Frodo’s safe in Rivendell, so we can take a breath and catch up with everyone before diving back into the plot.
Frodo wakes up in Rivendell, discovering that he’s been unconscious (more or less) for several days. Also, Gandalf finally showed up again.
‘What happened at the Ford?’ said Frodo. ‘It all seemed so dim, somehow; and it still does.’
‘Yes, it would. You were beginning to fade,’ answered Gandalf. ‘The wound was overcoming you at last. A few more hours and you would have been beyond our aid. But you have some strength in you, my dear hobbit! As you showed in the Barrow. That was touch and go: perhaps the most dangerous moment of all. I wish you could have held out on Weathertop.’
‘You seem to know a great deal already,’ said Frodo. ‘I have not spoken to the others about the Barrow. At first it was too horrible, and afterwards there were other things to think about. How do you know about it?’
‘You have talked long in your sleep, Frodo,’ said Gandalf gently, ‘and it has not been hard for me to read your mind and memory.’
Awfully convenient how Gandalf can just glean the events of the past book from Frodo’s sleep-talking…but I’m not complaining. We’ll have more than enough infodumping next chapter.
‘I have become very fond of Strider. Well, fond is not the right word. I mean, he is dear to me; though he is strange, and grim at times. In fact, he reminds me often of you. I didn’t know that any of the Big People were like that. I thought, well, that they were just big, and rather stupid: kind and stupid like Butterbur; or stupid and wicked like Bill Ferny. But then we don’t know much about Men in the Shire, except perhaps the Breelanders.’
‘You don’t know much even about them, if you think old Barliman is stupid,’ said Gandalf. ‘He is wise enough on his own ground. He thinks less than he talks, and slower; yet he can see through a brick wall in time (as they say in Bree). But there are few left in Middle-earth like Aragorn son of Arathorn. The race of the Kings from over the Sea is nearly at an end. It may be that this War of the Ring will be their last adventure.’
We finally get to know a bit about Aragorn’s background, although most of it is still relegated to “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen”. I’ll just mention some pertinent information. He was raised in Rivendell because his parents died when he was little (and y’know, he’s the heir of the Numenorean Kings). What’s interesting is that those kings are actually descendants of Elrond’s brother: Since they were half-human, the two of them were given a choice about whether they wanted to live as mortal humans or immortal elves. Elrond chose immortality, but his brother didn’t, and it’s very doubtful whether or not they could even reunite in the afterlife, since Elves only go to a place in the same realm as Middle-earth, while the human afterlife is beyond the physical realm. Anyhow, Elrond chose to raise Aragorn, perhaps because of that kinship.
As for Frodo, apparently he had a big splinter left from that cursed knife inside his shoulder, and it had been working its way toward his heart. The Riders (which Gandalf confirms are the Nine Ringwraiths, those who were given the Nine Rings) had intended it to turn Frodo into a wraith.
Gandalf moved his chair to the bedside, and took a good look at Frodo. The colour had come back to his face, and his eyes were clear, and fully awake and aware. He was smiling, and there seemed to be little wrong with him. But to the wizard’s eye there was a faint change, just a hint as it were of transparency, about him, and especially about the left hand that lay outside upon the coverlet.
‘Still that must be expected,’ said Gandalf to himself. ‘He is not half through yet, and to what he will come in the end not even Elrond can foretell. Not to evil, I think. He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for those to see that can.’
Gandalf is only willing to tell Frodo that the reason he was delayed is that he was captured, and it had something to do with the Enemy (although that goes without saying). Also, Elrond’s going to hold council as soon Frodo is up for it, but first they have a feast in his honor to celebrate his recovery/arrival in Rivendell.
So it was that Frodo saw her whom few mortals had yet seen; Arwen, daughter of Elrond, in whom it was said that the likeness of Lúthien had come on earth again; and she was called Undómiel, for she was the Evenstar of her people. Long she had been in the land of her mother’s kin, in Lórien beyond the mountains, and was but lately returned to Rivendell to her father’s house. But her brothers, Elladan and Elrohir, were out upon errantry: for they rode often far afield with the Rangers of the North, forgetting never their mother’s torment in the dens of the orcs.
Such loveliness in living thing Frodo had never seen before nor imagined in his mind; and he was both surprised and abashed to find that he had a seat at Elrond’s table among all these folk so high and fair. Though he had a suitable chair, and was raised upon several cushions, he felt very small, and rather out of place; but that feeling quickly passed.
