Author(s)| J. R. R. Tolkien|
Publisher| George Allen & Unwin|
Publication date| July 24, 1954|
Preceded by| The Hobbit|
Book I: The Ring Sets Out
The first chapter in the book begins in a light vein, following the tone of The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins celebrates his 111th (or eleventy-first, as it is called in Hobbiton) birthday on the same day, September 22, that his relative and adopted heir Frodo Baggins celebrates his coming of age at 33. At the birthday party, Bilbo departs from the Shire, the land of the Hobbits, for what he calls a permanent holiday. Bilbo does so by using the magic ring (that he had found on his journey) to disappear and is aided by Gandalf with a flash and puff of smoke, leading many in the Shire to believe he has gone mad. He leaves Frodo his remaining belongings, including his home, Bag End, and (after some persuasion by the wizard Gandalf) the Ring. Gandalf leaves on his own business, warning Frodo to keep the Ring secret. Over the next 17 years Gandalf periodically pays short visits to Bag End. One spring night, he arrives to warn Frodo about the truth of Bilbo's ring; it is the One Ring of Sauron the Dark Lord. Sauron forged it to subdue and rule Middle-earth, but in the War of the Last Alliance, he was defeated by Gil-galad the Elven King and Elendil, High King of Arnor and Gondor, though they themselves perished in the deed. Isildur, Elendil's son, cut the Ring from Sauron's finger. Sauron was thus overthrown, but the Ring itself was not destroyed as Isildur kept it for himself. Isildur was slain soon afterwards in the Battle of the Gladden Fields, and the Ring was lost in Great River Anduin. Thousands of years later, it was found by the hobbit Déagol; but Déagol was thereupon murdered by his friend Sméagol, who coveted the Ring for himself. Sméagol subsequently possessed the Ring for centuries, and under its influence he became the creature named Gollum. The Ring was found by Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit, and Bilbo leaves it to Frodo. Sauron has risen again and returned to his stronghold in Mordor, and is exerting all his power to find the Ring. Gandalf details the evil powers of the Ring and its ability to influence the bearer and those near him if it is worn for too long. Gandalf warns Frodo that the Ring is no longer safe in the Shire; he has learned through his investigations that Gollum had gone to Mordor, where he was captured and tortured until he revealed to Sauron that a hobbit named Baggins from the Shire possesses the Ring. Gandalf hopes Frodo can reach the elf-haven Rivendell, where he believes Frodo and the Ring will be safe from Sauron, and where its fate can be decided. Samwise Gamgee, Frodo's gardener and friend, is discovered listening in on the conversation. Out of loyalty to his master, Sam agrees to accompany Frodo on his journey. Over the summer Frodo makes plans to leave his home at Bag End, under the pretense that he is moving to a remote region near the Shire to retire. Helping with the plans are Frodo's friends Sam, Peregrin Took (Pippin for short), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry), and Fredegar Bolger (Fatty), though Frodo does not tell them of the Ring or of his intention to leave the Shire. At midsummer, Gandalf leaves on pressing business, but promises to return before Frodo leaves. Frodo's birthday and departure date approach, but Gandalf does not appear, so Frodo decides to leave without him. Black Riders pursue Frodo's party; these turn out to be Nazgûl or Ringwraiths, "the most terrible servants of the Dark Lord", who are searching for "Baggins" and the Ring. In fact, one of the Riders comes to the door of Sam's father, the Gaffer, that very evening before they depart. With help of some elves and Farmer Maggot, they reach Crickhollow beyond the eastern border of the Shire. There Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Fatty reveal that...