Many years later, Gandalf, a very important Wizard, informs Frodo that his ring is in fact Evil Sauron’s top-of-the-range Power Tool, which gives its holder, yes, lots of Evil Power. Sauron forged this ring in the distant past, put most of His own Evil Power into it, then lost it. There are loads of other rings, all almost entirely irrelevant. Gandalf doesn’t explain why it took him so long to work all this out, nor why someone with all that Power needs to be invisible - but Frodo better split asap for somewhere safe, like Rivendell, because Sauron’s Evil Black Riders are closing in fast, on their horses, brandishing their blades and halitosis. Get scared, Hobbit!
So, months later, Frodo hits the road with his jolly chums Merry and Pippin and his faithful batman Sam. After getting into all kinds of japes and scrapes with those Evil Black Riders, Barrow-Wights, rotting vegetation etcetera, they team up with a tramp called Strider, who turns out to be a sort of Middle Earth AA man, and eventually gets them to Elf HQ. Gandalf meanwhile has been far too busy whizzing around doing wizard stuff to lend a hand till it’s near enough too late. (Also he got locked up by his old boss Saruman – bit embarrassing that, best not mention ...)
Like everyone else, I’ve left Tom Bombadil out, because he really doesn’t fit in, does he?
‘Sauron has woken up,’ said Gandalf. ‘That Ring is now too hot to handle, and gets a Capital Letter to prove it. Frodo my boy …’
‘I understand,’ said Frodo in his mythical hero voice. ‘I must take the Ring to Mordor and chuck it in the furnace whence it came forth from.’
‘You got it,’ said Elrond. ‘Your jolly chums and faithful servant can go along, also a few other lifeforms, couple of men, dwarf, elf, wizard, usual ethnic minority coverage ...’
‘I used to be the gardener,’ said Sam. ‘Now it’s all batman, servant … still, mustn’t grumble …’
‘Well said, trusty one,’ said Elrond. ‘We shall kit you out sumptuously – but no rope!’
So off they go with a skip and a jump.
There are many Journeys in this story, too many (and mostly too tedious) to recount. So we too shall skip and jump:
- across a really tedious plain, where everyone can squabble and establish character;
- up a malicious peak, losing out to the wrong kind of snow;
- through the Dwarves’ mountain caverns, where Gandalf falls off a bridge and dies (for now);
- through a mystic forest full of the creepiest, girliest elves we have yet met (though to be fair they do come up with some goodies, including rope);
- down the muddy river in elf boats, stalked by the slimy sneaky Gollum …
Wait with bated breath for Page Two ...