Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


FOTR: Bk 2, Ch 3

The Ring Goes South
"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens," said Gimli.
At the end of the last chapter, Sam had been appointed by Elrond to acompany Frodo - at his own insistence. In his wisdom, Elrond recognized the clear loyalty and devotion that Sam had for his Master and understood that he could only help Frodo. Further decisions as to who else should go with him had not been decided by the end of the council. Merry and Pippin, however, are adamant that they should be chosen to go since Sam was allowed.

Aragorn and Elrond's two sons, Elladan and Elrohir, leave Rivendell with some of the other Elves to determine the fate of the Ringwraiths. Remember that in the book - unlike the film - the Fellowship does not depart until December 25th. Frodo and the other hobbits at least get to enjoy the hospitality of Rivendell for another two months. When the scouts return they report that despite searching far and wide there is no sign of the Black Riders anywhere. Even Gollum had evaded their hunt. It is assumed that all of the Nazgul returned to Mordor. The time was fast approaching when the company must leave.

Once again Elrond asks Frodo if he still intends to be the Ring-bearer, and Frodo agrees. Elrond cannot advise them about much because a dark shadow that is descending interferes with his power of foresight. But he tells Frodo:
"You will meet many foes, some open, and some disguised; and you may find friends upon your way when you least look for it. I will send out messages, such as I can contrive, to those whom I know in the wide world; but so perilous are the lands now become that some may well miscarry, or come no quicker than you yourself."

Elrond then chooses the other members of the company, which shall be nine in number; "Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil." Gandalf will go with them. Legolas he chooses to represent the Elves of Mirkwood and Gloin's son, Gimli, for the Dwarves. For Men, Aragorn will go. It is also decided that since the journey shall at least lead them near to Minas Tirith that Boromir shall acompany them. Of the two spots remaining, Elrond says he will send Elves of the House of Rivendell. Merry and Pippin, who Elrond intended to send back to the Shire to warn the other hobbits of their danger, are insistent that they go as well. At first Elrond decides to send Merry but not Pippin. After some encouragement and support from Gandalf, Elrond reluctantly agrees to have them both complete the Fellowship. Oddly enough, Merry and Pippin will later prove to be indispensible to the success of the quest.

As Tolkien set about writing and re-writing and re-re-writing many drafts of this part of the story, it is important to explain that the make-up of the Fellowship, and even their number, seemed to keep changing. In the early drafts, the number of hobbits was still in a bit of a state of flux. At one point there was a part of the story where Gandalf rescues the hobbit guarding Crickhollow from the Black Riders. It was not yet Fatty Bolger but the character known as Odo Took. Gandalf, riding Shadowfax, rides with the hobbit to Rivendell and there were five hobbits in total. And to confuse you even more, Pippin is not yet Pippin at this point. He was Folco Took. Tolkien was still deciding on what that character's name would be. So the very first configuration of the Fellowship had the five hobbits: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Folco and Odo. Joining them were Gandalf, Glorfindel, the version of Strider that was still called Trotter and some dwarf named Frar (or at one point, Burin).

The next revision had the group comprised of Frodo, Sam, Merry, Faramond (changed from Folco), Gandalf, Glorfindel and Trotter. Seven is the number, though the count returns to nine soon afterward because Tolkien pencils in the name Boromir in his notes and Burin is put back in the mix. Now he makes a further change from five to four hobbits (Odo was eventually scrapped altogether) with the Pippin characters name not yet settled - over time this character went from being called Frodo to Folco to Faramond to finally Peregrin (or Pippin for short). There are two men: Trotter, who is no longer a hobbit, and Boromir. The final three end up as some variation of Gandalf, one Elf and one Dwarf. Glorfindel is replaced with Erestor, an advisor to Elrond.

Confused? It isn't until the fourth completed draft that the Fellowship begins to look like the one we are all familiar with. We have Frodo and Sam, Aragorn and Boromir, Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas and Erestor and either (but not both) Merry or Pippin to make nine. For whatever reason, Tolkien seemed insistent at this point to have two Elves. Perhaps he thought it important to have one Elf from Mirkwood, of the Teleri race, and one to represent the Noldor. He began to lean toward the idea that Pippin was expendable. He scrawls in his notes "Shall Pippin return to the Shire?". It seems Tolkien was as reluctant as Elrond to send both of the younger hobbits, but his inner-Gandalf must have given him the necessary nudge to get him to reluctantly agree (as Elrond had). I find it interesting that part of the thought process that Tolkien used got translated into the story through the character of Elrond.

OK, so now we have the final tally: four Hobbits, two Men, a Wizard, a Dwarf and an Elf. Are we all clear now? Good.

