Preamble: In the ending of the Second Age, the evil lord Sauron of Mordor (known by his minions as Sauron the great and terrible - STGAT) forged a Ring of Power to make himself invulnerable: while he wore the Ring he could not be killed. But by chance, as he battled the united forces of men and elves, the ring was cut from his finger by the magic sword of Elendil, the king of Gondor: Sauron's body was temporarily destroyed; but while his Ring remained his evil spirit could never be banished: the Ring passed to the heir of Elendil, who lost it and his life in battle on the Anduin river against an army of masterless orcs. The Ring was found by one of the small river folk centuries later, who was slain by his friend Gollum who lusted after the Ring for himself. Gollum went to live deep beneath the Misty mountains, and there he languished in darkness, warped into a hideous creature by the Ring's power to preserve life. The Ring felt the power of Sauron growing and sought to rejoin its master: it lost itself in the caves where Gollum lived, and it was found by Bilbo of the Shire whilst on an adventure, who kept it after his return home. Bilbo had no idea that his magic Ring, which he used on rare occasions to hide from his detested and greedy relatives, was in fact the fabulous Ring of STGAT. But that knowledge was about to be revealed...
Scene One: Bilbo announces that he is leaving the Shire forever to go live with his friend Elrond of Rivendell. He bequeaths his precious magic Ring, his mithril shirt and sword "Sting", and hobbit hole (Bag End), to his nephew, Frodo. Some indeterminate period of time passes: then Gandalf comes to pay Frodo a visit and explains that the Ring is special but dangerous: he has been researching it and discovered that it is in fact the One Ring of STGAT, whose power has grown to threaten the West. And he is looking everywhere for his Ring: for if STGAT can recover his lost Ring, he will be invincible. The Ring must be destroyed, and Gandalf will help Frodo on the journey. Sam overhears everything and Gandalf drafts him into service. Gandalf explains that STGAT has sent forth his Ringwraiths to smell out the Ring, and that Gollum, the little beastie that Bilbo took the Ring from years ago, has told STGAT where Bilbo lives: the Nazgul could be at the Shire anytime. The threesome set forth on a moonlit night.
Scene Two: In the Old Forest, Gandalf suddenly goes missing. But he has left a note pinned to Frodo’s pack: “Something has come up and I must go away for a bit. I will be back as soon as I can. Go to Bree and stay at the Prancing Pony Inn. My friend Strider – a ranger – will meet you there and give you further instructions.” The two hobbits make their way through the Barrow Downs, where they meet the Nazgul, who almost capture them: but Frodo and Sam hide in a Barrow and the Nazgul pass on. Horrors ! The barrow contains an undead occupant, which puts both hobbits to sleep with a spell. Sam awakens just in time to see a shapeless shadow approaching, and Sam flails out with Frodo's blade of Westernese (Sting): the wight pulls back, and Sam wakes up Frodo and they flee into the night.
Scene Three: At Bree the two hobbits go to the Prancing Pony and meet Strider, who is a grim, tall man in a getup that makes him look like Robin Hood with a real hood. He has the bow and sword and mail and whole shmere. He takes them to his room and explains that Gandalf is late and that he is very worried that something has happened to him. During the night, the hobbits cannot sleep, and Strider takes them down to the common room for a nightcap: while they are gone, the Nazgul enter their room and trash the place with their swords. Hearing the commotion, Strider takes the Hobbits out into the wilderness the long way.
Scene Four: In camp on Weathertop, the Hobbits and Strider are ambushed by the Nazgul, who stab Frodo before Strider lights the lot of them on fire with his torch. In the morning, they continue on, Frodo getting very weak. By chance, they come upon Strider’s elf friends, Elrohir and Eladan, who have been scouring the Shire and everywhere else looking for them. They have horses and take up Sam and Frodo double. Strider allows that the elves are better equipped to swiftly get the hobbits and the Ring safely to Rivendell; he sends the foursome off with his blessing, saying that they are not to worry about him: he will manage well enough on his own, and they should look for him in Rivendell in a couple of days.
