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The Return of the King

J. R. R. Tolkien

Book VI, Chapter 3

Book VI, Chapter 2

Book VI, Chapter 3, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary — Mount Doom

“[T]he Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”

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The next morning, Sam gains new strength and a grim sense of responsibility. He wakes Frodo and pushes him on toward Orodruin. The land before them is cold and dead, dotted by countless craters and hollows. The hobbits crawl eastward from hiding place to hiding place. After a few miles, Frodo is nearly spent, his mind and body tormented by the terrible weight of the Ring. He refuses to give the Ring to Sam, for he knows he is held by its power. The two decide to take to the road once again. All eyes in Mordor are turned to the west, where the Captains march toward Morannon.

After three draining days of travel, Frodo’s limbs give way and he falls, exhausted. Sam picks Frodo up and carries him on his back. Before nightfall, they reach the foot of the mountain. Sam carefully makes his way up the slope. It is nearly morning. For a moment, the shadows dissipate, and Sam can see the flicker of the piercing Eye from Sauron’s Dark Tower. Its gaze passes by the hobbits and turns to the north, focusing on the Captains of the West. However, the glimpse of Sauron’s power causes Frodo to panic. His hand grasps for the Ring around his neck, and he cries for Sam’s help. Sam kneels beside Frodo and gently holds his master’s palms together in his lap.

Afraid Sauron has spotted them, Sam takes Frodo upon his shoulders once more and continues up the mountain. With much difficulty, they finally reach the top. Sam looks down over a great cliff into the burning Cracks of Doom below. Suddenly, a cruel weight hits Sam from behind, and he falls forward. Behind him, he hears the voice of Gollum, cursing Frodo viciously for his treachery. Frodo and Gollum engage in a violent struggle, and Gollum proves stronger than the weakened Frodo. Suddenly, Frodo commands Gollum, “Begone, and trouble me no more!” and the creature falls to his knees. Frodo presses on to the Cracks of Doom. Sam, tempted to slay Gollum with his sword, refrains out of pity. Gollum slinks away.

Reaching the Cracks, Frodo turns to Sam and, with a voice clearer than Sam has ever heard, informs him that he will not complete the quest. The Ring, Frodo declares, is his. He puts the Ring on his finger and vanishes. Sam is once again flung aside, and then he sees a dark shape leap over him. Just as Sam looks up, the Great Eye of Sauron suddenly becomes aware of Frodo. The eight remaining Nazgûl hurtle toward the mountain at terrifying speed.

Sam sees Gollum struggling with an invisible enemy, biting at the air viciously. Frodo suddenly reappears, his hand bleeding from his severed finger. Gollum pulls Frodo’s finger and the Ring from his mouth joyfully, but then steps backward, unaware that he is close to the edge of the cliff. Gollum then falls, along with the Ring, into the Cracks of Doom. Mount Doom shakes violently as it accepts and consumes the Ring. Sam runs out into the daylight, carrying Frodo. The Nazgûl wither in the fiery ruin of the hill. Frodo stands by Sam’s side, himself again. Sam feels overjoyed, and Frodo explains that, were it not for Gollum, he would not have been able to finish the quest. Frodo says he is glad to be with Sam “at the end of all things.”

Analysis

The completion of the quest marks the central climax of The Lord of the Rings. While the novel has included several separate, progressively larger climaxes—such as the overthrow of Saruman and the battle for Gondor at the Pelennor Fields—the deposit of the Ring into the Cracks of Doom resolves the major conflict presented at the outset of The Fellowship of the Ring. All of the markings we might expect from the climax of such a voluminous quest narrative are present: Mount Doom erupts, towers fall, and Sauron’s dark shadow vanishes in the wind. In one sense, the effects of Frodo’s success are endless. Middle-earth is freed from Mordor’s evil influence, ensuring renewed hope and progress for its inhabitants. In another sense, however, Frodo himself gains little from depositing the Ring in the Cracks of Doom. The hobbit finds no treasure or maiden, and does not rescue any captives. He only emerges from Mount Doom with a greater self-understanding and the ability to say, as the world collapses around him, that he is content to be with his friend Sam.

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