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SUMMARY: FLIGHT TO THE FORD
Frodo wakes to find himself lying by the fire. Sam had stumbled upon him in the dark, and Aragorn had ordered him placed by the fire before disappearing without explanation. When the Ranger reappears Sam stands over Frodo with his sword drawn but Aragorn gently reassures him he is not in league with the Black Riders.
Aragorn has been unable to find the Black Riders, and is concerned to hear that one of them has stabbed Frodo. He tells Sam in private that the Black Riders believe they have inflicted a mortal wound on Frodo and have drawn off to wait for their purpose to be accomplished. Sam despairs and Aragorn reassures him that Frodo is made of stern stuff and can resist the evil power of the wound for longer than the Black Riders will expect. Aragorn leaves again.
A deadly chill spreads from Frodo’s shoulder to his arm and side during the night while his friends tend him. Strider returns at first light and finds on the ground both the Black Rider’s cloak with a slash in it where Frodo had stabbed him, and the dagger that stabbed Frodo. The blade vanishes like smoke in the morning light. Aragorn sings a slow song in a strange tongue over the dagger-hilt, and then speaks strange words over Frodo. Finally he boils Athelas leaves, which he travelled far in the night to collect, and bathes Frodo’s wound. Athelas is a healing plant the Men of the West brought to Middle-Earth. The cold and pain in Frodo’s side lessens but he still cannot use his arm. He reproaches himself for having put on the Ring, which he now understands was the commanding wish of the Black Riders.
Aragorn believes that the Black Riders have been watching Weathertop for days and must have driven Gandalf away if he had come before them. He decides they must leave as they will be in great peril after dark. Frodo is put on the pony and the pony’s burden is divided among the four who will walk. They travel south and come in time to the edge of the Road. Though they cannot see Black Riders far away they hear one call and another answer. They cross the Road and carry on cross-country through the pathless terrain. Frodo is grieved to see the burdens and fatigue of the four walkers. He does not speak of his returning pain.
They continue like this for 4 days, keeping watch by pairs at night, but never seeing a sign of the Black Riders, nor feeling their presence. On the fifth day they turn north-eastwards, and on the sixth they come within sight of the Road again, the River Hoarwell, that flows out of the Ettenmoors, and further off the Loudwater (the Bruinen of Rivendell).
When they reach the Road the next day there is no sign of travellers or riders, though rainfall two days previous would have washed away any earlier signs. Further on they reach the Last Bridge over the Hoarwell. Strider goes ahead to explore it and finds a beryl, or elf stone, in the middle of the bridge. He takes this as a token that they may pass over the bridge. They cross safely and travel into lands that seem threatening and unfriendly, with hills rising steadily about them upon which they can glimpse ancient walls of stone and ruins of towers. Frodo guesses they are in the same country Bilbo passed through near the Troll’s wood.
Aragorn tells them that ages ago the land was occupied by Men who fell under the shadow of Angmar and became evil. None now remain. These tales are remembered by heirs of Elendil. He tells Frodo he once dwelt in Rivendell, where his heart is, and to which he returns from time to time, though it is not his fate to sit in peace.
Wearily they travel on through a long valley with rough terrain and on the second day a drenching rain begins and continues. On the third night, shelterless, wet and cold Frodo sleeps fitfully, feeling as if black shapes are advancing on him. He dreams of the garden of Bag End, but the Black Shapes are clearer than the Shire to him.
Next day the weather clears. Aragorn goes ahead to explore and returns with the news that they have gone too far north and must bear southwards or wind up in the Etttendales – troll country. Near the end of their journey that day Frodo is obliged to dismount when they climb a steep hill. He is so exhausted at the top that Merry expresses his anxiety to Aragorn and asks if Frodo can be cured in Rivendell. Aragorn is equivocal and Sam asks why Frodo is still so ill when his wound has healed. Aragorn tells him some poison or evil is at work that he is unable to drive out, but exhorts Sam not to give up hope.
That night Frodo in a half-dream imagines dark wings sweeping above him carrying pursuers who seek him in the hollows of the hills.
The morning dawns bright and clear. Strider decides they must now make for the Road again. The way down the hill is less steep and Frodo can again ride Bill the Pony. Though he feels better in the morning light a mist passes before his eyes every now and again. They come upon a path and follow it into dark woods where they find a door crookedly ajar at the opening of a rock-chamber. Merry and Aragorn go in. It is a troll-hole. Pippin has been frightened and when they carry on he goes ahead with Merry to show he is no longer afraid. Soon he runs back, with Merry close behind, announcing they have come upon trolls. Aragorn leads them onward without concern, comes upon three trolls and breaks his stick upon one to show it has long been turned to stone. These are the three trolls of Bilbo’s adventures. Frodo is heartened to be reminded of Bilbo’s first successful adventure. They stop for lunch, Merry calls for a song and Sam obliges with one about trolls that Frodo guesses (when Sam won’t say) is of his own making.
Carrying on they come upon the stone with runes on it marking the spot where Bilbo hid the trolls’ gold and Frodo wishes Bilbo had brought home a treasure no more perilous.
Near nightfall they hear the sound of hoofs behind them and hide in the bushes. A rider on a white horse appears and is greeted with joy by Strider. He is Glorfindel, an Elf-lord of the house of Elrond, sent from Rivendell, along with others, to search for them. He tells them that he left the stone on the Bridge of Mitheithel, that there are five riders behind them and they must risk the peril of the Road.
Frodo sways with pain and weariness and Sam angrily tells Glorfindel that his master must rest. Aragorn tells Glorfindel of the attack on Frodo and the elf urges them even more strongly to carry on. He puts Frodo on his horse, the pony is laden with the others’ burdens and they continue, with Frodo riding in a dark dream. At dawn they stop and the hobbits sleep until far into the morning. Glorfindel gives them an invigorating draft of a liquor and they carry on, covering almost 20 miles before nightfall, without sight or sound of pursuit. The hobbits are dizzy with weariness and Frodo’s perception of things is reduced to shadows of ghostly grey.
In the late afternoon of the next day they hear many footfalls behind them just as the Road opens up to reveal the Ford of Rivendell ahead across a long flat mile. Glorfindel listens to the following sound and cries out to Frodo to ‘Fly! The enemy is upon us.’ Hobbits, elf and man follow.
Half way across the flat 5 riders emerge from the trees the travellers had just left. Glorfindel urges Frodo on but he hesitates, feeling a strange reluctanc. The elf commands his horse on and it carries Frodo away with the 5 Riders in pursuit and others maneuvering ahead to cut off his escape across the River. Frodo hears their fell voices calling to him. The horse carries him across the River and stops at the top of the bank. Nine Black Riders are at the River below. Frodo feels it is useless to try to escape, and that he has been commanded to stop. The foremost Rider spurs his horse to the river’s edge. Weakly Frodo tells them to go back, and they laugh at him, saying they will take him to Mordor and calling for the Ring.
Frodo lifts his sword and utters the names of Elbereth and Luthien. The leader raises his hand, striking the hobbit dumb. Then the river rises and carries away the three riders who are crossing it. The others draw back in dismay and Frodo sees a shining figure in white light and small shadowy forms waving flames running at them and driving them back into the River. Frodo falls from the horse in a faint.