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Old 09-26-2005, 02:47 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Silmaril LotR -- Book 6 - Chapter 1 - The Tower of Cirith Ungol

With this book and chapter, we readers leave the Gondorians and their allies and return to the Ringbearers. Tolkien makes the transition very cleverly, letting us remember through Sam’s eyes where he is and what has happened. As he has done previously, he also connects the strands of his tale by telling us what is happening at the other location at the same time. Interestingly, the locations are similar, though not close – both groups are at an entrance to Mordor.

Descriptive narrative is an important element in this chapter – Mordor and the tower are shown in great detail. What do you see most vividly when you read it?

Lacking another character for dialogue, Sam’s thoughts are shown to us; sometimes he even speaks to himself aloud. The most important such passage is undoubtedly his temptation by the Ring. He recognizes it as the deception that it is. My favorite line there: “…his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.”

Love is what gives the hero his strength – in this case, Sam’s love for his master. We’ve discussed the importance of love in the context of Éowyn’s courage in slaying the Witch-King, where it is love of her uncle that motivates her. I find it highly interesting that the love is in both cases not a romantic love, yet it is love nonetheless. (Romantic love as an inspiration is included in the tale – Aragorn’s love for Arwen – but that is hardly shown in the story itself.)

The Elves have a part, though very indirectly so, in Sam’s heroism; Galadriel’s phial is vital both as a light and as a power to break the enemy’s barrier. Sam and Frodo use Elvish as a signal and as a spell.

As so often, I’ve noticed details I didn’t remember from previous readings, such as the livery of the Moon as opposed to that of the Red Eye. Does it denote an independence from Sauron in the organisation of the Tower of Minas Morgul (=Ithil, the moon), or is it some kind of tradition that has been kept from old times? At any rate, the two fractions disagree violently. We have here an example of the enemy that destroys itself by internal enmity. Does that seem to you like a convenient way to get Sam into the tower without having to fight against overwhelming odds, or is it the illustration of a universal truth? We have some orc dialogue and names – how do they strike you? We even find out that the gesture of licking the bloody knife is indeed canonical – Shagrat does so!

A small aspect of heroism occurs to me when I read of Sam’s ever going upwards. We may agree that that is strenuous, but do we realize what it must have been like for a hobbit, who felt uncomfortable even having to sleep above ground level?!

The power of music – plain Shire singing, nothing Elven – is shown to us here. I am reminded of the Biblical story of Paul and Silas, who begin singing in jail, in the middle of the night – and perhaps Tolkien had that in the back of his mind when writing this passage. Let’s discuss the poem; I must say, I especially love the second stanza, and the last two lines often go through my mind when discouraged.
Quote:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.
Sam is a wonderful poet indeed!

Finally he (and we with him) finds Frodo. It’s interesting that Frodo speaks of the blurring of dreams and reality, perhaps nothing unusual in a situation like that, but for a person who is prone to significant dreams, there might be more behind them.

The Ring must be returned to the rightful Ringbearer – how do you feel when you read that scene? There are two déjŕ vu moments in this passage – Frodo’s vision of Sam evokes that of Bilbo back in Rivendell, and his remorseful words after recovering the Ring are the exact same ones that Boromir spoke on Amon Hen.

The chapter ends with the sight of a Winged Rider, reminding us that this victory is not yet the end of danger for them.


I was only able to touch briefly on the events of this fairly long chapter, yet even this introduction is long! I hope you’ll have lots of your own thoughts to add to the discussion!
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Old 09-26-2005, 03:02 AM   #2
HerenIstarion
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn
Sam is a wonderful poet indeed!
Indeed. And Tolkien is a wonderful theologian. I love it how most of his theology comes through poetry. In full:


Quote:
In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe ‘tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.
The Evil is finite, not endless, and small and weak and dependent compared to the eternity of the Day (note the capital D) and the glory of the light the Sun (again, capital S) gives.
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Old 09-26-2005, 04:27 AM   #3
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Hurrah! It seems the site was down yesterday so now I can at last do my post which I'd picked out some ideas for last weekend! This chapter has raised some odd questions for me.

