In December of 2021, Peter Jackson's spectacular and epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring celebrated its 20th anniversary, and its impact on cinema, its themes, its story, and characters have remained all these years later. In truth, this is a timeless story and a film that has not lost its luster one bit.
Many think of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a whole because the films are inherently connected as one long tale, but it's worth taking each film on its own and discussing its merits. When I first saw this film as a young adult, I knew nothing of the story and was completely entranced by the world of Middle Earth and its breathtaking landscapes, incredible characters, and prolific storytelling. The first in the trilogy is my personal favorite and one that has many moments that are deeply emotional, affecting, grand and beautiful. Here are the ten most profound moments of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Merry and Pippin's Bravery
These two affable and often mischievous hobbits are often thought of as the comic relief in these films, and while they are without a doubt funny characters, they are perhaps the characters who change the most in a short amount of time. From the start, Frodo and Sam as just as innocent, but have a bit more maturity, so it is Merry and Pippin who are forced to mature and grow the most as they are thrust into situations of danger and grief previously unknown to them.
When Frodo is preparing to leave on his own, Merry and Pippin share a moment of realization with their friend and draw the Orcs away from Frodo to give him a chance to escape. And when they must watch Boromir die in front of them as he tried to protect them, the two hobbits grab their daggers and attempt to fight. They know they are outmatched in size and number, but they bravely try anyway, showcasing how deep their courage truly is.
Arwen faces off against the Nazgul Wraiths
The first time we meet this beautiful and brave elf maiden she appears as an ethereal being to a wounded Frodo, before that image of her fades and we see an elf, but also a woman ready to face the challenge ahead of her. Frodo is wounded by the blade of a Ringwraith and needs the power of Elvish medicine to survive. With the wraiths still out there, hell-bent on obtaining the Ring, Arwen mounts her trusted steed, holding tightly onto Frodo determined to get him to Rivendell and her father as Aragorn tells her to “ride hard.” As that she bravely does, proving to be a skilled horsewoman, as well as fierce and powerful as she reaches a river and calls on the power of the water before her.
Fearlessly she says, sword unsheathed, “If you want him, come and claim him,” as she also recites an Elvish incantation that sweeps away the wraiths. Her fierceness is then matched a moment later by her compassion and sacrificial nature when she thinks it's too late for Frodo as she pleads “What grace has given me, let it pass to him. Let him be spared.” Some may protest to this moment as it's different than the book, but it is profound in establishing the nature of Arwen's character and gives an unknowing audience a real fear for Frodo's life.
When the Fellowship arrives at Lothlorien they meet the luminous and powerful Elvin Queen Galadriel. While they rest and deal with their grief over Gandalf, Frodo feels himself drawn to her as she heads to a place unknown. In truth, she is leading him to a window into, “Things that were, things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass.”
As Frodo sees a possible future where the fellowship fails, we see Galadriel reach out and tempted by the Ring in a truly terrifying moment where she imagines herself as an all-powerful and terrible being, before bringing herself back and claiming “I passed the test.” Her temptation was indeed strong but being able to overcome that proves her inner strength, and that elves, as strong as they are, are not infallible. It's an important moment in the story to see.
Throughout the entirety of the film, we see various characters and how they react to the Ring, and some are more tempted than others. Sam for example remains true, in contrast to a character like Boromir who struggles a great deal. When Frodo has decided to leave on his own, he is frightened when he sees Aragorn, having just had to put on the Ring and disappear from Boromir who attacked him. When Aragorn approaches and says he swore to protect him, Frodo asks, “Can you protect me from yourself?”
As Aragorn slowly approaches, there is a moment when we can hear the Ring speaking to him before he closes Frodo's hands gently but with purpose. Tempted or not it is a profound moment as we see the tremendous inner strength of Aragorn, a man who was always worthy to be the King of men. He lets Frodo go and then turns around ready to face an entire army on his own, proving him to be a character of incredible courage and fortitude.
