more time...WHAT was the Fellowship's plan??

For the Ringbearer, a frigging Istari, the Rightful King of Gondor WITH A REFORGED NARSIL, the son of the steward of Gondor, an elf and a dwarf along with their three minions to surreptitiously sneak into Mordor and throw the ring into Mount Doom? Real inconspicuous bunch there. They couldn’t even sneak through a dungeon without bringing the entire mountain and a frigging balrog down on them. What are they going to do in the open? This has “Party goes off the DM rails and throws together a shitty plan” written all over it.

And what would they do when they got to the Black Gate? Taunt them into making a mistake?

And finally in the book when it all falls apart…enhhhh…just let those two hobbits have a stab at it?

Gandalf: “You just let Sam and Frodo go alone? Did you tell them about our plan for circumventing the Black Gate?”

Aragorn: “…”

At the Council of Elrond it was made clear that the One Ring cannot be kept by Gondor, Elrond or even Tom Bombadil. (Sauron’s forces are simply too strong.)

If thrown into the sea, the Ring will eventually be discovered.

It cannot be used for Good.

Therefore the only choice is to throw it into the fires of Mount Doom.
Just getting there will be perilous:

  • the Ringwraiths will soon return
  • the traitor Saruman is seeking the Ring for himself
  • even Gollum is searching for the Ring (and has an affinity for it)

Elrond comments that even if he had a host of Elves, it would not be enough to get through. Speed and secrecy are the only hope.

Hence the Fellowship.

A couple of further comments:

  • yes, Gandalf is an Istari (a Maiar) … but his power is limited and is best suited to bringing hope to inspire others
  • Aragorn’s sword Narsil has not been reforged at this point
  • The Steward of Gondor (Denethor) has been severely weakened by glimpsing Sauron through a Palantir and his son Boromir mistakenly believes the Ring should be used
  • the party never intended to enter Moria (and risk meeting a Balrog) … it was Saruman’s weather magic on Caradhras that forced the Fellowship to take that route
  • I expect Gandalf would consider avoiding the Black Gate (although there are obvious dangers in passing by Minas Morgul)


Galadriel: “I have passed the test and now may be allowed to travel west” (I think thats what happened)

Frodo: “You know what would be great? We seemed to have lost our wizard. I think the test should be you replacing him instead of pissing off west.”
i know in the movie Narsil hadn’t been reforged, but I thought Aragorn in the book got it before setting out. Small matter that i know.

Yup, from my handy copy; on leaving Rivendell ‘Aragorn had Andúril* but no other weapon’.

I think the plan was basically to travel in the right direction, see what was happening and work out a plan later. Without knowing what was going on several hundred miles away, there’d be little point deciding which gate to use or anything detailed, especially as time was of the essence and there would be a lot of walking to do before any decisions needed to be made. Bear in mind there’s months of book time between leaving and arriving at Mordor, and obviously the fewer people who knew detail the better.
*reforged a few pages earlier.

I was just thinking, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen any ‘lore videos’ on this. What if the Balrog misses and the entire Fellowship succeeds in destroying The Ring?

Gondor and Rohan have been curbstomped. Saruman still has sizeable army under his thrall (I assume)

Gandalf: “Mighty Gwaihir can you drop us off at Gondor?..errr…Rohan? Lothlorien is surrounded? You say you’re getting tired and we can’t just circle for days?”

I suppose if Gandalf has all the info available he could muster a force in the north and square off with Saruman.


  1. The “plan” was simply to somehow get the Ring to Mount Doom and throw it in, without attracting Sauron’s notice.

  2. Frodo volunteered to do this.

  3. The rest of the Fellowship volunteered to go with him and help him however long and far this seemed like a good idea.

The plan evolved over time, as I recall. Even well after the Fellowship headed out, the group was divided about whether to go to Rohan or Gondor before heading to Mordor. When Boromir broke the Fellowship, Frodo decided all by himself to go alone (and Sam caught him on the way out). If Gandalf had not been lost, or any of a dozen other things had gone differently, it’s possible a different approach would have been taken.

