In the Second Age of Middle-earth, the lords of Elves, Dwarves, and Men are given Rings of Power. Unbeknownst to them, the Dark Lord Sauron forges the One Ring in Mount Doom, installing into it a great part of his power to dominate the other Rings, so he might conquer Middle-earth. A final alliance of men and elves battles Sauron’s forces in Mordor, where Isildur of Gondor severs Sauron’s finger, and the Ring with it, thereby destroying his physical form. With Sauron’s first defeat, the Third Age of Middle-earth begins. Unfortunately, the Ring’s influence corrupts Isildur, who takes it for himself. Isildur is later killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost for 2,500 years, until it is found by Gollum, who owns it for five centuries. The Ring is then found by a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who turns invisible when he puts it on, but is unaware of its history.
Sixty years later, Bilbo celebrates his 111th birthday in the Shire, reuniting with his old friend, Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo reveals that he intends to leave the Shire for one last adventure, and he leaves his inheritance, including the Ring, to his nephew, Frodo. Although Bilbo has begun to become corrupted by the Ring and tries to keep it for himself, Gandalf intervenes. Gandalf, suspicious of the Ring, tells Frodo to keep it secret and to keep it safe. Gandalf then investigates the Ring, discovers its true nature, and returns to warn Frodo. Gandalf also learns that Gollum was captured and tortured by Orcs, and that Gollum uttered two words during his interrogation: “Shire” and “Baggins.” Gandalf instructs Frodo to leave the Shire, accompanied by his friend Samwise Gamgee. Gandalf rides to Isengard to meet with fellow wizard Saruman the White, but learns that he has joined forces with Sauron, who has dispatched his nine undead Nazgûl servants to find Frodo. After a brief battle, Saruman imprisons Gandalf.
Frodo and Sam are joined by fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin, and they evade the Nazgûl, arriving in Bree, where they are meant to meet Gandalf. However, Gandalf never arrives, and they are instead aided by a ranger named Strider, a friend of Gandalf’s, who promises to escort them to Rivendell. The hobbits are ambushed by the Nazgûl on Weathertop, and their leader, the Witch-King, stabs Frodo with a cursed Morgul blade. Arwen, an elf and Strider’s betrothed, locates Aragorn and the Hobbits and aids Frodo, rescuing him and incapacitating the Nazgûl. She takes him to Rivendell, where he is healed. Frodo meets Gandalf, who escaped Isengard with help from Gwaihir, a giant eagle. That night, Aragorn reunites with Arwen in Rivendell, where they confirm their love and commitment for each other. Arwen’s father, Lord Elrond, holds a council that decides the Ring must be destroyed in Mount Doom. While the members argue, Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, accompanied by Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippin, elf Legolas, dwarf Gimli, Boromir of Gondor, and Strider, who is revealed to be Aragorn, Isildur’s heir and the rightful King of Gondor. Bilbo gives Frodo his sword, Sting. The Fellowship of the Ring sets off, but Saruman’s magic forces them to travel through the Mines of Moria.
After finding all of the Dwarves of Moria have been slain, the Fellowship are attacked by Orcs and a cave troll. They defeat them, but are confronted by Durin’s Bane, a Balrog residing within the mines. Gandalf casts the Balrog into a vast chasm, but it drags Gandalf down into the darkness. The rest of the Fellowship, now led by Aragorn, reaches Lothlórien, home to elves Galadriel and Celeborn. Galadriel privately informs Frodo that only he can complete the quest, and that one of his friends will try to take the Ring. Meanwhile, Saruman creates an army of Uruk-hai to track down and kill the Fellowship.
The Fellowship travels by river to Parth Galen. Frodo wanders off and is confronted by Boromir, who tries to take the Ring. Afraid of the Ring corrupting his friends, Frodo decides to travel to Mordor alone. The Fellowship is then ambushed by the Uruk-hai. Merry and Pippin are taken captive, and Boromir is mortally wounded by the Uruk chieftain, Lurtz. Aragorn arrives and slays Lurtz, and watches Boromir die peacefully. Sam follows Frodo, accompanying him to keep his promise to Gandalf to protect Frodo, while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli go to rescue Merry and Pippin.