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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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Wastelands are often used in literature as a symbol of
spiritual barrenness. Two good examples of this occur in F.
Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925) and T. S. Eliot's
famous poem, The Waste Land (1997). In The Great
Gatsby, Nick, the narrator, passes through a wasteland of
ashes on his way into New York City. In T. S. Eliot's poem
there is no wasteland except in the title, which serves as a
metaphor for the lives described in the poem. In both, the
wasteland is interpreted as a symbol for the sterility of
modern life: the ugliness of the city, the lack of caring
relationships, and the lack of any sense of purpose. It's
likely that Tolkien was aware of this tradition and either
consciously or unconsciously drew on it when he described
the wastes around Mordor. How does the wasteland as a
symbol of inner barrenness relate to Tolkien's concept of

Meanwhile, the struggle between the two sides of Gollum's
personality continues. One day, while Sam is pretending to
sleep, he overhears Gollum debating with himself. As
Smeagol, he wants to keep his promise to Frodo; as
Gollum, he wants to take the Ring for himself. The Gollum
side decides to wait for the aid of a mysterious "She." This
idea terrifies the Smeagol personality.

Frodo had originally intended to try to find a way in
through the Black Gate of Mordor. It seems to be an
impossible feat. But he resolves to attempt it, because his
task is to go into Mordor and he knows of no other way. (If
you look at the map in the book, you will see that Mordor is
surrounded by mountains on all but the eastern border,
which is furthest from the Black Gate.) Sam is dismayed,
but loyally resolves to follow his master anywhere.

Gollum is wild with fear. He's all too familiar with Sauron's
power and what it would mean for Sauron to regain
possession of the Ring. "He'll eat us all, if He gets it, eat all
the world." This is consistent with the possessiveness of
evil; Sauron devours everything, making it no longer
something free and independent, but a part of himself.

Originally Gollum was only going to guide Sam and Frodo
to the edge of Mordor and then be set free. But now he
offers to take the hobbits into Mordor, through a secret
passage he discovered when he escaped from Sauron.
Frodo decides to trust him once again.

Gollum leads the hobbits into Ithilien, which lies along the
mountains that form the western border of Mordor. Ithilien
is a beautiful land, full of forests and streams. Not too long
ago it was part of Gondor, which lies just across the river.
But now Ithilien is held by Sauron's forces, and their
presence is revealed by felled trees, pits of stinking refuse,
and the eye of Sauron carved into stones and trees.

Frodo's quest can be interpreted as spiritual. While he
journeys toward Mordor, the stronghold of evil, he must
struggle with the evil within himself, as symbolized by the
Ring and the temptation to use it. By taking on the quest to
destroy the Ring, Frodo is sacrificing his own desires to
save the rest of the world. And through his sufferings, he's
transformed. Sam notices this change in Frodo. While
Frodo is sleeping, Sam sees a light shining within him.
Frodo's face looks peaceful, very ancient, but also
beautiful. This serenity and inner light is often used to
characterize saints.

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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