The Council of Elrond

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The name The Council of Elrond refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see The Council of Elrond (disambiguation).
The Council of Elrond
Chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring
Information
Number14
Synopsis
EventThe Council of Elrond is held; Frodo volunteers to take the Ring to Mordor.
Date25 October 3018
LocationRivendell
PerspectiveFrodo Baggins
Navigation
Preceded byMany Meetings
Followed byThe Ring Goes South

The Council of Elrond is the second chapter of the second book in The Fellowship of the Ring.

In this chapter, the visitors to Rivendell assemble to discuss the matter of the One Ring. Each, in turn, tells news of their lands, recent events, and the reasons that had brought them to Rivendell. Finally Frodo reveals the One Ring and its accompanying doom. Gandalf describes the capture of Gollum, and his own imprisonment at Orthanc. A decision is made to take the One Ring to Mordor, where it must be destroyed. Frodo volunteers to carry the Ring there, and when Sam objects to him going alone, he is drafted to accompany Frodo on his task.

Summary

The next morning, Frodo and Sam take a walk in Rivendell and run into Gandalf and Bilbo. Frodo wants to explore the wilderness around the town, but Gandalf says it will have to wait until after the great council, which is about to commence. At that moment, a bell rings out to summon all to the meeting. Sam follows the others even though he was not invited.

The council takes place on the same porch where Frodo had reunited with Merry and Pippin the previous evening. Among the many attendants, Frodo spots Elrond, Glorfindel and Glóin, as well as Strider wearing his worn travel clothes again. Gandalf introduces Frodo to the attendants:

Here, my friends, is the hobbit, Frodo son of Drogo. Few have ever come hither through greater peril or on an errand more urgent.

Gandalf points out several important figures to Frodo: Glóin's son, Gimli; Erestor, Elrond's chief counselor; Galdor, a messenger from Cirdan the Shipwright of the Grey Havens; and Legolas, son of Thranduil, King of the Elves of Mirkwood. Frodo also notes a Man sitting apart from the others, wearing rich but travel-worn clothes, and holding a great horn. Gandalf says the man's name is Boromir, and that he had arrived that morning from the south, seeking counsel.

Many tales are told about the goings-on in the greater world to the south and east. Frodo had already heard some of this information before, but pays close attention when Glóin begins to speak. Glóin explains that the Dwarves of Erebor had grown disquiet, and some decided to attempt to reconquer Moria under the Misty Mountains.

Moria! Moria! Wonder of the Northern world! Too deep we delved there, and woke the nameless fear. Long have its vast mansions lain empty since the children of Durin fled. But now we spoke of it again with longing, and yet with dread; for no dwarf has dared to pass the doors of Khazad-dûm for many lives of kings, save Thrór only, and he perished.

Glóin explains that thirty years prior, against King Dáin's wishes, Balin took Ori and Óin together with a multitude of other Dwarves on a quest to retake the city. While news at first indicated that they had been successful and prosperous, the messages soon ceased.

According to Glóin, one year ago a messenger from Mordor arrived at Erebor. The messenger wanted to forge a friendship between Sauron and the Dwarves. He began asking questions about creatures called Hobbits - what they were and where they lived - and indicated that Sauron knows that the Dwarves have met one.

As a small token only of your friendship Sauron asks this: that you should find this thief, and get from him, willing or no, a little ring, the least of rings, that once he stole. It is but a trifle that Sauron fancies, and an earnest of your good will.

In return for this information, the messenger promised Dáin three of the lost Dwarf-rings, as well as a guarantee that Moria shall belong to the Dwarves forever. Dáin became very suspicious of this, and refused to give an answer immediately. The messenger gave a veiled threat and rode away. That messenger visited twice more and received the same answer, and then promised to come one final time before the end of the year. The Dwarves have since learned that similar messengers had also been sent to King Brand of Dale.

The Dwarves and Men of the North now fear that Mordor is about to attack them. Dáin has sent Glóin to Rivendell to warn Bilbo that the Enemy might come for him, and to ask for Elrond's counsel on this matter. Elrond commends Dáin on his decision, but says that the Dwarves have no choice but to resist, with or without hope. He reassures them that they are not alone: the trouble belongs to all of the western world.

