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Old 04-18-2005, 03:36 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 4 - Chapter 07 - Journey to the Cross-Roads

This is a chapter full of ominous foreboding, though nothing actually happens. Frodo, Sam and Gollum leave the brief haven of Henneth Annűn, speaking a few last words with Faramir and provided with the gift of walking sticks. Parting with him leaves them with a feeling of loss of light, and the darkness deepens throughout the chapter, going from shade under the trees to night to a dark day. The hobbits experience a feeling of uneasiness, due mostly to Gollum’s air of secrecy. The oppressive stillness is shown by the fact that there is more description and narrative than conversation.

I noticed a few interesting details upon rereading this relatively short chapter; they may give us some ideas for discussion, and perhaps you have noticed others to add to the mix. One concerns Faramir – despite not having slept, he does not look weary. Is there a reason for that? It seems more like an Elven characteristic than a human one. There is also the matter of the walking sticks –
Quote:
…a virtue has been set upon them of finding and returning.
Who has the ability of imparting that kind of virtue? Does the wood itself have some special property? Do you think this virtue played a role in the ultimate success of their journey?

What do you make of Sam’s dream? It involves his garden, no surprise, but also his pipe – any significance to that? (No, I am not thinking in Freudian terms! )

Some things are told, yet not explained – what causes the rumbling they hear and feel? More Oliphaunts? Mount Doom? Drums?

At the very end of the chapter there is a glimpse of light that stands out in all this darkness – the stone king’s head, with its live crown. Yet the hope it gives (“They cannot conquer forever!” ) lasts only briefly before darkness returns. (This image seems to be etched into the readers’ imaginations, for it was one much discussed before the movie was released.)

Is this a chapter you read through quickly, impatiently, to get to the action later on? Do you savour the descriptions? What feeling do you get when you read it?
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Old 04-18-2005, 11:43 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
This is a chapter full of ominous foreboding, though nothing actually happens.
This chapter is probably my least favourite in the entire LotR. Nothing actually happens. There's no really memorable blocks of dialogue, there's no real peril, and by this point in the story, I'm pretty much full of "travelling" passages.

This doesn't preclude the fact that there ARE good parts to the chapter. The hopeful image of the fallen king's head is one of the parts that really sticks with me.

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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
One concerns Faramir – despite not having slept, he does not look weary. Is there a reason for that? It seems more like an Elven characteristic than a human one.
Well, Faramir IS of slight Elven descent, via Finduilas (his mother) of Dol Amroth, and the Elven lineage was apparently still very clear in his uncle Imrahil. Maybe it's also a manifestation of his Numenorean heritage as well. I'm reminded, for some reason, of Denethor's sleeping in chainmail to keep himself fit.

Of course, it could just be that being a Ranger has given him a lot of practice at going without sleep, and he is sufficiently skilled to hide his fatigue when necessary. At times to inspire courage in his men, maybe. Or possibly so as not to show signs of weakness to his enemies, be they Gondorians or Orks. I can easily see a young Faramir pretending not to be tired so as to impress his father.
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Old 04-19-2005, 02:44 PM   #3
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Where to start? certainly it seems as if this is a ‘transitional’ chapter, merely intended to get the characters from Henneth Annun to the Mountains. CT points out that Tolkien added in an extra day in this chapter to bring the chronology into line with events on the other side of the Anduin, hence the slow build up of menace in this chapter, with the gradual darkening of the skies & the slow increase of the ‘darkness of Mordor’ spilling over the Mountains. Another example of serendipity.

Another thing he mentions is that the staffs given to the Hobbits by Faramir originally had heads like shepherd’s crooks. One wonders why Tolkien changed his mind about this - perhaps the religious symbolism of the Bishop’s Crozier seemed too blatant? As Esty has pointed out, the ‘virtue’ placed on the staffs is quite interesting - placed by whom? Does this mean the staffs are ‘magical’? Also, what is the significance, if any, of the fact that both Frodo & Sam will lose their staffs by the end of this volume, at the darkest, most desperate point in their story up to then? Is Tolkien using the loss (& in one case the breaking) of the staffs to emphasise the hopelessness of the Hobbits state at that point, implying that the virtue of the staffs may have failed, & that there may be no ‘finding’ or ‘returning’?

