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

 

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PLOT NOTES - BOOK NOTES


The Forbidden Pool


Summary

Faramir catches Gollum and threatens him with death, but finally releases him to Frodoís custody. He questions Gollum about the secret entryway to which he is leading Frodo, and cautions both men that Cirith Ungol (the place they are travelling through) is evil and unsafe. He tells them not to come back to his secret hiding place, and says that if he ever catches Gollum without Frodo, he will kill him.

Frodo is concerned that Cirith Ungol is so unsafe. However, he knows he must destroy the Ring and that this is the only way to reach his destination. Faramir gives Frodo his blessing and reluctantly agrees to let them go.


Notes

Faramir and his men are cautiously helpful, but they do not want any trouble. For this reason, he sends Frodo, Sam and Gollum away, telling them not to bother him or his people anymore.


Journey to the Crossroads


Summary

When day comes and the hobbits have eaten, Faramir gives them their packs, which he has graciously stored with food. He presents them with staffs adorned with carved leads and plaited leather thongs, to help them with their treacherous climbing. Gollum, who has been blindfolded, protests until Frodo and Sam don blindfolds too, in order to appease their companionís sense of injustice.


They travel by day and sleep by night for three days. Gollum hurries them along, and Frodo wonders why he does so. They come to a crossroads and Frodo sees the stone figure of one of the kings. The head has been replaced with a round stone with one single eye on the forehead, symbolizing Sauron. As he looks around he sees the original head lying on the side of the road. The setting sun casts a yellow glow about the discarded head.


Notes

The setting sun creates a crown for the discarded head, symbolizing a return to power by the old rulers and a deposition of the new dictator, Sauron. Frodo finds meaning and comfort in this scene, knowing that they have not come on it by accident.


The Stairs of Cirith Ungol


Summary

Once more Frodo is being dragged down by the Ring, which seems to want to preserve itself. In the distance Minas Morgul looms larger than life and the sister tower of Minas Tirith towers over the moon. Their steps seem to slow, as if all are impeded by the evil forces.

Frodo is compelled toward a white bridge, though he knows that he will be easily spotted. Gollum and Sam try to stop him but are unsuccessful, as he seems possessed. Suddenly thunder and lightening split the night air. The gate opens and out comes the Lord of the Nine Riders. Frodo clutches the Phial of Galadriel and his own will is restored. The wraith-king does not see them, and instead passes on with an enormous army. Frodo feels sorry for Faramir, who will have to contend with these forces.

Gollum hurries the hobbits on and they come to an opening in a rock mountain that has many stairs, straight and winding. The path is difficult, at times too narrow or wide. Frodo sees that there is a red light at the end and guesses that the secret passage is guarded. Gollum tries to encourage him, telling him they might be distracted by the battle preparations at hand. The three of them rest and Sam makes Frodo laugh with his futuristic tales, hoping that once their adventure is over, they can make it into a song. As they talk Gollum slips away; when he comes back the hobbits are asleep. Something of the old Smeagol stirs in his soul and he touches Frodo almost lovingly, feeling as he used to when he was jut a plain old hobbit. His touch stirs Frodo and wakes Sam. Sam misunderstands Gollumís motives, which causes the other hobbitís momentary lapse of goodness to fade in anger.


Notes

This chapter is nearly completely devoted to the character of Smeagol, or Gollum. He is a complex character who was once good but who has been tarnished by years of exposure to the power of the Ring. When Smeagol takes over, the character is his old self, wanting connection with his companions. But in this chapter he is suspected because of his evil self. What might has been a complete relapse into goodness is cut short by Samís suspicion.

This is not to say that Gollum would have turned "good" were it not for Sam. Gollum is a pitiful character, someone to be sympathized with and felt sorry for. Years of living evilly have turned his soul black and even though he wavers, he is basically ruined by evil.


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