Chapter 1: The Taming of Sméagol
This chapter continues the story of Frodo and Sam, who have spent the last few days wandering the terrain and getting lost. They are being chased by Gollum, and this makes them especially uncomfortable because Gollum can hide himself in the darkness all the while seeing them. More than a few times, one of the hobbits wakes to find a pair of hideous eyes staring at him. Still, the two continue on and they do the best that they can to make their way to Mordor. At one point, it seems all the can do to climb down a stone ridge into a valleyfortunately, Sam has a rope that the elves gave him, and the rope is used to securely descend into the valley. Gollum is in no need of such devices and he scales the walls like an insect or a giant spider. In the end, however, he attacks Sam only to find Frodo armed with the sword Sting and ready to remove Gollum's head.
Gollum (also named Sméagol) is cowed into submission and he becomes a servant to the hobbits. He has already been to Mordor before and he dreaded his time there, though he has been summoned to return. Accordingly, he can help the hobbits find their way to Mordor. He is now in the service of the master of the Ring (Frodo) which is not to say that Gollum has made a switch to good versus evil, or that this arrangement will be a permanent one. Both Frodo and Gollum seem to be different characters than they were in the past. Gollum is more easily dominated and Frodo is more commanding.
The characterization of Gollum focuses on Sméagol, an alter ego of Gollum, who is already a rather complicated "self" (he refers to himself in the third person, as "My Precious"). The motif of the one Ring is developed as the ring is also a precious thing that a person might swear upon. We also see that Frodo bears more authority as master of the Ring. The narrative structure has returned to Frodo and Sam, who have been offstage for Book Three; the appearance of Frodo, Sam and Gollum all at once may very well feel like a flashback to The Fellowship of the Ring. The suspense of the previous chapters is postponed and in Chapter 1, we do not find Frodo and Sam getting into too much trouble. Rather, they are making slow but steady progress on a difficult course. The new allegiance of Sméagol is totally unexpected and Tolkien foreshadows some sort of trouble ahead in the phrase: "a change, which lasted for some time, came over him [Sméagol]." We know, then, that this change is not permanent and that Gollum will turn upon his new master. Finally, the theme of knowledge is brought to the fore as Sam and Frodo discover new things about the elf rope and Gollum, certainly. At the chapter's end, Frodo seems trusting of Gollum while Sam is even more skeptical than he was beforesomewhere, there is an imbalance of knowledge and information, though we do not yet know who is wrong and who is rightif either one is.
Chapter 2: The Passage of the Marshes
Gollum leads the way to Mordor, and Frodo and Sam sometimes have some trouble keeping up with him. He leads then on a track in the marshes that he once used when he was escaping from the orcs. As they get closer to Mordor, Gollum is overcome with dread. One of Sauron's wraiths darkens the sky with its shadow and Gollum cowers because he knows the wraith to be a sentinel of some form. Frodo insists that they continue through the marsh though he is growing weary and the ring becomes a burdensome weight around his neck. As they get closer to Mordor, there are more and more impediments. Gollum is under the impression that Sauron is aware of the group and one night he debates to himself the merits of stealing the ring from Frodo and trying to become a great power on his own, Gollum the great. Sam Gamgee is watching Gollum however, and only pretending to be asleep. He makes a move at the right time and whatever Gollum had planned to do comes to naught. At the chapter's end, Frodo remains firm in his intention to continue to Mordor and Gollum must lead them to the gate.
Aspects of Gollum's unstable character are revealed here and we find that his motives are not so pure. The tone is more ominous as the three travelers approach Mordor and there is definitely the foreshadowing of trouble ahead, for the Ring is creating internal impediments within Frodo that parallel the physical difficulties of navigation and travel through the marshes. We can also see how the sun, an archetypal symbol of light, life and goodness casts fear in Sméagol's heartand yet, the very contrast (the dark shadow of the wraiths) is similarly troubling. Like the other cowardly traitors, Gollum must fear both good and evil. Finally, suspense is enhanced by Gollum's inner dialogue, a parallel to the Palantír's telepathy, which mentions both a "he" (Sauron) as well as an unknown "she"who is she?
Chapter 3: The Black Gate Is Closed
With the break of dawn, Frodo, Sam and Gollum arrive at Mordor, and they face the sealed Black Gate. In the distance, they see two ominous towering hills called The Teeth of Mordor and on the plains beyond the gate, there are armies assembling under the cover of mist. Sméagol is weakened at the sight and he bids Frodo to turn away but when Frodo makes clear his intent to enter Mordoralone or otherwiseGollum concludes that he has no choice but to help Frodo because his worst fear is for Sauron to get access to the ring.
