of the Rings : Book 4, Chapter 3
The Black Gate is Closed
A Discussion Led by Blue Wizard
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Return to Book IV Discussion Index
- Book IV, Chapter 3 -
The Black Gate is Closed #1 - Blue
Since AP seems to be a no-show this week, I will take up this Chapter
starting this evening. I'd start now, but I don't have the books with me
at the office. Otherwise I'd get nothing done at all! But, to get things
started, here is one thought: When the three travelers reach the Black
Gate, Tolkien tells us that the towers were built after the Last
Alliance by the forces of Gondor to keep Sauron, who had fled Mordor to
parts unknown, from returning. Contrast this with his description of the
Tower of Cirith Ungol, which was also built by them, but to keep the
various denizens of Mordor in. I'm not sure that there is a question
there. But, here is a map of
the journey that we will be covering in this chapter.
- Why the Black Gate is still relevant - Mr
In our own history things tend to get better as time goes on,
rendering the older things obselete. This is true of fortifications,
weapons and (sometimes) computers. In LOTR it is often the other way
around because the older things had more of the influence of Numenor
and Elves etc. If this were not the case then the Black Gate
fortifications built thousands of years before, would no longer be
relevant to either side. For example, if it was us we would blow
away the walls with our heavy artillery.
- the watch towers - Arathorn
There always was some evils lurking in Mordor even short after the
Last Alliance War. As Minas Morgul wasn't yet evil and was indeed
one of the twin cities of Gondor, only some dozens of miles away
from evil Mordor, it's logical Cirith Ungol was built on the pass to
_protect_ Minas Ithil from any evil, even lesser ones.
About the Tower of the Teeth at Morannon, I'm not sure Tolkien is
explicit if tey were built to keep evil in Mordor, or to keep Sauron
to come back. I stll think they stood against Mordor, like Cirith
Or they were put to both pruposes: watch those who'd go into Mordor
and those who'd go outside.
For the Wacthers of Cirith Ungol, I always thought they were put
there by Sauron or his minions, not by Gondor.
- The windows - Blue
in the Towers looked North, and East and West, according to
Tolkien. That would seem to me to indicate that they were
designed to keep people out of Mordor, rather than keep them in.
- ok - Arathorn
Then it could be a hint. But I always thought that when
Tolkien said the towers were built to keep Gondor from a
return of the shadow, he meant a return of Sauron into
Well, they could have slightly modified the windows too.
But it's possible the Towers were built just after Sauron's
fall, when there were troops in Mordor and the area was
nearly void of enemies, to keep them from coming back. Then,
Tolkien said the troops were afraid of staying there, so
they left Mordor quickly without sentry. It's even possible
that the Morannon itself was finally abandoned by its troops
due to the inherent fear of being so close to the ancient
evil - without any important evil being there...
- Gondor should have kept its guard up - Soothfast
A Black Gate isn't going to do much good if it's not guarded, no
matter how high it is. Otherwise one could always find a way to
climb over it. At any rate Mordor is a vast realm, and corking up
one corner of it is not going to realistically keep Sauron and the
Forces of Evil from getting back in. Since Sauron's spirit did
indeed flee Mordor for "parts unknown", it could have been that he
fled off to the east where there are no mountains sealing off the
Black Land from the rest of Middle-earth. Sauron tended to fare
better in the East where not as many "fair folk" hung around, so I
can't even understand why we went off to Mirkwood which is still in
close proximity to Elves and other do-gooders. I would have to say
it was only because he still wanted to be in a position to create
mischief for the Dunedain and Gondorians (Gondolas?) Also I would
theorize that he reckoned he'd have a better chance of recovering
his One Ring if he hung out somewhere in the general vicinity where
those who took his Ring would likely hung out. I had a point here,
somewheres. Ah yes, gates. Well, Cirith Ungol may have been built to
keep the Minions of Evil in Mordor, but what about the Watchers?
They were magical in a way, and served the purposes of the evil Orcs
who dwelt within. Seems like it was all turned around against the
Gondorians. What I'd like to know is what Frodo and Sam were
thinking when they decided to head to the Black Gate. Did they
really expect it to be open? No. They wasted their time, and might
have done better to head out straightway toward the east and
approach Mordor where, again, there were no mountains.
