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.