1. From what year and what event are all dates of the Shire-reckoning calculated? (4)
2. How did the hobbits come to settle the Shire? (5)
3. Where was Frodo raised, and how did he come to live with Bilbo Baggins? (24)
4. What do the hobbits mean by “filling up the corners”? (28)
5. What are Bilbo’s “three purposes” for gathering his 144 guests at his birthday dinner? (30)
6. Why does Bilbo want to go away? (32)
1. How would you describe the hobbits’ way of life and the main characteristics of their appearance and behavior? How are they different from us, and how are they similar? When you finish the book, ask yourself the same question.
2. As you read, be aware of details of history and geography. How does Tolkien create a sense of a real world with real landmarks and a real history?
3. We are told that Gandalf’s “real business was far more difficult and dangerous” than working with fire. As you read, what do you discover Gandalf’s real business to be, and why is it dangerous?
4. Why is it important that Bilbo give up the Ring to Frodo? Why does he have so much difficulty doing so?
5. Why is Gandalf so concerned about the Ring and its effects on the person who possesses it? Why doesn¹t he tell Bilbo straight out what the Ring can do to him?
BOOK ONE: CHAPTER II, THE SHADOW OF THE PAST—CHAPTER III, THREE IS COMPANY
1. How does Frodo learn of the Enemy and the rebuilding of the Dark Tower in the Land of Mordor? (42)
2. Who is Saruman the White? (47)
3. What has Gandalf been doing during the seventeen years following Bilbo’s disappearance? (49)
4. Who was Sméagol, and who has he become? (51)
5. Why does Frodo so readily agree with Gandalf’s advice that he go to Rivendell? (63)
6. Why does Gildor say to Frodo, “I name you Elf-friend”? (82)
1. Gandalf tells Frodo, “There is such a thing as malice and revenge.” As you read, ask yourself how malice and revenge enter the story, who their agents are (whether heroes or villains), and what their effects are?
2. Why is it important that Sauron not be allowed to gain possession of the One Ring? How can he be prevented from acquiring it?
3. What does Gandalf mean when he says of Sméagol, “The Ring had given him power according to his stature.” Is the Ring itself evil and destructive, or may its powers be used for good or evil, depending on the moral character of its bearer?
4. What is the significance of Gollum’s having been a hobbit before acquiring the Ring? How can greed, envy, and other vices—especially when associated with an object of great beauty or value—so transform someone?
5. Gandalf tells Frodo, “But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.” As the book progresses, in what ways is Frodo called upon to use “such strength and heart and wits” as he possesses? In what ways are we all called upon to deal with the demands of life in a similar way?
BOOK ONE: CHAPTER IV, A SHORT CUT TO MUSHROOMS—CHAPTER VI, THE OLD FOREST
1. Of what material is Farmer Maggot’s house built? (90
2. What is Pippin’s full name? (91)
3. Who was the founder of the Brandybuck family and the original builder of Brandy Hall? (97)
4. What are the chief differences between the Bucklanders and the other hobbits of the Four Farthings? (97
5. Why did Frodo choose the house at Crickhollow? (98)
6. How do Merry, Pippin, and Sam know that Frodo has been planning to leave the Shire? (101)
1. How would you explain Sam’s determination to stay with Frodo no matter what? How would you explain the change in him as a result of meeting and talking with the Elves?
2. What qualities do Sam, Pippin, and Merry possess that make them suitable companions for Frodo on his journey? As the story progresses, how do the four change and grow?
3. How important is trust to the Fellowship and to the maintenance of friendship? How would you define trust? How does the importance of trust become clear in subsequent episodes?
4. “We are horribly afraid,” Merry tells Frodo, “but we are coming with you.” How do Merry, Sam, and Pippin overcome their fears? Are there any instances in your, your family’s, or your friends’ lives when someone acted in spite of fear?
5. What kinds of light and what kinds of darkness appear in The Lord of the Rings? What circumstances and characters are associated with each? How does the contrast of light and dark help us to understand the conflict between good and evil?
