A Tolkien Virgin: The Return of the King - Book VI - Chapter 1 - The Journey Continues

"'Gilthoniel, A Elbereth!' Sam cried. For, why he did not know, his thought sprang back suddenly to the Elves in the Shire, and the song that drove away the Black Rider in the trees."
Book VI
Chapter 1
The Tower of Cirith Ungol

I was chomping at the bit to get back to Frodo and Sam to see what's going on, but reading the first chapter of the last book, I was pretty disappointed. Actually annoyed. For the first time since I can remember I had a strongly negative reaction to something of Tolkien's.

Everything was just a little too convenient.

Sam's commitment to Frodo over-riding everything, he's determined to free him from Cirith Ungol. His view of Mordor was impressive. His temptation comes and goes. Sam's just a little too practical to believe the rings lies, and that fits his character just fine. He uses his brains to get past the Watchers, that was a cool touch.

But, then we get to the annoying bit. Although I don't put it past the Orcs to fight over the mithril coat, the fact that all of the orcs at Cirith Ungol killed eachother but two, one of them injured, was excessively convenient. Then, after Shagrat escapes with the coat, the one Orc left in the tower that was too scared to go down the stairs even should a Nagul order him to go, comes out of his locked room and provides the way for Sam to reach Frodo--just because the orc thought he heard him singing!! What happened to being so scared? Sam cuts off his arm, so the orc attacks him and proceeds to break its own neck falling through the trap door? Huh? So, every single orc in the entire tower is killed but one that flees. Way too convenient.

So, Frodo is naked, which should be a problem, but oh no, Sam manages to scrounge up some orc clothing that just so happens to fit a hobbit?? What??

They manage to get past the Watchers--and I will say that I really like the "Gilthoniel, A Elbereth," and "Aiya elenion ancalima!" that Sam and Frodo cried. And the colapsing of the gate was a nice touch. But, the little tid bits I liked about this chapter don't make up for the incredibly weak plot device Tolkien used to free Frodo. Tolkien is far too great a writer to leave some orcs for Sam to fight. Right? That would be so cliche. A swordfight in a tower. Way too cliche for Tolkien. I mean, if love of Frodo let him seriously injur and scare off Shelob, I wouldn't put it past Sam to be able to muster up the ability to kill a few orcs. Or something else, even. Anything else that might be on the verge of believability. Whatever.

At the very close of the chapter there's a Nazgul descending upon them, so I have to hurry on to the next chapter. And hurry on I will, in the hope that the next chapter won't be as bad.

till next time, keep thinking,

Mark-Edmond Howell
Kanazawa, Japan

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