Scene Five: Elrohir and Eladan fight their way past the Nazgul, who are all nine gathered together now. They barely make it over the river and call upon the magic of the river to sweep away the pursuing Nazgul. The foursome (Frodo now unconscious and looking very pale and spooky) arrive in Rivendell.
Scene Six: Elrond, Strider, Gandalf, Elrohir, Eladan, (a healed) Frodo and Sam all meet with Gimli and Boromir of Gondor and Gwaihir the lord of the giant Eagles. Gandalf tells his story: about how Saruman had tricked him into coming to "aid him with a plan to attack Mordor before STGAT could move first": but upon arriving at Orthanc, Saruman demanded to know where the Ring was, and when Gandalf refused to say anything, Saruman imprisoned him: but Gwaihir came at Gandalf’s call and rescued him. Saruman, therefore, is not to be trusted. Strider is revealed to be Aragron, the heir to Gondor: Boromir as son and heir of the high stewards is not impressed but remains cooperative: Elrond gives the reforged royal sword of Gonodor - Anduril - to Aragorn. "The Ring must be taken to mount Doom and destroyed". Gwaihir says his kind have no power to fly into Mordor, because it is protected by flying Nazgul who keep constant watch. The effort to penetrate Mordor must be made by a tiny group which can (hopefully) escape notice: Eladan, Gimli and Boromir will join Gandalf, Aragorn and the hobbits. Meanwhile, Elrond and his eldest son Elrohir will lead the elves to Gondor to back up the resistence of men against Mordor. Together, they will occupy STGAT’s attention the best they can while Frodo and Sam and company journey to Mordor.
Scene Seven: The Ring bearer and his companions are flown away from Rivendell by Gwaihir and his brethren: but their passage over the Misty mountains is hindered by the storms that Saruman weaves. Gandalf tries to oppose Saruman’s necromancy but the best he can do is keep their presence from being seen (we see Saruman probing with his Palantir, but the glamor of Gandalf makes the Eagles and their passengers invisible).
Scene Eight: Defeated by the storms, Gandalf decides the only way through the Misty mountains is by the infamous Mines of Moria. He directs the Eagles to set the company down outside the western door of Moria. Gwaihir and his brethren bid Gandalf farewell, promising to aid men and elves in the war. The company enters Moria after Gimli speaks and makes the secret door appear and open (it is a dwarven door after all, and what else is Gimli good for other than fighting, if not to lead the company through the mines unerringly: he becomes the guide at this point). The company traverses the mines and nears the eastern door.
Scene Nine: The orcs of Moria smell the company and issue forth from their maggot holes. Gimli is outraged that all of his kinfolk are dead and orcs have taken over Moria, he says the only way out is across the bridge of Kazad-dum, and leads the way. A running fight ensues, with Boromir and Aragorn doing most of the rearguard fighting. The hobbits are also involved, and Sam saves Frodo’s life. Frodo returns the favor and goes down with a troll spear apparently in his chest. Everyone is aghast and fights even harder. Boromir picks up Frodo and the company finally breaks free by slamming a stout dwarven door in the faces of their enemies. Frodo recovers his breath: his mithril shirt has saved his life. As they near the bridge, the Balrog appears and Gandalf turns at bay on the middle of the bridge while his companions make their escape. Gandalf goes down with the Balrog.
Scene Ten: Eladan leads the company to Loth Lorien, the home of Galadriel the lady of the wood. She is the perfect hostess, and when the company is rested they depart with wonderful gifts that Galadriel his given.
Scene Eleven: As the company journeys down the river Anduin toward Mordor, they put ashore at one point and their camp is ambushed by orcs of Mordor who are scouting along both sides of the river. Boromir does prodigies of valor defending Frodo and Sam, while Aragorn and Gimli and Eladan run to the sound of his horn (they were out foraging and scouting the best way to proceed toward Mordor). They arrive to find Boromir gasping out the last of his life, riddled with arrows. The hobbits were able to escape while he fought the orcs single-handed: but he doesn’t know where they went. More orcs show up and Aragorn, Eladan and Gimli have their hands full; but they kill a huge number of the beasties and manage to hide until the other parties of orcs have departed. They try to find where the hobbits have gone: and discover that one of their boats is missing. Deducing that Frodo and Sam have gone into Mordor alone, Aragorn decides that this was meant to be, and that it would be unwise to try and find the hobbits in Mordor by following them. The best thing they can now do is join Gondor in the war, and tell the high steward Denethor what has been going on so that Gondor can prepare.
