Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Two Towers Book 4 Chapter 9 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 9) : Shelob's Lair | Summary

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Summary

Gollum leads Frodo and Sam deeper into the maze of tunnels of Cirith Ungol. It is dark, and on either side of the tunnel Frodo and Sam can sense openings, as if there are passageways branching off the main tunnel. From one, a terrible smell emanates, as well as a tangible sense of malevolence.

They suddenly realize that Gollum has disappeared again. And when they hear a "long venomous hiss," they realize Gollum has led them into a trap. Holding aloft the phial of Galadriel, Frodo can see its light reflected in the many eyes of a giant spider. He and Sam try to escape, slashing through thick cobwebs blocking the tunnel with Sting, but the spider—Shelob, an ancient monster—cuts in front of them via another tunnel and emerges to try to capture Frodo. Just as Sam tries to shout a warning to Frodo, Gollum comes up behind and attacks, covering Sam's mouth with his hands. As Sam and Gollum fight, Shelob pounces on Frodo. Gollum breaks free and runs away.

Analysis

Shelob's ancestry traces back to the evil spirit Ungoliant, who took the form of a spider even before the First Age. Ungoliant allied herself with Melkor (Morgoth) to extinguish the light of the Two Trees of Valinor, which provided light in the world before the creation of the sun. Providing a cover of shadow, Melkor and Ungoliant approached the Two Trees, Melkor stabbed them, and Ungoliant drained them of their light. After Ungoliant and Melkor were finished, the only remaining light from the Two Trees was that which had previously been captured in the silmarils.

When Frodo fights back against Shelob, he uses the phial of Galadriel, in which she captured some of the light of the Star of Eärendil. The Star of Eärendil is actually the light shining from the silmaril worn on the forehead of Eärendil, who resides in Valinor. It appears as a star in the sky to those in Middle-earth. Frodo and Sam use the light from the Trees of Valinor to fight Shelob, descendant of Ungoliant who destroyed the Trees. This is a fantastic example of Tolkien's thoroughness in weaving together the "history" in the Silmarillion and the story of The Lord of the Rings.

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