The most significant incident in this chapter for me used to be the moment at the Cross-roads, but now its something else. As many of you may know, I’m a member of the Tolkien Society, & I’ve been to their annual Oxonmoot weekend in September for the last three years. The culmination of the weekend is Enyalie (sp?), when we visit Tolkien & Edith’s grave. Every year there is a short reading from the book, & at my first visit to Tolkien’s final resting place it was the passage where Frodo & Sam said farewell to Faramir, so this chapter is far from insignificant to me - in fact, it is now one of the most significant in the whole book....

Faramir’s final farewell to Frodo & Sam struck me also this time -

Quote:
He embraced the hobbits then, after the manner of his people, stooping, and placing his hands upon their shoulders, and kissing their foreheads.
This is the way Frodo says his final farewell to Sam. This, it seems, is a Numenorean custom, perhaps, who knows, inherited from the Elves. Are we seeing at the end, in Frodo’s farewell, another sign of his growth into ‘Elvishness’?

Whatever, we do see Gollum’s growing malice surfacing:

Quote:
"Have they gone at last?" said Gollum. 'Nassty wicked Men! Smeagol's neck still hurts him, yes it does. Let's go!"
'Yes, let us go," said Frodo. "But if you can only speak ill of those who showed you mercy, keep silent!"
Always forgives, he does, yes, yes, even nice Master's little trickses. Oh yes, nice Master, nice Smeagol!"
Rereading this passage I’m struck by the sentence: 'Nice Master!" said Gollum. ‘’Smeagol was only joking. Tolkien tells us that Gollum is speaking even though he refers to himself by his old Hobbit name - is he telling us that the ‘two’ have now become ‘one’? Certainly, Smeagollum’s snide comment that he even forgives ‘Master’s little trickses’ shows us the exact opposite - he hasn’t forgiven ‘Master’ at all. Its interesting that neither Frodo nor Sam attempt to explain to Gollum why Frodo did what he did - did they feel that they would be wasting their breath, or was it more that they didn’t actually want him too close, that they didn’t actually want him ‘back’?

Something else caught my attention:

Quote:
Frodo shuddered as he looked again at the distant pinnacles now dwindling into night, and the sound of the water seemed cold and cruel: the voice of Morgulduin, the polluted stream that flowed from the Valley of the Wraiths.
Haven’t we been told that the voice & presence of Ulmo ran through all the waters of Middle-earth, even that water, of all the elements, retained an echo of the Music of the Ainur? For the ‘voice’ of Morgulduin to seem ‘cold & cruel’, taken along with Faramir’s warning not to drink from any stream that flows out of Imlad Morgul, seems to imply that we are dealing with a ‘pollution’ more potent, & more evil than merely toxic chemicals.... I couldn’t help being reminded of the river of Mirkwood in TH which brought loss of consciousness - loss of ‘self’...

Then we have Sam’s dream:

Quote:
‘Off hunting, I suppose," said Sam and yawned. It was his turn to sleep first, and he was soon deep in a dream. He thought he was back in the Bag End garden looking for something; but he had a heavy pack on his back, which made him stoop. It all seemed very weedy and rank somehow, and thorns
and bracken were invading the beds down near the bottom hedge.
'A job of work for me, I can see; but I'm so tired," he kept on saying. Presently he remembered what he was looking for. 'My pipe!" he said, and with that he woke up.
"Silly!" he said to himself, as he opened his eyes and wondered why he was lying down under the hedge. "It's in your pack all the time!" Then 385 he realized, first that the pipe might be in his pack but he had no leaf, and next that he was hundreds of miles from Bag End.
This is a deeply symbolic dream, & tells us something about the dreamer himself. This is no longer the old Sam, who in the house of Bombadil dreamt nothing at all while his companions, Frodo especially, dreamt deep..

The Garden is overgrown & rank, & is slowly being invaded by thorns & bracken - chaos is reasserting itself, the fragile work of ‘humans’, their struggle to keep the wild in check, is failing. Its interesting that he is looking for his pipe, symbolic of the comforts of home. The ‘garden’ is being absorbed back into unconscious nature, ‘Home’ will at this rate soon be no more....

Finally we encounter the statue of the King (which one?) at the cross-roads. Obviously the head, with it’s single eye, symbolises Sauron. Sauron is the new ‘king’. Yet its interesting that his ‘head’ stands on the body of another - perhaps a symbol of the effect of his power, & by extension the power of the Ring, which takes over the mind (the ‘head’) of the individual, & dominates them....Yet, though the ‘head’ is cast down it regains its crown. This moment for Frodo seems to be for him what Sam’s later glimpse of the single star will be for him - both of them are given an insight into the nature of reality (in Middle-earth at least) - there is high beauty which no Shadow can forever conquer. Yet the ‘light’ of that realisation is taken away almost instantly.

