Episode 202 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

The time has come:
  • Elrond presses Frodo to reaffirm his decision to take the Ring, offering a last chance to opt out.
  • It’s important that Elrond calls all five of the hobbits to him, and not just Frodo and Sam alone.
  • Note: While Elrond will be resistant to Merry and Pippin joining the Fellowship, his reasoning for inviting them to this meeting is because of his concerns about the Shire and their part in helping.
  • By giving a final chance to Frodo to become Ring-bearer here, he has the hobbits to witness it.
  • The use of the phrase “IF the Ring is to set out” isn’t to set the Council’s decision in doubt, but to take up that decision and to talk about the immediate choices and consequences of doing that.
  • Elrond also emphasizes that the window to leave is brief, as conditions may be quickly changing.
  • He still leaves this statement vague as to who will go with the Ring, only that the Ring must go.
  • This also refers to the Ring as not belonging to anyone; only that those who go accompany it.
  • Elrond reiterates and confirms, too, for Sam’s benefit, that the Ring-bearer would not go alone.
  • However, Elrond wants to emphasize the danger that those who go will face without any surety of aid. This doesn’t leave out the possibility that they’ll receive help, but only to not count on it.
  • Only then does he ask Frodo to say for certain that he will take the Ring, as if the earlier promise had not been fully required up until now. So, Frodo can now affirm his earlier choice to do it.
  • While this seems like a legitimately free choice, what they would do if Frodo said “no” is unclear.
  • Note: Both Elrond and Gandalf go out of their way more than once, with aid, to allow Frodo to make this choice freely and to declare that choice out loud, starting all the way back in Bag End. It’s important to remember that Elrond allowed this same choice to Isildur, for similar reasons.
  • Having his friends there to witness him speak his choice this time is meaningful for Frodo, as it is also that this is done in private, with his friends there to support him, whatever his choice is.
  • Note: This makes the decision to imprison and interrogate Gollum in Mirkwood a rare exception, and this choosing of means over ends is out of character for Gandalf, though it points to how desperate the situation had become. That the kindliness of the Elves also led to his escape shows that they were aware that this choice with Gollum could be the first step on a dark path. Though evil came of this and even Bilbo’s decision to spare Gollum, it was still the right choice.
Frodo will be the Ring-bearer:
  • This is the moment when it is formally declared what Frodo is expected to do on this mission.
  • Frodo’s “I do” shows that he is now making a vow, but that vow is only to be the Ring-bearer.
  • They have not formally laid the responsibility on Frodo to destroy the Ring. Though that will be the ultimate mission of the company, but Frodo is not personally responsible to make it happen.
  • Note: This means that Frodo ultimately did not fail in his actual charge, which was to carry the Ring to Mount Doom. He did accomplish this before the Ring overcame his will to resist it. How the Ring would actually be destroyed was out of Frodo’s hands if he tried, and this was understood to be the case in the Council, and as far back as with Gandalf in Bag End as well. Elrond will come back to this idea again when he speaks before the Fellowship’s departure.
  • Elrond emphasizes that the ultimate fulfillment of the quest to destroy the Ring is not within their power to achieve, therefore they cannot ask Frodo to do that, especially without help.
  • Gandalf had coined the term “Ring-bearer” when Frodo awoke in Rivendell, and used it during the Council, but now Elrond makes this a formal title for Frodo with a specific charge upon it.
  • Note: Bilbo had used the term “Ring-winner” before, when speaking to Smaug in Erebor, which is important both in that context and that of the cover story he told about how he got the Ring.
  • The title of Ring-bearer will be now used exclusively and will carry a weight and meaning with it.
  • Not only does Frodo formally assent to the vow to be the Ring-bearer, but he does also so while openly acknowledging Sam’s word, too. Frodo thinks of these two things as being connected.
  • Frodo shows that he knows that he is not alone from the beginning, and that it meant a great deal to him that Sam stood up with him in the Council, something Elrond also recognized.
