In the third chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo is reluctant to leave the only home he’s ever known. When he finally gets the courage to do so, he finds out just how difficult his journey will be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.
CHAPTER THREE: THREE IS COMPANY
It’s a good thing this is so entertaining and fascinating, because holy god this is so long. No, like…this is really awesome! I am enjoying myself! But these three chapters are some of the longest chapters I’ve ever covered for Mark Reads AND I STILL HAVE LIKE SIXTY MORE TO GO. Oh god, WHAT HAVE I GOT MYSELF INTO.
I did laugh when I immediately discovered that Frodo did not leave his home in Bag End at once. In fact, the few weeks that passed in the opening sentences is nothing compared to what he eventually agrees to. Still, it’s something that Tolkien conveys rather well, and I remember feeling a bit sad when Bilbo looked back on the Shire, not knowing if he’d come back. I understand, then, Frodo’s reticence when leaving his home for what might be a permanent vacation of sorts. He settles, though, on the day of his fiftieth birthday to…well, that’s actually a conversation that Frodo has to have. Where exactly is he supposed to go? For once, I don’t think Gandalf is being coy and ambiguous just for the sake of it. I don’t believe he knows what Frodo should do. How could you? It’s not like he can just draw him a map to the Cracks of Doom. (Whatever those are. Are they cracks in time? WATCH OUT YOU’LL BE ERASED.) In the end, he recommends that Frodo and Sam make for Rivendell. Which, by the way, excites Frodo because then he gets to introduce Sam to some Elves, and…well, we’ll get there in a bit.
What took me by surprise–as it did most of the Shire–was the announcement that Frodo would be selling his home in Bag End to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. I don’t know why I find this small bit of family politics to be so entertaining, but it might have to do with the fact that I have family members I dislike a great deal, and I continue to entertain some futile fantasy that I will one day get to scorn them like this. For Frodo, that’s part of the reasoning for moving, but it’s also to create a credible story for why he is suddenly moving away from Bag End. It’s an incredibly practical idea. If Sauron knows a hobbit in the Shire has his Ring or suspects it, creating this “story” allows Frodo and his friends to buy time and perhaps spare the hobbits in the process.
It makes me think about Frodo and Bilbo, and I can’t help but compare the two as they were introduced. Like most hobbits I have met so far, Bilbo was a bit stuffy, very comfortable living in his hobbit hole in Bag End, always content to do just what a hobbit was always supposed to do. Obviously, his character changed drastically over the course of The Hobbit, but what strikes me about Frodo is that his uncle’s affect on him can be seen in these small moments. There’s something noble and respectable about Frodo’s quiet, unspoken suffering. He does all of this to save hobbits. And half of them don’t deserve to be half as liked as they are! But he does it anyway. He sells his house to the worst relatives ever. (Well, just Lobelia, since her husband passed away by this time.) He sells a great deal of his possessions aside from the ones he’ll need on his journey. He agrees to set out into Middle-earth to go to strange and dangerous places, and all of this is done just to prevent someone he’s never met from destroying the Shire. Honestly, if Bilbo Baggins had been given this same task at the beginning of The Hobbit, I’m not sure he would have agreed to do it.
I didn’t realize that Gandalf was here the whole time, by the way. WHAT IS HE DOING. What do wizards do when they’re not doing wizard things? I mean, I know that Gandalf is way into hobbit history and hobbit-lore, but people think he’s a creepy weirdo, so it’s not like he just studies hobbits all day. OR DOES HE. oh god is he like a hobbit academic. Oh god now I really want to write Gandalf’s senior thesis on hobbit culture.
OKAY MOVING ON BECAUSE I COULD DO THIS ALL DAY. Gandalf takes off, promising to return on the night of his going-away party. Apparently, he has some urgent and creepy matter to attend to? The dude is one big mystery. I never feel like I know what he’s doing. But that’s actually a big plot point: Gandalf doesn’t return. And it starts to freak Frodo out. Understandably so, I might add, because when has Gandalf ever really been late? Frodo’s fiftieth birthday arrives and his possessions are carted away, and there’s no Gandalf. The feast happens, wine is drunk, the party ends, and there’s no Gandalf. I’m sure there aren’t other hobbits out there in Middle-earth. Maybe there’s some Dark Lord crap he’s doing? LOOK I DON’T KNOW.
The Sackville-Bagginses show up and are more annoying than ever before because some people are just like that! It happens! Come on, y’all have to know just one member of your family who experiences glee at the suffering of others. I can think of three with almost no effort at all. As far as I’m concerned, that’s who these characters represent.
For Frodo, I think it’s a little more personal. He’s leaving the home he’s known for decades, and he cares more about the feeling of the place than the physicality of it. He doesn’t strike me as a particularly materialistic hobbit, so I’m sure that deep down, he actually doesn’t mind giving all of this up to Lobelia. Instead, he feels sad to be leaving something so familiar:
Bag End seemed sad and gloomy and dishevelled. Frodo wandered round the familiar rooms, and saw the light of the sunset fade on the walls, and shadows creep out of the corners.
