The Fellowship of the Ring

J. R. R. Tolkien

Book II, Chapters 5–6

Summary Book II, Chapters 5–6

In the morning, the Company walks further into Lórien, reaching the river Silverlode. At one point, the Elves tell Gimli that he must be blindfolded so that he does not know where he is walking, especially because the Dwarves and Elves have not gotten along since the Dark Days. Gimli strongly objects, and the dispute nearly comes to blows. Thinking quickly, Aragorn demands that all the Company, even Legolas, be blindfolded. Gimli assents, so all the members of the Fellowship are led blindfolded into the Naith, or heart, of Lórien. Once they arrive, Haldir receives word that the Lady Galadriel, queen of the forest, has decreed that the Fellowship’s blindfolds may be removed.

When the blindfolds are taken off, the strangers behold a forest that seems to belong to another age. Its trees and flowers surpass the beauty of any other growing things, and the light and colors are ethereal golds and greens. They are at Cerin Amroth, a hill with a double ring of trees that is, in Aragorn’s words, “the heart of Elvendom on earth.” Haldir takes Frodo and Sam up to a platform on top of the trees, from which they gaze at the enchanted land surrounding them, noticing also the forbidding lands beyond. When the hobbits descend, they find Aragorn in a powerful and blissful daydream.

Analysis — Chapters 5–6

“The Bridge of Khazad-dûm” contains the longest stretch of continuous action in The Fellowship of the Ring, and Tolkien’s skill at sustaining the dramatic action in the chapter is remarkable. He sets the scene with the ominous entries in the Dwarf journal that mention “drums in the deep.” Then, moments later, the Company itself hears those same drums, and Legolas and Gimli, perhaps unwittingly, echo the scrawled last words of the journal: “They are coming” and “We cannot get out.” The drums themselves owe some of their frightfulness to the fact that Tolkien evokes their sound with the word “doom” (or sometimes “doom-boom”) rather than the more typical “boom.” The throbbing pulse of the Orc drums punctuates the action and hints at something that has been awakened from its dormancy deep beneath Moria. Tolkien’s visual descriptions further the sense of drama. In the previous chapter, the Fellowship moves from the quiet, spooky tunnels into the dark, silent hall, occasionally hearing strange, distant noises. As the tension builds throughout Chapter 5, so do the noise and the visuals, until finally at the bridge itself there converge roaring Orcs, flying arrows, leaping flames, Trolls, a fearsome demon, a sword and whip of fire, and the bridge itself, thin and arching over a gaping chasm of nothingness. After Gandalf and the Balrog fall, the flames die and the noise fades accordingly. Like a director, Tolkien adds significance to the action of his characters by augmenting the scene with the equivalent of stage directions of all kinds.

With Gandalf’s plunge into the chasm, which is arguably the climax of The Fellowship of the Ring, we see the fulfillment of one of the many prophecies that are told throughout The Lord of the Rings. In the chapter before Gandalf’s battle with the Balrog, Aragorn makes a strange warning when he reluctantly consents to Gandalf’s plan to enter Moria: “I will follow your lead now—if this last warning does not move you. It is not of the Ring, nor of us others that I am thinking now, but of you, Gandalf. And I say to you: if you pass the doors of Moria, beware!” It is unclear whether Aragorn recalls some prophecy he has heard in the past, or whether he has had a prophetic insight of his own. In any case, he is proven prescient when Gandalf falls into the chasm.

Aragorn’s prediction is one of many prophecies throughout Tolkien’s novel, many of which are contained in songs or verses that link present and future occurrences to the past—often the distant, ancient past. These prophecies not only create a sense of anticipation that moves the plot forward, but also tie The Lord of the Rings to the mythological tradition that precedes it. Greek myth is one of the most familiar arenas of prophecy, as seemingly every mortal and god in Greek myth is subject to the predictions of the fabled oracles. Numerous characters in the Greek myths live out prophecies made long before their births, usually unwittingly. Tolkien, in his inclusion of similar prophecies in the mythological world of Middle-earth, emphasizes and explores the importance and nature of fate. Many of the events prophesied in The Lord of the Rings happen for seemingly no reason, or at least not for a reason that is immediately clear. Though Tolkien does not explicitly refer to any gods or higher powers that may govern the workings of Middle-earth, these prophecies, in a sense, imply an overarching consciousness or direction that controls the events that transpire in the universe of the novel.

After the tumult and tragedy of the journey through Moria, Tolkien leads us into the near-heavenly quiet and peace of the Elvish forest of Lothlórien. This pattern of hairbreadth escapes followed by intermissions of peace is a recurring structure throughout the novel: we see it first in the flight to the Ford of Bruinen followed by a respite in Rivendell, and now in the escape from Moria to Lórien. In both cases, the peace comes in the realm of the Elves. The Elves live in a world set apart and protected—a world out of the past, as Frodo notes during the stay in Lórien. Tolkien’s pattern of action followed by respite serves, in part, to propel the narrative along without inundating it with a series of frenzied battles or chases that go on without interruption. This pacing also mirrors the embattled, tumultuous state of Middle-earth. As Elrond says, Middle-earth is increasingly a place in which small pockets of goodness and safety are surrounded by a sea of darkness. To move from one to another of the islands is to move from safety to danger and back again.