"The Fellowship of the Ring" Book Discussion and Blackberry Scones Recipe
Frodo Baggins is a hobbit, a small creature who lives with his uncle, the esteemed Bilbo, in a kind, green place known as the Shire. He is considered odd though, for being a bachelor, and for having an uncle who once went on an adventure across many strange lands, and left him with riches untold—the greatest being a ring of great power, the One Ring to rule them all. Bilbo only knows it can make him invisible and has granted him a long life. But Gandalf the wizard has searched for its secrets, and he now knows that it must be returned to the fires where it was forged and destroyed before Sauron, the mighty evil king, can utilize it to regain power over all of Middle Earth. So Frodo travels with three loyal hobbit friends across strange lands to the dwelling of the elegant elves in Rivendell, where he meets a company who will help him in this quest, to save them all from the evils that have been secretly growing in their world, destroying all that is beautiful and good.
This first Lord of the Rings novel, , is rife with hope in the midst of many evils and darkness, it is the tale of how even a small creature is mightier than he realizes, and that friends can always be counted on, especially when most necessary. It is filled with adventure, beautiful lands, frightful beings, mighty men, wise elves and wizards, poems, long tales, pursuits, and the aid of unexpected friends. This book will encourage you to begin or continue your own journey, no matter how bleak it appears or weary you feel, for friends are always near, and hope always endures, for “from the ashes a fire shall be woken.” The Fellowship of the Ring
Perfect for fans of:
- Fantasy fiction
- Classic literature
- Epic fantasy
- Sword and sorcery fantasy
- Christian allegory
- English literature
Hobbits were divided into three breeds: the Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller and shorter, beardless and bootless, had much to do with Dwarves in elder days, and preferred highlands and hillsides; the Stoors were broader, heavier with flatter hands, were less shy of men, and preferred flat lands and riversides; the Fallohides were fairer of skin and hair, taller and slimmer than the others, more friendly with the elves, and lovers of trees and woodlands. To which group did each belong: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Smeagol, and Pippin? To which would you prefer to belong?
“Anything the hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom...and many of their presents that passed from hand to hand were of that sort.” What was unique about the way hobbits celebrated birthdays? How did Bilbo uniquely celebrate his last one in the Shire?
“A mortal who keeps one of the Great Rings, Rings of power, does not die…” But what happens to him instead? How did it make Bilbo feel?
What did Gollum used to be called, and why did Frodo find it so hard to believe his connection with hobbits?
Frodo said it was a pity that Bilbo hadn’t stabbed Gollum when he had a chance. But Gandalf corrected him that pity and mercy were what stayed his hand:not to strike without need. Why? How did that piteous beginning and ending of acquiring the ring for Bilbo cause him to take “so little hurt from the evil, and escape in the end”? What became of those who acquired the ring through blood, in comparison?
How must the ring be destroyed? Why is it more dangerous to give to someone with greater power, like Gandalf?
In what ways did Sam show his loyalty to Frodo, even in how “he was not disposed to be quick friends with anyone who had beaten his master, however long ago” ? Is his loyalty reflective of the way servants used to be fiercely loyal to the families they served in English manor houses, at the turn of the 20th century, for example?
Who was the River-woman’s daughter? How did she and Tom Bombadil aid the hobbits? Why wouldn’t he have made a good candidate to carry the ring?
Who were the Rangers really? What had they been doing in recent months in order to aid Gandalf? What connection did they have to Earendil?
Strider used the leaves of the Athelas to try to heal Frodo’s wound. What effect did it have on the others as well, from the fragrance of the steam? Can you think of any of our herbs (perhaps used in teas) that also create this quality? How and where was Frodo wounded to begin with?
Why did Bilbo give away all of his share of the trolls’ treasure that he had found? Was he right in his thinking, since it came from robbers?
Why didn’t Glorfindel think that Frodo’s friends would be in much danger if he wasn’t with them?
Not all of the Dark Lord in Mordor’s servants are wraiths. What other types of creatures serve him or spy for him?
Gandalf said that “there is a power in Rivendell to withstand the might of Mordor, for a while, and elsewhere other powers dwell. There is power, too, of another kind in the Shire.” What did he mean?
If not Frodo, then who is the Lord of the Ring? When and for what purpose was it made? Why does it need to be destroyed/why can it not be wielded by the wise or powerful?
Because the elves hoped for Gollum’s cure, and due to over-kindliness, he was able to escape them. How? What other creatures aided him with a distraction?
Why did Saruman want Gandalf to join him? Do you think there will be, as he said “rich reward of those who aided” the new Power, or that the wise, like the wizards, could possibly control it for their own means?
What is the danger in doing as Sauman said to ally themselves with the new power by biding their time, merely “deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order”? How is these two mentalities (in the last two questions) similar to that of some of the Axis powers in WWII, through which Tolkien lived?
Who consisted of the Company, or Fellowship, of the Ring? Why do you think each one was chosen, or volunteered himself? Why not Elrond, or more rangers or elf-warriors rather than so many hobbits?