Gollum explains that the Black Gate will surely lead to doom but there is an alternate back route that he remembers from long ago. Though all of Mordor is heavily guarded, some places are more heavily guarded than others. Gollum seems to be telling the truth when he explains that Sauron expects his enemy to advance through the Black Gate and this gate is the only thoroughfare through which Sauron's army may pass. Sméagol intends to lead Frodo and Sam on a route that passes the Silent Watchers in a perilous place called Cirith Ungol. Perilous as it may be, Frodo reckons that it is the best of the available options and he decides to trust Sméagol.
The Black Gate becomes a symbol of doom for the travelers and it is clear that Mordor is more formidable now than it was in the hobbits' nightmares. There is a lot of information that Gollum withholds ere and this only increases the level of suspense as it now seems that Frodo and Sam's fates rest upon an untrustworthy servant. In terms of the theme of fate, Frodo's words to Gollum acknowledge the unexpected reversals that have taken place: "I will trust you once more. Indeed it seems that I must do so, and that it is my fate to receive help from you, where I least looked for it" The motif of the hunt, surveillance and blindness is furthered by the idea that the hobbits will get the best of Sauron by entering is furthered by the idea that the hobbits will get the best of Sauron by entering Mordor from the direction Sauron least expects. The image of the eye is presented in Gollum's indication that Sauron cannot yet see everywhere at once. Finally, in terms of characterization, Sam's reinterpretation of Gollum/Sméagol as Stinker/Slinker is both humorous and insightful.
Chapter 4: Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
The three travelers are hungry but there is only lembas (Elf-bread) to eat. At least the scenery does improve a bit and though Sauron is lord of this new region that they cross into, it is a more recent acquisition and it is not as damaged and gloomy as the other regions of Sauron's domain. Sam notes that Gollum is able to find things to eat and he sends the creature to find rabbits which Sam then stews. Frodo and Gollum both express warning over the fire that Sam sets (to cook the food) but Sam manages to cook the dinner without drawing attention to the smoke.
Not much later, however, Sam rinses the pots at the nearby brook and he then realizes how much smoke his fire has made. When he returns to the fireside scene, Gollum is nowhere to be found. Sam and Frodo hear voices and are spotted by four menfortunately, they are alliesacquainted with Boromir. Not long after, there is a battle between this group and another group of men who are fighting for Sauron. The allies, led by Faramir, are successful but they will soon flee the scene, as Sauron has probably sent reinforcements. Regardless of Frodo or Sam's initial intentions, they will be marching with Faramir and his troops.
This chapter presents the juxtaposition of a domestic scene and a scene of war. The contrast between the hobbits and the other species of Middle Earth (men, in particular) could not be any clearer. The theme of knowledge is humorously brought to the fore when the men are struck by the appearance of hobbits (an unknown species) and again when the hobbits encounter oliphaunts (elephants) and discover that the oliphaunts are not simply fabulous beasts. The disappearance of Gollum surely foreshadows ill to come and the tone of the chapter's conclusion also creates suspense regarding the fate of Frodo and Sam in Faramir's custody. We have been introduced to a new set of characters, but we do not know them well enough to trust their motives or judgement with conviction. This will become an important issue in the next chapters.
Chapter 5: The Window on the West
Faramir questions Frodo about his business in the region and Sam can see that Faramir is not satisfied by the guarded answers that Frodo gives. Faramir informs the hobbits that Boromir is dead and this is a surprise to the hobbits. Frodo conceals Boromir's rash attempt to steal the ring, but in later conversation with Faramir, more is revealed. Faramir decides to trust the hobbits and they are led to the secret fortification, though they are blindfolded so that they will not know the route. Later, in conversation, Faramir discusses an old legend concerning "Isildur's Bane" and Sam accidentally mentions the ring. He is, of course, worried and frightened at the consequences of his idiot move. Fortunately, Faramir is a man of his word and Faramir has sworn that he would reject this sinister heirloom, whatever it was. Even now, Faramir makes good on his promise and he makes no attempt to seize the ring, nor does he pursue the subject furtheras he does not wish to create a temptation for himself. Faramir goes further to say that Sam's accident may turn out for the best in the end, for now that Faramir is aware of the hobbits' task, he will offer them whatever assistance that he can provide.
As for characters, Faramir and Boromir are presented as foils to each other; though they are related, their conceptions of honor are very different. In this chapter, we also see that Frodo, like Aragorn, conceals Boromir's crime when he has an opportunity to expose it. In terms of fate, one of the central themes of the trilogy, we clearly see that Sam's accident turns evil towards good; this is not the only time that an accident proves to be fortuitous. This scene hearkens back to an episode in Book One, where a hobbit's drunkenness betrays the secret of Bilbo Baggins' ring and the attendant power of invisibility. This chapter also foreshadows some of the drama at the end of Book Four, where Sam will have to prove himself a more responsible hero.