- look in Appendix b (Return of the King page
367 ) - Ron
year 1636 The great plague devastates Gondor.
year 1640 Morder is left unguarded. Sauron being immortal can
afford to take the long view in his planning.
- Catch you this evening then, Blue , and thanks
for the map link! - Patty
- I'll make a comment. - Steve
I'm looking forward this week's discussion, Blue. Doesn't the tower
to keep people in remind you of the Soviet Union? As Saruman and his
orcs reminded some people of the Nazi's?
- No. In fact, I am utterly baffled by that
thought - Blue
Each of the fortresses on the edge of Mordor that Tolkien
describes - the Towers of the Teeth, Minas Morgul and the Tower
of Cirith Ungol - were built, not by Sauron, but by Gondor. So
the analogy just breaks down completely. It would make a great
deal more sense to think of fortifications originally built by
one power to oppose another, which were later abandoned and then
used against the original builders. Frankly, I can't think of a
good example that would provide any kind of reasonable parallel,
although there is undoubtedly some student of European military
history who can remedy that deficiency in my store of knowledge.
They cannot be, intentionally or unintentionally, references to
the Cold War Era Soviet Union. The most famous emblem of the
Cold War - The Berlin Wall - wasn't built until 1961, well after
Tolkien had completed these books.
- Fortification examples - Mr
A nice easy one is Chateau Gillard or 'Saucy Castle' built
by Richard I on the edge of his territory and thumbing his
nose at the French. It was a well designed castle but it did
fall to the French long after Richard's time, and then the
French used it. I'm not sure it was very important after it
fell, but if the English had been invading it certainly
would have been. Easier examples that come to mind are
fortified cities like Antioch and Jerusalem which were taken
by one side and then the other, each time the same walls
were there (probably repaired a little) but the protagonists
found themselves on the opposite side of the walls to what
they were on the previous time.
- Gillard s/be Gaillard - Kimi
Return to Book IV Discussion Index
- Book IV, Chapter 3 - The Black Gate
is Closed #2 - I told you so - Blue
After a detailed description of the geographical setting of the entrance to
Mordor, the hobbits are initially overcome by despair. Sam is the first to
speak, and relates how the Gaffer always kept telling him that he'd come to
a bad end. Sam is now perfectly willing to endure his "I told you so", if
only he could now be back in the Shire. We got the sense, back in the
beginning of FOTR, that Sam's interest "elves and dragons" instead of
"potatoes and cabbages" was regarded by the Gaffer, and others, as rather
contrary to ordinary hobbitsense, but here, for the first time, we get the
sense that the level of disapproval of Sam's interests may have been a bit
deeper, and more serious. But, given that we also know that Sam had never
traveled further than Woody End in the Shire, how much real trouble could he
have ever actually gotten in to merit the Gaffer's disapproval?
- I agree with Patty that a lot of the Gaffer's
grumbling - Kimi
comes from Sam's incessant talking about "Elves and all". He probably
worries about what he perceives as a lack of hobbit-sense in his
youngest son. But one gets the impression that he's very fond of Sam,
for all his supposed complaints.
- I imagine that it wasn't so much what he'd done... - Patty
as to what he was always talking about...I doubt that Gandalf and Frodo
were the only ones to whom Sam had confided his great desire to see
elves. I'll bet his dad was very tired of hearing that and similar
desires to which it seems he himself was incapable of relating.
- Most Hobbits don't have that seed of Adventure - Idril
The Gaffer and most other Hobbits simply cannot comprehend why Sam (and
Frodo, Bilbo, Merry, and Pippin) yearns for a larger world than the
Shire. And what is not understood is generally met with disapproval.
Also, Gaffer Gamgee clearly loves Sam ... but like many parents, he
can't resist reminding his son of his failings. Or, more to the point,
what the Gaffer views as his failings!
- Quick question: - Nenya
"Gaffer" is a nickname for a grandfather isn't it? I don't have any
of the books here, and I honestly never thought to look at the
genealogies for this, but I've always assumed that Gaffer was Sam's
grandfather rather than his father. Have I been wrong all these
years? (Probably have, knowing me.)
- As others have said, "Gaffer" seems to derive - Kimi
from grandfather, and now has "old man" as one of its meanings.