The Forming of the Fellowship
Up until this point of the film, the audience believes Frodo's task is complete now that the Ring is in Rivendell. But soon Lord Elrond bemoans that the Ring cannot safely stay in the Elvish kingdom and so they form a council of various beings of Middle Earth, to discuss the best course of action. Elrond says the only way to destroy it is to cast it into the fires of Mount Doom, the place where the Ring was forged. Soon the power of the Ring begins to affect them all and they argue and disagree until Frodo bravely says he will take the Ring to Mordor.
It is then that one of the film's and indeed the entire trilogy's most significant and profound moments occurs when the members of the council, Gandalf the wizard, Aragorn and Boromir, the men, Legolas the elf, Gimli the Dwarf, and Frodo's fellow hobbits Sam, Merry and Pippin, all declare that they will accompany Frodo on his journey. It is profound because these characters are all different, knowing that this task ahead of them will be long and arduous and full of dangers, a task that even the bravest souls may balk at, but they choose to be a part of this fellowship.
And when the hobbits, agree to go knowing very little of what awaits them, that is perhaps even more courageous because one of the most terrifying things is the unknown, and yet they do not even hesitate because for them it's about being there for their friend. And that is what the fellowship is: 9 companions who form the deepest bonds of friendship.
“You Shall Not Pass!” and Grieving Gandalf
The most intense moment in The Fellowship of the Ring is without a doubt the one that lovers of the series remember vividly, and those unfamiliar with the films still know as it is one of the most memeable Lord of the Rings moments. Beyond that, this was a turning point in the first film, and for someone like myself who was not familiar with the books, though this actually was Gandalf's demise. And this moment is profound in many ways.
As the Fellowship crosses the Bridge of Khazad Dum to escape to the ferocious Balrog demon, Gandalf uses all of his power to make sure his fellow companions cross safely and that the Balrog cannot get by bellowing with the command “You shall not pass!” And just when you think all is well as the bridge breaks and the demon begins to fall, Gandalf is pulled down by the Balrog's whip and he tells them to “Fly you fools,” accepting his fate and letting go as the other fellowship members look on in horror and shock but still must run and escape out onto the mountain.
And the moment that follows we see the characters break down in grief, the hobbits sobbing especially Sam and Pippin who are comforted by Merry who barely holds it together. Frodo is more stoic but his tears are real, Boromir tries to comfort a shocked Gimli, while Legolas has a look of utter confusion as Elves do not know death the way mortals do.
It's a beautifully heartbreaking and profound moment from a storytelling point as it's a moment where someone who felt invincible perishes, from an acting standpoint as each actor shows the proper reaction for their respective character, from a musical standpoint as we hear Howard Shore's brilliant score transition from bombastic and grand to somber and melancholy. But most especially it is profound to show male heroic characters opening expresses their emotions and grief, something that is seen other times in the series, with this being the first moment.
Arwen chooses a mortal life with Aragorn
When we first meet Arwen it is clear that she and Aragorn not only know each other but have a deep trust in each other. So when we see her again it is not surprising to see her giving Aragorn the support he needs as he doubts himself and fears the weakness from his father resides in him. What is surprising and, undeniably lovely is the moment that follows.
In Lord of the Rings, romance does not take precedent. This is an adventure story of good versus evil. But because the story is about protecting the world and all it holds dear, love of course is a natural thing to include in the story. And the love story of Aragorn and Arwen—an elf and a man—is a truly beautiful one and this moment on the bridge represents another significant moment in the story.
Not only is it gorgeous in its visuals and music, as the two lovers are on a bridge amongst the trees while an ethereal song sung by Enya is heard, but the choice Arwen makes is a powerful one. This dreamlike scene has a very grounded promise from the Elf who is immortal. She chooses a mortal life with her beloved saying, “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.” It is a profound moment that exemplifies the purest and truest form of love, and one that makes the story even more beautiful.
Sam refuses to let Frodo go to Mordor alone
When the two hobbits Frodo and Sam depart from the Shire at the start of their journey Sam reveals that he promised Gandalf he would never leave Frodo. It feels sweet in the moment because they know nothing about what is to come. So when this comes up again, it not only creates a nice moment of symmetrical storytelling, but it adds upon an already emotional moment when Frodo says he's going to Mordor alone and Sam in all his earnest sweetness replies, “Of course you are and I'm going with you.”
