The Two Towers
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers Book 4, Chapter 8 Summary
The Stairs of Cirith Ungol
- Gollum tugs at Frodo's cloak in his impatience to get a move on.
- This motley trio creeps along the road to the mountains, until finally Frodo sees "the city of the Ringwraiths" (4.8.3): Minas Morgul. Dun dun dun.
- The walls of Minas Morgul glow with light, but it is a sickly, corpse-like light. Plus, it's really stinky. It smells just plain rotten.
- Gollum pulls them away, and they crawl into the gloom alongside the city.
- Poor Frodo feels the weight of the Ring very heavily now.
- It's time to climb a steep staircase up into the mountains, right?
- But it is too late. The gates of Minas Morgul fall open and an army comes out, all dressed in black.
- It is led by one of the Black Riders, the Lord of the Nazgûl: the "haggard king whose cold hand had smitten down the Ring-bearer with his deadly knife" (4.8.21) in The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1, Chapter 11.
- Frodo's shoulder aches in memory of the wound, and he feels an immense pressure beating him from the outside.
- His hand creeps towards the Ring on its chain. Uh oh. Not good. Not good.
- He has to exert his will to stop his hand from touching the Ring.
- Instead, his hand goes to the jewel Galadriel gave him in Lothlórien (see The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 8), and Frodo clutches that instead. Good move, buddy.
- The Lord of the Nazgûl turns away and passes with his army, while Frodo wonders if Faramir got away from Osgiliath in time. We hope so.
- Once the gate closes behind this army, they continue on their way.
- Filled with ten kinds of despair, Frodo realizes that he has to go on nevertheless.
- So he holds Galadriel's jewel against his heart and his staff in his hand, and they keep on marching, right up those colossal stairs.
- Gollum, meanwhile, nice fellow that he is, tells them to hurry up.
- The hobbits are exhausted after climbing the Straight Stair, but next is the Winding Stair, which is a bit easier.
- The passage goes on for miles, until they are high above Morgul Valley. At the far end, they can see a black tower.
- Sam and Frodo decide to rest before going on. They crouch together with Gollum nearby, sharing food and drinking a little water.
- They both agree that the whole place seems cursed. Folks, it ain't called Mordor for nothing.
- Good ol' Sam tries to lift Frodo's spirits by reminding him that all the heroes in the great tales went on even when they had the chance to turning back.
- Frodo laughs, and the two hobbits lighten up for a time.
- That is, until Sam notices that Gollum has disappeared yet once more.
- Frodo thinks that, if Gollum is up to something, it must be some private trick of his own.
- After all, if Gollum had wanted to alert the orcs or Sauron, he would have done it by now.
- Plus, Gollum is confused about what he wants to achieve. He certainly doesn't want to give the Ring to Sauron, for example, because that would mean giving it up for himself.
- Then, Frodo falls asleep with his head in Sam's lap.
- Gollum finds them curled up a couple of hours later. The sight makes him tired and wistful, so he creeps close and touches Frodo's knee.
- Sam snaps awake: "Hey you! [...] What are you up to?" (4.8.84).
- Gollum retreats back, clearly offended that Sam thinks he is sneaking around (which, we'd like to point out, he is). Plus, the dude looks strangely spider-like, with his long, skinny limbs.
- Sam wakes Frodo gently, and Frodo can see that something has put Gollum in an evil mood.
- So he kindly offers Gollum the chance to go free.
- Gollum has shown them the way into Mordor, and now Gollum can go do whatever he wants—find food and rest, or whatever.
- Gollum says no, no, they still need him to guide them.
- What gives, Gollum? Why don't you want your freedom?
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