Study Guide

The Two Towers

The Two Towers Summary

Where last we left off the Company in The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo has finally decided to head to Mordor on his own because the Ring is working its dark magic on his buddies. Frodo's trusty companion Sam refuses to let Frodo go it alone, so the two hobbits head to Mordor together.

Aragorn, meanwhile, finds Boromir dying, and learns that the orcs have taken Merry and Pippin. Not good. Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn resolve to chase after the orcs that stole Merry and Pippin, to honor the remaining members of the fellowship. These are stand-up dudes.

After four days of running, Aragorn & Co. bump into a band of Riders of Rohan. After a brief exchange of news—Boromir and Gandalf have died, Théoden seems a little out of sorts, and Saruman is building power in Rohan—Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli continue to track the hobbits to the edge of the ancient Forest of Fangorn.

Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin are being hauled around by a bunch of bickering orcs. As the orcs spot Riders of Rohan in the distance, they stow Merry and Pippin at the outskirts of the Forest of Fangorn for safekeeping and engage in battle with the Riders, who outfight them, killing every last orc, and allowing Merry and Pippin to crawl off into the forest.

There, the two hobbits run into Treebeard, who is an Ent, or tree-herder. It turns out the orcs have been abusing the forest that is in his care, under the orders of Saruman. Treebeard thinks it's time for the Ents to step in, and he hopes to convince them to make a last stand against Isengard.

As Aragorn follows Merry and Pippin's trail, he is interrupted by an old man approaching the three soundlessly. The man throws off his cloak and (against all odds) it's Gandalf. He's shining and white, and more importantly, back from the dead. Gandalf tells his old buddies that Merry and Pippin have been rescued by the Ents of Fangorn. Sweet. Now that Merry and Pippin are safe, Gandalf tells them, they have to ride to Edoras to see a bloke named Théoden.

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf arrive at Edoras, where Théoden, King of Rohan, is under the control of his double-crossing, totally disgusting counselor Gríma Wormtongue. Assessing the situation, Gandalf quickly sends up a flash of light out of his staff, and Wormtongue sprawls on the floor at his feet. Problem solved. Théoden's head now clear, he promptly boots Wormtongue, who has been working for Saruman, out of the kingdom. It's time for Théoden to ride to Helm's Deep, to fight off Saruman's approaching army.

At the River Isen, Gandalf ditches the Rohan folks, promising he'll meet up with them at Helm's Deep the next morning. Once Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and the soldiers of Rohan arrive at Helm's Deep, the battle ensues, and things are not looking good for the human folk. They are totally outnumbered by evil orcs. At dawn, when Aragorn stands at the gates of Helm's Deep and demands that the orcs leave, they laugh. But they seem frightened, too, and soon we find out why: Gandalf's reinforcements have arrived, and with their help, the orcs are soon defeated.

After the victorious battle, Gandalf suggests that Théoden tag along to Isengard. When they arrive, they find the walls around Isengard torn down, and the land around the tower of Orthanc flooded. Sitting among the ruins are Merry and Pippin. They announce that Saruman is trapped inside the tower with Gríma Wormtongue. Treebeard is in charge of Isengard now. Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn are overjoyed to see their hobbit companions safe and sound. Apparently the Ents swarmed over Isengard, pulling down its gates and flooding the land. Go trees.

Despite this victory, it's all the more urgent that all available fighters make their way to Gondor, to defend it against Sauron, who is sure to attack soon. Gandalf takes Pippin, hops on his horse Shadowfax, and rides hard to Minas Tirith. Théoden, Aragorn, and the Riders of Rohan will follow soon after.

Now we get back to the other half of the battle against Sauron: the Ring quest. On their journey, Frodo and Sam confront Gollum (who has been following them), and make him swear to help them get to the Black Gate of Mordor. Sam, meanwhile, has noticed that Frodo seems more and more affected by the Ring. He's also suspicious of Gollum, who seems torn; his better half wants to help Frodo, while his worse half wants to lead Frodo and Sam to Her. Uh, who?

Finally, they reach the Black Gate, but just when Frodo works up his courage to approach, Gollum grabs him and insists that they go another way, through the land of Ithilien, and then up a long stair through the pass of Cirith Ungol. In Ithilien, they run into some human scouts and Gollum disappears.

The scouts are men of Gondor, and Frodo starts telling his story to Captain Faramir, their leader. Faramir pulls Frodo and Sam aside, for a secret chat about "Isildur's Bane," and then he makes some uncomfortably close guesses about Frodo's mission. He insists that he would never take the Ring from Frodo, and promises to do his best to help Frodo in his quest.

That night, Gollum reappears, having found Faramir's secret hideout. Frodo asks Faramir to have mercy on Gollum, and Faramir reluctantly agrees. He ties Gollum up instead. But Gollum is not a happy camper, and blames Frodo for his current state. Frodo explains to Faramir that Gollum is leading them into Mordor to help their mission.

Against Faramir's warnings, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum leave in the direction of Cirith Ungol. Though Sam is sure that Gollum is planning something, the trio continues up a series of stairs that lead high up in the mountains. Gollum, having reverted to his wicked self, shows them to a cave in the side of the mountain, insisting that it's the only way into Mordor. No surprise here, folks: it's a trap. There's a giant, hungry spider named Shelob (oh, so that's the "Her") waiting inside. Shmoop's Worst Nightmare.

Frodo fends off Shelob at first, but without the help of Sam (who is busy fighting Gollum), he is overcome by the spider. Sam kills Shelob, but it's too late. Frodo, wrapped in spider silk (shudder) appears to be cold and dead. Sam resolves to go on as best he can.

He takes the Ring from Frodo, and then he lays Frodo out gently, as though for burial. As he stumbles off, he hears orcs chattering about Shelob and the little fellow who worships her (Gollum). Then he hears something really horrible. Frodo isn't dead—just paralyzed. Sam sees the orcs grab Frodo and carry him to their tower as a prisoner. Poor Sam is out there on his own, but he resolves to save Frodo, whatever the cost.

  • Book 3, Chapter 1

    The Departure of Boromir

    • Attention Shmoop Readers: To keep your feet under you as we recap these madcap adventures, we recommend that you consult this map of Middle-earth.
    • The Two Towers picks up right where we left the Company at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring.
    • Aragorn traces Frodo's path to Amon Hen and back again.
    • When he hears the sound of Boromir's horn and the cries of the orcs, Aragorn runs to help Boromir, calling the name "Elendil! Elendil!" (3.1.6).
    • He finds his human comrade in a glade about a mile from Parth Galen. Boromir looks like he's just resting, but his body has arrows poking out all over. Yikes.
    • There are stacks of dead orcs around him. Well done, Boromir.
    • After Boromir confesses to Aragorn that he tried to take the Ring from Frodo, he apologizes, and tells Aragorn that Merry and Pippin have been taken by orcs. He thinks they're still alive.
    • Poor Boromir thinks he has failed, but Aragorn tells him just the opposite. He also promises that Minas Tirith, the main stronghold of Gondor, shall not fall, if he has anything to say about it.
    • Boromir smiles and dies.
    • A despairing Aragorn laments that the Company has failed, and it's all his fault.
    • Legolas and Gimli arrive to find Aragorn weeping and clasping Boromir's lifeless hand.
    • Gimli wants to follow the orcs and save their hobbit friends, but Aragorn is concerned about abandoning the Ring-bearer.
    • Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli examine the bodies of the dead orcs to find clues of where they were headed, which leads them to discover that the orcs are not from Mordor. Interesting… very interesting.
    • As it turns out, some of the orcs have an "S" on their chests: "S" for Saruman. This prompts Aragorn to realize that evil is afoot in Isengard, and that Saruman may have learned of Gandalf's death. Not good.
    • Legolas, meanwhile, tells Aragorn they only found two boats on the shore.
    • They lay Boromir in a boat with his weapons and send him down the Anduin, which flows towards his homeland of Gondor. Aragorn and the elf sing a song to mark Boromir's passing.
    • Aragorn looks at the banks of the river and realizes that Frodo and Sam left together, which is sad. But he's comforted by the fact that Frodo has Sam with him.
    • That's when he decides to follow Gimli's plan. The three of them should follow the orcs to save Merry and Pippin. He does not want to abandon them to death.
    • As they set out at a fast pace to catch up with the orcs, Aragorn is clearly feeling pumped: he cries out, "We will make such a chase as shall be accounted a marvel among the Three Kindreds: Elves, Dwarves and Men. Forth the Three Hunters!" (3.1.64).
  • Book 3, Chapter 2

