6

In The Fellowship of the Ring, there does not seem to be a lot of concern for destroying the Ring, even though it is recognized as being of paramount importance to everyone. Especially, the Fellowship itself is not very concerned with it, since they only intend to accompany Frodo for a while, before tending to other matters.

If the Ring getting into the wrong hands means doom for everyone, why do the characters seem to find other tasks more important, such as going to Minas Tirith? Why was the initial intention of many members of the fellowship (certainly of many important ones) not to accompany Frodo to Mordor?

To refresh your memory here is what the fellowship members are concerned with:

Aragorn: going to Minas Tirith. Boromir: going to Minas Tirith. Legolas: going at least as far as the passes of the mountains. Gimli: going at least as far as the passes of the mountains. Frodo: going to Mount Doom. Sam: (presumably) going to Mount Doom. Merry: unknown. Pippin: unknown. Gandalf: unknown.

EDIT:

This question is not concerned with the (reasons behind the) fellowship breaking. Rather it is about the intentions when the fellowship was formed.

As this accepted answer argues, it was never the intention of most of the fellowship to accompany Frodo into Mordor. Is that true? If so, why was that? Certainly destroying the ring is of more importance than any other quests the fellowship members had.

I quote the following passages from the answer linked above:

It says of Legolas and Gimli: They are willing to go at least to the passes of the Mountains, and maybe beyond.

But on the other hand, of Aragorn and Boromir:

'I would have begged you to come,' said Frodo, 'only I thought you were going to Minas Tirith with Boromir.'

'I am,' said Aragorn. 'And the Sword-that-was-Broken shall be reforged ere I set out to war. But your road and our road lie together for many hundreds of miles. Therefore Boromir will also be in the Company. He is a valiant man.'

  • 1
  • Thanks, but that doesn't answer my question. I am not asking why Aragorn and the others decide to abandon Frodo and Sam after Merry and Pippin get caught. I am asking why the initial plan of the Fellowship (when it all started) was not to accompany Frodo all the way? Rather, why was the plan simply to walk with Frodo for a while, since they're headed in the same direction anyway? Why would any other destination besides Mordor be of more importance? – Bob Dec 16 '18 at 9:21
  • Some of them also understands, or come to understand, that it is a suicide mission. Not only as in slim chance to succeed, but as - there is no getting out alive once the ring is destroyed. Frodo and Sam would be dead if not for the eagles - they are exhausted and wounded, with no supplies left, on top of an active volcano. The arrival of the eagles is fairly clear a divine intervention by Manwe/Valar to save the hobbits. – Amarth Dec 16 '18 at 12:38
12

On the contrary, majority of the Fellowship did feel that destroying the Ring was important

  1. Frodo

    Being the Ringbearer, it would be self-explanatory that he would definitely want the Ring destroyed, to relieve him of that burden. This very quote summarises his willingness to destroy the Ring.

    'I will take the Ring,' he said, 'though I do not know the way.'

  2. Samwise

    Sam's choice in going was more of protecting Frodo, while he went to destroy the Ring. Sam is utterly loyal to Frodo and would go the the ends of the (Middle) Earth with him.

    'But you won't send him off alone surely, Master?' cried Sam, unable to contain himself any longer, and jumping up from the corner where he had been quietly sitting on the floor.

    'No indeed!' said Elrond, turning towards him with a smile. 'You at least shall go with him. It is hardly possible to separate you from him, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not.'

  3. Merry and Pippin

    Merry and Pippin had similar reasons as Sam in going, but it was more of a great friendship between them. Don't forget that they too were willing to start of the quest with Frodo in the beginning, and are now equally willing to go on because of their friendship and loyalty to him.

    'It's most unfair,' said Pippin. 'Instead of throwing him out, and clapping him in chains, Elrond goes and rewards him for his cheek!'

    'Rewards!' said Frodo. 'I can't imagine a more severe punishment. You are not thinking what you are saying: condemned to go on this hopeless journey, a reward? Yesterday I dreamed that my task was done, and I could rest here, a long while, perhaps for good.'

    'I don't wonder,' said Merry, 'and I wish you could. But we are envying Sam, not you. If you have to go, then it will be a punishment for any of us to be left behind, even in Rivendell. We have come a long way with you and been through some stiff times. We want to go on.'


