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The Two Towers

The Two Towers

by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers Book 4, Chapter 1 Summary

The Taming of Sméagol

  • Let's shift gears, shall we? It's time to check in with our dynamic duo: Frodo and Sam.
  • It has been three days since Sam and Frodo left the Company behind at Amon Hen, and they are completely lost in the rocks of Emyn Muil.
  • They are trying to climb down to the Dead Marshes, but they just can't seem to find their way out of the rocks.
  • As Sam says, "What a fix! [...] That's the one place in all the lands we've ever heard of that we don't want to see any closer; and that's the one place we're trying to get to! And that's just where we can't get, nohow" (4.1.4).
  • Translation: We have to go to this stinkin' marsh, nevermind the fact that we actually have no desire to do so. Oh, and to top off this Very Bad Situation, we can't even get to the marshes in the first place, because we're stuck here in a forest of rocks. Awesome.
  • Frodo is starting to despair, as time is of the essence.
  • This sounds like a great time for a food break. They settle in to eat some lembas.
  • Sam asks if Frodo has seen Gollum following them recently?
  • Frodo says no, and Sam hopes they've shaken Gollum off.
  • The hobbits find a part of the rock face of Emyn Muil that looks easier to climb down.
  • Frodo is so impatient that, even though the sun is setting and the weather is getting nasty, he insists on trying to clamber down right now.
  • But—surprise, surprise—Frodo gets stuck on a ledge in the middle of the cliff face. Way to go, dude.
  • He can't see and he can't find a handhold, so Sam lowers some rope and hauls Frodo back up.
  • The hobbits attempt to find some shelter, but it seems like the storm is clearing up, so Frodo continues to press the issue.
  • He wants to lower Sam down using the rest of their rope; he'll climb down after.
  • This time, they succeed—they have emerged from Emyn Muil. Finally.
  • They start picking their way towards the marshes the next day, and despite their best efforts to shake their follower, Gollum continues to tail them.
  • As Frodo and Sam watch Gollum creeping down the side of the rock face after them, they can hear him muttering to himself: "Where iss it, where iss it: my Precious, my Precious? It's ours, it is, and we wants it. The thieves, the thieves, the filthy little thieves. Where are they with my Precious? Curse them! We hates them" (4.1.104).
  • Then, when Gollum is close enough, Sam jumps on him.
  • But Gollum is fast and wily, so he grabs Sam around the throat.
  • Frodo leaps in and holds Sting to Gollum's throat, forcing Gollum to let go.
  • For his part, Sam wants to tie Gollum up and leave him.
  • But Frodo refuses; that would be just one step better than a death sentence. Either they kill Gollum outright or they don't injure him at all.
  • See, Frodo is being so nice because he feels sorry for Gollum, and decides to have mercy on the creature.
  • Plus, he and Sam might benefit from having him around, so Frodo demands that Gollum help them. He agrees, reluctantly of course.
  • They settle down and wait for the moon to set so that Gollum can guide them in the darkness.
  • Sam and Frodo pretend to be relaxing, but in truth, they are just waiting for Gollum to spring up and try to run away.
  • As soon as he attempts to escape, they catch him and tie a rope around his neck.
  • The rope genuinely seems to be burning Gollum.
  • Finally, Frodo offers to remove it, but only if Gollum will swear on something he holds dear that he will help.
  • Gollum swears on the Ring. Well we know he certainly holds that thing pretty dear.
  • Frodo warns him that the Ring will hold him to his promise, whether he wants it to or not. Then he orders Sam to remove the rope.
  • Gollum goes skipping off to show them a safe way through the Dead Marshes.

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