Elrond begins to explain the ancient history of The One Ring in full. First, he tells of how the Rings of Power were forged during the Second Age - a tale which we are told was only known in full to few of the listeners. According to Elrond, the Elves of Eregion and Dwarves of Moria were once friends; but the Elves' eagerness for knowledge made them susceptible to Sauron's charms, who at the time did not appear in his evil form. The Dark Lord learned their arts and crafted the One Ring in secret at Orodruin to control the others. Only Celebrimbor suspected him, and hid the Three Rings that he had created without Sauron's aid. A war ensued, during which the land of Eregion was destroyed and the gate of Moria was shut.

Throughout the rest of the morning, Elrond continues the story of the One Ring during the Second Age. He speaks of the fall of Númenor and the arrival of Men of the West in Middle-earth. He tells of Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anárion, who founded the northern kingdom of Arnor and southern kingdom of Gondor. Sauron assaulted their kingdoms, and the Last Alliance was forged between Elendil and Gil-Galad to defeat him.

Elrond says he remembers those days clearly. Frodo asks how this is possible, as it happened so long ago. Elrond briefly explains his lineage - descending from Eärendil and Elwing - saying that he has lived through all Three Ages of the world.

He goes on to describe the Battle of Dagorlad, at which he was present: the armies of the Last Alliance stood before the Black Gate of Mordor, and could not be stopped by the evil forces. He tells of the Siege of Barad-dûr that followed, where Gil-Galad and Elendil were killed. Isildur picked up his father's broken sword, Narsil, and with it cut the Ring from Sauron's hand, destroying the Dark Lord and taking the Ring for himself.

At this, Boromir suddenly interjects, surprised to hear that Isildur took the Ring; the story had been forgotten to his people, who thought that the Ring had been destroyed that day. Elrond says that he witnessed the event personally: together with Cirdan he tried to convince Isildur to destroy the Ring, then and there; however Isildur refused, claiming the Ring as compensation for his father's and brother's deaths. Elrond then speaks of Isildur's ambush by Orcs at the Gladden Fields, where he lost the Ring. He notes that Isildur's squire, Ohtar, survived the ambush and brought the broken shards of Narsil back to Rivendell, where Isildur's heir Valandil lived under supervision, as he was only a child at the time.

Elrond concludes the story, saying that because the Ring was not destroyed, Sauron was not wholly destroyed either. He explains that Elves and Men have grown estranged since, and that the race of Númenor has decayed: now men live shorter lives, and the Elves are decreasing in numbers. The city of Annúminas fell into ruin, and the heirs of Valandil moved to Fornost, which was eventually destroyed by the forces of Angmar.

Elrond now describes the annals of the realm of Gondor to the south, which still endures. Its capital once resided in Osgiliath, astride both sides of the Great River. The Men of Gondor built Minas Ithil, a tower on the western slopes of the Mountains of Shadow, to guard against the evil creatures of Mordor. They then built the corresponding tower of Minas Anor on the eastern end of the White Mountains. At the top of Minas Anor was planted a white tree, descended from a tree that once grew in the Uttermost West in the early days of the world. Eventually, the line of kings Anárion and Meneldil failed, Númenorean blood mingled with that of "lesser men", and the tree withered. The men of Gondor failed in their vigil against Mordor, resulting in foul creatures conquering Minas Ithil (now renamed Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery). Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith (the Tower of Guard), Osgiliath was evacuated of its population, and Gondor and Mordor have been at war with each other ever since.

As Elrond finishes speaking, Boromir rises and reveals that Gondor is his homeland. He proceeds to inform the others of its current state. He claims that the blood of Númenor has not yet been spent, and that only by the valor of his countrymen in their constant battle against Morgul are the lands beyond Gondor kept safe and peaceful. He warns that Gondor's day of defeat may not be far off, as evil has awoken in Mordor once more. In June earlier this year, the Forces of Mordor invaded and conquered Ithilien - Gondor's land to the east of the Anduin. Boromir claims that Mordor is now allied with the Easterlings and Haradrim, and that there is some great power strengthening their armies - a great black horseman whose mere presence inflicts fear on the bravest of men. The Gondorians have since scuttled the bridge connecting both sides of Osgiliath, cutting themselves off from Ithilien but also preventing the enemy from crossing the Anduin there. Boromir and his brother were present at the battle, and made it back across the river with only two soldiers remaining. Boromir fears that Gondor has no other ally now, except Rohan to its west.