As for the Cross-roads, well, cross-roads have always been symbolic places. They are places of choice, places where decisions must be made. In a sense they aare also places ‘outside the world’ - suicides were often buried at Cross-roads, perhaps in the belief that the restless spirit would become confused by the multiple choices. However, I don’t think we can entirely dismiss the Christian symbolism of the Cross here. We have a ‘King’ whose body is broken, & on whose head is a ‘crown’ - not of thorns but of flowers. The King will come again. because, as Frodo says ‘They cannot conquer forever!’
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Old 04-20-2005, 07:56 AM   #4
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I was just thinking about the manner of the Hobbits' parting from Faramir, and how similar it was to partings from the Elves.

Certainly it is a lot different to the parting from Galadriel which is extremely elaborate. The earlier parting was almost ceremonial in tone, with gifts, song and even a communion or sacrament of sorts. Though Galadriel never makes the gesture of kissing anyone on the forehead. The parting from Faramir is simple as we might expect on the dangerous and wild edges of Mordor, yet it is also more intimate and has a touching air of finality about it. From here, there is little or no chance that the Hobbits will see another friendly face.

The departure from Rivendell is very sombre, in contrast to that from Lothlorien, yet again, it is quite different to the departure from Faramir. It is witnessed by many, and both Elrond and Bilbo make sure to offer words of wisdom and advice.

I noted how at every stopping off point the Hobbits seemed to acquire more gifts to help them on their way. Of course, many of these also help with the progress of the story, getting them out of tight spots and so on, but by the end, at Mount Doom, they have very few of these gifts left. The gifts do not burden them, it is the weight of the Ring which is the problem, whether literal or in the mind, and right at the end this is the one 'gift' which Frodo finds impossible to cast aside. He has help from all quarters both in terms of gifts and assistance, yet he throws all aside at that last moment as he cannot cast aside the Ring.
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Old 04-22-2005, 04:40 PM   #5
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I actually like this chapter simlpy because of the crossroads. Probably because it is another one of those unexpected things. You are surprised when Faramir enters the story but afterwards you think its over with surprises because it seems pretty straightforward. Frodo and Sam go through Mordor and the ring is destroyed. You also assume that things will get darker and darker. They do but before that Frodo and Sam arrive at the crossroads and they see that the King has a crown.
It is not just a crown. Its a crown of flowers.Flowers don't only symbolize happiness and good(vs. evil). They are alive opposed to many things that side with evil.The things that ally themselves with evil are often half dead or twisted. These flowers are of course neither of those things. They are also white which symbolizes purity and a new beginning. Thus it gives a message of hope to the reader. I also cherish this moment because it is the last somewhat peaceful minute that Frodo and Sam will share before going through the Morgul vale.
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Old 04-22-2005, 06:46 PM   #6
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Some very interesting thoughts here! Thanks for sharing them everyone.

Estelyn said

Quote:
Do you savour the descriptions? What feeling do you get when you read it?
Actually, this time around the following passage caught me for the first time.

Quote:
Looking out from the convert he (Sam) could see only a dun, shadowless world, fading into a featureless, colorless gloom. It felt stifling but not warm.
Isn’t this rather descriptive of Mordor itself, or rather what it represents. Without light (goodness) one cannot have shadow or contrast, and so would not truly recognize darkness as it’s opposite. The world would be only be shades of dun, or grey as we say today. Would something good be even seen in that featureless gloom that spilled out from the Unnamed land? I think perhaps it may help explain why Sauron would not think of anyone trying to destroy the Ring. He cannot see or comprehend such a selfless act.

On the other hand, this gloom does seem to effect Frodo and Sam, and again mention is made of Frodo sleeping, possibly dreaming but mentioning Gandalf once more.


Yes, Faramir appears to have little need of sleep! That does seem elven. Another section that stood out regarding Faramir was this one:

Quote:
Then he turned and without looking back he left them and went to his two guards that stood at a little distance away. They marveled to see with what speed these green clad men now moved, vanishing in the twinkling of an eye. The forest where Faramir had stood seemed empty and drear, as if a dream had passed.
Besides the fact that it is pretty impressive to have these guys melt away into the forest so quickly and quietly, it struck me as though Tolkien might have been talking a bit about the Faithful Numenoreans that Faramir seems to represent. Or perhaps he is speaking of us in this modern age looking back at heroic days gone by. Life is a bit emptier without that dream.

davem - You brought up some interesting food for thought. I had not noticed that Frodo said goodbye to Sam in the same way as Faramir. It would seem fitting for Frodo to do this before sailing west if it were indeed a Numenorean custom!

