The Shadow of the Past

From Tolkien Gateway
The name Shadow of the Past refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Shadow of the Past (disambiguation).
Matt Stewart - The Shadow of the Past.jpg
The Shadow of the Past
Chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring
EventGandalf tells Frodo about the Ring's history; Samwise is appointed Frodo's companion.
LocationBag End
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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 hundreds of years the ring was found by Gollum, a Hobbit who kept it in his lair under the Misty Mountains, until Bilbo stumbled across it while 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 be searching for the Shire.

Gandalf explains that the bearer of the ring ages incredibly 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 into the Crack of Doom in the depths of Orodruin.

Frodo decides to leave the Shire in order to protect the other inhabitants, and 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.


The chapter was written in the book's revision in September-October of 1938, after Tolkien had developed the backstory of the One Ring and had decided the direction of the story. It has been considered an allegory of the political situation with Nazi Germany, but the declaration of war came in 1939, a year after its writing. Tolkien denied the allegorical nature in the second edition Foreword.[1]