Scene Twelve: Gollum ambushes Frodo and Sam, but they overpower him. He agrees to lead Frodo (the Master of the Precious) to Mount Doom by a secret way - because he can’t believe that they were actually going to try and get in by the Black Gate ("how stupid is that Precious"?). He takes them by a secret pass that is hardly known by anybody, and in the caves he leaves them to wander lost.
Scene Thirteen: Aragorn and company try and reach Gondor, but discover that orcs bearing the white hand of Saruman are between them and Minas Tirith. The companions retreat to Fangorn wood. The pursuing orcs are gaining, when the White Wizard suddenly appears; he directs the ents to rip the orcs to pieces, then reveals himself as Gandalf the White, who has returned to complete his work. He accompanies Aragorn and his friends to Orthanc, where the ents destroy Saruman's orcish forces and his war machines. Gandalf subdues and imprisons Saruman, placing the ents as an impenetrable wood around Orthanc to keep Saruman there forever. At Gandalf's bidding, Aragorn reveals himself in the Palantir of Orthanc to STGAT: who believes that the heir of Gondor has somehow gotten the Ring. Aragorn challenges STGAT to battle outside Minas Tirith. Then Gandalf bids Eladan and Gimli ride for Minas Tirith at once. Of course, the White wizard can whistle up any number of Meara mounts, which he does at once: taking Shadowfax for his own mount, he sends Eladan and Gimli east while he and Aragorn ride west to raise the Riders of the Mark. STGAT can raise forces enough to attack both the elves and men of Gondor: Elrond will not come, says Gandalf. With Saruman now neutralized, king Theoden of the Mark can come instead to the aid of Minas Tirith.
Scene Fourteen: Eladan and Gimli arrive at Minas Tirith and meet with Denethor. He is less than impressed with news of Aragorn’s existence, but listens with interest to their promise that king Theoden is coming. In fact, Denethor has put Minas Tirith on a war footing. But the news that Boromir is dead causes Denethor to withdraw in mourning. We see him staring into the Palantir of Minas Tirith, communing with STGAT, and Denethor's mind is now broken. The orcs of Mordor with Nazgul overhead are massing on the far shore of the Anduin: Denethor issues an insane command for the army of Gondor to quit the walls of Minas Tirith and oppose the might of Mordor out in the open. He orders his son Faramir to lead them. The battle is too soon: the Riders have not yet come. At the height of the battle, the Nazgul come down and rout the Gondorians. They flee back to the City in disorder: Faramir is wounded in the rearguard action. Suddenly, Gandalf on Shadowfax appears and his shafts of light drive the Nazgul back: Faramir is rescued and Gondor’s forces reach the City and close the gates. Gandalf takes command of the City, as Denethor is feeble and almost witless in his despair and grief over Boromir, and now Faramir lies dying. Gandalf assures the garrison of Minas Tirith that the Riders of the Mark are coming, with the heir to Gondor’s throne at their head. The army of Mordor closes in around Minas Tirith and the siege begins.
Scene Fifteen: Frodo and Sam are lost in Shelob’s lair, and the spider stings Frodo after he gets separated from Sam: Gollum has skipped off. Sam comes upon Shelob as she is getting ready to snack on Frodo: he wounds the spider with Sting and the Phial of Galadriel and drives her off. Then he thinks Frodo is dead, takes the Ring and hides from the orcs who come along. The orcs take Frodo’s body, declaring that Shelob has not killed him, only stunned/drugged him to be eaten later. Sam follows the orcs into Cirith Ungol, invisible with the Ring on his finger. He sees the orcs start fighting over the mithril shirt; and at the height of the slaughter, Sam makes his way to the top of the tower and rescues Frodo. The orcs have all killed each other off: Sam returns the Ring to Frodo. They dress as orcs and enter the plains of Gorgoroth and head for mount Doom. STGAT has emptied his lands of all his remaining forces, believing that Aragorn has the Ring.