Now for the rest of the Fellowship. Aside from Gandalf and Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli didn't really know the hobbits much and their intentions of going with him may not be out of friendship. However they are certainly willing to go with him, as Elrond surmises:

'And I will choose you companions to go with you, as far as they will or fortune allows. The number must be few, since your hope is in speed and secrecy. Had I a host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days, it would avail little, save to arouse the power of Mordor.


  1. Gandalf

    Gandalf's intentions are as clear as Frodo: Destroy the Ring and save the world. It is his duty after all for coming to Middle-earth in the first place - the defeat of Sauron.

    'The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil. With you and your faithful servant, Gandalf will go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labours.

  2. Legolas and Gimli

    Consider what Gimli says in this conversation:

    At that moment Elrond came out with Gandalf, and he called the Company to him. 'This is my last word,' he said in a low voice. 'The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.'

    'Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,' said Gimli.

    I think, although both Gimli and Legolas said that they would only accompany the Fellowship as far as the Mountains, in their hearts they were truly willing to go on. And they did.

    Don't forget about the dislike they had for each other at the start. That is another reason why they'd continue going on: one didn't want to be seen as weak by the other.

  3. Aragorn and Boromir

    Aragorn and Boromir are certainly trickier to explain. As your quote suggests, Aragorn is going to Minas Tirith with Boromir.

    'I would have begged you to come,' said Frodo, 'only I thought you were going to Minas Tirith with Boromir.'

    'I am,' said Aragorn. 'And the Sword-that-was-Broken shall be reforged ere I set out to war. But your road and our road lie together for many hundreds of miles. Therefore Boromir will also be in the Company. He is a valiant man.'

    Boromir sole purpose of coming to Rivendell was to answer a riddle, and presumably also to gain powerful allies in the fight against Sauron. He's the heir to the Steward of Gondor, the most powerful (good) military nation in the South, and would feel that defending his city is in his best interest. In other words, unlike Frodo and Gandalf, he cannot see the bigger picture beyond the safety of Gondor. That is the reason why he succumbed to the Ring, he needed that power to help Gondor, and was not willing to bring the Ring to Sauron's domain itself.

    "You will take the Ring to Sauron and sell us all!"

    Aragorn, being the de facto King of Gondor, knew that should Gondor fall, the Orcs would have free rein into the Northern kingdoms. But he could see the bigger picture, unlike Boromir, and did change his mind later on.


Bottom line; however...

The Fellowship's purpose was really just to help Frodo reach the end goal. There was no oaths taken promising to get to Mount Doom with Frodo, but rather help him get there. Why? The Ring was a temptation. It doesn't matter if 9 or a hundred people go with Frodo into Mordor, they would eventually succumb to the temptation of the Ring, which only gets stronger as they go on. Elrond knew this.

The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.

It is not a matter of unconcern for destroying the Ring, but rather concern that everyone gets corrupted while doing so. Lesser people tagging along means lesser risk of getting corrupted. Even Sam is tempted at the end, but his impressive willpower and common sense triumphs.

7

I think you raise a valid point. But it's not surprising. Put yourself in the places of the nine people who will become the Fellowship. The habits of a lifetime are not changed by a single day's committee meeting! (Even if it's chaired by Elrond!)

Pippin and Merry are basically still very young -- think of them as frat boys. They're along out of loyalty to Frodo. The Ring is magical, but it doesn't really affect them -- they aren't tempted by it, for instance. The only thing that really seems to get to them are the Black Riders. (Can't blame them!) Otherwise, the trip is still something of a lark. (They do grow up a lot later on, but we're talking earlier.)

Boromir went on the trip to Rivendell in hopes of finding salvation for Gondor. A Gondor that believes in swords, not magic, a Gondor that no longer has a connection to the Elves, and a Gondor where Numenor is a distant legend. (The 3000 years since Numenor foundered is a long time.) He didn't really know what Rivendell was or what to expect. Elrond wasn't a legendary figure of great wisdom, but forgotten by all but a few lore-masters.

Also, note that Boromir had arrived in Rivendell the morning of the Council.

