Sunday, March 9, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Black Gate is Closed (TTT Ch. 14)

Frodo waxes rather philosophical in this chapter.  As they face the Black Gate, he says, "I am commanded to go to the land of Mordor, and therefore I shall go... If there is only one way, then I must take it.  What comes after must come" (p. 624).  It quite reminds me of the point toward the end of Hamlet where Hamlet discusses death with Horatio.  He says:  
"If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all. Since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be."    (V, 2)
That's one of my favorite moments in the play, when Hamlet finally stops fighting against everyone and everything and accepts that there's not a lot he can do anymore except see this mess through.  And that's exactly what Frodo seems to have decided.

But then there's Sam.  Sam "never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed" (p. 624).  And so now that everything looks like it's ending, he's going to stick by Frodo and see this through too.  The readiness is indeed all.

Of course, Gollum's not anywhere near ready to just give The Ring up -- he still has hope of regaining it, and he convinces them to go elsewhere.  So the hobbits take fate back into their own hands and struggle on.  Frodo believes that "if both led to terror and death, what good lay in choice?" (p. 630).  And indeed, it seems pretty pointless right here, though we who know how the story ends can nod our heads and look wise.

Favorite Lines:

Another dreadful day of fear and toil had come to Mordor (p. 623).

Possible Discussion Questions:

When pondering whether to go through the Black Gate or follow Gollum elsewhere, Frodo things "[i]t was an evil fate" and "[t]his was an evil choice" (p. 630).  Why do you think Tolkien uses the word 'evil' here instead of 'unpleasant' or 'difficult'?


  1. Re "evil choice"...perhaps at a (very) basic level, it's simply adding depth and meaning? That is, that the choices they are making are beyond "unpleasant"? This is a fate they have been called to and being called to something carries a certain weightiness with it. (Besides, it makes a far more lyrical phrase. :-) ) Ohhhh, I thought of something else. It seems that in Frodo's mind, too, everything they're going through doesn't have so much to do with themselves (and what they're enduring) as much as the bare fact that, in reality, the fate of their world is riding on his shoulders and success or failure (besides the Ring itself weighing him down). So any decision he makes is going to have major ramifications as entire armies and nations swing in the balance. Does that make any sense?

    1. I like that -- their choices could bring evil to the rest of the world, basically. Very nice!

  2. Even the title of the chapter—The Black Gate Is Closed—has such a finality to it. Although I'm not sure what Sam and Frodo were expecting when they finally arrived, I'm sure the fact that the gate was truly impassible from this direction came as a shock. I am reminded of the part of The Hobbit where Bilbo speaks with Smaug. "You will hardly believe it, but poor Bilbo was really very taken aback. So far all his thoughts and energies had been concentrated on getting to the Mountain and finding the entrance." I expect Frodo and Sam felt the same. Gollum sees his chance to finally redirect the direction the hobbits take but I expect we can still be thankful for his wrong-intentioned intervention, but I think they probably would be been discovered entering this way anyway!

    1. Yes, I wonder what they really were expecting once they got there. I don't think Frodo had really thought beyond "get to Mordor." Very much like Bilbo, you're right!

      And yes, if it wasn't for the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, they would never have gotten in.

  3. I really liked this chapter. It had many cool sections I had to star. I also quite relate to Frodo in this section, but I love the lines Sam thinks:

    "And after all he never had any real hope in the affair from the beginnings; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed."

    "It had always been a notion of his that the kindness of dear Mr. Frodo was of such a high degree that it must imply a fair measure of blindness."

    1. Sam just gets cooler and cooler as we go along :-D

      I see you're catching up!

    2. I had to go back and re-read, cuz I knew I liked several bits, but I failed to note them down. I'm now starring stuff... in my book. In pen. Cuz otherwise, I come back here and don't recall where anything was!

    3. OH NO! I've corrupted you!



What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)