Quote:
As he gazed at it suddenly Sam understood, almost with a shock, that this stronghold had been built not to keep enemies out of Mordor, but to keep them in. It was indeed one of the works of Gondor long ago, an eastern outpost of the defences of Ithilien, made when, after the Last Alliance, Men of Westernesse kept watch on the evil land of Sauron where his creatures still lurked. But as with Narchost and Carchost, the Towers of the Teeth, so here too the vigilance had failed, and treachery had yielded up the Tower to the Lord of the Ringwraiths, and now for long years it had been held by evil things. Since his return to Mordor, Sauron had found it useful; for he had few servants but many slaves of fear, and still its chief purpose as of old was to prevent escape from Mordor. Though if an enemy were so rash as to try to enter that land secretly, then it was also a last unsleeping guard against any that might pass the vigilance of Morgul and of Shelob.
What kind of 'treachery' made Gondorian Men give up the tower to the Witch King? Their vigilance failed in more ways than one, as it seems that the enemy was indeed within their own if it was treachery that made the tower fall to the enemy. I have to wonder if Men garrisoned on the borders of Mordor would be in a very vulnerable situation, not just physically, but also mentally; as Sauron's power waxed it must have grown increasingly desolate a place to be posted. Even the Orcs dream of 'retirement', so what kind of effect must the posting have had on Men? It strikes me that there is potential for a very interesting RPG in this simple statement!

Cirith Ungol is a watchtower, built to keep people inside Mordor, and strangely, now also used to keep people inside Mordor, but the people being kept inside while Sauron is in possession of Cirith Ungol are slaves. Mordor is in effect a prison. What is very odd here is that Tolkien says of Sauron: "he had few servants but many slaves of fear". This suggests that of the population of Mordor, the majority did not choose to be there. Who lives in Mordor? Is the population primarily Orcish? Do we assume that Orcs tend to willingly offer their loyalty to Sauron? I wonder where the Orcs lie in the definition of who is a servant and who is a 'slave of fear'; the Orcs have been shown to have minds of their own in the chapters which take place in the Pass of Cirith Ungol so I wonder if following Sauron is innate or a choice? If it is a choice, then this suggests that Mordor's population must also include a majority of peoples who are enslaved in some way, who are not Orcs. But if the Orcs might have been enslaved by their fear then this suggests that the Orcs are not inherently bad people, they do bad deeds but how much of it is by choice? This makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Quote:
Don't orcs eat, and don't they drink? Or do they just live on foul air and poison?'

'No, they eat and drink, Sam. The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don't think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them; and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures. Foul waters and foul meats they'll take, if they can get no better, but not poison. They've fed me, and so I'm better off than you. There must be food and water somewhere in this place.'

'But there's no time to look for them,' said Sam.

'Well, things are a bit better than you think,' said Frodo. 'I have had a bit of luck while you were away. Indeed they did not take everything. I've found my food-bag among some rags on the floor. They've rummaged it, of course. But I guess they disliked the very look and smell of the lembas, worse than Gollum did. It's scattered about and some of it is trampled and broken, but I've gathered it together. It's not far short of what you've got. But they've taken Faramir's food, and they've slashed up my water-bottle.'
Frodo's words deepen my concerns. The Orcs, as he points out, are not monsters or machines, they are living beings, people just as are the Hobbits and Elves. They too need to eat and drink, and as Frodo says, they will even consume food which we might find revolting - which suggests they live in straightened circumstances.

But they will not eat the Lembas and even find it more repellant than Gollum did; if they are living a hand to mouth existence as regards food, surely Lembas would be a treat? Perhaps their distaste for the food may stem from their origins as Elves? A memory of something fair may be highly disturbing to them. Frodo hints that they are not a new people, that they are a people who have been 'ruined and twisted'; I wonder how many of the Orcs in the Third Age were also alive in the days of Melkor? We don't know if Orcs breed at all, but maybe they do, even if it is unpleasant to think of babies and Orcs in the same breath.

Perhaps Orcs do not breed at all, but are reincarnated after death in much the same way that Elves are? That is a possibility if they were indeed Elves - and it could be the purpose of 'The Houses of Lamentation' that the Witch King speaks of - a darkened mirror image of the Halls of Mandos. If an unending life is inherent in Elves' nature then would it also be inherent in Orcs' nature?

This chapter also displays how bitter experience has caused Frodo to grow in knowledge and understanding. He has certainly learned something about Orcs during this brief time of captivity; while he doesn't sympathise with them, he admits that they are also human (i.e. sentient beings). It is Frodo who at the start of LotR was disgusted at the thought of Gollum being allowed to live; by this point in the story he has come to realise the truth in Gandalf's words about pity, and while I would not exactly say he feels pity for the Orcs, he has recognised that they are not just animals.
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Old 09-26-2005, 07:28 AM   #4
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Boots

We get to see orkish leadership qualities at their finest in this chapter.

