The Fellowship of the Ring

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The Fellowship of the Ring
FellowshipOfTheRing.JPG
First edition
Author J. R. R. Tolkien
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Fantasy
Publisher George Allen & Unwin[1]
Publication date
July 24, 1954
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)
Pages 531
Preceded by The Hobbit
Followed by The Two Towers

The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of three volumes of the epic novel The Lord of the Rings by the English author J. R. R. Tolkien. It takes place in the fictional universe of Middle-earth. It was originally published on July 29, 1954 in the United Kingdom. The volume consists of a Prologue titled "Concerning Hobbits, and other matters" followed by Book I and Book II.

Title and publication[edit]

Tolkien conceived of The Lord of the Rings as a multiple volume with six sections he called "books" along with extensive appendices. The original publisher made the decision to split the work into three parts. It was also the publisher's decision to place the fifth and sixth books and the appendices into one volume under the title The Return of the King, in reference to Aragorn's assumption of the throne of Gondor. Tolkien indicated he would have preferred The War of the Ring as a title, as it gave away less of the story.[2]

Before the decision to publish The Lord of the Rings in three volumes was made, Tolkien had hoped to publish the novel in one volume, possibly also combined with The Silmarillion. However, he had proposed titles for the individual six sections. Of the two books that comprise what became The Fellowship of the Ring the first was to be called The First Journey or The Ring Sets Out. The name of the second was The Journey of the Nine Companions or The Ring Goes South. The titles The Ring Sets Out and The Ring Goes South were used in the Millennium edition.

Plot summary[edit]

The Prologue is meant partly to help people who have not read The Hobbit to understand the events of that book. It also contains other background information to set the stage for the novel.

Book I: The Ring Sets Out[edit]

The first chapter in the book begins in a light vein, following the tone of The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins celebrates his 111th (or eleventy-first, as it is called in Hobbiton) birthday on the same day, 22 'September', that his younger cousin and adopted heir Frodo Baggins celebrates his coming of age at 33. At the birthday party, Bilbo departs from the Shire, the land of the Hobbits, for what he calls a permanent holiday. Bilbo does so by using the magic ring (that he had found on his journey) to disappear and is aided by Gandalf with a flash and puff of smoke, leading many in the Shire to believe he has gone mad. He leaves Frodo his remaining belongings, including his home, Bag End, and (after some persuasion by the wizard Gandalf) the Ring. Gandalf leaves on his own business, warning Frodo to keep the Ring secret.

Over the next 17 years Gandalf periodically pays short visits to Bag End. One spring night, he arrives to enlighten Frodo about Bilbo's ring; it is the One Ring of Sauron the Dark Lord. Sauron had forged it to subdue and rule Middle-earth, but in the War of the Last Alliance, he had been defeated by Gil-galad the Elven King and Elendil, High King of Arnor and Gondor, though they themselves perished in the deed. Isildur, Elendil's son, cut the Ring from Sauron's finger. Sauron had thus been overthrown, but the Ring itself was not destroyed as it should have been; Isildur kept it for himself. Isildur was slain soon afterwards in the Battle of the Gladden Fields, and the Ring was lost in Great River Anduin. Thousands of years later, it had been found by the hobbit Déagol; but Déagol was thereupon murdered by his friend Sméagol, who coveted the Ring for himself. Sméagol subsequently possessed the Ring for centuries, and under its influence he became the creature named Gollum. The Ring was found by Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit, and Bilbo left it behind for Frodo.

Gandalf reveals that Sauron has risen again and returned to his stronghold in Mordor, and is exerting all his power toward the hunting of the Ring. Gandalf details the evil powers of the Ring and its ability to influence the bearer and those near him if it is worn for too long. Gandalf warns Frodo that the Ring is no longer safe in the Shire; he has learned through his investigations that Gollum had gone to Mordor, where he was captured and tortured until he revealed to Sauron that a hobbit named Baggins from the Shire possesses the Ring. Gandalf hopes Frodo can reach the elf-haven Rivendell, where he believes Frodo and the Ring will be safe from Sauron, and where its fate can be decided. Samwise Gamgee, Frodo's gardener and friend, is discovered listening in on the conversation. Out of loyalty to his master, Sam agrees to accompany Frodo on his journey.