And I particularly enjoyed the all the thoughts on the crossroads and the king with his crown of flowers.

But as for Estelyn’s puzzler about the rumbling, I suspect it may have something to do with the neighbours kicking up there heels there in Minas Morgul!
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Old 04-22-2005, 09:51 PM   #7
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It's interesting how again we have the requirement of blindfolding. In Lorien Gimli had to be blindfolded and Aragorn chose to avoid conflict by taking this upon the whole of the Company. Here, Gollum must have his eyes bound, and Frodo this time tries to prove to him that there is nothing to fear by having Faramir's men do the same to Sam and himself. It seems Frodo has been taking a leaf out of Aragorn's book.

I love the description of the gathering darkness and the scenery:

Quote:
At their first halt they looked back, and they could dimly perceive the roofs of the forest they had left behind, lying like a vast dense shadow, a darker night under the dark blank sky. There seemed to be a great blackness looking slowly out of the East, eating up the faint blurs. Later the sinking moon escaped from the pursuing cloud, but it was ringed all about with a sickly yellow glare.

...

For the most part is was covered with a thick growth of gorse and whortleberry, and low tough thorns, though here and there clearings opened, the scars of ancient fires. The gorse-bushes became more frequent as they got nearer the top; very old and tall they were, gaunt and leggy below but thick above, and already putting out yellow flowers that glimmered in the gloom and gave a faint sweet scent. So tall were the spiny thickets that the hobbits could walk upright under them, passing through long dry aisles carpeted with a deep prickly mould.
Even the peace of Ithilien seems consumed by the blackness of the forest. The description in the second paragraph provides some great imagery for me personally; I find it very easy to envision.

Another passage I love:

Quote:
There, far away, beyond sad Gondor now overwhelmed in shade, the Sun was sinking, finding at last the hem of the great slow-rolling pall of cloud, and falling in an ominous fire towards the yet unsullied Sea.
This, my friends, is the perfect union of poetry and prose. If the two literary forms procreated, this would be it.

But about the excerpt itself: the Sun was originally created to check the power of Morgoth; it is like a damper on the power of evil. The Sun is veiled and is sinking along with the chances of Men's victory. The power of evil is overwhelming it. The one thing that yet seems pure, untouched, is the Sea -- which, as we all know, leads to hidden Valinor.

"They cannot conquer for ever!" Frodo says in a single line which embodies it all. Nothing is permanent, not the time of the glory of the Elves, but also not the dominance of evil.
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Old 04-23-2005, 06:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
It's interesting how again we have the requirement of blindfolding. In Lorien Gimli had to be blindfolded and Aragorn chose to avoid conflict by taking this upon the whole of the Company. Here, Gollum must have his eyes bound, and Frodo this time tries to prove to him that there is nothing to fear by having Faramir's men do the same to Sam and himself. It seems Frodo has been taking a leaf out of Aragorn's book.
This has reminded me of something which stood out for me as odd in this chapter, and that is the way that Frodo seems to speak for Gollum, on his behalf. It is, dare I say it, almost condescending; I think what gets to me is that Gollum is standing there with them and yet Frodo speaks as though he cannot hear or understand:

Quote:
'Your guide must be blindfolded," said Faramir, 'but you and your servant Samwise I release from this, if you wish."

Gollum squealed, and squirmed, and clutched at Frodo, when they came to bind his eyes; and Frodo said: "Blindfold us all three, and cover up my eyes first, and then perhaps he will see that no harm is meant." This was done, and they were led from the cave of Henneth Annun. After they had passed the passages and stairs they felt the cool morning air, fresh and sweet, about them. Still blind they went on for some little time, up and then gently down. At last the voice of Faramir ordered them to be uncovered.
Yes, Gollum is distressed, but Frodo openly says that the reason he wishes all three of them to be blindfolded is for Gollum's own good. Surely Gollum can hear all this, and so what does it say about their relationship?
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Old 04-23-2005, 02:54 PM   #9
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Although Gollum might have heard what Frodo said his dark side of his nature was taking over again. This dark side might have made Gollum twist Frodo's words. Or he also could have decided that he would forget these words since they would only complicate the desicion of taking the hobbits to Shelob or not.
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Old 04-23-2005, 08:13 PM   #10
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I have always thought that Frodo always saw through Gollum/Sméagol. He knows Gollums capabilities and his limits, it seems to me. Through the purgatory torture of the Ring (which, in Rivendell, Frodo accepted as a task rather than a possession), he becomes more Elvish as the quest proceeds. This is how I read all of the things Frodo says and does, including his words to Faramir regarding the blindfolding.

