The Two Towers
J. R. R. Tolkien
Contributed by Marinda Dreiling
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Chapter 13

Having moved across the desert, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum arrive at the Morannon, the Black Gate of Mordor. The Gate is closed. Sam accuses Gollum of bringing them to the Gate in vain, but Gollum insists, and Frodo concurs, that he was simply following Frodo’s orders. Gollum pleads with Frodo not to enter Mordor, not to take the Ring to Sauron (for he does not know Frodo’s true intent). He tells Frodo and Sam of another, secret way into Mordor. As the hobbits ponder what to do, they witness the Gate opening to admit armies of men who have assembled to aid Sauron-they are not, as Frodo had hoped, men who were mounting an assault against the Dark Lord. Eventually, menaced once more by the flight of the Nazgl, the three travelers turn toward Cirith Ungol and the passage into Mordor that Sauron is not sufficiently guarding or watching.


Frodo issues a warning about the Ring to Gollum that expresses much of the thematic heart of Tolkien’s treatment of evil: "You swore a promise by what you call the Precious. Remember that! It will hold you to it; but it will seek a way to twist it to your undoing. Already you are being twisted." Tom Shippey shows how "twisting" is Tolkien’s image of the destructive power of evil: The Old English verb "writhe" meant to be twisted, and from it Tolkien derived the word "wraith." Gollum, however, is just as much a "wraith"-that is, a twisted one-as the Nazgl. Shippey goes on to argue that what is "twisted" within Gollum are the "two halves" of his nature: "There is a striking dialogue between what one might call his hobbit-personality (Smagol) and his Ring-personality (Gollum, ’my precious’). [O]ne can imagine the one developing out of the other, pure evil growing out of mere ordinary human weakness and selfishness" (Author of the Century, see pp. 122-126). Viewers of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation will note how the director literally represented this inner struggle between the two sides of Gollum. Furthermore, Frodo’s admonition to Gollum serves as literary foreshadowing: "You will never get [the Ring] back. But the desire of it may betray you to a bitter end."

Other moments of note in this chapter include Gollum’s comment that Sauron will overlook their entry into Mordor at Cirith Ungol because "He can’t see everything all at once, not yet" (emphasis added)-at once an indication that Gollum really fears the worst regarding Sauron’s quest for world domination; and a reminder to the readers (coming as it does just before a narrator’s reference to events in Book III and thus emphasizing Tolkien’s technique of interlacing) that neither heroes nor villains in The Lord of the Rings are omniscient; as, of course, readers are not capable of knowing all things in their own lives and world, and (given Gollum’s statement of Sauron’s ultimate aim) should perhaps not wish to-and Frodo’s reflection, "This was an evil choice. [W]hat good lay in choice?" As with Aragorn in Book III, Frodo is wrestling with the necessity of choice, even when the choices are bleak. A bad choice is, in some ways, better than no choice, because not choosing is really no choice at all!

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