Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 2

This chapter is a mix of a brutal slog and fortuitous timing.  Tolkien is weaving together elements of plot happening synchronously, and in many ways this is the only thing that keeps Samwise and Frodo on the path of their quest.

To be honest, their situation sucks.  Volcanic fumes, enemy territory, and no water... and that's without the whole Ring deal.  I want to be sympathetic to Frodo, and I know I'm not the best person when fighting a depressive cycle... but I get seriously annoyed at how useless he is and how he treats Sam.  Much of this chapter involves Frodo whining and Samwise making sacrifices.  Sam holding Frodo's hand while Frodo sleeps just breaks my heart.

Mordor itself is not a united land.  It's troops are fractious and frustrated, and even the land itself is struggling between life and death.  No one looks at the two hobbits as anything but two goblin deserters, not bothering to look beyond an initial assessment of their armor.  A poetic irony considering if someone did look past the initial assessment the war would wrap up a lot sooner.

The most significant moment in all of this is perhaps almost overlooked.  I certainly only notice it because Sam reflects on learning that Gollum is still alive.  The significance of course is that he yet has a roll to play, bur for now it's just a skulking shadow following their course.

When I first watched Return of the King in theaters, I reflected on how it dragged for all of the epic adventure occuring.  Going chapter by chapter... I get why.  The time scale here has changed dramatically, with much of book focusing on comparatively very little time.  Before Return of the King, chapters would be either significant events or traveling.  Much of Book 5 focused on the span of mere days, and so will Book 6 for the foreseeable future.

I'm honestly OK with the fact that Jackson excised so much of the crawl through Mordor.  On it's own it could be a whole separate movie (though undoubtedly one with extra hype and excitement surrounding all their close calls).

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