The shadow of the past: Ok, so last time we left off with Gandalf leaving Frodo behind after a warning to keep the ring hidden. Now we fast forward a little bit. In the movies, it seems like Frodo leaves not more than a few weeks after Bilbo left, but in the book it is clear that it’s more like twelve or so years. Every year, Frodo still throws a birthday party for his uncle because he knows he’s still alive. The other hobbits begin to think that he’s just as crazy as his uncle – nice, and rich, but crazy. Frodo takes to walking alone at night and it is suspected that he goes to visit the Elves nearby, but it’s possible that he just likes walking alone. Introverts don’t do well in the Shire, I guess.
He has three close friends – Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry), who we have met already, Peregrine Took (Pippin), and Samwise Gamgee, who is also his gardener. Other than that he seems to find the company of the older Hobbits boring, and likes hanging out with the younger crowd, probably because they still have imaginations and a sense of adventure. We also see that Frodo is somewhat restless, always looking at maps, always dreaming of having his own adventure.
And then, about twelve years after the night Bilbo went on his merry way, Gandalf returns. He is older and looks like he has a lot on his mind, and he doesn’t waste a lot of time before telling Frodo his concerns. It all comes out in the open now: his suspicion about the ring, how he thinks Gollum got a hold of it, and why he’s concerned. He explains to Frodo that the nine men who received rings of power have become shadows of men and their sole purpose is to hunt down the One Ring. Some of the Dwarves who got rings have been killed, while others are still alive, but in danger. He also says that while the three Elven rings are safe for now, if the one who made all the rings gets the One Ring back, he can control all the others.
Now we learn about Sauron, who is the Lord of the Rings. I decided to include a bit of a backstory here, so if you don’t care and just want to hear about The Lord of the Rings, skip this paragraph. Basically, when Arda (the world of Tolkien, in which Middle-earth is one of the continents) was created by the “head” god, Eru, there were several demi gods (Ainur) who helped. One of these was named Melkor, and he started doing his own thing and thinking that he was better than Eru. He became prideful and evil, and eventually he left ‘heaven’ to establish his own kingdom on Arda. I won’t cover this because that’s why Tolkien wrote The Silmarillion, but essentially Sauron was his successor. He’s caused trouble before, and in the previous age he was defeated, but now his power is returning because he can’t be killed while the One Ring still exists. When he made it, he tied his soul and his power to it, so that’s why he’s still alive. Okay. Lore lesson over 🙂 But I would strongly recommend reading The Silmarillion where all this is covered, or at least reading a synopsis!
Frodo, of course, is terrified. But at the same time it is clear that the ring is beginning to have a hold on him, too: he is fifty now but doesn’t look a day over 33, and he doesn’t want to think of the ring being destroyed, even while he’s asking Gandalf why it hasn’t been destroyed. And now on to Gollum. Gollum has apparently been looking for Bilbo for a while, and had even become the new terror of Mirkwood for a while (if you’ve read The Hobbit this should give you some insight into how terrifying Gollum can be, because Mirkwood is not unicorn land). Gandalf and another person we’ll meet soon, Aragorn, tracked him down eventually and discovered, to their horror, that the Enemy (Sauron) had captured him and found out where the Ring was.
Lesson number 1 in adventuring: never tell anyone your real name or where you’re really from, especially when stealing their magic rings.
Clearly the Ring has to be destroyed. Frodo tries – he thinks he can destroy it in his own fire – but he can’t. Already the Ring has a hold on him, too.
“You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily let it go, nor will to damage it…But as for breaking the Ring, force is useless. Even if you took it and struck it with a heavy sledge-hammer, it would make no dint in it. It cannot be unmade by your hands, or by mine…There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it, to put it beyond the grasp of the Enemy forever.” (Gandalf, 59-60)
Just like Bilbo, Frodo tries to give the ring to Gandalf. But Gandalf refuses. “Do not tempt me!” he says. “For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself.”
Frodo knows he must leave. At this point, he isn’t thinking of destroying the Ring; he only knows that Sauron will find him if he stays in the Shire. And so we end Chapter II with the exciting but sad prospect of Frodo and Sam leaving the Shire and taking the Ring into hiding.
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