Dec 16 2008 11:22am

LotR re-read: Fellowship I.2, “The Shadow of the Past”

cover of The Fellowship of the RingNext up in the Lord of the Rings re-read is chapter two of Fellowship, “The Shadow of the Past.” This chapter is remarkable in both mechanics and content, and the post behind the jump is accordingly very long. With, as usual, spoilers.

What Happens

Frodo goes on with his life, with late-growing restlessness, for sixteen years. He’s forty-nine, Gandalf hasn’t been seen for nine years, and there are strange rumours about; so he starts collecting bad news of a dark power growing in Mordor after being driven out of Mirkwood.

Sam and Ted Sandyman (the miller’s son) talk in an inn (a different inn) about the strange rumours; Ted doesn’t believe them and doesn’t see the relevance regardless, while Sam is thoughtful and concerned.

Gandalf re-appears, reveals the fiery letters on the Ring, and provides an enormous info-dump. He was concerned from the start, but since he couldn’t take the ring from Bilbo and Saruman’s general information about rings was reassuring, he had left the matter alone. After the party, he determined to figure things out. Aragorn finally found Gollum, and between his information and the lore of the Wise, Gandalf tells the Ring’s history: the forging; Sauron’s defeat; Isildur’s death at the river; Sméagol’s murder of Déagol, transformation into Gollum, attempt to track Bilbo, and capture by Mordor; and the resulting danger to the Shire.

Frodo chooses to take the Ring out of the Shire to save it. Sam has been eavesdropping. Gandalf catches him and tells him to go with Frodo, to Sam’s joy.


The opening parallels the first chapter, opening with the town’s general opinion of Bilbo and then moving to a conversation at an inn. The “POV” follows a similar telescoping-in to Frodo, but it’s much more clearly focused on his internal thoughts; there’s a brief mention of Gandalf’s thoughts, but otherwise it’s almost the same as a third-person Frodo POV.

In the inn conversation, the Gaffer’s son and the miller’s son occupy their fathers’ narrative positions, but aren’t the same: Sam is more open-minded, Ted is less nasty (though just as close-minded). This is the conversation that hints at strange things coming up against small-town complacency (like walking elm trees), not the one in the first chapter, but they’re so similar that it’s no surprise that people mistake them.

* * *

As Frodo becomes more restless, we’re told, “He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.” The Valar taking a subtle hand?

Anyone here seen Grosse Pointe Blank? When I got to the timeline here, I hear Jeremy Piven in my head going “Ten years!” Only, you know, sixteen years instead. I know this gets the times all symbolic and aligned and stuff, but it really strains my suspension of disbelief.

* * *

The most interesting thing about this chapter is that the really remarkably long info-dump works, that is, it doesn’t stop me-the-reader dead in my tracks. We were talking about genre conventions and the lack thereof in comments to an earlier post, which I’m now reminded of: today, a long info-dump conversation might be frowned upon as inelegant, since we have genre conventions that tend to value smooth incluing. And yet sometimes a straightforward expository conversation isn’t a bad idea. So, let’s look at the mechanics here, starting with the structure. (The first version of this post used a table, which you may find more readable.)

Section 1

Danger to a mortal possessor of a Great Ring

Outside, peaceful:
“Next morning after a late breakfast, the wizard was sitting with Frodo by the open window of the study.”

Dialogue, reaction, contrasting with outside, peaceful:
“‘How terrifying!’ said Frodo. There was another long silence. The sound of Sam Gamgee cutting the lawn came in from the garden.”

Gandalf is remembering Bilbo running out of Bag End in the second paragraph.

Section 2

When Gandalf became concerned for Bilbo and the Shire

Dialogue, follow-up:
“‘How long have you known this?’ asked Frodo at length. ‘And how much did Bilbo know?’”

Dialogue, cliff-hanger:
“You do not know the real peril yet; but you shall. I was not sure of it myself when I was last here; but the time has come to speak. Give me the ring for a moment.”

