TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

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TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby Notta Hobbit » Sat May 18, 2013 11:14 am

Summary

Soon after the crossroads their road begins climbing, and Frodo feels again the weight of the Ring. Then they see Minas Morgul shining with pale light, the top of the tower oscillating. They are all entranced for a moment, until Gollum pulls away and gets them going again. They cross a white bridge filled with beautiful but poisonous white flowers. Frodo turns into a zombie and starts running for the tower, but is stopped by both Sam and Gollum. Soon after, they turn off the road onto a path on the other side of a stone wall. At the top of a ridge Frodo stops in exhaustion, but is urged on again by the other two. At that moment they see and hear an eruption from Mount Doom, "answered" by lightning and a "rending screech" from Minas Morgul. A huge army led by the Lord of the Nazgul issues from the tower. At the white bridge, the Nazgul King stops and seems to search for something. Frodo begins to put the Ring on, but forces his hand to Galadriel's phial instead, and the Nazgul King continues on.

They now continue their climb and soon reach the Straight Stair. They continue in pitch blackness until they get to the Winding Stair. At the top of this they finally rest. Sam remarks, "We shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started." Frodo and Sam talk for a while and then notice that Gollum has disappeared. They fall asleep, and when Gollum returns he's momentarily touched by their love. But Sam wakes up and calls him a sneak, and Gollum goes back into his shell. The hobbits get ready to go on. Frodo gives Gollum permission to leave them, but he refuses, saying they still need him.

Questions
1. Why is Gollum the first one to recover from the spell of the tower?
2. If they had known everything at the start, would they really not have come?
3. If Sam hadn't been so rough to Gollum, would Gollum have reconsidered his little trap?

I am amazed at Tolkien's ability to continue showing sparks of "goodness potential" in Gollum.
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby siddharth » Sun May 19, 2013 3:42 am

Hee hee. You're in for a treat mate. :D Gollum's one of my top favourites from the book. He seems one of the most "fleshed out" characters.

1. Good observation. I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps it's like the saying "poison negates poison"? Gollum was the most evil of the three and hence was least affected by the place While Frodo was the purest and hence attracted easily by the evil?

2. We can't say for sure. But my opinion is they would have. Only to ways into Mordor were known to them. The first one through the Black gate was surely the least likely. To go staright through it seems idiotic. How could they ever manage to get through unseen? Their main strength was in secrecy. the second path was more secret, and I also think less perilous. And if they knew their peril, it would have been easier for them to avert the danger that is to come (in the next chapter). And Sam surely would have been much more alert.

3.
Tolkien wrote:For me perhaps the most tragic moment in the Tale comes when Sam fails to note the complete change in Gollum’s tone and aspect….His (Gollum’s) repentance is blighted and all Frodo’s pity is (in a sense) wasted. Shelob’s lair becomes inevitable.

...

The blighting of Gollum's repentance was due to the logic of the story. If it had happened the entry into Mordor and the struggle to reach Mount Doom would have been different, with the reader's interest shifted to Gollum. I think between repentance and love for Frodo on one hand and the Ring on the other, Gollum would have tried to satisfy both in some queer twisted and pitiable way. He would have stolen or used violence to take the Ring, but having satisfied "possession" he would then for Frodo’s sake have voluntarily cast himself into the fire. The effect of a partial regeneration by love would have given Gollum a clearer vision when he claimed the Ring. He would have perceived Sauron's evil, realized that he did not have the power to use it in Sauron's despite, and realized that the only way to hurt Sauron would have been to destroy the Ring and himself – which would also be the greatest service to Frodo.

- Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter #246


It seems, Gollum would have been redeemed in what seemed to be his only chance for redemption. I too agree with JRRT, that it's a tragic scene. Perhaps it was a last chance for Gollum. Because the odds of Smeagol repenting again was one in a million. This was the chance, and Sam blew it. Of course he's not to blame fully. Especially after he overhears the Slinker/Stinker debate. *SPOILER*And in a later chapter he too learns to pity Gollum after falling in a similar situation.*SPOILER*
And it's interesting to note JRRT's opinion of the plot if Gollum really redeemed himself. :D
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby Notta Hobbit » Sun May 19, 2013 11:34 am

Wow, thanks for the thoughts from JRRT! In all the years that I've read LOTR and thought about it, that particular scenario never occurred to me -- GOLLUM becoming selfless!
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby siddharth » Sun May 19, 2013 9:03 pm

That was a strange thought for me as well when I first read that letter. :) I would not say completely selfless. A bizarre combo of selflessness (Smeagol) and selfishness (Gollum). Besides that letter, JRRT has mentioned the incident in at least 3 other letters. A key point in the books, it seems. And interestingly, the blighting of Gollum's repentance came from (who I believe) the most selfless character, Sam.
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby oikeroi » Mon May 20, 2013 12:23 am

1. For me the answer is quite simple. I don't remember if gollum was actually inside minas morgul, but I am sure that it wasn't the forst time he was there. In the years since he had lost the ring to Bilbo he was in mordor, probably even inside barad-dur itself, he meet shelob and the nazgul. On the other hand, the two hobbits were smothed by the sight and power of the place. You can understand them, no?
2. This is a question that one can ask any hero from any book\film. Did Harry potter was willing to sacrifice his parents for getting the power allowing him to destroy woldmort? what about Paul artreidis and his father (dune)? Neo (matrix)?
3. Probably yes. Eventually, the power of the ring was too strong for poor gollum, I would like to believe that all his "bad character" is due to that. Still, if it hadn't been for him, Frodo could not have destroyed the ring.
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby siddharth » Mon May 20, 2013 3:50 am

oikeroi wrote:1. For me the answer is quite simple. I don't remember if gollum was actually inside minas morgul, but I am sure that it wasn't the forst time he was there. In the years since he had lost the ring to Bilbo he was in mordor, probably even inside barad-dur itself, he meet shelob and the nazgul. On the other hand, the two hobbits were smothed by the sight and power of the place. You can understand them, no?


Ha, funny! I was just going to post this. I remembered, Gollum indeed has been to Barad-Dur and has seen Sauron face-to-face. So it's understandable that his terror would be substantially lesser than the two hobbits.
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby Morwenna » Mon May 20, 2013 7:15 am

Nothing I can add that hasn't already been said; I've read those quotes from the letters before, and I agree that Gollum had experience in Mordor whereas it was all new to the other two.

This is really one emotionally-packed chapter.
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby Arvegil » Tue May 21, 2013 9:33 am

2. If they had known everything at the start, would they really not have come?

Here is where the idea of "eucatastrophe" comes in. How is this really any worse than what was expected? The entire quest was an extreme longshot under any circumstances. They were always relying on a combination of luck and the unpredictability of the quest caused by its sheer audacity, to succeed.
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby Notta Hobbit » Tue May 21, 2013 6:38 pm

Eucatastrophe, that's something I haven't heard of! I tend to agree that Sam is just kind of letting off steam. I can't imagine that Frodo would have refused to go, no matter what. The Ring itself probably would have drawn him. And where Frodo goes, Sam goes.
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Re: TTT, Book 4, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Postby Arvegil » Wed May 22, 2013 3:05 pm

Notta Hobbit wrote:Eucatastrophe, that's something I haven't heard of! I tend to agree that Sam is just kind of letting off steam. I can't imagine that Frodo would have refused to go, no matter what. The Ring itself probably would have drawn him. And where Frodo goes, Sam goes.


"Eucatastrophe" is Tolkien's own term. It refers to a happy form of Deus Ex Machina, except that a eucatastrophe is consistent with the themes of the work. For example, Gollum's accidental destruction of the One RIng is made possible by the unearned mercy shown by both Bilbo and Frodo, and is made possible by the very Christian virtues (as opposed to the more heroic pagan virtues) shown by Tolkien's protagonists.
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