‘The Fellowship of the Ring‘ begins with a cheerful and carefree tone as it lays out the world of the Hobbits which surround the main protagonist Frodo. As the book progresses and Frodo leaves the Shire on his way to Rivendell and then after that on his way to Mordor with the Fellowship, it gets increasingly grave and gritty. Innocence is quickly shorn, and the once naive Hobbit is soon shown the face of evil, and now carries a great burden. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring‘ lays out the ultimate struggle between good and evil, and the fight to preserve innocence from the powerful who seek to despoil it.
‘The Fellowship of the Ring‘ Themes
Frodo, an embodiment of purity and childlike wonder, begins his adventure with an untainted spirit, untouched by the corrupting forces of the world. His innocence was a beacon of hope, a reminder of the goodness that exists in the world despite the reawakening of the forces of evil. Throughout his quest, Frodo encountered countless trials that tested his innocence, forcing him to confront the harsh realities of Middle-earth. Despite these temptations and perils that surrounded him, Frodo held to his innocence, refusing to succumb to the malevolence of the Ring. His unwavering belief in the inherent goodness of others, his compassion, and his ability to see beauty in the simplest of things reinforce the power and significance of innocence.
The contrast between Frodo’s innocence and the fallen nature of others, such as Boromir or Gollum, further emphasizes the theme. Frodo’s companions, especially Samwise Gamgee, became guardians of his innocence, protecting him from the corrupting influence of the Ring and providing a steadfast moral compass. Frodo’s untainted innocence acts as a reminder that in a world consumed by evil and darkness, innocence is not a weakness but a source of great strength. It became a symbol of hope, a testament to the power of goodness and the enduring light that can guide us through the darkest of times.
Good vs Evil
The embodiment of evil in the story lies within the Dark Lord Sauron, whose malevolent influence is felt throughout Middle-earth. Sauron’s desire for power and dominion fuels his relentless pursuit of the One Ring, the ultimate symbol of his malevolence. This quest for the Ring pits the forces of good against the forces of evil, as various individuals and races align themselves in opposition to Sauron’s tyranny. The Fellowship itself is a representation of the collective efforts to combat evil. Comprising representatives from different races, including Hobbits, Men, Elves, and Dwarves, the Fellowship unites to destroy the Ring and defeat Sauron. Each member brings unique strengths, skills, and virtues, forming a formidable alliance against the encroaching darkness.
The theme of good versus evil is further explored through the characters’ moral choices and personal struggles. Frodo Baggins, the Ring-bearer, faces tremendous challenges as he resists the temptations of the Ring and battles against its corrupting influence. His unwavering determination and selflessness exemplify the power of goodness and the potential for even the most humble individuals to make a difference. Throughout the story, Tolkien emphasizes that the struggle between good and evil is not merely a clash of physical might, but also a battle for the hearts and minds of individuals. Characters such as Boromir illustrate the vulnerability of succumbing to the allure of power, while others like Aragorn and Gandalf exemplify the unwavering commitment to righteousness and the greater good.
The Inevitability of Decline
This theme is exemplified in the fading glory of the Elves. The Middle-earth of The Lord of the Rings is a world on the cusp of a transformation. After the events the novel describes, the age of the Elves passed, and the age of Men began. A large portion of the story eulogizes this passing age of the Elves. Once the dominant and majestic race, they now face the encroaching darkness and the passing of their time. The Elves’ dwindling numbers and diminishing power symbolize the fading of an era, reminding readers of the transience of greatness. The Elves and their realms have a beauty and grace unmatched by anything else in Middle-earth. Though the Elves themselves are immortal, as Galadriel tells us, the destruction of Sauron’s One Ring weakened the Three Elven Rings, forcing the Elves to leave Middle-earth and fade away. This later world will be a world without Sauron, but also a world without Lothlórien.