    The Riders of Rohan

    • Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli travel through the night, across the wastes of Emyn Muil.
    • As they travel, they see signs of dead orcs along the way, and wonder if the orcs could have been killed by the Rohirrim, the Riders of Rohan.
    • Aragorn thinks not—the Rohirrim don't come this far from Minas Tirith. Instead, he thinks, the orcs are fighting and killing each other. These are not exactly levelheaded creatures.
    • Aragorn finds tracks leading northwest, which means the orcs are headed away from Gondor.
    • When the three travelers reach a cliff face called the East Wall of Rohan, Legolas points at the sky.
    • He spots the same black eagle that he saw flying over Sarn Gebir in The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 9.
    • But there is something closer at hand: a large company of men on the plain, about twelve leagues (or 36 miles) away.
    • Near the main trail, Aragorn finds a hobbit footprint. He also finds the brooch of one of the cloaks of Lothlórien. He totally believes Pippin must have dropped it intentionally, as a sign.
    • When night falls, they debate over whether they should stop or go on.
    • The orcs won't stop traveling at night, so they should probably keep going. But they run the risk of losing the trail in the dark.
    • So Aragorn decides that they have to stop. He and Gimli sleep, while Legolas keeps watch.
    • When Aragorn wakes just before dawn, Legolas tells him that the orcs are too far away now for him to sense them. Uh oh.
    • Aragorn throws himself to the ground and listens to the earth. This dude has serious skills.
    • He can't hear anyone walking, but he can hear the hoof beats of many horses.
    • After three nights and days of traveling, they have traveled far across the plains of Rohan.
    • Legolas fears that the orcs have already reached the Forest of Fangorn.
    • Aragorn wonders why they can't seem to catch up. Honestly, it feels as though something is slowing them down and speeding up the orcs.
    • Legolas thinks it just might be the power of Saruman, so the Three Hunters hurry along with renewed urgency.
    • They find a place where the orcs must have stopped to rest, but Aragorn is sure that was at least 36 hours ago.
    • They press on towards the Entwash River at the borders of the Forest of Fangorn.
    • The next day (the fourth day of their pursuit of the orcs), Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli see that company of riders up close and personal.
    • Aragorn does not believe that the Riders of Rohan have gone over to Sauron, because they hate orcs, too. So he announces himself once the company has almost ridden past: "What news from the North, Riders of Rohan?" (3.2.107).
    • The Riders wheel around, and the leader advances on Aragorn with his sword drawn. Not good.
    • Aragorn introduces himself as Strider; he also introduces Legolas and Gimli.
    • He explains their elvish clothing as the gifts of the Lady of Lothlórien.
    • Like Boromir, this leader of the Rohirrim (Éomer son of Éomund, Third Marshal of the Riddermark) appears suspicious of the Lady.
    • Gimli immediately gets angry in Galadriel's name, and things almost come to blows right then and there. Sometimes we really wish Gimli would just cool his jets.
    • Levelheaded Aragorn jumps in and soothes everyone's temper. He decides to use his true name: "I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor" (3.2.126).
    • Éomer is, naturally, stunned to have this figure from legend appear out of nowhere in the middle of the plains of Rohan.
    • Aragorn tells Éomer that Rohan can no longer stay neutral. The time has come for Théoden King to declare himself with Sauron or against him.
    • Aragorn wants news of the orcs they are hunting, and Éomer assures him that the orcs have been destroyed.
    • Awesome. Except—Aragorn asks if there was any sign of his little hobbit friends.
    • No dice, all Éomer and his riders found were orcs.
    • Aragorn explains that they set out from Rivendell in the company of Boromir of Gondor and Gandalf the Grey.
    • Éomer knows Gandalf, and warns Aragorn that he is not very popular in Rohan. Apparently the folks around these parts believe that he is a bringer of evil.
    • Théoden is also angry about Gandalf's theft of Shadowfax, his best horse.
    • This prompts Aragorn to tell him that Gandalf has died.
    • Éomer, at least, is sad, though he says a lot of people in Rohan won't be.
    • And Aragorn adds that Boromir has also died.
    • Éomer is amazed that all of Aragorn's news is so bad, and then he confirms that Rohan is not and shall never be allied with Sauron.
    • Their real trouble, frankly, is Saruman, who is much nearer to Rohan than Sauron. In fact, Saruman sometimes likes to walk about in the guise of an old man with a hood, which freaks everyone out (needless to say).
    • Éomer wants Aragorn to come to the king's house and help. He offers Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli spare horses if they would come to Meduseld, the hall of Théoden.
    • But Aragorn doesn't want to abandon his quest for Merry and Pippin.
    • Regretfully, Éomer explains that it's his job to arrest strangers wandering through these lands.
    • Aragorn replies that he is not a stranger. He has ridden with the Riders of Rohan before, though under another name. He even knew Éomer's father Éomund back in the day.
    • And he knows that those men would not have stopped Aragorn from going on a rescue mission.
    • So Éomer lets them go, but he asks that, once Aragorn has finished his errand, he come to Théoden to lend a hand.
    • Éomer, who turns out to be a pretty nice guy, gives Aragorn and Legolas horses to ride. Gimli rides behind Legolas, because he's not a big fan of the four-legged creatures.
    • They part with promises that the Three Hunters will come to Meduseld.
    • Then, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli travel to the Forest of Fangorn, but they can't find any traces of Merry or Pippin.
    • Gimli is now totally sure that they are dead.
    • They camp on the edges of the Fangorn for the night.
    • Gimli gathers chips of wood left from the great orc bonfire set by the Rohirrim the day before.
    • Legolas looks up at the trees and thinks they (the trees) are glad of the fire.
    • The Three Hunters start chatting about Fangorn. Apparently, it is as old as the Old Forest of the Barrow-downs and much bigger. In other words, it's ancient, and huge. There are stories of the Onodrim, also called Ents, which dwelt in Fangorn long ago, and the Old Forest and Fangorn are the last strongholds of the forests of the Elder Days.
    • Gimli, who takes first watch, sees an old, bent man. Startled, his noisemaking wakes Legolas and Aragorn, who offers the man a place by their fire.
    • But the old man disappears. Strange.
    • The moon has gone down, and it is very dark.
    • Legolas realizes that the horses have bolted. This cannot be good.
    • Gimli believes that the old man was Saruman, just like Éomer said: an old man with a hood.
    • So levelheaded Aragorn intervenes once again to point out that this old man was wearing a hat, not a hood. Gimli, you doof.
    • Aragorn takes next watch, and neither the old man nor the horses come back. Phew.
  • Book 3, Chapter 3

    The Uruk-hai

    • Elsewhere, Pippin wakes up from a dark dream. He realizes that he is tied up, with Merry lying tied next to him, and remembers what has happened:
    • He and Merry were surprised by orcs in the forest, back when they were still with the Company. The orcs didn't even try to kill them. They just wanted to catch them. Luckily, Boromir came jumping out of the forest to engage the orcs.
    • Pippin remembers that he heard Boromir sounding his horn, and after that, he thinks he was knocked on his head.
    • Back in the present, an orc nearby warns him not to struggle. If it weren't for these Isengarders, the orc tells Pippin, he would have killed him by now.
    • Seems like there is a fight going on between the orcs. The ones from the Mines of Moria want to kill the hobbits for revenge. But the orcs who come from Isengard have been told, "Kill all but NOT the Halflings; they are to be brought back ALIVE as quickly as possible" (3.3.12). The orcs in service to Sauron have gotten the same orders.
    • But then, the leader of the Isengarders (Uglúk) starts to squabble with a Mordor orc (Grishnákh) about where they should take the hobbits.
    • The fight comes to blows, and Uglúk swipes the heads off two orcs and Grishnákh disappears into the forest. Yuck.
    • Pippin uses the orcs' distraction to cut the cord around his wrist with one of the dead orcs' knives.
    • Then he lies still and pretends nothing is going on.
    • Two orcs grab Merry and Pippin and continue running. Pippin passes out until he is awakened roughly.
    • Tired of carrying them, the orcs want Merry and Pippin to keep up on their own two legs.
    • If Aragorn is tracking them, Pippin, who has managed to keep his wits about him, wants Aragorn to be able to find traces of where they have gone.
    • At a halt called by Uglúk, Pippin lets his Lothlórien brooch fall, and then an orc cruelly whips Pippin around the leg to keep him running.
    • Uglúk intervenes, to stop Pippin from getting injured too badly—for now.
    • Another fight breaks out between the Isengarders and the Northerners. Ugh. Will this ever end?
    • Uglúk tells them to run off and good riddance, if they are so afraid of humans. The Isengarders will just have to run on by themselves.
    • More than a hundred orcs from the Mines of Moria run off, but several of them return, all long-armed short orcs with a red eye painted on their shields. Still with us?
    • Grishnákh insists that he will see orders carried out, so the orcs set off running at a hard pace.
    • Uglúk and Grishnákh keep their people racing, but they are not fast enough to outrun the Riders of Rohan, who slowly circle the whole orc company.
    • Things are not looking good for these pesky orcs.
    • Pippin worries that the Riders will confuse them for orcs, and they will be killed in the fray.
    • The Riders pick off a few orcs, but they mainly refrain from attacking full out. They're probably planning on not attacking until dawn.
    • Uglúk sets three orcs to guard Merry and Pippin, with instructions absolutely not to harm them.
    • The orcs are surprised when several Riders slip off their horses and kill some orcs in hand-to-hand combat.
    • Uglúk and the hobbits' guards run off to fight, leaving Merry and Pippin alone.
    • Or so they thought. The hobbits suddenly find two arms around their shoulders: it's Grishnákh, the pro-Mordor orc.
    • Pippin realizes in a flash of intuition that Grishnákh knows about the Ring. This is so not good.
    • Pippin says he won't find it, so Grishnákh asks what Pippin means.
    • Pippin makes a noise in his throat, gollum, gollum, and adds, "Nothing, my precious" (3.3.108).
    • Grishnákh freezes. It's pretty clear that he recognizes what Pippin means.
    • Merry tells Grishnákh that, if they reach Isengard, Grishnákh won't get any of the reward, which riles Grishnákh up right quick.
    • He asks point blank if either Merry or Pippin have it.
    • Furious, he grabs the two of them, and drags them dozens of yards into the Forest to search them.
    • Then, just in the nick of time, a Rider appears in front of them, his horse rearing.
    • Grishnákh throws the hobbits to the ground and draws his sword, intending to kill his captives.
    • But the flash of his sword in the night gives the Riders something to aim at with their arrows, one of which pierces Grishnákh's right hand.
    • When Grishnákh tries to run, a Rider spears him.
    • The hobbits, meanwhile, are lying flat on the ground covered in their cloaks from Lothlórien.
    • Pippin reaches over and unties Merry, and the two of them crawl off to the edge of the river.
    • They look back, realizing that the Riders have mostly finished off the orcs. Sweet.
    • Dawn is coming, and in the growing light, Merry shows Pippin that they are walking along the Entwash River. In front of them is the end of the Misty Mountains and Fangorn Forest.
    • Lead on, Merry, says Pip.
    • The two cousins have missed the tail end of the fight between the orcs and the Riders of Rohan, so they don't know that Éomer has killed Uglúk (good on you, Éomer), nor do they see that the Riders have made a giant bonfire out of all the dead orcs. Gross.
    • Oh, and news of this orc raid doesn't make it back either to Isengard or to Mordor.
  • Book 3, Chapter 4

    Treebeard

    • Merry and Pippin hurry deep into the forest. They stop for a brief moment to assess their situation.
    • It ain't good. As they drink from the Entwash, which they have been following, they notice that the forest is dark and very still, without an animal in sight.
    • Plus, their supplies are low: they just have a few lembas cakes left; they don't even have blankets. Not good.
    • They see a yellow light in the distance and head for it, because hey, they don't exactly have a plan here.
    • Soon, they reach a bare hill, and scramble up the rock to get a view and a breath of fresh air.
    • Merry and Pippin don't even notice that their small aches and pains have been healed. Hmm. That's strange.
    • Merry does notice that the wind is changing, and Pippin says it's a shame—he almost feels as though he likes this forest.
    • A voice behind him comments wryly: "That's good! That's uncommonly kind of you" (3.4.19).
    • Then, out of nowhere, two arms turn them around and lift them up.
    • Merry and Pippin find themselves looking at a tall creature almost like a man, but more like a tree. Uh. Come again?
    • Its eyes are remarkable: it looks as though there is "an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking" (3.4.21).
    • Okay, now for a proper introduction: the creature is an Ent. In Elvish, he's known as Fangorn, but in the common tongue, folks just call him Treebeard. Sounds about right.
    • The Ent, for one, has never seen anything like Merry and Pippin. We're thinking that goes both ways.
    • He wants to know what they are so he can categorize them in his list of creatures.
    • Pippin explains that they are hobbits: "Half-grown hobbits, the hole-dwellers" (3.4.28).
    • Treebeard asks what's going on—and what is Gandalf up to? He wants to know because the rise of "young Saruman down at Isengard" (3.4.35) is really bugging him. He knows Gandalf as the only wizard who really cares about trees. Maybe he can help.
    • Unfortunately, Merry and Pippin are the bearers of bad news: Gandalf has died.
    • He tells them that many of the Ents are growing "sleepy, going tree-ish" (3.4.58). On the other hand, many of the trees are getting lively and more like the Ents.

    (Click the infographic to download.)

