The Shadow of the Past
|The Fellowship of the Ring chapters|
The Shadow of the Past is the second chapter of the first book in The Fellowship of the Ring.
The disappearance of Bilbo Baggins is the subject of many conversations in Hobbiton. The general opinion is that Bilbo has finally gone mad and run off. Some think that he is dead, and there is even a rumour that he has been murdered by Frodo and Gandalf for his legendary gold (earned in the course of events in The Hobbit). Despite this things eventually settle down and Frodo continues to throw Bilbo's Birthday Party year after year. Like Bilbo, Frodo shows what others call signs of "good preservation". He continues to live at Bag End and spends most of his time with his cousins Merry and Pippin. By the time he turns fifty, he has begun to grow restless, and even in the sleepiest backwater of the the Shire there are rumors of trouble in distant lands.
About this time the wizard Gandalf reappears. He tells Frodo that he is in danger because of Bilbo's ring. Gandalf explains that the ring was forged in the volcano of Mount Doom (or Orodruin) by the evil Sauron who wants to rule the world. After being lost for 2,500 years the ring was found by Dégol in a nearby river and he was suddenly murdered by Gollum; the ring was then stolen from Dégol by Gollum, a Hobbit-like person who kept it in his lair under the Misty Mountains for 500 years, until Bilbo stumbled across the ring (which deliberately abandoned Gollum, trying to return to its master, Sauron) while Bilbo was traveling with Thorin and Company on the quest to the Lonely Mountain. Now Sauron has found out from Gollum that the ring is in the hands of a Hobbit, and Sauron's minions may already by searching for the Shire. (Bilbo had the ring an additional 60 years, before leaving it to Frodo, with much more than a little nudge from Gandalf.)
Gandalf explains that the bearer of the ring ages increbibly slowly; for this reason Bilbo lived such a long life and Frodo himself has not shown signs of aging since he got the ring. Also, the ring exerts a mental hold over its wearer. It is because of this that neither Gollum nor Bilbo wanted to part with the ring, although Bilbo was able to eventually do so with Gandalf's help.
Gandalf tells Frodo that if Sauron gains the ring he will be all-powerful. When Frodo hears this, he is shocked and doesn't want anything to do with the ring. Gandalf tells Frodo that it is not a simple matter of wanting or not wanting the ring; the ring chose him (Frodo). Gandalf tells Frodo that the ring must be destroyed, and the only way this can be done is by throwing the ring back in the Crack of Doom in the depths of Orodruin.
Frodo decides to leave the Shire in order to protect the other inhabitants, Gandalf suggests that he makes for Rivendell. Just then Gandalf catches Samwise Gamgee, the gardener, eavesdropping on their conversation. Much to Sam's delight his 'punishment' is to accompany Frodo on his quest.