In the second chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, an unbelievably long period of time passes before Gandalf returns to Bag End, but when he does, he kind of ruins Frodo’s life? IN A VERY ENTERTAINING, NECESSARY WAY, I SHOULD SAY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.
CHAPTER TWO: THE SHADOW OF THE PAST
Can I please retract a statement of mine from yesterday? Likeâ€¦right now?
So many people have told me that The Lord of the Rings is fairly dense for a novel, and I certainly am anticipating it to be. But if this is the way in which he describes things, I’m kind of okay with it.
HAHAHA. HAHAAH. AHAHDFJKASLKJHSFDALKJH OH MY GOD I SHOULD HAVE WAITED JUST ONE CHAPTER BEFORE I SAID ANYTHING. Because while nearly everything in chapter two is deeply fascinating and exciting, THIS IS SO LONG AND DENSE AND DETAILED AND WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST READ. Actually, I want to attempt to determine exactly what I did read when I get to that part, but for now, let’s get through what I understood on the first read-through.
I don’t know if I missed it, but I have no idea what Frodo looks like. I mean, in general, I really don’t know what hobbits are supposed to look like. In my head, he’s some weird cross between Elijah Wood and the Bass/Rankin version of Bilbo, both of which I’ve only seen photos/screenshots of. (We will be liveblogging that version of The Hobbit very soon, just so you know! I’m waiting until it can’t spoil me for this book, which is apparently coming up.) Instead, I have his personality to work from, and I’m honestly okay with that. He’s very much not like Bilbo was when I first met him. Instead, Frodo’s life and personality is very much informed by his uncle, who’s made a mark on his nephew’s behavior. First of all, Frodo is very much content with being the queer hobbit of the Shire; he’s certainly not as weird as his uncle, but he has less of a desire to fall in what with others think of him. I love that he continues to hold birthday parties for his uncle, even if his uncle is nowhere to be found.
Frodo also has friends, and that was uncharacteristic of Bilbo. At the start of The Hobbit, Bilbo seemed to very much enjoy keeping to himself, but Frodo has two close friends in those early years in Pippin and Merry, the latter who we met at the end of the last chapter. But, like Bilbo, Tolkien uses the word “preservation” to describe how he ages, and it’s a curious term to me. I assume that means he doesn’t age as rapidly as the other hobbits, yes? I got the sense that there was something important to this, but, LIKE USUAL, I was utterly clueless. I was then shocked that in the span of a few pages, Tolkien also ages Frodo LIKE TWENTY YEARS. I know that time doesn’t work like it does for us, in terms of expected age. There’s a hobbit mentioned in this book that lives to be 130 and that’s apparently not a big deal. So Frodo ages gracefully, as far as I can tell, and with this age comes a sense of restlessness. It seems Bilbo had a much bigger effect on his nephew than I considered. It’s like he has the same inkling to get out and see more of Middle-earth.
And he does, to an extent! In wandering the countryside around the Shire, he learns that a whole host of strange and unexpected folk are passing through the Shire and leaving Middle-earth. No, what are you doing??? If you leave, you won’t have a place in the plot!!!! THIS IS AN EPIC NOVEL WHERE ARE YOU GOING. Actually, that’s still a good question, silliness aside: why are all these folks leaving Middle-earth?
They were troubled, and some spoke in whispers of the Enemy and the Land of Mordor.
OH NO, YOU CAN’T WALK THERE. So is that why they’re leaving?
It seemed that the evil power in Mirkwood had been driven out by the White Council only to reappear in greater strength in the old strongholds of Mordor.
OH SHIT THAT WAS IN THE HOBBIT. So whatever this “Enemy” is, it was what Gandalf and the White Council drove out of Mirkwood? I WAS ONLY MAKING A JOKE WHEN I SAID THIS WOULD BE ANSWERED LATER. omg I am amazing.
Orcs were multiplying again in the mountains.
You know, as much as I’ve heard this word (I listen to 3 Inches of Blood, so that means I hear it a lot), I don’t actually know what it means. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT AN ORC IS.
Anyway, there’s a brief section where we see things from the point of view of Sam Gamgee, one of the hobbits who is friends with Frodo. I like him! I like his sense of wonder about the world around him; he seems naturally inclined towards believing the rumors he’s hearing about all the people migrating through his part of Middle-earth. To me, he’s not a cynical character at all, demonstrating an almost childlike wonder in his behavior.
Let’s talk about the polar opposite: Gandalf the Grey, who takes a NINE YEAR BREAK from visiting Frodo. WHAT THE FUCK. Okay, so I get that time is not as big of a thing for the hobbits, but that’s a really, really, really, REALLY long to not visit your friend!
It’s here thatâ€¦.my god. This section is INCREDIBLY long. That’s not really a complaint in the traditional sense, because I completely get why this needs to be just as long as it is. But this is seriously the most lengthy info-dump I think I’ve ever read. Well, perhaps George R.R. Martin has a longer one, but this doesn’t feel shorter at all. Unfortunately for me, this is all gibberish and I was LOST. There, I’ll just admit it. The section is so terribly long that I kept asking myself WAIT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN AGAIN.
So! In an attempt to get this all down, here’s what I think I just learned. I know it should go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway: DO NOT CORRECT ME. Do not spoil me. Allow me to wallow in my wrongness.
oh god why am i doing this
INFO-DUMPING FOUND IN CHAPTER TWO AND MY ATTEMPT TO UNDERSTAND IT
- Okay, I don’t get why Gandalf had to wait until daylight to tell Frodo all of this, but that’s important? Actually, it’s probably not, but he just wanted to be ~dramatic.~
- There are many Elven rings, but only the “Great Rings, the Rings of Power,” can basically prevent a person from dying/again in any traditional since. So the ring that Bilbo got from Gollum not only makes a person invisible, but allows some sort of Dark Power to “devour” them in various ways.
