Study Guide

The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1, Chapter 3

By J.R.R. Tolkien

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Book 1, Chapter 3

Three is Company

  • Gandalf warns Frodo that he has to leave the Shire soon. Frodo decides to leave on September 22nd, his fiftieth birthday.
  • (Bilbo was also fifty years old when he set out on his adventure sixty years before, when he first discovered the Ring.)
  • Gandalf warns Frodo that it can't be any later.
  • Frodo's first stop should be the Elf stronghold of Rivendell, and he's happy about this: "I will take Sam to visit the Elves; he will be delighted" (1.3.13).
  • The news soon passes around the Shire: Frodo Baggins has sold Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses.
  • No one can figure out why he would leave his lovely Hobbit hole.
  • He is supposed to be moving back to Buckland (his pre-adoption-by-Bilbo home) in the autumn.
  • Frodo even has his cousin Merry buy him a house in Buckland to make this story look believable. They really thought this one out.
  • At the end of June, Gandalf leaves the Shire to get news; he says he won't be gone long, but Frodo starts to worry when Gandalf doesn't turn up as autumn arrives.
  • Frodo's friends arrive at Bag End to help him pack, and still, Gandalf doesn't return to the Shire.
  • On Frodo's birthday, he holds his usual feast for his four helpers (Folco Boffin, Fatty Bolger, Merry, and Pippin).
  • He doesn't know how to tell his cousins that he is about to leave.
  • The next day, Merry and Fatty Bolger drive a cart with Frodo's luggage to his new house.
  • Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and her son, Lotho, arrive to take the keys of Bag End.
  • Frodo, Pippin, and Sam have a last cup of tea before leaving bag End behind.
  • As Frodo is taking a last walk around his home, he hears voices: Sam's father, the Gaffer, and an odd voice asking after "Mr. Baggins" (1.3.36).
  • The Gaffer tells the owner of the odd voice that Frodo has moved away.
  • Frodo calls for Sam and Pippin and they set off at last.
  • When Frodo passes the border of Hobbiton, he turns and waves goodbye to it. He thinks fondly, "I wonder if I shall ever look down into that valley again" (1.3.52). We hope he will. We're kind of attached to him at this point.
  • Frodo, Sam, and Pippin camp out that night.
  • The next morning, as they find themselves back on the road, Frodo suddenly bursts into song: "The Road goes ever on and on/ Down from the door where it began ..." (1.3.72).
  • He doesn't remember where he has heard it before, but it seems appropriate to their present travels.
  • (As readers, we know this is the same song that Bilbo sang when he set out to Rivendell years before, after his eleventy-first birthday).
  • The sun is setting when Sam suddenly says, "I can hear a pony or a horse coming along the road behind" (1.3.77).
  • Frodo doesn't want to be seen, so he asks Sam and Pippin to get out of sight. They lie flat and wait for the rider to pass.
  • Around the corner comes a black horse, much too big for any Hobbit to ride. The rider is wearing a long cloak; they cannot see his face.
  • Frodo feels a strong desire to put on the Ring, but he remembers Gandalf's warning not to use it. He leaves the Ring in his pocket. Now that's willpower.
  • The rider passes on, and Frodo, Sam, and Pippin emerge from hiding.
  • Frodo admits that he thinks that rider was looking for him.
  • Pippin doesn't understand – what would the Big People want with a Hobbit like Frodo?
  • Sam tells Frodo what the Gaffer told him: "There's been a strange customer asking for Mr. Baggins of Bag End, and he's only just gone [...] Hissed at me, he did [...] He was tall and black-like, and he stooped over me. I reckon it was one of the Big Folk from foreign parts. He spoke funny" (1.3.91).
  • Frodo worries that the rider seems to be able to smell him somehow. He wants them to keep moving, but not on the road – it's not safe.
  • The sun sets and the three Hobbits sit down for dinner.
  • Frodo recites a little poem about adventure: "Home is behind, the world ahead,/ And there are many paths to tread/ Through shadows to the edge of night,/ Until the stars are all alight" (1.3.104).
  • The fun doesn't last long; they hear more hoofbeats and have to hide again.
  • Frodo hears the sound of snuffling and sees a black shadow.
  • He wants desperately to put on the Ring.
  • Frodo almost does it, but then he hears clear voices: Elves! Sam is thrilled: he has never seen Elves before.
  • The Elves are singing about an Elven star (and/or lady): "Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!/ Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath" (1.3.117).
  • Frodo is amazed. These are High Elves, who rarely come to the Shire.
  • Frodo, Pippin, and Sam come out of the shadows.
  • One of the Elves greets Frodo, commenting, "You are abroad late. Or are you perhaps lost?" (1.3.120).
  • Frodo won't tell the Elves his business.
  • The head Elf, Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod, tells the Hobbits that they are a group of Elves wandering for a time before they follow their people across the Sea. They have kin in Rivendell.
  • Pippin interrupts, "O Wise People! [...] Tell us about the Black Riders!" (1.3.128).
  • Troubled, Gildor invites Frodo, Pippin, and Sam to walk with his company.
  • They go to Woodhall, where the Hobbits eat and drink. Sam is happy as a clam surrounded by Elves.
  • And Frodo does his best to speak to them in their own language, which impresses Gildor and his friends. Elvish isn't the easiest language on the planet.
  • After Sam and Pippin fall asleep, Frodo talks to Gildor about the Black Riders, but he refuses to tell Frodo more about what they are, since Gandalf hasn't.
  • Gildor worries that it is a bad sign that Gandalf hasn't arrived yet when he promised he would. He warns Frodo that the Shire is no longer safe, and that he must hurry to Rivendell.
  • Although Gildor is reluctant to advise Frodo, he finally says that, if Gandalf doesn't arrive, Frodo should set out at once with "such friends as are trusty and willing" (1.3.167).
  • Gildor also calls Frodo Elf-Friend: "Seldom have we had such delight in strangers, and it is fair to hear words of the Ancient Speech from the lips of other wanderers in the world" (1.3.171).
  • Frodo goes to sleep. It's been a long day.

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