In England (and thence in NZ and Oz), "old man" is sometimes a
term for one's father, whatever said father's age might be. I
think "Gaffer" may be used in the same way by Sam.
- Gaffer... - Aradan
...may originally meant "Grandfather" but it could mean any aged
and respected man. It also has the meaning of "Boss" or
"Foreman" (which is where the Gaffer in a film crew comes from).
But Gaffer Gamgee is definitely Sam's father. He may have got
the nickname Gaffer because of the alliteration.
- godfather - Gorel
I've seen two sources now, one of them being my Webster's,
that say gaffer is probably derived from godfather. And in
the broadest sense it can simply mean old man. There is a
corresponding word "gammer", from godmother, which is a word
for an old woman.
- It doesn't seem to take much trouble to earn a
conventional Hobbit's disapproval. - Nenya
Remember that trivial things like going out in a boat were enough to
earn the censure of a Shire hobbit. Being seen consorting with Dwarves
and Wizards was sufficient to earn social ostracism. Frodo was tainted
simply by association with Bilbo and his own parents history. Gaffer
was a bit more open minded than the traditional Shire hobbit; he was
unwilling to condemn Frodo because of his Bilbo's questionable history.
But I suspect that Sam would have earned disapproval for his own boat
going, Elf associating, sword carrying ways. "Disapproval" is not to be
confused with "disinheritance", by the way. I'm sure that, regardless
of what trouble the boy got into, Gaffer would welcome Sam back with
open arms (and a stern lecture). After all, you have only read Gaffer's
and Rosie's reactions to the returning Sam in "Scouring of the Shire" to
see that their tolerance was certainly flexible, especially in the face
of the times the Shire was experiencing.
- Yes. Despite all their endearing traits, - Hmpf
hobbits certainly weren't very open-minded.
Return to Book IV Discussion Index
- Book IV, Chapter 3 - The Black Gate
is Closed #3 - What was Frodo
thinking? - Blue
After the initial shock and despair of seeing the gates of Mordor, Frodo
makes up his mind. He's going in. Gollum talks him out of it, thankfully,
but Frodo reasons: 1. My task is to take the Ring to Mordor.
2. I don't know any way into Mordor except this one.
3. (unstated) I know that I'll probably be captured, tortured, the ring
taken from me, and killed, but
4. Que sera sera. Sam for his part, seems to have no problem with this line
of reasoning, and sees the added bonus that, if Gollum won't follow, at
least they will be rid of him at last. As for my question, um...how shall I
put this.... WHAT!!! ARE YOU NUTS? Or, more seriously... We have talked a
great deal about the role of fate in LOTR. Tolkien makes the point here that
Frodo's decision is not one of despair. Rather, in the face of overwhelming
danger and peril, he trusts that somehow, he will be protected if he chooses
to complete his task. It seems to me that that the decision to go forward
(as opposed to the only "rational" alternative...giving up and running away)
is a critical one. It is a test, one of a series of tests that Frodo faces
and must pass, to complete this quest. And, having passed the test, fate
indeed intervenes, and provides an alternative to the certain death and
failure that would follow from walking up to the gate.
- Faith & courage - Mr
Frodo's decision was influenced by some kind of faith that it was the
right thing to do, and that it was the right thing to do even if it was
going to kill him. This amount of faith is impressive from a Hobbit.
Okay, he's met with Gandalf and Elrond and Galadriel but he hasn't (like
Gandalf and Galadriel) actually been to the West and seen the Valar
themselves. Like us, he could say this is all stories and myths and that
what he really ought to do is go back to the Shire & live quietly. But
it is more than faith. It is rather awesome courage. Even if I was
utterly convinced that the 'right' thing to do was take the ring through
the Black Gate, I would be too busy wetting my pants to actually do it.
The really amazing thing (and Gandalf is constantly amazed at this) is
just how much faith, courage & strength hobbits (esp Frodo) have.