- The reason that Bilbo said he felt “thin and stretched” was because the ring was beginning to hold power on him. It also explains why he was a total douche to Gandalf on the day he left the Shire.
- Gandalf is REALLY obsessed with hobbits. LOOK HE ADMITS AS MUCH OKAY
- The ring, when thrown in a fire, is not susceptible to any damage; instead, it reveals Elvish lettering that says, in the language of Mordor: “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to Find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” OH SHIT.
- Okay, then there’s this lengthy verse of “Elven-lore” about a bunch of rings and then I am instantly lost.
- But most important out of all of this is that the ring that Bilbo got from Gollum is THE Ring. The One Ring To Rule Them All ring. OH SHIT.
- Okay, there’s a Dark Lord? And it’s not Voldemort??? J.K. ROWLING IS A THIEF CALL THE PAPERS. Anyway, Sauron the Great is the Dark Lord here. How do dark wizards or lords get such huge, self-important titles if they’re so evil?
- There’s a Dark Tower in Mordor. You can’t walk there? LOOK I REALLY NEED TO KNOW WHY YOU CAN’T JUST WALK TO MORDOR. omg I was just reminded of ONE CANNOT SIMPLY TANK CAT INTO MORDOR.
- I don’t get why the Dark Lord needs the One Ring? Why is he evil? What does he want to do?
- Okay, Gandalf explains (sort of) all the various rings! The Three Rings were hidden from Sauron by the Elf-Lords and he’s never had them. There were seven rings that the Dwarf-kings had; Sauron got back three of them, and the other four were basically EATEN BY DRAGONS. He gave nine of them to humans and those nine humans were taken by the Dark Lord through the power of the Nine Rings. And those rings turned them into Ringwraiths. WHAT THE FUCK ARE THOSE. I will imagine them as larger versions of Iron Maiden’s Eddie. Is that okay? TOO BAD YOU CAN’T STOP ME.
- So the One Ring, which he made for himself, can control “all the others.” I still don’t understand the logistics of this. Is it like a skeleton key? It’s so powerful that it can control the other rings? (The Three, the Seven, the Nine?)
- OH I GET IT. Sauron thought the One Ring was gone, but now that he knows it’s still out there, he’s looking for it! OH SHIT FRODO HAS IT.
- Gandalf traces where the ring started and how it came to Bilbo. Long ago, there was a family of creatures that were ancestrally related to the hobbits, that lived near the River where the Ring had been lost. There, two of these creatures, named SmÃ©agol and DÃ©agol, come upon the ring. Actually, DÃ©agol finds it first, and then SmÃ©agol MURDERS HIM FOR IT. And the ring basically destroys SmÃ©agol’s moral sense and he becomes a horrible thing.
- OH BY THE FUCKING WAY, THAT’S GOLLUM. WHAT THE FUCK.
- Okay, so the One Ring is almost like an entity in and of itself; it protects itself and may leaveÂ an owner purely out of preservation, but it’s power over the owner is so strong that one generally can’t give it up. (Which explains why Bilbo was such a dick to Gandalf.)
- There’s a long section tracing the history of what happened after Bilbo “won” the ring from Gollum, and a lot of it deals with how he was obsessed with the Ring. He determined the identity of Bilbo and hoped to find him in the Shire. At some point, Elves get involved?
- ARAGORN. That name sounds familiar! He finds Gollum and brings him to Gandalf and they both learn Gollum went to the LAND OF MORDOR.
- WHICH IS REALLY FUCKED UP, because Gollum probably told the Dark Lord of hobbits and the shire and that means that agents of Sauron are probably on their way now, and HOLY SHIT THIS GOT SO MESSED UP SO QUICKLY.
- Gandalf defends Gollum’s existence and it is a beautiful thing and I don’t care.
- Only the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the fire mountain, can destroy the One Ring. Oh my god, this is literally the first nerd fantasy in history. I AM READING HISTORY.
So I think that’s it? Generally, that is. The One Ring that Bilbo got from Gollum is actually the Dark Lord’s most powerful Ring ever. And now the Dark Lord is totally aware that a hobbit in the ShireÂ might have it and WILL RAIN DOWN FURY UPON THAT LOVABLE PLACE. So thisÂ is what this book is about! Huh, I always sort of wondered. I mean….yes, this is just a piece of the puzzle, but Tolkien’s framed the entire thing for me. It’s a pretty exciting idea, admittedly, but there’s one last thing that makes it awesome.
‘The enemy has many spies and many ways of hearing.’
Suddenly he stopped as if listening. Frodo became aware that all was very quiet, inside and outside. Gandalf crept to one side of the window. Then with a dart he sprang to the sill, and thrust a long arm out and downwards. There was a squawk, and up came Sam Gamgee’s curly head hauled by one ear.
‘Well, well, bless my beard!’ said Gandalf. ‘Sam Gamgee is it? Now what may you be doing?’
BLESS MY BEARD I LOVE SAM GAMGEE. I liked what little we’d seen of him, but I didn’t think he was anything more than just a small character to provide exposition for the strange caravans making their way out of Middle-earth. But after Frodo has agreed to leave the Shire in order to protect it andÂ Gandalf has suggested that he might want to bring a trusted friend or two, Sam presents himself rather nicely to help out. The idea isÂ terrifying to him, but when Gandalf brings it up, Sam accepts quickly:
‘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 adore Sam’s energy, and I’m really happy he’s coming along for the trip. I know that Frodo is excited himself in a way, since he’ll be following in his uncle’s footsteps, but his journey is a whole lot darker than Bilbo Baggins’s was.
I’m excited, y’all. EXCITED.