Summary — Chapter 3: Three Is Company
“[Bilbo] used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary.”See Important Quotations Explained
Two months later, Gandalf leaves the Shire to look into some troubling news he has heard. Frodo prepares to leave, though not quickly. On the wizard’s advice, Frodo plans to head toward Rivendell, the home of the wise Elrond Halfelven. To that end, he sells Bag End to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, a disagreeable relative of Bilbo who has always wanted to get her hands on the house. With the help of Sam and his other friends Peregrin Took (called Pippin) and Meriadoc Brandybuck (called Merry), Frodo packs up and moves out that autumn. Just before he leaves, he throws a small party, as he does every year, for his and Bilbo’s shared birthday on September 22nd.
Merry, along with another friend, Fredegar (Fatty) Bolger, go on ahead to Frodo’s new house, across the Brandywine River in Buckland, with a cartful of luggage. Frodo, Sam, and Pippin plan to follow on foot, taking a few days and camping in the woods at night. Just as they are on their way, Frodo hears a strange voice talking to Sam’s father, Ham Gamgee (known as the Gaffer), who lives next door. The voice asks for Mr. Baggins, but the Gaffer responds that Mr. Baggins has already left. Frodo feels that people are getting too inquisitive, and he leaves as quietly as possible.
The second day out, the hobbits hear the sound of hooves on the road behind them. Frodo feels a strange desire to hide, so he leads Sam and Pippin off into the trees. The rider is a tall figure on a large, black horse. He is shrouded in a black cloak and his face cannot be seen. He stops near the spot where the hobbits are hiding and seems to sniff the air for a scent. Frodo feels a sudden desire to put the Ring on his finger. Then, the rider suddenly rides off again. Sam informs Frodo that it appeared to be the same Black Rider who was questioning the Gaffer the other night.
The hobbits proceed more cautiously, constantly listening for the sound of hooves. As night falls, they hear a horse approaching. Hiding in the trees, they see that it is again a Black Rider. The Black Rider stops and starts to approach Frodo, when suddenly it hears the singing voices of Elves, mounts its horse, and rides off.
The elves approach, and their song ends. One of them, Gildor, greets Frodo. When Pippin asks about the Black Riders, the elves suddenly look worried, and they take the hobbits under their protection for the night. Later that night, the party stops in what seems to be an enchanted glade, and they have a feast. Frodo, who is known by Elves and who knows some of their language, questions Gildor about the Black Riders. All the elf will say is that the Riders are servants of the Enemy and therefore must be avoided at all costs. The party settles down to sleep for the night.
Summary — Chapter 4: A Short Cut to Mushrooms
When the hobbits awake the next morning, the elves are gone, but they have sent word of the hobbits’ journey to friendly ears along the way to Rivendell. Frodo decides to take a shortcut across the fields between Woody End and the Brandywine River ferry, because he is now in haste and does not wish to stay on the road where they can easily be seen. Indeed, not long after leaving the road, the party sees a Black Rider traveling on it. The underbrush is dense, however, and the hobbits make slow progress. Later, they hear two terrible cries, which they assume to be the Black Riders communicating to each other.