“Gollumn looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired… Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee–but almost the touch was a caress…”
Book IV
Chapter 8
The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

A good chapter: suspenseful at times, thoughtful at others.

I felt burdened at the words, “Reluctantly, Frodo turned his back on the West, and followed as his guide led him, out into the darkness of the East.” Frodo, too, feels the burden and as he approaches the white bridge to Minas Morgul the Ring urges him onto its Lord and he goes. Sam and Gollum stop him and they start up Gollum’s way, but not before Sauron releases his army from Minas Morgul. The Lord of the Nine Riders senses a disturbance in the force and halts his army in search of its origin. Meanwhile Frodo is able to fight the urge to put on the Ring, is aided by Galadriel’s phial, and the ring-wraith turns and leads his vast army on to war. So close. So close.

And soon enough, they begin their ascent. Straight stair. Winding stair. Rest. And then two of my favorite moments thus far in the books.

The first is the discussion Sam and Frodo have in which they talk about being in a story. I just love that. They wonder what kind of story they’ve “fallen into,” and know they’re in the darkest moment of it. What kind of ending will it have, they wonder. Sam comments that the best stories are of ordinary folks that don’t turn back when they could.

Sam also talks about Beren’s quest for a Silmaril from Melkor’s crown. It’s profound that they realize that they’re in the same story as the Silmarillion. Although, given Tolkien’s different writing styles for the Silmarillion and the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, Sam and Frodo’s peril seems greater to me than Beren’s. We can feel their peril more tangibly given the narrative we’ve been following.

All their talk makes me think about my own life and what story, if any, I’ve fallen into and what kind of ending it will have. It’s cool for character’s in a story to realize that they’re in a story. I just hope when the movie comes out that they don’t turn to the camera at this point and talk about being in a movie!

The second of my favorite things is the fleeting moment of Smeagol’s–the carress that Sam mistook for pawing. I love it, cause it shows definitely that there’s something left of Smeagol not twisted to wickedness. It softens my heart to Smeagol again and I wonder if maybe there is hope for him, afterall.

Although I love that moment, I do have to begrudge it at the same time. Like the fox comment all those chapters back in Book I, there was no one there to witness it. But, unlike the fox comment, this scene is crucial to our understanding of one of the characters, so it doesn’t seem likely someone would’ve added this scene later to make it a more interesting story.

I just wish that Tolkien had had Sam open his eyes from drowsing off to actually witness the whole thing instead of using a mysterious non-existant third-person observer that makes no sense given the mythos that this is an
actual story gathered from first-person accounts.

till next time,

keep thinking,

Kanazawa, Japan