The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

From Tolkien Gateway
The name Cirith Ungol refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Cirith Ungol (disambiguation).
Ted Nasmith - The Tower of the Moon.jpg
The Stairs of Cirith Ungol
Chapter of The Two Towers
EventFrodo and Samwise pass Minas Morgul.
Date10-11 March 3019
LocationStairs of Cirith Ungol
PerspectiveFrodo and Samwise
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The Stairs of Cirith Ungol is the eighth chapter of the second book in The Two Towers.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Gollum drew Sam and Frodo away from their rapt contemplation of the statue, telling them that time was short. He guided them along the South Road until they reached the valley of Minas Morgul. All three were momentarily transfixed by the sight of the Tower of the Moon rising in the distance, but Gollum finally urged them onward again. The way was hard, and the land was full of a horrid stench that made it hard for the Hobbits to breathe. Frodo begged for a moment’s rest, but Gollum and Sam insisted on continuing. As they started moving again, Minas Morgul erupted in a deafening thunder, and troops appeared. Frodo saw a great mass of cavalrymen all dressed in sable, guided by a horseman whom Frodo identified as the Lord of the Nazgûl.

Suddenly, the horseman stopped, and Frodo feared that he had spotted them. Frodo stood still, but almost against his will his hand moved toward the Ring hanging on his neck, which would give him the strength needed to confront the Lord of the Nazgûl. Frodo also touched the Phial of Galadriel, which he had forgotten. Luckily, the Ringwraith ended his watchful pause and continued on his way.

Frodo remained extremely distressed, however. He feared that he had taken too long to reach Mordor and that it was too late to fulfil his mission of destroying the Ring. Gollum, however, urged the Hobbits steadily onward, up an interminable set of stairs. Frodo became dizzy and felt that he could not go on, but Gollum forced them to continue. Frodo looked down and saw that they were above Minas Morgul.

After what seemed like miles uphill on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, as the twisting mountain was called, Gollum led Frodo and Sam into a dark crevice to rest. They discussed the question of whether there was water at these heights and whether it was drinkable. The two hobbits fell into a discussion of the old songs and prophecies, wondering whether they themselves would become characters in future songs, sung by their own children perhaps.

Frodo and Sam also talked about how trustworthy Gollum was. Frodo asserted that no matter how selfish Gollum may have been, he was no friend of the Orcs, and therefore may be considered a reliable guide. Eventually Sam pressed Frodo to get some sleep and promised to look after him; Frodo laid his head in Sam's lap and fell asleep. Gollum returned and saw them both sound asleep peacefully, and for a moment considered repenting, but then Sam awoke to find Gollum caressing the sleeping Frodo. Sam accused Gollum of sneaking around in the dark. Gollum was offended, saying he was not sneaking. Frodo woke and settled the argument, telling Gollum he was free to go off by himself if he wished. Gollum affirmed that he must guide the hobbits to the end.

Composition[edit | edit source]

The chapter was probably written around May 1944.

By that time Tolkien's earlier sketches had been obsoleted (because motives and times had changed) and wrote the last three chapters of Book III with great effort, and changing the sequence of events.[1]