Fellowship of the Ring
Frodo had been living amongst the inhabitants of the Shire for at least fifty years since he went off with the wizard Gandalf to retrieve a Dwarven homeland and rescue onto them, a treasure-hold of gold. He came back to the Shire possessed not just of gold but of reputation — here was one who had had actual contact with things others in the Shire could only count as imaginings, and been sufficiently up to the experience he hadn’t come back blemished. This prowess was useful for Bilbo, for it served as a protective ward over his quiet, comfortable living space: what other would ever dare venture upon his space other than timorously, when, after all, he could quickly transplant into any unforeseen entangling situation the Bilbo that kept wit and self-possession, with and before a dragon!
All magic, all charms, run out eventually — if this isn’t truth, it’s nevertheless how all the simple view those of prepossession built in part out of magic. And since something along these lines is what drew the dwarves to eventually decide to test the dragon Smaug’s might in the first place, Bilbo knew if he held out any further in his long splendid period of quietude in the Shire, he’d have hobbits… and others, much more dangerous others, testing his resolve to withstand overt attempts at capturing his wealth. He was going to have to make out soon for some place that’d welcome him, unknown to those in the Shire. He’d very soon have to make out for Rivendale. So he prepared for departure, and made one — in a manner that suited his impish desire to leave relatives befuddled and estranged, and his egoistic desire to presume some scatter into his departure. He thought to take all his magical possessions along with him, but his visiting friend, Gandalf, forewarned him that the Ring was no longer part of his story, but now of something quite dark and terrible, and thus the proper adornment of someone whose life would be rather other than the fulfilling one he had lived.
His home he left to his nephew Frodo. Frodo wasn’t to have time luxuriating in it, for the Ring left to him was being sought by a vile god who’d incinerate whomever was withholding the Ring from him, and who’d begun to key in on his existence. Not that he was intent on doing so anyway, staying that is: since it was not going to be for him to be able to cow the locals with his stature, he was going to have to deal with them as they were normally — namely, unmasked, bumbling sordidness.
He left along with three friends, Sam, Merry and Pippin. All three thought they were not just escaping attack but adventuring into the beyond, like Bilbo before them. Indeed, as if young captains steering a ship into a landscape unknown but not outside their conquest, they made clear their dismissive attitudes, their haughtiness, towards where they’d just previously come from and the new territories into which they were passing. But not much past their dissing of the Shire, brutally dangerous Black Riders were upon them. And not much passed rebutting the majesty of the old forest, the forest had them entangled and helpless. Lesson learned: if holding the Ring was dangerous, it paled in its danger-attracting prowess compared to any act of arrogance on their part. Better to put on the Ring than carry “attitude,” any day.
They made their way to the trading town of Bree. Here they met the “ruffian” Aragorn, who taught them more than anything else that freedom is always with never declaring yourself. For once you’ve done so — as he eventually will in admitting himself the King returned — what you once had as far as an independent will will be lost in subscribing to role.
They all venture to the elven’ realm Rivendale. They once again meet Bilbo, who in a sense went “out from the frying pan into the fire” in seeking escape there, because he escaped the tedious for the effortlessly frustrating — for those who are in every way embarrassingly more adept in everything they do than he is. A council is held where a decision must be made as to what to do with the Ring, and whom will be its next bearer. A number of possibilities are considered — not all of them overtly dubious. It could be hidden, for example, deep into a sea — something that might delay the dark lord multiple ages from acquiring it, which would buy time, great loads of time — for a miracle, if nothing else. But the problem is that the Ring wants to be found, and has a way of being found. So given this, it seems best to actually do it now, even if it seems unwise in that it offers a balm of immediate action for those who’d feel the outside world as threatening even if it weren’t in fact threatening any kind of attack at all: it’s an action built also to appeal to the paranoid.
No attempt is made to clear those judging of preconceptions — namely, that since the last two wearers were hobbits, and since it’s just been in the care of Frodo, that he is already the de facto choice unless a highly convincing argument is given otherwise. Strangely, they all pretend the choice is fully open, and also that it is a genuine surprise when Frodo declares his intention to further bear the weight of the Ring. Not much of a plan of action is given them. They are to get to Mordor and destroy it, but otherwise, all decisions are open. The only reprimand they serve under is to always choose the most unlikely of paths, as every one accounted ideal would surely be under watch. No discussion is made of a return. No discussion of how a return trip would be provisioned. They spend a lot of time in Rivendale. Enough to become familiar with every bit of Middle-earth’s geography, if such was their interest. But very little on explorations that would indicate that trip could be something other than a suicide mission.
They come to a point where the party is not in agreement as to where to go, which path to take. The Ring-bearer is beholden to Gandalf, however, and there’s a sense that this would have determined their course even if wolves hadn’t arrived to seemingly channel them down Gandalf’s preferred choice — the Mines of Moria.
Gandalf dies but everyone else makes it closer to the midway pit-stop where another batch of elves rule. Each of the Fellowship is tested and each receives spectacular gifts, and it feels as if each of them has been through some kind of river initiation that’ll proof them against most else the evil wilds of Middle-earth would present them with.
Boromir finds Frodo alone and tries to take the Ring. Frodo senses that the elves — or the elf queen, Galadriel, in particular — in individually testing them, served to loosen somehow the affiliation they had as a united Fellowship, and it seems possible now to set off on their own without it amounting to a break in something sacred. After escaping Boromir, Frodo in fact does so.
They’re all lost for a moment, though, in the one point in the whole of Lord of the Rings where chaos, amongst friends, reigns. But it’s a tease of a total disintegration only, for their friendship is real and their thoughts gravitate toward one another readily, and they bring themselves quickly to order.