    • The Ents are tree-herds, and they try to keep an eye on these waking trees, which can be very dangerous to the unwary (like Old Man Willow in the Old Forest, in The Fellowship of the Ring).
    • The elves are the ones who first woke the Ents, back before the Great Darkness came (see the Silmarillion for details). But now, those elves have traveled out of Middle-earth and the forests are diminishing.
    • They reach the base of a cliff with a small hollow near a stream. This is Treebeard's home, Wellinghall, near the roots of the Last Mountain. Not too shabby, says Shmoop.
    • Treebeard offers Merry and Pippin a drink like water, but it is way more refreshing. It makes them feel like it is bringing vigor to their whole bodies. Hey, can Shmoop get a sip?
    • Treebeard asks them for their tale, so they start off with the Shire and keep going in no particular order.
    • Treebeard, for one, is interested in the Shire. He asks them if they have ever seen any Entwives in their country, because the Entwives would totally dig the Shire.
    • Merry and Pippin have no idea what he is talking about. To be fair, neither do we.
    • Then, Treebeard gets right to the point: what's going on with Saruman and Gandalf?
    • When he finds out that Uglúk and company came from Isengard, he gets downright wrathful. We're talking serious anger.
    • Apparently, the Ents try to stay neutral in these kinds of wars, but the orcs are starting to attack the forests, which is beyond uncool.
    • Treebeard knows Saruman. In fact, the two were buddies. Saruman used to come walk with the old Ent.
    • But that was before Saruman turned into a Class-A jerk. The evil wizard is even breeding orcs to be more like men. Creepy.
    • Treebeard can't take it anymore. All this harm to the forest has got to stop, so he thinks about whom he can gather to help.
    • There are not many Ents left, but the younger ones may join in the fight.
    • When Pippin asks if many of the Ents have died, Treebeard tells him that the Ents don't die at all. Over time, they can grow sleepy and tree-ish.
    • The problem is that the Entwives have disappeared, so there are no new Entings, or baby Ents (which we bet would be adorable).
    • See, the thing is, the Ents love the wild country of the forests. But the Entwives adore cultivated land: gardens and orchards (like, say, the Shire). That means they have never been able to live together.
    • Apparently, after the first war against the Great Enemy, the Entwives' gardens blossomed and they grew famous for their skill with cultivation.
    • But during the war between the Last Alliance and Sauron (in which Elendil and Isildur feature; see The Fellowship of the Ring for more on this history), the war destroyed their gardens, which are now called the Brown Lands.
    • Back then, Treebeard went to find Wandlimb, his love, but she was not there. In fact, none of the Ents have been able to find any of the Entwives, and they have grown old searching for them.
    • Treebeard takes this opportunity to sing a sad, elven song about the loss of the Entwives, and Merry and Pippin curl up to sleep to the strange lullaby.
    • The next morning, Treebeard takes the hobbits to the Entmoot, which is a gathering of Ents.
    • Treebeard takes them to a clearing walled by a tall evergreen hedge, where a small number of Ents have already gathered.
    • Merry and Pippin are surprised to see that the Ents look very different from one another, as different as different species of trees look.
    • They listen to the Entish language, which is very slow and rolling. When Pippin yawns, Treebeard turns to him and apologizes.
    • The business of the Entmoot is slow, so he sends Merry and Pippin to walk for a bit, if they'd like.
    • As they mosey around nearby, Merry describes Isengard to Pippin. There is a ring of rocks around a central tower, Orthanc.
    • Merry for one can't figure out what the Ents will do against Isengard, but he is sure that they would be intimidating if they ever set their minds against anything. Would you want to mess with a tree?
    • Merry and Pippin feel out of place among these Ents, and the poor little hobbits really miss the Company.
    • Treebeard approaches and tells them he has found them a companion: Bregalad, who "is the nearest thing among us to a hasty Ent" (3.4.133).
    • While the Entmoot goes on (the meeting lasts three whole days), Merry and Pippin wile away the hours at Bregalad's nearby home.
    • Finally, the Ents reach a decision, and with a song that sounds like pounding drums, they set off for Isengard.
    • That may have taken three days, but both Treebeard and Pippin are impressed with how quickly the Ents rallied around the cause.
    • Now, all the Ents at the Entmoot are totally and completely determined to stop Saruman's destruction of the forest. They will break Isengard down, no matter what it takes.
    • And, frankly, it might take a lot. Treebeard admits sadly that it is likely that this will be the last march of the Ents.
    • Still, they can't stay home and do nothing.
    • Pippin looks back and sees that the trees are rising up to join the Ents to march on Nan Curunír, the Valley of Saruman. Isengard or bust.
  • Book 3, Chapter 5

    The White Rider

    • Back to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Remember, our favorite trio is still out there, hunting for Merry and Pippin (who are too busy fomenting rebellion to be found at the moment).
    • The next morning, Aragorn examines their camp to see if he can find any sign of the old man that mysteriously appeared the night before.
    • But there isn't even a boot print. Weird.
    • Aragorn is also wondering what really happened to their horses. He, for one, thinks the horses weren't frightened away; they sounded like animals filled with sudden joy. Things are getting seriously strange.
    • They are all baffled by the mystery, but they have to put that aside for the time being, because it's time to continue searching the forest for their buds.
    • Aragorn sees a mallorn-leaf of Lórien with a few crumbs of lembas bread. A sign.

    (Click the infographic to download.)

    • There is also a broken knife that they might have used to cut their bonds. A really good sign.
    • He is sure that the hobbits must have stopped to eat here at some point recently. Maybe the orcs carried Merry and Pippin there?
    • It was probably night, and they would have been covered in their elven-cloaks, so the Riders would not have seen them.
    • Aragorn speculates that, "the Orcs had been commanded to capture hobbits, alive, at all costs" (3.5.17). That's totally promising, because it means that Merry and Pip are alive, somewhere in this deep, dark forest.
    • As they pass into the Fangorn, Legolas says the forest isn't evil; it's just watchful and angry (and rightfully so, we might add).
    • Gimli, though, is not at all comfortable with the Forest. Gimli, aren't we always telling you to cool your jets?
    • They track Merry and Pippin's footprints until they leave the Entwash behind. That's when Aragorn finds some very strange marks he has never seen before.
    • Uh oh. There doesn't seem to be anywhere further to go.
    • Legolas spots an old man passing from tree to tree. He approaches them soundlessly.
    • Gimli wants Legolas to shoot him ASAP, before Saruman has a chance to put a spell on them, but Legolas and Aragorn both think that's a bad idea. This is a majorly tense moment, folks.
    • The old man joins them, saying, "Well met!" (3.5.59)
    • He already knows that they are tracking hobbits, which stuns Aragorn.
    • Gimli, curmudgeon that he is, commands "Saruman" to reveal himself.
    • So the old man throws off his cloak and rags.
    • He is revealed all in shining white: Gandalf! For real, folks: Gandalf is back from the dead, so to speak.
    • What's goin' on with you guys? Gandalf asks, though in more regal words.
    • He has been getting news from Gwaihir the Windlord, the eagle who rescued him from Orthanc—Merry and Pippin were captured by the orcs, sure, but they're safe now. Oh, and he knows that the Ring has passed beyond the help of the Company.
    • Gandalf is pleased to hear that Sam seems to have gone with Frodo. At least he has one ally left.
    • When Aragorn tells Gandalf of Boromir's death, Gandalf is majorly bummed.
    • Now it's time to get the scoop from G-man.
    • He says that it has not even occurred to Sauron that they will try to destroy the Ring, so at least they've got that fact on their side.
    • So then why is Sauron being so bellicose? Apparently, Sauron is hastening into war because he thinks war is already upon him.
    • This is lucky for the Good side. It means that Sauron isn't concentrating on guarding Mordor or looking for Frodo and the Ring.
    • Instead, he's busy sending all of his forces out into Middle-earth instead, leaving himself relatively unprotected.
    • Plus, there's Saruman. Sure, he's totally evil. But he's also a traitor, to both the Good side, and to Sauron. Saruman wants the Ring for himself, after all. That's why Merry and Pippin were kept alive, and were able to make their escape.
    • (We already know this, of course, but Gandalf is clarifying for Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. And hey, we're not complaining about the refresher.)
    • All Sauron knows is that two hobbits are being carried to Isengard. He doesn't know that all the orcs have already been killed. So now he has to worry about Isengard and Minas Tirith.
    • He doesn't know that all the orcs have already been killed.
    • So now he's worried about Isengard as well as Minas Tirith.
    • There's a lot that Saruman doesn't know, too. He hasn't found out that the Nazgûl have taken winged steeds, and that there was a Nazgûl (a.k.a. a Winged Messenger) waiting on the riverbank when his orcs squabbled with the Mordor orcs. Saruman also doesn't know that his orcs found hobbits and then lost them again. Let's be honest: none of this bodes well for Saruman.
    • Gimli asks if it was Gandalf or Saruman who they saw walking in the woods last night. It wasn't Gandalf, so it must have been Saruman. Did you feel that shiver down your spine?
    • Gandalf concludes: Merry and Pippin are with the Ents of Fangorn. And they're totally safe. Excellent.
    • Even Legolas is surprised to hear that the Ents are more than a memory. Not only are they still present, Gandalf tells them, but also the Ents are angry. At last, they have rallied to defend themselves.
    • But Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli have bigger fish to fry than go hunting for hobbits among the Ents. They have got to hightail it to Rohan, where they are desperately needed in the city of Edoras. It's time for a chat with Théoden.
    • And finally, Gandalf tells his friends about how he survived in the Mines of Moria. (See The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 5.)
    • Gandalf and the Balrog fell for a long time, fighting all the while. When they hit the bottom of the abyss, the Balrog's fire was put out, but it kept on fighting. We guess those Balrogs really mean business.

    (Click the infographic to download.)

    • Finally, the Balrog tried to flee, but Gandalf caught its heel and used it to lead him back up to the secret ways of Khazad-dûm.
    • They reached the Endless Stair, which goes right up to Durin's Tower, the pinnacle of the Silvertine.
    • The Silvertine is the mountain Celebdil, one of the three Mountains of Moria (along with Caradhras and Fanuidhol). On this peak, the Balrog and Gandalf began their last battle.
    • And it was a doozy. The Balrog fell at last, but he crushed the side of the peak in his fall, dropping Gandalf into darkness. Uh oh.
    • Gandalf lay naked and alone on the mountaintop until Gwaihir the Windlord found him.
    • Gwaihir told Gandalf that he was now as light as "a swan's feather in my claw" (3.5.139). Aw, you're making him blush.
    • After Gwaihir carried Gandalf to Lothlórien, everyone's favorite wizard caught up with Galadriel and found out that he just missed the Company. Boo.
    • Galadriel then sent a warning to Aragorn: "Near is the hour when the Lost should come forth,/ And the Grey Company ride from the North/ But dark is the path appointed for thee:/ The dead watch the road that leads to the Sea" (3.5.142). Keep that one in your back pocket, folks.
    • To Legolas, she said, "Beware of the Sea!/ If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,/ Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more" (3.4.142).
    • And to Gimli (whom she calls "Lockbearer," because he has a strand of her hair), she said to be careful not to put his ax to the wrong tree. Well that's just good advice for anyone, really.
    • Gandalf finishes his story with a piercing whistle. Enter Shadowfax, his awesome, gorgeous horse. Two other horses appear: Hasufel and Arod. Those are the two horses that had disappeared the night before. They will bear Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli to Edoras, in Rohan.
    • And they're off! Through the Gap of Rohan, through which they can see the smoke rising from Isengard.
    • Edoras or bust.
  • Book 3, Chapter 6