I like this image that the “light” and joy of Bag End is coming to a close along with his stay here. Is this clever foreshadowing? Or does it represent the light that Frodo brings to the place? Or am I being a fool and it’s just the sun setting? Which sort of reminds me of being in junior high English classes and having a teacher ask WHAT DOES THE BLUE DOOR REPRESENT. Um IT’S A GODDAMN BLUE DOOR so it clearly represents THE ONLY EXIT FROM THE ROOM. Okay, I’m jesting, since I’m the most pedantic person imaginable on this site, but what I am TRYING to say is that Tolkien does a fantastic job conveying the anxiety and sadness of Frodo leaving his home. Of course, Gandalf’s absence plays a part in that, but it’s a depressing moment for him!
That’s when Tolkien decides to increase the tension for a bit: Frodo overhears Sam’s father speaking with some unseen person, who’s ruthlessly questioning him about the location of Frodo Baggins. Already? Someone’s already come to find him?? SWEET SUMMER CHILD. Frodo doesn’t think to much of it, but knows that it’s time to leave the Shire. I was a bit confused how Pippin got added to the mix, though. I thought only Sam was coming along, but I guess there’s a third party now. Which is awesome! I don’t really know much about Pippin aside from the fact that he’s friends with Sam and Frodo. The more the merrier, I suppose. So the three hobbits begin their long walk out of the Shire:
As they began to climb its first slopes they looked back and saw the lamps in Hobbiton far off twinkling in the gentle valley of the Water. Soon it disappeared in the folds of the darkened land, and was followed by Bywater beside its grey pool. When the light of the last farm was far behind, peeping among the trees, Frodo turned and waved a hand in farewell.
‘I wonder if I shall ever look down into that valley again,’ he said quietly.
Why is this like the saddest thing ever? Oh god, I hope this is in the movie because I’d love to see it onscreen. Actually, I know that Peter Jackson’s interpretation of The Fellowship of the Rings is generally pretty faithful, and I think it’ll help me visualize a lot of what happens here. There’s a lot of walking and hiking and jogging here as the trio continue to make their way east. It’s a few hours before they decide to rest for the night. And can we just talk about how amazing it is that for two paragraphs, Tolkien switches to the point of view of a passing fox? Who else would do that?
But…okay, look, I like this! It’s not changing my view of it, but I seriously could have used a break in the writing. In my head, I thought the first experience with the horse rider in black happened right after the trio wakes up to their first morning of the journey. But it’s pages later. So much is described in this chapter–all of it necessary, I might add–but it’s just….so long? I knew that getting into this novel, but dude needed an editor to cull something or at least split it up a bit better. Though…that doesn’t always necessarily work, and I don’t think books need chapters. But I won’t lie: this is a daunting task ahead of me, and I felt a bit weary. HOWEVER. Then the horse shows up and what the hell is going on. I mean: all-black horse, large man with black cloak and hood. And he can SMELL FRODO. What the holy fuck is this? Who is this? Is it even a man or is it like…a spirit who eats hobbits? Even worse:
A sudden unreasoning fear of discovery laid hold of Frodo, and he thought of his Ring. He hardly dared to breathe, and yet the desire to get it out of his pocket became so strong that he began slowly to move his hand.
NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Oh god I DON’T GET WHAT IS HAPPENING. I did laugh, however, when Frodo tells the others what happens and Sam very casually mentions that he totally knows who it is. Well, not the exact identity, but that it was the same person asking his father for Frodo the night before. OKAY. That’s really reassuring. But they don’t really have the time to sit and discuss the intricacies of this strange incident, so they continue pressing on eastward. There’s a lot more walking, and some more singing, more walking, and suddenly a three hour film seems like a minimal commitment.
BUT THEN FRODO HEARS HOOFS AGAIN. Oh shit, the dude is back. WHAT IS HE GOING TO DO THIS TIME. Oh, he’s going to be frightened off by Elves. And then this chapter is beautiful and nothing hurts because I remember Sam’s obsession with Elves. Well, first, the Elves (namely Gildor) recognize Frodo, though he swears he’s never met any of these Elves before. THAT’S COOL. And before Frodo can even get anything out of them about what’s going on, Pippin just blurts out about the Black Riders. LOL. I like Pippin already because he ADVANCES THE PLOT. Upon hearing this DIRE news, the Elves agree to take the three with them, whereupon Sam has the most adorable freakout of all time. It’s adorable because he is shocked into silence. I mean, this is a huge deal to him! Not only does he get to see Elves, he gets to HANG OUT WITH THEM FOR AN EXTENDED LENGTH OF TIME. This is totally what Almost Famous was inspired by, right?
But here Frodo learns that his secret isn’t entirely secret anymore, and Gildor knows that there’s some reason why the Dark Lord might be seeking out this little hobbit from Bag End. Of course, he has no knowledge of the Ring itself, but whatever is brewing in Middle-earth has caught the attention of many of its inhabitants.
I’m confused as to why Gildor refuses to disclose the true nature of the Black Riders, deferring to Gandalf instead. Who, by the way, is ridiculously late at this point, and that is not a good thing. Why are they so horrible that Gildor won’t say anything beyond stating that they are horrifying? At the very least, though, the Elves have accompanied them this far, and though they are parting the next morning, Gildor promises to send word that Frodo may need help if others come upon him.
Yeah, okay, I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.