The next morning the hobbits set out and arrive at the edge of the downs by evening. They get lost and are captured by the barrow wights. Frodo calls for Tom, who rescues them. Tom sings them to consciousness and brings back their ponies, which had strayed. He gives them each a sword from the barrow wights' stolen treasure. The swords had been forged by the Men of Westernesse, foes of the Dark Lord. Tom sees the hobbits off and they set out towards Bree. Frodo reminds the others that he is now traveling under the name of Underhill, not Baggins.
Frodo shows his presence of mind twice in this chapter. First he is able to sing to Tom despite being under the spell of the barrow wights. Second, he remembers to travel incognito, as unknown assailants are pursuing him.
Tom escorts the hobbits to the town of Bree, the chief village of Breeland, a small inhabited region. Both hobbits and big people live in Bree. They are the original descendants of the first men that ever wandered into the west of Middle-earth. In the wild lands beyond Bree, mysterious wanderers called Rangers roam the lands as far as the misty mountains. The Rangers have special powers.
When the hobbits reach Bree they go to the Prancing Pony, an inn recommended by Tom. Another stranger, a man named Strider, is also in the Prancing Pony. During the revelry in the Inn, Frodo accidentally dons the ring and his sudden invisibility shocks everyone.
When he reappears, he tries to explain away his sudden disappearance, but Strider himself approaches him, saying he needs to talk to Frodo. The innkeeper Butterbur tells Frodo not to cause any more trouble; he also tells Frodo that he will come up to this room because he has something of interest to say to him. Frodo suspects the innkeeper and Strider, as he has become increasingly paranoid.
The Ring seems to have a mind of its own when Frodo accidentally dons it. As Gandalf had warned Frodo, it is no ordinary ring and Frodo must not take it for granted. Also, its hold on Frodo seems to have increased. Frodo's increasing paranoia must have something to do with the power of the ring.
Strider follows Frodo to his room, which makes the hobbit very uneasy. Strider tells Frodo that he knows his real identity and warns him of the Black Riders. He also warns them of a few hobbits of Bree who are up to no good. He asks to join them. Despite his offers of assistance, however, Strider is unable to earn Frodo's trust.
At that moment, Mr. Butterbur comes in. He tells Frodo that Gandalf has left a letter for Frodo. After giving Frodo the letter and saying he will be on the lookout for Black Riders, Mr. Butterbur leaves.
Frodo reads the letter that warns him against traveling at night and against using the ring. Gandalf has also written about Strider, saying that he is a worthy friend. The letter also tells Frodo to make for Rivendell with haste.
Strider tells the hobbits that his real name is Aragorn and that he will protect them. They all wonder what has befallen Gandalf that he would send someone in his stead. Suddenly Merry comes in.
Merry tells them that he was out for a walk and saw a Black Rider. When he followed the shadow it disappeared. Merry was then overtaken by the Rider's breath and fainted. But before any harm could come, the landlord's helper Nob came to his aid.
Strider warns the hobbits that they are in danger. He says a Bree man named Bill Ferny must have told the Black Riders the hobbits were here. Strider tells the hobbits not to sleep in their own rooms. Instead, he helps them carry their luggage in to the parlous, where they finally go to sleep.
In Gandalf's absence, Strider seems to have taken the place of guide and leader. He advises them and leads them in the direction they ought to go and, like Gandalf, appears to have a lot of background knowledge that will help the hobbits in their adventure.