Furthermore, Boromir is a man of action and not notably contemplative or self-analyzing. He went to Imladris hoping for something to save Gondor and found midgets carrying a ring which he's told is a powerful lost thing of power. Why should Boromir be particularly impressed? It's easy to imagine him being impressed with Rivendell's beauty, but thinking, "I could take this place with a hundred good soldiers of Gondor. How can they help against Sauron?"

Finally, once it is made clear that the Ring can't go to Minas Tirith to help, his mission has pretty much failed. It's not clear how much he believes in all this, anyway -- it's a bit like Winston Churchill in 1939 being sent in a dream to somewhere in Wales to seek help and upon arriving meeting Merlin and getting told that Arthur is heading off to destroy Excalibur and would you like to come along? Would he say "Sure!" or just back away slowly and carefully?

Gimli and his father show up at Rivendell because their home has been threatened. They do know of Elrond and Rivendell and do know that there is still magic in the world, but they are craftsmen and warriors and are still hoping that this is all just a misunderstanding or something, so they can go back to rebuilding the Dwarf Kingdom. Furthermore, while they know of the Elves, they don't trust them. Dwarves and Elves have been mutually hostile for at least 6000 years. Dwarves may respect Elves' power, but they probably think of them as effete remnants of the great fighters of old. When the orcs multiply it's the Dwarves who go off and fight them, not the Elves who hide in Rivendell.

So they come to Rivendell for advice. Not because they think Elrond is ultra-wise and certainly not because they expect to find Gandalf there, but because they know that Bilbo -- their friend -- is living there in retirement. And when they get there, they get the Ring dumped on them. "So," they think, "is this real or some Elvish trick?"

Gimli goes along as much as anything for the pride of the Dwarves -- if the Elves are on this trip, the Dwarves need to be part of things, too. Doubtless the Dwarves have more belief in magic/supernormal than do Gondorians, but it's not part of their modern life, either.

Sam is there for Frodo. Period.

Legolas seems to me to be focused on the Ring more than the others are, but as an Elf, the reality of the Ring is probably more convincing to him. But, again, he's not a High Elf -- he's of a branch of the Elves who started out for Valinor long, long ago, but never made it, and who have ruled a forest kingdom of Dark Elves since the First Age. Think of him has something of an unsophisticated country cousin. (He was in Rivendell as a messenger from his father, the King of the Elves of Mirkwood -- presumably not on an errand connected with the Ring or Sauron or it would have been noted as it was for Gimli and Gloin.)

Aragon is the one (other that Frodo, of course) who is personally committed to destroying the Ring. From his long association with Gandalf, he understands that it's real and dangerous, and he understands that magic is real and that Sauron is terrible and powerful and probably not to be stopped by arms alone. But even he is conflicted, since if it were not for the Ring, he would be off to try to save Gondor. But he makes it clear that he is fully committed.

Given the people involved and their backgrounds, how real would this quest be? It requires a lot of trust in the wisdom of wizards! How many of us if we were summoned to a Board of Directors meeting at work and told by the company's chief scientist that they had found a nuclear bomb in the basement and we needed to set off on foot carrying it to the Nevada Test Site to dispose of it would say, "Sure! Great idea! I'll get right on it."

Frankly, I think it's amazing that so many people were willing to do as much as they did!

So prior to the events at Rauros, Boromir is planning to head off to Gondor, Frodo, Sam and Aragorn are heading to Mordor, Pippin and Merry are wondering what they're doing there and thinking that they'll stick with Frodo. Legolas and Gimli are more aware of the dangers than anyone but Aragorn and willing to follow Frodo, but must be thinking how hopeless this all looks and wouldn't it be great if we didn't go charging off into the clutches of Sauron?

Once Frodo breaks the Fellowship, everyone does what it perfectly in character for them.

