Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Two Towers Book 4 Chapter 2 Summary

The Lord of the Rings | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lord of the Rings | The Two Towers (Book 4, Chapter 2) : The Passage of the Marshes | Summary

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Summary

Walking by night, and hiding by day, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum brave the Dead Marshes. Frodo and Sam are able to eat the lembas provided by the Elves, but this food causes Gollum to choke, so he finds his own food, to the disgust of Sam. They must pick their way carefully through the marshes, avoiding the little lights that seem to flicker like lit candles. Frodo falls, and must be rescued from a pool of muddy water. When he is helped up, he describes seeing faces of corpses. Gollum tells them there was once a great battle here, in which Orcs, Men, and Elves fought, and the graves are now covered in the marsh.

At several points, a dark, winged shape flies overhead, inspiring terror in Gollum. After the marshes, they emerge into a dead landscape, and Frodo and Sam get some much-needed sleep. Sam, half awake, overhears Gollum having a conversation with himself, as if the Gollum part of him, ruined by desire for the Ring, disagrees with the Sméagol side, who retains some of his pre-Ring personality. The Sméagol side doesn't want to violate the oath to help Frodo, but the Gollum side answers, "She might help. She might, yes." Sam isn't sure what this means, but he definitely trusts Gollum less and less as time goes on.

Analysis

Frodo may have accepted that Gollum must be trusted to a degree, but Sam is just as suspicious as he's always been. He has no sympathy for Gollum, as Frodo does.

Frodo, in fact, seems to think Gollum could be rehabilitated. He offers him the Elven lembas to eat, and although Gollum can't stomach the Elves' food, Frodo thinks he might someday: "I think this food would do you good, if you would try. But perhaps you can't even try, not yet anyway."

Frodo and Sam also have a different perspective on the future. Sam is making preparations to get into and back out of Mordor, but Frodo has begun to believe they simply must get there and do their task, and not think about what happens next. After all, Frodo says, if they are successful in destroying the Ring, "who knows what will come of that? If the One goes into the Fire, and we are at hand?"

The Dead Marshes are the site of a great battle (The Battle of Dagorland) of the Second Age in which the Last Alliance of Elves and Men fought the army of Mordor, resulting in a large number of casualties. In the Third Age, marshes near the battle site grew to encompass the graves of the slain, and additional battles nearby added to the dead covered in the wetland. According to Tolkien, the description of the Dead Marshes was influenced by his own experiences in the Battle of the Somme, and the way the bodies of the dead would lie in pools of water when it rained.

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