Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Another LOTR Read-Along: Mount Doom (ROTK 6, 3)
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 readers know that Gandalf is back and in fine fettle, and even now working for the good of all Middle-earth, even Sam and Frodo. 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 every time I think of it. I'm tearing up right now, just thinking about 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?
Actually, Tolkien considered Sam "the chief hero" of the tale in at least one letter. You can read more about that here if you want to.
Also, remember I mentioned 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.
I can't remember now where I read this, possibly online, but I just ran across a theory recently that Gollum is still obeying Frodo at the end there. He promised, you recall, to help keep the Precious from Sauron's grasp. Frodo putting the ring on here has attracted Sauron's notice, and so by removing the ring the only way he can think of, Gollum is doing what Frodo told him to do, even though at this moment, Frodo doesn't want him to. Something I'm still turning over in my head, but I feel like there's an element of truth to it.
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. 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).
Does it surprise you that the ring has been destroyed "already," with so much of the book left?
Did you cry during this chapter? Do you cry over books in general? I get tears in my eyes over Sam picking Frodo up and carrying him up that mountain.