Chapter 1: A Long-Expected Party. (Tolkien titled each chapter.)
-Preparations begin for Bilbo’s 111th birthday and Frodo’s 33,rd as they both share the same birthday, September 22nd. A party like no other is planned. Rich Bilbo spares no expense.
-Gandalf arrives with fireworks. He and Bilbo discuss the Hobbit’s plan to leave the Shire and bequeath all he owns to his nephew Frodo, including The Ring.
-The party goes off as planned. At the end, Bilbo makes a farewell speech and secretly dons the ring. He disappears in a poof, to the consternation of all his guests.
-At the last minute, Bilbo experiences an inner struggle; he yearns to keep The Ring. The Ring clearly owns a piece of his soul and works its evil, but with Gandalf’s help, he is able to walk away from it and leave it to Frodo.
-Before leaving, Gandalf warns Frodo that The Ring may be dangerous and not to use it.
I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
Chapter 1 serves primarily to paint the image of the Hobbit and the Shire in the eye of the reader. It’s one thing to be told that Hobbits love to eat and have hairy feet. It’s another to see them as a people interacting, gossiping, drinking, blowing smoke rings, living with round doors painted in bright greens and yellows, time marked only by the gentle passing of the seasons. Their idyllic simplicity and lack of concern with the outside world makes them both admirable and vulnerable. I want to both join them and shake them up. But more than anything, I want to protect their world and keep them safe and innocent.
Chapter 2: The Shadow of the Past.
-Frodo becomes his own master. The years pass and he grows more like Bilbo. Rumors of evil and darkness seep into the Shire, but no one pays any mind. Strangers are seen crossing through the Shire.
-After a long absence, Gandalf reappears. He tells Frodo all he has learned of The Ring, and tests the ring in fire. He tells Frodo of the making and losing of The Ring, of how Gollum found it and was changed by it, and how Bilbo truly got The Ring. He tells that the Dark Lord seeks it because it is the one master ring that rules all the other rings.
-Gandalf warns Frodo that the enemy finally is aware of the Shire and the name Baggins.
-Frodo accepts that to save all he loves, he must leave and take The Ring away from the Shire. Gandalf tells him he need not go alone. Caught eavesdropping on the conversation, Samwise Gangee is chosen to go with Frodo.
This chapter is all about The Ring. Most of it is narrative in Gandalf’s words. Here we finally get the true picture of The Ring’s nature and its ability to influence and possess its bearer. Frodo struggles with the decision of being the one who has to take The Ring away and his fear of being insufficient to the task.
The temptation of Gandalf is quite interesting too. As powerful and central a character as he is, he’s always steady and unchanging at his core. He’s not the dynamic character in this tale. We also get a compelling image of Smeagol/Gollum. He has always, in my opinion, been the most deeply moving and disturbing character in the series.
Chapter 3: Three is Company.
-Gandalf presses Frodo to leave soon. Frodo promises to leave on his 50th birthday.
-Frodo sells Bag End to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and buys a small house at Crickhollow, near Buckleberry. He tells everyone that he is retiring there.
-Gandalf warns Frodo never to use The Ring and leaves for the southern borders to search for news. He promises to be back before Frodo’s departure.
-On the evening of Frodo’s departure, a stranger shows up at the village asking about Frodo.
-Gandalf fails to return. Frodo, Sam, and Pippin leave quietly. Merry left earlier in the morning with the moving cart.
-The traveling party walks, talks, sings, eats, rests. The first encounter with the Dark Rider happens. Frodo feels a strong urge to wear the ring.
-The second appearance of a sniffing, tracking Dark Rider is interrupted by the appearance of a band of traveling elves. Upon hearing about the Black Riders, their leader, Gildor Inglorion, invites the Hobbits to go along with the elves. Sam is delighted with the elves!
-They reach a grassy clearing surrounded by woods under the starlit night. The elves play the gracious hosts to the Hobbits. Later, Frodo and Gildor hold a long conversation. The elf advices Frodo to go quickly toward Rivendell, to take companions, and to evade the Black Riders, for they serve the enemy.
-The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.
-Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.
– …advice is a dangerous gift.
– Courage is found in unlikely places.
If Chapter 1 was about Hobbits, this one is about elves! I cannot but share Sam’s delight and awe of the beautiful, wise, glowing, merry but mysterious creatures.