Chapter 6: The Forbidden Pool
Frodo and Sam wake up in Faramir's custody but they are safe with him because he is true to his word. Faramir directs Frodo's attention to Gollum, whom the guards have spotted. It is only after Frodo's insistent pleas that Faramir decides not to kill Gollum. Frodo must go down into the pool where Gollum is lurking to retrieve him. Gollum behaves poorly and does not seem worthy of the honor of Frodo's companionship. Faramir warns Gollum that Gollum is safe as long as he walks with Frodo, but if he goes astray without Frodo, anywhere within the domain of Gondor, then Gollum will be swiftly put to death. Later, Faramir explains that the high pass through which Gollum intends to lead his master is called Cirith Ungol. Faramir suggests that this might be some sort of treachery on Gollum's part and he questions Frodo's judgment here. Frodo understands the risk but he remains unperturbed. If Gandalf were there, he would offer valuable assistancebut as Gandalf is not there, Frodo must decide for himself.
In this chapter, both Frodo and Faramir present themselves as noble and heroic characters as they keep their word and even extend mercy to those criminals (Gollum) who do not necessarily deserve mercy. Faramir's assessment of Gollum foreshadows the future problems that the hobbits will have with Gollum. His potential for treachery is symbolized by his disappearance and reappearance. Following along the motif of language and naming, the very name of Cirith Ungol represents an evil that is strong enough to make Gollum wince and whimper. Regarding the themes of knowledge and surveillance, we have found in the last few chapters, numerous examples of blindness and blindfolding and this takes on a more metaphorical aspect in this chapter. Most of the suspense does not concern Gollum's immediate fate. Rater, it seems to clear to everybody except Frodo that Gollum is hiding something. At the very least, Gollum has more information about Cirith Ungol than he is willing to share.
Chapter 7: Journey to the Cross-Roads
Frodo and Sam must now make preparations to leave and part ways with Faramir and his men. Faramir gives the hobbits provisions. He warns them not to drink water from any stream that flows from Imlad Morgul, the Valley of Living Feat. Faramir's scouts have all reported that the approaching land is empty and there is a vast silence that simply hangs over the land, waiting for the invasion. The hobbits depart from Faramir's company after exchanging blessings. The landscape is depressing and, following Gollum's advice, the hobbits only travel in the night because they would be spotted too easily if they were to travel on the open road during the day. When they travel into a thicket, there are so many trees that they cannot really tell whether it is night or day and when Gollum disappears (yet again), this only makes matters worse. Sam and Frodo take turns keeping watch while the other dozes and Gollum eventually reappears. Gollum leads them on track again, moving as silently and stealthily as ever before. He tells them "we must go to the Cross-roads." In the distance, they all see the evidence of Sauron's power.
One of the most important images of the trilogy appears at the end of this chapter and it foreshadows the drama of Books 5 and 6. The seat of the great stone kings of Argonath has been destroyed and an image of Sauron ("a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead") has replaced the old kings. Following the motif of language, we find that "idle scrawls mixed with the foul symbols that the maggot-folk of Mordor used" decorate the new throne. There is a juxtaposition between this new throne and the old king whose statue has been beheaded. The head is by the roadside but, significantly, a plant with white and yellow flowers has made itself into a garland, encircling the king's head; this is a symbol of the inevitable victory/restoration of good over evil.
Chapter 8: The Stairs of Cirith Ungol
Gollum is full of fear and impatience and he urges Sam and Frodo to continue on. The city of the Ringwraiths lies ahead and it looks as ominous and uninviting as it ever did. There is also a corpse-like stench polluting the air. At one point, Frodo moves in the wrong direction, as if some force other than his own will were guiding him towards his doom. Whenever the hobbits wish to stop, Gollum gives the warning that eyes can see them. It doesn't do much good as a warning because the travelers are spotted before longor at least, it seems this way. A signal flame erupts from the tower of Minas Morgul and the loud piercing sounds of birds of prey can be heard in the sky. An army of black-clad figures emerges from the gate of the city and this brings to Frodo's remembrance his old wound from the ringwraith's knife.