In case you were wondering, no, Arwen never gets a line of dialogue until Book VI (or possibly Book V). But there is a nebulous sort of connection implied between her and Frodo in spite of their never speaking to each other, which I guess makes their interaction in the movie make more sense – in the books there’s a much bigger payoff to much less setup. For the most part, Arwen’s just a motivator for Aragorn’s actions.
Frodo meets Glóin, one of the dwarves from the party in The Hobbit, who gushes about the prosperity of The Lonely Mountain, and it’s mostly just a huge callback to the previous book. But something’s clearly amiss – Balin has disappeared, and that seems to be only a part of the reason he came to Rivendell to seek counsel.
And speaking of The Hobbit…
‘Hullo, Frodo my lad!’ said Bilbo. ‘So you have got here at last. I hoped you would manage it. Well, well! So all this feasting is in your honour, I hear. I hope you enjoyed yourself?”
‘Why weren’t you there?’ cried Frodo. ‘And why haven’t I been allowed to see you before?’
‘Because you were asleep. I have seen a good deal of you. I have sat by your side with Sam each day. But as for the feast, I don’t go in for such things much now.’
Bilbo visited the Lonely Mountain when he first set out, but soon returned to Rivendell and has since become a permanent resident (largely of the “sitting and thinking” variety).
‘Have you got it here?’ he asked in a whisper. ‘I can’t help feeling curious, you know, after all I’ve heard. I should very much like just to peep at it again.’
‘Yes, I’ve got it, answered Frodo, feeling a strange reluctance. ‘It looks just the same as it ever did.’
‘Well, I should just like to see it for a moment,’ said Bilbo.
[…] Slowly he drew it out. Bilbo put out his hand. But Frodo quickly drew back the Ring. To his distress and amazement he found that he was no longer looking at Bilbo; a shadow seemed to have fallen between them, and through it he found himself eyeing a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands. He felt a desire to strike him.
The music and singing round them seemed to falter, and a silence fell. Bilbo looked quickly at Frodo’s face and passed his hand across his eyes. ‘I understand now,’ he said. ‘Put it away! I am sorry: sorry you have come in for this burden: sorry about everything. Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.’
This is another common thread of The Lord of the Rings: Stories never really end, they just switch characters periodically. The road goes ever on. Thus, our responsibility is not to find a happy ending, but to make the story better for the future.
Frodo and Bilbo start chatting about news from the Shire, and then Bilbo’s friend ‘the Dúnadan’ shows up.
‘Strider!’ said Frodo. ‘You seem to have a lot of names.’
‘Well, Strider is one that I haven’t heard before, anyway,’ said Bilbo. ‘What do you call him that for?’
‘They call me that in Bree,’ said Strider laughing, ‘and that is how I was introduced to him.’
‘And why do you call him Dúnadan?’ asked Frodo.
‘The Dúnadan,’ said Bilbo. ‘He is often called that here. But I thought you knew enough Elvish at least to know dún-adan: Man of the West, Númenorean. But this is not the time for lessons!’ He turned to Strider. ‘Where have you been, my friend? Why weren’t you at the feast? The Lady Arwen was there.’
Strider looked down at Bilbo gravely. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘But often I must put mirth aside. Elladan and Elrohir have returned out of the Wild unlooked-for, and they had tidings that I wished to hear at once.’
This guy has as many names as he has (metaphorical) hats. “Aragorn” represents his royal heritage, in his youth in Rivendell he was called “Estel” (“Hope”), and as “Dúnadan” he performs many perilous errands – generally unthanked, as implied by the shady nickname “Strider”.
Anyhow, Bilbo wanted Aragorn’s help on a song about Eärendil, who just so happened to be Elrond’s half-human father. Apparently he called Bilbo “cheeky” for attempting it, and his only input was that he should mention an emerald on Eärendil’s breastplate (emeralds are a type of beryl, or “elf-stone”). Tolkien’s just taking the opportunity to crowbar in the story of Eärendil, who sailed across the sea to Valinor (the resting place for the Elves), then set sail in the night sky as a star.
Frodo halted for a moment, looking back. Elrond was in his chair and the fire was on his face like summer-light upon the trees. Near him sat the Lady Arwen. To his surprise Frodo saw that Aragorn stood beside her; his dark cloak was thrown back, and he seemed to be clad in elven-mail, and a star shone on his breast. They spoke together, and then suddenly it seemed to Frodo that Arwen turned towards him, and the light of her eyes fell on him from afar and pierced his heart.
He stood still enchanted, while the sweet syllables of the elvish song fell like clear jewels of blended word and melody.
I pick on Tolkien for his issues characterizing women, but if anyone can describe beauty, it’s him.
Next time: One infodump to rule them all…