Over the summer Frodo makes plans to leave his home at Bag End, under the pretence that he is moving to a remote region near the Shire to retire. Helping with the plans are Frodo's friends Sam, Peregrin Took (Pippin for short), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry), and Fredegar Bolger (Fatty), though Frodo does not tell them of the Ring or of his intention to leave the Shire. At midsummer, Gandalf leaves on pressing business, but promises to return before Frodo leaves. Frodo's birthday and departure date approach, but Gandalf does not appear, so Frodo decides to leave without him. Black Riders pursue Frodo's party; these turn out to be Nazgûl or Ringwraiths, "the most terrible servants of the Dark Lord" (men who have been corrupted by Sauron through the Nine Rings), who are searching for "Baggins" and the Ring. In fact, one of the Riders comes to the door of Sam's father, the Gaffer, that very evening before they depart. With help of some elves and Farmer Maggot, they reach Crickhollow beyond the eastern border of the Shire. There Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Fatty reveal that they know of the Ring and of Frodo's plan to leave the Shire. Sam, Merry, and Pippin decide to accompany Frodo, while Fatty stays behind as a decoy. In hopes of eluding the Nazgûl, the hobbits travel through the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs. There in the forest, the group fall asleep by a tree and wake up to realize that its roots are trying to suffocate them, and Tom Bombadil comes to their aid. Within the Barrow-downs, they are captured by a barrow wight but escape and are able to reach the village of Bree, where they meet the ranger Aragorn, a friend of Gandalf who becomes their guide to Rivendell.

At the hill of Weathertop, five of the Nazgûl attack the travellers, and the chief of the Nazgûl stabs Frodo in the shoulder with a cursed knife before Aragorn drives off the Nazgûl with torches. Part of the blade remains within the wound, causing Frodo to fall increasingly ill as they travel to Rivendell; Aragorn warns them that, unless treated soon, Frodo will become a wraith himself. As the travellers near their destination, they meet Glorfindel, an elf-lord from Rivendell, who helps them reach the River Bruinen near Rivendell. But the Nazgûl, all nine now gathered together, ambush the party at the Ford of Bruinen. Glorfindel's horse outruns the pursuers and carries Frodo across the Ford. As the Nazgûl attempt to follow, a giant wave commanded by Elrond, the lord of Rivendell, sweeps them away.

Book II: The Ring Goes South[edit]

Book II opens in Rivendell at the house of Elrond. Frodo is healed by Elrond and discovers that Bilbo has been residing there. Bilbo asks to see the Ring again, but Frodo resists because of the ring's power, which leads Bilbo to understand at last. Frodo also meets many interesting figures, including Glóin—one of the dwarves who accompanied Bilbo on his journey to the Lonely Mountain—and Legolas, Prince of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood. Frodo learns about the remaining dwarves, including Balin, Ori, and Óin who had not been heard from in some time. Elrond convenes the Council of Elrond, attended by Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo and many others, including Boromir, son of Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. Glóin explains that Balin had led an expedition to reclaim the old dwarf kingdom of Moria, but they had not heard from him in years. Furthermore, Glóin tells the group that the Nazgûl had come to Dale and the Lonely Mountain looking for Bilbo and the Ring. Legolas then tells the council that Gollum had escaped from his captivity with the Elves and was also abroad and hunting for the Ring. Boromir then stands and relates the details of a dream he and his brother Faramir both received, telling them to seek "the Sword That Was Broken" and "Isildur's Bane" in Rivendell. Elrond then has Frodo bring out the Ring, which is revealed as "Isildur's Bane."

Gandalf explains that he had gone to Isengard, where the wizard Saruman, the chief of all wizards in Middle-earth, dwells, to seek help and counsel. However, Saruman had turned against them, desiring the Ring for himself. Saruman imprisoned Gandalf in his tower, Orthanc, rightly suspecting that Gandalf knew where the Ring was. Gandalf, however, did not yield and managed to escape from Orthanc. He learns that Saruman is not yet in Sauron's service, and is mustering his own force of Orcs. In the Council of Elrond, a plan is hatched to cast the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor, which will destroy the Ring and end Sauron's power for good. Boromir objects and argues for using the Ring to overcome Sauron and relieve Gondor, but Elrond says that the Ring cannot be used for good because of its intrinsic evil and its corrupting power even on those with the best intentions. Frodo offers to undertake this dangerous quest, and is thus chosen to be the Ring-bearer. He sets forth from Rivendell with eight companions: two Men, Aragorn and Boromir; Legolas; Gandalf; Gimli the Dwarf, the son of Glóin; and Frodo's three Hobbit companions. These Nine Walkers (called the Fellowship of the Ring) are chosen to represent all the free races of Middle-earth and as a balance to the Nazgûl. They are also accompanied by Bill the Pony, whom Aragorn and the Hobbits acquired in Bree as a pack horse.

