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Frodo, Sam, and Gollum finally arrive at the gates of
Mordor. They behold the Teeth of Mordor, the tall towers built earlier
by the Men of Gondor after the fall of Sauron, but then later reoccupied
by the Dark Lord upon his return to power.
At the sight of the closely guarded gate, Sam wonders
how they will enter. Gollum replies that they must not enter, prompting
Sam to ask why they bothered traveling to Mordor in the first place
if they cannot go inside. Gollum replies that he fulfilled his part
of the agreement, guiding the hobbits to the gate. Sam is angry,
again asking why they bothered going to Mordor at all. Frodo affirms
that he must enter Mordor at all costs. At the hobbits’ insistence,
Gollum admits that there is another way into the kingdom, a secret
way that he discovered earlier. Sam distrusts Gollum, but the hobbits
have little choice but to follow the creature’s lead. Frodo reminds
Gollum that he has sworn by his “Precious” to guide them safely
and not betray them.
Gollum directs Sam and Frodo toward a road that bends
south around Mordor, telling them that the road extends for a hundred leagues,
but warning that they should not go that way. Frodo asks if there
is a third way. Gollum admits that there is a third path running around
to the back of the kingdom, past a fortress built long ago by tall
Men with shining eyes. Frodo realizes that Gollum refers to the former
fortress of Isildur, the warrior who defeated Sauron and won the
Ring from him. Part of the fortress is a tall tower called the Tower
of the Moon. Sam asks whether the tower is occupied, and Gollum
replies that it is guarded by Orcs and by even worse creatures called
Silent Watchers. Sam remarks that this third path sounds just as
risky as the first one, but Gollum says the Dark Lord is focusing
his attention elsewhere. Gollum admits that the rear path past the
Tower of the Moon is dangerous, but that it is worth trying. The
hobbits are suspicious, but they accept Gollum’s advice.
Four Nazgûl appear in the sky overhead, and the hobbits
know that Sauron is observing them. Frodo and Sam grab their knives,
but they know that escape is impossible. Gollum senses that other
Men are heading toward Mordor too—Men with long dark hair, gold rings,
and red flags. He describes them as very fierce, saying that he has
never seen anything like them. There are always Men entering Mordor
now. Sam asks whether the men have “oliphaunts” with them, as he
has heard the creatures described in old poetry. Gollum has never
seen an oliphaunt. He urges the hobbits to sleep through the daylight
hours, and proceed again at night.
The Teeth of Mordor and the fortress of Isildur are further
reminders of the idea that evil can overtake and corrupt goodness.
According to the moral system Tolkien puts forth, good and evil
are not necessarily inherent qualities. The good can become rotten,
as we have seen with Saruman and Boromir. This possibility of transformation
from good to evil is also true of the buildings of Mordor. The Teeth
of Mordor and the fortress of Isildur are reminders of the fragility
of goodness, as the gentle and peace-loving Men of Gondor originally
built them. Frodo is startled to realize that the ghastly fortress
of Isildur, which Gollum reports to be full of murderous Orcs and
the even more horrible “Silent Watchers,” was originally the property
of the Lord of Gondor. Ironically, the building of the one who fought
against evil is now possessed by that very evil. Good is not guaranteed
in Tolkien’s universe, but must forever be actively guarded and
The impossibility of entering the final destination directly,
and the necessity of following a roundabout route to get inside,
is a common element of ancient epics from which Tolkien has borrowed. For
instance, in the Divine Comedy, Dante is, like
Frodo, a traveler who is motivated by good but who is forced to
go into the mouth of hell in order to reach heaven later. Dante
cannot simply take the shortest path toward his goal of reaching
heaven, but must travel through realms of evil he would otherwise
never visit. Similarly, Frodo and Sam must travel to the heart of
evil in Mordor in order to ensure the ultimate triumph of good.
The hobbits, as usual, attain their goals not by direct confrontation;
they plan to take the back road to a hidden entrance to Mordor rather
than fight the guards at Mordor’s gates. Though the safety of this
alternate route is doubtful at best, Frodo and Sam have little choice
but to follow Gollum’s advice.
The danger contained within the gates of Mordor continues
to become ever more real, both to us and to Frodo and Sam. In this chapter,
we glimpse for the first time the humans associated with the evil
kingdom. Prior to this moment, Mordor was at first merely an idea
of evil, and then a place largely associated with the fantastical, especially
the dark shapes of the flying Nazgûl. Now Mordor
is connected to the more real, yet equally terrifying, world of
human evil. The Men of Mordor, with long dark hair, gold rings,
and red flags, present yet another reminder that evil is not necessarily
inherent, but can corrupt even the seemingly familiar realm of the
human world to an almost unrecognizable degree.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Two Towers!