When Frodo and the hobbits met the High elves in the woods not quite out of the Shire, they were fed “bread surpassing the savour of a fair white loaf to one who is starving; and fruits sweet as wildberries…”
At the home of Tom Bombadil, the table was “all laden with yellow cream, honeycomb, and white bread and butter...and ripe berries gathered.”
When the hobbits stopped at the Prancing Pony where they ate and also met Strider, they had a blackberry tart, among other things.
To encompass these flavors, I created a simple, (unbleached) white-flour recipe for Blackberry Scones.
If you’d like, you can drizzle them with honey, such as Frodo enjoyed during his last autumn in the Shire. They are also compact and easy to take on long adventures.
- 2 cups plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus 1/2-1 cup more for rolling
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, cold
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar, separated
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 2/3 cup whole milk, buttermilk, or heavy cream (not skim milk)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 oz fresh blackberries, (or frozen, defrosted and drained)
- Make sure all ingredients are measured before you take the butter out of the fridge to begin the first step. You need the butter to be as cold as possible. Combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, and 2/3 cup sugar in a bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl with the blackberries, mix a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of flour. Preheat your oven to 400° F.
- Cut the stick of butter in half lengthwise, then cut across 8-10 times into small tabs. Drop the sliced butter into the bowl of flour and cut together using a pastry cutter or fork, or your hands, if you don’t mind getting messy. (A food processor pulsed 6-8 times would also work, but make sure each pulse is very short). Cut until the butter is pea-sized or smaller.
- Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the milk and vanilla extract. Stir together with a spoon or spatula (not a mixer) until all of it is mixed together, about two minutes. Add the egg next, combine completely. Then add the backberries, and fold these in gently with clean (gloved) hands or a rubber spatula to combine. Drop dough onto a floured counter (using at minimum half a cup of flour; I used a whole cup). Cut dough into two large balls. Roll out each one to about a half inch thick (about the height of your pinky nail-see photos), and using a butter knife, cut in half, then into quarters, then into eighths. If any of them are making an oddly shaped triangle, you can remold them using the crook of your hand between the thumb and pointer finger, or just roll them into a ball, flatten, and recut. You can also use a cup to make circular scones, if you prefer.
- Place on a parchment-lined or butter-greased baking sheet, sprinkle with extra sugar or honey if desired, and bake for 10-13 minutes, until edges begin to turn light brown. Makes about thirty small scones or fourteen to fifteen medium-sized scones.
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The sequel in this trilogy is The Two Towers. Another book not in this series but still very much part of the story is the prequel, The Hobbit, about Bilbo’s adventures. More can also be found about the history of Middle Earth in the factual representation The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien and his son, Christopher. More works by Tolkien include Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth, The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien, The Fall of Gondolin, Bilbo’s Last Song, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Leaf by Niggle, On Fairy-Stories, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Tales from the Perilous Realm, The Road Goes Ever On, and numerous posthumous, often incomplete tales and letters.
One of Tolkien’s best friends, C.S. Lewis, also wrote several fantasy series, and he and the two often met with a group of fellow writers for inspiration called The Inklings. Lewis’ fantasy series were the adult Out of the Silent Planet trilogy, which begins with the same title, and the famous Chronicles of Narnia children’s series, which technically begins with The Magician’s Nephew, though some consider it a prequel to the most famous of the series The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
For a book about the Inklings, Tolkien, and Lewis, read The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends by Humphrey Carpenter, or The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski.
The Dark Tower concept from this series, some believe, comes from a poem called "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning. Another inspiration for the adventures and the Nine could possibly have come from "Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage," an epic poem by George Gordon Byron. The first poem and its concepts also inspired Stephen King’s magnum opus, the Dark Tower series, which starts with The Gunslinger.
Many believe that the Harry Potter series, which begins with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was at least partially inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books.
The Wheel of Time series, which begins with The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan is considered a similar fantasy action series, though more battle-heavy and graphic in nature than this series, and probably more appropriate for older teens young adults, or adults.
Wizard’s First Rule, the first in the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind reflects many elements of this series, including the ring of power (represented by a sword), the creature Gollum, a chosen man with gifts, a helpful wise wizard friend, and more. It also is strong fantasy but with very graphic elements, and probably best for adults or very mature, nearly-adult teens.
“I feel all thin, sort of stretched...like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.”
“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
“Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”
“I don’t know how to say it, but...I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back….I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead...I must see it through…”
“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
“...you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.”
“Bilbo went to find a treasure, there and back again; but I go to lose one, and not return again, as far as I can see.”-Frodo “But you cannot see very far.”-Gandalf
“Hobbits have a passion for mushrooms, surpassing even the greediest likings of big people.”
“Some things are ill to hear when the world’s in shadow.”
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
“I dwelt there once, and still I return when I may. There my heart is; but it is not my fate to sit in peace.”
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Amanda Leitch