Quote:
Mordor is in effect a prison. What is very odd here is that Tolkien says of Sauron: "he had few servants but many slaves of fear". This suggests that of the population of Mordor, the majority did not choose to be there. Who lives in Mordor? Is the population primarily Orcish? Do we assume that Orcs tend to willingly offer their loyalty to Sauron? I wonder where the Orcs lie in the definition of who is a servant and who is a 'slave of fear'; the Orcs have been shown to have minds of their own in the chapters which take place in the Pass of Cirith Ungol so I wonder if following Sauron is innate or a choice? If it is a choice, then this suggests that Mordor's population must also include a majority of peoples who are enslaved in some way, who are not Orcs. But if the Orcs might have been enslaved by their fear then this suggests that the Orcs are not inherently bad people, they do bad deeds but how much of it is by choice?
The orcs are referred to in the Sil as secretly hating their masters.

Quote:
And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery.
You can see traces of this in Shagrat and Gorbag. Their conversation was mildly mutinous.

Whatever you make of this, there can be no question but that they hated the Free Peoples more and wanted to fight and kill them. The orcs would do so even when they were not under Sauron's direct control. To a certain extent, I think they fight because they do want to, even though they hate the one who is leading them.
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Old 09-26-2005, 08:52 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Esty
Tolkien makes the transition very cleverly, letting us remember through Sam’s eyes where he is and what has happened. As he has done previously, he also connects the strands of his tale by telling us what is happening at the other location at the same time. Interestingly, the locations are similar, though not close – both groups are at an entrance to Mordor.
I love that part. It really gives you perspective. It's moving that after all adventures they're so close to each other without knowing it themselves.

When Sam put the One Ring on his finger he got this vision:
Quote:
Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and the armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad-Dűr.
First this seemed tempting to Sam but the Ring didn't manage to betray him.
Quote:
The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.
The Ring failed to ensnare its new bearer! How is that possible?

The book says that Sam was able to resist the temptation mostly because of the love he felt for Frodo. But were the visions that the Ring showed really what Sam desired or something that Sauron would have wished in his position? In other words, just like Sauron didn't even think that someone would like to destroy the Ring, maybe he couldn't understand that somebody wouldn't want to be a great and admired commander. Also, it seems that love was an unfamiliar conception to Sauron. I think there was too much Sauron's own spirit in the Ring to fool Sam who is a total opposite of Sauron. Therefore the Ring couldn't show Sam's deepest dreams and thus failed.

Mordor's defense has now some serious problems. The Ring failed, the Orcs are mutinous and the Watchers are baffled by Galadriel's phial.

But what are the Watchers, anyway? Were they made by the Gondorians or the Enemy?
Quote:
They seemed to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abode in them. They knew an enemy.
Sam was clearly an enemy to the Watchers so it would suggest that they were the work of Mordor. It's interesting how Tolkien gives so many objects a spirit, sense or some kind of an awareness. There are orc sensing swords, treacherous rings and statues with artificial intelligence... What was the spirit inside them and why couldn't it bear the light of the phial?
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Old 09-26-2005, 11:11 AM   #6
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The love that dare not speak its name???

Quote:
'I can hardly believe it,' said Frodo, clutching him. 'There was an orc with a whip, and then it turns into Sam! Then I wasn't dreaming after all when I heard that singing down below, and I tried to answer? Was it you?'
'It was indeed, Mr. Frodo. I'd given up hope, almost. I couldn't find you.'
'Well, you have now, Sam, dear Sam,' said Frodo, and he lay back in Sam's gentle arms, closing his eyes, like a child at rest when night-fears are driven away by some loved voice or hand.
Sam felt that he could sit like that in endless happiness; but it was not allowed
This is an interesting phrasing on Tolkien’s part: ‘not allowed.’ Not ‘But there was no time.’ or ‘But it was not safe'. Sam is is sitting, holding the naked Frodo & wishing he could stay like that forever, ‘in endless happiness.’

But it was not allowed.

Who can guess where I’m going with this? Sorry - not quiite right.

There’s an interesting essay, ‘And in the Closet bind them’ in the One Ring.net’s book ‘The People’s Guide to JRR Tolkien’. I’ll begin with a few quotes:

Quote:
Those stories are about the passion of men, the devotion between Iflen in tlmes of struggle. Though not always in a sexual equation, the -passion is still the same. We recognize it as fraternal love and the bond of loyalty and closeness. So if Tolkien put this passion in there, exploring this theme between his characters, then so be it. You can trust that it is part of his work for a reason, and just maybe it pushed as many buttons back in 1954 as it does today.
The writer then goes on to talk about the way he has seen (hetrosexual) young men in Europe kissing & holding hands as they walked.