BOOK ONE: CHAPTER VII, IN THE HOUSE OF TOM BOMBADIL—CHAPTER IX, AT THE SIGN OF THE PRANCING PONY
1. How does the spell cast on Frodo by Goldberry differ from the spell of “fair Elven-voices”? (121)
2. When did Tom Bombadil first meet Goldberry? (123)
3. How are Sam, Merry, and Pippin dressed when Frodo sees them laid out in the barrow? (137)
4. What does Tom Bombadil choose from the barrow treasure for each hobbit, and what makes his choices special? (142)
5. Why, when they reach the East Road, do the four hobbits feel “a deep loneliness and sense of loss”? (143)
6. Who are the Rangers and what sets them apart? (146)
standing stones (134)
1. When Frodo asks Tom Bombadil about the Old Willow Man, Tom replies, “Some things are ill to hear when the world’s in shadow.” What does he mean? Why are some things “ill to hear when the world’s in shadow”?
2. Based on Tom Bombadil’s response to Frodo’s question, “Who are you, Master?” on Goldberry’s earlier description of him as “the Master of wood, water, and hill,” and on his appearance and behavior, who—or what—would you say he is? Why is he important to the hobbits’ success?
3. We are told that “there is a seed of courage hidden . . . in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow.” In what ways does this become evident of Frodo, Sam, and the other hobbits?
4. What kinds of songs are sung in The Lord of the Rings? Do the circumstances in which each is sung have particular importance? How do their own songs and songs taught to them help Frodo and his friends?
5. Frequently in myths and legends, waking from sleep or donning new clothes (as following the barrow episode) indicates that the hero has reached a new level of knowledge, strength, skill, or courage. When does this kind of incident occur in The Lord of the Rings?
BOOK ONE, CHAPTER X STRIDER—CHAPTER XII FLIGHT TO THE FORD
1. Why has Strider been looking for Frodo Baggins? (161)
2. What pledge does Aragorn make to Frodo and his friends? (168)
3. According to Strider, when and where are the Black Riders the strongest? (171)
4. What was Amun Sûl, and what remains of it? (181)
5. What does Strider find in the middle of the Last Bridge, and how does he interpret it? (196)
6. Who is Glorfindel? (204)
1. What do you think Strider means when, speaking of the Dark Riders, he tells the hobbits, “You fear them, but you do not fear them enough, yet.” How is it possible to not fear something or someone enough?
2. How do the ways in which the Black Riders “see” and otherwise sense their surroundings link them with evil and the dark and make them particularly terrifying? In what ways are these “talents” and powers important in subsequent episodes?
3. After being wounded in his fight with the Black Rider, Frodo realizes “that in putting on the Ring he obeyed not his own desire but the commanding wish of his enemies.” How can the Ring make someone act against his own interests and in the interests of his enemies? What other instances are there of characters acting against their own best interests?
4. Who or what is “the Enemy”? How are the Enemy’s powers and limitations revealed? What counter-powers do Frodo and his companions wield against the Enemy? Where do these counter-powers come from?
5. What special (unsuspected) qualities and talents does Sam Gamgee reveal as the journey continues? As the story progresses, in what ways does Sam become essential to Frodo’s success and to a successful outcome to the quest?
BOOK TWO: CHAPTER I, MANY MEETINGS—CHAPTER II, THE COUNCIL OF ELROND
1. Which of the Dark Lord’s chief foes live in Rivendell, and why don’t they fear the Ringwraiths? (216)
2. Who is Arwen, what other name does she bear, and what is her importance to her people? (221)
3. When were the Rings of Power forged and by whom? (236)
4. Why was the victory of the Last Alliance on the Slopes of Orodruin bittersweet? (237)
5. How did Gollum escape from the Elves of Northern Mirkwood? (249)
6. Where was Gandalf imprisoned, and how did he escape? (254)
1. “There are many powers in the world, for good or for evil,” Gandalf tells Frodo. What powers, for good and evil, do Frodo, Gandalf, and their companions confront? What are the sources and the effects of each?
2. Why is Aragorn known by so many names; where does he come from; what are his strengths and weaknesses; and what is his importance? What is the significance of his being “descended through many fathers from Isildur”? Why doesn’t he claim the Ring?
3. Saruman advises Gandalf that their best choice would be to join with the “new Power” that is rising so “to direct its course, to control it.” To what extent is the main theme ofThe Lord of the Rings power, its uses and abuses, and its consequences?
4. Gandalf says that “the power of Saruman is still less than fear makes it.” How can this be so? How does fear magnify an adversary or a problem?
5. How do Elrond’s comments at the end of Book Two, Chapter II, apply to the quest on which the Company is about to embark? “The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” What examples from your own world and the world at large can you think of when great deeds have been done by “small hands”?