Additionally, the decline of Gondor, once a powerful kingdom, serves as another example. The city of Minas Tirith stands as a testament to its former glory, but it is now a shadow of its former self, plagued by corruption, decay, and relentless pressure from Sauron’s forces. J.R.R. Tolkien uses the character of Aragorn, the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor, to represent the hope and potential for renewal in the face of decline. Aragorn’s quest for kingship and his commitment to restoring Gondor’s greatness offers a glimmer of optimism amidst the inevitability of decline.
Analysis of Key Moments in The Fellowship of the Ring
- Bilbo throws a huge party to mark his eleventy-first (111th) birthday. He plans to depart from the Shire in style, so he puts on the One Ring and vanishes.
- Bilbo passes the Ring to Frodo, and Frodo accepts the burden. Gandalf suspects that it was the One Ring.
- Frodo departs from the Shire with Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
- Encounter with the Nazgûl (Ringwraiths) and their pursuit of the Ring. They run into the High Elf Gildor Inglorion and his company of High Elves, whose presence and music chase off a Ringwraith.
- Meeting Strider (Aragorn) in Bree and his aid in guiding the hobbits. They take refuge at Weathertop, where the Witch King of Angmar stabs Frodo with a Morgul Blade.
- The flight from the Nazgûl at the Ford of Bruinen, aided by the Elf-lord Glorfindel, who calls up the river to wash them away.
- The formation of the Fellowship of the Ring at the Council of Elrond. The Fellowship includes Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gandalf, Gimli, Aragorn, Boromir, and Legolas.
- The Fellowship comes to the pass of Caradhras, but a snowstorm blocks their path. A decision is made to take the perilous path through the Mines of Moria.
- Pippin unwittingly alerts the goblins of Moria of their presence. A balrog, Durin’s Bane, emerges and battles Gandalf. Gandalf falls into a chasm and is presumed dead.
- The rest of the fellowship arrive at Lothlórien and are greeted by Galadriel and Celeborn. They witness the dirge sung by the Elves to mourn the passing of Gandalf.
- Frodo is shown the Mirror of Galadriel, which sees the past, present, and many things that have not yet come to pass. In the Mirror, he sees the possible results of his failure.
- Frodo decides that he needs to leave the Fellowship and continue the journey to Mount Doom alone, but mourns the loss of his friends.
- The Fellowship departs from Lothlórien and is given many gifts by Galadriel and Celeborn.
- The Ring tempts Boromir, and he attacks Frodo, who flees. Uruk Hai is sent by Saruman attack, and Boromir fights valiantly but is slain. The Fellowship is broken.
- Merry and Pippin are captured by the Uruk-hai.
- Frodo and Sam set off to continue the journey to Mordor alone.
Writing Style and Tone
The writing style of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ often varies based on the race of the speaker or where the scenes were set. Passages relating to Elves and Dwarves are often written in the archaic style, while those pertaining to Hobbits were written in a simple, modern style. The tone often goes from a lighthearted narrative to grave seriousness.
Can Galadriel predict the future?
No, Galadriel cannot predict the future. However, she was a far-seeing and wise High Elf and intuitively knows what is necessary for favorable outcomes. Through her Mirror, she can also see possible future events.
Why were Pippin and Merry taken by the Uruk-hai?
Saruman had ordered his Uruk-hai to attack the Fellowship and retrieve the “halfling” who was important to Sauron. Upon seeing the Hobbits, the Uruk-hai mistook them for Frodo and took them.
Why did Galadriel invite Frodo to look in the Mirror?
Galadriel meant to show Frodo all that was at stake and to make him realize how important his quest was to the fate of Middle-earth. She also wanted him to realize that he must make hard decisions to succeed.
What led to the decline of Gondor?
Different events occurring at different times ultimately led to the decline of the once-powerful realm. The first of these events was the Fall of Numenor itself. It led to the slow decline of the Numenoreans in power and lifespan. Another event was the Kin-strife which saw civil war descend on the realm of Gondor. Sauron’s forces also constantly attacked Gondor and depleted its power and population.