Summary — The Council of Elrond

In the morning, Gandalf summons Frodo and Bilbo to the Council. Messengers from many lands and races are there seeking Elrond’s advice. Glóin says that the Dwarves are worried: the Dwarf-king Balin, who journeyed to the Mines of Moria under the Misty Mountains to reestablish the ancient Dwarf-kingdom that once flourished there, has not sent word for quite a long time. Furthermore, a messenger from Mordor has come offering the Dwarves an alliance, as well as new Rings of Power, in exchange for news about a certain Hobbit.

The wise Elrond tells of the origins of the Rings of Power, forged by the Elven-smiths in the Second Age, and of the One Ring, which Sauron made to rule the others. Elrond speaks of the great battle in which Isildur cut the Ring from the Dark Lord’s hand, and of the loss of the Ring in the Anduin River when Isildur perished. Afterward, the realms of the Men of Westernesse went into decline: the northern realms were mostly abandoned, and though the southern realm of Gondor endured, it weakened as well. The Men of Gondor allowed Sauron’s forces back into Mordor and had to cede territory to the Dark Lord.

At this point, Boromir, a powerful-looking warrior from Minas Tirith, the great city of Gondor, speaks. He tells of a rising power in Mordor that has recently dealt crushing losses to Gondor. Boromir tells of a dream he had that spoke of the Sword that was Broken, something called Isildur’s Bane, and a Halfling. The meaning of Boromir’s dream is suddenly made clear as Strider stands and reveals himself to be Aragorn, the heir and direct descendant of Isildur, keeper of Elendil’s broken sword. The Halfling—another word for Hobbit—is Frodo, who stands and displays Isildur’s Bane—the Ring.

Frodo and Bilbo relate their parts in the story of the Ring thus far. Then Gandalf tells how he managed to prove the identity of the Ring. He discovered that Sauron was gaining power again in Mirkwood, and that Saruman the White, the head of Gandalf’s order of Wizards, advised against challenging Sauron. When the Wizards finally did decide to challenge Sauron, it was too late, as the Dark Lord had built up his forces in Mordor and fled there. Gandalf searched for Gollum but was unable to find the creature, so he went to the city of Minas Tirith, where Isildur had allegedly left a description of the Ring. From this description, Gandalf learned about the writing on the Ring. Then Aragorn tells the Council that he did in fact find Gollum after Gandalf left; the wizard adds that it is surely from Gollum that Sauron heard of Bilbo and the Shire. Legolas, an Elf from Mirkwood, interrupts with the alarming news that Gollum recently escaped from the Elves’ dungeon with the help of an army of Orcs.

Gandalf tells how he journeyed to Orthanc, the tower of Saruman, where he was dismayed to learn that Saruman, the greatest of the Wizards, intended to join forces with Mordor or to wield the Ring himself. When Gandalf refused to join the side of Mordor, Saruman locked him in the tower of Orthanc until Gwaihir, the Great Eagle, came and rescued Gandalf, taking him to the horsemen of Rohan. There, Gandalf tamed Shadowfax, the swiftest of all horses, and rode him back to the Shire. Gandalf missed the hobbits and Aragorn at Bree, and then went on to Weathertop, where he battled the Nazgûl. The wizard then made his way to Rivendell, hoping to draw some of the Nine away from Strider and the hobbits.

The only remaining question—the most important one—is what to do with the Ring. The Elf-lord Erestor suggests they give the Ring to Tom Bombadil, over whom it seemingly has no power. Glorfindel counters that such a course of action would simply postpone the inevitable, as Tom alone could not defeat Sauron. Boromir brashly recommends that they use the power of the Ring to defeat Sauron. Gandalf and Elrond immediately dismiss this suggestion. As the Ring contains the power of Sauron, it is irrevocably evil, and anything done with it will ultimately turn to evil.