    The King of the Golden Hall

    • They book it to Edoras for over a day, until suddenly they stop in their tracks.
    • Gandalf points to the heart of the high mountains in front of them, and asks Legolas to tell what he sees.
    • Legolas sees a green hill in the east, surrounded by a thorny fence; at the top is "a great hall of Men [...] thatched in gold" (3.6.7).
    • Sounds like Edoras. Oh, and that golden hall? That's the Meduseld.
    • Off to see Théoden King!
    • On the approach to Edoras, they ride through large mounds covered with a flower called simbelmynë—Evermind. This flower grows over graves and blooms year round.
    • The graveyard is for Théoden's ancestors. It has been in use for the past five hundred years.
    • As they pass, Aragorn speaks the poem of Eorl the Young, Théoden's first ancestor: "Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? [...] The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow" (3.6.15).
    • As they reach the gates of Edoras, a bunch of dudes in chain mail stop them. Speaking the language of Rohan, they have a rather unfriendly chat with the travelers.
    • Aragorn is totally amazed that they're being so inhospitable. They're not even using the Common Tongue, for Pete's sake, even though that's "the custom in the West" (3.6.18).
    • Apparently, they don't have a choice. Théoden is making them act this way.
    • According to his new rules, no one is welcome in Rohan except the Rohirrim and men from Mundburg, in Gondor.
    • When they see that the travelers are riding horses from Rohan, they suspect that the guests are wizards, or spies from Saruman. This is not good.
    • Hey, wait a minute, guys, says Aragorn. Where's Éomer? Did he not explain that he loaned them the horses?
    • The guard looks troubled, and says he hasn't heard a word of this.
    • Whatever, dude, says Gandalf. He commands the guard to open the gates and annouce Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli to Théoden.
    • At the door of Meduseld, Háma the Doorwarden demands that they give up their weapons.
    • As Gandalf is an old man, Háma allows him to keep his staff. Big mistake, buddy.
    • They walk into Meduseld and find an old man hunched in his throne. It's easy to see that at one point, this guy was tall and proud. But now he's barely a shell of his former self.
    • Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Théoden.
    • Gandalf tells the king that he has come back because a storm is upon Rohan.
    • Théoden, in full snark mode, gives a rather rude reply. He calls Gandalf a "herald of woe" (3.6.55) and renames him Gandalf Stormcrow.
    • A pale man on the steps near Théoden agrees. He asks why they should welcome Gandalf with this news, when Théoden's son Théodred has just been killed less than five days before by orcs?
    • This man, Gríma Wormtongue, accuses Gandalf of doing nothing but stealing Shadowfax. Gandalf has brought no men, no weapons — nothing substantial in terms of aid. So how exactly is he supposed to help, huh?
    • Baffled by their rudeness, Gandalf isn't afraid to make his disappointment known.
    • When Wormtongue manages to get in a nasty word about Galadriel, too, Gandalf basically tells Gríma to shut up about things he doesn't understand. Word.
    • Then, Gandalf raises his staff and the hall becomes dark.
    • Wormtongue whispers, "Did I not counsel you, lord, to forbid his staff? That fool, Háma, has betrayed us!" (3.6.65).
    • There is a flash like lightning, and Wormtongue sprawls on his face. Take that, ya punk.
    • Gandalf warns Théoden that he has been listening too long to forked-tongued advice. Oh snap.
    • Théoden slowly stands, and a woman rushes to his side to help him. It's his niece, Éowyn.
    • Gandalf tells Théoden to breathe in the fresh air and remember that he is not as old as he thinks.
    • So Théoden casts aside his old cane and draws himself up. Looks like Rohan's king is back in action.
    • After admitting that his dreams have been dark lately, Théoden wants to know what should be done next.
    • Luckily, Gandalf is here to help. He tells the king that step number one is to get Éomer out of jail, where Wormtongue put him.
    • As they wait for Éomer to be brought to them, Gandalf tells Théoden all about what the Company has been doing (except about the Ring. He thinks it's better to leave that part out).
    • Théoden laments for the fall of Boromir: "the young perish and the old linger, withering" (3.6.88). Wise words, Théo.
    • Here's an idea, thinks Gandalf: you'll feel stronger, Théoden, if you hold a sword.
    • A voice from the hall offers a sword. It's Éomer, out of prison.
    • When Théoden accepts the sword from kneeling Éomer, he lifts it, slashes through the air, and shouts: "Arise now, arise, Riders of Théoden!/ Dire deeds awake, dark is it eastward,/ Let horse be bridled, horn be sounded!/ Forth Eorlingas!" (3.6.97).
    • His guards immediately draw their swords and lay them at his feet. Éomer is filled with joy to see Théoden back to his old self.
    • Théoden commands Háma to bring his old sword and Wormtongue to him, while Gandalf advises Théoden to put his trust in Éomer.
    • It's time to prepare for battle against Sauron. Dun dun dun.
    • Théoden declares his willingness to go to war with the Men of the Mark, and then gives instructions for the people of Rohan to seek refuge in the mountains, in the Hold of Dunharrow.
    • Meanwhile, Háma returns, kneels, and hands Théoden his old sword, Herugrim. Wormtongue had it locked up with a lot of other things he'd stolen. The sniveling little guy takes this opportunity to grovel for forgiveness.
    • Théoden informs Wormtongue that he can redeem himself for his bad advice if he rides forth with the Mark. Yeah, like that'll happen.
    • Wormtongue is like, um, no. He suggests that he remain behind to govern the people of Rohan seeking refuge in the Hold of Dunharrow.
    • As if, dude. Gandalf, at his wits' end, asks, "How long is it since Saruman bought you?" (3.6.122). He also accuses Wormtongue of lusting after Éowyn.
    • Éomer does not like this. He's angry, too.
    • Théoden's verdict (with Gandalf's advice) is this: either Wormtongue will ride with the Mark against Saruman, or else they will give him a horse and let him go wherever he wants.
    • But if they meet again, Théoden "will not be merciful" (3.6.128).
    • Wormtongue suddenly runs away down the stairs, the coward.
    • Théoden sends his guards after Wormtongue, while Gandalf explains that Wormtongue has been feeding Saruman information all along.
    • It turns out he was the one who convinced Théoden not to send Éomer after marauding orcs.
    • Luckily, Éomer disobeyed, or Merry and Pippin would be in a pickle, that's for sure.
    • Now that that business is over with, a grateful Théoden gives Gandalf Shadowfax permanently. Now there's a gift.
    • The king's men give Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli a bunch of armor for the coming war, and Éowyn brings a cup for them to drink from before they go.
    • As he drinks from the cup, Aragorn is troubled by something he sees in Éowyn's eyes.
    • Before Théoden rides out, he names his nephew Éomer his heir, just in case he dies in battle. And when he asks who will remain behind to guard the non-fighting people of Rohan, Háma tells Théoden that the people trust in the House of Eorl.
    • Éomer's not an option; he has to go and fight.
    • But what about Éowyn, his sister? Théoden thinks that's a great idea, so he leaves Éowyn in charge.
    • Gandalf whistles and Shadowfax, who had been running wild in the fields, runs up to greet him. He leaps on the horse's back, in grand old cowboy fashion.
    • Aragorn shouts, "Behold the White Rider!" (3.6.174). Behold indeed.
    • The host of Rohan rides out behind their king and the White Rider, as Éowyn stands watching them go.
  • Book 3, Chapter 7

    Helm's Deep

    • The Riders of Rohan, with Gandalf and Co. in tow, head for Helm's Deep. The ford of the River Isen is about forty leagues (480 miles) from Edoras.
    • Try as he might, Legolas can't see far in front of them. There is some kind of magical power blocking him. The air is also growing heavier and heavier as they go along. This can't be good.
    • At the end of the second day, a lone horseman approaches named Ceorl. He asks for Éomer.
    • According to Ceorl, all the forces of Isengard are out doing mischief, and they're not just orcs. Saruman has also armed the "wild hillmen and herdfolk" (3.7.9) of Dunland.
    • All these forces have been bad news for Rohan. Erkenbrand of Westfold has gathered the troops who are left to his fortress in Helm's Deep, where they're waiting for the Edoras party to join them.
    • Sure thing, says Théoden, let's head to Helm's Deep to help. Gandalf agrees that that's the best course of action, so now it's Helm's Deep or bust.
    • Unfortunately, Gandalf has a bit too many irons in the fire at this point. The dude has got somewhere to be, so he parts ways with the riders, promising to meet up with them at Helm's Deep.
    • After riding through the night, they arrive at the fortress, which contains a central fort, called the Hornburg, surrounded by the outer Deeping Wall. It lies deep in the White Mountains, on the outer border of Rohan.
    • As they approach the fortress, they get some bad news from their scouts.
    • There are orcs and wild men on their way from Isengard to Helm's Deep. Uh oh. And to make matters worse, rumor has it that Erkenbrand never made it to Helm's Deep with his troops. Double uh oh.
    • Éomer advises that they get their butts in gear, so that they can arrive in the caverns of Helm's Deep before Saruman's reinforcements reach the orcs that have already arrived.
    • They ride hard, but Saruman's forces are close behind them, burning everything in their path as they go.
    • When the Rohan folks arrive at Helm's Deep, an old soldier, Gamling, welcomes them, assuring them that Helm's Deep has lots of supplies stored up. They're good to go for battle.
    • Even if the orcs are burning Rohan's fields, they will not have famine (so long as the soldiers at Helm's Deep survive this war, that is). Well hey, that's something.
    • Éomer sets his men to their posts.
    • Gimli, for one, is happy to be fighting once more on hard rock. He understands this terrain. And hey, he won't have to ride any more horses.
    • They wait out the night as hundreds and hundreds of Saruman's troops come pouring into the valley. Shmoop's guessing they're not feeling too confident.
    • The enemy pushes forward and the archers of Rohan get busy trying to push them back.
    • Aragorn and Éomer rush into battle at the Deeping Wall, fighting their way through the orcs back to the gates of the Hornburg. Take that, you evil jerks.
    • Éomer is almost killed until Gimli unexpectedly leaps in and saves him.
    • Legolas and Gimli fight tirelessly. These are definitely dudes you want on your team. They even have a competition going on total number of orcs slain. (Guess who's winning.)
    • The men of Rohan (plus Aragorn and Co.) fight through the day and night, but they are horribly outnumbered.
    • To make matters worse, some of Saruman's troops creep under the wall and use "the fire of Orthanc" (3.7.110) to blast a hole through which the orcs stream.
    • With Aragorn's strength, all the troops behind the wall who can make it back to the Hornburg do.
    • Inside the fortress, Aragorn finds Legolas, but not Gimli or Éomer.
    • Needless to say, things are not going well. Not well at all.
    • Even Théoden is starting to lose faith. Helm's Deep has never fallen to an enemy, but "how shall any tower withstand such numbers and such reckless hate?" (3.7.134). That's a really good question, Théo.
    • Here's an idea: Aragorn and Théoden decide to ride together around the edge of the Hornburg, keeping up morale and helping where they can.
    • Then, at dawn, Aragorn stands at the gates. He's flat out determined as he warns the orcs to leave. Helm's Deep has never been taken, and it's not about to happen this time either.
    • The orcs are frightened by his kingly air, but they still laugh and jeer. Oh, real mature, guys.
    • The orcs break through the gate where Aragorn is standing, and he runs back to the king's tower.
    • But just as the orcs have this great success, a horn rings out from behind them.
    • A horn also blasts out from the Deep, and Théoden King rides forth from the Hornburg with Aragorn at his side.
    • Suddenly, the orcs lose their nerve. In the light of the dawn, they see that the land itself has changed, and they are surrounded by a dense forest. There's some seriously powerful magic going on here.
    • Out of the forest comes "their final doom" (3.7.157). What's that, you ask?
    • Well, reinforcements have come from the hills: the White Rider, Gandalf, has come with Erkenbrand and a thousand soldiers on foot.
    • The hosts of Isengard are caught between Théoden in front of them and Erkenbrand behind. Those that manage to escape rush into the trees, but they disappear forever. This forest is not your average forest, it seems.
    • Oh, and the ever curious Legolas wants to go and look at these magic trees. But that'll have to wait, dude.
  • Book 3, Chapter 8

