Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Return Of The King Book 6 Chapter 1 Summary

The Lord of the Rings | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lord of the Rings | The Return of the King (Book 6, Chapter 1) : The Tower of Cirith Ungol | Summary



Sam finds he needs to use the Ring's power of invisibility to sneak up to the Orcs' guard tower. He uses the phial of Galadriel, which he'd taken from Frodo when he thought he was dead, to pass through a gate guarded by an unseen force or presence. He eventually finds Frodo, fights the Orc guarding him, and rescues his friend. Sam suggests carrying the Ring to help ease Frodo's burden, but Frodo calls him a "thief" and snatches it out of his hands. Frodo and Sam dress in Orc clothing and escape, just as a Nazgûl arrives.


This chapter sets the tone for this phase of Frodo and Sam's journey. Sam, having to carry on alone for the first time, begins to feel the grim impossibility of their quest. When he puts on the Ring, he can feel its great weight. As he surveys the land of Mordor, he realizes their cause is as "hopeless as a frost in Spring." Yet, Sam keeps moving forward on the quest, even without hope (a common refrain in the story).

In light of Sam's bravery, Frodo's reaction to Sam's possession of the Ring is heartbreaking. Although it is obvious the Ring's influence causes Frodo's harsh words, they are a stark reminder the Ring destroys even the most sacred of things, such as trust between friends.

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