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The Shadow of the Past
The disappearance of Bilbo is the subject of many conversations in Hobbiton. The general opinion is that Bilbo has finally gone mad and run off into the Blue. Some think that he is dead, many of whom suspect that he has been murdered by Frodo and Gandalf for his legendary gold (earned in the course of events in The Hobbit). Despite this ugly rumor, Frodo lives a long life in the community, continuing to throw Bilbo’s birthday party year after year. Like Bilbo, Frodo shows what others call signs of "good preservation." He continues to live at Bag End and spend most of his time with his cousins Merry and Pippin. By the time he turns fifty, he has begun to grow restless. And the town is abuzz with the news of Orcs and trolls and mysterious lands beyond the Shire.
About this time the wizard Gandalf appears. He tells Frodo that the town is in danger because of the ring of invisibility that Bilbo has given him. Gandalf explains. The ring was forged in the volcano at Mt. Doom (or Orodruin) by the evil Sauron who wants to rule the world. The ring belonged to Gollum, a Hobbit who owned the ring for a very long time until Bilbo tricked him out of it. Now Sauron and Gollum have heard that the ring is in the hands of a Hobbit, and Gollum is on his way to find it.
Gandalf explains that the bearer of the ring never ages; for this reason Bilbo lived such a long life and Frodo himself has not shown signs of aging since he got the ring. Also, the ring exerts a mental power on its wearer. It is because of this power that neither Gollum nor Bilbo wanted to part with the ring when the time came. The power made Gollum evil; since Bilbo is a good man, the power does not make him evil.
Gandalf tells Frodo that if Sauron gains the ring he will be all- powerful. When Frodo hears this, he is shocked and doesn’t want anything to do with the ring. Gandalf tells Frodo that it is not a simple matter of wanting or not wanting the ring; the ring chose him (Frodo). Gandalf tells Frodo that he must destroy the ring, and the only way this can be done is by throwing the ring back in the Crack of Doom in the depths of Orodruin.
Frodo decides to leave the Shire in order to protect the people of his village. Just then Gandalf catches Sam Gamgee, the gardener, eavesdropping on their conversation. Gandalf thinks Sam has ulterior motives, but it turns out he only wants to go on this adventure with Frodo, whom he admires.
This chapter provides some of the Background Information necessary in order to kick-start the plot. It also explains some of the unexplainable things about Bilbo, such as why he never aged and why he did not want to part with the ring.
Interestingly, Gollum had had the ring in his possession for so long he was transformed completely. Bilbo, realizing he could not let such a transformation happen to him, reluctantly parted with the ring and left to live out the rest of his natural life.