The Fellowship attempt to cross the Misty Mountains is foiled by heavy snow, and then they are attacked by a host of Wargs that have moved west of the Mountains to hunt for the Ring. Thus, they are forced to take a path under the mountains, through the mines of Moria, the ancient dwarf kingdom. There, they discover that Balin, Ori, and Óin were all killed by Orcs and other evil creatures that thwarted their attempt to retake Moria. Those same orcs then attack the travellers, and during the battle that ensues, Gandalf encounters a Balrog of Morgoth, and both fall into an abyss. The remaining eight members of the Fellowship escape from Moria and head toward the elf-haven of Lothlórien, where they are given gifts from the rulers Celeborn and Galadriel that in many cases prove useful later during the Quest. As Frodo tries to decide the future course of the Fellowship, Boromir tries to take the Ring for himself, and Frodo ends up putting on the Ring to escape from Boromir. While the rest of the Fellowship scatters to hunt for Frodo, Frodo decides the Fellowship has to be broken, and he must depart secretly for Mordor. Sam insists on coming along, however, and they set off together to Mordor. The Fellowship is thus broken.

Members of the Fellowship of the Ring[edit]

The Fellowship was formed at Rivendell in late T.A. 3018 following the Council of Elrond. It was decided that it should be a relatively small company; the number was set at nine to symbolically oppose the nine Nazgûl. In order of announcement the members of the Fellowship were:

Member Race Age[3]
Frodo Baggins Hobbit 50 He is the adopted heir of Bilbo and the Ring-bearer.
Samwise "Sam" Gamgee Hobbit 38 He was employed as Frodo's gardener and became his faithful companion on his quest.
Gandalf the Grey Maiar primeval A Wizard who leads the Fellowship until he falls from the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, in Moria fighting a Balrog of Morgoth.
Legolas Elf 500+[4] He is son of Thranduil, king of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood. He came to inform Elrond of the escape of Gollum.
Gimli Dwarf 139 Son of Glóin. He came to Rivendell from the Lonely Mountain with his father to seek advice on the disappearance of Balin, Ori and Oin and to warn Bilbo that Sauron's agents are seeking him.
Aragorn (Strider) Man 87 Chief Ranger of the North and heir of Isildur and Elendil; he had accompanied the hobbits from Bree to Rivendell.
Boromir Man 40 Son & heir of Denethor II, Steward of Gondor. He came to Rivendell seeking the meaning of a prophetic dream.
Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck Hobbit 36 The son & heir of the Master of Buckland, cousin to both Pippin and Frodo and is particularly close to Pippin.
Peregrin "Pippin" Took Hobbit 28 The son & heir of the Thain in Tookland, he is the youngest member of the group and cousin to both Merry and Frodo.

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien speaks more often of the "Company" of the Ring rather than the "Fellowship", as reflected in the page references in Robert Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-earth. As it appears in the title of the book, however, "Fellowship" has become the familiar term.

Critical reception[edit]

The poet W.H. Auden wrote a positive review in The New York Times, praising the excitement and saying "Tolkien's invention is unflagging, and, on the primitive level of wanting to know what happens next, The Fellowship of the Ring is at least as good as The Thirty-Nine Steps."[5] However, he noted that the light humour in the beginning was "not Tolkien's forte".[6] It was also favourably reviewed by nature writer Loren Eiseley. Famous author and friend of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S Lewis was also a fan of the novel. The most notorious negative criticism was from famed literary critic Edmund Wilson in his review entitled Oo, those awful Orcs.

See also[edit]

Editions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Fellowship of the Ring". Between the Covers. Retrieved 2 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #140, ISBN 0-395-31555-7 
  3. ^ At the time of the Fellowship's formation. N.B.: all of the Fellowship (possibly except Boromir) were from races or sub-races who had lifespans much longer than ordinary humans.
  4. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, George Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition (1966), book 3 ch.6 p.111; ISBN 0 04 823046 4.
  5. ^ Auden, W.H. (31 October 1954). "The Hero Is a Hobbit". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  6. ^ Auden, W.H. (22 January 1956). "At the end of the Quest, Victory". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 

External links[edit]