No references to outside.

Section 3

Revealing the Ring’s fiery letters

Action, follow-up:
“Frodo took it from his breeches-pocket, where it was clasped to a chain that hung from his belt.”

Dialogue, cliff-hanger:
“Frodo sat silent and motionless. Fear seemed to stretch out a vast hand, like a dark cloud rising in the East and looming up to engulf him. ‘This ring!’ he stammered. ‘How, how on earth did it come to me?’”

Shutters closed and curtains drawn partway through, though can still hear Sam’s shears.

Section 4

History of Ring from forging through Isildur

Dialogue, follow-up:
“‘Ah!’ said Gandalf. ‘That is a very long story.”

Dialogue, cliff-hanger:
“But at last I can carry on the story, I think.”

“Time that is given to us.” No references to outside.

Section 5

History of Ring with Sméagol

Narrative continuation:
“Long after, but still very long ago, there lived by the banks of the Great River on the edge of Wilderland a clever-handed and quiet-footed little people.”

Narrative conclusion:
“The Ring went into the shadows with him, and even the maker, when his power had begun to grow again, could learn nothing of it.”

Only Gandalf’s narration; no references to outside.

Section 6

Gollum after the Ring; Gandalf getting information from Gollum

Dialogue, follow-up:
“‘Gollum!’ cried Frodo. ‘Gollum? Do you mean that this is the very Gollum-creature that Bilbo met? How loathsome!’”

Dialogue, cliff-hanger / narrative conclusion:
“But I am afraid there is no possible doubt: he had made his slow, sneaking way, step by step, mile by mile, south, down at last to the Land of Mordor.”

Longest sub-section. Possibly not realistic that Frodo waits until now to interject about Gollum, when he’s referred to as such four paragraphs ago. “Meant.” No references to outside.

Section 7

The Enemy getting information from Gollum; danger to the Shire

Outside, ominous:
“A heavy silence fell in the room. Frodo could hear his heart beating. Even outside everything seemed still. No sound of Sam’s shears could now be heard.”

Dialogue, cliff-hanger:
“‘No. But I suppose one could hammer it or melt it.’ ‘Try!’ said Gandalf. ‘Try now!’”


Section 8

Destroying the Ring

Action, follow-up:
“Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see.”

Dialogue, cliff-hanger:
“I will help you bear this burden, as long as it is yours to bear. But we must do something, soon. The Enemy is moving.”
—preceded by reference to peaceful outside.

Gandalf refuses the Ring.

Section 9

Frodo chooses to try to save the Shire

Inaction, follow-up:
“There was a long silence. Gandalf . . . was watching Frodo intently. Frodo gazed fixedly at the red embers on the hearth, until they filled all his vision, and he seemed to be looking down into profound wells of fire. He was thinking of the fabled Cracks of Doom and the terror of the Fiery Mountain.”

End of chapter, Sam reaction

Contains a reference to outside and tension-breaking reversal: mention of spies, silence, and then catching Sam.

This circles around: it starts (section 1) with the danger just past, to Bilbo, and then (section 2) asserts that there is danger to the Shire. The Ring is definitively identified (section 3), which lets the furthest points of the circle (sections 4-6) be the furthest points in time, the Ring’s history. The history then comes back to the present and why there’s danger to the Shire (section 7); the last two sections look forward, to what needs to be done (destroy the Ring, section 8) and who’s going to do it (Frodo and Sam, at the start, section 9). The levels of tension are reinforced by the references to the environment, as the chapter circles around from light and outside, to dark and inside, and back again (and ends with a slightly-comic gardener, where possibly both parts of the description are equally relevant).

