In the book Fellowship of the Ring, when the Fellowship is camped at Parth Galen above the Falls of Rauros, Frodo walks off alone to decide what to do next. Boromir slips off after Frodo and tries to steal the Ring. Frodo puts the Ring on and disappears; Boromir returns to the rest of the group and says that Frodo vanished. Aragorn suspects that Boromir isn't telling the whole story, but doesn't know exactly what Boromir is leaving out (though he may have a pretty good idea of what really happened).

The group immediately splits up without any attempt to coordinate their efforts, and everyone goes running off in different directions. Gimli and Legolas run one way; Sam another, Merry and Pippin go off in a third direction, and finally, Aragorn steps up and tries to impose some semblance of order to the search, instructing Boromir to go after Merry and Pippin while he chases Sam. He actually overtakes Samwise, and tells Sam to follow him, but Sam realizes that Frodo plans to leave the Fellowship on his own, and runs after Frodo.

As a result of this disorderly dash into the woods, Boromir is killed (but after all, the whole mess is his fault), Merry and Pippin are captured, Legolas runs out of arrows, and Sam and Frodo slip away alone. This is a catastrophic outcome, especially for Boromir (and later, for Minas Tirith, whose defense is ineptly overseen by Boromir's father, now mad with grief).

Why did the Fellowship split up and sprint off in different directions? The hobbits can be forgiven for panicking, since they don't know any better, but Gimli is a hardened warrior and Legolas is a fairly experienced warrior who is also an elf, and therefore supposedly very wise. Their behavior seems especially out of character and short sighted.

The only explanation I can think of is that the fact that Frodo used the Ring has something to do with it - specifically that the Ring itself made everyone freak out, but I have no evidence to support this theory.

Is there some canonical explanation for the Fellowship's surprising, ill-advised, and reckless behavior in this situation?

I'm hoping for an answer other than "They were worried about Frodo", which seems to be a weak argument in my opinion - they didn't freak out this much when Frodo was stabbed in Moria, or near Weathertop, or at any other time - even when Gandalf fell. However, I will accept whichever answer is most convincing

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    Remember the old military advice: When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout :-)
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 5:43
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    From a story-telling point of view we have to consider the fact, that Tolkien uses the members of the Fellowship as narrators of his plot - like Martin, only less violent - he needed them to freak so that he could break them up and tell all the other stories he needed to tell - Rohan & Helm's Deep with A,L & G, Minas Tirith with P (and the White Guy), Gollum and Mordor with F&S, Saruman and Treebird with M&P and the Rohirrim with M. As you remarked HorusKol gave an excellent in-universe justification for it happening - but if cooler heads had prevailed, TTT would have had no plot :P
    – BMWurm
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 17:45
  • @BMWurm you are right, of course, but when Tolkien needs something to happen, he usually gives us convincing reasons why it happens- here he didn't offer us much of anything. Hence my question.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 17:54
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    I have wondered the same thing. When Frodo asks Giladrael why he can't use the ring she asks him if he's ever tried. Later she says that he "begins to see with a keen eye", when he can see her ring and Sam can't. Perhaps he is using the ring to make everyone scatter, because he knows he has to go on alone, but it would be nice to have a letter or something to verify it. Commented May 23, 2015 at 0:44
  • Actually Aragorn attempted to organise things but out of fear for Frodo they all went before he could do so. And @BobbyNewmark the only reason he used the Ring there: to escape from Boromir and then he knew it'd be too difficult for the Fellowship particularly Sam and they would try and convince and prevent him from going on his own; the fact he knew what he had to do and was scared and there were uncertainties in the Fellowship made this all the more a reason for him to do it this way. Sam figures this out and then sees a boat moving on its own.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 13:45

2 Answers 2


Moria and Parth Galen are different situations - Frodo was injured in Moria, but not separated from the party.

The rush at Parth Galen was to find Frodo - and the young Hobbits have already demonstrated on a few occasions that they have not got an abundance of common sense. There had already been friction over the direction of the Fellowship from where they were camped, particularly with Boromir wanting to take the ring to Gondor, Aragorn desiring to visit the city but aware of the Fellowship's true quest, and Frodo's awareness that he needs to get the ring to Mt Doom sooner rather than later.

There's even more friction from other factors like Boromir coveting the ring, and Frodo is starting to feel some force (either Sauron or the ring) - and this is affecting the whole group.

So, when Boromir turns up to say that Frodo has vanished, it is little wonder that the Hobbits dash off in multiple directions. As for Gimli and Legolas - they have probably also been affected by the general malaise, and Aragorn has let his doubts taint his leadership of the Fellowship - probably just enought for Gimli and Legolas to just act without co-ordinating.

So it's only Boromir, who has finally realised the weakness of his pride, that defers to Aragorn's leadership.

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    Although it begs the question of why/how they thought they could find an invisible person. "Everyone scatter and look for the guy no one can see!"
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 16:04
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    I'm picturing a milk carton printed with "Have you seen this hobbit?", a blank space where the photo should be, and below that, "Description: 3'8", 80 lbs; Hair: Invisible. Eye Color: Invisible. Skin Color: Invisible. Last unseen wearing: Magic Ring that makes him invisible. If you have seen this hobbit, please call 1-800-THE-RING. Reward of global annihilation by the Dark Lord for information regarding the whereabouts of this hobbit."
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 16:15
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    I know this is an "ancient" question but I want to remark one thing about the "invisibility equals undiscoverable" thing. Biology provide us with another 4 senses despite the view. If something can't be see doesn't mean that you cannot smell it or hear it or even see tracks or even clues of his movements, just like Aragorn did. The same with blackholes (stupid example, I know. But you surely know what I mean) you can't see it, but you can notice the effects so you can say where a blackhole is without needed to see it.
    – frikinside
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 19:16
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    Just, another comment with this question. For me the stupid thing isn't the freak out disbanded of the fellowship. Letm e explain with 3 points. First, Aragorn, a dunedain with highly capabilities of seeking and follow tracks. Second, Boromir, the only one who knows where Frodo disapeared. And thrid, Frodo, a hobbit unexperience at covering his tracks. WHY ON MIDDLE EARTH BOROMIR AND ARAGORN DON'T GO TOGETHER TO SEEK FRODO IN FIRST PLACE? This is the thing that anoyed me...
    – frikinside
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 19:20
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    @frikinside: Because Aragon knew Frodo had no reason to trust Boromir, and he wouldn't come out of hiding as long as he could see Boromir blundering about. Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 7:44

In Moria they were fighting in the Chamber of Mazarbul, and Frodo's just been stabbed. They were saddened by his apparent death, but not panicked--the ring was still there and another could take it up as the new Ringbearer, as Sam did (briefly) much later.

At Parth Galen, the Ringbearer has just disappeared, and the only one who knew where he was at the time or has any idea why he disappeared has clammed up about it. Frodo and the Ring could be anywhere nearby, easy pickings for a pack of orcs or whatnot--and they had reason to worry. They knew orcs patrolled the other side of the river at least, they thought Gollum may have followed their trail, and Aragorn had a sense of foreboding about a coming shadow and threat.

So at that point their mission (and the fate of Middle Earth itself) was in immediate danger of failing. It's no surprise that they scampered off into the forest in desperate pursuit of Frodo, without much thought to organizing their search.

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    This is true but still Aragorn tried to organise them; but they were too much in panic mode to even heed the fact he said anything.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 13:48

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