Oddly enough, I'd kind of forgotten that Frodo and Sam don't know Gandalf has returned. Sam says, "I can't think somehow that Gandalf would have sent Mr. Frodo on this errand, if there hadn't a' been any hope of his ever coming back at all. Things all went wrong when he went down in Moria. I wish he hadn't. He would have done something" (p. 913). Of course, we who know how this all ends know that Gandalf has done something -- he'll be comin' 'round the mountain with the eagles soon. But poor Sam doesn't know that, and things look so bleak and desolate for him.
And once again, here's that theme of hope dying, but characters battling on anyway. In fact, this time when Sam's hope dies "or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength" (p. 913). When you have nothing left to lose, you can commit to doing things you would otherwise refuse to do because they didn't seem safe.
At this point, everything is up to Sam. He's the one who gives Frodo food and water, finds where they should walk, and even "set[s] his master's will to work for another effort" (p. 915). He's so committed to this quest, he even throws away his beloved cooking gear that he's carried all this time. That, above all, makes me so sad for him.
And, in the end, Sam carries Frodo up Mount Doom. It's my favorite moment in the entire trilogy. "Come, Mr. Frodo!" he cried. "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well" (p. 919). I choke up ever time I think of it. It's one of the moments in the movies that they absolutely nailed. Magnificent. Who would have thought, at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, that Frodo's gardener, Sam, unpretentious and quiet, would wind up being the hero of the tale? (Other than Tolkien, of course.)
Also, remember I mentioned last week that Frodo says he doesn't think he'll do any more fighting? How wrong he was! Gollum attacks him here, and Frodo "fought back with a sudden fury that amazed Sam, and Gollum also" (p. 922).
And then, suddenly, within just a couple of pages, the deed is done. Frodo fails in the end -- he claims the ring for his own instead of casting it into Mount Doom. And all the pity that Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam spent on Gollum saves the day. They didn't kill him so many times, even Sam at the end when "his mind was hot with wrath and the memory of evil" (p. 923). And so Gollum saves the day, attacking Frodo and falling into the fires with his Precious, so drunk with joy at regaining the Ring that he can't keep his feet.
This chapter ends with one of my favorite lines: "I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam" (p. 926). (Of course, it's not the end of all things, or even of this book -- we have 82 pages left to go in my copy. But who's counting?)
Out of the north from the Black Gate through Cirith Gorgor there flowed whispering along the ground a thin cold air (p. 912).
At last wearied with his cares Sam drowsed, leaving the morrow till it came; he could do no more (p. 915).
He knew all the arguments of despair and would not listen to them. His will was set, and only death would break it (p. 919).
Possible Discussion Questions:
Frodo tells Gollum, "If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom" (p. 922), as neat a bit of foreshadowing as I've ever seen. Do you like foreshadowing as a literary device, or does it annoy you?