The Council of Elrond
|The Fellowship of the Ring chapters|
The Council of Elrond is the second chapter of the second book in The Fellowship of the Ring.
The day after the feasting to celebrate the victory at the Ford of Bruinen, Frodo joins his uncle Bilbo and Gandalf in the gardens of Rivendell, hoping to explore the area. He is instead told by Gandalf that a great Council is about to begin, and that they are all expected to be present. At that moment, a bell rings out to summon all to the meeting.
Representatives from all of the Free Peoples living in Middle-earth have all made their way to Rivendell, each apparently making the trip on their own separate matters of business. Elrond has called them to this council to speak for their people concerning the Ring of Power and the threat of imminent invasion by the Dark Lord Sauron. Frodo is introduced to several Elves, Dwarves, and Men, almost none of whom he knows personally.
Glóin, a Dwarf from Erebor, informs the Council that a messenger from Sauron has entreated with Dáin II Ironfoot, King under the Mountain, asking for news about Bilbo and the ring that he possessed, which apparently once belonged to the Dark Lord of Mordor. For its return, Sauron promises to return to Dáin three of the Seven Rings given to the Dwarves long ago. Dáin, however, mistrusts the messenger's words, and has sent Glóin, with his son Gimli, to seek Elrond's advice. Elrond responds that the time has come to tell the full tale of the One Ring which Sauron seeks above all else, so that all present can know the danger it represents.
After Elrond's account, Boromir, representing his father, the Steward of Gondor, tells of a dream he and his brother each had about the Ring, months before. In his dream, the eastern sky grew dark, but out of the west a light shone forth, and from that light a voice called out, saying: "Seek for the Sword that was broken;/In Imladris it dwells./There shall be taken counsels/Stronger than Morgul-spells./There shall be shown a token/That Doom is near at hand./For Isuldur's Bane shall waken,/And the Halfling forth shall stand."
At Boromir's words, the Ranger called Strider produces the broken sword--the sword Narsil, heirloom of the heirs of Isildur--and reveals himself to be Aragorn son of Arathorn, the last surviving blood heir to the ancient kings of Gondor and Arnor. Frodo, the Halfling of the rhyme, then produces the Ring, and Boromir expresses amazement, wondering how such a powerful thing came to such an unlikely possessor?
Bilbo then tells everyone how he took the Ring from Gollum. Gandalf subsequently explains how Gollum himself came to possess the Ring and how it both lengthened his lifespan and drove him to great evil. Gandalf also reveals that his search for knowledge about the true nature of Bilbo's "magic ring" led him to both search for Gollum so as to interview him, and also to discover a scroll written by Isildur himself that described the Ring and how to recognize it by its "fiery letters" (as told previously in "The Shadow of the Past"). By this information, Gandalf was able to positively identify the Ring as the Ruling Ring, and learn that if Sauron regains it, all the westlands of Middle-earth will be covered in a Second Darkness.
At a question from Boromir, Aragorn tells how he captured Gollum and gave him to the Elves of Mirkwood for safekeeping. But an Elf named Legolas, son of Thranduil, King of the Woodland Realm, announces that Gollum has escaped with the aid of Orcs. Serious as this development is, however, it pales beside the worse news Gandalf now relates: the treason of Isengard.
He goes on to tell how he himself had been held captive by Saruman, the head of the White Council and head of the order of wizards. Unfortunately, Saruman's long study of the Rings of Power has corrupted him, and he has been seduced by the lust for power. Having finally deduced that the One Ring has been found, Saruman intends to gain it for himself and thus supplant Sauron as master of Middle-earth. For this purpose, while Frodo was preparing to leave The Shire for Rivendell, Saruman lured Gandalf to his fortress of Orthanc in the vale of Isengard, hoping to learn from him the Ring's precise whereabouts. When Gandalf refused to tell Saruman, he was imprisoned atop the pinnacle of Orthanc. But eventually, Gwaihir, a Great Eagle, rescued him and took him to Rohan, where he befriended the great horse Shadowfax who speedily took him north again, this time in pursuit of the Black Riders heading for The Shire. That is how Gandalf, in time, came to be at Rivendell with Frodo and his companions.
The Council finally discusses many ways of dealing with the Ring, but none seem satisfactory. Boromir suggests using the Ring against Sauron to defeat him, but the corruptive power of the Ring would only create a new Dark Lord to enslave Middle-earth. Those who dwell beyond the Sundering Seas will not receive the Ring either, nor can it be hidden away forever against the might of Sauron's armies. With no other hope of victory, Elrond declares, and the others present agree (some of them reluctantly), that the only course left is to destroy the Ring in the only way possible -- by carrying it into the very heart of Mordor and dropping it into the fires of Mount Doom where it was forged. But who was to carry the ring was another point of decision. Bilbo, despite his advanced age, valiantly volunteered to finish what he had begun, but Gandalf declared that it was a task beyond the old hobbit's strength -- Bilbo could not take back the Ring. It was then Frodo who, almost against his will, finally volunteered to continue his quest and destroy the Ring.
At this point, Samwise Gamgee, Frodo's gardener and faithful companion -- who had sat in on the whole Council in secret -- burst out in protest, asking Elrond whether Frodo would be sent out alone? Elrond replied that no, Sam at least would go as well, saying wryly, "It is hardly possible to separate you from him, even when he has been summoned to a secret council, and you have not!" Sam then sits down rather grumpily, saying to Frodo, "A nice pickle we've landed ourselves in...."