Boromir now explains his arrival at Rivendell, saying that he has come to seek Elrond's counsel regarding a dream that he and his brother have experienced. In this dream, shadows and thunder came from the east, but in the west was still a pale light; then he heard a voice crying from the west:

Seek for the Sword that was broken;
   In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
   Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
   That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken
   And the Halfling forth shall stand.

Boromir and his brother went to their father, Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith, and consulted with him about this dream. Denethor recognized the name "Imladris" as the home of Elrond, far away to the north. Boromir's brother volunteered to go seek it, but Boromir realized the dangerous nature of the journey and took the quest upon himself instead, despite his father's objections.

At this, Aragorn stands up and places his broken sword on the table, identifying it as the sword mentioned in Boromir's dream. Elrond introduces Aragorn to Boromir and the others as a direct descendant of Isildur himself. Frodo immediately exclaims that the Ring should be given to Aragorn, but Aragorn rejects ownership of it. Elrond instead bids Frodo hold up the Ring for all to see.

Fighting a strong reluctance to reveal the Ring, Frodo eventually does so. Elrond introduces the Ring to the others as "Isildur's Bane" - Sauron's Ruling Ring. Boromir is immediately dismayed, believing that it signals doom for his homeland. Aragorn asks Boromir whether he wishes for the House of Elendil to return to Gondor. Boromir doesn't give a clear answer; he seems desperate, but doubtful.

I was not sent to beg any boon, but to seek only the meaning of a riddle. Yet we are hard pressed, and the Sword of Elendil would be a help beyond our hope - if such a thing could indeed return out of the shadows of the past.

Bilbo leaps up and recites the Riddle of Strider aloud, which concludes with the line "The crownless again shall be king." As he sits back down, he reveals to Frodo that it was he who had written that song after first meeting Aragorn.

Aragorn explains a little of his own background to Boromir, saying that Narsil has been passed down diligently from Valandil to each of his successive heirs, ending up with Aragorn. He forgives Boromir for doubting him, admitting that he seems nothing like Isildur or the kings of old, but claims to have made many journeys and fought many servants of the Enemy; just like Gondor in the South, the Dúnedain have been protecting the lands in the north. He tells Boromir that the Dúnedain's job has been even more thankless than Gondor's, as they are given scornful names by the very people they protect, and their work must always be kept secret from the simple folk.

Aragorn concludes by announcing that he will come to Minas Tirith to aid in the coming battle. Boromir expresses doubts about the Ring's identity, asking many questions about it and the story of its recovery. Bilbo asks to adjourn for refreshments before that story is told, but Elrond asks him to tell his story first. Before Bilbo begins his tale, he apologizes if any of those present (particularly Glóin) have heard him tell it differently before; he was simply hoping to keep the Ring for himself and avoid being called a "thief".

Bilbo recounts his encounter with Gollum in full, and is cut short by Elrond before he can describe his entire journey to Erebor. Elrond then asks Frodo to recount his own experience with the Ring since the day he received it. The other council-members ask many questions as he does so, until all details are recounted and considered. Bilbo remarks to Frodo that they should some day discuss the story in private so that Bilbo could write it down in a book.

Frodo is curious about Gandalf's absence during his journey from The Shire to Rivendell. Galdor joins Frodo in this inquiry, also asking to know why the Wise are so sure about the Ring's identity, given the long span of time that had passed between its loss and supposed reappearance. He asks about Saruman's absence from the present council, wondering about the White Wizard's opinion on the matter at hand. Elrond calls on Gandalf as the last speaker, to answer these questions.

Gandalf first points out that there is only one ring left that Sauron might still be looking for, given that all of the others are either destroyed, in safe keeping, or in the hands of the Nazgûl. He also points out that Bilbo found his ring in the same year that Sauron (posing as the "Necromancer") was defeated at his fortress in Dol Guldur - a suspicious coincidence. Gandalf then reveals that Saruman had rejected the idea that the Ring would ever be found again - claiming it had rolled into the sea by now - and attempted to dissuade the other members of the White Council from taking any open actions against Sauron. This, Gandalf says, gave Sauron the chance to anticipate their actions and withdraw safely from Dol Guldur to Mordor, where he had already been at work building his strength. Saruman claimed that Sauron's belief that the Ring could still be found was an advantage for the White Council, as Sauron would waste effort trying to find it.

