The Fellowship of the Ring

J. R. R. Tolkien
Summary

Book I, Chapter 12

Summary Book I, Chapter 12

The Black Riders begin to cross the river, but their horses seem reluctant. Frodo calls out to them to return to Mordor, the land of Sauron, but the Riders only laugh at him and say they will take him back with them. Then, just as three of the Riders approach the other bank, a rush of whitewater fills the Bruinen and rises up, overwhelming the three in its cascading waves. As Frodo slips into unconsciousness, he sees the other black horses madly carrying their Riders into the rapids, where they are swept away.

Analysis

This chapter brings to a close the first book of The Lord of the Rings and the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. Throughout Book I, the hobbits prove themselves rather hapless and in constant need of rescue, whether by Farmer Maggot, Tom Bombadil, Strider, or the raging waters of the Bruinen River. Indeed, it is partly this powerlessness that makes a Hobbit such an appropriate Ring-bearer. As Gandalf earlier explains, if a Wizard such as himself were to take the Ring, it would certainly turn him into another Sauron. Frodo’s stewardship of the Ring, while it poses grave dangers to Frodo himself, does not bring about the sort of consequences that it would with a powerful being such as Gandalf. Despite their bumbling ways, however, the hobbits also demonstrate a bit of pluck and ability, as we see in Frodo’s stands against the Barrow-wight and then the Black Riders, or in Sam’s resistance to the wiles of Old Man Willow. The hobbits appear to be adept at learning on their feet.

As Frodo makes his way from Bag End to Rivendell, a group of companions—which is later christened the Fellowship of the Ring—begins to form around him. Whereas at first Frodo thought his mission would be a solitary one, Gandalf decides to send Sam along with him. Then Merry and Pippin join, and finally Strider. More join the party in the upcoming chapters. As we see in the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring, however, forces begin to break the Fellowship apart as the quest progresses and grows more difficult. This movement from solitude to community and back emphasizes the particular burden of the Ring. Though Frodo needs all the help he can enlist to continue in the quest, in the end the weight of responsibility falls squarely on him alone. Tolkien emphasizes the great and solitary weight of the Ring in a number of ways. Glorfindel reminds Frodo of his status and responsibility as Ring-bearer when he tells Frodo that the Black Riders are interested only in capturing him, not the rest of the party. Similarly, the glimpse of the Black Riders that the Ring reveals to Frodo , as well as the dark dreams that his wound gives him, show how he is, in a way, set apart from the rest of the party.