I am back-tracking to this chapter for a bit, I guess. I'm going to write my essay for the contest about December 25, the day the Fellowship leaves Rivendell. And so I have been thinking about the scene in this chapter when the Fellowship is about to depart, especially the little disagreement between Gimli and Elrond over whether or not oaths should be taken to encourage the members of the Fellowship not to abandon their quest. I remember the first time reading this, I was on Gimli's side: I wanted everyone's word! And Tolkien writes great oaths, as we have seen. But Elrond disagrees.
Here's the passage:
'The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.'
'Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,' said Gimli.
'Maybe,' said Elrond, 'but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.'
''Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,' said Gimli.
'Or break it,' said Elrond. 'Look not too far ahead!'
An interesting exchange, and I don't think I've ever read any secondary source discussing it. Was Elrond right? If Boromir had taken an oath, would he have behaved differently? What was Tolkien thinking of when he wrote this exchange? Insights?
I also think the image of Aragorn sitting with his head bowed to his knees, contemplating the importance of this hour in his life, is poignant.