Quote:
You certainly can't find that here, in a country where generations of us have been raised feeling very uncomfortable expressing ourselves with our own bodies and the prevailing sense of machismo has taken its toll. Americans are so emotionally constipated that they can't accept one snple idea: that people can touch each other, with nothing but innocencece and caring, a simple dose of humanity that implies nothmg I else. Be American psyche, such as it is, just can't sit still with ; men or two women touching each other. "Don't go there! Too uncomfortablel" Our minds are filtered through so much cultural detritus that anytime we encounter same-sex affection, without granting it any merit, we are distressed and offended beyond means. I think that's a shame.
Can you imagine yourself crossing the endless volcanic desert going untold days with no food and only a sip of water? Would you and your traveling companion not be beaten with misery and despair, to the extreme end of your own endurance, just as Frodo and Sam were? Would you not then crave the smallest sign of care, support, and love from the only other human being near you who is carrying you on his back, while you toil with your own madness? You cannot deny it. The simplest touch, the kiss of your loving brother, would do more miracles to keep you alive and sane than anything else would. Yes, a miracle of hope is what we're talking about here, and it breathes power into Tolkien's work like nothing else.
In short, the writer does descern an ‘homoerotic’ element to Frodo & Sam’s relationship, but without any sexualised dimension. Now, one could accuse him of wanting to have his cake & eat it. He does claim that Tolkien deliberately introduced this element into the relationship between the two Hobbits, but whether or no it does seem present - on Sam’s part at least. So, what was going on?

My oown feeling is that Frodo is by this time in the story (if not, like Galahad, from birth) not simply physically, but psychologically & spiritually celebate. Sam is not - but neither is he ‘gay’. In short, Sam does not, at this point or at any other point in their relationship, want to have sex with Frodo (sorry all you writers of ‘slash’!) but Sam loves Frodo. He always has & always will. His love for Frodo is equal to his love for Rose - he declares himself ‘torn in two’ between the two of them. He is also a very ‘physical’ as well as emotional person. He needs physical contact & the harder, more desperate, more hopeless things become, the more he feels that need.

Yet is it as simple as that? Probably not. Certainly, as the essay writer points out, there is a ‘class’ division between Frodo & Sam. Sam is of a lower class than his ‘master’, & the kind of physical closeness he increasingly comes to share with Frodo would have been unusual in the Shire. Also, in such terrible circumstances as the Hobbits find themselves in its not simply the social conventions which would break down, but all kinds of ‘rules’, of concepts of acceptible/unnacceptible would be called into question too. When does physical closeness become too close? At what point does the need of two desperate ‘human beings’ for ‘the simplest touch, the kiss of your loving brother,’ cross some kind of line & become unnacceptable - in other words, when is it no longer ‘allowed’?

I think I agree with the writer of the essay. Tolkien di know exactly what he was doing. He was exploring a very complex question, a very real ‘fact’ - what happens to men in inhuman situations, where fear & despair have become the daily facts of life; where the need for a touch, a kiss, for someone to hold you is all that can keep you functioning?

This moment in the story, where Sam breaks down after all his struggles, all his suffering - his fight with Shelob to save Frodo, his hopeless despair when he believes him dead. his struggle against all the odds to reach him in the tower & finally his finding of him broken & beaten was enough to make Sam for a moment forget what was ‘allowed’. But it doesn’t last long:

Quote:
It was not enough for him to find his master, he had still to try and save him. He kissed Frodo's forehead. 'Come! Wake up, Mr. Frodo!' he said, trying to sound as cheerful as he had when he drew back the curtains at Bag End on a summer's morning.
It is not simply Sam’s selfless, ‘Platonic’ love for Frodo that drives him on. It is also (admittedly to a lesser extent) his own need for companionship, for the touch of a brother in arms, a fellow soul in torment. Someone to hold.

Its interesting that this moment of extreme tenderness follows not just his terrible struggle to get into the tower, but also his temptation by the Ring. He has been tempted to claim the Ring for his own & become a ‘Lord’, a commander & Master of others. Simply, he rejects this offer of mastery because he already has a ‘Master’ of his own - Mr Frodo. He has no desire to be other than he is, a ‘simple’ gardener.

