Study Guide

The Return of the King Book 6, Chapter 2

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Book 6, Chapter 2

The Land of Shadow

  • Time to book it. Sam stuffs the jewel back into his shirt, and shouts to Frodo to follow him. They run down the road from the gate.
  • Soon, they are out of sight of the Tower. Phew.
  • They keep rushing onward, but they see no sign of Nazgûl or orcs.
  • Frodo wants to get off the road, but there is nowhere else to walk. The eastern side of the Ephel Dúath is a sheer drop off. 
  • Frodo and Sam rush across the bridge to the slopes of Morgai.
  • Behind them, in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, they hear horns sounding. Uh oh.
  • As they reach the other side of the bridge, they jump down out of sight, and clamber into the valley, where they turn north.
  • Suddenly, Frodo stops.
  • He can't go on with the weight of the orc armor on him, so he takes off the armor and wraps himself in his orc cloak, the better to bear the weight of the Ring. 
  • But it seems to him as though the darkness of Mordor is piercing his heart. He can't even remember the old sights of the Shire anymore.
  • They start again, but Frodo stops and pulls Sam behind a huge boulder. A Nazgûl is flying high above them.
  • Frodo and Sam watch the clouds of Mordor being driven back as light breaks in the South.
  • Sam shouts, "Look at it, Mr. Frodo! [...] Look at it! The wind's changed. Something's happening. He's not having it all his own way. His darkness is breaking up out in the world there" (6.2.29). 
  • Looks like that dawn at the battle of Pellanor is even reaching the two hobbits all the way over in Mordor. 
  • Frodo and Sam watch as a Nazgûl flies overhead.
  • It gives a long cry, bringing the news to Barad-dûr that the Lord of the Nazgûl has been killed. (Way to go, Éowyn.)
  • Sam feels cheered: the war is going well!
  • But Debbie Downer Frodo just says, "That's away beyond the mountains. We're going east not west. And I'm so tired. And the Ring is so heavy, Sam" (6.2.33). 
  • There is still not much light here in Mordor, but after an hour or so of walking, they hear something miraculous: a trickle of water.
  • Sam, in his typically noble fashion, wants to drink first to test if it is poison.
  • But Frodo thinks they should just drink together. 
  • The water is bitter and oily, but it tastes downright delicious to these thirsty guys, so Sam refills his water bottle.
  • They go on for several miles until they must turn east again, and then they trek through scrubby lands covered with biting flies.
  • Frodo must stop again, and so they take shelter under some low brambles. He falls asleep instantly.
  • Sam stays up and sees one star shining down purely. Comforted, he falls asleep hand-in-hand with Frodo.
  • When they wake up, Sam is refreshed, but Frodo is still exhausted, the poor guy.
  • They see Mount Doom in all its smoky, fiery glory about forty miles away.
  • As far as the eye can see, there are armies camped out on the Morgai to the South.
  • They find that it is impossible to travel along the ridges of the Morgai hills, because they're just too steep. 
  • They opt instead to creep along a path past an orc-hold.
  • Two or three miles later, Frodo and Sam hear two orcs squabbling.
  • One is small and dressed in brown, while the other is large and wearing the token of the Eye. 
  • The smaller one seems to be a tracker, while the bigger one is a fighter.
  • They are looking for something: "First they say it's a great Elf in bright armour, then it's a sort of small dwarf-man, then it must be a pack of rebel Uruk-hai; or maybe it's all the lot together" (6.2.64).
  • The tracker thinks the war is going badly.
  • The fighter mentions shooting an arrow at "the black sneak [...] That gobbler with the flapping hands" (6.2.69). Ugh. It sounds like Gollum is still around.
  • Word around the orcs is that Sauron wants Gollum alive, ASAP.
  • The fighter also says that there is now a Nazgûl in charge of Cirith Ungol. Good thing Frodo and Sam got out of there before that guy came along.
  • The smaller orc says he's glad they've killed the Lord of the Nazgûl. Of course this treason totally enrages the fighter, who leaps at the tracker. 
  • The tracker puts an arrow between the fighter's eyes and sprints off. 
  • Sweet. That saves Frodo and Sam the trouble of worrying about killing those orcs. 
  • They decide to hide and wait until dark to continue on.
  • As they rest, Sam tells Frodo everything he knows about Gollum's betrayal in Shelob's lair.
  • Frodo asks Sam to hang on to the jewel of Galadriel for him, since he will need both hands to travel in the dark.
  • Bonus: he also gives Sting to Sam permanently.
  • Frodo confesses to Sam that he thinks it will still take a week to arrive at the Cracks of Mount Doom.
  • The Ring is getting heavier and heavier, and Frodo will have to go slower and slower.
  • Unfortunately, their food has just given out. All they have left is a tiny bit of lembas bread.

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  • Dawn comes, and the hobbits can see the land of Mordor more clearly than ever before.
  • They watch the soldiers marshaling behind the Morannon. 
  • Then they travel past the old castle of Durthang, in the valley of Udûn. Surprise, surprise: it has become yet another orc-fortress.
  • The only road travels right past it. It's a less-than-appealing route, but it'll have to do.
  • When Sam says they'll just have to stick to the road, Frodo asks his buddy to lead him there, and then Frodo lies down for a rest.
  • Sam looks at Frodo's face and sees that it is "lined and thin, and yet in sleep it looked content and unafraid" (6.2.99).
  • Sam has to leave Frodo to look for water or they'll die.
  • He finds a pool where he can refill his water-bottle, and when he looks up, he sees a flitting shadow near Frodo's hiding place. It's Gollum.
  • Gollum hears Sam coming and flits away.
  • The two hobbits have a bit of a rest before picking back up again.
  • They travel for about twelve miles along the road when they suddenly hear marching feet.
  • Time to hide. 
  • They watch companies of smaller orcs marching past, whipped along by large uruks of Mordor.
  • The slave-driving uruks spot Sam and Frodo and think they are deserting orcs, so they force Sam and Frodo into line and whip them to keep going down the road.
  • Frodo is desperately exhausted and on his last legs. He's totally sure he's going to fall.
  • Sam prepares himself at least to kill that big, slave-driving uruk before the end, if it comes down to it.
  • Then, Frodo and Sam hit a stroke of luck: they reach Udûn, where there is a huge crossroads, with a boatload of big orcs, marching from Barad-dûr.
  • The companies tussle and get confused, and in the commotion, Sam and Frodo crawl away unnoticed.
  • That would be an awesome escape, except Frodo chooses this moment to fall into a shallow pit, where he lies still. Uh oh. 

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