As to the virtue of the staves, the syntax of Faramir's words,
Quote:
...a virtue has been set upon them of finding and returning.
This is worded as if a craftsman had done the deed; perhaps one of Númenórean descent? Someone would have had to do the "setting upon" of the virtue. As to whether it played a part in the ultimate success of their journey, I don't know. I can't remember what happened to them, when.

davem's interpretation of Sam's dream is good enough for me. He got more out of it than I ever did.

I think it's Mount Doom that's rumbling. All that darkness has to come from somewhere.

What struck me this time were the places they hid in. Their first rest is far from Morgul, and they rest in the open woods.
Quote:
Frodo lay and slept away the night on the deep mould beneath an ancient tree.
The second rest (a short one because they had been debating whether night or day) was off the ground because Gollum insisted upon it.
Quote:
...they all climbed up into the crotch of a large holm-oak, whose thick branches springing together from the trunk made a good hiding-place and a fairly comfortable refuge.
The third rest is described thus:
Quote:
On the further edge of this broad hill-back they stayed their marc and crawled for hiding underneath a tangled knot of thorns. Their twisted boughs, stooping to the ground, were overridden by a clambering maze of old briars. Deep inside there was a hollow hall, raftered with dead branch and bramble, and roofed with the first leaves and shoots of spring.
It is here that Sam has his dream. These seem symbolic of the more dire circumstances as this chapter progresses.

Two more things stood out to me. First, Sam's undying spirit is revealed in
Quote:
...but where there's life there's hope, as my Gaffer used to say; and need of vittles, as he mostways used to add.
Second is Frodo's reaction to being startled awake by Gollum.
Quote:
'...Wake up Master, wake up!' He clawed at Frodo; and Frodo, startled otu of sleep, sat up suddenly and seized him by the arm. Gollum tore himself loose and backed away. 'They mustn't be silly,' he hissed.
Maybe it's not much, but something just happened, and it feels like a microcosm of the relationships between the three of them, especially between Frodo and Gollum. To me it is a foreshadowing of what will take place in Shelob's lair, but also is symbolic of the fact that though Gollum tries to manipulate Frodo, it is always Frodo's will that wins out ... until Mount Doom.

One final word about "nothing happening" in this chapter. Tolkien wrote in Letter # 183 (not really a letter but Notes on a review by Auden) the following:
Quote:
Most men make some journeys. Whether long or short, with an errand or simply to go "there and back again", is not of primary importance. As I tried to express it in Bilbo's Walking Song, even an afternoon-to-evening walk may have important effects.
How much more a three day journey from Henneth Annűn to the Crossroads? All of you have shown me that a lot more has happened in this chapter than I saw through one reading.

I enjoyed this. I actually read the whole chapter instead of scanning. It's not like one chapter per week is going to messs up my other plansss, my preciousssss.
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Old 04-24-2005, 10:35 AM   #11
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I've also liked the way this "small, unimportant and uneventful" chapter has developed. Often you have to dig a little deeper with these kind of chapters. But I like doing that, which is also why I like English so much.
I noticed that as Frodo and Sam continue their journey their resting places become more and more uncomfortable (obviously) but also more exposed.
Let me reword this, the hiding places are of the same kind but the hobbits begin to feel more exposed and insecure. It's a wonder that Sam doesn't colapse due to lack of sleep. Frodo is too tired to worry about anything(Other than the ring)so Sam is left with a lot of worries. It is during this part of the book that you begin to see how important Sam's role is. He is the one who reminds Frodo of food and rest.
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Old 04-25-2005, 12:56 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
I have always thought that Frodo always saw through Gollum/Sméagol. He knows Gollums capabilities and his limits, it seems to me.

