The next day, Gandalf summons Frodo and Bilbo to the Council of Elrond. Many individuals from far-off lands have recently arrived to Rivendell bearing news and seeking counsel. Elrond, the Lord of Rivendell, has convened the meeting to address these concerns and to determine the fate of the Ring.
The diverse members of the Council of the Ring come together by happenstance, as for various reasons they have been drawn away from their homes to Rivendell at the same time. Each brings their own concern to the tale of Sauron’s rising evil. Their unanticipated gathering hints at an overarching sense of fate that has specific plans for the beings of Middle-Earth.
Glóin reveals that a servant of Sauron has recently approached the dwarves, offering an alliance and new rings of power in exchange for news of a hobbit by the name of Baggins. Glóin also communicates his fears for his kinsman Balin, who has not been heard from since setting out some years ago leading a host of dwarves to reclaim their ancestral homeland of Moria.
Glóin’s news reveals that Sauron is actively recruiting forces to his evil intent. Furthermore, Balin (another of Bilbo’s former companions) has journeyed to reclaim an ancient dwarvish homeland in a similar fashion to the thirteen dwarves’ prior quest to reclaim their home of the Lonely Mountain.
Next, Elrond shares the history of the Ring with the gathered Council. This is not news to Frodo, for Gandalf had already revealed much of it to him in his final visit to the Shire. Many others present are alarmed to hear that the Dark Lord Sauron has risen again and is searching for his One Ring—the only weapon he requires for total domination of Middle-earth.
Elrond repeats much information that readers are already aware of; the repetition of the Ring’s history serves to emphasize the intensity of the evil that accosts the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. This also shows a consolidation of a story that most members of the Council only know fragments of.
Boromir, a warrior from the south, takes advantage of a pause from Elrond to stand and speak of his home country of Gondor. He talks proudly of his people’s noble and courageous toil in protecting the western lands from the wild folk of the east. Boromir confirms that Sauron has risen and is quickly gaining power, having allied himself with the cruel warriors of the east. Gondor has been driven back from its defenses before Mordor, but continues to try to shelter the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. Boromir reveals that he has traveled for 110 days to reach Rivendell, due to a dream that he and his brother have shared that directs them to the elf-haven. The dream includes a riddle with mention of a Sword that was Broken, a “Halfling” (hobbit), and “Isildur’s Bane.”
Boromir’s pride and sense of honor is established here and remains important throughout the book—though ultimately, his arrogance leads him to betray Frodo the Ring-bearer. Boromir seems to define heroism through the traditional definition of seeking personal glory through combat. The riddle that has led him to Rivendell demonstrates how the nuances of language can define various characters’ destinies.
Aragorn rises to reveal the Sword that was Broken, laying the shards of Narsil before the Council. These are the two pieces of the longsword that the Ranger has been carrying in the sheath at his side. Elrond tells Boromir of Aragorn’s lineage as the direct descendant of Isildur, the ancient king of Gondor who cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand during the War of the Last Alliance. Bilbo also relays the Riddle of Strider to the Council—the final lines state that “Renewed shall be blade that was broken: / The crownless again shall be king.” Solving the final pieces of Boromir’s riddle, Frodo steps forward to present Isildur’s Bane, the One Ring.
The Shards of Narsil are a symbol of Aragorn’s true heritage, for while he appears a mere wanderer, he is in fact the heir of ancient kings. The Riddle of Strider tells the prophecy attached to Aragorn’s identity and predicts that he will re-forge the ancient blade Narsil and claim the thrones of Gondor and Arnor. It is not until the later books in The Lord of the Rings series that these predicted events transpire as truth. Beyond preserving the past, then, history and myth can also guide individuals toward specific destinies.
In response to Boromir’s questions, Aragorn discusses the history of the Rangers as protectors of oblivious peoples. He indicates that he is ready to officially begin to claim his rightful authority as king of Gondor. Bilbo then tells the Council of his part in the story of the Ring, followed by Gandalf’s account of how it is that the Dark Lord Sauron has come to rise again. The wizard also relates the story of why he came to suspect the true nature of Bilbo’s ring and how he and Aragorn scoured the lands for the creature Gollum to learn about the Ring’s origins.
Although Aragorn has mighty skills in combat, selflessness in serving others is his (and the Rangers at large) guide to virtuous action and seems to eclipse his more traditionally heroic qualities. The Rangers’ collective heroism in protecting unknowing peoples from evil, including the blissfully unaware Shire hobbits, demonstrates their core values of selflessness and humility.
