The Two Towers
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers Book 4, Chapter 2 Summary
The Passage of the Marshes
- Gollum books it for the marshes. He seems to be in a good mood, chuckling and singing a weird little song: "The cold hard lands/ they bites our hands,/ they gnaws our feet" (4.2.4).
- When Gollum launches into a song about fish, Sam starts to worry once more about their food supplies.
- Dawn is coming soon, and Gollum wants to hide. Frodo, though, would be happy to see some light.
- But Gollum warns the hobbits to stay out of the sun, where they will be too visible.
- They settle in at the base of a rock and Frodo offers Gollum some lembas.
- But the lembas chokes Gollum. Maybe he only likes fish?
- Sam wants to sit up and watch Gollum while Frodo sleeps, but Frodo thinks that's a waste, and tells Sam to do what he wants.
- Despite his best intentions, Sam dozes off.
- Gollum has gone to look for food.
- After sunset, Frodo wakes up. Discovering that Gollum has disappeared, he tells Sam not to worry.
- Sure enough, Gollum does come back, smeared with mud.
- He's chewing something—what, Sam does not even want to know. Frankly, neither do we.
- They continue on to a land filled with reeking marsh and bog.
- The hobbits have to rely totally on Gollum, because they have absolutely no clue about how to get through the marsh safely.
- Unfortunately, this is the only way into Mordor that is not "hard cold roads to the very gates of His country" (4.2.45).
- It's super dreary and cold, and then, as they enter the middle of the marshes, it gets really dark: "the air itself seemed black and heavy to breathe" (4.2.54).
- Sam notices bright lights appearing over the marshes, and Gollum shares this lovely tidbit: those lights are the "Candles of corpses, yes, yes" (4.2.56).
- Gollum warns Sam not to follow them. As if he needs the advice.
- Frodo, meanwhile, keeps lagging behind.
- Sam looks down and sees dead faces in the water; he wants to know who or what they are.
- Frodo has got the goods: They are, "Many faces proud and fair, and weeds in their silver hair. But all foul, all rotting, all dead. A fell light is in them" (4.2.63). Uh, thanks for clearing that up?
- Luckily Gollum is here to clarify. Apparently, there was a great battle here between orcs, elves, and men, which raged for months.
- Over the ages, the marshes have crept over the land and swallowed their graves, so that you can only see the dead and never touch them. Yuck.
- Finally, they reach the end of the marshes, but there's no time for celebration because Gollum suddenly pulls them down and refuses to move.
- Something is wrong. Something is changing.
- That's when they see it: a great dark shape comes flying over the Dead Marshes. It's a Nazgûl on its winged steed.
- Not good! Gollum is sure that they are visible in the light of the moon, and makes them stay still for quite a long time after the dark shape has passed overhead.
- After that, Sam notices that Gollum keeps looking at Frodo strangely, and that he keeps returning to his old (creepy) mode of speaking.
- Poor Frodo is also growing more and more affected by the Ring.
- At least they're making progress. When the sun rises, the hobbits see how close they are to the mountains of Mordor.
- They struggle on for two more days and nights in the dreary waste of Noman-lands. Somehow, it's even worse than the Dead Marshes: "Even to the Mere of Dead Faces some haggard phantom of green spring would come; but here neither spring nor summer would ever come again" (4.2.86).
- Sam feels sick at the sight of this sickly, ruined land. Plus, to be fair, he and Frodo are thirsty and totally tuckered out. It's time to lie down to rest.
- When he wakes, Sam hears an argument between the two sides of Gollum.
- The good side, the Sméagol side, says, "Sméagol promised to help the master" (4.2.94).
- But the other side says, well, we don't have to hurt the hobbits ourselves. We could lead them to Her.
- Gollum's fight continues, until he eventually seems to be close to strangling himself.
- Sam pretends to yawn and wake up, but his suspicions of Gollum have doubled. And for good reason. Who is this her?
- Frodo wakes up feeling weirdly refreshed.
- They continue on their quest.
- The winged Nazgûl passes over two more times, and each time Gollum falls flat on his face.
- The last time, it feels more distant, as though it is racing "above the clouds, rushing with terrible speed into the West" (4.2.122). Hmm. That's interesting.
- Gollum is petrified that the Nazgûl feel the Ring, since they have now passed over a total of three times.
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