This is a logical progression: the primary concerns of Frodo and the reader, after chapter 1, are Bilbo and the Shire. The chapter draws readers in through these familiar things, hooks them with talk of danger, and then leads them through as much information as they need to know to understand the danger. (After The Silmarillion, and even the Appendices, section 4’s brevity is striking.) With the exception of section 5, the end of each intermediate section draws readers on through cliff-hangers, though small ones; section 5 is the mid-point of the circle, a resting-point, and thus it ends with Gandalf finishing his revelation of the Ring’s history.

The final thing that caught my eye, though probably not the final thing that makes this chapter work, is the mixing of narrative techniques. For instance, sections 4 and 5 are both history. In section 4, Gandalf tells the story from a quite remote distance, much abridged and with little color; but in section 5, Gandalf tells the tale from much closer, recounting dialogue and individual thoughts without intrusion. Like Gandalf, the narration also varies its distance, providing a view on the internal thoughts of the characters on a few key occasions: to set up parallels to Bilbo, when Gandalf remembers him (section 1) or Frodo wants to follow (section 8); to foreshadow Frodo’s relationship with the Ring, when Frodo thinks how precious it is (section 8) or looks into the embers and thinks of the Cracks of Doom (section 9), and also to emphasize the importance and unexpectedness of Frodo’s choice.

Which leads me to one of the unsatisfactory bits about Sam: Gandalf gives Frodo the opportunity to decide what he’s going to do, and it’s very important that Frodo chooses to take the Ring and leave the Shire. Sam’s not given a choice; and though in some ways it’s irrelevant because this is what he would have chosen, I still had a problem with it, especially given his portrayal (see below).

* * *

Does Gandalf touch the Ring to throw it into the fire?

Frodo took it from his breeches-pocket, where it was clasped to a chain that hung from his belt. He unfastened it and handed it slowly to the wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it.

Gandalf held it up. It looked to be made of pure and solid gold. . . . To Frodo’s astonishment and distress the wizard threw it suddenly into the middle of a glowing corner of the fire.

He’s probably holding it up by the chain, but it’s surprising that it is ambiguous.

* * *

Smeagol & Gollum:

The characterization of Smeagol pre-Ring caught my attention; it starts out positive or at least neutral, and then progresses, well, downward:

He was interested in roots and beginnings; he dived into deep pools; he burrowed under trees and growing plants; he tunneled into green mounds; and he ceased to look up at the hill-tops, or the leaves on trees, or the flowers opening in the air: his head and his eyes were downward.

This prompted me to flag “pursuit of knowledge” as a theme to look for.

The power Gollum was given by the Ring: “He was very pleased with his discovery and he concealed it; and he used it to find out secrets, and he put his knowledge to crooked and malicious uses. He became sharp-eyed and keen-eared for all that was hurtful. The ring had given him power according to his stature.” I heard it suggested at a Boskone that later, the power he was given was secrecy, which maybe explains how he stayed hidden for so long even with all those goblins around and Sauron in Dol Goldur.

* * *

Other bits of significant conversation:


[Gandalf:] “Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that maybe an encouraging thought.”

I believe this is the first in-story example of the relatively weak portrayal of supernatural good, as described by Shippey.

And “pity”:

“What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!”

“Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.”

“I am sorry,” said Frodo. “But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.”

“You have not seen him,” Gandalf broke in.

“No, and I don’t want to,” said Frodo. “I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.”

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many—yours not least.”

The Capital Letters of Significance caught my attention this time around; I’m not sure that Tolkien did this a lot, or that it’s a good idea.

Otherwise, there’s so much packed into this exchange that I nearly don’t know where to start: foreshadowing, the themes of choice and power, the place Frodo starts his growth from . . .

* * *

I didn’t talk much about my personal emotional reaction to the first chapter, mostly because I don’t have much of one. Here, my predominant reaction is, during the info-dump, getting a bit annoyed at Frodo’s reactions before deciding to leave—perfectly understandable reactions, of course, but still. I can’t remember now if I was ever surprised that Frodo chooses to take the Ring out of the Shire (just as Bilbo chose to leave it behind). But I still do think, as I said about the first chapter, that the information here, and the craft with which it is conveyed, would keep my hypothetical first-reading self interested.