    The Road to Isengard

    • Victory is sweet. Théoden goes to greet Gandalf, along with Aragorn and Legolas. They also reunite with Gimli, Éomer, and Gamling, who all survived the battle. Aw, the gang's all together again.
    • Éomer asks how Gandalf managed to bring all these trees here, but Gandalf swears he had nothing to do with it. It's just a stroke of awesome luck.
    • But on to business: Gandalf wants to go at once to Isengard.
    • That's nuts! exclaims Théoden (in so many words). They have nowhere near the number of troops they need to just breeze into Isengard.
    • But Gandalf has his mind made up. He's going, no matter what.
    • Théoden decides that he will trust Gandalf: "I will come with you, if that is your counsel" (3.8.20).
    • They decide to rest for the day and set off in the evening. Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn agree to tag along, of course.
    • As they ride off, all the men, women, and children who had been sheltering in the caverns of Helm's Deep come pouring out singing songs of victory.
    • They ride through the new (and rather forbidding) forest that has collected around Helm's Deep.
    • Legolas seems quite taken with the forest. He senses that the trees come "from the deep dales of Fangorn" (3.8.46). Seriously, what is with this dude and trees?
    • For his part, Gimli is in love with the caves of Helm's Deep (which are called the Glittering Caves of Anglarond). Well, we all knew that Gimli loved rocks, so we guess that's no surprise.
    • Legolas and Gimli make a promise that, if they both survive the war, Legolas will go with Gimli to Helm's Deep and Gimli will go with Legolas to Fangorn. Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you, the Bert and Ernie of The Two Towers.
    • At last, they emerge from this strange forest.
    • As they leave the cover of the trees, Legolas freaks: he sees eyes among the trees.
    • Suddenly, three great shapes, like trolls but not, you know, horrible, emerge from the trees.
    • Gandalf tells everyone not to panic: it's fine; they are just herdsmen. Whatmen?
    • Théoden asks the question everyone must be thinking: but what are they herding?
    • Gandalf patiently explains what we already know: these are Ents.
    • He reminds Théoden that the people of Rohan call Fangorn Entwood—did he think that was just a coincidence?
    • At last, they arrive at the River Isen, which seems almost drained of water entirely. That's strange.
    • Beyond the river, there is a mound piled with rocks and covered with a bunch of spears. This turns out to be a grave for the Riders of Rohan who fell in battle with the forces of Isengard before the Battle of Helm's Deep.
    • Gandalf was one of the people who helped build it, but he wasn't the only one.
    • Still, he will not say more about who his helpers are. Come on Gandalf, why must you be so mysterious all the time?
    • When they reach the foot of the Misty Mountains and the vale of Nan Curuní, they see billows of smoke rising from the Wizard's Vale.
    • Late in the night, the watchmen see darkness spreading towards them going north.
    • Gandalf tells them not to worry, and to draw no weapons.
    • They hear "whisperings and groanings and an endless rustling sigh" (3.8.97)—uh oh—but the darkness passes eventually.
    • Back in Helm's Deep, the same thing happens through the night. What's this all about?
    • The next morning, the people emerge to see that the orc carcasses are all gone from the battlefield—and so are the trees. Sweet. That sure made clean up easy.
    • The hill where the trees had stood has always been bare since then, and it is called the Death Down.
    • Meanwhile the River Isen suddenly begins bubbling as usual.
    • Orthanc has been a strong place, without a trace of green, but it is also just a pale imitation of Barad-dûr, that "furnace of great power" (3.8.107) in Mordor.
    • When Théoden and the rest arrive at the once-strong Orthanc, they find that the gates have been pulled down and there is water lapping right at the walls of the tower. Looks like Isengard isn't so powerful anymore.
    • But the strangest thing of all is that they see two small figures sitting on a rock among the rubble. One is asleep, and the other seems to be smoking.
    • Théoden and Éomer stare in amazement.
    • The figure who had been smoking leaps up and says, "Welcome, my lords, to Isengard! [...] We are the doorwardens, Meriadoc, son of Saradoc is my name; and my companion, who, alas! is overcome with weariness [...] is Peregrin, son of Paladin, of the house of Took" (3.8.118).
    • Merry tells the crew that Saruman is inside with Wormtongue.
    • Gandalf laughs and asks who commanded them to watch the doors.
    • It was Treebeard; he's now in charge of Isengard.
    • Gimli jumps in and asks why they have no words for their old friends, Legolas and Gimli?
    • Gimli could not be more surprised to see these two "woolly-footed and wool-pated truants" (3.8.118). We're betting he's more than just surprised, though. He's probably downright ecstatic.
    • Théoden realizes that these two must be the lost members of their Company.
    • He asks if they are Halflings, or what the people of Rohan call "Holbytlan" (3.8.122).
    • Pippin offers: "Hobbits, if you please, lord" (3.8.123).
    • Merry starts giving a history of hobbit pipe-smoking, to which no one pays much attention.
    • Gandalf warns Théoden that hobbits can talk about Shire affairs no matter where they are—even on the edge of a ruin.
    • Anyway, the hobbits aren't the only guards. There are also Ents surrounding the tower.
    • Merry has a message: if Gandalf and Théoden ride to the north wall, they will find Treebeard waiting for them.
    • Pippin mutters to Merry as they go: "So that is the King of Rohan! [...] A fine old fellow. Very polite" (3.8.139).
  • Book 3, Chapter 9

    Flotsam and Jetsam

    • While Gandalf and Théoden are off talking to Treebeard, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli remain behind to chat it up with Merry and Pippin.
    • The hobbits lead the way to lunch (of course).
    • Gimli notices that Merry and Pippin are in the bloom of health. In fact, they seem to have grown somewhat. Legolas agrees: they must have drunk the waters of the Ents.

    (Click the infographic to download.)

    • Merry and Pippin have found a barrel of Longbottom Leaf in Saruman's stores. It's pipe-weed straight from the Shire.
    • Merry and Pippin have no idea how it got here, but they share it with Gimli.
    • They settle in outside for a smoke and a good talk. They seem to be having the time of their lives.
    • It is now March 5th.
    • Once Aragorn returns the two sheathed knives and the brooch from Pippin's Lothlórien cloak, the hobbits start their tale:
    • After beginning with Boromir's fall, they skim briefly over their time with the orcs because it is too painful to recall.
    • Five nights before, the Ents were roused to come to Isengard (props to Treebeard).
    • As they walked, they sang a song: "Though Isengard be strong and hard, as cold as stone and bare as bone,/ We go, we go, we go to war, to hew the stone and break the door!" (3.9.60).
    • They arrived at Nan Curunír, where Merry realized that the trees were moving behind them.
    • These are the Huorns—the Ents that have grown tree-ish.
    • When they reached Isengard, they stood quietly, watching as Saruman sent all of his troops marching away, in the hopes of finishing off the Riders of Rohan in one blow. There were ten thousand troops at least.
    • As soon as the gates shut behind them, the Huorns began to move south, following the orcs.
    • But the Ents stayed behind to deal with Isengard.
    • Treebeard hammered on the door, calling for Saruman.
    • All he got in reply were a few arrows. Well that's no way to have a conversation.
    • He was so angry that the Ents started to pull down the gates, with a "clang-bang, crash-crack" (3.9.72). Seriously, Saruman, you should know not to mess with Ents.
    • When the Ents broke down the southern gate, Saruman fled back into his tower, where he used some of his machinery to burn several of the Ents.
    • Treebeard raised his voice to get silence, to stop the furious Ents throwing themselves pointlessly against the indestructible walls of Orthanc.
    • So they decided to keep a watch on the tower, but they did not show themselves to Saruman.
    • Merry and Pippin spent the day looking around the tower, and saw Ents digging these big old pits.
    • Treebeard explained that their plan is to flood the place temporarily by diverting the waters of the Isen. They want to clean away the filth of Saruman.
    • Suddenly, a rider appeared: it was Gandalf. We're betting Merry and Pip were pumped to see him.
    • But Gandalf had more urgent business than reunions on his mind. He wanted to see Treebeard at once.
    • Gandalf consulted with Treebeard about the problem of 10,000 orcs descending on Helm's Deep that he had to deal with.
    • That's when Treebeard sent the Huorns to help. Oh, so that's what devoured all the fleeing orcs at the end of the battle.
    • Then, the waters of the Isen came rushing into Wizard's Vale.
    • It sent up great clouds of vapor as it quenched all the fires of Saruman's evil industries.
    • After washing away Saruman's works, the Ents returned the Isen to its riverbed, and since then, the water has been draining away into underground caverns.
    • Awesome, right? Gimli asks about Wormtongue.
    • Pippin tells them that Wormtongue arrived just that morning, and apparently, when he saw the wreckage of Isengard, his face went green. Ha.
    • When he clapped his eyes on Treebeard, he almost rode off, but Treebeard caught him just in time. He plucked the sniveling little jerk right off his horse and told him to go join his master, Saruman.
    • Meanwhile, Aragorn is still troubled by the news of the hobbits finding the Longbottom Leaf. There has never been any trade between Rohan and the Shire, so what's it doing there?
    • But, having much bigger fish to fry, he puts the thought out of his mind. It's not like Saruman can do any more damage, can he?
  • Book 3, Chapter 10

    The Voice of Saruman

    • Gandalf and Théoden are returning from their powwow with Treebeard, and Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, Merry, and Pippin go to meet them. Aw, the fellowship is (almost) back together.
    • Gandalf has a last task, and in order to complete it, he needs a tête-à-tête with his former wizarding buddy.
    • He rides up to Orthanc with his friends, and knocks on the door of the tower, nice and polite.
    • Gríma Wormtongue asks what they want from a window above their heads, but Gandalf just tells him to go away.
    • Suddenly, Saruman's beautiful and compelling voice speaks out: "Why must you disturb my rest? Will you give me no peace at all by night or day?" (3.10.27). Really, dude, you want peace?
    • Then, he addresses Théoden directly, using his marvelous voice to enchant the Riders of Rohan with empty words about making peace with Théoden.
    • Gimli to the rescue! He breaks in and says they shouldn't stand here amazed at the words of an old liar.
    • Théoden, on the other hand, does not say a word.
    • When Éomer asks Théoden, "will you parley with this dealer in treachery and murder? Remember Théodred at the Fords, and the grave of Háma in Helm's Deep!" (3.10.34), Saruman turns on Éomer and tells him not to interfere.
    • Ah, but it's much too late. Théoden rejects Saruman's call for peace, reminding him that his war on Rohan was not just.
    • Of course, this really ticks Saruman off, so he starts insulting Rohan. Way to be mature.
    • Then he turns on Gandalf, inviting him up into Orthanc to share Saruman's valuable counsel.
    • Gandalf, cool dude that he is, just laughs at the idea that he needs Saruman's advice.
    • Instead, he suggests that Saruman come downstairs, now that Isengard has fallen. Gandalf will even allow Saruman to leave freely and go where he wants.
    • Of course, he will have to hand over his staff and the Key of Orthanc.
    • Stubborn Saruman scoffs and turns away, but Gandalf calls him back.
    • He officially casts Saruman out of the Council of the Wise and snaps his staff from a distance—it cracks in Saruman's hand. Looks like the guy gets what he deserves.
    • As Saruman goes back inside, something heavy comes flying out of the tower towards Gandalf.
    • It bounces on the ground and rolls into a nearby pool.
    • Pippin goes to rescue it, while Gandalf guesses that whatever it is was thrown by Wormtongue.
    • He has another guess, too: it is probably Orthanc's most precious treasure. But unfortunately, he won't tell us what that treasure is just yet. Always so mysterious, he is.
    • At last, everyone finally has the pleasure of meeting Treebeard.
    • The jolly old Ent welcomes Legolas, in particular, suggesting that he come to Fangorn ASAP if he wants to see the great forest.
    • For now, Gandalf says they have to hurry back to Edoras.
    • Gandalf also wants to bring Merry and Pippin, even though Treebeard will miss them.
    • Merry and Pippin say a warm farewell to Treebeard, and Gandalf reminds him that Saruman can't be allowed to escape.
    • Treebeard agrees that the Ents will watch him "until seven times the years in which he tormented us have passed" (3.10.87). Shmoopers, that's a very long time.
  • Book 3, Chapter 11

