Friday, March 2, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Black Gate (TTT 4, 3)


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's thoughts are still all centered on home, wanting to see his Gaffer one last time, and so on. 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).

Discussion Questions:

When pondering whether to go through the Black Gate or follow Gollum elsewhere, Frodo thinks "[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'?

Sam and Gollum both misunderstand Frodo a bit, "confusing kindness with blindness" (p. 626). Do you think this helps or hinders Frodo in his efforts to fulfill his quest?

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