* * *

The ending fails for me: “‘Me, sir!’ cried Sam, springing up like a dog invited for a walk. ‘Me go and see Elves and all! Hooray!’ he shouted, and then burst into tears.”

I can see bursting into tears of shock and joy immediately; I can see bouncing around in joy; I can’t see doing them in this order. Also, while the dog simile is vivid (having acquired a dog since the last time I read this), I do find the overall effect unfortunate.

* * *


  • Gandalf appears to age, though slowly: “His hair was perhaps whiter than it had been then, and his beard and eyebrows were perhaps longer, and his face more lined with care and wisdom; but his eyes were as bright as ever, and he smoked and blew smoke-rings with the same vigour and delight.”

  • Foreshadowing/repeated image during the info-dump conversation: “Fear seemed to stretch out a vast hand, like a dark cloud rising in the East and looming up to engulf him [Frodo].”

  • Frodo calls the Ring precious twice in this chapter, once out loud and once in his thoughts (and once characterizing Golllum’s thoughts).

  • Okay, one movie thing: sometimes it puts more emphasis on lines that I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed. The “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us” conversation doesn’t even get a separate paragraph in the text.

« Fellowship I.1 | Index | Flieger, “Tolkien and the Idea of the Book” »

Torie Atkinson
1. Torie
What stuck out most for me in this chapter is a line that Gandalf speaks, which I don't think I ever noticed before: "I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it."

I don't recall ever thinking there was a chance for a cure, but there it is right there in the text. I wonder if that's in the back of Frodo's mind, particularly in TTT, when he sees shades of himself in Gollum? At what point is that hope lost entirely? I think the idea of salvation is still there when Gollum joins up with Frodo and Sam--even then he has some tender, hobbity moments. Is it only irreversible at his betrayal? Or is that hope still possible up until the very end, before he falls into the fire?

Now I have a whole host of things to think about and look for through the re-read. Thank you, Kate!
Eric Braddock
2. EricBraddock
Pablo Defendini graciously asked if I'd be willing to post up some sketches I've been doing lately, so hopefully my work won't distract too much from the discussions of the books! Also, two other artists are currently doing LotR related artwork, Eric Orchard and Justin Gerard. Both of which do fantastic work and I'm looking forward to seeing their work in the future. Originally I was planning to just do a random character at my own choosing, but in light of the re-reading going on, I'll keep my portraits lined up with the text. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Last week was a portrait of Samwise Gamgee, I hope you all enjoy it and I look forward to hearing all of your experiences and interpretations :)

"Let him go, you filth. LET HIM GO!! You will not touch him again! Come on and finish it!" ~Samwise


More work and sketches on my blog here
Kate Nepveu
3. katenepveu
Torie, great question. I always dread Sam and Gollum's scenes, because they have a whiff of tragedy to me--so in-character, so inevitable, so much that I wish were otherwise. I don't know if it's appropriate for me to blame Sam in part for Gollum's non-redemption, but I do.

I don't remember any explicit textual nods to the possibility of Gollum changing after his betrayal, but I suspect that in the book's moral system, he nevertheless retains the possibility (and thus the responsibility) of choice.

EricBraddock, I love seeing people's art, so I'm really glad all the talented artists here are getting recognition.
4. MerryArwen
Re: pursuit of knowledge - I think knowledge and *how* it is to be pursued is definitely a theme, thinking later on Saruman's discourse on "white as a beginning" and Gandalf's retort that "he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." (remembering in paraphrase).

Interestingly, I always assumed Gandalf actually touched the Ring.

In regards to Sam, I'm not sure that I agree with not being able to see him leaping up and then bursting into tears in that order, mostly because it actually describes exactly what happens to me when prompted to similar excitement: I have just enough time to burst out into nonsensical sounds of yay! before I start crying, but crying always takes a moment, whether out of joy or out of sad, to well up for me.

