Study Guide

The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1, Chapter 12

By J.R.R. Tolkien

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Book 1, Chapter 12

Flight to the Ford

  • Frodo wakes up lying by the fire.
  • He asks, "What has happened? Where is the pale king?" (1.12.2)
  • Sam, Merry, and Pippin are all bending over Frodo.
  • They tell him that they couldn't see his body until they stumbled over it, lying face down on the ground on top of his sword.
  • Aragorn appears just then, having gone to scout after the Black Riders; he can't find any trace of them.
  • When Aragorn hears Frodo's story, he sighs; he believes that the Riders have withdrawn.
  • The Ringwraiths they think they've given Frodo a fatal wound, and that he'll soon be under the their power.
  • Aragorn does his best to treat Frodo, but his wound is growing more painful.
  • Aragorn finds the Ringwraith's cloak and dagger.
  • The only injury Frodo did to the Ringwraith with his sword was cut a hole in its cloak.
  • What actually hurt the Ringwraith was the name of Elbereth – the Elvish queen of the stars – which Frodo called just before he collapsed.
  • Aragorn holds up the Ringwraith's knife, and the blade dissolves as the Hobbits watch.
  • It turns out the knife is a cursed kind that leaves wounds that don't heal easily.
  • Aragorn goes to find athelas, an herb that the Men of the West brought to Middle-earth. The athelas warms the sense of frozen cold in Frodo's side, but he still can't use his hand.
  • It is clear that they will have to leave Weathertop immediately.
  • They begin the trek, but progress is slow because Frodo can't walk; they have to divide their luggage among them and let Frodo ride Bill Ferny's former pony.
  • They don't see the Riders, but they hear shrill cries that send them into a panic; they travel as fast as they can across the trackless land.
  • Frodo does his best to bear the pain without speaking of it; he doesn't want to be a burden.
  • For four days, they keep marching like this. Yikes.
  • At the end of the fifth day, the land starts rising again toward the River Hoarwell (a.k.a. Mitheithel in the Elvish language).
  • The Hoarwell runs into the Loudwater (also known as the Bruinen) just north of Rivendell; the Bruinen then flows into the Greywater.
  • The only place to cross the River Hoarwell is at the Last Bridge on the Road, and Aragorn still hasn't figured out how they are going to cross the Ford of Bruinen.
  • Aragorn worries that the Last Bridge will be held against them, but he can't find any sign of the Black Riders.
  • He does find something strange, though: a single green jewel.
  • Aragorn feels hopeful because he identifies it as a beryl, an Elf-jewel. Perhaps it's a good sign.
  • They cross the Bridge safely, and the Hobbits are glad to leave this unfriendly land behind them. They find themselves now in a land with "ancient walls of stone, and the ruins of towers" (1.12.28).
  • No one lives here now, explains Aragorn; men once lived here, but they fell under the power of the evil king of Angmar, and they were all destroyed in the war that ended the North Kingdom.
  • Aragorn learned these histories in Rivendell. He seems to know everything...
  • Frodo asks if Aragorn has spent a lot of time in Rivendell. He says he once lived there, and he goes back often because "there [his] heart is" (1.12.34).
  • The Hobbits are tiring as the journey continues; their provisions are running low, and the rain leaves Frodo cold and restless and achy.
  • When Frodo wakes up on the eleventh day out of Weathertop, the wind changes and the rain stops.
  • Aragorn goes to scout, and he finds that they have come too far north; they'll have to turn south again toward the Ford of Bruinen.
  • They struggle up a hill so steep that Frodo has to dismount the pony and climb.
  • After getting to the other side, "Frodo [throws] himself down and [lies] on the ground shivering. His left arm [is] lifeless, and his side and shoulder [feel] as if icy claws were laid upon them" (1.12.41).
  • They have to stop for the night; this trip has almost been too much for Frodo.
  • The next morning, they follow a track down the hill, and find a door hanging off one hinge under a low-hanging cliff.
  • Aragorn thinks it's an abandoned troll hole. They keep going on carefully, looking out for trolls.
  • Pippin and Merry go ahead for a bit, but soon Pippin comes running back saying, "There are trolls! [...] Down in a clearing in the woods not far below" (1.12.57).
  • They go to investigate, but Aragorn doesn't look too worried.
  • In a clearing, there are three large trolls. Aragorn shouts at them and then breaks his walking stick on them.
  • Frodo realizes that this must be the exact place where, almost eighty years before, Bilbo and his thirteen Dwarf companions met Bert, Tom, and William the trolls.
  • (For more on this adventure, check out our Shmoop learning guide on The Hobbit.)
  • Aragorn also points out that it is broad daylight, and trolls can't come out in the sun.
  • They all have a good laugh, and Frodo feels a bit better.
  • Sam sings them all a comic song about a face-off between a fool named Tom and a troll (Tom survives, but he's got a limp). Frodo is impressed that Sam made up the song himself. (Although he did learn from the master, after all.)
  • They all walk past the marker that the Dwarves put down to show where the trolls' gold was buried.
  • Frodo tells Merry that Bilbo gave all that gold away; he didn't feel comfortable using it, since it was stolen.
  • That night, as they look for a place to camp, they hear the noise of hooves behind them.
  • They hide off the road, but as Frodo listens, he thinks that these don't sound like the hooves of a Black Rider.
  • Indeed, they're not: the rider has golden hair, and to Frodo, "it appeared that a white light was shining through the form and raiment of the rider, as if through a thin veil" (1.12.79).
  • It's Glorfindel, an Elf who lives in Rivendell.
  • Glorfindel is one of several Elves who has been sent out by Elrond to find the Ring-bearer, Frodo, and to help him if he is in trouble.
  • He warns Frodo that there are five riders behind them, and that the Ford of Bruinen may hold more Riders.
  • Frodo feels "a shadow [...] coming between him and the faces of his friends" (1.12.86).
  • He falls to the ground and Glorfindel catches him.
  • Glorfindel puts Frodo on the back of his horse, who will not drop anyone that Glorfindel orders him to carry.
  • They push on throughout day and night, heading for the river.
  • Finally, they hear a rushing noise through the pines. Unluckily, the Black Riders have finally caught up.
  • Glorfindel shouts to Frodo, "Ride forward! Ride!" (1.12.105), but Frodo feels weirdly reluctant to go forward.
  • Finally, Glorfindel tells his horse, "noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth!" (1.12.107).
  • Unfortunately, the rest of the Black Riders show up: the full nine are ranged against Frodo.
  • They cut Frodo off at the Ford of Bruinen, and Frodo feels cold and fearful; he hears evil voices in the wind.
  • The Elf-horse speeds along, passing "right before the face of the foremost Rider" (1.12.110).
  • But the mighty horse makes it to the other side of the river. Whew.
  • Frodo turns to the Ringwraiths from the far bank and shouts, "Go back to the Land of Mordor and follow me no more!" (1.12.114).
  • He has no power to follow up these words, sadly.
  • The Ringwraiths laugh at him and reply, "Come back! Come back! [...] To Mordor we will take you!" (1.12.114).
  • The Ringwraiths start crossing the river. With the last of his strength, Frodo tells them, "By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair [...] you shall have neither the Ring nor me" (1.12.117).
  • The leader of the Ringwraiths raises his hand, and Frodo's sword breaks.
  • But just then, a sudden flood comes rushing down the River Bruinen; it looks to Frodo as if it is made up of riders on white horses.
  • And on the other side of the bank, Frodo can see "a shining figure of white light" (1.12.120) and smaller people waving flames.
  • The black horses rush into the flood, and the Ringwraiths are scattered.
  • Frodo feels himself falling.

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