After Bilbo takes his leave of the Shire (leaving all Hobbiton in an uproar), Frodo finds himself the owner of Bag End and heir to almost all that Bilbo possessed, including a certain golden ring that he found once, deep in the Misty Mountains. Gandalf already has his suspicions about that ring, given that right before he gave it up, Bilbo had begun to act odd, almost violent towards his old friend.
But most alarming is what he called the ring: “My Precious,” a term that only Gollum had ever used up until now. Things might have turned ugly, but when Gandalf put some force behind his words, Bilbo found himself again and gave the ring up of his own free will (possibly the only person to ever do so).
Even though Frodo had a pretty good idea that Bilbo was leaving, it still hurt that the old hobbit was gone. But if he hoped to get any answers/help from the wizard, Frodo is going to be disappointed, because Gandalf is setting out immediately, where he won’t say, except that there are “questions, questions that need answering.” Before he leaves, he makes sure the Ring is sealed inside an envelope and placed “somewhere out of sight.”
After Gandalf’s hasty departure, Frodo stares down at the envelope containing the Ring, wondering what on earth he’s actually inherited, when the music kicks up into a living nightmare (that’s how I’ve always thought the music sounded.) The scene abruptly shifts to Mordor, a hellish wasteland dominated by the mountain of fire, Mount Doom and the imposing tower of Barad-Dur, atop which sits the devilish Eye of Sauron (so far we’ve only had a fleeting glimpse of that, when Gandalf lightly brushed the Ring with his fingers).
The music twists and turns, harsh trumpets and other brass instruments dominating the theme. This is our first look at Mordor after the Prologue, and the music needs to quickly establish that this is a very bad place (and it succeeds). But there’s more: after we hear the screams of Gollum confessing what little information he knows (“Shire!” “Baggins!”), Mount Doom erupts and the 9 Black Riders are seen departing Minas Morgul, with a brief introduction of their theme.
The scene shifts again: now we’re back to Gandalf, who has ridden out to the city of Minas Tirith in Gondor and observes the increased activity in Mordor. With no time to lose, he rides into the city and begins to scour the archives, pouring through old documents until he finds what he is looking for: a long-forgotten scroll written by Isildur, that describes how the Ring came into his possession (already the ring was “precious” to him) and what it looked like before it cooled and shrunk. Originally, there were letters of fire surrounding the band, and only extreme heat would be able to bring them to light again. This is what Gandalf has been seeking: a way to prove once and for all whether or not this mysterious Ring is THE Ring.
A quick note about this brief scene in Gondor: you’ll note that the short fanfare does not match up to the main Gondor theme (first introduced in The Council of Elrond, a story I’ll tell next time). This is because at the time Shore created this part of the score, he had not yet conceptualized what Gondor’s theme would sound like. This short fanfare that we do hear could be considered a musical “placeholder.” It quickly sets the scene, but is otherwise not that important.
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