The first of J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings audiobook trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring sets the stage for one hobbit’s struggle for the fate of Middle Earth. While its prequel, The Hobbit, was originally written for children, The Fellowship of the Ring does not limit the scope of its narrative to a simple adventure. With higher stakes, more sinister enemies, and greater depth, The Fellowship provides its audience with a saga at once epic and intimate.
The protagonists’ deep friendships, fierce loyalties, and struggle for integrity tie the story together beneath the overlying quest to destroy the One Ring. We know the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance, but we still relate to the diverse characters of the fellowship and become invested in each of their personal journeys.
The Fellowship of the Ring begins with the retirement of Bilbo Baggins, the namesake hero of the book’s prequel, The Hobbit. Over sixty years have passed since Bilbo helped Thorin Oakenshield and his brother dwarves reclaim their lost kingdom from Smaug the dragon, and Bilbo is ready to retire from the monotony of The Shire and live out the rest of his days with the elf lord Elrond in Rivendell. At Gandalf’s urging, Bilbo does not keep the mysterious ring he found in Gollum’s lair, but leaves it for Frodo, his nephew and heir.
As the new owner of the ring, Frodo has no idea of its significance or of just how much its presence will change his life. Gandalf discovers that the ring is actually the One Ring of Sauron, an evil overlord who used the ring to rise to power and lost it many years ago. Though Sauron was temporarily defeated when the ring was lost, he has now regained power and has amassed armies of evil orcs with the sole purpose of recovering his ring.
Gandalf impresses upon Frodo the danger he is in as the owner of the ring, and explains that the ring wants to return to its master and will slowly drive its bearer insane as it attempts to reunite with Sauron. He tells Frodo that he must leave The Shire and escape to Rivendell, where a council will be called to determine the fate of the ring.
Frodo and three of his friends–Sam, Merry, and Pippin–manage to escape The Shire (and the evil wraiths of Sauron pursuing them) and meet up with Strider, who helps them the rest of the way to Rivendell. Once there, the Council of Elrond determines that they cannot risk Sauron regaining the ring, and that even if they tried to use it against him, its evil nature would corrupt its bearer.
The ring must be destroyed, and quickly. The only way to do so, however, is to venture into Sauron’s very kingdom and throw the ring back into the fires of Mt. Doom from which it was originally forged.
The Fellowship Who’s Who
To accomplish the nearly impossible task of destroying the ring, a fellowship of nine companions is formed at the Council of Elrond. Each of the main races is represented: hobbits, elves, dwarves, and men. Together, they must face myriad enemies, a treacherous journey, and the corrupting presence of the ring among them as they try to save Middle Earth from the gathering evil of Sauron.
The Hobbits: Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin
Frodo Baggins is the nephew to Bilbo Baggins (the hero of The Hobbit) and inherits the ring from Bilbo. He is the main ringbearer and feels the weight of the ring’s insidious power most keenly.
Samwise Gamgee (Sam) is Frodo’s loyal and devoted friend, dedicating himself to the colossal task of keeping Frodo healthy, whole, and happy during his journey. Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry) and Peregrin Took (Pippin) are also friends of Frodo who decide to accompany him on his quest after hearing the story of the ring.
The Elf: Legolas
Legolas is the prince of the woodland elves living in Mirkwood. As an elf, he is immune to disease and old age, and possesses great powers of sight and agility. He is skilled in combat and serves as the fellowship’s archer and scout, helping to defend the hobbits on their quest.
The Dwarf: Gimli
Gimli is the son of Gloin, one of the thirteen dwarves with whom Bilbo Baggins traveled over sixty years before. Because Gloin was once imprisoned by Legolas’ father, the king of the Mirkwood elves, Gimli and Legolas are initially hostile with each other. Nevertheless, Gimli volunteers to be part of the Fellowship on behalf of the dwarves.
The Men: Boromir, Aragorn, and Gandalf
Boromir is the elder son of the ruling steward of Gondor, the last stronghold of men before reaching Sauron’s evil realm of Mordor. Boromir is an accomplished warrior who can be over-confident at times, particularly when it comes to his pride in Gondor. Aragorn, known as Strider to the hobbits, is the leader of a group of men called the Rangers of the North.
At Gandalf’s request, the rangers have been guarding the hobbits’ homeland for years against raids by evil forces. Aragorn helps the hobbits early on in the story and continues to be one of their most skilled and knowledgeable protectors throughout the series.
Gandalf, also called Gandalf the Grey, is the same wizard who coaxed Bilbo Baggins into a life-altering adventure in The Hobbit. Wise, powerful, and often inscrutable, Gandalf is the one who first reveals to Frodo the history of the ring and urges him to destroy it. Gandalf has always had a fondness for hobbits and places much of his trust in the dependability of Frodo and his friends.
Is the Audiobook for Me?
As the first Lord of the Rings audiobook, The Fellowship of the Ring is brought to life beyond the page through rich narration. The vivid landscapes, horrifying dangers, intense dialogue, breathtaking escapes, and fierce battles lend themselves beautifully to an audio format.
Generations of readers have devoured The Lord of the Rings, and as an audiobook, The Fellowship of the Ring is able to entrance a new generation of fantasy fans. Put on your headphones and turn up the volume–The Fellowship of the Ring is only the beginning.