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Free Study Guide for The Lord of the Rings J. R. R. Tolkien

 

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BOOK SUMMARY / SYNOPSIS - LORD OF THE RINGS


The Palantir


Summary

Pippin is extremely inquisitive about the glass ball that Wormtongue threw at Gandalf. Finally, curiosity overcomes him and he can stand it no longer. He goes to where Gandalf is and steals the globe. His conscience tells him not to meddle in the affairs of wizards, but he cannot bring himself to stop. He gazes into the palantir and screams. Gandalf revives Pippin, asking him what he has done and seen.

Pippin then tells Gandalf that when he looked into the globe he saw a tower, around which nine huge bat-like things were flying. One of them came up close and he saw Sauron. Sauron saw Pippin and imagined that Sarumon had captured him. Sauron told Sarumon to bring him the hobbits.

Pippin does not understand this, but Gandalf does. Sauron wants the hobbits, thinking they can lead him to the ring. Sauron does not yet know that the palantir is in Gandalfís possession. Gandalf forgives Pippin because he knows that if he had looked into the palantir, Sauron would have realized what transpired.

Just as he is about to leave, a Nazgul flies over head. Gandalf and Pippin leave. Gandalf tells Pippin that Sauron must be close. He has sent one of his servants to find Saruman. Since the seeing stone is no longer in Sarumon's possession, he will not be able to answer Sauronís summons. The Dark Lord will think Sarumon has betrayed him.


Notes

Suspense deepens as one danger is defeated and a greater one rears its head. Gandalf and Pippin are separated from the others and must make their way alone.



BOOK IV


The Taming of Smeagol


Summary

The narrative returns to Frodo and Sam, who have been traveling for three days. They know that Gollum is pursuing them so they take the offensive and capture him first. Frodo and Sam have been having trouble finding their way. Gollum promises to help them and to be on his best behavior.


Notes

Gollum begins to call himself by his old name, Smeagol. When he was Smeagol, he was a good person. Evil corrupted him and he became Gollum. The message is obvious: every person has a Smeagol and Gollum in them. It is up to the person to decide which he will entertain.


The Passage of the Marshes


Summary

Gollum, or Smeagol, leads the hobbits down the slopes and makes no attempt to escape. He brings them back to the narrow gully they had gotten stuck on before and shows them a way down. I

The next stage of their journey is much the same as the last. Gollum leads them over the marshes in single file. His keen sense of direction serves them well, and even though the morning comes, the sun is hidden behind clouds and the land is misty.

On the third day, they come upon the Dead Marshes. They see lights and flames above unseen candles floating in the gurgling water. Sam and Frodo see dead faces in the mud, faces of elves, men and orcs. Gollum tells them about the battle that was fought there long ago, at the Black Gates, and how the graves of the dead were swallowed up by the marsh. There are candles for every dead creature in it. Somehow they get across the dead marshes, guided solely by Smeagolís senses.

As their journey progresses they sense Smeagolís uneasiness. Later, a winged creature flies over the marshes and Gollum refuses to move until the moon is gone. He tells his hobbit companions that the wraith is a Nazgul of Sauronís, and that it will tell Sauron where they are.

The travelers change as they get closer to Mordor. The Ring weighs heavily on Frodo. The veil that once warded its hostility has become thin and fragile. Frodo has become quieter and more troubled as they travel. Gollum has changed too. For a while, he seemed to have changed into a good person, honest and trustworthy. Now, however, he is fawning and falsely friendly. Sam grows suspicious of both his companions.

On the fifth day of their quest, they come to the desolation that lies before Mordor. The ground is parched, gray and white. Nothing grows on it and even the sunís light is defiled among the ash heaps of the Dark Lords terrain. Amidst this desolation the weary travelers find a dark hole into which they crawl and go to sleep.

When Sam wakes up, he finds Gollum debating with himself over Frodoís sleeping body. Each time Gollum thinks of taking the Ring from Frodo his hand is drawn out, but when Smeagol speaks (which may serve as his conscience) he draws back his hand. Sam realizes that what he had perceived as hunger for hobbit flesh was actually lust for the Ring. Sam does not let on that he has overheard Gollum, but rouses Frodo, who has been refreshed by a pleasant dream, and they set off.

Two more times they feel the dread and fear passing over them. Though they cannot see the Nazgul they believe it is nearby. Gollum very reluctantly leads them to the Gate.


Notes

The evil forces weigh heavily on Frodo and Gollum. However, good old Sam is untouched. He has the presence of mind to be suspicious of his companions, and to think clearly and pay attention.


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