Friday, November 10, 2017

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Shadow of the Past (FOTR 1, 2)

What always surprises me in this chapter is how much time passes between Bilbo leaving and Gandalf figuring out that the ring is, well, The Ring. This is probably because I saw the movie before I read the book, and in the movie, there are maybe a few months between the two, or so it seems to me. But here we learn that it's seventeen years!

Anyway, things start heating up a bit in this chapter. Things are changing in and around The Shire, and we learn all about how the Ring was forged, something of the power it wields, and the twisty path it took from Sauron's hand to Frodo's. We also get to hear about some other characters we'll be running into more soon, like Aragorn and Saruman and Gollum.

And we get into one of the bigger themes of the book: pity/mercy versus punishment/justice. Bilbo pitied Gollum and did not kill him when he had the chance, even though Gollum was planning to kill him. Gandalf says: "It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity" (p. 58). He goes on to say, "the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many" (p. 58).

We also see the beginning of another major theme here: being chosen for something you don't believe you can live up to. Frodo says, "I am not made for perilous quests," and I can agree with that to some extent: he's a hobbit, used to a comfortable and quiet life in the country. Gandalf insists, however, that "you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have."

Favorite Lines:

Everything looked fresh, and the new green of Spring was shimmering in the fields and on the tops of the trees' fingers (p. 45).

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us" (p. 50).

"Well, well, bless my beard!" said Gandalf (p. 62).

Discussion Questions:

What do you think about the theme of mercy/pity versus punishment/justice? Can anyone deserve mercy?

Have you ever felt like Frodo, that you can't possibly do what you must do? How did you get through that time?


  1. In the movie to me I always thought it was in the next few days that Gandalf told Frodo about the ring. So when I read the book, I, too, said, "What!?" I even asked my sister if it was true, and she confirmed it.

    This chapter is a big one in the book. People deserve mercy, but they also need to be willing to recieve it.

    I feel like Frodo all the time. I can never hold so much information in my head!! I just need to keep trying. ;) "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us"

    Thank you so much for hosting this!!! :D

    1. Precisely, it seems like maybe a couple of weeks at most before Gandalf returns with the whole dramatic "Is it secret? Is it safe?" thing.

      Aha! Yes, remembering all the things you're supposed to learn is hard.

      Thanks for joining and commenting!

  2. I'm so sorry I'm so late!!! :-Z I will be catching up this week and commenting on all the chapters I missed. :-)

    1. Don't worry, MEM, everybody gets busy over the holidays :-) We're still in FOTR, so you should be caught up in no time!

    2. Thanks!!! :-) I'm almost to book two of the FotR, so I'll get to replying to the chapter questions.

  3. Okay, this chapter is one of my favorites. All the history and backstory; and Sam. XD He's awesome. "There ain't no eaves at Bag End!" :-D I love the themes in this chapter; I believe that we all need mercy, just not all desire to receive it. I love that line about Bilbo beginning his ownership with pity. :-)

    1. MEM, I like that observation that we all need mercy, but we don't all desire it. That's excellent!!!!

  4. I was also surprised by the time lapse between Bilbo's disappearance and Frodo's departure. I had also seen the movie before reading the books and it always seemed to me that one thing happened right after the other. But well, hobbits age quite well, or so are we told, and maybe that's why Frodo and everyone are totally unchanged 'seventeen years later' in the movie.

    I really enjoyed learning about the history of the Ring in this chapter. The amount of detail in Tolkien's mythologies in histories (plus made up languages) is part of what sets his work apart from many other fantasists.

    I find this idea of mercy vs. punishment very interesting. Another great quote is 'Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?' (p.78). So true. Regardless of religious views, this is a big moral question and Gandalf's words are very wise. History (and I mean real history) could have done with more wise men like him.

    And about Frodo, sure I feel as helpless as him all the time. Every morning, once the baby and toddler are up, I'm constantly wondering how I'm going to make it through the day. But somehow the day goes by and we're just fine. Much like Frodo will be in the end. I think that Frodo feeling so vulnerable and helpless is what makes him such a likeable character.

    1. Irene, I saw the movies first too! And I've seen FOTR far more times than I've read it, so that book in particular always has places where I notice differences. I've read TTT and ROTK more often than I've seen them, so there it's kind of the opposite.

      Real history definitely needed more Gandalfs. We could use one now too.

      My youngest is now 6, but it wasn't long ago that I was right where you are, wondering how I was going to survive until 5pm when my husband finally got home from work. Especially when my youngest was born, and my other two were ages 4 and not-yet-2. That was a lot of slogging through the day with my head down like Frodo and Sam in ROTK.

  5. I had also forgotten just how many years pass in the book! I thought it was several, but had forgotten it was 17! Wow!

    1. DKoren, right? It's a big difference. Which is why I had to do some puzzling math in the last Hobbit movie when Thranduil tells Legolas to go befriend a young man in Rivendell. Because without those 17 years, it works, but with them, it doesn't. So the movie timeline just is different all through.


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