    The Palantír

    • As the sun sets, the travelers split from Isengard. They ride for a few hours before camping for the night on the flatlands at the base of Dol Baran, which is near the Gap of Rohan.
    • Merry is sleepy, but for some reason, Pippin just cannot get comfortable, so the two of them stay awake, chatting about Gandalf.
    • Now that the old wizard is back from the dead, he seems different. Before, Saruman was Gandalf's superior, but now he's even stronger.
    • But that's not what's bothering Pip. No, he's distracted by that glass ball that got chucked out of the tower of Orthanc.
    • Curious, as usual, he wants to look at it. Practical Merry tells him to wait until morning.
    • Pippin lies still, but he still can't sleep because "the thought of the dark globe seemed to grow stronger" (3.11.35).
    • Finally, Pippin can't take it anymore. Oh no.
    • He sneaks over to Gandalf and slips the thing out of his hand. This is such a bad idea.
    • Pippin looks into the glass ball, and suddenly, it glows with fire, holding him.
    • When it stops spinning and burning, Pippin gives a cry and falls over. Buddy, you really should have listened to your cousin.
    • Gandalf wakes him and asks Pippin what he sees. But the poor hobbit is too traumatized to answer.
    • After Gandalf insists, Pip tells him that he saw a dark sky and tall towers. Nine things with wings wheeled into view. They seemed to fly out of the glass ball.
    • Then, Sauron came. Dun dun dun.
    • The Big Bad wanted to know who Pippin is. Even though he tried his hardest not to answer, he couldn't resist; he told Sauron that he's a hobbit.
    • Sauron's response? Laughter.
    • He says, "We shall meet again soon. Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him. I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!" (3.11.55).
    • Gandalf smiles at this news and says Pippin has been saved by good luck. Apparently, Sauron might have gotten more information out of him if he hadn't jumped to conclusions and gloated so much.
    • Gandalf then hands the glass ball over to Aragorn, who agrees to take it, since it is "the palantír of Orthanc from the treasury of Elendil, set here by the Kings of Gondor" (3.11.64).
    • Impressed by this declaration, Gandalf kneels in front of Aragorn to present the palantír to him.
    • Even though we were dreading Pippin's curiosity getting the better of him, Gandalf admits that Pippin may accidentally have saved them all.
    • See, Gandalf was planning to look into the palantír himself, which would have revealed to Sauron the fact that he is still very much alive. But Gandalf really wants to keep that a secret for the time being. It's better Sauron think he met his doom in Moria.
    • Now, speed is of the essence.
    • Gandalf decides to ride ahead, and he brings Pippin with him to keep the hobbit's mind busy and out of trouble.
    • Théoden and the rest of the Company (including Merry) have to book it back to Helm's Deep.
    • A Nazgûl (in its Winged Messenger role as a spy for Mordor) flies overhead, which makes things all the more urgent, so Gandalf races off with Pippin, who admires Shadowfax's speed.
    • As they ride, Gandalf talks a bit more about the palantíri. There are seven, and they were made initially by the Noldor of Eldamar (Westernesse)—perhaps by master craftsman Fëanor.
    • The palintirí belonged to the House of Elendil.
    • Because each of them could communicate with the others, they were placed in strategic locations throughout the kingdom of the North.
    • Gandalf thinks Sauron probably found his palintír in the ruined tower of Minas Ithil, which is now called Minas Morgul and is an evil place.
    • Saruman kept his palintír a secret, using it to delve closer and closer to Sauron, until Sauron finally noticed Saruman and caught his mind, turning it bad.
    • Pippin then asks where the Nazgûl came from—was it coming to fetch Pippin for Sauron?
    • No, that's impossible, Gandalf assures him. News can't have reached the Nazgûl that quickly.
    • It is more likely that Sauron sent that messenger to Saruman to find out why he hasn't been in communication.
    • That means Saruman is in a real pickle, because his boss is getting antsy (and probably a little angry, too).
    • Now, Gandalf is concerned that Saruman will spill the beans that Gandalf was at Orthanc, with hobbits in his company and Aragorn, son of Arathorn, at his side.
    • That's why they have to move quickly to Gondor, so that they can prepare for war, which will probably come sooner rather than later.
  • Book 4, Chapter 1

    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.
  • Book 4, Chapter 2

    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.
  • Book 4, Chapter 3

    The Black Gate is Closed

    • Destination reached. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum finally arrive at Cirith Gorgor, the Haunted Pass into the land of Mordor.
    • To the west is the range of Ephel Dúath, the Mountains of Shadow, and to the north is the range of Ered Lithui.
    • Sauron has built ramparts across Cirith Gorgor, from cliff to cliff, and each cliff has a tower. They're called the Teeth of Mordor (gross), and they're filled with orcs (double gross).

    (Click the infographic to download.)

    • It turns out these towers were actually built by the Men of Gondor, but they've long been used as watchtowers for Sauron.
    • There is only one gate through this mountain pass, Morannon, and it is patrolled by evil sentries. Of course.
    • Frodo and Sam are plumb out of ideas about how to get past them. They just sit there and stare, at a loss of what to do.
    • When the sun rises, they see the changing of the guards and hear drums and horns from Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower.
    • Now's their chance. Frodo books it for the Black Gate.
    • But Gollum stops him in his tracks.
    • He says that, if Frodo goes that way, the Ring will be found and taken straight to "the Black Hand" (4.3.19)—Sauron.
    • Lucky for them, Gollum knows another way, a secret way.
    • Worrying that Frodo is too softhearted to realize Gollum's treachery, Sam is understandably leery of this plan.
    • As Frodo watches the pass of Cirith Gorgor, he sees an enormous army of men marching through the gates, and realizes that they are all in cahoots with Sauron. These masses have come to Mordor to prepare for war.
    • Frodo turns to Gollum and says that they have to trust him.
    • But Frodo warns Gollum again that he swore an oath on the Ring, and the Ring will twist that oath to its own purposes.
    • But Gollum knows what he's doing. He explains the road he is talking about: if you travel towards the mountains of Ephel Dúath and turn west, there is a "crossing in a circle of dark trees" (4.3.29). Sounds… promising?
    • On the right, the road goes down to the ruined city of Osgiliath and the bridges of the River Anduin.
    • The middle road goes south for miles and miles, until it reaches the sea far to the south.
    • The third road to the left goes down into an old, dark fortress, which was once a fortress of Gondor: the Tower of the Moon, Minas Ithil, built by Isildur.
    • Now, it's swarming with orcs. Gee, Gollum, that sounds like a great plan.
    • But according to the creature, it is the most passable option for getting past the mountains and further into Mordor.
    • The mountains are lower there, see, and the Plains of Gorgoroth are just on the other side, so Gollum promises that, while this way is still crawling with enemies, Sauron will not expect anyone to come through there. Hmm. He's starting to make sense.
    • Sauron is only worried about big armies, and they will not appear from the west, from the lands Sauron has already conquered.
    • Plus, Gollum has gone this way before, up a long, narrow stairway to a dark tunnel and a path above the main pass of Cirith Gorgor.
    • Frodo asks if it is guarded, and if Gollum was allowed to escape Mordor for some evil purpose.
    • Gollum says he escaped fair and square. We're not so sure about that.
    • Sauron wanted Gollum to find the Ring, but Gollum has only been tracking the Ring for his own sake.
    • Once again, Gollum says, hey, there are enemies, sure, but it's still the best way to go.
    • Just at this moment, far away, Gandalf is confronting Saruman, and Wormtongue is throwing the palantír out of Orthanc.
    • Gandalf could have told Frodo and Sam that the fortress's name is now Cirith Ungol, "a name of dreadful rumour" (4.3.58). But Gandalf is far away, and Frodo has no guidance, so he's going to have to figure this one out for himself.
    • He sits brooding for a long time, until suddenly he feels a great fear, as though he is in the presence of the Black Riders.
    • They feel far away.
    • Frodo looks up and sees four dark, winged creatures hurrying back to Mordor in the distance.
    • And then there is a new surprise: singing and shouting, coming from a troop of soldiers moving nearby.
    • Time to hide.
    • Gollum sneaks off and then reports back: "They are fierce [...] Not nice; very cruel wicked Men they look. Almost as bad as Orcs, and much bigger" (4.3.68).
    • Yep, it's just more soldiers on their way to join Sauron in Mordor.
    • Sam wants to know if there are Oliphaunts, and then he proceeds to recite a rhyme about them.
    • He has heard that men in the south use these giant creatures as beasts of burden.
    • Gollum hasn't seen any.
    • Frodo laughs to hear Sam reciting old Shire songs, and, his mood lifted, he decides that they will take Gollum's secret way.
  • Book 4, Chapter 4

    Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

    • Gollum is excited that they will be at the River Anduin soon. That means more water and more food.
    • The hobbits' hearts start to rise as the ruined land shifts to a (still barren but slightly healthier) heath, covered in shrubs.
    • Still, they can't forget that they're in dire straits and serious danger. This is no fun hike through the woods.
    • The road guides them down below the Morannon, back into the wild, and they pass through the country of Ithilien.
    • Spring is in the air, and they stop for a rest, allowing themselves to forget the horrors of Mordor for a time.
    • Sam is feeling all right for once, so he starts to think about food. He decides to ask Gollum to find some.
    • Gollum agrees, and disappears into the bushes, just as Sam notices that Frodo has fallen asleep.
    • When Gollum returns to camp, he also looks at sleeping Frodo for a few minutes before going off and muttering to himself.
    • Well, at least he brought back some rabbits.
    • His food-finding success prompts Sam to ask Gollum a second favor: how about some water, buddy?
    • Then he starts skinning the rabbits and preparing to make a fire.
    • Gollum flips out. A fire is a Bad Idea because it will alert their enemies to their whereabouts. Plus, why in the world would you want to cook rabbits in the first place? They're young and soft.
    • Sam replies, "Our bread chokes you, and raw coney chokes me" (4.4.38)—"coney," of course, meaning "rabbit." We have to side with Sam on this one.
    • Sam asks if Gollum can bring him some bay leaves, thyme, and sage.
    • A very angry Gollum flatly refuses, so Sam picks his own herbs.
    • Sam watches over the rabbit stew until Frodo wakes up.
    • This rabbit stew with a bit of lembas bread seems like a feast to the two hobbits.

    (Click the infographic to download.)

    • But Sam warns Frodo: "I don't feel too sure of [Gollum]... We don't see eye to eye, and he's not pleased with Sam, O no precious, not pleased at all" (4.4.57).
    • When Sam goes to the river to rinse his cooking gear, he realizes that their little fire is actually extremely visible, so he stamps it out.
    • But it's too late. He hears voices of men coming closer.
    • There are four armed men, in green and brown clothes to camouflage with the landscape.
    • They look at Frodo and Sam and are utterly confused: "Not Orcs [...] Elves?" (4.4.67-9).
    • The leader of the men introduces himself as Captain Faramir, and then asks about the third member of their party: "the skulking fellow" with an "ill-favoured look" (4.4.76). Could he be an orc spy?
    • Frodo replies that he doesn't know where he is, but that Faramir shouldn't kill him. Sure, he's wretched, but he is bound to Frodo.
    • Time to return the introduction. Frodo explains who he and Sam are, and tells Faramir that they have come from Rivendell.
    • Frodo continues, "Seven companions we had: one we lost at Moria, the others we left at Parth Galen above Rauros: two of my kin, a Dwarf there was also, and an Elf, and two Men. They were Aragorn; and Boromir, who said that he came out of Minas Tirith, a city in the South" (4.4.77).
    • Frodo asks if Faramir knows the riddle Boromir brought to Rivendell with him: "Seek for the Sword that was Broken./ In Imladris it dwells" (4.4.80).
    • You see, explains Frodo, Aragorn is the bearer of the Sword that was Broken.
    • And he and Sam are the Halflings the rhyme speaks of (for the full rhyme, see The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 2).
    • Well this is all very interesting to Faramir, who asks if Frodo knows what Isildur's Bane is, which Boromir set out from Gondor to find.
    • Frodo brings an end to this cryptic conversation by assuring Faramir that it has been hidden.
    • Faramir warns Frodo that there will be fighting before the day is out, so he leaves Frodo and Sam with two guards, Mablung and Damrod.
    • Their main job is to pick off as many enemies as they can, using ambushes and guerilla-style tactics.
    • Usually, they don't come this far from the river, but they are on a mission to attack the Southrons using the old roads built by Gondor to join Sauron.
    • As they wait around for things to happen, Sam dozes off, only to wake to the sounds of battle. Sam goes over to stand with the guards and watch the fight. He has never seen a war between humans, and he finds it, well, horrifying.
    • The upside is that he finally gets to see an Oliphaunt, which the Southrons are using as a beast of burden. It is huge. We're talking gigantic.
    • Sam comments, "So there are Oliphaunts, and I have seen one. What a life! But no one at home will ever believe me" (4.4.103).
    • To this, Mablung says that they can sleep for now, but Faramir will be back soon.
  • Book 4, Chapter 5

    The Window on the West

    • When Sam wakes up, he sees that Faramir has come back with between two hundred and three hundred men, and he's having a chat with Frodo.
    • Sam soon realizes that Faramir doesn't believe Frodo's account of himself. (Can you blame him?)
    • He presses Frodo repeatedly about what, exactly, Isildur's Bane is, and what it has to do with Boromir.
    • Frodo says it's not his; in fact, it doesn't belong to any mortal except maybe Aragorn.
    • When Faramir finds out that Aragorn is an heir to Elendil through the line of Isildur, there is a lot of murmuring among his men.
    • Here's the deal, Faramir. Frodo breaks it down: if he's against Sauron, he shouldn't try to stop Frodo on his quest. It's as simple as that.
    • After all, Boromir was satisfied with Aragorn's claim to the throne and Frodo's own quest.
    • But Faramir is not satisfied with so little information.
    • He asks, "Then you would grieve to learn that Boromir is dead?" (4.5.15).
    • Of course Frodo would, he answers, but now he is confused: is Boromir dead?
    • Frodo wonders how Faramir can have come by this news, if the Company has yet to arrive in Minas Tirith. As far as Frodo knows, Boromir is alive and well, and with the others.
    • Sam jumps in, annoyed at Faramir's tone towards Frodo. He demands that Faramir clarify if he thinks Frodo murdered Boromir.
    • Oh hush, Sam. Faramir turns back to Frodo.
    • Then he delivers this punch to the gut: he knows that Boromir is dead because Boromir is his brother.
    • Eleven days before, Faramir heard the distant call of a horn from the north. The sound was familiar because the horn was an heirloom of his and Boromir's house.
    • On the third night after this omen, he was sitting by the Anduin River when he saw a grey boat floating by.
    • Not a soul was steering it, and it glowed with a pale light, headed toward Faramir.
    • There was a warrior lying on it, with a broken sword on his knee.
    • Faramir recognized at once that it was Boromir, dead, and the only thing he did not have with him was his horn.
    • That's evidence enough for Frodo. Boromir must really be gone, which is further confirmed when Faramir describes the golden belt he found on Boromir's body. It was the gift from the Lady of Lothlórien (see The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 8).
    • Amazed that Frodo has passed through Lórien, Faramir tells him, "Laurelindórenan it was named of old, but long now it has lain beyond the knowledge of Men" (4.5.35).
    • But it seems impossible to both of them that a boat with Boromir's body could have passed the hill of Tol Brandir and the Falls of Rauros (see The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 10).
    • The horn of Gondor, it turns out, washed ashore on the edges of the River Entwash, where some men of Gondor found it and brought it to Denethor.
    • This news makes Frodo worry that all the rest of the Company has also been slaughtered.
    • But there are more pressing matters at hand. Faramir wants Frodo and Sam to come with him south for the night; he will decide what to do with them in the morning.
    • As they walk, Faramir takes Frodo and Sam aside for a secret talk about Isildur's Bane.
    • Faramir has pieced together that Boromir wanted to bring this thing, whatever it is, to Minas Tirith. He and Faramir are men of Númenor, though they do not descend from Elendil.
    • Their ancestor is the steward Mardil, who ruled in the king's place after the last King of Gondor, King Eärnur, went to war and never came back.
    • As a boy, Boromir used to wonder, "How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?" (4.5.60).
    • So clearly, pride was a bit of an issue for Boromir—an issue that, Faramir recognizes, probably led Boromir astray in the matter of Isildur's Bane.
    • Gondor has a lot of lore, which is what brought the Grey Pilgrim to them researching Isildur's Bane and the Battle of Dagorlad (that last battle, when Isildur cut the Ring off Sauron's hand).
    • When Frodo hears that "the Grey Pilgrim" is Gandalf, he has to tell Faramir that Gandalf fell into darkness in Moria.
    • This prompts Faramir to ask, do you have any good news? Clearly, buddy, the answer is no.
    • But Faramir continues, "What in truth this [Isildur's Bane] is I cannot yet guess; but some heirloom of power and peril it must be. A fell weapon, perchance, devised by the Dark Lord" (4.5.71). Yep, that sounds about right.
    • He assures Frodo that he would never take this thing in a million years. He's not into victory. He just wants to see Minas Tirith restored to its original greatness as Minas Anor, the old center of the Kingdom of Gondor: "full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens" (4.5.74).
    • During all of this, Sam has been listening but keeping his mouth shut tight. Looking behind them, he sees a shadow that looks like Gollum.
    • When they reach a certain point on their march, Faramir asks for permission to blindfold them so they do not see the secret way to his men's hideout.
    • Frodo and Sam agree, and they walk a mile with their eyes covered, passing under a thin waterfall at one point.
    • On the other side, Faramir orders them un-blindfolded.
    • They are in a cave sheltered by the "Window of the Sunset, Henneth Annûn, fairest of all the falls of Ithilien" (4.5.88). Through the water, the sun casts a rainbow of beautiful light.
    • Faramir leads them deeper into the cave, where there is a low platform for them to sleep if they want.
    • Then Faramir hears news from his men.
    • One of them, Anborn, tells Faramir that they have been followed by an odd, nimble shadow. (Uh, that's probably Gollum right?)
    • Sam refuses to sleep, because he does not trust these men, but Frodo crashes hard.
    • Once dinner is ready, they eat, and after supper, Faramir asks Frodo to speak to him a bit more about his travels, so the hobbit tells the human all about Gandalf and Boromir.
    • And then Frodo asks for news of Minas Tirith during this long war.
    • Faramir's perspective on the matter is dark: if the sword of Elendil comes back to Minas Tirith, that will help give his people hope. But the hope won't last for long unless they get some real reinforcements.
    • The blood of the Men of Númenor is thinning. Apparently the kings gave themselves over to secret sciences and lofty thoughts rather than to having sons. Bad move.
    • The stewards have been luckier. They made peace with the Rohirrim and gave them the fields of Calenardhon, now called Rohan.
    • According to Faramir, the men of Rohan have always been true allies of Gondor.
    • Faramir explains that the Gondorians have three classifications for men:
    • (1) High, a.k.a. Men of the West, the Númenoreans;
    • (2) the Middle Peoples, Men of the Twilight, e.g. the Rohirrim; and
    • (3) the Wild, the Men of Darkness (e.g. the Dunlanders).
    • But as time has passed, the men of Gondor have become more and more like the Men of Twilight.
    • That's why Boromir, who was a great warrior, seemed like the greatest man in Gondor (even though he may have lacked other important qualities like humility).
    • Sam asks why Faramir doesn't mention the elves.
    • Faramir admits that he doesn't know too much about them, but in the old days, the Men of Númenor were very close to elves.
    • Now, men and elves grow further and further apart, and men have even begun to think of elves as dangerous.
    • This prompts Sam to try to describe Galadriel to Faramir. He thinks the idea that Lothlórien is dangerous is total bunk: "It strikes me that folk takes their peril with them into Lórien, and finds it there because they've brought it" (4.5.130).
    • Sam starts warming to his topic, and tells Faramir that it was in Lothlórien that Boromir realized what he wanted: "the Enemy's Ring!" (4.5.132).
    • Smooth move, Sam. Way to spill the beans.
    • Now Faramir knows everything—that Boromir wanted the One Ring and tried to take it, and that the two hobbits escaped.
    • Afraid that Faramir might try to take it, too, now that he knows what "Isildur's Bane" is, Frodo and Sam jump their feet.
    • But Faramir assures them that he meant it when he said he doesn't want Isildur's Bane. He's smart enough to know when something is too dangerous.
    • Then he promises that he will do his best to help Frodo—whatever he can.
    • Frodo sways with exhaustion and sudden relief, so Faramir picks him up to carry him to bed.
    • Sam tells Faramir that he has proved his quality, so the dude seems okay in our book.
  • Book 4, Chapter 6

    The Forbidden Pool

    • A sleeping Frodo is awakened by Faramir. He wants Frodo to come with him. Where, we're not sure.
    • After walking through a dark passageway that curves upwards through several stairways, they come out on a wide, flat rock next to the falls of Henneth Annûn, looking down over a pool.
    • There is a man standing there—Anborn—who spotted a small black shadow following Faramir's men.
    • Sam wants to know what's going on, so Faramir tells them to watch the pool at the base of the falls.
    • That's when Frodo sees it—something small and dark diving into the pool. Gollum.
    • Anborn doesn't recognize what it is, but he has his bow, and he has posted archers on either side of the bank to take the creature out if need be.
    • When Faramir asks Frodo if he should give the order to shoot, the hobbit says no (though Sam wishes he had jumped in and said yes).
    • Why on earth is this creature jumping around so openly, as if he is in no danger? wonders Faramir.
    • So Frodo explains that Gollum is wily, but he's not exactly a people person. He may not even know that there are humans around.
    • Plus, Gollum is so drawn by the Ring that he can't help himself following. The thing has no control over his actions.
    • Faramir is stunned to hear that that creature bore the Ring for many years.
    • Anborn has Gollum in his sights: should he shoot?
    • Nope. Frodo asks Faramir to spare the life of his guide.
    • Even though he's stunned that Frodo trusts Gollum, Faramir obeys. But if Frodo doesn't want Gollum shot, then Frodo has to go down and get him out of the pool.
    • As he creeps down to retrieve the creature, Frodo hears Gollum muttering to himself about "Fissh, nice fissh" and "nasty hobbits" (4.6.37), who have left him all alone.
    • Addressing Gollum as Sméagol, Frodo asks him to trust him, and to come on out of the pool.
    • Gollum argues a bit and wants to finish his fish, but Frodo insists. He even uses the Precious as an incentive. He has pushed the right button.
    • Finally Gollum agrees: "Nice hobbit, come back to poor Sméagol. Good Sméagol comes" (4.6.50).
    • But of course, Anborn soon catches him and ties him up, at which point Gollum hisses and spits. He just wanted to catch some fish, guys, come on!
    • Wanting some intel, Faramir asks Gollum if he knows the name of this place (Henneth Annûn), and if he had ever been there before.
    • But Gollum swears he hasn't, on the Precious, so Faramir places Gollum back in Frodo's care.
    • As for Frodo, Faramir declares that he is free to go about his business, along with all of his companions, as long as they do not come back to this secret place.
    • He also says that, if Frodo comes to Gondor in the next year and a day, he will seek to extend this free passage in Gondor for Frodo's lifetime.
    • Faramir then demands that Gollum tell him where he is planning to lead Frodo and Sam.
    • When Frodo describes the path they were planning, Faramir realizes that he is talking about a pass called Cirith Ungol.
    • Faramir asks Anborn to lead Gollum out of the room, and then, when he is alone with Sam and Frodo, he strongly advises Frodo not to go to Cirith Ungol. It's a deeply evil place.
    • What is more, the pass of Cirith Ungol will take Frodo past Minas Morgul, which, while once the twin city of Minas Tirith, is now controlled by the Nazgûl.
    • But, asks Frodo, what's he supposed to do? What safer way is there?
    • Sensing a lost cause, Faramir sighs and merely reminds Frodo one last time: "beware of this guide, Sméagol. He has done murder before now. I read it in him" (4.6.109).
    • Then, Faramir blesses Frodo and takes his leave.
  • Book 4, Chapter 7

