. These "sixth sense" types of feelings may seem like a rather unscientific way to gain information, but are an important aspect of detecting evil in Tolkien's world.

There are two ways to get across the mountains—go over or go under. It is clearly Aragorn's preference to go over, but Gandalf asks him, "What do you think of your course now, Aragorn?" when the weather begins to turn bad. Gandalf follows up by saying, "But there is another way, and not by the pass of Caradhras: the dark and secret way that we have spoken of." Aragorn objects to even talking about this "secret way" until it is the only option.

The notion of the nine against nine is an important one. The differences could not be more stark. The nine Black Riders are of one mindset, are equally powerful, equally threatening and have little, if any, free will to act on their own. They are bound to Sauron and their sole mission is to retrieve the Ring and kill the Ring-bearer. The nine walkers chosen by Elrond consist of Men, hobbits, a wizard, a Dwarf, and an Elf. They all have their own strengths and limitations, and though they are bound to one another in this quest, they are not equals, nor do they view the Ring in the same way. Some wish to destroy it, while others wish to use it to defeat evil, or to become all-powerful themselves.

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