BOOK TWO: CHAPTER III, THE RING GOES SOUTH—CHAPTER IV, A JOURNEY IN THE DARK
1. Why does Gandalf say he will accompany Frodo? (266)
2. Who reforges the Sword of Elendil, and what new name does it receive? (269)
3. Why can’t the Company cross the Misty Mountains through the Gap of Rohan? (288)
4. Who opens the West-door, and how does he do it? (300)
5. Why does Gandalf reject the middle and left-hand passages and choose the right-hand passage? (306)
6. Whose tomb does the Company come upon in the large square chamber on the east side of Moria? (312)
1. Who are the nine assigned by Elrond to the Company of the Ring, and why? Why is it important that the Company represent the “Free Peoples of the World”?
2. Why, as Gandalf says, would it “be well to trust rather in friendship than to great wisdom” in deciding who should accompany Frodo? In what ways might true friendship be more powerful than great wisdom?
3. What does Bilbo give to Frodo on the day before the Company sets out? Why might it be important that Frodo possess these gifts? In what ways do these gifts turn out to be important?
4. What is the importance of Elrond’s farewell words to the Company? As you read ahead, what importance do these words take on?
5. What does Boromir mean when he says, “The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears”? In what ways do both present dangers and imagined dangers imperil the Company? Which seems most fearful to you, and why?
BOOK TWO: CHAPTER V, THE BRIDGE OF KHAZAD-DÛM—CHAPTER VII, THE MIRROR OF GALADRIEL
1. What is Lothlórien, and why is it important to Legolas? (328)
2. What feeling comes over Frodo when he crosses the Silverlode? (340)
3. What is Cerin Amroth, and what is located there? (341)
4. What does Frodo see to the south and to the west from the great flet on Cerin Amroth? (342)
5. What and where is the Mirror of Galadriel? (362)
6. What ring does the Lady Galadriel wear, and why is it important? (356)
1. What are the implications of Aragorn’s statement to his companions after the loss of Gandalf: “We must do without hope”? To what extent will hope only hinder the Company in its mission?
2. What evidence, up to now and later in the book, supports Haldir’s statement, “Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him”? What are the causes and consequences of this estrangement?
3. What is Lord Celebrorn’s and Lady Galadriel’s importance, in terms of their age, wisdom, and powers? Why might Gandalf have wanted to lead Frodo and company to them?
4. We are told that before the Lady Galadriel’s gaze each member of the Company “had felt that he was offered a choice between a shadow full of fear that lay ahead, and something that he greatly desired.” Why might this choice be important?
5. How would you interpret what Frodo and Sam see in the Mirror of Galadriel? What do the scenes seen by each have to do with what may be or what is to be? In what ways might the mirror be “dangerous as a guide to deeds,” and what might happen if it were used as a guide?
BOOK TWO: CHAPTER VII, FAREWELL TO LÓRIEN—CHAPTER X, THE BREAKING OF THE FELLOWSHIP
1. What is the nature of Boromir’s and Aragorn’s disagreement concerning which course to follow? (380)
2. What does Boromir announce he will do when they reach the Isle of Tindrock? (380)
3. What is Argonath? (383)
4. What does Boromir want to do with the Ring? (389)
5. Where does Frodo sit after escaping from Boromir, and what does he see from there? (391)
6. What is Aragorn’s recommendation concerning what the Company should do next, and how do the others react?
1. On their last evening in Lórien, Boromir argues that the Company’s choice is between destroying the Ring and destroying “the armed might of the Dark Lord.” Can one of these actions be taken and not the other? Why or why not?
2. What gifts does Lady Galadriel give to the members of the Company? How is each gift appropriate? As the novel progresses, how does each gift aid its recipient?
3. On Amon Hen, Frodo tells Boromir that no speech will help him, “For I know what I should do, but I am afraid of doing it.” In what other instances, previously and later, does a character know what must be done but fear doing it?
4. What considerations lead Frodo to decide to go forward alone? Would you do the same? Why or why not?
5. Do you think it is right that The Fellowship of the Ring ends with Frodo and Sam setting off alone “on the last stage of the Quest”? Why or why not? How have Frodo and Sam grown since we first met them?
Discussion questions written by Hal Hager.
Copyright © 2011 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt