Mark Reads ‘The Two Towers’: Book 2, Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of the second book of The Two Towers, I’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.



I should have known. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WOULD HAPPEN. i didn’t believe it when Gollum disappeared for hours. I didn’t believe it when Gollum made it really obvious that he needed them to go a specific way into Mordor. I DID NOT BELIEVE IT WHEN GOLLUM LED THEM INTO A PITCH-BLACK, SMELLY CAVE. Why? WHY? WHY DID I HOLD ON TO HOPE FOR SO LONG? There’s an entire book left to happen. This journey had to be ruined. IT HAD TO BE. I BASICALLY SAID AS MUCH IN THE LAST REVIEW.

I feel like a fool.

Presently they were under the shadow, and there in the midst of it they saw the opening of a cave. “This is the way in,’ said Gollum softly. ‘This is the entrance to the tunnel.” He did not speak its name: Torech Ungol, Shelob’s Lair.’

Despite this, I swear to you, I still thought, “Oh, well, that’s not too bad. It can’t be that awful, can it?” Mark, it has LAIR in its name. THAT IS ALWAYS BAD. THAT IS NEVER GOOD. Does that mean Cirith Ungol translates to “Shelob’s Stair”? IT PROBABLY DOES OR SOMETHING. Oh my god, I am so embarrassed.

I just can’t even cope with the idea that Sam and Frodo walk into a tunnel that’s darker than the mines of Moria, and that they have to find their way by touching the walls. This technique fails in three paragraphs. Literally, that is all the time that Tolkien gives these characters to use this method to follow the tunnel through the mountain. CLEARLY HE WANTS EVERYONE TO SUFFER. The walls give way to unseen crevices. Or are they holes? Or tunnels? Or cliffs? Who knows??? Oh, there are things hanging from the ceiling that dangle down and brush against their heads, too? Great. I am already uncomfortable with this entire prospect. I decided to be momentarily comforted by Sam and Frodo holding hands and guiding one another in that dark, dank place, but that comfort disappears when they both realize that Gollum has left them behind. I think it was right around this point that my faith in Gollum started to crack. I suppose I just wanted to believe that he was trying to redeem himself in some way. Sure, I believe that he also wanted to keep the Ring close, but Frodo treated him better than probably any living being in Middle-earth. I had hope that this might have meant something to him. I had hope that whatever seemed to be lurking in the darkness was just Gollum himself. When Sam remembers the star-glass that Galadriel gave Frodo, I then hoped that the light it cast would expose what was really going on, or at least provide them with enough light to catch up with Gollum.

Not far down the tunnel, between them and the opening where they had reeled and stumbled, he was aware of eyes growing visible, two great clusters of many-windowed eyes – the coming menace was unmasked at last.


Then Frodo’s heart flamed within him, and without thinking what he did, whether it was folly or despair or courage, he took the Phial in his left hand, and with his right hand drew his sword. Sting flashed out, and the sharp elven-blade sparkled in the silver light, but at its edges a blue fire flickered. Then holding the star aloft and the bright sword advanced, Frodo, hobbit of the Shire, walked steadily down to meet the eyes.

FRODO!!!1 BE STILL MY HEART. Oh my god, I love you so much. WHAT A COURAGEOUS MOMENT!!! Even better, it works! This “many-windowed” creature backs off at the sight of the star and Sting. Yet it’s a brief respite from the terror, as the next page confirms the worst possible development yet: that thing WAS A GIANT SPIDER. No, look, stop doing this everyone. I know that this book was written decades before I was born, but I think it should be international law that spiders should never be enlarged in fiction for any reason ever for all time. This is what I will decree when I am President of the Universe, which I am now campaigning for. In a universe under my rule, there will never be large spiders by which authors can terrify us. This is a good law, and everyone will be happy with it. (PS: Aragog = Shelob, no? Well, it could be where Rowling got the idea. It’s not like Tolkien has the copyright on large spiders. If he did, though, I would burn all documents that gave him this copyright just to spite him for making me feel all icky and gross.)

I do think that Tolkien’s choice to take us away from the perspective of Frodo and Sam in this chapter is kind of brilliant. It’s totally unexpected, too. It’s a way for him to give us a context we might never have had, and the info-dumping makes Shelob a billion times more frightening to me. I like the idea that both Shelob and Sauron are aware of one another and have this mutual arrangement with one another. They’re like the true Axis of Evil, as far as I’m concerned. It’s here, though, that we learn how Gollum plays into all of this. Turns out the little dude wasn’t lying. He really did come through this passage out of Mordor, but we never knew that Gollum promised her food. Tolkien makes a key distinction here: Gollum does not do this to please Shelob. He realizes that he can take Sam and Frodo to the gigantic spider and after she’s eaten them, he can search the bones and scraps for his Precious. It’s a means to an end, one that he’s been planning all along. Does that mean he purposely got caught earlier in this book? Oh god, is he really that cunning? Even if he isn’t, he’s certainly manipulated these two hobbits into being right where he wants them to be.

Ugh, it’s just so awful to even think about this. They fell right into Gollum’s trap, and it’s just so frustrating to me. Frodo tried to believe Gollum, and Sam was right the whole time. When Shelob comes out of a side passage to split up Sam and Frodo, it’s when I just lost it. I was so UPSET. Why? Why are you doing this? Also:

Great horns she had…

This giant spider has horns on her head???? SO HELP ME GANDALF, I AM GOING TO HAVE NIGHTMARES ABOUT THIS.

Sam, that brave little hobbit, tries to warn Frodo of the oncoming danger, but Gollum chooses this moment to attack him. Sam and Gollum get into a brutal and violent fight. Gollum, however, misjudges how angry and frightened Sam is, and that gives the hobbit this burst of energy and resolve that Gollum couldn’t have anticipated. Despite managing to wrestle away from the creature (and breaking his staff across Gollum’s back), Sam must dejectedly watch as Gollum scampers away from him.

Frodo is gone. Gollum’s plan worked. Everything is fucked up.

This fucking book. Goddamn it.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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