  • Thank you. However, I am not concerned with what happens when the fellowship breaks, but rather about when it is formed. You make a good point for Boromir. However, please see the edit to my question. I am under the impression that Aragorn was not initially headed to Mordor. While Gimli may just be following Legolas, it also seems that Legolas was also not chiefly concerned with destroying the ring, which I do not understand. As you state, the Elves should believe in the importance of destroying the ring. – Bob Dec 16 '18 at 12:16
  • I'll try to expand on that, some. But the reasons are still the same: For most of them, this is new and mysterious -- which means unconvincing. – Mark Olson Dec 16 '18 at 12:34
  • "Pippin and Merry are basically still very young -- think of them as frat boys. They're along out of loyalty to Frodo." Movie Pippin and Merry, perhaps. Book Pippin and Merry are not "frat boys" by any means, though they do indeed accompany Frodo out of loyalty. – Kyralessa Dec 16 '18 at 12:50
  • Merry and Pippin are, in fact, driven by more than loyal impulse when they leave the Shire. They have figured out that Frodo needed to get rid of the Ring, and put together a bit of a conspiracy with Sam and Fatty to help him do so. They are quite aware of the issue by the time they are informed of the trip (book 1 ch. 5). Frat boys they may be, but informed frat boys nonetheless. – Misha R Dec 16 '18 at 19:23
  • Regarding mistrust between dwarves and elves: the dwarves know enough to tell the difference between the elven races. Their beef was always with Sindar & Nandor, since the fall of Doriath. They have always been on friendly relations with Noldor though, particularly the dwarves of dwarves of Khazad Dum, from which Gloin and Gimli originate. And of course they have more recent, personal reasons to trust Elrond. Legolas is however of Sindar. – Amarth Dec 16 '18 at 19:43
5

Because except for Frodo they weren't there to destroy the Ring. Elrond only chooses Gandalf and Sam to accompany Frodo to Mordor; the rest are there to keep him company as long as they want:

I will choose you companions to go with you, as far as they will or fortune allows....

...'With you and your faithful servant, Gandalf will go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labours.

‘For the rest, they shall represent the other Free Peoples of the World: Elves, Dwarves, and Men.'

(Book II, Chapter 2, "The Council of Elrond")

Boromir has always been intending to return to Gondor, and Aragorn has always been intending to go with him. And everyone else knew that:

In Gondor we must trust to such weapons as we have. And at the least, while the Wise ones guard this Ring, we will fight on. Mayhap the Sword-that-was-Broken may still stem the tide... ' ‘Who can tell?’ said Aragorn. ‘But we will put it to the test one day.’

‘May the day not be too long delayed,’ said Boromir. ‘For though I do not ask for aid, we need it.'

(Book II, Chapter 2, "The Council of Elrond")

And later:

... 'Strider!’ cried Frodo.

‘Yes,’ he said with a smile. ‘I ask leave once again to be your companion, Frodo.’

‘I would have begged you to come,’ said Frodo, ‘only I thought you were going to Minas Tirith with Boromir.’

‘I am,’ said Aragorn.

(Book II, Chapter 3, "The Ring Sets Out")

Elrond chooses the others as much for symbolic reasons as anything else ("they shall represent the other Free Peoples of the World"), and so he knows he can't hold them to anything in particular except to go with Frodo as long as they feel comfortable, and to help him as much as they can. In fact, he believes that the success of the errand doesn't depend on, much less require, the presence of the others. If Frodo is destined to do it, he feels, he won't strictly need the others - destiny will somehow carry him through. (And this is, in fact, what we see in the end.) If not, the presence of others won't help at all:

Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of the glance. ‘If I understand aright all that I have heard,’ he said, ‘I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.'

("The Council of Elrond"; emphasis added)

He repeats this idea as he's explaining his choice of Frodo' s companions.

Had I a host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days, it would avail little, save to arouse the power of Mordor.

(Chapter 3)

So he's not concerned with making sure that the others are primarily concerned with destroying the Ring.

He makes this clear just before the Company sets off:

‘This is my last word,’ he said in a low voice. ‘The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will.'

(Chapter 3)

Aragorn recognizes as well the idea that if Frodo is meant to do this, and only then, it will happen:

‘I wonder?’ said Aragorn. ‘He is the Bearer, and the fate of the Burden is on him. I do not think that it is our part to drive him one way or the other. Nor do I think that we should succeed, if we tried. There are other powers at work far stronger.’

(Book III, Chapter 1, "The Departure of Boromir")

The fundamental answer to the question, then, is that the others aren't there to make sure the Ring is destroyed. They're present in a largely symbolic capacity—and they share Elrond's belief that in the end the destruction of the Ring doesn't depend on what they do.

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