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BarbaraN
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TTT: Book 4: Chapters 7-10

TTT: Book 4: Chapters 7-10

Here are the last chapters for Book 4 of The Two Towers. We will be following with the movie The Two Towers. The discussions are a bit behind but that is OK. We still have the whole month ahead of us to finish up. We won't be starting Book 5, The Return of the King, until the first week of July.

June 9-15
7. Journey to the Cross-roads
8. The Stairs of Cirith Ungol
9. Shelob's Lair
10. The Choices of Master Samwise
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 7. Journey to the Cross-roads

Magic

As a fantasy book, there is very little that is really fantastic or outside the realm of possibility in this book. Magic is only used by the Maiar -- Gandalf, Saruman, and Saurun. Other people have enhanced abilities like the elves or the Numenor (like Aragorn) for foreknowledge, being able to see into the minds of others, or healing powers.

Actually, many types of "magic" are often associated with religion so it shouldn't be surprising the Tolkien seems to have neither--except with Faramir and his Merry Men. First there was the moment of silence before eating when they faced toward the West and the place where Numenor was and toward the "Undying Lands". But now Faramir has had a "virtue" placed on the staves he gives Frodo and Sam of "finding and returning". This seems like a magic spell to me. Dagor mentions that the staff of Sam serves a useful purpose later on so I will have to see how significant they are.
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Dagor
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 7. Journey to the Cross-roads

Ah, Magic, probably we could set up another discussion thread on this issue alone! In many ways, does Tolkien divorce magic from its ritual-religious connections, and does he then view it simply as a matter of "unexplained" technology? I am thinking here of Galadriel's soft chiding of Sam for confusing the powers and technologies of Sauron with her own Elvish technologies:

" 'And you?' she said, turning to Sam. 'For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem also to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel.' "
(FotR, "The Mirror of Galadriel," p.377 hb version)

I seem to recall that in The Letters JRRT explains at some length just how he himself views "magic," and it may be useful here to understand whether or not he means us to see it as manifestations of a superior "technology" or a religico-magical phenomenon.
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 8. The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

I noticed in this section tha Frodo suffers from a similar "blindness" on the road to Minas Morgul that he did when he fell on the cliffs of the Emyn Muil. The thing they seem to have in common might be the presence of the Nazguls. We are not sure in the first incident if the darkness was the storm or the passing of a Nazgul and it may have to be the Witch-King specifically. It doesn't seem to have an effect on Sam, at least not in the same way. My feeling is that it might somehow be activated by the fact that Frodo had been stabbed with the Nazgul knife by the Witch-King more than the fact he has the Ring.
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 8. The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

I like the interesting discussion between Sam and Frodo about tales, their being characters in the tale, what sort of tales will be told about them, and the difference of hearing and living a tale. Kind of the tale within the tale. In fact I like this so much that I might quote some of it later (I don't have my book right now).

One of the interesting things that Sam brings up here is whether Gollum sees himself as the villain or the hero of the tale. This may be a bit of "nudging" by Tolkien. Don't forget I'm still trying to build a case for Smeagol being the "hero" of the tale, though I have to admit this point of view is suffering from the premeditated murder attempt of the next chapter.
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapters 7-10

Reference to the story of Beren comes up several times in these chapters and, as I recall, came up on Weathertop and in Rivendell in the Fellowship. It was also part of the backgrounder for the Appendix A essay on Aragorn and Arwen. I had attempted to read this in the Silmarillion but did not have the historic background reading to really follow the story. So the references and details of the story are not in my head. I only have a general overview. I hope to get more out of this after we get into the Silm next fall. It is obviously a very significant story and does build the case for reading the Silm first.
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 9. Shelob's Lair

I kind of have a pet peeve with the depiction of spiders in stories and especially movies. They always seem to approach their victims slowly and menacingly. Spiders must be the fastest creatures on the planet relative to their size and an eight-legged creature can quickly outrun a six-legged creature never mind a two-legged one. And they get their prey mainly by speed. Even orb-weaving spiders, though they usually wait until their victims (usually flying ones) are caught firmly or are a bit cautious of victims larger than themselves.

Shelob (and for that matter the spiders of Mirkwood in The Hobbit) are real slow-pokes. And they are not too efficiently fast at delivering their venom. These spiders would starve to death in their natural environment. However, I will give Tolkien points. In the end she took Frodo quickly and efficiently like a good spider. Tolkien was a good observer of nature and I will assume that earlier on, Shelob was just savoring her victim and kill and later with Sam she was terribly hurt from her wounds.
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 10. The Choices of Master Samwise

[ Edited ]
This is the second conversation we have encountered between named Orcs. They don't sound like mindless fighting machines to me. They seem very ordinary and intelligent. In fact they sound like a bunch of ordinary soldiers who would rather be doing something else.

