A Conspiracy Unmasked

From Tolkien Gateway
This article is about the fifth chapter of the first book in The Fellowship of the Ring.. For the Soundtrack, see A Conspiracy Unmasked (soundtrack).
A Conspiracy Unmasked
Chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring
EventMerry and Pippin reveal that they knew Frodo's plot all along; they decide that they should go through the Old Forest.
Date25 September 3018
Preceded byA Short Cut to Mushrooms
Followed byThe Old Forest

A Conspiracy Unmasked is the fifth chapter of the first book in The Fellowship of the Ring.

In this chapter, the four Hobbits reach Crickhollow, where Frodo reveals his intention to continue out of The Shire on his own. His co-conspirators confess that they'd known all along; and that Merry and Pippin will be accompanying Frodo and Sam all the way to Rivendell, while Fatty Bolger remains behind to keep up appearances.


Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry board the Bucklebury Ferry and make their way across the river Brandywine.

While they cross, the narrator takes a moment to explain the history of Buckland: How Gorhendad Oldbuck settled there, changed his name to Brandybuck, built Brandy Hall, and sired a great family. Bucklanders are considered peculiar among other Hobbits, mostly for their love of boats; and they lock their doors at night (unusual elsewhere in the Shire) due to their proximity to the Old Forest.

The ferry reaches the eastern landing and the Hobbits disembark. Sam spots something moving on the western landing. The Hobbits observe a dark figure, behaving similarly to the Black Riders they'd encountered before, as it examines the landing and then slinks off into the darkness. When Frodo asks Merry whether horses can cross the river, Merry says he doesn't think so, but adds that the nearest solid crossing is the Brandywine Bridge, twenty miles away. Merry rides ahead towards Crickhollow to get Fatty Bolger and the house ready for second supper.

After a long walk from the ferry, the other three Hobbits reach Frodo's secluded new house at Crickhollow, where Fatty Bolger welcomes them in. Frodo congratulates Merry and Fatty for successfully arranging his furniture to resemble Bag End. Secretly, he dreads having to tell them that he plans to leave immediately, alone.

Merry has prepared baths for the weary travelers. Pippin sings The Bath Song as he washes himself. Merry and Fatty serve a late supper of Maggot's basket of mushrooms. We are told that Hobbits have a special appetite for mushrooms.

They're mine! Given to me by Mrs. Maggot, a queen among farmers' wives. Take your greedy hands away, and I'll serve them.

After dinner, Merry asks the others to explain the Black Riders to him. Frodo falls silent, so Pippin retells their entire adventure thus far. Pippin and Merry beseech Frodo to explain the rest of his plan, but then reveal that they already know he intends to continue out of The Shire on his own. Frodo is surprised, having previously thought he'd successfully convinced everyone that he's simply moving his home to Crickhollow.

Merry explains that he'd long suspected that Frodo would follow Bilbo sooner or later. He lists several obvious signs that Frodo was leaving The Shire for good. Merry reassures Frodo that only the present company has figured it out, and that his secret is safe with them.

The secret won't keep long, of course; but at present it is, I think, only known to us conspirators. After all, you must remember that we know you well, and are often with you. We can usually guess what you are thinking.

Frodo apologizes for his plans to leave the others behind, explaining that he is going into mortal danger. Merry responds by announcing that he and Pippin have already decided to come along, and would hear no arguments to the contrary.

You must go – and therefore we must, too. Merry and I are coming with you. Sam is an excellent fellow, and would jump down a dragon's throat to save you, if he did not trip over his own feet; but you will need more than one companion in your dangerous adventure.

Merry reveals that he has known about The One Ring for a very long time: A year before Bilbo's birthday party, he happened to spot Bilbo vanishing into thin air to avoid the Sackville-Bagginses. Once they'd gone, Merry observed Bilbo reappearing and putting something shiny into his pocket. The curious Merry continued spying on Bilbo, eventually learning his secret. Merry also managed to briefly read from Bilbo's secret book, There and Back Again. Due to the book's absence from Frodo's inheritance, Frodo and Merry conclude that Bilbo must've taken it with him when he left.

Finally, Merry reveals that the Hobbit conspirators received much of their information from Sam, who's told them everything he'd heard from Frodo's conversation with Gandalf. Therefore, all Hobbits present here at Crickhollow know of the Ring, of Sauron, and the rest of the story. Frodo is at first indignant about this conspiracy, but quickly realizes that his friends have conspired only for his protection.

You are a set of deceitful scoundrels! But bless you! I give in. I will take Gildor's advice. If the danger were not so dark, I should dance for joy. Even so, I cannot help feeling happy; happier than I have felt for a long time. I had dreaded this evening.

With this reassurance, spirits are lifted, and the Hobbits sing a version of Farewell We Call to Hearth and Hall! written by Merry and Pippin specifically for the occasion.

Frodo wants to leave Crickhollow as soon as possible. Merry reveals that he has already prepared six ponies, laden with gear and provisions. Merry estimates that the Black Riders would find it very difficult to enter Buckland at night, but would eventually find a way in during the next morning at the latest. Frodo considers waiting for Gandalf, but finally resolves to leave at dawn. With no better option available, he decides to venture into the Old Forest.

Fatty objects to this idea, but Merry posits that it must be safer than facing the Black Riders. Merry explains that the Brandybucks sometimes venture into the Old Forest, especially during daytime when the trees are calmer. In any case, Fatty's task is to stay behind, wearing some of Frodo's old clothes, pretending that Frodo still lives at Crickhollow. Staying behind would also allow him to deliver a message to Gandalf, should he appear.

That night, Frodo has trouble sleeping. When he finally falls asleep, he dreams that he is looking out a high window over a dark forest. He sees creatures crawling below, in the trees. Suddenly, he hears the sound of the sea in the distance, which he had never heard before. He finds himself on a barren heath, looking at a tall white tower on a ridge-line. He feels an urge to climb the tower to get a view of the sea, but when he tries to climb he suddenly sees a bright flash in the sky and hears a loud thunder.