But its also interesting that what follows this shared moment of tenderness between Sam & his Master is Frodo’s selfish lashing out:

Quote:
If it's too hard a job, I could share it with you, maybe?'
'No, no!' cried Frodo, snatching the Ring and chain from Sam's hands. 'No you won't, you thief!' He panted, staring at Sam with eyes wide with fear and enmity. Then suddenly, clasping the Ring in one clenched fist, he stood aghast. A mist seemed to clear from his eyes, and he passed a hand over his aching brow. The hideous vision had seemed so real to him, half bemused as he was still with wound and fear. Sam had changed before his very eyes into an orc again, leering and pawing at his treasure, a foul little creature with greedy eyes and slobbering mouth. But now the vision had passed. There was Sam kneeling before him, his face wrung with pain, as if he had been stabbed in the heart; tears welled from his eyes.
This is almost a repeat of the Sam/Gollum interchange on the stairs, where Sam accused Gollum of ‘sneaking’. A moment of tenderness & vulnerability is shattered by a cruel accusation. But Sam’s devotion to & love of Frodo is deeper & more abiding than Gollum’s.

Incidentally, Frodo’s ‘vision’ of Sam is also virtually a repeat of his ‘vision’ of Bilbo in Rivendell:

Quote:
To his distress and amazement he found that he was no longer looking at Bilbo; a shadow seemed to have fallen between them, and through it he found himself eyeing a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands. He felt a desire to strike him.
We see Frodo increasingly turning in on himself, lashing out at Sam, obsessing over the Ring while at the same time Sam reaching out more & more desperately to Frodo for companionship. Frodo becomes more selfish, Sam more selfless. That’s understandable, given the part Frodo has been given to play. Yet in the end it is Sam who attains his desire, not Frodo. Sam settles down with his Rose, Frodo sails into exile - but then, there are some wounds which cannot be wholly healed.
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Old 09-26-2005, 04:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Tolkien di know exactly what he was doing. He was exploring a very complex question, a very real ‘fact’ - what happens to men in inhuman situations, where fear & despair have become the daily facts of life; where the need for a touch, a kiss, for someone to hold you is all that can keep you functioning?
This makes an effective contrast with the behaviour of the Orcs towards one another in this chapter. Both Orcs and Hobbits have been brutalised by their experiences, but the essential difference between the two races is shown in the contrast of Sam's love with Shagrat's hatred.

The Ring is the catalyst for all of this. It causes the Orcs to kill one another in the fight to get at some unknown prize which Sauron desires, it causes Frodo to lash out at Sam, but it also causes Sam to react with a display of love for his master. He has experienced a little of what Frodo has experienced as a ring bearer, and this I think only serves to magnify his sense of relief when he finally finds Frodo alive.

I like this point in the book. We have seen many of the characters in truly desperate situations and driven to extreme measures, but at this point we get to see two opposites in behaviour, yet both Hobbit and Orc have been driven to this by the same means, by Sauron.
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:35 AM   #8
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the final two lines of Sam's poem sum up the whole of the Lord of the Rings for me
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I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell.
i.e. the forces for 'good' have a hopeless cause, but will not give in to this. they will battle on regardless......
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Old 09-27-2005, 11:21 AM   #9
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One part of this chapter that always piques my curiosity is the following quote, that has already been touched on:

Quote:
As he gazed at it suddenly Sam understood, almost with a shock, that this stronghold had been built not to keep enemies out of Mordor, but to keep them in. It was indeed one of the works of Gondor long ago, an eastern outpost of the defences of Ithilien, made when, after the Last Alliance, Men of Westernesse kept watch on the evil land of Sauron where his creatures still lurked. But as with Narchost and Carchost, the Towers of the Teeth, so here too the vigilance had failed, and treachery had yielded up the Tower to the Lord of the Ringwraiths, and now for long years it had been held by evil things. Since his return to Mordor, Sauron had found it useful; for he had few servants but many slaves of fear, and still its chief purpose as of old was to prevent escape from Mordor. Though if an enemy were so rash as to try to enter that land secretly, then it was also a last unsleeping guard against any that might pass the vigilance of Morgul and of Shelob.
Who were those Men of Gondor that braved Mordor to construct this tower? Who were the Men that for hundreds of years, garrisoned it?

