Tuesday, June 10, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Land of Shadow (ROTK Ch. 12)

And now we're back to slogging around in Mordor.  But the end is in sight!  For us, if not quite for Sam and Frodo yet.

Once again, we encounter the idea of having no hope, but doing what you can anyway.  This time it's Frodo who says, "I am tired, weary, I haven't a hope left.  But I have to go on trying to get to the Mountain, as long as I can move" (p. 897).  I have days that feel like that, don't you?  Like when I have zero hope of getting my house cleaned up before my mom comes to visit, but I give it my best effort anyway.  Better partly cleaned than entirely messy.

Er, but I digress.  Even dear Sam the Perpetually Cheerful finds it difficult to remain hopeful.  His "quick spirits sank again" (p. 898), and when he "thought of water even his hopeful spirit quailed" (p. 901).  If Sam's losing hope, we know things are bleak.  Except he does find water, and when he looks up at the stars and realizes they'll still be beautiful and unsullied even if Sauron conquers all of Middle Earth, "hope returned to him" (p. 901).

And it turns out that Sam's hope might be enough to sustain both of them.  Frodo tells Sam, "Lead me!  As long as you've got any hope left.  Mine is gone" (p. 907).  So they continue stumbling about Mordor, page after weary page.

Favorite Lines:

"I'll try," said Sam, "but when I think of that Stinker I get so hot I could shout" (p. 905).

Possible Discussion Questions:

At one point, Frodo says, "I do not think it will be my part to strike any blow again" (p. 905).  When was the last time he did strike a blow?  He was involved in the fight in the burial chamber at Moria, but after that, has he really done any sort of fighting at all?  

Sam relies on luck now and then to help him find water, to help him get back to Frodo before Gollum could do him harm, and to help them find a path.  It worked the first two times, but then they find themselves trapped on the open road by a company of orcs, and Frodo says, "We've trusted to luck, and it has failed us" (p. 909).  What do you think Tolkien might be trying to say about the whole idea of luck?


  1. On the first discussion point, Frodo was actually the one hauled Gollum off Sam and had his knife to his throat when they first meet him at the bottom of the cliff above the Dead Marshes. (If I'm remembering correctly--and I think I am, because I remember being surprised by it.)

    And point #2 is most interesting... One thing I've really noticed on this read-through, is just how "divinely ordered" (for lack of a better phrase) Tolkien's world really is. He gets so much bad rap from people who think he's anti-Christian and so forth--and yet--he was just really going underground with it. His whole world is so well-ordered, and there is such reference to--divine justice, really--and such an emphasis on even the wise not being able to see all roads and, in essence, having to choose each step in front of them by faith--trying to do the right thing and trusting that the next step will be revealed in good time.

    1. Aha! Yes, I'd forgotten he did that. Though that was more restraining someone than striking a blow at them. He didn't actually run Gollum through.

      I noticed that earlier in this chapter, Sam called upon Galadriel for help, in a way. He mentioned that if he could go back to Lothlorien and get gifts, all he'd ask for was light and water. And then the sun came up, and then he found water, and both times he said he'd have to tell the Lady of Lorien about that. It kind of reminded me of the Catholic belief that Mary can help them, but anyway, it's also what you mentioned, that there's a Providence in Tolkien's world.


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