Through the purgatory torture of the Ring (which, in Rivendell, Frodo accepted as a task rather than a possession), he becomes more Elvish as the quest proceeds. This is how I read all of the things Frodo says and does, including his words to Faramir regarding the blindfolding.
This goes for me as well, that Frodo had some sort of wisdom or special understanding pertaining to Gollem. He paid heed to Gandalf's advice about Gollem and, listening and watching, came to accept something about their relationship. Without wanting to suggest anything too explicitly religious, it often reminds me of Christ's attitude towards Judas during the Last Supper.

I have been wondering how exactly to share my comments about this chapter, but I suppose that davem's plea for participation in the Chapter by Chapter discussion is as good a place as any to pick up a thread. davem postulates a reason for the dwindling responses to the chapter discussions.

Quote:
I wonder if the movies haven't played some part in shaping people's view of the story by emphasising the Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli storyline & making it seem more interesting.

On the other hand maybe Sam got it right when he said to Frodo that at this point some readers/hearers of the story would say 'Shut the book now Dad, we don't want to read anymore.'

Is it that people find the Frodo/Sam/Gollum storyline too 'dark' & oppressive, or is it that they simply find it too boring? If its the latter, what does that say about us as readers & as Tolkien fans? I have to say that this part of the story has become increasingly meaningful & significant to me as I've grown older, so I've actually been looking forward to this part of the story. How about others? Maybe a more significant question would be, who do readers consider the 'real' hero & central character of LotR to be - Frodo or Aragorn - & how much of a part has PJ played in shaping that opinion?
For me, it has nothing to do with the film, so I shall let this little rant at PJ go by the board.

The wearying struggle of Frodo and Sam and Gollem too has an eerie appeal to me. My problem does not lie with the bleakness of their quest. It lies with some of the techniques used in this chapter.

It is possible, as davem has reminded us, that Tolkien realised he needed an extra day in this part of the story and so he was thrown upon description more than action or dialogue. However, what the description and narration accomplish for me--and I make clear that this is just my response--is a breaking of the 'willing suspension of disbelief.'

What do I mean by this? I mean that it foregrounds the typology and geography in such a way as to highlight it beyond some of the earlier descriptions. I become uneasy that this chapter suddenly bears an onerous weight of portent and symbolism. (Interestingly, I don't feel this way about the next chapter, perhaps because the imagery is blended with action, as was the imagery of Lothlorien with action. I am explicitly reminded of Lothlorien because both there and on the stairs of Cirith Ungol time is slowed down. But this is to get ahead of myself.)

I guess what I mean is that all the imagery of darkness, of crossing over into Mordor and the dark lands of the Enemy, coupled with the sudden light shining on the flowered crown of the vandalised statue, is too much. (I like how Tolkien uses the concept of grattiffi and the mock eye on the statue, however, as that is unexpected and unique, a very modern touch used with understatement.) I become too aware that this is no longer the imaginary terrain of Middle-earth but now is a hell wrought by Incarnate Evil. If there had been more development paid to the relationship of Sam, Frodo and Gollem, then I think this description would have been put in a context which would make it work better. For me at least, this chapter needs a leaven which would make the symbolism less 'obvious'.

And my hesitation in posting earlier to this chapter has to do with my unease over saying this here, not with my preference for the Aragorn/Leoglas/Gimli quest.
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Old 04-25-2005, 02:38 PM   #13
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I continue to be amazed at the amount of things that can be dug out of what remains to me as one of the more insignificant chapters... Had all this effort been applied to some the weightier chapters (at least to my mind), such as the Faramir chapters, I can imagine that there would be a lot more to ponder concerning them.

My thanks, therefore, to everyone who had taken the time to post here. I've been made a lot more aware of some of the themes that run through this chapter. It remains one of my least-favourite chapters, but thanks to the group of you, I am more aware of what it comprises- and therefore have a greater idea of what the REST of the book contains, and therefore why I prefer most of it over this chapter.

Thanks again, all!
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Old 04-26-2005, 04:14 AM   #14
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A final go at the chapter...

