The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 4-6

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Book II, Chapter Four: A Journey in the Dark

Caradhras' temper subsides when the group of nine finally gives up its attempt to scale the peak. Of course, they cannot allow themselves to suffer from Caradhras' extreme elements. Gandalf's conclusion is that they must eliminate their exposure and he suggests that they pass through the mountains by traveling below them: through the caves of Moria. The group balks at this suggestion; Moria is perhaps even more dangerous than the Old Forest and that was no walk in the park. While the travelers squabble, a company of howling wolves urges them into assent and they hurry towards the caves.

The next day, the group travels to the west and Gandalf opens a magic door. These doors close just in time for the group to escape an attack by one of the vicious creatures that live in the nearby lake. Now safe from tentacled beasts and howling wolves, the travelers are at the mercy of the miles and miles of caves that stretch before them. They are in the cave system for two nights and Gandalf is the only one who can navigate and lead the group. The caves of Moria spark an ancient tension in the group because the dwarves once mined Moria for valuable metals but they have lost the territory. The tombstone of Balin the dwarf explains the story of one unsuccessful dwarf who tried to reclaim Moria.

Analysis:

The caves of Moria present as negative an image as can be expected. The deep enclosure of the caves is in juxtaposition to the elevated exposure that the fellowship of the Ring suffered on Caradhras. While Caradhras' peril seemed more "natural," the dangers of Moria are largely supernatural. The howling wolves only further substantiate Moria's status as a symbol of evil. This chapter also relies upon the opening and shutting of doors, and this is highly symbolic of the continuing operation of Fate in the characters' lives - especially in the life of Frodo. The fact that wise Gandalf almost gets lost should tell us that the group is being guided more by fate than by anything else. The tombstone of dead Balin is only more evidence that everyone must eventually end up exactly where they are meant to be. The fatalist themes of the later chapters of the novel are a direct result of the responsibilities of Frodo's quest and the fact that though he is an unseemly hero, he will eventually be left to continue his road alone.

Book II, Chapter Five: The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

This is one of the crucial and, unfortunately, depressing moments of the story. The fellowship is still inside of the central room where Balin's tomb is located. Gandalf is translating a tattered book that offers Balin's history and the story of his group of travelers. The evil orcs attacked them and massacred them. Of course, this is depressing material to read while one is in these very caves and before the story has ended, the drums of the orcs are heard approaching. Their first advance - at the west - is blocked and the group then heads for the east door. Frodo is attacked by an orc but he manages to survive. Even as Gandalf puts a locked door between his group and the orcs, the orcs have magic of their own to collapse the doorway altogether. The travelers are running to the Bridge of Khazad-dum and here, again, they are attacked. Balrog, the wicked orc, has fallen upon them with a sword of fire. Gandalf stands firm and destroys the bridge, sending Balrog to his death. But as the rest of the group escapes to safety on the other side, Gandalf is pulled down along with Balrog, into the bottomless depth below. With the loss of Gandalf, it is unclear how the fellowship might continue.

Analysis:

One of the distinguishing features of this chapter is the musical tone that is begun with the chant of the word "doom" (in the runes) and continued with the thumping drum-sounds of the nearby orcs. The convergence of the literary scene and the (characters') real scene is an interesting technique that Tolkien does not use often; still, we cannot underestimate the importance of language, runes and texts in Tolkien's world. Gandalf's parallel position with dead Balin only adds to the stories of the evil caves of Moria. Again, fate's operations have been mysterious. The contrasting images of fire and light and dark might have usually distinguished good from evil, but in this chapter, both the good Gandalf and the evil Balrog end up dead in the deep foam.

Book II, Chapter Six: Lothlórien

After Gandalf's urging to continue on without him, Strider/Aragorn was the one to get the group moving again and he continues in this role in Chapter 6. Here, at least, the terrain is not as depressing and evil. When they arrive at Lorien, Boromir is concerned and when the group enters the forest, they are apprehended by spying elves. Legolas knows them and so friendly terms are established. The elves also have information regarding Frodo. The orcs pursue the group into Lorien but they are unsuccessful; meanwhile, the elves blindfold the fellowship until they arrive at their destination. The eight travelers find themselves in the company of the Lady Galadriel, situated in an incredibly beautiful and intensely colored forest.

Analysis:

As one of the last vestiges of goodness, surrounded by evil, this "heart" of Elvendom is entering its sunset/twilight hours. Towards the end of the chapter, we learn that "the sun that lay on Lothlorien had no power to enlighten the shadow of that distant height." At several points, the motif of light and darkness is introduced as a way of understanding the solitary aspect of Lothlorien's goodness. Another metaphor is used to liken Lothlorien to the heart, and this is a tragic implied death for we know that Lothlorien is doomed to end. The traveler who leaves Lothlorien might preserve in his memory what will almost certainly cease to exist upon the earth. As the final "bright spot" in the novel, we can see an intentional juxtaposition of Khazad-dum and Lothlorien. It still remains unclear how the fellowship will survive without Gandalf; accordingly, the foreshadowed dissolution of the group is beginning to seem inevitable. Finally, in the vacuum left that Gandalf has left behind, we can expect the Lady Galadriel to play a larger role in the next chapter; her goodness and her power to discern the minds and hearts of the warriors recall Goldberry's character.