The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 2 Summary
The Council of Elrond
Frodo wakes up feeling refreshed and rested.
He goes to meet Gandalf and Bilbo, who are ready for the Council.
Bilbo and Frodo have been invited; sadly, Sam is not.
At the Council, Frodo sees Elrond, Glorfindel, Glóin, and Aragorn.
Elrond introduces Frodo to the company. Then he goes around the room and introduces Erestor (Elrond's chief counselor), Galdor (an Elf from the Grey Havens), Legolas (a messenger and son of King Thranduil of Northern Mirkwood), and Boromir (a man from the South). Enough strange names for you?
Glóin tells the Council that, after reestablishing themselves in the Lonely Mountain after the death of Smaug the dragon, the Dwarves began to talk about going back down to the Mines of Moria.
Moria (called Khazad-dûm in the Dwarf tongue) has been haunted by a "nameless fear" (2.2.14), woken when the Dwarves dug too deep into the earth.
It has been empty since the children of Durin died; Durin is the first great ancestor of the Dwarves, so that's a long time.
Thirty years before the Council of Elrond, Balin, Ori, and Óin went on an expedition to Moria to try to reopen the mines.
All seemed to be going well in Moria for a time, but the messages had stopped coming several years earlier.
Then Dáin (King Under the Mountain) received a messenger from Mordor a year before the Council; he came from "the Lord Sauron the Great" (2.2.17), asking after Hobbits.
Sauron had heard that a Hobbit was once known to the Dwarves (that would be Bilbo).
This messenger promises that, if the Dwarves help Sauron recover the Hobbit's "little ring, the least of rings, that once he stole" (2.2.18), Sauron would return to the Dwarves their three rings of power that he currently possessed.
Dáin did not say outright that he wouldn't help, but he and his chieftains knew they couldn't make any deals with Sauron.
They stalled the messenger as long as they could.
Dáin sent Glóin to Rivendell to warn Bilbo that Sauron was looking for him. Dáin also wanted to know why Sauron wanted Bilbo's ring so badly.
Back at the Council, Elrond promises that Dáin and the Dwarves do not stand alone.
Elrond confirms that he has called them all there to discuss what to do with the Ring.
He then tells the tale of the Ring, beginning with the part that he experienced himself:
The Rings of Power were forged in the Second Age (Middle-earth is now in the Third Age).
Sauron, who was not obviously evil at that point, struck up a friendship with the Elven-smiths of Eregion.
He learned their craft and forged in secret a single Ring to be the Master of all of the Rings of Power.
The Elven-smith Celebrimbor knew of Sauron's plans and hid away the three Elven Rings of Power before Sauron could corrupt them.
Elrond continues his tale to the days of the Númenorean exiles, when the Men of the West were Kings of Men in Middle-earth.
The descendants of Númenor in Middle-earth had two Kingdoms: Arnor to the north and Gondor to the south.
Elendil, High King of these lands, formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men with the Elven-king, Gil-galad. Neither survived the war.
Elrond was herald to Gil-galad (a herald is a royal messenger or representative) during the first war against Sauron.
He was there on the slopes of Orodruin when Elendil fell and Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron's hand.
Boromir breaks in: "Isildur took [the Ring]! That is tidings indeed" (2.2.35).
Elrond answers with regret that he and Círdan, the only remnants of Gil-galad's forces, both counseled Isildur to throw the Ring into Mount Doom.
But Isildur refused; as a result, he was killed by Orcs in the Gladden Fields.
The broken shards of Elendil's sword were passed to Valandil, Isildur's son.
The Last Alliance left Sauron weakened but not broken, and the Ring was lost but not destroyed.
Meanwhile, the lines of the Men of Westernesse dwindled; Meneldil son of Anárion's line died out.
But what about the lords of Minas Tirith in Gondor, the descendants of Isildur?
Boromir jumps in to bring news of Gondor, which is where he comes from.
He denies that the blood of Númenor has died out in Gondor. Gondor has stood firmly against "the Nameless Enemy" (2.2.46) and kept the world safe for many years.
But now, things are growing dire. There has been a sudden invasion of Gondor from Mordor, and the guards of Minas Tirith are outnumbered.
Boromir adds that there has been "much praise but little help" (2.2.48) for the men of Gondor, and that the only allies who have actually come to stand by them have been the Riders of Rohan.
So Boromir has come to Elrond to request help.
He doesn't expect soldiers; instead, he wants counsel.
Boromir's brother has long been seeing a curious dream, and the dream came once to Boromir as well. In it, there is thunder and a light coming out of the West. A voice cries, "Seek for the Sword that was broken,/ In Imladris it dwells [...]/ For Isildur's Bane shall waken,/ And the Halfling forth shall stand." (Imladris is another name for Rivendell.)