Elrond commands that the shards of Narsil be re-forged. The new sword is given a new name by Aragorn: Anduril, Flame of the West. As Frodo's Numenorean blade was broken at the Ford of Bruinen, Bilbo gives to him his Elvish blade, Sting - a blade which, like Gandalf's Glamdring, glows when Orcs are near (the other blade, Orcrist, found in The Hobbit is buried with its owner Thorin Oakenshield). Bilbo also gives Frodo his mithril coat that Thorin had given to him during that adventure. He makes Frodo promise to wear it under his clothes and keep it a secret between them. Peter Jackson uses this device to the hilt, as it were, with a "fake death" scene for Frodo in Moria - one of several such scenes that many fans complained about.

The morning that the Fellowship leaves, Elrond warns that Sauron is no doubt now aware of the fate of the Ringwraiths and will likely send spies looking for them everywhere. They must be extremely cautious and he also tells each of the company that no one of them is bound to follow Frodo any farther than they desire to. Boromir blows the horn of Gondor, which Elrond advises him not to make a habit of unless he be near Minas Tirith or if he is in dire need. Boromir is a bit indignant at this reproach. He tells Elrond that it is customary for him to sound the horn whenever he begins a journey and that he "will not go forth as a thief in the night". I found this an interesting choice of words considering his ultimate fate at Parth Galen, when he tries to take the Ring from Frodo.

Each member of the company brings their signature weapon of choice. Aragorn and Boromir both have their swords. Frodo has Sting and Gandalf carries Glamdring. Gimli has his trademark axes and Legolas carries a bow and quiver as well as a knife (PJ gave Legolas two knives in the films). The three other hobbits all still have their blades of Westerness. Merry's will play an important part in the end. Also, Sam's beloved pony from Bree, who he has named Bill, travels with them as their beast of burden.

The Fellowship goes over the bridge leading out of the valley, cross the Ford of Bruinen and turns Southwards - the Misty Mountains towering on their left. The plan is to climb the pass of the Redhorn Gate along the side of Caradhras "the cruel", one of three major peaks towards the southern end of the mountain chain. From there they would follow over to the other side and down the Dimrill Stair. When they reach the land of Hollin, or Eregion (where Elves once dwelled and had forged the lesser rings), they notice a flock of black birds that looks like a dark cloud heading towards them and they hide among the rocks. These crow-like birds are called crebain (pronounced CREH-bine) and are from Dunland, the land of men who fall under the influence of Saruman. They are clearly searching for them and will appear several more times.

The company follows a narrow path up the side of Caradhras and begins to deal with snowfall. It is slow-going and as they proceed the drifts begin to get bigger and seemingly impassable. Aragorn and Boromir have to plow through the snow to create a path for the others. Legolas is sent on ahead to survey the path. He is able to quickly and nimbly cross the snow without leaving much in the way of tracks. This is an interesting characteristic of Elves and one that Peter Jackson thought important enough to remember when making the film, Fellowship of the Ring. If you watch the scenes where everyone is trudging through the snow, you can see Legolas walking on TOP of it. A nice touch.

At this point, the storm is not only getting worse but it almost seems to be purposely punishing them, as if it were being controlled by an outside source. Legolas returns to report that the drifts continue to rise but then fall again, making it managable for the little folk. Aragorn and Boromir bear the hobbits on their backs as they continue to dig a path. After an arduous trek, they find a familiar sight. It seems they ended up backtracking to where they had started. This, combined with their fatigue, the cold and a storm that would not seem to let up, forces them to turn back. "Caradhras had defeated them."

Next: A Journey In The Dark

[Chronology: October 25th 3018 T.A. through January 12th 3019 T.A.]

(revised 8/31/06)


At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Aragorn and Elrond's two sons, Elladan and Elrohir,"

A ha! Rusty was right! There is gayness afoot!

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Elne said...

Speaking of "variations" from the book in the film, how about the fact that Anduril does not get forged (or "re-forged", not sure which would be appropriate) until just before Aragorn enters the Paths of the Dead (in the film)? How's that for a plot device eh :)?

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of some of the changes in the film, but I do understand how translating plot points from the print to visual media is often necessary.

In this case, the forging of the shards of Narsil is a culminating event. That is, the sword to be wielded by the heir of Isildur comes to be when the heir of Isildur (Aragorn) makes the decision to accept his birthright. When Elrond convinces him to meet his destiny (again, different from the books) he presents him with the re-forged sword. It would be kind of strange for Aragorn to say "You know, you're right. It's a good thing I had this taken care of at Rivendell before I left." as he whips out Anduril.

But again, why have that scene at all if it's not in Tolkien's version? In a film (where you watch it all the way through in one sitting) you need to build suspense and events need to lead to a climactic moment. Here we have a "level up" in Aragorn's character development.

On film, this works. The only thing getting in the way is adherence to the original plot point as written.

Sometimes you have to just go with it.

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One other point about the films. They were crafted for a wider audience than just die-hard fans of the books.

If you look at some of the changes (or omissions) and consider what the movies would have been like without them, you may realize that while that might have been cool for you it might have seemed stale and boring for someone who's never even read the books once.

Just saying.

At 2:21 AM, Anonymous Robert said...

You seem to think that they unknowingly returned to the start of the pass. In fact, they decided to head back.
Also, Gimli only had one axe.


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