Scene Sixteen: The siege of Minas Tirith is going badly. The gate is broken in, and the chief Nazgul comes and faces down Gandalf. Then the horns of the Riders of the Mark are heard: Aragorn has come, with king Theoden of the Mark at his side, with thousands of Riders at their backs. The battle goes well at first, then the chief Nazgul arrives with his fellow Nazgul and the Riders are sorely beset. Gandalf is nowhere to be seen: having been dragged away by rumors that Denethor is going to burn himself and Faramir: Gandalf rides Shadowfax to the tombs and rescues Faramir but lets Denethor burn himself to death. On the plains of the Pelennor outside Minas Tirith, the hosts of Mordor surround the Riders and Gondorians. The chief Nazgul slays king Theoden and nearly kills Aragorn: then Gandalf appears at last and kills the chief Nazgul. Temporarily discomfitted, the army of Mordor is worsted for a while: but reinforcements (including - now - the Mumakil) arrive and cross the river. The Nazgul resume the attack and the orcs and Mumakil are too many. Gandalf is beset by the Nazgul and he is almost overcome: then Gwaihir and his brethren arrive and engage the Nazgul in aerial combat over the battlefield. Gandalf and company have their hands full of Mumakil, orcs and trolls. The combined army of the West is going down: the Nazgul are winning the aerial battles too. Doom and destruction are closing in.....
Scene Seventeen: The hobbits pick their way across Gorgoroth toward Mount Doom, discarding their orcish gear as soon as the last of the orcs are safely out of sight. Gollum attacks as the exhausted hobbits labor up the volcanic slopes; Sam and Gollum fight and Frodo continues to climb. Sam conks Gollum on the head with a rock and goes after Frodo. He enters the mountain and sees Frodo on the brink of the chasm filled with the eternal fires of Doom. Frodo refuses to destroy the Ring: it has taken control of his mind.
Scene Eighteen: Outside Minas Tirith, trolls smash their way into the ranks of men: Aragorn is knocked down, but Gimli saves him by slaying the Troll, which falls on the dwarf. Eladan and Aragorn do prodigies: but the Mumakil drive the Riders' horses mad with terror and the battle is clearly being lost.....
Scene Nineteen: Frodo puts on the Ring and disappears. Sam is conked on the head from behind by Gollum, and then Gollum and Frodo fight: Gollum bites off Frodo’s finger and takes the Ring. In a paroxysm of delight, Gollum misses his footing and tumbles over the edge of the chasm to his and the Ring’s doom. The mountain erupts in flames. Sam gets up and helps Frodo outside, they climb onto a projecting rock, soon surrounded by lava, and watch the destruction of Mordor: STGAT’s citadel of Barad-dur tumbles to the earth, his destroyed ghost goes up into the air with a shuddering cry, in form like an immense black cloud with clawed fingers and a horned crown (I think PJ and company missed the imagery here: they should have referenced Ted Nasmith's fantastic painting), then suddenly a wind out of the west scatters this apparition and all is silent, save the coughing of mount Doom. On the battlefield of the Pelennor, the orcs writhe in agony, and those which do not die flee: the trolls freeze to stone, many tumble unbalanced to the ground and shatter: the Nazgul fall to the earth and vanish: the Riders rally and shoot down the Mumakil with arrows. Silence shrouds the land, except for the distant rumbling of Mount Doom. Gandalf goes with Gwaihir and his few remaining brethren in haste - even as the battle is still being finished - and they find and rescue Frodo and Sam.
Scene Twenty: Minas Tirith: the gathered Gondorians and Riders reverence Frodo and Sam with great praise: Elrond and Elrohir are present, as is Frodo’s uncle Bilbo, looking old but fit, and proud of his nephew the hero, the Ring bearer of nine fingers. Aragorn renews the White Tree and is crowned. At the end, after the hoopla is over, Gandalf and Elrond come to the others and declare that the time of the elves is over: the time of Men has begun: the elves are leaving Middle-earth to sail into the West: the Ring bearers must also go: Gandalf, Elrond, his sons, many elves, and Frodo and Bilbo, all get aboard the grey ships; and Frodo and Sam bid each other a tearful goodbye. The End.