Gorbag and Shagrat are grouching about the big bosses and dreaming of better times:

--------------------------

'I'd like to try somewhere where there's none of 'em. But the war's on now, and when that's over things may be easier.'

'It's going well, they say.'

'They would,' grunted Gorbag. 'We'll see. But anyway, if it does go well, there should be a lot more room. What d'you say? -- if we get a chance, you and me'll slip off and set up somewhere on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there's good loot nice and handy, and no big boses.'

'Ah!' said Shagrat. 'Like old times.'
--------------------------

At this point I can imagine them sitting in tavern after the war with a mug of ale talking about old times. In fact I can almost imagine them having mothers and girlfriends!

Message Edited by lorien on 06-14-2008 05:03 PM
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 10. The Choices of Master Samwise

[ Edited ]
Lugburz

This is also the second time Lugburz has come up. Once here and also in "The Uruk-hai" in Book 3. He seems to be of some high rank, in charge of toture and gives out important orders. In fact, he seems to be in charge of finding the hobbit ringbearer and getting the Ring. I don't know if he is a high ranking orc, a nazgul, Sauron himself (using another name since for orcs he is "he-who-should-not-be named" ), or some other person. Does anyone know more about him?

---spoiler---

Later we will meet the "Mouth of Sauron" but I don't know if that is the same person. But it probably would be better if we wait until we get there.

Message Edited by lorien on 06-14-2008 05:19 PM
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Dagor
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 10. The Choices of Master Samwise

Just a hint: try reading "Lugburz" as a place name rather than as a person...
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 9. Shelob's Lair

We finally have a religious reference! Gollum appeases Shelob by worshiping her. I'm not quite sure of how he got away with it and actually got by her. I would not think that worshiping would appease a hungry spider. He did promise to bring her food, but he obviously had no intention of doing so until this encounter with Frodo. I don't think she would have been taken in so easily when she had Gollum right there as a tid-bit to tide her over until she found better. Gollum sure must have come up with a convincing offer. Of course, on his return, she wouldn't mind waiting. He would just say--I'm back as I promised with some food. But after her encounter with his "food" I don't think he would be making too many safe trips through her tunnel anymore! :smileywink:
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Dagor
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 9. Shelob's Lair

Shelob and Gollum -- intriguing topic. While the Spiders of Mirkwood have voices, and language, in "The Hobbit" at least, Shelob is mute in LotR. How does Gollum "worship" her, how does he communicate with her. When he promises to bring her meat, does she understand what he says? In real life, spiders communicate with pheremones, gestures, and touches to distinguish themselves from mere items of food. But, alas, JRRT does not directly tell us how Gollum keeps from being added to the bill of fare. He does suggest, perhaps, that there is some sort of direct communication by "will power" that allows the two to form some sort of working relationship: "he [Gollum] had bowed and worshipped her, and the darkness of her evil will walked through all the ways of his weariness beside him, cutting him off from light and from regret. And he had promised to bring her food." (TT, hb ver. pp 332-33)

From this quote, I get the impression that Shelob could understand the thought and intent of Gollum, and he could understand her sufficiently to know that her "lust" was always for food. Being of little nutritional value himself, his offer to bring her better fare insured his continued survival in her presence.

Potential, Minor Spoiler?

Earlier, I used to think that Gollum's possession of the One Ring had given him, as it will give Sam in chpt 10 "The Choices of Master Samwise," the ability to understand other languages, and perhaps this ability allowed him to communicate with Shelob. But the Great Spider has no audible tongue, no language to be translated, so I guess I'll have to opt out of that "explanation" and assume that the two communicated by the contact of their wills/ minds directly.
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 9. Shelob's Lair

Shelob the mother of all spiders. (shutter)
The movie did over simplify her too much, but the spider image was menacing enough. First time in a long while I had to half cover my eyes in the theater.

Perhaps the promise of something new to eat was enough. I always had the impression she was bored and any variety would do. But perhaps Gollum gave her the impression he would taste even worse than an orc.
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 8. The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

We do have a "redemption moment" with Smeagol. He has gone to tell Shelob that dinner is practically on the table. On his return he finds Frodo asleep on Sam's lap and Sam asleep as well. This is really a key moment:

-------------

Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and then they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up toward the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo's knee --but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.