- I guess if I were Frodo.... - Soothfast
. . . I would have never tried for the Black Gate, but rather took my
chances climbing over the Mountains of Shadow somewhere discreet and out
of the way. How high were they? Were they utterly insurmountable
everywhere, and did much really live at their peaks? An unknown. The
alternative would be to strike out for the Great Unknown of going East
and approaching Mordor where (I believe) it was known there were no
mountains. The only problem with that would be the great distance, but
it's less nutty than heading straight for the Black Gate or a dread
stronghold such as Cirith Ungol. Only dumb luck and a slew of miracles
got the hobbits through the lair of Shelob and out of the clutches of
Shagrat and Gorbag. If the hobbits were to attempt entering the Black
Gate, they might have tried what they in fact succeeded in doing within
Mordor itself: blend in with a marching host of Orcs. Otherwise, yeah:
screw it. All is lost.
- Is it just me, or have - Kimi
Blue's last questions had repeated words around the line breaks? It's
just me? Oh, well.
- taking that first step - FX
This is good literary example of faith. Faith and courage. Every task
begins with that first step. You can plan and plan till you're dead but
it's that physical act of commitment, of getting after it that makes
Never forget, God hates a coward (old Irish expression) Its the Rudy
story. Little guy makes the team against all odds. That's us - the
everyday Joe. FX sends. Out.
- Quite simply I don't think Frodo had any choice - Narya
His mission is to take the ring to Mount Doom, and he knows of no other
way (until Gollum comes up with a viable alternative) other than to
continue. Another way to look at it is to think, what would you have
done in Frodo's place? Assume that you don't know what "fate" has in
store, and your knowledge of spiritual matters is negligible. You know
that, if you turn back, you will fail, and your world will be lost. But
you also know that the hopes of so many people lie with you. If you are
cowardly and irresponsible, you might abandon the quest. If you are
courageous and brave, you would go on, despite the tremendous odds. If
you are a frightened little hobbit, you might well despair, irrespective
of the influence of a malign ring. Frodo couldn't have lived with
himself if he'd turned back. He didn't despair, but he can't have been
far from it. In the event, Gollum came to his rescue (and it wouldn't be
for the last time).
- I think Frodo's loathe of the ring helped - Temujin
I've always read Frodo's weariness and misery as being part of a
loathe he develops for the ring (and possibly himself for desiring
it). He wants the monkey off his back and the only way is forward.
I also agree with his sense of responsibility, loyalty, fate, etc.
all playing a part in it. Complex motivations are the most
- Just a thought. - septembrist
I get the feeling that Frodo believes, conciously or unconciously, that
his death and the destruction of the Ring are intertwined. Again, he
may non know if his death is the cause or the effect of the Ring's
destruction. If that is the case, then his marching to the gate.
Idril also has a point about the Ring exerting its power over Frodo
increasing his sense of doom or despair.
- If Frodo is being tested, who is doing the testing? - Nenya
In a purely literary sense, I like the poetic way your logic fits
together. It makes Frodo's journey seem like a mystic/religious
exercise, in which faith means as much (if not more) as knowledge and
ability. If this is a test, though, then it needs to have been set by
someone who is seeking to find if Frodo is worthy or not. And that's
where the idea of a test breaks down for me. Who is doing the testing?
Eru was maintaining a "hands off" policy in Middle Earth at the time,
and I'm not sure who else there would have been that was powerful enough
to perform such a test. I'm not sure what the ultimate purpose of such a
test would be either. Frodo's worthiness had already been tested by
Galadriel. And if he'd been found "unworthy" at the Black Gate, what
then? Let the entire Middle Earth go to a hideous fate because one
Hobbit didn't measure up? If Frodo was to be tested by someone who was
purportedly on the good guys' side, then they sure as heck could have
picked a better time to check up on his mettle.
- It must be Eru. - Annael
Or at least, the same will that ensured that the Ring would get to
Bilbo and hence to Frodo. I like the idea that Frodo has to commit
utterly to the quest before the way opens before him.
- Well, you answered the question yourself, sort of.
;-) - Hmpf
There is something very archaic, pre-modern, pre-rationalistic to that
way of 'reasoning', but it makes sense within the metaphysical frame of
Tolkien's world. Fate indeed exists there, and Gandalf stated once (I
*think* it was Gandalf) that *some power* was guiding Bilbo's hand when
he found and picked up the ring. I think you're right about the
situation being a test, although it would be a stupid 'test' in a
rational world. It's a test of faith and devotion, I think - faith in
whatever power it is that is guiding Frodo (apart from the power of the
Ring, of course), and devotion to his task.
