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Frodo is awakened late in the night, as Faramir seeks
advice on a matter. Frodo asks whether it is morning already, and
Faramir tells him the dawn is just breaking, but that they must
leave right away. Faramir takes the hobbit to a cliff by the river,
and Sam joins them. For a while, Frodo wonders why he was roused
from sleep to come watch the river. Sam, too, is curious. He remarks
on the beauty of the landscape, but suggests it is not enough to
justify getting up so early in the morning. Faramir says that the
landscape is not the reason they have come. He tells Frodo to look
down and identify a small, dark creature moving in the water. Frodo
gazes down and recognizes Gollum, who has followed them, unseen
by Faramir’s men until now. Faramir asks what kind of a creature
it is. His men inquire as to whether they should try to kill it
or not. Frodo begs them not to do so.
Faramir asks whether Gollum knows about the treasure Frodo
is carrying. Frodo replies that Gollum does know about it, and indeed carried
it himself for some time. Now, Frodo explains, Gollum just wants
fish to eat. Faramir’s guard reminds his lord that the punishment
for anyone trespassing in their kingdom is death. Frodo offers to
speak to Gollum instead. Frodo goes down to the water and addresses
the creature, who pouts about having been abandoned and refuses
to come. Finally, Frodo persuades Gollum to leave the water, leading
him toward the area where Faramir’s men are waiting for him. The
men apprehend Gollum, who feels betrayed by Frodo and spits on him
as he is led away.
Faramir demands to interrogate Gollum, who initially refuses
to cooperate. Frodo tries to persuade the creature to trust him.
Faramir asks whether Gollum has ever been in this area before. Gollum claims
he has not. Faramir does not believe Gollum, but he ultimately accepts
the truthfulness of the creature’s statement. Frodo sticks with
his assertion that Gollum should not be harmed, begging Faramir’s
men not to hurt Gollum. Faramir agrees, on the condition that Gollum
be considered Frodo’s servant.
However, Faramir privately warns Frodo to be wary of Gollum, whom
he still does not trust. Faramir says that there is evil growing in
Gollum, and that he is curious about how this “creeping thing” came
into the possession of the Ring earlier. Faramir says that one day,
when he and Frodo are old and chair-bound, Frodo can tell him the
story. Faramir also warns against Frodo’s passing over the mountains,
saying that there is great danger there. Frodo replies that this
is the only way he can go, as he must avoid the gates of Mordor that
they passed earlier. Faramir says it is a hopeless task.
In this chapter, Tolkien explores the idea of treachery
from a surprising new angle, as Frodo is forced to betray—or at
least to trick—Gollum into leaving the water and walking right up
to where Faramir’s men are waiting for him. Ironically, though Frodo
does indeed save Gollum’s life—Faramir’s guards are ready to kill
the creature for trespassing in their realm—in doing so he is forced
to betray Gollum. The fact that Gollum, for all his whining and
seeming deceitfulness, still manages to elicit our pity when Frodo
betrays him highlights the creature’s complex character. Tolkien’s
portrayal of Gollum as a somewhat childish creature who resorts
to simple flattery of the hobbits makes him somewhat pitiable and
pathetic, helplessly enslaved to the lure of the Ring. Furthermore,
our identification with Frodo is somewhat complicated by the fact
that this episode is the first time we have ever seen Frodo do anything
willfully deceitful to another individual. When Gollum spits in
Frodo’s face after his capture, it is hard not to feel a bit sorry
for the creature. On the whole, this episode contributes to Tolkien’s
exploration of the ambiguity of good and evil and marks the psychological
and moral complexity of which Tolkien is capable.
The hobbits are wrong in their initial thought that Faramir
is forcing them awake in the wee hours of the morning merely to
look at beautiful scenery, but the episode does nonetheless remind
us that the beauty of the landscape is a significant feature in The
Lord of the Rings. Here, in Faramir’s realm, the landscape
is overwhelmingly beautiful, a sharp contrast to the barrenness
and outward evil of Mordor. The waterfall known as the Window on
the West, which functions as a cover for Faramir’s hideaway, creates
a natural panorama that even the tired and hungry hobbits are delighted
to admire. Indeed, perhaps the most significant aspect of Tolkien’s
portrayal of the natural world in this section is that the characters within
the novel themselves—not merely the narrator—are struck by the beauty
of the world around them, rather than taking it for granted. Frodo
and Sam are awed by the beauty of the early dawn on the cliffs even
though they are still half-asleep. Here, as we see with the Ents,
Tolkien infuses the novel with a powerful ecological awareness prescient
for its time.
Tolkien often uses techniques of literary flashback and
flash-forward that keep us in tune with the overall course of the
novel, rather than sweeping us away in the drama of the moment.
When Faramir, for instance, tells Frodo that he would like to find
out how Gollum came to possess and then lose the Ring, we are reminded
of that sequence of events as it transpired in The Hobbit and
was recounted in The Fellowship of the Ring. Furthermore,
Faramir says that perhaps one day, when he and Frodo are old, Frodo
can tell him Gollum’s story. This idea expands the novel’s horizon
to the distant future, opening our imagination to what these characters
will be like many years off. Tolkien gives us, then, more than just
the hobbits’ quest to Mordor, but also a vast saga that stretches
on far beyond the bounds of the novel.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Two Towers!