Elrond's middle name is 'Deliberation.'
Not that it's a bad thing in this case or anything.
At the start of the chapter nothing is decided beyond that Frodo must take the ring to Mount Doom, and that Samwise will accompany him. Merry and Pippin are a bit put out that Sam is "rewarded" for snooping on a private meeting, though they wisely hold no envy for Frodo. The best news out of this all is that Gandalf says he will likely go along. As if he wouldn't. I mean, even without my familiarity with the rest of the story, does anyone seriously think this meddler wouldn't do everything in his power to see the story to the end?
And then come two months of waiting while scouts go far and wide to, well, scout. The good news is none find any sign of the Riders or of Gollum. Also, Elrond gets lots of time to think about who should go along with Frodo.
As for the final party we get a company of nine, a balance against the nine Riders, with representatives of the Elves, Dwarves, Men, and more hobbits than Elrond ever intended.
"That is because you do not understand and cannot imagine what lies ahead," said Elrond
"Neither does Frodo," said Gandalf, unexpectedly supporting Pippin. "Nor do any of us see clearly. It is true that if these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But they would still wish to go, or wish that they dared, and be shamed and unhappy. I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom. Even if you chose for us an elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him."
Also, hobbits are super stubborn, so it really was the path of least resistance to include them. But on a larger scale, this quest is literally the stuff of legends. The different races working together to defeat evil, a royal bloodline stepping into it's legacy, multiple named weapons, and the convergence of both prophesy and dreams. Anyone meant to be in this company will stop at nothing to go along, and as The Hobbit has proved (as does my foreknowledge of Lord of the Rings), hobbits can be quite pivotal in the course of history.
The journey starts (wisely) with a high level of caution and sobriety. There are things ahead that Gandalf won't speak of, which to me at least is quite alarming. We're already staring off on a mission we know has a high chance of failure and death, not to mention the risk of corruption of the soul, but there are things too dire to talk of? Caution cannot be overrated, with risk of spies among the wildlife and danger from the elements hindering their path.
Before this read I never fully registered what Legolas says. In particular that elves once lived in these lands near Caradhras were ones to delve deep in the stone. I wonder then at the relationship between these long gone elves and the dwarfs who first delved too deeply within the Mines of Moria.
I actually can relate some to the hiking through the snow, thanks to my adventures during high school. As a short woman I'll leave it as moving through snow deeper than one's hips takes a lot of energy (though I had a lot more to spare then than I do now). Though to be honest, the part that always drove myself and the other girls in the class crazy was the ease at which the boys could urinate in such conditions. Part of that experience included camping in snow shelters (there was a LOT of snow that year), and it's not that bad. Snow is a pretty good insulator, and it keeps the temperature from dropping below freezing. However, the size of a shelter needed for two men, one dwarf, one elf, one wizard, four hobbits, and a pony... would be a bit much to heat up.
As for Legolas prancing on top of the snow... lets just say that this company is very well tempered to not act out in sheer frustration at that display. Actually, Boromir displays a fantastic sense of humor through this trek, "And doughty Men too, if I must say it; though lesser men with spades might have served you better."
But strength and determination can only get you so far, and in the end the company concedes defeat to the mountain (and the folly of crossing the path in the dead of winter), and climbs back down to take the path through.
In the film Jackson is clearly setting up characters for their fates, with Boromir taking the cruel brunt of his eventual fall to the Ring's siren call. Aragorn on the other hand gets bloodline prophesy, a sword, and a hot elf pledging her soul to his. Not only that, but the dangers that Gandalf will not speak of are ones that Saruman certainly will.
I remember screaming a little in the theater when Bilbo reacts to being denied the ring by Frodo. It's a small but very emotional scene that stands out to me, though now it's Bilbo's sorrow that stands out more than his brief possession.
The journey in the early stage has things much lighter than they are in the book. Perhaps to better show the decline as conditions worsen. Boromir acquits himself wonderfully with Merry and Pippin, teaching them sword play, only for the party to be interrupted by a swarm of birds that may be spies. The weather is also clearly much more favorable than the late start in the book allows, at least until they get into the mountains. I find the decision to involve Saruman in the inclement weather an interesting one, and it does make for a more clear obstacle than "mother nature has a grudge."