----------------

The Sam wakes up and is hostile to him and accuses him of sneaking. Sam is right, of course, Gollum has been up to mischief but there was a moment here when I think he regretted his situation and his deeds and had a true deep down affection for Frodo, the only one who had shown him any kindness in over 500 years. But the hostility of Sam reminded him of the scorn everyone felt for him and Gollum resurfaced and, even though Sam apologized, the moment had passed. My feeling is that if Sam had not said what he said and had been kind to Smeagol instead, Smeagol would have changed his mind about feeding them to Shelob and maybe lead them through the cave a safer way.

I also noticed that as Smeagol or Gollum he never did lie nor break his promises. He just was careful not to come right out and tell them he had made deal with this giant spider who wanted to eat them.
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 10. The Choices of Master Samwise

Orcs and Gollum and the passage through Shelob's Lair

From the Orc conversation, my feeling is that the orcs had their own passage through the cave that was inaccessible to Shelob like that blocked tunnel that Sam had to get through. They obviously used this way as a shortcut between the tower and the lower areas. In fact, our friends were very lucky not to encounter them on the stairs.

I also think that Gollum might have discovered this way and that is part of the reason he was able to get past Shelob. It might not have been totally secure but the orcs sure come and go all the time. He did communicate with her and strike a deal, but he is so cautious, that I think he probably had observed her for awhile and then approached her with a safety exit nearby. He may have already suspected that the "worship" and promise of food might appease her. Maybe the orcs did this regularly promising her a prisoner of "sweeter meat" every so often--and delivering. So Gollum could have followed their behavior and offered a similar deal.
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 8. The Stairs of Cirith Ungol



lorien wrote:
We do have a "redemption moment" with Smeagol. He has gone to tell Shelob that dinner is practically on the table. On his return he finds Frodo asleep on Sam's lap and Sam asleep as well. This is really a key moment:

-------------

Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and then they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up toward the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo's knee --but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.

----------------

The Sam wakes up and is hostile to him and accuses him of sneaking. Sam is right, of course, Gollum has been up to mischief but there was a moment here when I think he regretted his situation and his deeds and had a true deep down affection for Frodo, the only one who had shown him any kindness in over 500 years. But the hostility of Sam reminded him of the scorn everyone felt for him and Gollum resurfaced and, even though Sam apologized, the moment had passed. My feeling is that if Sam had not said what he said and had been kind to Smeagol instead, Smeagol would have changed his mind about feeding them to Shelob and maybe lead them through the cave a safer way.

I also noticed that as Smeagol or Gollum he never did lie nor break his promises. He just was careful not to come right out and tell them he had made deal with this giant spider who wanted to eat them.




Hi, Lorien!

You put your finger on the key spot here! Smeagol comes within a hairsbreath of "redemption" at this point. Too bad Ole Sam was not able to feed this moment rather than snap it -- but, how was he to know? Frodo, I think, understood that Smeagol was redeemable, even tried to further that action, but was himself unable to effect a cure...
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 10. The Choices of Master Samwise

Sam had a hard time making the decision to go on to complete the quest and destruction of the Ring. Given what he knew at that time I think it was the correct and actually the only decision that he could make. He knew the consequences of failure. He is feeling a bit insecure and unworthy, but at this point he knows he is the last and that any other action would be fruitless--Frodo was dead and nothing was going to change that. If the Ring were not destroyed thousands and most likely millions would suffer, die and the world come under slavery. Many of these would be his own friends.

Then the Orcs come along and he reverses himself -- this is before he overhears the Orcs talking. As far as Sam is concerned, nothing has changed. Frodo is still dead. The only thing that would be gained by abandoning his quest and returning was revenge and to kill a few Orcs. This is futile. And by doing so the worst of all outcomes would happen. There would be no one left to destroy the Ring and worse it would end up back in Sauron's hands. He knew this.

It seems to me that this was a very poor decision. I know Sam had many inner conflicts but he had already thought this through. He knew the consequences and in the end he chose revenge over saving the world.
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 10. The Choices of Master Samwise



lorien wrote:
Sam had a hard time making the decision to go on to complete the quest and destruction of the Ring. Given what he knew at that time I think it was the correct and actually the only decision that he could make. He knew the consequences of failure. He is feeling a bit insecure and unworthy, but at this point he knows he is the last and that any other action would be fruitless--Frodo was dead and nothing was going to change that. If the Ring were not destroyed thousands and most likely millions would suffer, die and the world come under slavery. Many of these would be his own friends.

Then the Orcs come along and he reverses himself -- this is before he overhears the Orcs talking. As far as Sam is concerned, nothing has changed. Frodo is still dead. The only thing that would be gained by abandoning his quest and returning was revenge and to kill a few Orcs. This is futile. And by doing so the worst of all outcomes would happen. There would be no one left to destroy the Ring and worse it would end up back in Sauron's hands. He knew this.