You're entirely right about the unfortunate simile.
Sam Kelly
5. Eithin
MerryArwen: The text certainly seems to say he touches the Ring (removes it from its chain) but then if I recall correctly he's very careful about taking it out of the fire. On the other hand, if you're correct about the narrative voice in this section (fascinating comment, by the way - thinking about the book as a mediaeval manuscript is something I'm trying to do from an artistic perspective at the moment) then it's narrated from Frodo's comments by Bilbo, who wasn't even there. So I don't think it offers any real excuse for how-can-he-touch-it fanwankery.

Seeking knowledge by destruction - Frodo's reluctant to throw the Ring into the fire, for fear it might be harmed. It might be a stretch, but this seems analogous to me, as a demonstration of the lengths to which one might need to go to test something.
Chris Weigert
6. StrangeTikiGod
Also of note, on subject of Sméagol's interest in the roots and beginnings of things, is that Shippey (I think it was Shippey, anyway) points out that "Sméagol" and "Smial" (as in "Great Smials," the Hobbit residences), share a linguistic root, and that both names refer to burrowing.
7. rogerothornhill
Wow, so much here.

First, Eric, please post as many illustrations as you want (and the server can take). That is beautiful! Sam is my favorite character in LotR and I love the set of his mouth in your vision of him. Also feel free to post info on any books you've illustrated, since I would love to see more of your work.

Kate, I love your breakdown of the precise method by which said info is dumped. In general, I think MerryArwen's point about the conceit that JRRT is translating the book in general is a good one, but this chapter in particular is very much in the tradition of High Realism in the way that it handles exposition.

And yes, I was struck much more by the Smeagol/Sam/Frodo triangle from the beginning on this last rereading. I didn't get a chance to comment on your reference in your earlier post about the echoes of World War I throughout the book (especially in the No Man's Land of Mordor), but this time I kept thinking from the beginning about Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, and Siegfried Sassoon as I worked my way through the trilogy. The Scouring of the Shire was definitely built into my reading from this chapter on, especially in the way that I read it aloud.

Finally, bless you for creating a metonymic link between Tolkien and Grosse Point Blank. I always love it when I can tie my favorite stories together as much as possible.
Tanya Koenig
8. tdkoenig
"He’s probably holding it up by the chain, but it’s surprising that it is ambiguous."

I haven't reread the books since before I last watched the movies, but I remember thinking how strange it was that the movies put so much emphasis on The Ring and its corrupting abilities. In the extras, Peter Jackson even says that they played that aspect up so that there was a concrete villain.

I don't remember the books putting so much overt emphasis on the ring's ability to corrupt. It seems in the books that if one has the wisdom to see the probable ends of using the ring, one has the strength to choose to resist the temptation.

To me the ambiguity of whether Frodo handed chain and ring or just ring to Gandalf is only problematic because of the movies. I wonder how the future text will influence this impression.
Kate Nepveu
9. katenepveu
Eithin, ack, so much for close reading, of course Gandalf can't be holding the Ring up by the chain! Thank you for pointing that out. (I think I was reading it as unclasped the chain from his clothes and handed it over together with the Ring, but I don't think that's as natural a reading of the sentence.)

rogerothornhill, when we get into _The Two Towers_, I'll be talking more about the WWI influences--I read an interesting critical piece that pointed out a bunch of stuff.

tdkoenig, I certainly have heard people say that the books make it difficult to believe that the Ring is that dangerous since so many people are shown refusing it. I never had a problem with that before, but it'll be interesting to see what I think now.
10. clovis
Re: infodump.

When I first read LOTR at the age of 14/15 (I forget which) I remember loving 'The Shadow of the Past' chapter and enjoying the vast amount of new background Tolkien was giving me. I had read the The Hobbit as a child and was feeling very grown up reading LOTR which was definately an 'adult' book as far as I and my peers were concerned.

