The Quest of the Ring was Frodo Baggins' quest to destroy the One Ring, which led him from his home in the Shire to Mount Doom in Mordor, as described in The Lord of the Rings. It began in September TA 3018 when Frodo set out for Rivendell, which he finally reached on October 20. From there it took five months until the One Ring and Sauron were finally destroyed on March 25 of TA 3019. In total, it took 11 months, one week, and six days for the One Ring to be destroyed.
The Beginning of the Quest
Bilbo Baggins, Frodo's uncle, left the Shire on September 22, 3001 after a party marking his 111th birthday (and Frodo's 33rd). Frodo thus inherited Bag End along with Bilbo's magic ring. Following Gandalf's advice, Frodo hid the ring in a safe place.
Sometime during the next 17 years, during a trip to Gondor, Gandalf researched what Bilbo's ring might be. After some study, and reading a scroll written by Isildur (the High King of Gondor and Arnor after his father Elendil), he concluded that the ring Bilbo had recovered from Gollum was probably the master ring which Isildur had cut from the hand of Sauron at the conclusion of the War of the Last Alliance.
On April 12th, 3018, Gandalf returned to Bag End to confirm his suspicion. After throwing the ring into a fire and then examining it, he and Frodo were able to read the inscription upon it: Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. Translated into the Common Speech that read, One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. Indeed, this was the One Ring.
Realizing that Sauron would be looking for the Ring, Gandalf advised Frodo to take it with him and secretly follow Bilbo's journey to Rivendell. Frodo therefore invented a story that he was moving to Buckland and sold Bag End to the Sackville-Baggins. On September 23, 3018, Frodo left Bag End, taking Samwise Gamgee and Peregrin Took with him, heading for Crickhollow.
Journey to Bree
Frodo set out to Bree to meet Gandalf, but on the way he discovered a Nazgûl was searching for him. As the Hobbits arrived at Buckland, escorted by Farmer Maggot, a rider approached. They feared it might be a Black Rider, but it turned out to be Meriadoc Brandybuck, and together the four hobbits took the Bucklebury Ferry over to Buckland. There, Frodo found that Merry and Pippin already knew about Frodo's "secret" journey, and he was left with no choice but to bring the two with him. They cut through the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs, and lost the Black Riders. They met other troubles in those places though, and were almost killed by Old Man Willow and Barrow-wights, but were rescued twice by Tom Bombadil.
Meeting with Strider
In Bree, the Hobbits booked rooms at the inn of The Prancing Pony, and Frodo went by the name of Mr Underhill, attempting to raise as little suspicion as possible. At the inn bar, Frodo asked the innkeeper, Barliman Butterbur, about a cloaked man sitting in the shadows, and learned that he was a Ranger, going by the name Strider. This was Aragorn.
Soon, Pippin was overly enjoying himself with the attention of an audience and was talking loudly about the Baggins family. Frodo tried to distract the crowd, singing and dancing on a table, but he jumped and fell, causing the Ring to slip onto his finger. Consequently, the Hobbit turned invisible. When he reappeared, Strider pulled him aside and warned him that he was drawing too much attention to himself. That night, the Black Riders arrived in Bree and attacked the inn, but Strider managed to hide the Hobbits from them. When they woke in the morning, they found all of their horses gone. With a pony named Bill that the Hobbits had acquired there, Strider led Frodo and his companions into the wild. He guided them to Rivendell, and led them through the Midgewater Marshes to Weathertop.
At Weathertop, in October, five Nazgûl attacked their camp and pierced Frodo with a poisoned Morgul-knife, when Frodo had made the mistake of putting on the Ring. The Ringwraiths were driven away in fright by Aragorn with the use of fire. Aragorn despite his skill could not heal Frodo's wound; a fragment of the Ringwraith's blade remained in Frodo's flesh, where it continued to move towards his heart. Near death, Frodo was rescued by Glorfindel, an Elf-lord, who took the injured Hobbit upon his horse, Asfaloth. Continually pursued by the Nazgûl, Asfaloth carried Frodo to the Ford of Bruinen, at the entrance to the valley of Rivendell. They crossed the River Bruinen (Loudwater) and the Ringwraiths halted on the other side. They ordered Frodo to give up the Ring, but he refused. Subsequently, the Nazgûl were washed away in a flood from the river, called by Elrond. Glorfindel arrived in Rivendell and Elrond physically healed Frodo. The memory of the wound, however, remained for as long as Frodo lived in Middle-earth. On October twenty-fourth, Frodo awoke in Rivendell and was reunited with Bilbo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
The Quest to Destroy the Ring
Council of Elrond
After Frodo had made a partial recovery, Elrond organized a great Council, to which representatives of all the free peoples of Middle-earth attended. They discussed the history of the Rings of Power and decided that the One Ring needed to be destroyed by being cast into the fires of Mount Doom. As the ring was brought forth, fighting broke out, and Frodo volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor. A member of each of the Free Peoples offered to join Frodo in his quest, forming the Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship consisted of Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Boromir of Gondor, Legolas of the Woodland Realm, and Gimli of the Lonely Mountain. Before leaving Rivendell, Bilbo gave Frodo his Mithril mail shirt and his sword, Sting. On December 25, the Fellowship of the Ring departed from Rivendell and headed south.