It seems to me that this was a very poor decision. I know Sam had many inner conflicts but he had already thought this through. He knew the consequences and in the end he chose revenge over saving the world.




Poor Old Sam, as you point out, Lorien, the chap was in a real pinch, but in the end, I got the feeling that his true, basic personna won out, and, unknown to him at the moment, being true to himself was in fact the "correct" way to go.

" 'I've made up my mind,' he kept saying to himself. But he had not. Though he had done his best to think it out, what he was doing was altogether against the grain of his nature. 'Have I got it wrong?' he muttered. 'What ought I to have done?' " (TT, "Choices of Master Samwise," p. 342 hb ver.)

" 'Hai! Hola! Here's something! Lying right in the road. A spy, a spy!' ... With a dreadful stroke Sam was wakened from his cowering mood. They had seen his master. What would they do? He had heard tales of the Orcs to make the blood run cold. It could not be borne. He sprang up. He flung the Quest and all his decisions away, and fear and doubt with them. He knew now where his place was and had been: at his master's side..." (TT, p. 344)

There seems to be a thread of "destiny" that guided the Fellowship, choices were allowed its members along the way, choices that might affect the success or failure of the mission -- but each time a wrong choice is made, it is somehow "self-corrected." Boromir falls, and the quest is forced down an alternative channel where Faramir redeems the Men of Gondor by NOT claiming the Ring as his brother did. Sam tries to take the Ring to Mordor, but his own heart stops him from making this mistake (he had no head for maps, probably could not have guided himself to the Fiery Mountain). In the end, Sam plays true to his heart, his protective impulse toward Frodo (dead or alive) is his redemption. It seems that this was the pre-destined correct move for him to make, and, his decision to remain "predictably" true to his own sterling character allows the mission to recover from the treachery of Gollum, and allows the final success-crowned, completion of the quest. In this case, I think Sam simply has to act according to his own heart, and each time he tries to be overly clever and cerebral, he makes a mess of things. Sam is one of those lucky creatures who possesses a character that is already in tune with the guiding hand of destiny, of Good, all he need do is follow his own best instincts, and he is "right" every time.
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 10. The Choices of Master Samwise

Daggor wrote:
There seems to be a thread of "destiny" that guided the Fellowship, choices were allowed its members along the way, choices that might affect the success or failure of the mission -- but each time a wrong choice is made, it is somehow "self-corrected." Boromir falls, and the quest is forced down an alternative channel where Faramir redeems the Men of Gondor by NOT claiming the Ring as his brother did. Sam tries to take the Ring to Mordor, but his own heart stops him from making this mistake (he had no head for maps, probably could not have guided himself to the Fiery Mountain). In the end, Sam plays true to his heart, his protective impulse toward Frodo (dead or alive) is his redemption. It seems that this was the pre-destined correct move for him to make, and, his decision to remain "predictably" true to his own sterling character allows the mission to recover from the treachery of Gollum, and allows the final success-crowned, completion of the quest. In this case, I think Sam simply has to act according to his own heart, and each time he tries to be overly clever and cerebral, he makes a mess of things. Sam is one of those lucky creatures who possesses a character that is already in tune with the guiding hand of destiny, of Good, all he need do is follow his own best instincts, and he is "right" every time.
--------------------------------------------

I had forgotten about that destiny idea. For some reason I seem to be more aware of it when Gandalf is around. I see what you mean about Sam being "true to his heart." As I read on and Sam discovers that Frodo is alive, he really berates himself for leaving him. The major point is that Sam makes decisions with his "gut" rather than his brain. My comments were based on logical thinking and, you are right, that isn't Sam's way. He knows his primary duty is to his master and all else is second.

"I got it all wrong!" he cried. "I knew I would. Now they've got him, the devils! the filth! Never leave your master, never, never: that was my right rule. And I knew in my heart. May I be forgiven! Now I've got to get back to him. Somehow, somehow!"
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lorien
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Re: TTT: Book 4: Chapter 10. The Choices of Master Samwise

:smileyvery-happy: I just realized that the chronology of my posts may seem a bit erratic! That is because I listen to the audio first and then make comments about what popped out as interesting from that. Then I do a more careful reading of the text and make comments again. This is also the reason I'm a bit slow getting through things. Then I go back and read through the Reader's guide -- if there is time before we are on to another set of chapters. I had planned to work in the Histories (I bought them all!) but have never gotten back to them except for the first chapters and a bit of side reading. This was all VERY ambitious! Probably too ambitious. I'm glad we have this breather week before going on to The Return of the King but I still have to finish The Two Tower Movie.
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