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MonkeyNotes-The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
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The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Summary

Once more Frodo is being dragged down by the Ring, which seems to want to preserve itself. In the distance Minas Morgul looms larger than life and the sister tower of Minas Tirith towers over the moon. Their steps seem to slow, as if all are impeded by the evil forces.

Frodo is compelled toward a white bridge, though he knows that he will be easily spotted. Gollum and Sam try to stop him but are unsuccessful, as he seems possessed. Suddenly thunder and lightening split the night air. The gate opens and out comes the Lord of the Nine Riders. Frodo clutches the Phial of Galadriel and his own will is restored. The wraith-king (a ghost/apparition) does not see them, and instead passes on with an enormous army. Frodo feels sorry for Faramir, who will have to contend with these forces.

Gollum hurries the Hobbits on and they come to an opening in a rock mountain that has many stairs, straight and winding. The path is difficult, at times too narrow or wide. Frodo sees that there is a red light at the end and guesses that the secret passage is guarded. Gollum tries to encourage him, telling him they might be distracted by the battle preparations at hand. The three of them rest and Sam makes Frodo laugh with his futuristic tales, hoping that once their adventure is over, they can make it into a song. As they talk, Gollum slips away; when he comes back the Hobbits are asleep. Something of the old Smeagol stirs in his soul and he touches Frodo almost lovingly, feeling as he used to when he was jut a plain old Hobbit. His touch stirs Frodo and wakes Sam. Sam misunderstands Gollumís motives, which causes the other Hobbitís momentary lapse of goodness to fade in anger.


Notes

This chapter is nearly completely devoted to the character of Smeagol, or Gollum. He is a complex character who was once good but who has been tarnished by years of exposure to the power of the Ring. When Smeagol takes over, the character is his old self, wanting connection with his companions. But in this chapter he is suspected because of his evil self. What might has been a complete relapse into goodness is cut short by Samís suspicion.

This is not to say that Gollum would have turned "good" were it not for Sam. Gollum is a pitiful character, someone to be sympathized with and felt sorry for. Years of living evilly have turned his soul black and even though he wavers, he is basically ruined by evil.

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