Boromir's brother was eager to come and find out what this poem meant.
But Boromir, knowing that the "way was full of doubt and danger" (2.2.56), decided to come to Rivendell himself.
Aragorn stands up and shows Boromir the Sword that was Broken: Narsil.
Boromir demands to know what Aragorn has to do with Gondor.
Elrond introduces Aragorn, son of Arathorn – descendant of Isildur and Chief of the Dúnedain in the North.
Frodo jumps up and says the Ring belongs to Aragorn and not to Frodo.
Aragorn denies this: "It does not belong to either of us [...] but it has been ordained that you should hold it for a while" (2.2.56).
Gandalf tells Frodo it's time to bring out the Ring.
Boromir wants the Sword of Elendil to return to Gondor for morale's sake, but he clearly doubts that Aragorn is a descendant of the kings of old.
Aragorn agrees that he doesn't look much like the statues of Isildur and Elendil in Minas Tirith. But Aragorn has been fighting all his life as a Ranger, a hunter of evil.
Boromir wants to know more: how has Isildur's Bane been found?
Bilbo stands up and tells the story of his run-in with Gollum and his discovery of the Ring.
Frodo gives an account of everything that has happened to him between the Shire and Rivendell. He mentions in an aside to Bilbo that he wants to hear what Gandalf has been up to.
Galdor seconds this; what's more, why isn't Saruman here to give them his valuable knowledge on the Rings of Power?
Galdor asks how we know that this is the One Ring.
Gandalf gives his story:
Many years ago, Gandalf infiltrated the Necromancer's fortress at Dol Guldur in southern Mirkwood and confirmed that it was Sauron taking shape and power again.
(In fact, it's this adventure that brought Gandalf to leave Bilbo and the Dwarves behind in The Hobbit.)
Gandalf's Council attacked the Necromancer and drove him out of Mirkwood.
But it turns out to have been a trick: Sauron pretended to be defeated, but really, he just relocated to the Dark Tower, Barad-dûr, in Mordor.
Then, Sauron declared himself openly and started looking actively for the One Ring.
Saruman the Wise, a major figure on the Council, gave his opinion that the Ring would never be found.
Saruman claimed that he had studied the fate of the Ring and that he truly believed that it had been lost at the bottom of the Anduin River.
Gandalf admits that he was taken in by Saruman and consented to let the matter lie.
Finally, seventeen years ago (when Bilbo handed the Ring over to Frodo), Gandalf couldn't quiet his suspicions any further.
He asked for help from the Rangers and from Aragorn.
They began searching for Gollum to see what further information they could find.
Gandalf remembered that Saruman had once told him that the One Ring had special markings.
To find out what those markings were, Gandalf traveled to Minas Tirith to look at the manuscripts of Gondor.
Gandalf found a long-forgotten scroll, in which Isildur wrote that the Ring shows fiery letters if heated.
Gandalf left Gondor, but he heard news from Aragorn that Gollum had been found.
Gandalf got the story of Gollum's discovery of the Ring out of him, which confirms Bilbo's own story.
If all that isn't enough proof for Galdor, Gandalf also tells him that Frodo's Ring bears these words in fiery Elvenscript:
Translation: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them (2.2.110).
Gandalf also discovered that Gollum has told their enemy about Bilbo and the Shire.
Legolas jumps in: Gollum has escaped from his prison in Mirkwood.
The Mirkwood Elves have been guarding Gollum closely, but they also took seriously Gandalf's hope that Gollum could be rehabilitated.
On nice days, the Mirkwood Elves let Gollum walk in the woods and climb trees.
One day, Gollum refused to come down. The guards sat at the base of his tree and waited for him, but then, a company of Orcs attacked.
The Elves were able to fight them back, but Gollum's guards had all been killed and he was gone.
Legolas thinks the timing of the Orc attack cannot be an accident.
Gandalf believes that Gollum will come back into the story of the Ring before it is all over.
Gandalf continues his story:
At the end of June, Gandalf was in the Shire.
He heard news of Gondor's attack by Mordor and rode east to gather news.
On his way, he bumped into an unexpected traveler: Radagast the Brown, a member of his order.
Radagast had a message from Saruman the White, the head of Gandalf's order: Saruman was now willing to help Gandalf on his quest for the Ring. But if he wants his help, Gandalf would have to go see Saruman immediately.
Radagast also told Gandalf that the Nine Ringwraiths the (Nazgûl) were abroad.
Gandalf agreed to travel to Orthanc, in Isengard, to consult Saruman.
He also asked Radagast to use his bird and beast friends to gather as much news as they could find about the Ring and bring this information to Saruman and Gandalf.
Gandalf wrote a letter to Frodo and gave it to Barliman Butterbur to deliver (as we know, it never reached Frodo).
