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  • Frodo had Sting. Which he only did because Bilbo gave it to him. And which was desperately needed to defeat Shelob when Sam was fighting her, so he needed to take the sword where Frodo dropped it.

    It was given to Frodo by Bilbo. Nobody gave Sam any good swords.

  • Frodo has Mithril chainmail. With obvious benefits.

    It was given to him by ... drumroll... Bilbo.

So... what did Gandalf and Elrond give Frodo, or Sam, as far as useful equipment?

As far as I recall, "nothing" seems to sum it up.

At least Galadriel gave Frodo the Phial, which clearly came in handy.

So, if they were meant to go on a daring commando mission, why didn't Elrond and Gandalf equip the members of the Company - especially the hobbits, especially Frodo - better?

102

The Company took little gear of war, for their hope was in secrecy not in battle.

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 3: "The Ring Goes South"

Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf all had equipment they trusted, and which they were accustomed to tramping through the Wild with; they didn't really require anything else.

It would have been challenging to equip the hobbits in Elvish gear; the time required to make four suits of Elvish mail in hobbit-size probably would have been prohibitive, and would have looked very unusual to any spies of Sauron or Saruman.

But the hobbits weren't completely defenseless; they still had their barrow-blades:

The younger hobbits wore the swords that they had taken from the barrow;

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 3: "The Ring Goes South"

The elves probably could have given them Elvish knives, but why bother? Blades of Westernesse do the job well enough1.

Finally, Elrond did furnish them with some useful things; N_Soong has already mentioned the miruvor, but he also gave them some items of more mundane utility:

All were well furnished by Elrond with thick warm clothes, and they had jackets and cloaks lined with fur. Spare food and clothes and blankets and other needs were laden on a pony, none other than the poor beast that they had brought from Bree.

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 3: "The Ring Goes South"

The last factor to consider is weight; every item the Fellowship took with them had to be carried, in theory,all the way to Mordor; a trip that took five months for Frodo and Sam alone. Every pound is precious in that situation.


1 Obviously Sam could have used a little extra help against Shelob, but it's questionable whether Elrond could have forseen that, or if he could have provided anything even if he had. Even Sting wasn't enough to kill Shelob, or even harm her signficantly; she was only defeated because she speared herself on it

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    Shelob didn’t even die, despite spearing herself on Sting. – Michael Dec 3 '15 at 10:29
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    You make a good point about weight. Loading them down with 25kg of armor, and then sending them on a 3-month march over mountains and rivers (unmounted) would have done far more harm then good. One of the most-often mentioned benefits of Frodo's mithril mail was that it was so light. And even thought the hobbits had their swords, they weren't exactly warriors. In a battle, they'd be as likely to harm themselves or a companion than they would an enemy. – Mike Harris Dec 3 '15 at 15:51
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    They already had Gandalf, and Elrond would know better than the hobbits how much that was worth. If they ran into anything that Gandalf couldn't handle, a few extra elves wouldn't help much. In hindsight, we can talk about Balrogs, but that was probably the only thing on the continent that would both pose a serious threat to Gandalf and not report their position to Sauron as soon as it saw them, and nobody had any reason to think there would be one in Moria. – Ray Dec 3 '15 at 23:04
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    Also keep in mind that they probably would have had a much easier time in Mordor if the Fellowship hadn't broken, and that happened because they included one member too many. – Ray Dec 3 '15 at 23:09
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    Shelob is also an ancient evil and direct descendant of Ungoliant, and was mostly unknown in the 'modern age' in which LOTR takes place. How would you equip someone against the progeny of a god? – C Bauer Dec 4 '15 at 12:51
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I don't think it's quite fair to say that Elrond didn't give them anything. In The Fellowship of the Ring, before leaving Rivendell, Gandalf is given a vial of miruvor by Elrond, a rejuvenating cordial which provides them with strength:

The name Miruvor refers to a reviving cordial of the Elves in Rivendell, a liquor with the power to grant renewed vigour and strength. Miruvor was clear and colourless, with a pleasant fragrance. It was possibly a different substance, an imitation, to Miruvórë, and perhaps named after it.

Elrond gave a flask of the "Cordial of Imladris" to Gandalf before the Company of the Ring departed on their southward journey. Gandalf used this drink to revitalize themselves on Caradhras.

(Source)

This certainly turned out to be a useful gift:

As soon as Frodo had swallowed a little of the warm and fragrant liquor [miruvor] he felt a new strength of heart, and the heavy drowsiness left his limbs. The others also revived and found fresh hope and vigour.'