Lulled into inaction by Saruman's words, Gandalf set aside his worries about Bilbo's newfound ring; but doubt kept growing in him. Expecting Gollum to come out of his cave to seek the Ring, Gandalf did spot the creature; but when Gollum evaded him he decided to let the matter go, and did not discuss it with anyone for fear of stirring up needless trouble. However when various spies began congregating around The Shire after Bilbo's birthday party, Gandalf consulted Aragorn, who convinced him to act on his suspicions and go hunting for Gollum together.

Gandalf and Aragorn found traces of Gollum near Mordor, but could not find the creature himself. Then Gandalf was reminded of Saruman's description of the One Ring:

The Nine, the Seven, and the Three had each their proper gem. Not so the One. It was round and unadorned, as it were one of the lesser rings; but its maker set marks upon it that the skilled, maybe, could still see and read.

Not knowing what those marks might be, Gandalf figured that the only way this information could've reached Saruman was through some account by Isildur - the only person other than Sauron ever known to have definitely held the One Ring. Gandalf therefore set out to Gondor, to study their scrolls and archives. Denethor received him coldly, but allowed him to study the texts nevertheless.

Gandalf reveals that he had found a scroll written by Isildur himself after acquiring the Ring. Boromir confirms that it is common knowledge in Gondor that Isildur returned to Minas Tirith first, and lived with Meneldil for a while before setting off north - at which time he could have written such an account. Gandalf recites from the scroll, where Isildur specifically stated that he was taking the Ring to the northern kingdom and wanted to leave an account of it in Gondor, so that future generations would not forget.

According to the Scroll of Isildur, the Ring had at first scorched Isildur's hand, but quickly cooled and shrank. Before it did, Isildur noted words inscribed into the Ring, which slowly faded over time. He could not read the inscription, which was written in the dark tongue of Mordor using Elvish script, but managed to copy it down before it disappeared. He surmised, correctly, that the script might re-appear if the Ring was ever reintroduced to a source of heat resembling Sauron's burning hand; but Isildur could not bring himself to do so, as the Ring was too valuable to him as an heirloom.

Upon learning this, Gandalf immediately left Minas Tirith heading north. On his way, he received messages from Lothlórien that Aragorn had managed to capture Gollum. This prompts Aragorn to tell his account of the hunt for Gollum. He had made it to the Black Gate and the Morgul Vale, but could not find Gollum. He despaired and turned homewards, but then found the creature's tracks by chance and followed it into the Dead Marshes, where he finally caught Gollum peering into the water. Gollum bit Aragorn, but would tell him nothing. Gollum was then bound and gagged, and made to walk all the way back to Mirkwood, where he was handed off to the Wood Elves for imprisonment. Gandalf soon arrived, and interrogated the creature at length.

Gandalf confirms that Gollums's story matches the one told by Bilbo just moments earlier. Furthermore, Gollum's interrogation revealed that he had found the ring in the Great River, and had kept it for hundreds of years - far longer than the lifespan of his race. Gandalf notes that only the Great Rings have the power to extend life to such magnitude. Gandalf hopes that this information would put Galdor's doubts to rest regarding the identity of the Ring. Nevertheless, he recounts the text that Isildur had copied down from the ring, and announces that he had performed the test of fire upon it and confirmed the appearance of the same words. Gandalf then recites the part of the Ring Verse that appeared, causing a shadow to briefly pass over Rivendell and forcing some of the Elves to stop their ears.

Finally, Gandalf reveals that Gollum had made it to Mordor, was captured and tortured there, and revealed all that he knew to Sauron. He surmises that Sauron has already figured out that the Ring is now in Rivendell. Boromir asks what punishment was inflicted on Gollum. Gandalf says that Gollum had already suffered enough on account of the Ring and the torture in Mordor, and so was left as a prisoner in Mirkwood. He notes that Gollum was capable of much greater feats than his emaciated form might suggest on account of his burning desire for the Ring, and suspects that Gollum was released from Mordor's clutches in order to perform some unknown, nefarious task.

Legolas now joins the conversation for the first time, with alarming news: He was sent to Rivendell from Mirkwood to report that Gollum had escaped their prison. He says that, having learned of Gollum's sad story and heeded Gandalf's hopes that he might still be cured of his condition, the Elves took pity on the creature and moved him out of the dungeons. Glóin grumbles that he and Thorin's Company did not receive such tender mercy during their stay in the Elves' dungeon, forcing Gandalf to interject in order to prevent a quarrel about past grievances.