I am interested in the comment that today the infodump within this chapter would be frowned upon and the way in which a theory/criticism can become set in solid rock. Some critics, some readers and all creative writing courses now see infodumps as 'wrong' and automatically 'bad'. A dogma of 'show not tell' has become the orthodoxy. However, LOTR shows that this need not the case. I remember being thrilled by this chapter and sense of deep history and new mythology within it. Thank you Katenepvue for your analysis of how Tolkien uses a changing narrative voice to keep the reader's interest, or at least this reader's interest. Perhaps I am alone in all this.
Matthew Brown
11. morven
clovis @ 10:

Yes, a "tell" can work, as seen here. I think the important part is that the telling becomes part of the story - it isn't just a dump, it's a process, the scene never feels stretched.

There's also, really, no other way to handle it. Frodo needs to know things that there's no really good way for him to just stumble across. Forcing a way for him to be shown it, rather than told it, would be very artificial indeed.

Tolkien also loves the form of having storytellers within his stories (as do other writers; Stephen King and Neil Gaiman come to mind as having a fascination with that).
Kate Nepveu
12. katenepveu
clovis, thanks for sharing how you first reacted to this chapter; as I've said, it's been so long that I don't remember, and I'm fascinated by the range of responses.

And what you say about the opening up of the world is very interesting to me; I wonder if that's why I've been getting impatient with the subsequent chapters, which perhaps close back down some? I'll look at that when I revise my notes on chapter 3.

morvin, absolutely, though I think the stories-within-stories never get as nested as some of Gaiman's stuff.
Andrew Mason
13. AnotherAndrew
Infodump: I remember my father reading this story to me as a child, and at one point, when Gandalf brought himself into the story after a long passage in which he was just narrating the activities of others, I was taken aback because I had forgotten that Gandalf was speaking. It's not an infodump of the kind where someone explains social conditions, or how magic works, or the like; it's a story. It happens to be a story told in the voice of a character; and this, of course, is something behind which there is a very long tradtion, the Odyssey being perhaps the best known example.

The corrupting power of the ring: certainly it corrupts, but I don't think it's so mechanical that just touching it is automatically dangerous. It depends on the person's character; also it works over time. Gollum had it for hundreds of years, Bilbo for sixty, and Frodo for sixteen (which may be one reason why the delay matters - it doesn't happen in the film, of course).

Eithin: why do you say this is being narrated by Bilbo? I thought he only wrote the part which became the basis of The Hobbit, and the rest is by Frodo, except the very last bit which is by Sam.
14. MerryArwen
@ 13: Not Eithin, but there is substantial indication (among other things, the many times crossed out potential titles) that Bilbo at least *started* the narration of what becomes The Lord of the Rings before succumbing to his ever growing disinterest and passing it off to Frodo. Chapter 1 in particular carries a lot more of the voice that one would associate with Bilbo than what is more clearly Frodo's work later on, and as Frodo would be sitting down to finish it off all after his Harrowing Adventures, positing that the beginning of the book is at least in part Bilbo's hand (from an in-universe perspective) helps explain that change of tone.
15. Ron Avitzur
I remember first reading that when I was eight or so and being amazed by the sense of history peering into a world with a past stretching back so many years. I'm still thrilled by books whose stories span ages. In retrospect, that's probably where I developed the taste for it.
eric orchard
16. orchard
On this reading I found myself feeling a little impatient. I wanted Barrow wights and the Prancing pony! (my being affected by the pacing of the film maybe?) I felt the drag of time.

Hobbits don't really live longer then big people do they? You're right Kate-that is a crazy long time of going for walks, going to inns and pipe smoking. I still trust Tolkien though. Even when he pushes credulity.

