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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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A fellowship is formed to accompany Frodo south toward
Mordor. They pass through the mines of Moria, where
Gandalf is lost in battle with a Balrog.

Frodo awakens in Rivendell to find the wizard sitting by his
bed. He learns from Gandalf about the Black Riders and the
events at the ford. The Black Riders, Gandalf tells Frodo,
are the nine ringwraiths, men who have been enslaved by
Sauron through rings of power. Frodo had very nearly
fallen into their power. If he had not reached Rivendell in
time, the power of the Rider's knife would have turned him
into a wraith, under the dominion of Sauron.

Chapter 1 contains a great deal of information, revealed
mostly through dialogue. Frodo learns from Gandalf about
the nature of the elves. The elves had at one time lived in
the Blessed Realm, which lies beyond the western sea.
They now live in both worlds and have power over both the
seen and unseen. (Later, Tolkien slips in the information
that the elves are immortal.) Gandalf tells Frodo that there
is great power in Rivendell to withstand Sauron. He also
comments that there is power of another kind in the Shire.
Can you guess what that power is? This is an important
question to keep in mind as you read the book.

Tolkien was a devout Christian, and some people read The
Lord of the Rings as a Christian allegory. In chapter 1 you
can see why. Frodo learns that the gleaming figure he saw
by the ford was Glorfindel, appearing in the form that he
assumes "on the other side" (presumably in the unseen
world, though perhaps Gandalf is referring to the Blessed
Realm). Glorfindel sounds almost like an angel, and in fact,
some readers believe that the elves are angels and that the
Blessed Realm is heaven. Tolkien, however, strongly denied
that his books are allegorical. An example of a work
intended as Christian allegory is Pilgrim's Progress by
John Bunyan (1678). In that book the characters journey
through an imaginary landscape toward heaven. Their
journey is the journey of life, or of faith, and their
adventures represent the pitfalls on the way to salvation,
such as despair and greed. Tolkien is quoted as having said
that he never intended to have his book interpreted in such
a manner. However, he admitted that while religion is
never mentioned in The Lord of the Rings (in fact, he
deliberately deleted references to religion), the principles
of his faith are deeply imbedded in the story. Gandalf's
statement that Frodo was chosen to bear the Ring hints at
the workings of divine providence. Frodo is tempted by evil
when he feels compelled to put on the Ring. Be alert to
these religious undertones as you read the book.

A great feast is held in Frodo's honor. There, Gandalf,
Elrond, and Glorfindel appear as awe-inspiring figures, a
change from The Hobbit, where characters are often made
fun of. After the feast, Frodo finds Bilbo in a large hall
where the elves now gather to sing and talk.

One small event casts a pall on the evening. When Bilbo
asks to see the Ring and Frodo shows it to him, it is as if a
shadow suddenly falls between the two hobbits. (Note
again Tolkien's use of shadow as a symbol for evil.) Frodo
sees Bilbo as a wrinkled, grasping creature and feels an
urge to hit him. Around them, the singing of the elves
falters, and there is sudden silence. Bilbo realizes that the
Ring has already affected Frodo's personality.

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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