Frodo urgently feels the command to put the Ring on but he feels no inclination to do this because he knows that the Ring will betray him. The armies march to the west and are soon out of sight. They continue on their path until they reach the first stair that Gollum had spoken of. After the Straight Stair comes the Winding Stair and the passage continues for miles. In the tunnel, the hobbits are forced to use the light that Galadriel gave them, a light enclosed in a star-glass. Their fate turns for the worse when the hobbits discover that Gollum has disappeared yet again. Gollum finds the hobbits a few hours later and offers to continue leading them.
The dominant images of this chapter focus on Minas Morgul and the desolation of this city. Frodo and Sam are again in a similar situation as they were in Books I and II, being hunted by ringwraiths that are described in a simile as "birds of prey." Gollum remains as unsteady and disloyal a character as he ever was and in the next chapter we will discover the extent of this treachery, which has been foreshadowed several times. There is a great irony in Gollum's role as a treacherous guide, for at the end of this chapter, Gollum even offers to continue providing a service that is rendered with the exact opposite intentions in mind. It will take more than Gollum to derail the forces of good, however.
Chapter 9: Shelob's Lair
The stench only worsens as the hobbits make their way (unknowingly) to Shelob's Lair (Torech Ungol). Shelob is a giant, spider-like beast who has been feeding upon passersby for centuries. The stench of rotting flesh greets the hobbits who do their best not to get ill. Gollum has betrayed the hobbits, intending to lead them to the monster, Shelob. Then, after she devours the hobbits, Gollum will go through their clothes to find the ring. Gollum attacks Sam but Sam reveals himself to be far stronger than Gollum expected. Having escaped from this trap, Sam sees that Gollum's plan seems to be succeeding, for Frodo is already bound in Shelob's cords.
Here we learn much of what we already expected to be true of Gollum, but the introduction of the character, Shelob, is a source of new complications. This is the "she" to whom Gollum earlier referred and she is also an independently evil villain. She is not on the side of Sauron and she answers to no one other than herself. We can also identify Shelob as an allusion to the epic Beowulf and the character Grendel's mother. Here, we find a brooding female monster with a hidden lair and a penchant for ravaging destruction. We also see a parallel between Grendel and Gollum, to whom Shelob played a somewhat maternal role in the past.
Chapter 10: The Choices of Master Samwise
In this final chapter of Book 4, Sam plays a more crucial role than he has in the earlier chapters. Frodo has been attacked by Shelob, and Sam rushes to defend his master. Shelob does not see Sam, who is armed with his sword, and Sam stabs Shelob in the belly. He is unable to kill her, but he does seriously wound her. Shelob reluctantly retreats to her lair, howling miserably. Sam approaches Frodo's body and after repeated attempts to revive Frodo, it appears that he is dead. Sam must now decide whether to remain by Frodo's side to bury him, give up the quest, or flee. In the end, Sam realizes that the quest must continue. Since Sam is the only remaining member of the Fellowship, he reluctantly takes the Ring and quickly leaves the scene.
Sam realizes that he is in danger and as he makes his way through the stairs of the tower, he hears the voices of the orcs who have seized Frodo. As it turns out, Frodo is not dead--only drugged. Sam realizes his error, but at the same time, the orcs are under orders to strip and imprison Frodo, so they would have surely had the Ring if Sam had not acted quickly. Sam tries to follow the orcs, but he is unable to both keep up and also remain hidden. At the end of the chapter, the orcs march (with Frodo) through a gate which they immediately seal, leaving Frodo on the outside.
The narrative structure stays true to the fact that the end of The Two Towers is only the end of Book 4there are still two more books remaining (The Return of the King). Sam has proven inconsistent and erratic in the past, but here again, the theme of fate confirms that good often comes out of well-intended errors. Sam's incorrect conclusion saves the Fellowship, all the same. In contrast, Gollum's carefully planned machinations are ultimately unsuccessful. At the end of Book 4, there are plenty of characters who have been separated from their allies and we should remember that Frodo and Sam's dilemma is one of two concurrent scenes: the drama of the "battle in the West" remainsand this is where Book 5 continues the story.