Summary — The Breaking of the Fellowship
That night, Aragorn is uneasy and wakes during Frodo’s watch. He asks Frodo to take out his sword, Sting. The sword glows faintly, indicating that Orcs are near—though they do not know how near.
The next morning, Aragorn declares that Frodo must decide where the Ring is to go; the rest of the Company may continue where they will. Frodo asks for an hour alone to decide, and he walks up through the woods on Amon Hen. Secretly, Boromir follows, and, once in the isolation of the woods, he approaches Frodo. Boromir tries to convince the hobbit to turn toward the safety of Minas Tirith, and not to throw the Ring away when it could be used as a weapon against Sauron. When Frodo disagrees, Boromir grows angry and is suddenly taken with an uncontrollable desire for the Ring. He leaps toward Frodo, who is forced to put the Ring on his finger and disappear. The madness then leaves Boromir. Realizing what he has done, he falls to the ground and weeps.
Frodo runs breathless to the top of Amon Hen. From this high point, and with the vision the Ring gives him, he can see many things—but mostly war, gathering on all fronts. He looks toward Mordor and beholds Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower of Sauron, and he feels Sauron’s Great Eye searching for the Ring-bearer. The Eye has almost found Frodo when a voice suddenly comes into his head, telling him to take the Ring off his finger. Frodo struggles between the two forces, the Voice and the Eye, before he suddenly realizes that the choice is ultimately his to make. He removes the Ring, and the Great Eye does not find him. Frodo now knows that he must go on to Mordor alone. The Ring has already corrupted one of the Company—Boromir—and Frodo loves those whom he can trust too much to lead them to what seems a certain death. Going back into the cover of the forest, the hobbit slips the Ring on his finger again.
Meanwhile, the others down at the shore begin to worry, debating among themselves where the Ring should go and wondering why Frodo is taking so long to decide. Boromir returns, sad and grim, and tells them that he scared Frodo off, though Boromir does not reveal that he tried to take the Ring from the hobbit. The Company, filled with concern, scatters and calls out for Frodo. In vain, Aragorn insists that they divide up into pairs and search. He runs off after Sam and sends Boromir to look after Merry and Pippin.
Aragorn quickly catches up to Sam and tells him he thinks there is danger near. The Ranger decides to go up to the top of Amon Hen to look around. Sam hurries after Aragorn for a bit, but soon loses sight of him. Sam stops, realizing that Frodo is probably making for the boats, intending to go to Mordor alone. He quickly dashes down to the shore and sees a boat slipping into the river, seemingly on its own. He tries to run after it, nearly drowning himself. Frodo is forced to save Sam and to come back to shore and take off the Ring. Sam refuses to be left behind; Frodo, with some relief, accepts his friend’s company. Sam grabs his pack, and they push off from shore, toward Mordor.
We get an interesting insight into Frodo’s self-discovery when he sits at the top of Amon Hen wearing the Ring. With the special sight the Ring gives him, he sees much around him, but he also opens himself up to Sauron’s searching Eye, with its “fierce eager will” that urges him to keep the Ring on his finger. Then Frodo hears a voice telling him to take off the Ring. For a long moment, he is caught between those two forces: “perfectly balanced between their piercing points, he writhed, tormented.” Then, suddenly, he becomes aware of himself: “Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so.” We might read this conflict in a straightforward Freudian manner. Sigmund Freud was a doctor and philosopher who, around the turn of the twentieth century, created the field of psychoanalysis, which developed and popularized the notion of the unconscious mind. In a Freudian reading, the Eye of Sauron, with its fierce will and desire for the Ring, becomes what Freud called the id, the part of the psyche that is all instinctual, animal desire. The Voice, with its stern command to take off the Ring and defy Sauron, is effectively the superego, the part of the psyche that is rational and obedient to societal demands for what is right and just. Frodo himself—“neither Voice nor the Eye”—is the ego, the part of the psyche that must negotiate between the id and superego.