The Mountains and Moria
On January 12, the Fellowship attempted to cross the Pass of Caradhras in the Misty Mountains, but were unable to due to a snowstorm. The snowstorm was dealt by an unknown force, of which Gimli seemed to have prior knowledge. He knew that the mountain would try to thwart them. Instead they traveled through the mines of Moria at the urging of Gimli. Moria was deserted a millennia before when the Dwarves uncovered a Balrog, known as Durin's Bane, beneath the city, and a subsequent colony had been overrun by legions of goblins.
In the Chamber of Mazarbul, Orcs and a Cave-troll attacked the Fellowship. An Orc stabbed Frodo, but his Mithril shirt saved him from the deadly blow. The Fellowship ran, but met Durin's Bane on their way. When they reached the Bridge of Khazad-dum, Gandalf turned to hold back the Balrog but was ensnared and fell into the chasm.
Deeply grieved by their loss, the Fellowship journeyed to the Elven kingdom of Lothlórien, where they met Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn. Before the Fellowship departed from the forest, Galadriel gave each of them a unique gift. They were also provided with Lembas bread, Elven cloaks, and boats to voyage down the Anduin.
The Breaking of the Fellowship
The Fellowship continued their journey south to Amon Hen. They set up camp, and when Frodo was alone, Boromir tried to take the Ring from him, corrupted by its power, to bring it to Minas Tirith. Frodo put on the Ring and managed to escape.
While the rest of the company scattered looking for Frodo, he decided he must go to Mordor alone, lest the Ring corrupt the others too. He set off secretly, but was found by Sam, who insisted on coming along, as he had made a promise not to lose him. Thus, the two Hobbits continued towards Mordor alone. Meanwhile, Boromir, Merry, and Pippin were attacked by Uruk-hai; Boromir was defending the Hobbits, but he was finally mortally wounded by arrows, and the Hobbits were captured, to be taken to Isengard. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli found Boromir as he was dying, and after paying his last respects, Aragorn sent Boromir in a boat down the Anduin in the fashion of a funeral. The three then decided to track Merry and Pippin.
Emyn Muil and the Dead Marshes
Frodo and Sam were walking though the razor-sharp winding paths of the Emyn Muil, but were not making any progress. They later discovered that Gollum had been following them, wanting the Ring for himself, and had managed to capture him. Sam did not trust Gollum and wanted to kill him, but Frodo pitied him, and forced him to swear an oath of servitude to the master of the Ring. He then told Gollum to lead them to the Black Gate. Gollum led them out of the rocky maze and though a secret passage in the Dead Marshes so that Orcs did not see them.
Gollum led Frodo and Sam to the Black Gate, but as the Hobbits charged to go through the Gate, Gollum stopped them, saying it was too dangerous. He told them there was another way, which was more secret. Thus they headed south into Ithilien, but were there apprehended by a group of Rangers from Gondor, led by Faramir, brother of Boromir, and brought to Henneth Annûn. The Hobbits learned from Faramir of Boromir's death, and Sam accidentally gave away that Frodo had the One Ring. Consequently, Frodo revealed the plan to destroy the Ring, but Faramir wanted to take the Ring to Gondor, to prove his quality to his father. Frodo told him the importance of the quest, and Faramir proved his quality to the two Hobbits by letting them go free.
At night time, Gollum was captured diving into the Forbidden Pool of Henneth Annûn, the penalty for which was death. Frodo begged Faramir for Gollum's safety, and he was spared. The following morning, resupplied by Faramir with food and water, the three went on their way.
