Thursday, January 29, 2004

To me, the sending out of the company from Rivendell is among the most pivotal scenes in the books. Elrond chooses nine companions, nine "Walkers" as he names them, to set out against the Nine Ringwraiths, the Riders in Black. They are members of every free race of Middle-earth: four hobbits, a Dwarf, a wizard, two Men and an Elf. Elrond lays no oath or bond upon any save Frodo, on whom is already the charge of the Ring. The rest are his companions by their free will and may turn aside at any time.

I wonder: does the absence of oaths of fealty bind the Fellowship more closely together? Since each member takes each step of his own will, something greater than law must hold him to the path. For the hobbits it is love for Frodo; for Boromir, concern for the fate of his people; for Legolas and Gimli, their duty and honor as representatives of their races. Gandalf and Aragorn alone see ahead to the Shadow for which they are headed, and to the possible doom of Middle-earth if their quest is not fulfilled. Not all of the Nine make it to Minas Tirith, and none of them survive the quest unscathed; but even from the outset there is a sense that none of them will turn aside.


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