- Sense of duty & something else - Idril
Frodo hadn't really confronted the impossibility of his quest until he
sees just how difficult it will be to get into Mordor. His sense of
duty is driving him here; I think he feels that he's run out of options
and is therefore forced to go to the Black Gate. What's the
alternative? Wander around Ithilien and the Brown Lands until their
food runs out or they are captured by orcs? He knows of no other way
over the mountains. And, as you suggest, maybe he trusts that fate will
protect him somehow. Another thing that occurred to me is that perhaps
the Ring is at work here. The fastest way for the Ring to return to
Sauron is for Frodo to deliver it to the Black Gate. As we've seen
numerous times before, the Ring exploits its victims' positive traits as
well as their negative ones. Here' it may be working through Frodo's
admirable sense of duty and resolve. Frodo began to fall under the
influence of the Ring when he used it to compel Gollum, and the Ring is
growing more potent as it nears Mordor. It could very well be that it
helped him make up his mind to try the Black Gate.
- frodo's decision to attempt the Gate - FX
Remember this, Frodo has been given the gravest responsibility in
Middle Earth by the highest ranking Lords. He feels the pressures
of that responsibility. He feels inpired and duty bound to such a
But from a physical sense, he is exhausted, weary, thirsty,
worn. Physical exhaustion clouds decision making.
Morever, he knew from the beginning that his goal was to reach
Mordor. And Suaron would like nothing better than to get Frodo and
the ring to Mordor. Thus there is a convergence of fate.
Galadriel in the garden of Lothlorien stated the fate of the
company balances upon the blade of a knife. The slightest mischance
in either direction would bring disaster.
From a literary standpoint Frodo's thoughts about trying the
Gate add to the building of suspense. From a defense of Frodo's
rationale, I would have done the same thing. Who would guess that
he'd try the front door. AS to Gollum who'd trust Gollum, anyway?
- I think it's the influence of the Ring, too - Aradan
- Definitely - Aiya
the ring is drawing Frodo to Mordor- and the closer he comes the
stronger the ring gets. The ring is not going to allow him to
leave when it is so close to getting back to its master. Aside
from that- I don't think Frodo is one to leave things undone.
He promised to see this quest through- and that's what he is
going to do. I've always pictured him as thinking- well- if
there's no other way- time to unpack the mountain-climbing gear
and head over the Ash Mountains (ered lithum or whatever they
are) Even if he has to crawl over the mountains- he's going to
Return to Book IV Discussion Index
- Book IV, Chapter 3 - The Black Gate
is Closed #4 - That would be my
command. - Blue
When Gollum is trying to convince Frodo not to attempt to enter Mordor
through the Black Gate, he suggests that Frodo give him the Ring. Frodo
admonishes him to never even think that again; he will never get it back.
And he says that if Gollum does it again, Frodo could command him to cast
himself into the fire and he would do so. Frodo tells Gollum "That would be
my command." Now, it is easy enough to say that this is a bit of
foreshadowing - Gollum does finally get his hands on the Ring, and he does
fall into the Cracks of Doom. But, is it more? Did Gollum simply slip, or
was he rather commanded by Frodo to cast himself in? And if that is the
case, does this add yet another layer to Frodo's anguish that requires a
purgatorial healing in the Grey Havens: Not only did he "fail" at the
ultimate test, choosing to claim the Ring rather than destroy it, but that
it was his "command" that caused Gollum to plunge into the fire?
- At this point, it wasn't a command, or a
foreshadowing (IMHO) - Cat
of Queen Berúthiel
it was just Frodo telling Gollum to what desperate lengths he (Frodo)
would go to to keep the ring. Frodo can be quite confident at this point
that Gollum will never get the ring back, simply because Frodo has it
and therefore control over Gollum. Saying 'And such would be my command'
is a simple threat -and it works.
However, when Gollum attacks Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom, Frodo
does give a command, "If you touch me ever again, you yourself shall be
cast into the fires of Doom" (or something similar - sorry, no books
here). This IS a command, and Gollum, in attacking Frodo at the Crack of
Doom again, dooms himself.
Somehow I always saw this as an evil thing destroying itself - through
the power of the ring, Gollum, trying to do evil, ends up destroying it.
