“Another dreadful day of fear and toil had come to Mordor; and the night-guards were summoned to their dungeons and deep halls, and the day-guards, evil-eyed and fell, were marching to their posts. Steel gleamed dimly on the battlement.”
Book IV
Chapter 3
The Black Gate is Closed

Hmm, the plain way through the mountains blocked, the two Hobbits and Gollum will take a darker path where “very dreadful things live”–sounds like Moria.

Just how big is that gate, anyway? How many hundreds of feet high? In any case, the two towers, massive stone rampart, iron gate, and orc caves are adequately daunting. No safe way through. Practically impassable.

But Frodo’s determination not to turn back and Gollum’s fear that the ring should fall into the hands of Sauron causes Gollum to tell them that there is another way.

Sam considers the questions that we’re all wondering. Which half of Gollum/Smeagol has won out? How far can they trust him? The conversation of Slinker and Stinker that Sam overheard is important information–why doesn’t Sam tell Frodo about it?

Troops of men arrive to join Sauron’s forces in Mordor, sweeping aside Frodo’s hope. And so he listens to Gollum as he explains his secret way, but not before scolding Gollum for suggesting that Frodo give the ring back to him. Then as Frodo considers, Black Riders fly over head. Where are they off to in the daylight? Responding to Pippin’s faux pas with the Palantir?

Tolkien made this chapter feel long and slow–just like it was for Frodo, Sam and Gollum. Waiting, hesitating, not deciding. Dragging that is, until Sam’s rhyme about oliphaunts.

I like how Tolkien can bring levity to somber moments. This isn’t the first time Sam has done this. Tolkien/Sam’s oliphaunt rhyme is fun, I could teach it to elementary school kids or make a song out of it.

Tolkien’s image of warring elephants naturally reminds me of Hannibal and tales about India. I guess the parallel images between our own histories and Middle-earth shouldn’t be too surprising as this is ostensibly a tale buried in our own past. Tolkien didn’t invent his mythos out of thin air, from what I’ve heard, he gathered bits and pieces from reality and built his mythos from that.

But, Tolkien’s description of the men from the South got me to thinking that we haven’t seen much in the way of ethnicities in Lord of the Rings. No asians, no african, no native americans. Could these men from the south be african-types, or indian-types (from india–at least that would go well with the elephants)?

In the end, Frodo decides to follow Gollum. And, I get the feeling that Frodo is right, it must be that Gollum is destined to guide them further… is there really any other choice?

till next time,
keep thinking,

Kanazawa, Japan