Then he went far south, to Isengard, near Gondor in the White Mountains.
There, there was a stone tower called Orthanc, which was built by the men of Númenor; that is where Saruman lives.
Saruman met Gandalf at the gate of Orthanc and asked him mockingly, "What brings you now from your lurking-place in the Shire?"
Gandalf answered that the Nazgûl were abroad, and the time had come for everyone to unite their powers.
Saruman said that the Elder Days were gone and that it was time for the wise to use their power to rule the world. He offered Gandalf the opportunity to turn against the Elves and Men of Númenor to seek "the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order" (2.2.156).
Gandalf replied that Saruman sounded like a messenger of Sauron.
Saruman suggested that he and Gandalf could take the One Ring together, since Gandalf must know where it is.
Together, they could control its power.
Gandalf scoffed: of course he wouldn't hand over the One Ring to Saruman.
Saruman promised to imprison Gandalf until he told Saruman what he wanted to know, and he did just that.
At first, Gandalf worried that Radagast had also turned bad, but in reality, he he had stayed faithful.
What's more, Radagast obeyed Gandalf's request to speak to his beast and bird friends on Gandalf's behalf.
Thanks to Radagast, an eagle came to find Gandalf. Gwaihir the Windlord then carried Gandalf from Isengard east to Edoras, in Rohan.
(Rohan is famous for its horses; Boromir comments that, "They love their horses next to their kin. And not without reason, for the horses of the Riddermark [...] [are] descended from the free days of old" [2.2.184].)
There, Gandalf chose a horse: Shadowfax, who was "tireless, swift as the flowing wind" (2.2.184).
He rode to the Shire and spoke to the Gaffer, who told him that Frodo had left Hobbiton less than a week before, and that there had been Black Riders in the Shire.
Gandalf traced Frodo to the house at Crickhollow, where he found one of Frodo's cloaks on the doorstep.
The house was otherwise dark and empty.
Gandalf arrived at The Prancing Pony, where Butterbur confirmed that Frodo had taken up with Strider.
He was absolutely delighted at this information, of course, though Butterbur thought it was bad news.
Gandalf rode quickly to Weathertop, where he had a showdown with several of the Riders before Frodo and company got there.
He knew that he would not be able to find Frodo in the wilderness, so he tried to act as a diversion for the Riders.
It only worked for a while; the Nine reunited to attack Frodo at the Ford of Bruinen.
Gandalf arrived at Rivendell only three days before Frodo did.
Elrond was disappointed to hear about Saruman, but intrigued by Tom Bombadil.
Erestor, one of Elrond's counselors, wondered if perhaps Tom Bombadil could hang on to the Ring, since it doesn't affect him.
Gandalf said no: first of all, Tom would not understand the importance of the task; second, who is to say he could stand against the whole of Sauron's power?
Finally, after Gandalf has finished his story, Glorfindel sums up: "two things only remain for us to attempt: to send it over the Sea, or to destroy it" (2.2.212).
Galdor adds that the Sea is no safe place; in fact, travel to the Sea has also become "fraught with gravest peril" (2.2.216), since Sauron may expect that course of action.
Elrond declares that they have to send the Ring to Mordor, to Mount Doom, to destroy it.
Boromir cuts in: actually, this super weapon seems like it could be useful. Why not use the Ring to achieve victory over Sauron?
Elrond answers that the Ring is too strong for any one person to use, since the "very desire of it corrupts the heart" (2.2.225).
Glóin wonders if they could combine the power of the other rings – the Elvish rings, for example.
Elrond informs Glóin that the Three Rings were not made for war. If the owners of the Three Rings used them against Sauron, he would gain access to their minds if he found the One Ring. It is too risky.
Elrond believes that, if Sauron is defeated and the One Ring destroyed, then the things made with the Three Rings will also fade away.
Glorfindel confirms that the Elves are willing to accept this price if Sauron falls. Worth it.
Erestor thinks that taking the Ring to Mordor is a bad idea: it will bring despair.
Gandalf points out that Sauron is a pretty smart guy; perhaps doing something really stupid is the only way to trick him. Interesting strategy, Gandalf.
Bilbo speaks up: he found the Ring, so it must be up to him to get rid of it.
Gandalf tells Bilbo that the Ring has passed on; Glóin smiles at the old Hobbit's daring.
Frodo wants nothing more than to stay in Rivendell with Bilbo, but at last he offers: "I will take the Ring [...] though I do not know the way" (2.2.247).
Elrond confirms that he thinks this task is meant for Frodo.
Sam cannot stay silent: "But you won't send him off alone surely, Master?" (2.2.252)
Elrond agrees that he should have companions, including Sam – since Sam can't even stay out of a secret meeting to which he wasn't invited.