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Bilbo Baggins throws a party for himself and his protégé, Frodo. At the party, Bilbo announces that he is leaving his home to his heir, Frodo. He returns home and is met by his close friend, the wizard Gandalf. Gandalf insists that Bilbo remove the Ring that he has owned since the events of the previous adventure, chronicled in The Hobbit, and give the ring to his young heir. The Ring has special powers, the most obvious of which is to make the wearer invisible. Then Bilbo disappears.
For many years Frodo lives in Bilbo’s home at Bag End. Just like Bilbo, Frodo appears not to he aged. In his fifties, he grows restless. One day Gandalf comes to Frodo and tells him that he is in danger. It seems that the Ring originally belonged to Sauron, the Dark Lord. Sauron wants the Ring back so that he can conquer the world. Sauron is using Gollum (an evil Hobbit who also wants the Ring) to find out who has it and where it can be located. Gandalf tells Frodo that the ring is a corrupting power, and that anyone who uses it will ultimately be destroyed by it if they do not part with it. Further, he tells Frodo that the Ring can only be destroyed by tossing it into a volcano at Mount Orodruin. Frodo tries to give the ring to Gandalf, but the wizard tells him that he (Frodo) was chosen to bear the responsibility; it is his fate.
It is decided that Frodo will take the ring to the Crack of Doom in Mount Orodruin. He is to be accompanied by his friends Sam, Merry, and Pippin. As they travel, the Black Riders of Sauron pursue them. The Black Riders are bodiless horsemen who want the Ring. The travelers meet up with Aragorn, a friend of Gandalf, and together they continue their journey with the aid of some new companions.
Gandalf leads the companions through the mines of Moria. Gandalf battles a dreadful spirit and falls into an abyss. Aragorn becomes the leader. After many small battles, the company realizes their task will be very difficult. They meet Lady Galadriel, of the elves, and are given some assistance. Boromir, a representative from Gondor, tries to persuade Frodo to give him the Ring to take to his father and thus defeat their enemies. Frodo refuses and the two men fight. Frodo must use the Ring to escape Boromir. Boromir is instantly sorry he has been overcome by the allure of power. Frodo decides to travel alone, fearful of the consequences of his friends being corrupted. Only faithful Sam is allowed to accompany him.
Boromir is killed and given a hero’s burial; everyone knows he never meant to fight Frodo. They attribute his sudden corruption to the Ring. Orcs attack and Merry and Pippin are taken captive. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursue them, trying to save their companions. The riders of Rohan appear, having been summoned to help. They destroy the Orcs near Fangorn forest but cannot find Merry and Pippin. Merry and Pippin have come into the area inhabited by Treebeard the ent. He is the oldest living thing in the forest. He sustains them and rouses his troops to avenge the Hobbits.
Sam and Frodo are still making their way to the Crack of Doom. Gollum, who still craves the Ring, follows them. They capture Gollum and try to persuade him to forsake his evil and return to his old likable self as the character Smeagol. The three make their way through the forest until they are met by an army from Gondor, led by Faramir (Boromir’s brother).
When Faramir releases them, Gollum leads Sam and Frodo into a trap--the lair of the giant spider Shelob. Frodo is wounded so badly that Sam fears he is dead. Gollum disappears. Sam decides to take the Ring and continue on in order to destroy it and fulfill Frodo’s responsibility. Orcs come along and steal Frodo’s lifeless body. By listening to the Orcs, Sam discovers that Frodo is not dead but is merely drugged. He pursues them to save his good friend.