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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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BOOK IV, CHAPTERS 1-5

Frodo and Sam begin the tortuous journey to Mordor,
guided by Gollum. They meet Faramir, a captain of
Gondor's army, who is stationed just outside Mordor.

On their journey to Mordor, Frodo and Sam capture
Gollum, who has been following them since the company
passed through the mines of Moria. Frodo remembers his
conversation with Gandalf long ago, when he told the
wizard that Bilbo should have killed Gollum. But now that
Frodo has the opportunity, he doesn't kill Gollum either.
Why not?

There's a change in Gollum's voice and language when he
seems to relive for a moment the torment he endured in
Mordor, and laments the loss of his precious Ring. This is
the first glimpse Tolkien gives you of another side of
Gollum's personality. He reveals a soul in torment,
struggling with itself. But the evil self is still stronger, and
Gollum reverts to his usual manner of speaking.



Frodo makes Gollum swear to obey him and to lead them
into Mordor. As if in a vision, Sam sees a physical change
in Frodo, who appears for a moment like a mighty lord,
with Gollum a whining dog at his feet. After swearing to
obey Frodo, Gollum now starts speaking normally again,
and calls himself Smeagol, the name he had before he
found the Ring. Although he acts fearful, he's also pitifully
eager to please and appears insanely happy whenever Frodo
is kind to him. What do you think has caused this change in
him? If you pay close attention to Gollum's speech in the
next few chapters, you will find that it gives clues to the
struggle going on inside him.

Gollum guides the hobbits through the Dead Marshes. They
travel in darkness, and all around them they see what seem
to be candles burning. The marsh is the scene of an ancient
battle, and in the water the hobbits glimpse the faces of the
long dead, both good folks and evil. The lights are actually
based on fact; they are caused by gasses that escape the
rotting muck of the marsh floor and spontaneously ignite.
In folktales they are called candles of the dead or will-o'-
the-wisps and are believed to lead travelers astray. Tolkien
uses this folk belief to create a nightmarish landscape.

They next pass through another nightmarish landscape,
worse than the marshes. The land around Mordor is
desolate. Saruman's crime of cutting down trees pales next
to what Sauron has done. Tolkien's descriptions are
powerful: "The gasping pools were choked with ash and
crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains
had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands."
Nothing lives there, "not even the leprous growths that feed
on rottenness." This is a land that has been defiled beyond
healing, and it shows not only the depth of Sauron's power
but also the depth of his evil.

Tolkien's description of the desolation outside Mordor is
reminiscent of modern wastelands caused by industries and
strip mining: it is filled with mounds of poison-stained
earth, gaping pits, and noxious fumes. Many readers
believe that Tolkien is intentionally making a comment on
the destruction of nature by technology. Remember that
The Lord of the Rings was written more than thirty years
ago. Seeing all the attention that the harmful effects of
industry and pollution are now getting, we can
acknowledge that Tolkien was ahead of his time.

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