The Fellowship of the Ring 'The Ring Goes South'


Elrond actually explains that he could not be of much help:

'Then I cannot help you much, not even with counsel,' said Elrond. 'I can foresee very little of your road; and how your task is to be achieved I do not know...'

The Fellowship of the Ring: 'The Ring goes South'

3

This the Dungeon Master "help set the party up" question. In-story, Elrond knew better than to rummage around, give local vendors stories to slip the half-orcs, etc. Elrond was not the DM's proxy, and knew better even than to have the party swear oaths. Please don't tell me that's not standard tabletop behavior.

Also in-story, Fate provisioned Frodo, eventually, to have light of the star that came first from Yavanna's Two Trees. The parent of Shelob poisoned those trees, changing the Elvish cosmology.

When the Ringwraiths disturbed the Shire, they awakened spirits of malice in the ancient tomb barrows around it. This provisioned Merry with a dagger used to cleave the spell binding a Ringwraith's will to the shadow of its memory of living tissue. I also suspect the guardian Maiar spirit of Middle Earth had something to do with it.

The last 1.5 theocides pitted force against force, caused millions of casualties, indirectly; not including Sauron's mechanations in the east that keep pressure on Gondor. If the Valar have indeed appointed the lowly halfling to commit this third and hopefully last theocide under the Sun, they follow Eru's adage that anything that is corrupt and lowly redounds in the end only to Eru's greater glory.

Evil acts have indirect good consequences, just as mistakes with good intent have indirect good consequences. (This is a Tolkien review trope.) The Witch King lead to his own demise by helping Merry have the very dagger a hopeful Numenorean-exile smith had sang the correct song over, and used the correct metals. And the shadowy Balrog forcing Frodo into Lothlorien armed Frodo with the correct light to use in the dark land; a light appointed by Elrond and Aragorn's own ancestors.

  • This doesn't really seem to answer the question of why Elrond didn't equip the Fellowship better, but is rather a discussion about Lord of the Rings as a whole. – Rand al'Thor Dec 4 '15 at 16:25
  • it is a discussion how fate had already uniquely armed the party; many details under Elronds' nose. He wouldn't remember the barrows' original builders ~ they're HIS ancestors. But he would have known the Numenorean smiths. – Phlip Dec 4 '15 at 16:28
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    "evil acts have unintended good consequences." This is how the party was provisioned – Phlip Dec 4 '15 at 19:38
  • This is the most tolkienologically-correct answer, and it has the least votes. And it has one anachronism, that nobody can spot. – Phlip Dec 16 '15 at 0:02
  • This doesn't answer the question at all. Whether or not this is a theme in Tolkien is irrelevant to why Gandalf and elrond did or didn't equip the hobbits, unless they specifically chose not to equip them because they believed "fate will take care of it". That's deeply unsatisfying for a number of reasons. For starters it can only mean Bilbo and Galadriel, by giving Frodo gifts, showed no faith in Fate at all. Since Frodo would have died without the shirt, sting, and the star glass we know which view the story proved correct. – user945886 Jul 1 '16 at 10:03
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Elrond and Gandalf did equip the Fellowship very well for the planned trip - southward, across Caradhras, and into Lothlorien. Galadriel had been told of the plan - this was the journey of Elrond's sons, last to return as news was sought and sent out before the Fellowship left. Knowing that they could have their stores replenished and be re-armed by Galadriel, they began the trip with limited weapons, traveling light and in secrecy, as noted above. The only part of the trip for which they were not well prepared was Moria, and Gandalf had planned not to go there.

2
  1. Frodo had sting and the mithril shirt. There's no better armour or sword to give him.
  2. Sam had the barrow blade already. That's not "no good swords". One of them was enough to finish off the witch King.
  3. Gandalf was with them (and expected to be till the end)
  4. Elrond couldn't foresee their road and didn't know what they'd need, but knew the fellowship wouldn't win through by force of arms.
  5. And most important: Tolkien wasn't a DM, D&D didn't exist, it wasn't a Monty Haul campaign, and Middle Earth does not have a magic item economy.
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Most of the Elven Power had already left Middle-Earth. Elrond was really the last hold out in the lands of Riven-dale and Lothlorien.

This was mostly stayed by the power of the elven rings which resisted decay and weariness.

I doubt, sincerely, they have many "artifacts to spare" to give out. And if the fellowship should fail, all other devices would be needed to stave off the armies of the Black Lands.

This is also to consider that the fellowship already possessed dwarven and elven artifacts.

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    I seem to recall Helm's Deep seeing quite a bit of Elven power... anyway, you make it sound like Elrond is some cheap shopkeeper explaining why he's "already given you plenty" and you shouldn't ask for any more stuff for your money :-( – einpoklum Dec 6 '15 at 0:36

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