Shelob's Lair and Cirith Ungol
Gollum led the Hobbits past Minas Morgul, and up the long, steep stairs of the pass of Cirith Ungol. At the top, there was a tunnel. Gollum disappeared, and so the Hobbits entered the tunnel alone. They got to the end, but the web of the Giant Spider Shelob blocked the exit, and Shelob appeared as well. They managed to cut through the web and escape the spider, thinking they were safe. However, Shelob sneaked up on Frodo. Sam attempted to warn him, but was attacked by Gollum. Shelob stung Frodo in the back of the neck and he fell to the ground. Sam shook Gollum off, and the latter ran towards Shelob's tunnel. The spider attacked Sam, but Sam was able to drive her off using Sting and the Phial of Galadriel. Sam assumed that Frodo was dead and resolved to finish the quest himself, so he took the Ring.
Soon, Orcs approached Frodo's body, and Sam hid himself. He overheard the Orcs talking, and learned that Frodo was merely paralysed, not dead. The Orcs took Frodo as a prisoner to the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Sam soon arrived, got past the Two Watchers and went into the tower to rescue Frodo. Frodo was awake, but the Orcs and Uruks, who had been fighting over it and killing many of their own in the process, had taken his mithril shirt.
Meanwhile, Gandalf, who had been brought back to life as "Gandalf the White", Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Merry, Pippin and a force of the armies of Rohan and Gondor (after having fought and won the Battle of the Pelennor Fields) traveled to the Black Gate to draw out the hosts of Mordor with an assault, providing a distraction for Frodo so he may have a chance of reaching Mount Doom and destroying the Ring without being seen by the Eye of Sauron.
Frodo and Sam were forced to disguise themselves in Orcish armour and wandered through the barren wasteland of Mordor. They were overtaken by a company of Orcs heading to meet the forces of the West, but escaped. Gandalf and Aragorn's distraction plan had worked; Mordor was almost empty now.
After a long and weary journey, Frodo and Sam finally reached Mount Doom and began climbing it. They went many days with hardly any food or water, and Frodo became progressively weaker as the Ring's power over him grew the closer they came to Mount Doom (Orodruin). Eventually Frodo could go no further, and Sam could not carry the Ring for him either, due to its strong hold over Frodo, so Sam lifted up Frodo and carried him up Sauron's Road. It was then that Gollum decided to reappear, and after a brief struggle, Sam cut Gollum in the stomach, and Frodo fled up the mountain, strengthened by the possibility that the Ring could be taken from him.
Sam caught up to him, finding him standing still at the very edge of the Crack of Doom. Frodo succumbed to the Ring's power and refused to let it go, instead claiming it as his own; he put the Ring on his finger and disappeared. Just then, as the Eye of Sauron turned to the mountain, Gollum knocked Sam out and, tracking Frodo's footprints on the ground, leapt upon the Ring-bearer. After a wild struggle, Gollum bit off Frodo's finger with the Ring. He gloated over his precious, but in his happiness, ended up losing his balance and fell into the fires below, taking the Ring with him.
The Ring was destroyed, and Mordor collapsed. Frodo and Sam were rescued by the Great Eagles who carried them from Mount Doom. Upon Sauron's defeat, his armies at the Gate fled.
Portrayal in adaptations
In the films, Frodo seems to have owned the Ring for only a short while before Gandalf returns, as opposed to the seventeen years of the book. Frodo never sells Bag End, but sets out early next morning with Sam. Merry and Pippin run into the pair at the farm of Farmer Maggot and are pulled into the journey. The Hobbits are pursued by the Black Riders all the way to Bucklebury Ferry on the borders of Buckland. There the Black Riders are forced to run to the Brandywine Bridge while the Hobbits make for Bree. Fredegar Bolger and the stay in Crickhollow are not mentioned. The film trilogy skips several parts of the journey as well, including the High Elves, meeting Farmer Maggot, Buckland, the Old Forest, and the events at the Barrow-downs.
In Ithilien, Faramir decides to take Frodo and Sam captive and take them to Osgiliath. There the city is overflown by a Nazgûl and Frodo, overcome by the ring's power, attempts to surrender it. Sam pulls him down and the Nazgûl forced to retreat when its Fellbeast is shot by Faramir, who then releases them.
Later on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, Frodo is manipulated by Gollum into sending Sam away and is then left to face Shelob alone. Frodo manages to escape at first, overcoming Gollum, but is then surprised and stung. Sam, having discovered the Lembas crumbs on the stair, returns to fight Shelob.
Lastly, when Gollum bites off Frodo's finger in Sammath Naur, Frodo gets back up and attacks Gollum and in struggling to regain the ring they both fall. Frodo is able to grab an outcropping and is pulled back up by Sam.