BOROMIR [holding the Ring]: It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing… such a little thing
Boromir, being a man, is concerned with the size of things and with their physical appearance. And really, it is strange, how such a tiny object can cause so much war and death. But that is the power of Sauron, and of greed.
FRODO: Excuse me. That man in the corner. Who is he?
INNKEEPER: He's one of them rangers. They're dangerous folk they are, wandering the wilds. What his right name is, I've never heard, but round here he's known as Strider.
When we first meet Aragorn, he is a shady man smoking a pipe and staring at some hobbits. He really gives us the creeps. Turns out he's the rightful King of Gondor and one of the noblest men alive.
BOROMIR: The shards of Narsil. [He picks up the broken hilt of the sword.] The blade that cut the Ring from Sauron's hand. [He runs a finger along the edge of the blade, expecting it to be dull, and cuts himself] Ah! It's still sharp… but no more than a broken heirloom.
Just because Narsil was shattered does not mean it's benign. In a way, it's like Gandalf, a seemingly harmless old man with a walking stick. Or maybe like Aragorn, a nobody ranger living in the wilderness. Their appearances may be broken, but their power is still intact.
ELROND: And yet to come so far, still bearing the Ring, the hobbit has shown extraordinary resilience to its evil.
Elrond is surprised by Frodo's mental fortitude. He has been able to (mostly) maintain his free will while in possession of the Ring. Just like the Ring is surprisingly powerful for its small size, Frodo's tiny, domestic hobbit body contains a surprising amount of bravery and courage.
GANDALF: My dear Frodo, Hobbits really are amazing creatures. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet, after a hundred years, they can still surprise you.
Check out our Tools of Characterization section to find out what exactly Gandalf is talking about when he says their ways can be learned in a month (their ways involve a lot of eating, smoking, and gardening). Yet despite their simple, social, quaint lives, they are beings with an amazing reservoir of surprises, even to a wizard like Gandalf.
GALADRIEL [Narrating]: The Ring came to the creature Gollum who took it deep into the tunnels of the Misty Mountains. And there it consumed him. The Ring brought to Gollum unnatural long life. For five hundred years it poisoned his mind.
Corruption in LotR can be a very visual, visceral transformation. Gollum isn't the peaceful dude that Sméagol was, and it doesn't seem to just be old age that has morphed his appearance. His bony, dirty body, scraggily hair, and bulging eyes are products of his obsessive soul.
FRODO: Before you came along we Bagginses were very well thought of.
FRODO: We never had any adventures, or did anything unexpected.
GANDALF: If you're referring to the incident with the dragon, I was barely involved. All I did was give your uncle a little nudge out of the door.
FRODO: Whatever you did, you've been officially labeled as a "disturber of the peace."
So Bilbo goes out in one of the most epic adventures in recent history (and probably the most epic in all of hobbit history) and that's somehow thought poorly of? Well, that's the life of a hobbit: the Shire is good and anything outside is bad.
SAM: This is it.
FRODO: This is what?
SAM: If I take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been.
FRODO: Come on Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say. It's a dangerous business—
BILBO [voice over]:—going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.
Hobbits are not the most adventurous creatures, so Sam's traveling all the way to Bree, even if it's just a neighboring town, is a big adventure. But Bilbo's quote is reassuring in a way. If even stepping outside of your door can be dangerous, then everything is in doubt and our choice is either to hide in fear or go to the market and deal with the possibility we could be slaying giant spiders and taking Morgul-blades to the chest by nightfall.
[When the hobbits get to Bree, it is a dark, rainy night. The streets are muddy and full of commotion. Inside the Prancing Pony, the innkeeper towers over the hobbits and the other men look at them as outsiders.]
Bree is a pretty terrifying place, and that's saying a lot coming from a forest filled with Nazgûl. But if we stop think about it, Bree is just a small, rural village. It's probably quite quaint, if a bit dirty. But it's all about perspective. To the hobbits (and to us, their vicarious viewers) Bree is a big, foreign, scary place.
FRODO: Packed already?
SAM: No harm in being prepared.
FRODO: I thought you wanted to see the elves, Sam.
SAM: I do.
FRODO: More than anything.
SAM: I did. It's just—we did what Gandalf wanted didn't we? We got the Ring this far to Rivendell and I thought, seeing as how you're on the mend, we'd be off soon… off home
FRODO: You're right Sam. We did what we set out to do the Ring will be safe in Rivendell. I am ready to go home.
You'd think that getting to such an old, storied elven haven would be like, the coolest thing ever. But hobbits, as we've learned, aren't particularly adventurous, so they're already getting ready to head back to the Shire.
BILBO: I want to see mountains again. Mountains, Gandalf. […] I meant to go back: wander the paths of Mirkwood, visit Laketown, see the Lonely Mountain again. But age, it seems, has finally caught up with me.
Once Gandalf "nudged him out the door" Bilbo has scarcely looked back. Yes, he seems to be living the life of a typical hobbit but his mind has been living elsewhere, in the adventures of his past.