As he tries to catch up with Frodo in his boat, unable to swim he struggles and nearly drowns before Frodo saves him. Crying, Sam reminds Frodo of the promise he made punctuating the scene with a tender display of loyalty and true friendship. Frodo relents in gratitude but in truth, it's a fine moment that showcases what these characters are truly about. Frodo is brave and wants the burden of the quest to rest solely on himself while still wanting and being glad that his friend is with him, something he tells Sam at the conclusion of the film.
For Sam, it's not just about the promise he made Gandalf but being there for his friend when he needs him the most. Frodo and Sam are a powerful depiction of the strong bonds of friendship and platonic love that form between brothers in arms. Given that Tolkien drew inspiration from his experiences in World War I, it's not at all surprising these characters would reflect such a bond and a journey, making this moment another very profound one.
Boromir's Heroic Death
From the moment we meet Boromir in Rivendell for the Council of Elrond we can see he is a man who is stalwart and brave, but also complicated and tempted by its the Ring's power. Throughout the Fellowship's journey, we see that dichotomy and juxtaposition of the courageous man who fights with honor, and the man who is easily drawn into the darkness.
All of this comes to a head when the group stops to regroup and Boromir confronts Frodo who can see he's not himself as he gets angry and forcefully tries to take the Ring. When Frodo slips on the Ring and disappears, Boromir feels instant regret and remorse, real tears shed and bellowing out his apologies. It's a powerful setup for what's to come as the next time we see him, he has his sword in hand, running to come to the aid of the Merry and Pippin, fighting with all his might until the lead Orc comes upon them. As he continuously shoots Boromir with arrows and he continues to fight you can see the man he truly is: willing to do all he can and unwilling to give up.
When Aragorn stops the last arrow and kills the assailant, it sadly doesn't save Boromir's life, but allows the two men to have a moment to say goodbye. Although Boromir wasn't able to save Merry and Pippin he, as Aragorn said, fought bravely, in honor of their kingdom of Gondor. His death is heartbreaking but profound in its heroism and the way he tells Aragorn that he would have followed him until the end calling him “My brother, My Captain, My King,” showcases great growth for his character and an end worthy of a hero.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that's given to us.”
One of the most beautiful, meaningful, and profound quotes not only from The Fellowship of the Ring but indeed the entire trilogy is also my favorite quote from the series. The finest moments in cinema are ones that not only hold a deep meaning for the story and characters at hand, but also for the audience. When the Fellowship is resting during their journey through the mines of Moria, Frodo notices Gollum stalking from afar and tells Gandalf who says he's all too aware.
But when Frodo says it was a pity Bilbo hadn't killed him and he wishes the Ring had never come to him and that none of these hardships had happened, Gandalf then lays out some significant wisdom to the weary hobbit. Firstly, one should not be quick to deal with death and judgment to anyone. But more importantly, he says that anyone who comes to see hard times feels as he does, but that it's not for us to decide. In Gandalf's ever wisdom he says, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that's given to us.”
Not only is this meaningful in the moment for Frodo, because it gives him the words he needs to continue on, but Frodo replays these words in his head once again when he sets off for Mordor on his own. He is tearful, but thinking of these words again gives him the strength and fortitude to take the next step in this journey. And this is profound not only for the story but because we as an audience can relate this to any time we are faced with dark times.
We cannot control when difficult times come, nor decide what happens, but as they say, we can decide what our reaction will be. This life can be beautiful and unpredictable, dark and wild, and all we can do is decide what to do with however long we have. Our choices are what define us and that is truly one of the film's most profound messages.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Marianne Paluso is a freelance artist and writer inspired by her favorite films, television, theme parks and all things pop culture. She especially loves Disney, classic films, fairy tales, period dramas, musicals, adventures, mysteries, and a good rom-com. She also partakes in the occasional Disneybound, cosplay, and YouTube video.