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Although Gollum might have heard what Frodo said his dark side of his nature was taking over again. This dark side might have made Gollum twist Frodo's words. Or he also could have decided that he would forget these words since they would only complicate the desicion of taking the hobbits to Shelob or not.
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This goes for me as well, that Frodo had some sort of wisdom or special understanding pertaining to Gollem. He paid heed to Gandalf's advice about Gollem and, listening and watching, came to accept something about their relationship.
Thinking some more about what Frodo's words revealed about the relationship, I think it shows that Frodo views Gollum ultimately as a useful tool, a 'resource' (to use vile management language) in achieving his end, his goal. To Sam and Faramir, he must outwardly seem as though he is thoroughly compassionate about Gollum, and he does this by drawing attention to the fact that Gollum has also been a Ring Bearer, that they have shared this burden, and that Frodo could one day be like Gollum. He plays on their sympathies. He has to do this as they simply would not see why Frodo would want to make practical use of Gollum's skill and knowledge; they would tell Frodo he had chosen the wrong person for the job, and Faramir may even kill Gollum.

Frodo can see something in Gollum that the others cannot, but whether it is something spiritual in nature I am not altogether convinced; I think that the way Frodo spoke in Gollum's presence reveals something much more hard edged about his relationship with him. Frodo knows that only Gollum has the knowledge of the secret way into Mordor, and so he has to 'recruit' him for that reason, not out of pity. He certainly remembers and takes heed of Gandalf's words, but whether he also 'sees' the possible outcome, I am not entirely convinced.

And alas, he is not quite as perceptive and clever as he thinks he might be, as Gollum hides a tremendous secret in planning to take them through Shelob's lair. Gollum does well to keep quiet when Frodo speaks to Faramir about the blindfolds; here are two very clever characters each trying to use the other under the influence of the ring.
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Old 04-26-2005, 10:46 AM   #15
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A final go at the chapter...

Thinking some more about what Frodo's words revealed about the relationship, I think it shows that Frodo views Gollum ultimately as a useful tool, a 'resource' (to use vile management language) in achieving his end, his goal. To Sam and Faramir, he must outwardly seem as though he is thoroughly compassionate about Gollum, and he does this by drawing attention to the fact that Gollum has also been a Ring Bearer, that they have shared this burden, and that Frodo could one day be like Gollum. He plays on their sympathies. He has to do this as they simply would not see why Frodo would want to make practical use of Gollum's skill and knowledge; they would tell Frodo he had chosen the wrong person for the job, and Faramir may even kill Gollum.

Frodo can see something in Gollum that the others cannot, but whether it is something spiritual in nature I am not altogether convinced; I think that the way Frodo spoke in Gollum's presence reveals something much more hard edged about his relationship with him. Frodo knows that only Gollum has the knowledge of the secret way into Mordor, and so he has to 'recruit' him for that reason, not out of pity. He certainly remembers and takes heed of Gandalf's words, but whether he also 'sees' the possible outcome, I am not entirely convinced.

And alas, he is not quite as perceptive and clever as he thinks he might be, as Gollum hides a tremendous secret in planning to take them through Shelob's lair. Gollum does well to keep quiet when Frodo speaks to Faramir about the blindfolds; here are two very clever characters each trying to use the other under the influence of the ring.
I think this is rather more cynical an interpretation than the events bear, but no doubt we can agree to disagree. When I referred to Gandalf, I was thinking less of the wizard's statement about pity and more about his comment that Gollem might yet have an important role to play, although Gandalf could not then foresee it. This to me is Frodo's attitude towards Gollem, not that he sees something spiritual in the creature but that he has accepted the burden of including Gollem in the task he has accepted for himself. He submits to whatever fate is in store rather than knowing precisely what that fate is. A nonreligious "thy will be done" .
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Old 04-26-2005, 01:18 PM   #16
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Maybe it is a little cynical, but nevertheless, I do see that Frodo possesses the hard sense of determination which is also a feature of other characters such as Aragorn; neither will stoop to any low or orcish behaviour to achieve what they must do, but nevertheless, both accept what must be done and have determination.

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So it went on, almost as unceasing as the waterfall, only interrupted by a faint noise of slavering and gurgling. Frodo shivered, listening with pity and disgust. He wished it would stop, and that he never need hear that voice again. Anborn was not far behind. He could creep back and ask him to get the huntsmen to shoot. They would probably get close enough, while Gollum was gorging and off his guard. Only one true shot, and Frodo would be rid of the miserable voice for ever. But no, Gollum had a claim on him now. The servant has a claim on the master for service, even service in fear. They would have foundered in the Dead Marshes but for Gollum. Frodo knew, too, somehow, quite clearly that Gandalf would not have wished it.
When Frodo is watching Gollum at the Forbidden Pool, he shows how he hates having to rely upon Gollum, and his justification for not allowing him to be killed lists his reasons. First is that Gollum is now his servant, second is that Gollum is useful, and thirdly is the memory of Gandalf's words. Yes, they are a consideration, but are one of several. Maybe those words are indeed the most insistent or important consideration to Frodo, yet they are overwhelmed in his mind by the practical ones (practical reasons others such as Sam will more readily accept).

