Our story begins in the Second Age of Middle-earth. Sauron has created the Rings of Power and the One Ring, which he's using to assault the Free People with his army of Orcs. Men and elves join together to defeat him…but the Ring is lost and Sauron is never wholly gone.
Oh, did we mention this is fantasy? K, just checking.
Fifteen hundred years pass (tired yet?), and the Ring is picked up by Gollum. He hides under the Misty Mountains for another five hundred years (are we there yet?) as the Ring corrupts him.
Bilbo, traveling during his adventures in The Hobbit, finds the Ring and carries it with him to the Shire.
Bilbo turns 111 and, like all 111-year-olds, decides to go on a grand adventure. He leaves the Ring to Frodo. Gandalf, who showed up for the birthday bash, goes on a frenzy of research to determine whether this magic Ring is the One Ring of Sauron.
Surprise, surprise: it is.
So Frodo takes off with his buddy/gardener Sam and is joined by hobbit rascals Merry and Pippin as they head out to meet Gandalf at Bree…hopefully before they're killed by the Nazgûl that's hunting them down through the woods.
Gandalf doesn't make it to Bree because he loses track of time while having tea with his old wizard pal Saruman. (Translation: Saruman turned evil and holds him captive.) But the rest of 'em meet Aragorn, known then as Strider, who leads them out of town toward Rivendell.
Not quick enough, though: the Nazgûl track them down and stab Frodo with a Morgul blade.
Arwen, daughter of elf lord Elrond and lover of Aragorn, is there to save the day. She outrides the Nazgûl to Rivendell and crashes a river of horses upon them when they come after Frodo. But even Rivendell isn't a safe haven for the Ring; Elrond can't defend both Sauron's army of Mordor and Saruman's army of Isengard. Their only option is to end the war by destroying the Ring. So they gather a council of dwarves and men and elves (oh my!) to decide who will take the Ring into the heart of Mordor and cast it into the fires in which it was forged.
Guess who steps up?
Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas (an elf ranger), Gimli (a dwarf warrior), Boromir (son of the Steward of Gondor), and of course Frodo's his three hobbit-bros all team up to go with him. Together they form—drumroll, please—the Fellowship of the Ring.
And so they're off. But this is a Hollywood movie, so they obviously run into some problems pretty quickly. The south pass is being watched by Saruman's spies, and going over the Misty Mountains is hard when Saruman is raining down thunder and lightning. So it's off to the dwarven Mines of Moria, where orcs await. They kill boatloads of orcs, and, just when it seems there are simply too many to dispatch, they run off in terror of the approaching demon Balrog. They flee the mines, but Gandalf doesn't make it.
He turns to fight the Balrog...and both of them fall into the shadow of the mountain.
The fellowship is distraught but must keep moving toward the woods of Lothlórien and to the wonderful but fearsome Lady Galadriel. Lady Galadriel shows Frodo awful visions of the future and refuses Frodo's offer of the Ring. After checking her list twice, she gives them gifts and sends them off down the river toward Mordor.
But the company is being chased by a band of Uruk-hai (a.k.a. orcs on steroids) led by a dude named Lurtz. They attack them at a moment of weakness—just after Boromir himself attacks Frodo in an attempt to take the Ring in a fit of madness. Frodo runs, Merry and Pippin are captured, and Boromir dies trying to protect them.
Noooo. We really liked Boromir.
Frodo has decided to go Mordor alone, but like a good bestie should, Sam follows him and manages to secure himself a spot of Frodo's boat to destiny. Aragorn tells Legolas and Gimli that Frodo is on his own now, so they take off after Merry and Pippin, ready to slay some orcs and rescue their friends.
Seem like an unfinished story? Yeah, there's a second and third one.