Legolas, an elf, then informs the Council that Gollum has escaped his imprisonment from the elves in Mirkwood. There are fears he will return to offer information to Sauron. Gandalf speaks once more to finish the final chapter in his tale. The Grey Wizard was betrayed by Saruman, head of the Middle-earth wizards and formerly a trusted ally of Gandalf and Elrond. Saruman desires to wield the Ring, and he prevented Gandalf from aiding Frodo on his journey to Rivendell by imprisoning him atop Saruman’s tower Orthanc. Gandalf was finally rescued by Gwaihir the Great Eagle, who carried him to the nearby country of Rohan. There, Gandalf tamed Shadowfax, the swiftest of all horses and reminiscent of the mearas of old. Shadowfax carried the wizard at great pace back to the Shire, but he was unable to find Frodo there or in Rivendell.
Gollum’s escape may cause great evil for the Free Peoples of Middle-earth; Saruman’s betrayal has certainly done so. Gandalf’s escape from Orthanc is a story of legend as he is aided by fantastical creatures. All the characters mentioned in Gandalf’s tale (including Shadowfax the horse) will reappear later in the trilogy.
With everyone having spoken their piece and heard the combined story of the Ring, the Council considers what to do with the dangerous weapon. The elf-lord Erestor suggests they should take it to Tom Bombadil, for it holds no corruptive sway over him. Gandalf and Glorfindel reject the idea, for Tom is too unreliable in matters unrelated to his realm, and such a move would only delay Sauron’s inevitable rise to power. The Council also recognize they cannot destroy the Ring themselves—only the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor can melt the Ring into nothing.
Many ideas are suggested to deal with the menace of the Ring, but fate has ensured there is only one possible path toward its destruction—the path to Sauron’s evil stronghold of Mordor.
Boromir suggests they take the Ring to Gondor to wield its immense power against the gathering might of Sauron, but Elrond and Gandalf advise that the Ring will ultimately corrupt all but the most powerful of beings. If such a being were to master it, they would transform into another dark power similar to Sauron due to the Ring’s unavoidable evil nature.
Elrond and Gandalf prove their wisdom in refusing to wield the power of the Ring, for whatever their noble intentions, the Ring would sway them toward evil through ambition. Elrond and Gandalf thus prove themselves as wholly good characters, whereas Boromir is clearly tempted by the Ring. He has good intentions, but is also vulnerable to its corrupting power.
Elrond and Gandalf agree that the only hope is to send messengers into Sauron’s stronghold of Mordor to destroy the Ring. Sauron is unlikely to suspect such a quest, as he cannot imagine anyone wanting to destroy an object of such great power. Bilbo bravely volunteers his service as Ring-bearer, but accepts Gandalf’s gentle rebuke that he is too old for such an adventure. A heavy silence sits on the Council as they consider the perils of such a journey.
The entire Council, despite all of its mighty members, is halted by the thought of the immense and seemingly suicidal task before them. Bilbo bravely volunteers as Ring-bearer for the perilous quest, perhaps prompted by his desire to hold the Ring once more. The evil of the Ring is insidious and never lets go.
Finally, Frodo—although he is very frightened—tells the Council that he will shoulder responsibility for delivering the Ring into Mordor, though he does not know the way. Elrond admits that he believes Frodo is the best choice as Ring-bearer, although he did not want to lay such a burdensome charge on the hobbit. The Lord of Rivendell believes Sauron may be defeated by someone seemingly weak who will be overlooked by the arrogant Dark Lord. The uninvited Sam then springs from up from a corner of the Council to exclaim that he will not let Frodo go on such a journey without him, to which Elrond agrees.
From all the might of the gathered council, it is Frodo and Bilbo who stand forward to offer their services to bear the Ring into the perils of Mordor. They are selflessly willing to attempt to defy Sauron, despite the ultimate personal cost of a likely death.In hurriedly joining Frodo to face evil without question, Sam demonstrates that loyalty and optimism are just as valuable as strength of arms in a quest. Foreshadowing occurs when Elrond suggests that Sauron will be beaten by seemingly insignificant beings. The hobbits’ small stature and fairly simple natures–the qualities that have caused other races to pay no heed to them—become strengths that the Free Peoples of Middle-earth now pin their hopes on.