I don't think that this would in any way detract from Frodo's character, he remains essentially good of course; in fact, I think such determination adds to his character. Frodo was not merely a sacrificial object, he willingly took on the task, just as Aragorn also accepted the role that had fallen to him.
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Old 04-27-2005, 12:32 PM   #17
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Community, action, and obligation

Lalwendë, perhaps what lies at our difference of interpretation is a way of viewing the nature of relationships in LotR. I don’t object at all to seeing “a hard determination” in either Frodo or Aragorn, but I do think that this passage from The Forbidden Pool should not be read within the context of a Machiavellian perspective of self-interest. It is not that Gollem is useful to Frodo, but that Frodo believes in the obligations of binding relationships in spite of what he would personally wish. Aragorn’s and Frodo’s actions belong to a world view where reciprocal and even ritual exchange marks the nature of human relationships.

In this view, there is a moral as well as material aspect to human community. You might almost say it is a living fabric of community to which their actions give being and purpose. Think back to Tolkien’s view of heroism in his essay on Maldon. There is a web of personal interconnection which holds this world view together. That is why it is possible to read of the destruction of the Ring and understand it as eucatastrophic rather than simply random or absurd.

Gollem is not a commodity which Frodo can get rid of however much he pleases. Of course Frodo has his private and personal feelings that Gollem is a millstone—this is part of the psychological reality of his characterization--but he moves beyond that. It is “He wished … But no.”

It is not a fragmented, dehumanized society. Nor is it a self-less, disinterested world. Tolkien’s world is one where obligations and interactions generate community and meaning. It provides a vision of embedded social action where one repays the grace done to oneself and initiates gracious actions on one’s own and where, entirely unexplicably, such transactions can generate a surplus of grace or worth far exceeding their own measure, even in the midst of actions which deny or belie that vision.
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Old 10-20-2018, 05:42 PM   #18
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This chapter is probably my least favourite in the entire LotR. Nothing actually happens. There's no really memorable blocks of dialogue, there's no real peril, and by this point in the story, I'm pretty much full of "travelling" passages.
I must vehemently disagree with my former self! Whether it is because I am older and wiser (less in need of gaudy action than my teenaged self) or because my circumstances of reading are different, or because of some other factor, I cannot see why I would rate this chapter so low! It's an interesting demonstration of how taste can change.

Nor do I think this is a recent discovery. Though this thread has not been added to since 2005, the feeling that "wow, I actually really like 'Journey to the Crossroads'" is familiar--a discovery from some point in the intervening years. I think the key here is mood--this chapter is ripe with a sense of looming danger and brooding unease. The moment of lingering light on the head of the king is the crown jewel of this, but it has built since they parted ways with Faramir.

What strikes me now about this is the huge mystery of the darkening day. It's a fantastic image, both in the sense of been amazing and of belonging to Fantasy, and I don't think that I've ever fully appreciated it, as someone who first read the books young and just accepted what was there. It's a dramatic and powerful bit of psychological warfare on Sauron's part, showing his immense power and also daunting those who naturally thrive in sunlight. More so than in any past reading, I'm noting the connection in plotnhere between Frodo and Sam experiencing the darkness in Ithilien with everyone in Gondor experiencing the same darkness further west in Book V. It helps evoke the mental sense of Frodo and Sam sneaking in behind enemy lines, unnoticed in the war, but absolutely crucial.
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Old 10-20-2018, 10:05 PM   #19
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Interesting. I always had a liking for this chapter - it might not have been a favourite, but it left a full feeling. It's a rich chapter and I guess I like the flavour. I find most of the Gollum chapters unpleasant despite all the intricacies of relationships and philosophy (kudos to the author - Gollum had to be very real to be so repulsive); they are more of an unavoidable chore during cover to cover rereads. This chapter, as well as Of Herbs And Stewed Rabbit, are the exceptions. Both have so much other warmth and flavour that even Stinker doesn't stick so much. I suppose Gollum has some interesting behaviour in both chapters too, so maybe that is another factor.

I guess we all have our least favourite chapters. But who knows what I'll think of the Gollum stuff in 10 years.
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