Places: The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1954

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Epic

Time of work: Third Age in a remote legendary past

Places DiscussedShire

Shire. Fellowship of the Ring, TheHomeland of the hobbits, J. R. R. Tolkien’s “little people,” whose environment and culture are provincial and innocent. The journey motif anchors the story in the Shire, which is an idealized adaptation of Tolkien’s boyhood haunts in an English Midlands village. Free of industrial pollution, the well farmed countryside is pocked with underground housing, from the luxurious homes of the gentry to mere burrows, a correlative to the hobbits’ preference for a snug way of life that demands little awareness of a larger world outside.

Rivendell

Rivendell. Northern haven where the representatives of the “free peoples” (elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits) meet to discuss the fate of the Ring. When Frodo accepts the burden of the Ring. He, his servant, and two kinsmen set out on the Great East Road to this distant stronghold. A detour leads them through the Old Forest, where hostile trees menace them, but Tom Bombadil, a benign nature spirit, befriends them. Quickly they discover that the natural world beyond the Shire can be either dangerous or welcoming.

The travelers ford a wild river to reach Rivendell, the palace of Elrond Half-elven, who maintains this enchanted retreat by the power of one of three Elvish rings. Concealed in a deep and narrow valley, Rivendell is called the Last Homely House East of the Sea, “a perfect house,” as Bilbo once reports, “whether you like food or sleep or storytelling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.” At present it is also a key political site at which men, Elf lords, dwarves (Tolkien’s spelling), a wizard, and now hobbits confer about the rising dark power in Moria and his One Ring.

Reaching Bree

Reaching Bree. Village held jointly by hobbits and men. Frodo’s servant Sam is daunted by the inn, his first sight of the tall houses of men. There the hobbits are joined by Aragorn, a ranger of the North, who leads them on secret paths through marshes and woods, paralleling the dangerous road.

Moria

Moria. Ancient dwarf kingdom. The Nine Walkers (Gandalf, four hobbits, two men, an Elf, and a Dwarf) set out with the goal of destroying the One Ring. They travel south, hoping to cross the Misty Mountains by the Redhorn Pass; however, blinding blizzards force them to take a terrifying underground passage through the ruinous Mines of Moria. Moria’s decaying splendors, now dark except for light thrown by Gandalf’s wand, house Orcs, coarse goblinlike creatures, and also, on a deeper level, a Balrog, a fierce fire spirit. Galdalf leads the party through eerie winding tunnels to safety. Confronted by the Balrog on a narrow stone bridge, Galdalf falls into an abyss. Aragorn leads the surviving Walkers out into Dimrill Dale, a sacred dwarvish place, and beyond it to the outskirts of the Golden Wood.

Lothlorien

Lothlorien. Even more than Rivendell, Lothlorien epitomizes the Elvish (Tolkien’s spelling) ideal in Middle Earth, but it, too, is vulnerable. Like Elrond, its Queen Galadriel wields an Elven ring, without which this demi-eden and its folk would “dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten.” The necessary destruction of the One Ring may also negate the potency of the Three, ending the “stainless” beauty of a land that seems to Sam to be “inside a song.” After receiving aid and resting under the golden flowered mallorn trees of Caras Galadon, the remaining travelers turn south on the great Anduin River toward Minas Tirith, the principal city of Gondor.

Gondor

Gondor. Declining but still powerful South Kingdom of Men. The journey to Gondor affects two of the Walkers in an enlarging way. Gimli the dwarf and Legolas the Elf, two individuals whose cultural history is one of enmity and racial antagonism, become friends as they explore the Golden Wood, and they share one of the little boats. The companions, sensing the presence of Orcs on the east bank, and fearing that Gollum, a small, corrupt, sort of ur-hobbit who once held the Ring, is now stalking them, become careless in their calculations and are nearly undone by the rapids of Sam Gebir. Eventually they reach outlying relics of an older, stronger Gondor: first, the Argonath, immense stone pillars of “kings” who guard the river’s gorge into a placid lake. On the lake’s west bank is Amon Hen, the “Hill of Sight,” where in the days of the great kings a stone seat was placed for the rulers’ contemplation. The Fellowship rests while Frodo, who carries the One Ring, slips off alone to Amon Hen in hope of guidance. Boromir, mad with desire for the Ring, follows and tries to take it by force. Frodo eludes him, and with Sam, escapes to the eastern shore, where they set off on foot for Mordor, the Dark Lord’s realm. The other companions, searching for Frodo, are attacked by Orcs and scattered. The Fellowship is broken.

BibliographyGiddings, Robert, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien: This Far Land. London: Vision Press Limited, 1983. A collection of ten essays that discuss Tolkien’s world and examine subjects ranging from narrative form and the use of humor to the construction of female sexuality.Kocher, Paul H. Master of Middle-Earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972. A critical examination of Tolkien’s major fictional works. Focuses on the creation and development of Middle Earth and provides perspective on the different qualities of the races inhabiting the realm. Offers critical insight on Tolkien’s notions of choice within a Christian framework.Lee, Stuart D, and Elizabeth Solopova. The Keys of Middle-Earth. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. A handy portal into Tolkien’s medieval sources, featuring modern translations of the original texts.Penn, Anne C. One Ring to Bind Them All: Tolkien’s Mythology. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1979. A critical examination of Tolkien’s process of mythmaking, moving beyond traditional literary analysis to employ perspectives derived from linguistics, folklore, psychology, and folklore studies. Tolkien, J. R. R. The History of Middle-Earth. Edited by Christopher Tolkien. 12 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Edited and fully annotated by J. R. R. Tolkien’s son, this series documents the creation of Middle Earth and its mythology in chronological fashion. Volume six, The Return of the Shadow, contains the initial drafts of The Fellowship of the Ring and demonstrates the painstaking creation of the story in fascinating detail.Tyler, J. E. A. The New Tolkien Companion. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. A one-volume encyclopedia of Middle Earth, alphabetically identifying and explaining the characters, peoples, places, languages, religion, and histories that make up Tolkien’s world.
Categories: Places