The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Summary and Analysis of Book 6, Chapters 1-4

Book Six

Chapter 1: The Tower of Cirith Ungol

At this point, Sam and Frodo are separated because Frodo has been taken by the orcs, but Sam is still free and undetected. Most important, Sam still has the ring. Entering the tower, Sam accidentally finds Frodo, who is in very poor shape. The realm of Mordor is as terrible as ever and the harsh shrieks of the orcs pierce the air. When Sam was searching for Frodo he felt the continual pressure to put the Ring on, but at a certain point, he realized that the ring would surely betray him. Part of the hobbits' success in escaping the tower is due to the fact that the orcs are in a state of mutiny, rebelling and warring with each other. Leaving the tower, the hobbits use the disguise of orcs and the language of elves to cut a path through the desolate wilderness. Just as they exit the region, they hear a horrible crash behind them. The arches and walls are crashing to the ground and the two hobbits have only barely escaped.


Sam's success in finding Frodo resolves most of the suspense that has remained since the end of Book 4. Much of the imagery of the chapter is incredibly somber and depressing. The standard archetypes of shadows, black images and thunder and lightning are all employed to illustrate the landscape of Mordor. In terms of characterization, Sam proves to be as reliable and dependable as he has been in the past. There is still a contrast between the self-sacrifice that is displayed by the hobbits and the mutiny and cowardice that is displayed by the orcs. The wailing of the orcs foreshadows their inevitable defeat.

Chapter 2: The Land of Shadow

The hobbits continue on their course, trying to make their way to Mount Doom. They are closer to this goal, but they must now pass through the Land of Shadow. This is more complicated than they had hoped because it seems that Gollum is nearby. Sam has spotted Gollum‹or at least, some creature that is very similar to Gollum. It is a good thing that the hobbits are disguised as orcs, because they are overtaken by a division of the orc army. They are not identified as hobbits; rather, they are assumed to be mutinous soldiers who were trying to escape from the war effort. They are brought into the group and forced to continue the march with the soldiers. The orcs are so disorderly that it is not long before Frodo and Sam have an opportunity to escape. They seek a place where they can be well-hidden, but Frodo is so weak that he passes out.


The theme of nostalgia emerges in the reunion of the hobbits, for they begin to think of home and wonder if they will see Hobbiton again. The water motif is one of the basic archetypes, representing life and growth. In this chapter however, there is a deep suspicion as to whether or not the water is safe or poisonous. This same suspense governs the alleged presence of Gollum; this foreshadows the creature's return to the drama in the following chapter.

Chapter 3: Mount Doom

Frodo and Sam continue on their path but they are growing weary and yet, they are unable to sleep. The land surrounding them is dreary and flat. Sam is a good companion and he seems to get stronger in those very moments when Frodo does not have enough strength to continue on his own. The land is desolate and the hobbits do not see any signs of orcs or men, as they pursue the "hard cruel road" that leads to the Dark Tower. Sauron is going to be caught unaware: for as the Ring moves closer and closer to Mount Doom, Sauron's Eye perceives the threat to be elsewhere.

As the hobbits grow wearier, they make the fateful decision to unload their packs and continue on with only what is necessary. Frodo empties his pack and shrugs off the orc-mail and weaponry. Sam continues with their meager provisions, the elven-rope, the phial of Galadriel, his sword Sting, and the little box that Galadriel gave him. Sam and Frodo approach Mount Doom and they find new strength to keep their mission alive despite their misgivings. At one point, Frodo is unable to continue and Sam carries Frodo upon his back; a little later, both of the tired hobbits crawl towards the mountain. Frodo is still prone to the temptations of the Ring and Sam has to hold Frodo's hands to keep Frodo from wearing the Ring and jeopardizing the mission.

Gollum arrives, out of the shadows, and he attacks Frodo, trying to claim the Ring. Frodo fights back with fury and Gollum retreats. Sam urges Frodo on and stays behind to kill Gollum, but he has a change of heart and at the very last minute he decides not to kill the pathetic creature. Sam rushes on to find his master, and he approaches the Cracks of Doom. He sees Frodo, but Frodo has changed somehow. Frodo looks at Sam and says: "I have comeŠBut I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!" Frodo then puts the Ring on his finger and becomes invisible.

Sam is struck from behind‹Gollum has come back for the kill. When Sam regains consciousness, a few moments later, he sees Gollum on the edges of the Cracks of Doom, struggling with Frodo‹who is invisible. The Dark Lord has been awakened and is now aware of the Ring's presence. The Nazgul are screeching in the distance and rushing towards Mount Doom. Frodo and Gollum struggle for the Ring and Gollum wrenches the Ring from Frodo‹but he loses his balance. Gollum and his precious Ring fall into the Cracks of Doom. Frodo's hand is maimed, but at least the Quest is achieved and the two hobbits are alive.


The theme of fate is demonstrated in several ways in this chapter; in the final lines, Frodo recalls Gandalf's earlier prophecy: "Even Gollum may have something yet to do?" The characterization of the heroes suggests that in the end, their good intentions were not enough to secure the Quest‹but a little bit of luck was necessary as well. There are several symbols of strength and determination that appear in the chapter though, and one could reasonably argue that the success of the Quest was foreshadowed. During the first grapple between Frodo and Gollum, Sam receives a vision in which Frodo is clothed in white with a wheel of fire in breast. One question that does remain, however, is whether or not the hobbits will make it back to the Shire alive‹and if they do, what will they find awaiting them?

Chapter 4: The Field of Cormallen

The landscape of Mordor is raging; towers are crumbling and rivers of fire and lava flow everywhere. The forces of Mordor have lost their power and they begin to crumble away. Gandalf cries that the Eagles are coming, and the Eagles are led by Gwaihir. Gandalf leaves Aragorn to finish the battle and he flies on Gwaihir's back, headed for Mount Doom. It is clear that the realm of Sauron is ended and that the Ring-bearer has fulfilled his Quest. Still, Gandalf realizes that Frodo and Sam must be rescued.

Frodo and Sam try to escape from the mountain but fire hems them in on all sides. Just as the hobbits are about to give up all hope, Gwaihir spots them. By the time Gandalf and Gwaihir rescue the hobbits, they are unconscious.

When Sam wakes up, he finds that he is in a soft bed and Frodo is nearby. Gandalf is also present and this is a comfort to Sam. They are in the land of Ithilien and the King is waiting to see the two hobbits. There is a procession of valiant knights who praise the hobbits with song and music and after this, Sam and Frodo are greeted by the king‹none other than Aragorn. The King then sings the song of "Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom. There is a great feast and the hobbits are reunited with Gimli, Legolas, Merry and Pippin. The Spring is a time of recuperation, but as May approaches, the group heads for Minas Tirith, where Aragorn will enter the gates and establish his kingdom.


The tone of this chapter is more victorious and celebratory than some of the previous chapters. The themes of nostalgia and hospitality re-emerge after a long pause (it's been a long time since Sam woke up in a soft bed). The archetype of Spring is presented as a symbol of regeneration and life. Sam, when asked how e feels, replies: "I feel like spring after winterŠ" The motif of the song serves the purpose of resolving much of the suspense in regards to the fate of the characters. Evil has been defeated‹but more important, the song of Frodo has already been composed and sung. In a sense, the story is pretty much over and we can expect that the hobbits will recover from their injuries. In contrast to the spring imagery, the images of Sauron's fall were a combination of smoke and ash. His essence seemed to dissipate like a cloud of smoke‹and yet the structures of his realm, crashed and burned in a very material way, endangering Frodo and Sam.