Legolas continues, describing Gollum's escape. He was taken out for a walk in the forest, and allowed to climb a tall tree he was fond of; however that day he refused to come down for many hours. The Elves stood guard at the bottom of the tree, but at night were suddenly attacked by a large group of Orcs from the mountains. When the Orcs were finally driven off, Gollum's guards were found slain, and he was gone. The Elves surmised that Gollum was somehow aware that the attack was going to occur that day, perhaps through one of Sauron's spies.

According to Legolas, the Elves began searching for Gollum immediately, and found his tracks among those of a large group of Orcs. Unfortunately, the tracks soon disappeared in the vicinity of Dol Guldur, and the Elves were reluctant to keep searching in that direction. He explains that Mirkwood has once again become full of the evil creatures that had previously been driven out after the Attack on Dol Guldur. Gandalf expresses frustration, but says that Gollum will now play whatever part was destined to him - hopefully one that Sauron has not foreseen.

Finally, Gandalf comes to the story of his own disappearance. In June he had left Hobbiton for the southern edge of The Shire, where he received news of Mordor's invasion of Ithilien. Hurrying east to Bree, he ran into Radagast the Brown, a fellow Wizard, who had been seeking him. Radagast reported to Gandalf that Nazgûl had been sighted crossing the Great River in secret, on their way westwards, disguised as riders in black. According to Radagast, the Nazgûl had been asking anyone they came across about a land called "Shire". Radagast added that Saruman had sent him on this errand, offering to help if Gandalf wished it. Gandalf hoped that Saruman, who was wise in the ways of the Enemy, had found some weapon to help drive the Nazgûl away. Before Radagast could ride off, Gandalf asked him to have beasts and birds collect information and deliver it directly to Orthanc.

Gandalf stayed that night in Bree, where he decided to ride to Isengard instead of back to the Shire. He wrote a message to Frodo and left it with his friend Barliman Butterbur at the Prancing Pony. He then rode south along the Misty Mountains to the Gap of Rohan. Gandalf continues to describe Isengard as a circle of sheer rock enclosing a valley at the southern edge of the Misty Mountains, with a lone tower at its center. As he rode through the heavily-defended gate in the rocky wall, he felt an unexplained trepidation. Reaching the tower, he was greeted by Saruman and let inside. He notes that Saruman was wearing a ring on his finger.

Gandalf asked Saruman for aid, but received only condescention in return. Saruman facetiously wondered what brought Gandalf out of The Shire, indicating that he knew Gandalf was keeping some very important secret from him. When Gandalf reported what he had heard from Radagast, Saruman insulted Radagast and revealed that he was only sent to lure Gandalf to Orthanc. Gandalf then noticed that Saruman was wearing a robe of many colors.

Saruman offered Gandalf a choice. Claiming that the time of the Elves was over, and that the time of Men was beginning, Saruman suggested that the Wizards should be the ones to rule in this new age. For this, he said, they needed to align themselves with the rising power of Middle Earth.

A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it.

Saruman then revealed that he had already figured out that Gandalf had been protecting the One Ring in The Shire. He pressed Gandalf to reveal its whereabouts. Gandalf refused to reveal anything, realizing that Saruman and Sauron were now simply two sides of the same coin.

Gandalf was taken to the Pinnacle of Orthanc, where he saw that the once-green valley of Isengard was now filled with pits and forges. Saruman has been mustering an army of Orcs and Wolves, which Gandalf surmised would be used in rivalry to Sauron rather than at his service. He could not escape the tower, and was forced to spend his days in the cold and the smoke billowing from below. Frodo exclaims that he had seen this event in one of his dreams during his journey.

Gandalf's salvation came thanks to the uncorruptible Radagast, who had fortunately merely played the part of an unwitting pawn in Saruman's plans. Radagast did as Gandalf asked, riding east to seek allies. Eventually, he found the Great Eagles, who began to scout the lands around the Misty Mountains and learned of the coming of the Nazgûl and of Gollum's escape from Mirkwood. Gwaihir, fastest of the Great Eagles, came to Isengard to deliver this news, only to find Gandalf at the top of the tower and bear him away from there before Saruman could intervene.

