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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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In this discussion, the chapters in The Lord of the Rings are
grouped into sections. Tolkien himself divided The Lord of
the Rings into six sections, or books. In our discussion of
the story, each of the six books is further divided into two
roughly equal parts.


Frodo Baggins inherits Bilbo's magic ring. Frodo learns
that the ring belongs to the evil power, Sauron, and flees
the Shire with it. He and his friends become lost in the
mysterious Old Forest, where they meet Tom Bombadil.

Sixty years have passed since Bilbo returned from the
adventure told in The Hobbit. He is now preparing for an
extended journey, intending never to return to the Shire. He
plans to give his house and the magic ring to his young
cousin and heir, Frodo Baggins. Bilbo finds it difficult,
however, to part with the ring.

In The Hobbit, Bilbo's ring seemed quite innocent, almost a
toy. But already it's beginning to take on a sinister aspect.
When Gandalf presses Bilbo to leave the ring behind, the
hobbit becomes uncharacteristically suspicious and angry.
He even calls the ring by Gollum's name for it: "My
precious." There seem to be two sides to his personality-
his old self who honestly means to leave the ring behind,
and another self who contrives to keep it. This other self
could be interpreted as Bilbo's subconscious, acting out his
secret wish to keep the ring. But there's another possibility-
that the ring has somehow gained a hold in his mind and is
controlling his actions. Gandalf, at any rate, finds the
change in Bilbo alarming, and at last convinces him to
leave the ring behind. Do you think Gandalf was right to be
concerned? Did he force Bilbo to leave the ring, or did
Bilbo leave it of his own free will?

The story then jumps ahead almost twenty years. Gandalf
visits Frodo with disturbing news. At the end of The
Hobbit, Gandalf had mentioned that the Necromancer had
been driven out of Mirkwood. Gandalf now tells Frodo that
this Necromancer is none other than Sauron, an evil power
believed to have been killed long ago. He has returned to
his ancient stronghold in Mordor and is gathering strength
to conquer Middle-earth.

NOTE: Throughout the trilogy, Tolkien uses shadow as a
metaphor for the evil power of Sauron, giving an
impression of evil as being somehow insubstantial. Yet its
presence is very real. Be alert for references to shadow as
you read, and in each case try to determine how it may
relate to evil.

Sauron once had a ring of power that was taken from him at
the end of the last war and subsequently lost. It was found
again by a small hobbitlike creature named Deagol. He was
murdered by his friend Smeagol, who used the Ring to steal
and to spy on his people. Given the name Gollum, because
of the gurgling sounds he made in his throat, Smeagol
became so wicked that he was exiled from his home.
Eventually he found his way to the Misty Mountains and
made his home in a subterranean lake deep in the
mountain's heart. It was there that Bilbo met Gollum and
gained ownership of the Ring.

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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