“Get off the Road…Quick!”

One of the most iconic and suspenseful scenes in the Fellowship of the Ring film is the moment on the road when Frodo realizes something comes.  A Ringwraith comes, and the hobbits hide beneath a log.  It sniffs and comes extremely close to discovering them.  Frodo finds the desire to put on the Ring irresistible.  This is the viewers first real encounter with the ringwraiths.  It is the first true moment of danger for the Hobbits.  But there remains a mystery at its heart.

How does Frodo know to leave the road?

Now if we return to the book, initially Sam hears a horse or a pony coming up the road behind them.  Frodo wonders if it might be Gandalf, finally catching up with them.  Yet a nagging suspiscion tells him it is not and that he should hide from whoever comes.  He claims “I would rather not be seen on the road-by anyone.  I am sick of my doings being noticed and disscussed.”  Even as this desire to hide overwealms him, curiousity blooms in him as well. 

How much of this is natural emotion?  How much of this is the Ring’s meddling?

Gandalf once explained to Frodo that the Ring gives power to the bearer according to his stature.  Is this an example of the Ring  being bent to Frodo’s will or Frodo being bent to the Ring’s will?  In the first suposition, the Ring allows Frodo to sense danger to himself; a warning of a threat.  In the second suposition, the fear is just Frodo’s nerves, and the curiousity the work of the Ring to allow it to be found. 

In this encounter, and worse in the second, the Ring’s power, or the aura of the wraith, impose on Frodo enormous pressure to put on the Ring.  Is it the Ring?  Or is the Wraith?  The Ring was created by Sauron to control all others.  The Ringwraiths are in Sauron’s power.  The Ring calls to them, being a depository of Sauron’s power.  Or, in the opposing viewpoint, as the wraiths are servent’s of Sauron, they are calling to the Ring, they are drawn to its presence. 

The second time the hobbits run into a wraith, Frodo purposefully hides close to the road, in little cover, so as to get a close look at the wraith.  Yet, is this just strong curiousity, or some insidious influence of the Ring.  In this instance, the shadows are not enough.  Frodo is almost found.  Only the passing elves save him.

In both encounters, some deep instinct instills in Frodo the desire to hide.  Instinctually, he knows danger comes with little physical evidence.  This appears to be a manifestation of Frodo’s power through the Ring.  On some level, and this is more obviously true as the narrative continues, Frodo is able to control and command the power of the Ring.  The question is if this is the first manifestation.

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Why Wait?

Why does Frodo wait so long to leave the Shire?  He learns of the nature and dangers of the Ring in April, yet he waits until September 23rd to begin his journey.  The reader must wonder, “Why wait?”

You must remember the nature of hobbits: they love comfort and all things that grow.  Even Frodo states this reason.  When Fall comes, and nature fades the desire to travel comes upon him. 

There is also the skepticism of the hobbits to consider, which I have already discussed in “Shadows of the Truth.”  For a person who finds it hard to accept new information and believe in anything beyond the bubble of their own civilization, how would the revelation of the Ring sound?  It would seem utter maddness.  Think on this.  How would you react if you discovered some family heirloom was dangerous or must be destroyed or relinquished in order to save or help others.  Would you do it?  Or would you, like Frodo, put it off for as long as you could?  It is human, and in effect hobbit, nature to do so.  If something is beatiful, or pleasurable or in any way rewarding it is difficult and traumatic to be forced to give it up.  This is the danger and allure of the material world.

Finally, we have the Ring to consider. 

Frodo’s plan to leave the Shire by way of Buckland is not fully formed until mid-summer.  Remember the nature of the Ring’s power as proposed in the early drafts: it works through the wearer’s longings.  Could it be the Ring manipulates Frodo’s desire to remain in the Shire to keep him from leaving?  This hypothesis works under the suposition that the Ring is sentient, and in some way aware of the approaching Ringwraiths.  Yet if this were true, wouldn’t it have kept him there longer?  Even a day more and the wraiths would have found him. 

Why does Frodo wait?  There can be no conclusive answer.  Yet it would appear the reasons are out of fear and reluctance to leave home.  So who can blame him?  Who does not cling to life and happiness and peace when they know it is soon to be lost?