  • The fact that Frodo says that he will go “with Sam”, and not that he will take Sam with him, is important. Though Sam is still Frodo’s servant, Frodo states it as if they have done this equally.
Not much help, not even with counsel:
  • This seems like a strange response to this vow, and an unusual transition to the next topic. The use of “Then” to start his statement, Elrond implies that Frodo’s vow has caused this inability.
  • Elrond may be saying that he could help more in Rivendell, but not on the road they must take.
  • While Elrond could have reassured that those with power to do good will do whatever they can, he reemphasizes that they will need to mostly rely on themselves along their dangerous path.
  • Elrond may also be acknowledging the danger that Frodo faces from the Ring itself, as he has seen his own inability to help Isildur once he was snared by it and fears the same for Frodo.
  • That he can’t see much of the road serves as an explanation of why he can’t help with counsel.
  • Elrond brings up this foresight in a very casual way, and that he assumes that he would be asked for it under normal circumstances, so he emphasizes the things that he can see ahead for them.
  • Note: Usually, when foresight is used by characters in Tolkien’s writings, this happens spontaneously and involuntarily, so this assumption that Elrond can foresee at will stands apart.
  • This kind of foresight seems to be greater than simply his knowledge and educated guesses, but actually foreseeing the future and to be able to predict the best choices they can make ahead.
  • Note: How reliable is foresight in Middle-earth? While it doesn’t seem to ever be wrong in Tolkien’s writings, foresight can lead one astray if they rely on it as a way to make choices, such as in the case of the Witch-king, who assumed that Glorfindel’s prediction was his protection. Denethor sees true present things in the palantir but predicts wrongly based on what he sees.
Under the Shadow all is dark:
  • What Shadow is Elrond referring to? And it has spread to the feet of which mountains?
  • The Greyflood is only called that from the confluence point of the Hoarwell and the Loudwater rivers, so this is much further southwest in Eriador than Rivendell, from which it runs to the Sea.
  • If the Shadow has reached the Greyflood, how does that account for the Misty Mountains?
  • It’s possible that there are two shadows at play, with Sauron’s shadow coming to the feet of the Misty Mountains on the eastern side, and by proxy through Saruman west of the mountains.
  • Saruman’s influence is running through Dunland, and from there into Enedwaith moving north.
  • However, since no “servants of the Enemy” were seen in those areas, what does Elrond mean?
  • Elrond doesn’t mean the political influence of Sauron, but where his own foresight can’t see.
  • This means that there is some form of dark power that is being deliberately put forth over the areas covered by this Shadow, where he can’t see, and it maybe is done for just this purpose.
  • Note: Galadriel will later say that she also perceives this power of Sauron’s being put forth over, and that she is having to use her own power to resist it from Lothlórien, which is now an island surrounded by the Shadow encompassing the surrounding lands. Whether or not Elrond can see her from afar is unclear, but he’d be assured that she would stand against the Shadow.
  • Therefore, while Sauron’s servants aren’t present, his spiritual power is present and working.
  • This Shadow may help explain why Saruman was able to turn to evil and against the White Council and set up his own power in Isengard without any of the Council knowing about it.
  • It’s not clear if Saruman is the source of this Shadow on his part, or if he is using Sauron’s power. Even Saruman doesn’t seem to know what his own doing is and what is being done through him.
  • When Elrond talks about meeting enemies and friends, this itself is a foretelling. This shows that while his foresight is limited right now, he will tell them whatever he can see to help them.
  • Elrond is making his pronouncements in a general sense, but he can’t tell them any specifics.
  • Note: Frodo will remember this pronouncement of Elrond’s when he meets Faramir later.
  • Elrond is also willing to take whatever actions he can, such as the messages, besides foresight.
  • Note: This Shadow doesn’t seem to include the Balrog, especially since they didn’t plan to pass through Moria. While Moria is definitely under a shadow, this is not the one he can perceive.
  • Is there evidence that any of Elrond’s messages get through to their recipients? This is unclear.