Having met up with “Strider” in Bree, Frodo and his friends had made it as far as the ancient tower of Amon Sul (also known as Weathertop). There, thanks to the thoughtlessness of those same friends, they’d been cornered by several Black Riders and Frodo had been stabbed by a Morgul blade (by none other than the Witch King of Angmar, but the hobbits won’t learn his name until the last film). It is imperative that they reach Rivendell quickly before the dark poison in the blade turns Frodo into a wraith.
The scene begins with the group making camp in the shadow of the three trolls that tried to eat Bilbo, Thorin and company in The Hobbit. Frodo is rapidly getting worse so Strider and Sam go to find some athelas to help slow the damage being done. And while doing so…Strider encounters a friend! It’s Arwen, Elrond’s daughter, who’s been out looking for them for several days. She tries to restore Frodo using her own Elven powers, but the damage is too great, only Elrond can help him now. Strider wants to be the one to ride with Frodo to Rivendell, but Arwen insists: SHE is the better rider, so she will go. Strider is clearly worried, but Arwen assures him that she has no fear of the Black Riders.
The long ride begins, and it’s here that the music really picks up and comes into play. The jump cut takes us to (presumably) the following day/afternoon where Arwen and Frodo are racing to Rivendell on the white stallion Asfaloth. The music keeps a steady beat in the background, highlighting the urgency of the moment. But then the music begins to intensify by degrees as several Black Riders become visible through the foliage, galloping along behind her. They know that this is their last chance to grab Frodo, because Rivendell is a place they can’t enter due to Elrond’s powers.
The chase is on as at least eight wraiths appear and stalk their quarry. There is a dramatic longshot of the group in a V-formation, slowly gaining ground on the lone rider in front of them. In fact, as the music echoes with themes of Mordor, one of the wraiths nearly manages to grab Frodo, but Arwen spurs her horse on and they begin a game of cat and mouse in the pine trees. Finally, with the wraiths only seconds behind them, Arwen crosses the Ford of Bruinen.
The wraiths won’t give up though: the leader demands that Frodo be turned over to them, to which Arwen replies “If you want him, come and claim him!” The wraiths draw their swords and advance, but it’s a trap! As they enter the river, Arwen begins a magical incantation that sparks a flood far upstream. The roaring flood is moving so fast that the riders have no time to escape before the floodwaters (in the shape of galloping horses) overtake them and send them far downriver (we’re led to believe they’re destroyed, but this will be proven otherwise in the next film).
Victory for the heroes! Frodo is safe…or is he? Just as all seems won, Frodo appears to succumb to his injuries at last and Arwen is moved to tears by his condition (it is here that she prays for Frodo to be allowed to journey across the sea in her place, even now she can see that that’s the only way Frodo will ever truly recover from this). Frodo is taken into Rivendell and after several days, he wakes up. He’s surprised to find Gandalf there with him, but that story will have to be picked up in “Many Meetings.”
“Flight to the Ford” is one of those soundtrack pieces that I love to listen to simply for its own sake. It’s full of tension, suspense, you can literally follow the chase simply by hearing the music. I love this scene so much, it’s actually a minor pet peeve of mine if someone starts talking during this scene, because I’m thinking “why aren’t you paying attention to this awesome moment??”
As far as Arwen being the rider that takes Frodo to Rivendell, I’m personally okay with that, even though I know the Arwen in the book does no such thing. I just wish they’d followed through with making her this badass Elven warrior/rider, instead of backtracking in the following films and removing her from the fighting (I do know that Arwen was supposed to sneak off to Helm’s Deep, but that was deemed one subplot too many and the scene was cut).
What do you think of “Flight to the Ford” ? Is it one of your favorite Lord of the Rings moments? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂
See also: Film Soundtracks A-W
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*all images are the property of New Line Cinema