Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Return Of The King Book 6 Chapter 3 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 3) : Mount Doom | Summary



Beyond exhausted, Frodo has fallen asleep, and when he wakes, Sam gives him water and lembas. They walk, crawl, and struggle their way to Mount Doom, drinking the last of the water and eating the last of the food as they go. Eventually, Sam must carry Frodo. As they near the Cracks of Doom, Gollum, who has been following them again, pounces, and Sam and Gollum struggle. Frodo continues on, and Sam, after fighting with Gollum, rushes after him. However, when he catches up, Frodo is already at the Cracks and, instead of throwing the Ring into the fire, is claiming it as his own. In that moment, Sauron becomes aware of how he has been tricked. Gollum then attacks Frodo, biting off his finger to get the Ring. As Gollum dances with glee at his accomplishment, he falls with the Ring into the fire. The Ring is destroyed and Mount Doom begins to erupt.


This chapter contains the climax of the plot and the end of the quest. Sam becomes ever more determined to see the quest through, though Frodo's strength—both of body and of will—fades fast.

Sam's character development mirrors Frodo's in two significant ways. First, when Frodo asks Sam how far they still have to climb, Sam answers, "I don't know ... because I don't know where we're going." This echoes Frodo's words when he accepts the quest from Elrond. Second, when Gollum attacks them on the path, Sam has the opportunity to kill him, and believes it would, in fact, be just to do so. However, "deep in his heart there was something that restrained him: he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched." Just like Bilbo and Frodo, Sam feels pity for Gollum and spares his life. It is all three of these moments of pity that allow the quest to be achieved, despite the fact that Frodo ultimately fails to destroy the Ring himself.

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