This chapter has one of the most moving in the book for me. Gandalf and Frodo discussing pity and restraint. I find this so beautiful in the book and also in the context of the brutality of the period in which it must have been written.
Kate Nepveu
17. katenepveu
orchard, they do live some longer, not coming to adulthood until 33 and often living to 100, and yet.

It may be that part of my disbelief is that I don't really know what Frodo was *doing* in the meantime--if it's as you say, that's a sufficiently different way of life that I both envy it and find it hard to imagine.
18. tanguera
The first time I read the books I was seventeen. I've read them again every few years since. They captivate me that much. And every time, I think something new jumps out at me.

In this chapter, it is interesting that Gandalf reveals the origin of the rings as Elven, and in the same paragraph, that the Great Rings (Rings of Power) are perilous. At the end of the following paragraph is the statement that the dark power of the ring will devour its user.

This is the first time it occurred to me that there was anything possibly dark/evil about Elves. I don't think I'd ever actually wanted to admit that Sauron was an elf.

Also, I'd understood the ring had a corrupting influence on its user right from the beginning partially because of the dramatic change in Bilbo's character in the first chapter when he changes his mind about leaving the ring and his reaction to Gandalf when caught. For me, it set it up right from the beginning that there was some kind of strange power in the ring possibly because I hadn't read The Hobbit first, so had no background reference for the ring the first time I read the story.
Kate Nepveu
19. katenepveu
tanguera, interesting to hear that the opening worked for you as a non-_Hobbit_ reader. I can't remember at this point in the morning whether you're the first to comment who'd had that experience => , but I don't think it's common all the same.

Outside _LotR_ it's made clear that Sauron was not an elf, but I can't remember whether you can draw that conclusion from the text or not.
Linda Frear
20. tanguera
Previously, I'd never drawn the conclusion that Sauron was an elf partially because of the poem regarding the ring. In the poem, the Dark Lord is separated from the elves, dwarves and men and therefore seems apart from any of those races.

Then later in the chapter when relating the story of Gollum, there is the line "but to talk of her possessing many Elven-rings..." implying that the One Ring is of elven origin.

Gandalf has already told Frodo that Sauron made the ring himself.

Interesting if outside LotR it is made clear Sauron was not an elf. How then, could he fashion an elven-ring?

Must now try once again to read the Silmarillion. Maybe the question is answered there.
21. birgit
As Frodo becomes more restless, we’re told, “He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.” The Valar taking a subtle hand?

I read this as the ring trying to get back to its master, not an influence from the Valar.

Interesting if outside LotR it is made clear Sauron was not an elf. How then, could he fashion an elven-ring?

If I remember correctly, Sauron taught the Elves to make rings (or was it the other way around?).
22. birgit
I reread the making of the rings in the Silmarillion (Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age). In the Second Age, Sauron called himself Annatar ("Lord of Gifts") and tried to befriend the elves. Gil-galad and Elrond mistrusted Annatar, but the Noldor in Eregion ignored their warnings, and Sauron taught them many things. With his help, the Noldor smiths made rings of power. Sauron secretly made the One Ring, but when he used it, the elves noticed what was going on and took off their rings. Sauron demanded that they should give him the rings because they couldn't have made them without his help. When they refused, Sauron made war on them and took the rings by force. He distributed the Seven to the dwarves, who were not affected very much, and the Nine to men, who became the Nazgul. The Three were the last and most powerful rings made. Feanor's grandson Celebrimbor had made them without Sauron's help, and they never fell into his hands, but they were also affected by the One Ring.
23. TimAllyn
As to the question of whether or not Gandalf ever touches the Ring...I had always interpreted it as he had. I like that AnotherAndrew brought up the treatment of Ring in the movies. The Ring of the book is much more insidious in how it works. This is even more clear as the book continues if you pay attention to Frodo's attatchment and ability to show or hand over the Ring. The effects are generally subtle and slow-acting. This is more clear in History of LotR...the effect of the Ring is determined there by what use it is put to. Stealing and spying caused Gollumn's downfall, where as hiding or playing jokes is apparently ok. But also the hooking mechanism is more clearly expressed. In Bilbo, the Ring is a memento of his journey...in Frodo a memento and herloim of Bilbo. That is how it works its way into their hearts.
Kate Nepveu
24. katenepveu
TimAllyn, yes, I noticed that in the most recent post (II.1), about the effects on Frodo even at this point. It is a subtle but nasty thing, isn't it?
25. Will Belegon
Concerning whether Gandalf touches the One Ring: I had no problem with the "don't touch" aspect in the films because of the need to have a visual cue for the danger... but I never felt that the Ring's power was that blatant in the books. It is simply a difference forced by storytelling medium.

