The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring  
FellowshipOfTheRing.JPG
1st edition
Author(s) J. R. R. Tolkien
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) 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 Lord of the Rings
Volume I · Volume II · Volume III

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 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.

Contents

Title and publication

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.[citation needed]

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

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

The first chapter in the book begins in a light vein, following the tone of The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins is celebrating his 111th (or eleventy-first, as it is called in Hobbiton) birthday on the same day, September 22, that Frodo Baggins, his relative and adopted heir, is celebrating his 33rd birthday (his 'coming of age'). At the birthday party, Bilbo departs from the Shire, the land of the Hobbits, for what he calls a permanent holiday. He leaves his remaining belongings including his home, Bag End and, after some persuasion by the wizard Gandalf, the Ring he had found on his adventures (which he used to make himself invisible), to Frodo. Gandalf warns Frodo to keep the Ring secret and safe from others, and leaves on his own business.

Over the next 17 years Gandalf visits Frodo periodically, staying briefly before going off again. One spring night, Gandalf arrives to alert Frodo to a frightening truth about Bilbo's ring: it is the One Ring of Sauron (the Dark Lord); he forged the Ring to subdue and rule Middle-earth, but in the War of the Last Alliance, Sauron was defeated by the Elven King Gil-galad and Elendil, High King of Gondor, though they themselves perished in the deed. Isildur, son of Elendil, cut the Ring from Sauron's finger. Sauron was thus overthrown and he fled, but the Ring itself was not destroyed, as Isildur kept it for himself. He was slain soon afterward in the Battle of the Gladden Fields, and the Ring was lost in Great River Anduin. Thousands of years later, it came into the hands of the creature Gollum, who possessed it for centuries. The Ring then passed to Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit, and so has now passed into Frodo's hands. Sauron has now arisen once again, and has returned to his stronghold in the land of Mordor, and is exerting all his power to find 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 a time. Gandalf warns that the Ring is no longer safe in the Shire because, after some investigation of his own, Gandalf has learned that Gollum had gone to Mordor, where he was captured and was tortured into revealing to Sauron that a Hobbit named Baggins from the Shire possesses the Ring. Gandalf hopes Frodo can reach the elf-haven of Rivendell, where he believes Frodo and the Ring will be safe from Sauron, and where those of most concern of Middle-earth can decide the fate of the Ring. Samwise Gamgee, Frodo's gardener and best friend, is discovered listening in on the conversation. Out of loyalty to his master, Sam decides to accompany Frodo on his journey.

Over the summer, Frodo makes plans to leave his home at Bag End, under the guise that he is moving to a remote region of the Shire to retire. Helping with the plans are Frodo's friends Sam, Peregrin Took (or Pippin for short), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry), and Fredegar Bolger (Fatty). However, Frodo does not tell them of his true intentions to leave the Shire, nor does he tell them about the Ring. At midsummer, Gandalf informs Frodo that he must leave on pressing business, but will return before Frodo leaves. But as his birthday and departure approach, Gandalf does not appear, and Frodo decides to leave without him. On their journey, the three hobbits encounter the nine Black Riders; Ringwraiths or the Nazgûl, "the most terrible servants of the Dark Lord." The hobbits discover that the Nazgûl are looking for Frodo and the Ring. With help of some Elves and Farmer Maggot, they eventually reach Crickhollow on the eastern borders of the Shire. There Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Fatty reveal that they know of Frodo's plan to leave the Shire and of the existence of the Ring. Sam, Merry, and Pippin decide to leave with Frodo, while Fatty stays behind as a decoy. The Hobbits, in hopes of eluding the Nazgûl, travel through the Old Forest and Barrow-downs, and with the assistance of Tom Bombadil, are able to reach the village of Bree, where they meet the mysterious ranger Strider, a friend of Gandalf who becomes their guide to Rivendell.

At the hill of Weathertop, five of the Nazgûl attack the travelers, and the chief of the Nazgûl stabs Frodo with a cursed blade before Strider drives the Nazgûl off. Part of the knife remains inside Frodo, causing him to become increasingly ill as the journey to Rivendell continues; Strider warns them that, unless treated immediately, Frodo will become a wraith himself. As the travelers near their destination, they meet Glorfindel, an elf-lord from Rivendell, who helps them reach the River Bruinen on the border of Rivendell. But the Nazgûl, now at their full strength of nine, spring a trap 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 in the shape of charging horses — commanded by Elrond, the lord of Rivendell — appears bearing down on the Nazgûl. The Nazgûl are swept away by the river, as Frodo finally collapses into unconsciousness on the riverbank.

Book II: The Ring Goes South

Book II opens in Rivendell at the house of Elrond. Frodo is healed by Elrond and discovers that Bilbo has been residing there. Elrond convenes the Council of Elrond, attended by Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo and many others. 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. Frodo offers to undertake this dangerous quest, and is thus chosen to be the Ring-bearer, and sets forth from Rivendell with eight companions: two Men, Strider (revealed to be Aragorn, Isildur's heir) and Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor; the Prince of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood, Legolas; Gandalf; Gimli the Dwarf; 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 Strider and the Hobbits acquired in Bree as a pack horse.

The Fellowship's attempt to cross the Misty Mountains is foiled by heavy snow, and they are forced to take a path under the mountains, the mines of Moria, an ancient dwarf kingdom, now full of Orcs and other evil creatures. During the battle that ensues, Gandalf battles 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; Frodo ends up putting on the Ring to escape from Boromir. While the rest of the Fellowship scatter to hunt for Frodo, Frodo decides that the Fellowship has to be broken, and that 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

Member Race
Frodo Baggins Hobbit Heir of Bilbo and Ring-bearer. He is 33 years old when he inherits the ring from Bilbo, and 50 when he leaves on his quest to Rivendell.
Samwise "Sam" Gamgee Hobbit Frodo's gardener, he was a loyal companion throughout the journey.
Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck Hobbit The son of the Master of Buckland, he is cousin to both Pippin and Frodo.
Peregrin "Pippin" Took Hobbit The son of the Thain in Tookland, he is the youngest member of the group and cousin to both Merry and Frodo.
Gandalf the Grey Maiar Wizard who leads the Fellowship until the Bridge of Khazad-dûm where he meets a Balrog of Morgoth in Moria.
Aragorn (Strider) Man Ranger of the North, who accompanies the hobbits from Bree to Rivendell and becomes a member of the Fellowship. It is revealed that he is the Heir of Isildur and of Elendil.
Legolas Elf Elven Prince-archer. His father is Thranduil, king of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood, and he came to inform Elrond of the escape of Gollum.
Gimli Dwarf Son of Glóin. He came to Rivendell from the Lonely Mountain with his father to warn Bilbo that Sauron's agents are seeking him.
Boromir Man Son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor. He came to Rivendell seeking the meaning of a prophetic dream.

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

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."[2] However, he noted that the light humour in the beginning was "not Tolkien's forte".[3] It was also favorably reviewed by nature writer Loren Eiseley. The most notorious negative criticism was from famed literary critic Edmund Wilson in his review entitled Oo, those awful Orcs.

See also

Editions

References

  1. ^ "The Fellowship of the Ring". Between the Covers. http://www.betweenthecovers.com/btc/reference_library/title/1016113. Retrieved 2 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Auden, W.H. (31 October 1954). "The Hero Is a Hobbit". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1954/10/31/books/tolkien-fellowship.html. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Auden, W.H. (22 January 1956). "At the end of the Quest, Victory". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1956/01/22/books/tolkien-king.html. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 

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