Gwaihir could not take Gandalf very far, so Gandalf decided to be taken to nearby Rohan where he could acquire a fast horse for the journey back north. Gwaihir assured him that while Rohan had been sending horses as tribute to Mordor, they had not yet allied with the Dark Lord. At Edoras, Gandalf discovered that Saruman's lies had already taken hold, and he was received very coldly. The king ordered him to take a horse and be gone, so Gandalf chose the best steed in the land and rode off.

Aragorn laments this state of affairs in the land of Rohan, but Boromir stands up in their defense, claiming that the Rohirrim are honorable men and would never give away their beloved horses as tribute. Gandalf agrees, adding that the horse he had chosen is indeed one of their most precious horses: Shadowfax, born in the early days of the world; a horse too fast even for Nazgûl horses to catch, never before ridden by any man. He says that Shadowfax bore him from Rohan all the way to The Shire in the time it took Frodo to reach the Barrow-downs. Nevertheless, Gandalf could not catch up with the Nazgûl, who were already well ahead of him.

Gandalf reached Hobbiton and had words with Gaffer Gamgee, discovering that Frodo had already left less than a week earlier, and that Black Riders had come looking for him the same night. Gandalf rode on to Buckland and found it in uproar after the Nazgûl attack on Crickhollow. At the house, he found Frodo's cape (left there by Fatty Bolger) and thought the worst had happened. He tracked two Nazgûl to Bree, where he met with Barliman Butterbur. The innkeeper broke down immediately, apologizing for letting the Hobbits continue on with Strider, not realizing that Gandalf had hoped this would happen. Overjoyed at the knowledge that the Hobbits were not captured and were now with Aragorn, Gandalf rested a night at the Prancing Pony. That night, five Black Riders stormed right through Bree, heading east. He surmises that the Black Riders had made a tactical error in splitting their forces to attack Hobbiton and Buckland, leaving the way open to the east for a short time, accidentally letting the Hobbits and Strider through.

Gandalf rode after the Nazgûl in the morning, and intercepted them at Weathertop. The Nazgûl waited for nightfall, and finally attacked. The battle raged through the night, and at sunrise Gandalf escaped to the north, drawing four of the riders away for a while, though they eventually gave up and turned back. Unable to do anything more to help, Gandalf navigated his way across country to Rivendell, and eventually released Shadowfax partway there. He says that he had become good friends with the horse, and that Shadowfax would return to his aid, if he ever called. He finally reached Rivendell only three days before Frodo.

Now that all storied have finally been told, Elrond expresses his dismay at the fall of Saruman, who had been their trusted counsel. However he also expresses great marvel at the resilience of the Hobbits during their journey, and has found Frodo's story most interesting. In particular, he notes that he had forgotten all about Tom Bombadil, whom he calls Iarwain Ben-adar, "oldest and fatherless". He laments not having invited Bombadil to the council, but Gandalf says he would not have come.

Erestor asks whether it would not be wise to give the Ring to Bombadil, on whom it has no effect. Gandalf explains that while Bombadil might agree, he would not understand the importance of the task, and might even lose the Ring eventually. In any case, Gandalf asserts that even Bombadil in his own little realm could not stand up to the full power of Sauron. Glorfindel adds that taking the Ring to Bombadil in secret would also be impossible now.

Galdor agrees with this assessment, claiming that any hope remaining is now here at Rivendell, or at the Grey Havens, or in Lothlórien. Elrond responds that neither he nor those other Elven lands have the power to endure the coming storm. Glorfindel concludes that there are only two options remaining: Send the Ring west over the sea, or destroy it. Elrond counters both options: For one, the Ring cannot be destroyed by any means they possess; and the people of Valinor would not accept the Ring into their care, as it is an evil belonging to Middle-Earth, and thus a problem that the people of Middle-Earth must solve for themselves.

Glorfindel then suggests throwing the Ring into the sea, subverting and fulfilling the lie that Saruman had told them about it. Gandalf counters this by saying that vile creatures in the deep might find and retrieve it, or that the seas might one day shift and bring it back to the surface. He is adamant that a permanent end to the problem must be found. Galdor again agrees, adding that it would be extremely difficult to get the Ring to the sea anyway, with the Enemy still watching the roads there. He asserts that the Nazgûl would soon return with faster riding beasts, and would be expecting the Ring to travel west. He doubts the ability of Gondor to keep the forces of Sauron at bay much longer, and they would eventually break through and come straight for the Grey Havens. Boromir defends his people, saying they still have the strength to fight, but Galdor notes that the Black Riders might bypass Gondor altogether.