And for hundreds of years, they did garrison it. From its building, presumeably soon after the Last Alliance, until the failure of the watch upon Mordor, the Dunedain marched over Cirith Ungol and kept a watch on the land of Mordor. The Tale of the Years indicates that this ceased in 1640:

Quote:
King Tarondor removes the King's House to Minas Anor, and plants a seedling of the White Tree. Osgiliath begins to fall into ruin. Mordor is left unguarded.
Sixteen hundred years. For sixteen hundred years, the Tower of Cirith Ungol guarded Gondor against attack. Specifically, it guarded Minas Ithil. It must have been an unwanted posting. The bleak, foreboding terrain of the Ephel Duath and Mordor all around. There would be not much to do. Not once in the Tale of the Years prior to this point is there mention of a single altercation taking place in Mordor. It was quite cut off from the rest of Gondor.

And it was a dangerous place to get to. Remember Faramir's dread at the name of Cirith Ungol? Could that have been passed down from the Men who guarded the Tower? And what of Shelob? In "Shelob's Lair", we hear the mention of better times for her, when she could eat of Man and Elf, but since the city became dead, she has had nothing but Ork. Surely that hints of a time when the soldiers of Gondor were passing in and out to their tower, for who else would have cause to cross Cirith Ungol?

This little snippet of history fascinates me, and is the sort of material that, I understand, makes for a great RPG. And then there's that little mention of "treachery". What was that? There's no mention of treachery being involved in the Tale of the Years.

Fascinating stuff.
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Old 09-27-2005, 03:35 PM   #10
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Random thoughts

Some interesting comments have been made about the Orcs in this chapter. We see quite a change in the relationship between Shagrat & Gorbag. Last time we encountered them they seemed to be the best of friends, planning to set up together:

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"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 bosses."
'Ah!" said Shagrat. 'Like old times."
'Yes," said Gorbag. "But don't count on it. I'm not easy in my mind. As I said, the Big Bosses, ay," his voice sank almost to a whisper, 'ay, even the Biggest, can make mistakes. Something nearly slipped, you say. I say, something has slipped
Now, a few hours later, we see what has happened to this 'friendship'. From what Shagrat says it seems that these two may even have run a similar operation together in the past - he speaks about 'old times'. Whether or no, it seems Gorbag is less of a faithful servant of Sauron's than his compadre:

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'Then you must go. I must stay here anyway. But I'm hurt. The Black Pits take that filthy rebel Gorbag!' Shagrat's voice trailed off into a string of foul names and curses. 'I gave him better than I got, but he knifed me, the dung, before I throttled him. You must go, or I'll eat you. News must get through to Lugburz, or we'll both be for the Black Pits. Yes, you too. You won't escape by skulking here.'
It seems Shagrat is here displaying the kind of loyalty that we would never expect from one of Sauron's 'slaves'. Gorbag is a 'filthy rebel' & Shagrat clearly feels justified in killing him. He even exults in the act:

Quote:
But at that very moment a hiss escaped its teeth, a gasp of pain or hate. Quick as a snake Shagrat slipped aside, twisted round, and drove his knife into his enemy's throat.
'Got you, Gorbag!' he cried. 'Not quite dead, eh? Well, I'll finish my job now.' He sprang onto the fallen body, and stamped and trampled it in his fury, stooping now and again to stab and slash it with his knife. Satisfied at last, he threw back his head and let out a horrible gurgling yell of triumph. Then he licked his knife, and put it between his teeth, and catching up the bundle he came loping towards the near door of the stairs.
Its Shagrat's declaring Gorbag a 'filthy rebel' that makes me wonder whether all the Orcs are 'slaves'. Notice how he didn't actually agree to run off & set up a gang with Gorbag - he merely responded with 'Ah! Like old times'. Makes me wonder whether he wasn't just trying to give his old 'friend' enough rope to hang himself. Shagrat seems loyal to Sauron's cause - does this make him 'worse' than Gorbag? He probably sees himself as better - he's the one 'doing the right thing', obeying orders. Indeed, he seems desperate to get his message to Barad dur. It seems that some, if not all, Orcs are loyal to the 'cause'.

Dancing Spawn's mention of the Watchers also got me thinking. These 'statues' are clearly sentient to some degree - they are aware & they can be cowed - in fact, it seems they are also willing 'slaves'.

