Summary and Analysis: The Fellowship of the Ring
Book 2, Chapters 6–10
Unable to stop for their grief because they know that orcs will soon pursue them, the remaining members of the Fellowship race away from Moria. Only pausing long enough to tend the injuries of Frodo and Sam, they reach the elven woods of Lothlórien that night. Although the elves of Lothlórien are mistrustful, especially of the dwarf, they admit the Fellowship into their protected land. Word of Gandalf's fall deeply troubles the Lord and Lady of the Wood. Lady Galadriel observes that the quest hangs in the balance, but it may still succeed if the remaining eight remain faithful. Her gaze affects them all deeply, and she seems to offer each a choice to abandon the quest in exchange for their heart's desire. Frodo and Boromir seem most affected, but neither will explain what she offered him.
The elves offer shelter, healing, and advice to the Fellowship, and they linger in the timeless beauty of the elven realm. When Frodo becomes restless, he and Sam encounter Galadriel. She offers them a vision from her mirror, which can show the past, the present, or the uncertain future. When Sam looks, he first sees Frodo lying pale and lifeless, then he sees the felling of trees in the Shire and the destruction of his own home. Galadriel warns him that his vision was of the future, and any attempt to prevent it might actually bring it to pass. Frodo's vision shows first a man like Gandalf, then Bilbo, and then a series of unexplained images. Suddenly the mirror goes dark, and he sees the Eye of Sauron searching for him. He looks away just in time. Impressed by Galadriel's power, Frodo offers to give her the Ring. Sorely tempted, she resists and accepts that her fate will be to diminish and leave Middle-earth.
The entire Fellowship resolves to continue beyond Lothlórien, but they are divided as to what direction they should take. Boromir plans to return to his home in Minas Tirith, and many would prefer that destination to Mordor. Aragorn had planned to go to Gondor himself, but he hesitates to choose between his own desire and the need of the Ringbearer. The elves outfit boats to navigate the Great River, but this only delays the decision. The Fellowship receive elven cloaks, which change color to match their surroundings, coils of elven rope, and lembas, a highly nourishing food for travel. Galadriel bestows gifts upon each member of the company. To Aragorn, she gives a sheath for his reforged sword as well as a green elfstone as a token from Arwen, his love. Boromir receives a belt of gold, and Merry and Pippin get silver belts. Legolas's short bow is replaced with a longbow of the Galadrim. To Sam, in recognition that he is a gardener, she gives a small box filled with enchanted earth from her own orchard and the seed of a mallorn tree. She does not know what to give Gimli, because the elves and dwarves have been unfriendly for many years, and he hesitantly asks for a strand of her hair. She gives him three. Lastly, she gives Frodo a small phial that shines with the light of Eärendil's star, to shine for him "in dark places, when all other lights go out."
For several days, the company travels downstream through barren countryside. One evening, Sam describes a strange sight — a log with eyes that seems to be following them. He and Frodo suspect it is Gollum, who has been following them since Moria, and Aragorn soon confirms their guess, but they are unable to catch him. A party of orcs attacks them near the rapids of Sarn Gebir without causing significant damage, but they are accompanied by a great flying creature that inflicts terror on all beneath its shadow. Legolas shoots the creature with the bow of the Galadrim and it falls, but now the party knows that the Black Riders have taken to the air.
After passing the Argonath, enormous statues carved from the cliffs themselves that mark the ancient boundary of Gondor, the party comes to a lake and the shores of Amon Hen, the Hill of Sight, where they must decide which way to take. Frodo cannot choose, and asks for an hour alone to consider his options. Boromir secretly follows him and tries to convince him to take the Ring to Minas Tirith. Boromir's words reveal that he desires to wield the Ring himself, and he attempts to take it from Frodo. Frightened, the hobbit puts on the Ring and runs to the top of the hill, where he finds a stone seat. From that spot, he magically perceives the movement of armies and the smoke of battle throughout Middle-earth. As with Galadriel's mirror, he is nearly seen by Sauron, but a voice warns him to remove the Ring just in time. Aware of the danger and knowing that the madness that took Boromir will gradually reach all the other members of the Fellowship, he resolves to go to Mordor alone.
When the other members of the Fellowship realize that Boromir has gone, they separate and begin to search for him and Frodo. Aragorn runs toward the Seat, but Sam realizes what Frodo will decide to do and returns to the shore. He catches Frodo trying to slip away in one of the boats, and insists on going with him. They cross the lake and set off together toward Mordor.
Although she appears for only a few pages, Lady Galadriel influences much of what happens in the later books of the trilogy. She provides safety for the Fellowship as they recover from the loss of Gandalf, but she also acts as a catalyst for the Fellowship's breaking at the end of the first book. While her mirror reveals the truth, it can also create it — and by looking into it Frodo nearly reveals himself to the Enemy. The temptation she feels when offered the Ring is a real one — she is as powerful as Gandalf and quite capable of wielding the Ring's power.
The timelessness of Lothlórien, where the Fellowship stays for weeks though it feels like only a few days, mirrors the timelessness of the elves themselves, and here we begin to feel how strange the elves truly are. For Tolkien, they represent a kind of primeval wonder that is passing from the world. Consider Frodo's description of Cerin Amroth: "the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever." The Golden Wood echoes the peace and comfort the hobbits found in the house of Tom Bombadil, but with a stronger element of nostalgia and loss. Like Bombadil, the Galadrim cannot defend against a full assault, but they can provide a haven for those in great need, along with tools and advice to ease their journey, at least for a while.
At the end of the first book, the corrupting influence of the Ring becomes manifest in the betrayal of Boromir. A noble man, strong and proud, Boromir probably resembles the great kings who became the Nine Nazgûl. The reasoning that he applies to the Ring's use — that as a weapon its power is unmatched, and the justness of the cause will justify its use — echoes the reasoning of modern warfare. Consider that Tolkien composed much of the novel during World War II, the only war where nuclear weapons have been used. Even if the Ring could end or prevent war, however, the ends do not justify the means, and Boromir's willingness to adopt an evil weapon — like Saruman's arguments when he tries to seduce Gandalf — compromises the justness of his cause. Although Tolkien steadfastly refused any strictly allegorical interpretation of the trilogy, the argument resonates strongly in a nuclear age.
elanor a small yellow flower growing in Lothlórien.
eyot a small island.
fen a swamp or bog.
Galadrim the elves of Lothlórien.
the Great River the river Anduin; largest river in Middle-earth.
mallorn a tree unique to Lothlórien; its leaves turn gold in the fall but do not drop until spring, when the tree puts on yellow flowers.
phial alternate spelling of vial; a small bottle.
portage carrying boats around an obstacle, such as rapids.
stud a male breeding horse.
waybread a nutritious and filling bread made for traveling.