Erestor concludes that Glorfindel's earlier assessment was correct: Either they hide the Ring, or find a way to destroy it. Elrond finally speaks, agreeing that the roads to the west are predictable and must be shunned. Therefore, they must go east, to Mordor, to destroy the Ring where it was made.

Boromir interjects, offering a third option: to use the Ring as a weapon, just as Saruman had planned to do for his own ends. Elrond states that the Ring cannot be used, as it is wholly evil and obeys only the Dark Lord who made it. He brings up Saruman's corruption as an example of a once-benevolent and powerful figure consumed by desire for the Ring. He says that even Sauron was not evil in the beginning, and that if any of the Wise were to take the Ring for themselves, they would simply replace him and become evil rulers themselves. He refuses to take the Ring, even to hide it, and so does Gandalf.

Boromir is dismayed, but expresses some hope that the Sword that was Broken might still come to Gondor's aid, if Aragorn proves to be made of the same mettle as his ancestors. He also hopes that others will fight as valiantly as his people do, and Elrond reassures him that they will.

Glóin suggests pooling together the efforts of their disparate kingdoms. In particular, he suggests using the other Rings of Power to aid them in the coming conflict. He notes that one Dwarf-ring - Thrór's ring - might still be found in Moria, and that perhaps Balin has already found it there. Gandalf reports that this is impossible, as that ring was taken by Saruman from Thrór's heir Thráin during his torture at Dol Guldur. Glóin asks about the Elven-rings, but Elrond dismisses the question offhand. He says that the Three Rings were made without Sauron's involvement, and would serve no purpose as weapons. He adds that if Sauron was ever to regain the One Ring, anything that was gained by the Three would be subverted and ruined anyway. He remarks that this was Sauron's plan all along, and laments that the Three Rings had been created in the first place.

Glóin asks what would happen, then, if the One Ring was destroyed. Elrond responds that no one knows, but hopes that the Three would become free in that case, though they might lose all their power instead. Glorfindel remarks that the Elves are willing to take that risk, if it means ridding Middle-Earth of the threat of Sauron.

The conversation returns to the matter of destroying the Ring. Erestor comments that there is little chance of reaching the Fire where the Ring could be destroyed, calling the idea a "folly". Gandalf retorts that this might actually be an advantage: Sauron understands only the desire for power, and expects anyone who comes across the Ring to use it; he cannot understand a desire to destroy it. As such, the attempt to destroy it might catch him off-guard, at least for a while. Elrond agrees with this assessment, adding:

This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.

At this, Bilbo stands up, saying that he's received the hint, and volunteers to take the Ring to Mordor himself. He laments only that he might not get the chance to write the ending to his book, which would now have to be amended because he might not "live happily ever after to the end of his days". Boromir is amused by this, but quickly realizes that all others present regard Bilbo's offer with great respect. Gandalf thanks Bilbo for his bravery, but says that Bilbo's part in the story had already ended when he passed on the Ring, except to record the events in a sequel book when the chosen questers eventually come back.

Bilbo asks who those questers will be, then. Silence falls on the council as they ponder the question with heavy hearts. Frodo slowly comes to the realization that the course of events he had dreaded is now inevitable. With great difficulty, he finally speaks:

I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way.

Realizing the implications, Elrond tells Frodo that the task may have been appointed for him, and that he might be the only one able to find the way. He ponders this unlikely turn of events, which none of the Wise had foreseen. He tells Frodo that the decision must be his alone, voluntarily, but that if he chose to go he would be counted among the greatest Elf-friends who ever lived, among the likes of Hador, Húrin, Túrin and Beren.

Suddenly, Sam leaps up from his hiding place, protesting that Frodo must not be sent on this quest alone.

No indeed! You at least shall go with him. It is hardly possible to separate you from him, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not.

At this, Sam sinks to the floor in embarrassment, realizing the pickle he and Frodo have landed themselves in.

Composition

Early drafts of the chapter probably were completed near the end of 1939); in that version, the original Fellowship consisted of Gandalf, Boromir, and five Hobbits including "Peregrin Boffin".[1]

Later drafts of the chapter were reworked around 1940-1941, with at least three new versions. New material included Aragorn as the Heir of Elendil and related additions; but since narration was too long,background information was removed to the Appendices and to another text called Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.[2]

References