Quote:
They were like great figures seated upon thrones. Each had three joined bodies, and three heads facing outward, and inward, and across the gateway. The heads had vulture-faces, and on their great knees were laid clawlike hands. They seemed to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abode in them. They knew an enemy. Visible or invisible none could pass unheeded. They would forbid his entry, or his escape.
Hardening his will Sam thrust forward once again, and halted with a jerk, staggering as if from a blow upon his breast and head. Then greatly daring, because he could think of nothing else to do, answering a sudden thought that came to him, he drew slowly out the phial of Galadriel and held it up. Its white light quickened swiftly, and the shadows under the dark arch fled. The monstrous Watchers sat there cold and still, revealed in all their hideous shape
Whether the statues they inhabit were made by the Numenoreans is another question - from the description of them it seems unlikely - Numenoreans would be more likely to place statues of eagles or seabirds, one would have thought, yet maybe they were Numenorean in origin - possibly made hideous to intimidate any who sought to escape from Mordor. The spirits that have come to inhabit them are clearly the work of Sauron. In the context of the Witch king's threat to Eowyn, & the earlier words of Shagrat, about the Nazgul stripping the flesh off their victims & leaving them naked on the 'other side' I can't help but wonder about the origin of these indwelling spirits & whether they took up their abode willingly or not.

IT seems that as we enter Mordor we will find that black becomes blacker, evil becomes 'purer'. Not simply living things like Orcs, but statues as well - even the land itself - increasingly become manifestations of evil per se. Within Mordor there are no 'grey' areas. Frodo & Sam become more & more 'isolated'. Frodo himself becomes increasingly 'consumed' by the evil - there is no veil between him & the wheel of fire & he can remember nothing else. In the end he will succumb to the Ring. Only Sam truly remains pure of heart to the end.

It has been pointed out by others that it is the events in the Tower that finally break Frodo's heart & spirit, that after his torture there he never recovers, that it is in that place that all his hope is finally wrenched from him. I think this is probably true. Never afterwards do we get any glimpse of the 'old' Frodo. Something profound happened to him there, alone, helpless, 'naked in the dark'. Certainly his words to Sam

Quote:
'They've taken everything, Sam,' said Frodo. 'Everything I had. Do you understand? Everything? He cowered on the floor again with bowed head, as his own words brought home to him the fullness of the disaster, and despair overwhelmed him. 'The quest has failed, Sam. Even if we get out of here, we can't escape. Only Elves can escape. Away, away out of Middle-earth, far away over the Sea. If even that is wide enough to keep the Shadow out.'
Are the most hopeless & desparing we have heard him utter. When he gets back the Ring he exults for a moment, but that moment soon passes. His state from now on is best summed up in his own words in the next chapter:

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'All right, Sam,' said Frodo. 'Lead me! As long as you've got any hope left. Mine is gone. But I can't dash, Sam. I'll just plod along after you.'
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Old 09-27-2005, 04:20 PM   #11
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Interestingly, during the time that Cirith Ungol was being used by the Gondorians, Sauron was not resident in Mordor, he was in Dol Guldur, and the tower was abandoned long before he returned to Mordor. Presumably the area was under the control of the Nazgul durng this time. That could possibly have some bearing on the nature of the Watchers; in order to guard against unearthly foes an unearthly warning system might be needed. An invisible force field to prevent unbodied Nazgul from entering?

The 'old times' referred to by the Orcs might be referring to the time when Sauron was not resident in Mordor. Clearly the escalation in military activity is a relatively recent development in Mordor, especially set against the great span of time of the whole Third Age; the Orcs could be talking of the time when they were under less control from Sauron. I think it is clear that Orcs do have minds of their own, but the slavery they are subject to is of an insidious kind; it has as much to do with subtle forces of control as it does with the Iron Fist.

Sauron may well, like all despots (and many democratically elected leaders), have utilised 'divide and conquer', playing his 'slaves' or 'servants' off against one another. That would explain why two seeming comrades such as Shagrat and Gorbag would quickly descend into violence when the opprtunity arose. One saw it as a chance for independence while the other may have seen the opportunity to please 'the boss'; both seek power and status, which is what Sauron would hope they would seek, as they will strive that little bit harder for his approval.
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Old 09-28-2005, 07:56 AM   #12
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I'm going back to this quote, as it's the most fascinating part of the chapter for me.

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They were like great figures seated upon thrones. Each had three joined bodies, and three heads facing outward, and inward, and across the gateway. The heads had vulture-faces, and on their great knees were laid clawlike hands. They seemed to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abode in them. They knew an enemy.
Quite an image! 3 joined bodies, 3 vulture heads. An almost Mesopotamian figure. IMO most out of the ordinary when you consider the beastiary of ME, where natural forms become twisted and malformed by the enemy. This is a bad lab experiment gone awry in comparison. For some reason, I see the Watchers far beyond the craft of Sauron. I see them as one of the few (possibly only) objects of legacy from Morgoth that Sauron could actually master and utilize. For example:

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Visible or invisible none could pass unheeded. They would forbid his entry, or his escape.
Seen even when the Ring is worn. Gandalf himself did not have this abitlity. How they got there is something to think about. Looking at the sentence: "...seemed to be carved of stone.. immovable.. yet aware" leaves the door opened in my mind that they arent made of stone, they are immovable, but by what? By the spell of Sauron, the nature of their creation, or their own...? Mabye movement is possible for them if Morgoth willed it so. But since he is in the Void, all they can do is Watch.....