BILBO: So there I was at the mercy of three monstrous trolls and they were all arguing amongst themselves about how they were going to cook us. Whether it be turned on a spit or whether they should sit on us one by one and squash us into jelly. They spent so much time arguing the witherto's and whyfor's that the sun's first light cracked open over the top of the trees. Poof! Turned them all into stone!
Bilbo has turned from a grand adventurer at the heart of an epic tale to an old hobbit telling stories to kids that none of the adults probably believe. It's almost like Bilbo himself has been turned to stone.
FRODO: I miss the Shire. I spent all my childhood pretending I was off somewhere else... off with you on one of your adventures. My own adventure turned out to be quite different. I'm not like you, Bilbo.
Frodo says this before he realizes what his adventure really is. He's much more like his uncle than he suspects, and not just because of the Ring thing.
SAM: What is that?
GIMLI: Nothing, it's just a wisp of cloud.
BOROMIR: It's moving fast, against the wind.
LEGOLAS: Crebain! From Dudland!
SARUMAN: Cuiva nwalca Carnirasse; nai yarvaxea rasselya! (Wake up cruel Redhorn! May your horn be bloodstained!)
LEGOLAS: There is a fell voice on the air
GANDALF: It's Saruman!
ARAGORN: He's trying to bring down the mountain! Gandalf! We must turn back!
Saruman's use of the elements of the world, both the mountain storm and the cloud of crows, pit the fellowship in the classic duel between man and the natural elements in the world… or maybe the supernatural elements in this case.
BILBO [on hobbits]: But where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet and good tilled earth, for all Hobbits share a love of all things that grow.
Man (or hobbit) and nature aren't always fighting against one another. In the Shire, the two coexist perfectly and peacefully. This part of Bilbo's description features shots of Sam gardening, so we already know to associate him with caring and kindness.
The trees are strong, my Lord. The roots go deep.
Rip them all down.
Saruman is ripping down trees like a lumber company in the Amazon. This is probably the most visceral man (or orc) versus nature scene of the movie as the fire and iron of Orthanc contrasts the giant trees as they're torn down and thrown into the pit to forge the orc's armor and weapons; trading the life and peace of the forest for death and war.
Gandalf carries an old, twisted, wooden staff and travels the world. Saruman's staff is angular, made of steel; he sits in his tower, Orthanc.
Gandalf seems to be much more in tune with nature and his surroundings that Saruman who sits alone on his iron throne. The juxtaposition of these characters furthers our trust of nature and our hate of man (or wizard's) interference with it.
BOROMIR [to Frodo]: What chance do you think you have? They will find you. They will take the Ring and you will beg for death before the end. You fool! It is not yours save by unhappy chance... it might have been mine. It should be mine. Give it to me! Give me the ring.
At the climax of betrayal, Boromir seems to be making some pretty reasonable arguments. What chance does Frodo have? Not a good one. And why does Frodo get to carry it? Just because it randomly fell into the hands of his uncle? But Boromir, his will superseded by the Ring's will, falls into pure greed and grabs Frodo, trying to take it from him.
BOROMIR [to invisible Frodo]: I see your mind. You will take the Ring to Sauron. You will betray us! You go to your death and the death of us all.
Boromir is probably just saying outlandish things because he's upset at his failure to take the Ring from Frodo.
GANDALF: Tell me, friend,when did Saruman the Wise abandon reason for madness?
[A brief scuffle ensues; Saruman is victorious.]
SARUMAN: I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly. But you have elected the way of pain!
This is betrayal on a truly terrifying level. Saruman is the wisest of wise, the leader of the Istari. He is literally a god incarnate. Gandalf isn't just losing a counselor; Middle-earth is losing a great ally. Saruman's betrayal shows us that even the wisest can be corrupted.
GALADRIEL [narrating]: It began with the forging of the Great Rings. Three were given to the elves… Seven to the dwarf lords… And nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of men… For within these rings was bound the strength and will to govern each race. But they were all of them deceived. For another ring was made. In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the dark Lord Sauron forged in secret a master Ring to control all others, and into this Ring he poured all his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life. One Ring to rule them all.
This is by no means the first betrayal in Middle-earth, but it was one of the greatest; the betrayal that started two great wars of the Second and Third Age. You may be wondering why these elves and dwarves and men were dumb enough to accept some suspiciously nice presents from an evil overlord in menacing armor. But Sauron is a Maiar (a Middle-earth equivalent of an angel), after all, and can be especially cunning and deceptive when he isn't bashing heads in with a giant mace.
ELROND: Cast it into the fire. Destroy it!
There's a reason Elrond doesn't trust the hearts of men, and his name is Isildur. Really, Isildur? "No"? That's it? How about some well thought out argumentation?
GALADRIEL [narrating]: And the Ring of Power has a will of its own. It betrayed Isildur to his death.
[…]Darkness crept back into the forests of the world. Rumor grew of a shadow in the East, whispers of a nameless fear. And the Ring of Power perceived. Its time had now come. It [the Ring] abandoned Gollum.
Hey, who says betrayal is only for living beings? The Ring itself gets in on a whole lot of betraying action when it leads Isildur to his death during the ambush, and when it abandons Gollum under the Misty Mountains. It really does have a mind of it's own.