I always wonder about the proximity of the three. I can't recall Elrond or Galadriel actually touching the One, but Gandalf almost certainly has Narya on his person at this time.
Kate Nepveu
26. katenepveu
Will Belegon, welcome, and what kind of effect/interaction might you expect from Narya being there?
Jill Hayhurst
27. pericat
Sam’s not given a choice; and though in some ways it’s irrelevant because this is what he would have chosen, I still had a problem with it,

I'm catching up slowly, this re-read is terribly engrossing. I went back to this just now as it kind of nagged at me that Sam didn't have a choice when my impression had been otherwise.

Sam actually does ask to go with Frodo, whenever it is that Frodo goes, a couple of paragraphs prior to Gandalf's telling him to:

Elves, sir! I would dearly love to see them. Couldn’t you take me to see Elves, sir, when you go?

He's not got the background to understand the danger! danger! doom! part of the convo he's been overhearing, but he did pick up on Frodo leaving (he's audibly distressed at that), and says he wants to go with him.

Everyone in the room knows that it's not going to be an easy journey, but so far all that's contemplated is a trip away from the Shire. No reason Sam shouldn't be granted his wish go with Frodo.
Kate Nepveu
28. katenepveu
pericat, that's a reasonable point about the scope of the contemplated journey at that point; this is one of the places where my knowledge of what's coming interferes. And thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying the re-read!
29. Cirret
@27, as I recall Sam has heard and loved Bilbo's tales of the elves and for all his eagerness and loyalty to Frodo he may understand the doom! part pretty well, though he probably has a romantic view of it.
30. DBratman
I'm going back and re-reading some of the old posts, and noticed this:

This prompted me to flag “pursuit of knowledge” as a theme to look for.

An overeager pursuit of knowledge is what dooms both Saruman and Denethor. Some have mistaken this as Tolkien saying that ignorance is bliss, but it's not that at all, as Gandalf also pursues knowledge. But he's not covetous about it, and that I think is the difference.
Darrell Cale
31. revtoken
@ 3. katenepveu You said "I don't know if it's appropriate for me to blame Sam in part for Gollum's non-redemption, but I do". I do not blame same, I actually blame Faramir, for two reasons. First, when Frodo goes down to Gollum at the Forbiden Pool, Gollum is already talking about "Nasty Hobbits" and "Nasty Men" that took the ring away from him. I think the by Sam and Frodo being captured by Faramir and his men, this started Gollum down the path of non-redemption. Reason 2, Frodo talks Gollum into coming with him, saying "Master will keep you safe", and Gollum is already starting to trust Frodo again, then is grabbed by 3 of Faramir's men. I seem to remember there being a line where Frodo says something to say like "He trusted me at first..." Something to look forward as I continue to read.

@ 13. AnotherAndrew "The corrupting power of the ring: certainly it corrupts, but I don't think it's so mechanical that just touching it is automatically dangerous. It depends on the person's character; also it works over time. Gollum had it for hundreds of years, Bilbo for sixty, and Frodo for sixteen (which may be one reason why the delay" I think this is the reason for the sixteen years in between. It allowed for time for the ring to start taking hold of Frodo. The text even says, "It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandolf to touch it."

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