The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary
The Ring Goes South
Later that day, the Hobbits hold their own meeting.
Pippin complains that Sam gets to come along and he and Merry don't.
Frodo is amazed: why would anyone want to come? Frodo doesn't even want to go!
Merry gets this, but thinks that if Frodo has to go anyway, then his friends should be allowed to go, too.
Gandalf arrives and tells Pippin not to worry: nothing is decided yet.
There's a lot to do before they leave, anyway – they'll be contacting King Thranduil and consulting with the Rangers.
Basically, they'll probably have a long stay in Rivendell before they hit the Road.
Sam mutters that it will be just in time for winter.
The days slip by, but no one can miss that fall is passing quickly.
December is half over when the scouts begin to return, reporting that they have seen no sign of the Black Riders or of Gollum anywhere.
They do find the bodies of eight of the nine Riders' horses, meaning it will take some time for the Black Riders to regroup.
Elrond calls the Hobbits to him to tell them that Frodo must set out soon.
He has decided that there will be Nine Walkers to match the Nine Riders: Frodo will have eight companions.
The Fellowship will have representatives from the Free Peoples of the World.
Legolas will represent the Elves, and Gimli, son of Glóin, will stand for the Dwarves.
Aragorn will also come as a representative of men.
Frodo is surprised: he thought that Aragorn would go to Gondor with Boromir.
Aragorn and Boromir are going to Gondor, but the way to Gondor and the way to Mordor are the same for many hundreds of miles, so Boromir will also be part of the Fellowship.
But Elrond points out that they are missing two: perhaps members of his own household?
Pippin jumps in: "But that will leave no place for us! [...] We don't want to be left behind" (2.3.41).
Gandalf counsels, "I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom" (2.3.43).
After all, they are never going to be able to win over Sauron with pure strength of arms, so why would an extra Elf-lord or two in the company make a difference?
Elrond agrees that Pippin and Merry shall go.
So the Fellowship is filled: Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, Boromir, Merry, Pippin, Sam, and of course, Frodo and Gandalf.
Before setting out, the Elven-smiths of Rivendell reforge Elendil's sword Narsil, the Sword that was Broken.
Aragorn renames his newly-forged sword Andúril, Flame of the West.
On the morning of the last day, Frodo is sitting with Bilbo.
Bilbo brings out a wooden box. In it is Sting, Bilbo's old sword (which glows when Orcs are near, as we learn in The Hobbit).
Bilbo also brings out a small shirt of mail, which shines "like moonlit silver, and was studded with white gems" (2.3.55).
Frodo thinks he'll look foolish in this Dwarf-mail.
Bilbo shushes him: Frodo can wear the mail shirt under his clothes. In fact, Bilbo makes Frodo promise not to tell anyone he has it – this will be their little secret.
In return, Bilbo wants Frodo to keep track of everything he sees.
Bilbo hopes to write a second book with all of these adventures, after he finishes his first.
The Company sets out the next day, on a cold gray morning.
They aren't carrying much in the way of weapons, since their main goal is to creep quietly into Mordor.
They have one beast of burden with them: Bill the pony, whom Frodo and Sam bought from Bill Ferny all the way back in Bree.
Sam is very attached to Bill, and insists that he come along.
Elrond's last word to the Company is this: the Ring-bearer is the only member of the Company who has actually taken an oath to go on this road. Any of the rest of them can leave if they need or want to.
At the Ford of Bruinen, the Company turns south.
Gandalf walks in front with Aragorn.
They keep pressing southward, until the Hobbits are stumbling with weariness.
After about two weeks, the weather suddenly changes: the sun comes out and they can see a distant mountain range.
The nearest mountain "[stands] up like a tooth tipped with snow; its great, bare, northern precipice [is] still largely in shadow, but where the sunlight slant[s] upon it, it glow[s] red" (2.3.87).
They are now in the country of Hollin, called Eregion by the Elves.
Gandalf confirms that they are now making for Azanulbizar, a.k.a. the Dimrill Dale, a.k.a. Nanduhirion, a valley in the Misty Mountains.
Gandalf wants to climb to the Redhorn Gate, a pass on the far side of the mountain of Caradhras, which will take them to "the deep vale of the Dwarves. There lies the Mirrowmere, and there the River Silverlode rises in its icy springs" (2.3.98).
Gimli is delighted to be able to see these lands of his forefathers.
That night, Aragorn is silent and watchful. He knows the land of Hollin well, and something has changed. The land has grown silent and fearful – but why?
As Sam and Aragorn take the first watch, Sam catches sight of a fast-moving shape in the sky. Aragorn pulls Sam flat.
After the shapes pass overhead, and they see that it is a flock of crows, Aragorn wakes Gandalf.
These birds are not from Hollin; they are crebain from Fangorn and Dunland. They are spying on the land.
Both Hollin and the Redhorn Gate are being watched.
The Company has to stay in hiding and stop using fires, for fear of attracting too much notice.
On the third morning, they see Caradhras before them looking grim and cold.
Gandalf and Aragorn have a quick conference.
Gandalf is concerned that they will be waylaid at Redhorn Gate by enemies.
Aragorn is even grimmer: what if the horse-lords of Rohan have gone over to Sauron?
Gandalf mentions another way, "a dark and secret way" (2.3.133), but the two agree not to discuss this way unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
As they plan to climb Caradhras, Boromir points out (reasonably) that it won't matter if the enemy can't see them if they all freeze to death.
Even if they should avoid fire, they should bring as much wood with them as they can in case of dire winter storms on the mountain.
As the Company starts climbing, the snow starts to fall.
They climb through a day, and the Hobbits really begin to struggle.
What's more, they can't find decent shelter for the night. They do the best they can against a cliff-wall.
As they continue the next day, Frodo starts to feel terribly sleepy.
Boromir lifts him off the ground out of the snow. He points out that the snow will be the death of the Hobbits: they are soon going to be entirely buried.
They try to light a fire, but the weather is too wet and windy.
Finally, Gandalf gives in and uses his magic to light a campfire.
But now, Gandalf worries that he has "written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin" (2.3.172).
They use the last of their wood, but luckily, the wind dies down and the snow seems to stop.
Gimli points out that Caradhras the Cruel has more snow to throw at them; they must go back down now, while they can.
But even going down the mountain is going to be tough with all of this snow.
Aragorn and Boromir cut a path through the snow and the Hobbits walk behind them.
When they stop for a rest, Legolas jumps to the top of the snow bank and runs ahead to scout.
Legolas comes back to say that they are caught in the biggest snow drift, but if they can just cut through it, the snow diminishes fast.
Boromir and Aragorn carry the Hobbits through the great drift.
They race down the mountain, defeated by Caradhras.