The burden of choice is now laid squarely upon Frodo’s shoulders. Only he can decide whether to return to Gondor and defeat Sauron with the Enemy’s weapon, or proceed with the original plan to walk blindly into Mordor to destroy the Ring.
Frodo requests an hour alone to think and walks off, but Boromir follows him and tries to persuade him towards Gondor. Frodo refuses, feeling that Gondor feels like the easier path.
I always think of Star Wars in this moment, because while I consider Tolkien to be my graduate level mentor in all things of this caliber, George Lucas is the one who introduced me to most, if not all, of the themes found in Tolkien’s work. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker asks of Yoda, “Is the Dark Side stronger?” Yoda replies, “No. Quicker. Easier. More seductive.” If this isn’t the beating heart of Tolkien shining through, I don’t know what is.
And so it is that Frodo has recognized this previously. Recall that when they first met Strider, the claim was made that if their companion-to-be had been from the enemy, he’d have looked fairer and felt fouler. Echoing those words, Boromir has been touched — corrupted — by the Ring merely by proximity and presence, and when words fall short, desperation takes hold. He attacks Frodo in a bid to claim the Ring, which Frodo slips on his finger and escapes. The shock of this snaps Boromir back to his senses, all too aware of what he’s done.
Frodo’s perception of the surrounding and distant lands while wearing the Ring is nothing short of incredible. It really drives home just what kind of power Sauron poured into this thing. He can see the Misty Mountains, infested with Orcs like ant hills. He can see the clashes going on in Mirkwood. But most importantly, he can see into Mordor, into the Great Eye atop the dark tower of Barad-dûr… and it can see him. Frodo hears a voice in his head, urging him to take off the Ring, and in a single moment, Frodo is liberated to make that choice, free of the Ring’s influence and of that of the voice compelling him to remove it.
Realizing that others will be looking for him, he puts the Ring on again in the intent of proceeding alone to avoid further complications. The company learns from Boromir part of what has occurred, and they pair off to look for Frodo. Following a hunch, Sam, goes to the river where he sees an empty boat floating and goes after it despite the fact he can’t swim. Frodo takes off the Ring and helps Sam, and after some argument, Frodo agrees that Sam should come along to Mordor, for which Frodo is grateful. The two set out for the Land of Shadow.
Here endeth The Fellowship of the Ring. Two books down, four to go, plus appendices.