I am not saying Gollum jumped in. I am also aware that Frodo is no
longer 'in possesion' of the ring at that point. But the command had
already been issued when Frodo was in control. And after getting hold of
the ring, Gollum only needed that nudge in the wrong direction - which I
always thought was provided by the evil of the ring itself. The ring
doesn't 'think' as such. It only provides the means to do evil and can't
see any consequences. Sort of cosmic justice. Maybe that is ultimately
- I agree with the comments below - Narya
When Gollum fell, Frodo no longer wore the ring and so could not wield
it. Any power or influence that the ring might have given Frodo was no
more. Gollum slipped, and fell. It was an Act of God, as my insurance
company would say.
- Simple foreshadowing.. I think.. - Aiya
It is a good use of foreshadowing on Tolkien's part and it stays with us
throughout the rest of the story- so that when we arrive at Mount Doom-
deep inside something goes 'ah-ha.. I see.. Gollum got what was
promised..' As for Frodo failing- I don't think he did. I think Elrond
& co knew when they set out that it was an impossible task- no one can
truly resist the power of the ring. Frodo was the best choice because
he could hold out the longest against the temptation. So- in the end-
he didn't fail- he just finally came to the end of an impossible road-
and being mortal- he couldn't do the impossible. That's why he needed
Smeagol- he had his own part to play in the story of the ring and
because of that part- I don't think Frodo would have commanded his
death. He knew how powerful the lure of the ring was.
- I'm in the "I don't think so" camp - Kimi
It is indeed a nice piece of foreshadowing, and just possibly came into
Gollum's mind at the crucial moment. But Frodo no longer wore the Ring
at that point, and therefore couldn't command Gollum. In those few
seconds, too, I doubt if Frodo was aware of much beyond his own pain. I
think that as Gollum teetered on the brink, Eru made one of His rare
interventions, and gave him a small nudge.
- Very interesting, Blue. However, I don't think so... - Patty
I tend to think it was purely an accident that he stumbled and fell. But
I had not thought of it in this light before.
- Tradgic chance - Phoebus
I agree. I've always thought that it is Gollums death in the fire
that conveys one of the books great messages. After Gollums tireless
search for a glinting piece of treasure, as soon as he gets hold of
it he looses it and his life. His search was fruitless and the ring
brought him nothing.
- I imagine - Greyhame
that we can all understand Frodo's failing of the ultimate test by
claiming the ring as his own. At that point in the story, I think that
none in Middle Earth ,save Bombadil, could resist the ring as long as
and under the duress that Frodo did. In fact I never saw the episode at
the cracks of doom as a failure on Frodo's part. And similarly, I never
saw Frodo as having Smeagol's blood on his hands. In fact, I saw
Smeagol as the fulfiller of the quest, a proof of Gandalf's foresight,
and an indication of Tolkien's sense of irony. However, in direct
response to your question, yes Frodo probably had to atone in the
Havens for his self-percieved failure with the ring... If failure is
what he felt. I dunno. I think he was just so incredibly
shell-shocked, he had the emotional scars from the wraith-knife wound
and psychological baggage from carrying the accursed ring without hope
of success right into the living-room of Sauron.
As to your question whether Gollum stumbled or Frodo commanded him
into the pit, I think quite clearly that Frodo, having just had his
finger bitten off and no longer in posession of the ring, was in no
condition to command anyone. Furthermore, it is Gollum's gloating
victory dance that does him in... Dubya Shrub beware ;-)
- Hmm. Don't think so. - Annael
Right after the Ring is destroyed, Frodo seems to be calm & clear. He
has done his duty (with help) and he seems quite resigned to death. It
is Sam who insists on living. Later, Frodo never expresses a moment of
regret or anguish over Gollum's death. It is his wounds and the loss of
his "long burden" that make life in Middle-earth impossible for him. I
think when Frodo threatened Gollum, it was just to impress him with the
idea that Frodo would never give him the Ring, quite the opposite if
Gollum ever tried to take it again. But I think at the end, Frodo did
NOT give any such command. If he had done so, Gollum would not have been
able to take the Ring, and Gollum DID take the Ring. At that point I
think Frodo was incapable of wishing harm to the Ring. I'd rather think
that Gollum's fall was indeed a fall from grace - by taking the Ring, he
had crossed the line into total irredeemable evil. His fall is symbolic
as well as real. Frodo had nothing to do with it.