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And from those evil heads there came a high shrill cry that echoed in the towering walls before him.
A necessary skill to have if your a Watcher is to let someone know about what you are watching for. It shows a definate sentience to me. Note that the signal is perfomed only with Sam's intrusion, and not for orcs, etc.

Now back to the star of the chapter, Sam:
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He sprang out to meet Shagrat with a shout. He was no longer holding the Ring, but it was there, a hidden power, a cowing menace to the slaves of Mordor; and in his hand was Sting, and its light smote the eyes of the orc like the glitter of cruel stars in the terrible elf-countries, the dream of which was a cold fear to all his kind.
I love that passage. Long live Samwise the brave! And another - to again avoid the Watchers on their way out:
Quote:
Sam drew out the elven-glass of Galadriel again. As if to do honour to his hardihood, and to grace with splendour his faithful brown hobbit-hand that had done such deeds, the phial blazed forth suddenly, so that all the shadowy court was lit with a dazzling radiance like lightning; but it remained steady and did not pass.
To do honor indeed.
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Old 09-29-2005, 09:02 PM   #13
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...and in his hand was Sting, and its light smote the eyes of the orc like the glitter of cruel stars in the terrible elf-countries, the dream of which was a cold fear to all his kind.
Why might this be? Might it be referring to areas guarded by the Girdle of Melian or Elven Rings?
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Old 09-30-2005, 07:11 AM   #14
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Why might this be? Might it be referring to areas guarded by the Girdle of Melian or Elven Rings?
Could be. Stars are beloved to elves though, so it might refer to their light as seen from an elf kingdom. I always think about it referring to the light of Sting sparking memories of 1st age elven armies. Imagine what it would look like (esp. from an orc,and at night) seeing an army of multiple thousands of elven warriors, all wielding swords that shown forth light thusly...
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Old 09-30-2005, 12:10 PM   #15
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He sprang out to meet Shagrat with a shout. He was no longer holding the Ring, but it was there, a hidden power, a cowing menace to the slaves of Mordor; and in his hand was Sting, and its light smote the eyes of the orc like the glitter of cruel stars in the terrible elf-countries, the dream of which was a cold fear to all his kind.
It could be that Sting is in fact charged with Light, in some way similar to how the Phial is filled with Light as opposed to just light. Isn't there a saying about the face of God being so divine that it would hurt or even kill you to look at Him? It could be that this light would hurt anyone from the side of the darkness to look upon it. I wonder what Tolkien meant by saying it 'smote the eyes', as that suggests real physical injury! This must be how Sam gets past the barrier set up by the Watchers, as the Phial's Light would have worked to oppose whatever 'dark' forces the Watchers had.

There's also something odd in these lines. Sam has the Ring, the Phial and Sting and uses them in quick succession. Here is a Hobbit empowered with not only an Elven blade, but also Light and the most dangerous object in Middle-earth. It makes you wonder what he might have been capable of...
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Old 09-30-2005, 02:20 PM   #16
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Here is a Hobbit empowered with not only an Elven blade, but also Light and the most dangerous object in Middle-earth
Great point Lal! Couldnt have much more mojo on him, could he?

Oh, I suppose if he was wearing Nauglamir and the Helm of Hador...
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Old 03-12-2019, 08:16 AM   #17
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The Eye

"The Tower of Cirith Ungol" always surprises me when I come to it, because after the epic drama of Book V, my memory always makes Book IV out to have been a little drab by comparison. But this chpater has a little bit of everything: magic, battle, songs, high emotion, danger, villains, history.

My memory could be wrong, but I think that, waaaaaay back when I first read The Lord of the Rings, I had a guess, given what happened in "The Black Gate Opens," that Sam would fail at rescuing Frodo (though I did think Frodo would still live), so it was an unexpected joy to have them reunited.

I still agree with my younger self that there's a great untold story in the history of the tower and its treacherous fall. Could this manning this tower have prevented the loss of Minas Ithil? Interestingly, despite the continuing close connection with Minas Morgul, the tower is not under Morgul's command, but garrisoned by Mordor proper: a tiny way of dividing his underlings against each other by Sauron?
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