    Journey to the Cross-Roads

    • Breakfast time. Faramir, Frodo, and Sam eat together, and Faramir is nice enough to give them some extra provisions.
    • He also tells them they'll have plenty of water in Ithilien, but whatever they do, they shouldn't drink anything from Imlad Morgul, the Valley of the Living Death where Minas Morgul now stands. Good tip.
    • Oh, and just so they know, Mordor is oddly empty and quiet right now, as though Mordor is waiting for something. Faramir's not sure what it means, but it can't be good.
    • As a last gift, Faramir also gives them each a staff cut from the tree lebethron, which the woodworkers of Gondor love.
    • Frodo thanks Faramir for all of his help, and then, blindfolded, Gollum, Frodo, and Sam walk out of Henneth Annûn.
    • They travel through the dreary countryside, occasionally stopping to eat. Gollum will have none of the Gondorian food.
    • While Frodo and Sam sleep, Gollum slips off somewhere and does not return until dawn.
    • They continue trekking along for three days, when the air takes on a threatening, watchful quality.
    • Gollum says they can't keep going this way. It's the old road to the Tower of the Moon, and it will be watched.
    • They rest until midnight, when Gollum wants to set off under the cover of darkness.
    • When they get going again, they begin to climb steadily. They keep going through the night, until Gollum says it's time to hide, before the sun rises.
    • While resting, Frodo and Sam eat a bit, and Gollum disappears again.
    • Sam sleeps for about three hours, and when he wakes, it's only around noon but it looks like twilight. He hears a distant sound like drums, or maybe thunder.
    • Frodo also notes that Gollum hasn't come back yet, and Sam is, predictably, annoyed.
    • Frodo worries that they are going to run into danger no matter what, since Mordor is clearly preparing for war.
    • But Sam reminds Frodo, "where there's life there's hope, as [his] Gaffer used to say" (4.7.57).
    • Perhaps calmed by these words, Frodo falls into an uneasy sleep.
    • Then, suddenly, Gollum reappears, hissing, "Wake up! No time to lose. We must go, yes, we must go at once. No time to lose!" (4.7.60).
    • Deeply suspicious of Gollum's sudden eagerness, Sam assumes this can't be good.
    • Gollum leads them down the hillside, and after about an hour of absolute silence, they reach a grove of ancient, ancient trees.
    • They find themselves at a Cross-roads, where there are three paths to follow—the ones that Gollum told them about before.
    • Behind them is the road to the Morannon, in front of them it goes a ways south, to the right is the old road to Osgiliath, and to the left is the path to Cirith Ungol.
    • Onward, Shmoopers.
  • Book 4, Chapter 8

    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?
  • Book 4, Chapter 9

    Shelob's Lair

    • Gollum leads them to a cave. Yep, a cave.
    • Of course he leaves out the name of the tunnel, which is Torech Ungol, or Shelob's Lair.
    • There is a horrible smell coming from the tunnel, but Gollum swears it's the only way into Mordor. All signs point to disaster.
    • As they travel down the tunnel, the heavy darkness is worse even than what they found in the Mines of Moria.
    • Sam notices that there are multiple passages along the walls.
    • It's so dark in there it's hard to even move, Frodo and Sam hold hands as they creep through the blackness.
    • They call for Gollum, but he does not answer. Figures.
    • They hear "a gurgling, bubbling noise, and a long venomous hiss" (4.9.25). Yikes.
    • Sam suddenly realizes it's a trap, and finds himself wishing Tom Bombadil was here to save them, as he did with the Barrow-wights in The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1, Chapter 8.
    • He suddenly remembers Galadriel, and Sam thinks of the gift she gave Frodo: "The star-glass! A light to you in dark places, she said it was to be!" (4.9.27).
    • So Frodo slowly pulls out the Phial of Galadriel, and looks in wonder at the glow of its light.
    • But even with this shining goodness in his hand, "other potencies there are in Middle-earth, powers of night, and they are old and strong" (4.9.31).
    • Frodo is being watched by She who has feasted on many an elf in her day.
    • That means she's not too frightened by elf lights.
    • This "She" we've been hearing so much about? Yeah, it's a giant spider.
    • Creepily, Frodo and Sam can see her looking at them. Her thousand eyes reflect the light of Eärendil.
    • Frodo calls Eärendil's name, holds the Phial aloft, and draws Sting (his Elvish sword), which glows with blue fire.
    • Shelob suddenly feels doubt, and she starts to creep backwards, disappearing from view.
    • Sam pulls Frodo along. Now's their chance to escape.
    • As they run along the tunnel, they find massive cobwebs. Ugh.
    • Frodo hands the jewel to Sam and uses Sting to cut holes in the webs.
    • They are so happy that they shout for joy as they cut their way through the stuff.
    • Frodo can see the pass of Cirith Ungol and the red fires of Mordor.
    • They are so close! But they don't know that there are other exits out of Shelob's lair.
    • Frodo runs along quickly.
    • That's when, suddenly, Sam sees the spider reappearing behind Frodo.
    • She runs right past Sam; she doesn't even seem to see him.
    • Just when Sam is about to call out to warn Frodo of his danger, a hand clamps over his mouth.
    • It's Gollum. The jerk.
    • Gollum has obeyed the letter but definitely not the spirit of his agreement with Frodo: Gollum isn't (technically) the one who is hurting Frodo.
    • Still, Sam is utterly furious that Gollum has led them into this trap. It's a terrible betrayal.
    • Though Gollum tries with all his might to strangle Sam, our favorite sidekick manages to get free and whack Gollum's arm with his staff. Take that.
    • Sam wants to murder Gollum, but Gollum manages to run away.
    • The awful stench of Shelob fresh in his nose, Sam runs to rescue Frodo, who has been dragged off by the spider.
  • Book 4, Chapter 10

    The Choices of Master Samwise

    • Sam sees that Shelob is already wrapping Frodo with webbing, so he leaps up with Sting to charge Shelob.
    • He stabs into the clusters of her eyes. Way to go Sam.
    • She tries to crush him under her, but he keeps right on stabbing, and to great effect. Shelob has never known such pain in all her long life.
    • Clearly she has never known Sam.
    • After jumping backwards out of the way, Shelob crouches, preparing for the final leap to take Sam out.
    • But Sam holds up the Phial of Galadriel, and suddenly, words come to him—a song in Elvish.
    • (This song in Elvish is a variation of one that appears in The Fellowship of the Ring 2.1.157, chanted by the elves of Rivendell in the Hall of Fire. It is a hymn to Elbereth, the Queen of the Stars. Check out this translation.)
    • After speaking this hymn in a language he does not know, he shouts, "Come on, and taste it again!" (4.10.10).
    • His determination makes the jewel of Galadriel shine more brightly than ever, and the sheer power of it sends Shelob crawling in agony back into her holes.
    • A victorious Sam crouches next to Frodo.
    • Shelob has stung Frodo right in the back of the neck, and now he is cold all over.
    • Things don't look good. Sam tries to call him back, but Frodo does not respond, and Sam is sure that Frodo is gone.
    • Needless to say, the poor guy is devastated.
    • Eventually, Sam pulls himself together and decides that he has to continue on and finish the quest. If he doesn't, who will?
    • (He would also like to kill Gollum, if he can, but that's his second priority.)
    • Sam will leave Frodo his things (except for Galadriel's Phial, the Ring, and Sting, since he'll need those), and he promises to come back to Frodo when he's finished.
    • Poor Sam is utterly miserable, though: he can't imagine how he is to continue on to the Cracks of Doom by himself.
    • Still, he knows that there is no other choice. Sure, he doesn't want to go, but neither did Frodo.
    • So Sam gently takes the Ring's chain from around Frodo's neck and puts it around his own.
    • With one last look at Frodo's pale face, he stumbles off.
    • No sooner has he reached the dark orc-tower at the far end of Cirith Ungol, than he hears orc voices coming up behind him.
    • Time to hide. Sam puts the Ring on to slip out of sight.
    • The Ring enhances Sam's hearing, so that he can overhear the orcs' conversation clearly.
    • Apparently, they have found Frodo's body lying in the tunnel.
    • So Sam immediately decides to rush back to Frodo's side.
    • He chases after the orcs towards the Undergate, but he quickly falls behind because he is, plainly, pooped.
    • He stands eavesdropping outside a low stone gate that keeps him out of the tunnels.
    • The orcs all sound terrified of Shelob. They don't want her to come and eat them.
    • But they are pleased to find Frodo, since he is something "Lugbúrz" (4.10.65)—a.k.a. Barad-dûr—wants. Of course they don't actually know what he is, but they think he looks Elvish.
    • Sam is certain that they are stealing Frodo's body "for some foul purpose" (4.10.72).
    • Then he overhears Shagrat telling Gorbag that there is news of spies on the stairs (well, they got something right at least).
    • That's why they are on high alert.
    • The orcs call Gollum Shelob's "Sneak." He's a "thin little black fellow, like a spider himself" (4.10.88). They say he came out of Barad-dûr the first time, but since then he's come up to Cirith Ungol several times.
    • He's got some kind of understanding with Shelob, Shagrat comments.
    • As they examine Shelob's webs, they realize that Frodo couldn't have been alone.
    • Gorbag thinks it's probably a large Elf warrior, but Shagrat thinks he's being too pessimistic. Little do they know that Sam—the large Elf warrior—is nearby.
    • Anyway, they are here to take a prisoner and that's just what they do.
    • After all, Shagrat has orders: "Any trespasser found by the guard is to be held at the tower. Prisoner is to be stripped. Full description of every article, garment, weapon, letter, ring, or trinket is to be sent to Lugbúrz at once, and to Lugbúrz only. And the prisoner is to be kept safe and intact" (4.10.102).
    • That's when Sam figures out that Frodo is actually still alive. Apparently, Shelob's poison isn't fatal because she likes her victims living as she eats them. Gross.
    • Sam almost faints as he realizes he's left Frodo alone, alive, to be taken by orcs. It's good news, sure, but he's totally ashamed that he left his buddy behind.
    • He thinks that he is trapped on the other side of the stone gate from Frodo, but he sees that the gate is actually low enough for him to climb over.
    • It was probably just designed to keep Shelob in the tunnel, rather than to keep people out of it.
    • Sam hears Shagrat telling Gorbag they will put Frodo in the top chamber of the tower because he wants Frodo to be safe from the other orcs, who may lose their heads and damage him.
    • There is a loud blaring of horns, and the gate to the orc tower swings closed.
    • Sam is shut on the wrong side once again.
    • But hey, at least Frodo is alive. And captured…
    • To find out what happens next, you'll just have to read The Return of the King.