Return to Book IV Discussion Index
- Book IV, Chapter 3 - The Black Gate
is Closed #5 - Tales From the South - Blue
Gollum, in telling Frodo and Sam about the alternate route into Mordor,
tells them that they will pass near Minas Morgul: "The old fortress, very
old, very horrible now. We used to hear tales from the South, when Smeagol
was young, long ago. O yes, we used to tell lots of tales in the evening,
sitting by the banks of the Great River, in the willowlands, when the River
was younger too, gollum, gollum"... "Tales out the the South...about he tall
men with the shining eyes, and their houses like hills of stone, and the
silver crown of their King and his White Tree: wonderful tales. They built
tall towers, and one they raised was silver-white, and in it there was a
stone like the Moon, and round it were great white walls. O yes, there were
many tales about the Tower of the Moon" A number of things strike me about
this passage: - Minas Ithil had fallen something like 450 years prior to
Smeagol's birth, but tales of the coming of the Numenorians and the building
of Minas Ithil was still a story told around the fires of his people during
his early lifetime. What does this tell us about both the similarities and
differences between his people and the hobbits of the Shire? Consider that,
although the Shire is more remote both in time and distance, the Shire
hobbits seem, with the notable exceptions of folks like Bilbo and Frodo, not
terribly interested in lore, or history, or much of anything beyond local
gossip and family geneaology. - Gollum seems to be really enchanted by these
tales of the splendor and beauty of Gondor at its peak, and appreciates that
Minas Morgul is no longer beautiful, but terrible. In the Smeagol/Gollum
dual personality, it seems that Smeagol has the upper hand here. - What
about the stone like the moon? Is this the Ithil Stone, one of the palantir,
or a stone like the black round stone at Erech? In light of Gandalf's
statements about them earlier, it seems unlikely that the palantiri would be
a matter of wide knowledge, such that the proto-Stoors would know of them in
their tales. Or would they - after all, we are talking about tales being
told hundreds of years earlier; perhaps much lore has indeed been lost?
- Blue-thanks for taking over this chapter.. - Patty
making us see things with a different possible perspective, and doing it
with your usual wit and wisdom.
- Hmmm interesting points - Narya
1. I think tales were told in the Shire as well, e.g. the story of how
golf was invented. Gollums family and the Shire hobbits probably both
liked to tell tales of the distant past, although these were maybe far
removed from the actual historic truth.. 2. Yes, Frodo & Sam bring out
the better side of Gollum. They make him remember what he used to be. 3.
'Never considered this really, but I suppose "the stone" refers to the
tower of the moon itself. I suspect the tower stood out in moonlight,
and tales of it's splendour were passed down through generations of
hobbits. This is probably totally wrong of course. But it is late
on a Friday, after the pubs have just shut.
- A question of my own: - Kimi
"when the River was younger too". Do you think the Great River was much
different in Smeagol's childhood, c. 570 years before LOTR? What might
have made it seem younger? To me that implies a river with more rapids,
a narrower bed and a faster flow.
- I always thought - Aiya
that was just a turn of phrase that made his speech sound more
ancient and removed...
- Ronald Reagan used the same technique. - Narya
- political humor :) my favorite kind - Aiya
And lately it's so easy... I have more jokes than I know
what to do with
- Gollum's community does seem to have been - Kimi
less insular than the hobbits of the Shire. I suppose news came up and
down the Great River, which made them less isolated. I think the stone
probably was the palantir. If there'd been another significant stone in
Minas Ithil, I'd expect there to be more references to it. Gollum's
telling of this tale is another poignant trace of the old Smeagol, I
think; both in his appreciation of the beauty of the old Minas Ithil,
and in his recalling of his childhood
- I'd go for the palantir - Arathorn
Assuming it was known since it was of no use for Gondor, the secert
could be lifted. Not to mention that Sauron shold have widely gloated
about him taking a palantir back to Bard-Dur and reducing the beautiful
city to pure evil.
Then I found it strange too that Gollum knew of all this that happened
centuries before his birth...
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