So,they had, what, 12% of a plan?

I have always believed that Gandalf had “planned” nothing further than getting to Lothlórien. There, I believe he intended to converse with Galadriel and Celeborn on what would be the most expedient way to enter Mordor. For all we know, he was planning on meeting up with Gwaihir at that point and hitching a ride.

As Gandalf himself says in Gondor to Pippin: “There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope, as I’ve been told.” In other words, staying put was not going to work, other options would not work, giving the Ring to someone else to use was even worse, so let’s just see how close we can get, making it up as we go.

One of the main themes of the book and movie was ‘Give Good a Chance and it will Somehow Find A Way to stomp Evil’s arse’.

In the book, Gandalf noted how blind-luck-fortunate it was that Wormtongue managed to throw away the one means of communication between Saurman and Sauron, and how that Palantir was picked up by a hobbit who looked a lot like the last known holder of the Ring (as doubtless reported by the Nazgul), so Sauron was confused for just a little longer than he might have been. Aragorn was incidently kept from trying to use it before he found out what it really was, and was thereby able to put on a much better show when he did use it to talk trash with ol’ Evil Eye.

It was just as well that Aragon was near Isengard at the time, pretty far away from the Ring at the time. (As a Ranger, he would have been a great help in getting Sam and Frodo to the main gate. Afterwards, impossible to say.) And it also worked out that Aragorn was later pretty much forced to use the Paths of the Dead, thereby further proving his own Right to Rule and picking up those kewl auxiliaries.

All chance, as anyone other than Manwe would say.

I just reread The Council of Elrond and part of The Ring Goes South.

Apparently Aragorn didn’t intend to go all the way, but as far as Gondor where he would become king I guess and who knows? Maybe the Fellowship would stop there as well until things are set right. Then they can devise a plan which would still probably be, you guys go on while Aragorn pretends he has The Ring.

Also, just read Elrond saying “Do not look too far ahead.”

Nitpick: Istari is plural, the singular is Istar.

More general points:

People tend to forget, or not be aware, that Tolkien was a lifelong devout Catholic and cared deeply about religion. He tried to express Catholic values in LOTR.

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little; and should chiefly be grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know.”
  – Tolkien

The Fellowship’s plan was ‘try to do what is right, however hopeless it seems’. Perhaps God will intervene, or perhaps He has some larger plan, even if you fail.

Also, we are looking back at Tolkien’s work in the light of Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy gaming, vast numbers of fantasy books and movies. Tolkien may have inspired all this, but his works don’t fit into that mold. People today tend to think in mechanistic, materialistic gaming terms like, ‘a Ranger has x abilities and y weaknesses’, ‘a Wizard can cast such-and-such magic spell, which requires n magic points, an Elvish ring, and a magic Staff’, etc.

This is NOT Tolkien’s world.

“The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost.”
  – Tolkien

Whether the setup seems likely to work or not, factually they did make it to their destination and save the world. I believe that there is a series of books that goes into explicit detail about how they were able to pull it off…

If you think that any parts of the story are made up or not realistic, I think that you would need to give your reasoning for believing that that particular event might not have happened or didn’t happen in the way in which it is portrayed in the books, in order to really make your argument.

An unrelated question - did Elrond or Galadriel know who Gandalf really was?

I’m certain they did.
After all, they were the three Elf Ringbearers! (Gandalf got his from Cirdan.)

“Before you let us pass into Mordor, you must answer these questions three.”

“Very well, if I must… hey, wait a minute!”

Given Galadriel and Gandalf were both knocking around Valinor before all that unpleasantness with the Trees and Jewels and Kinslaying, I’d say quite probably they knew *of *each other. He was the wisest Maia, she the fairest Elf…

I am Groot. If that has anything to do with it.

So, what’s the plan?"