ROTK, Book VI, Chap. 1 “The Tower of Cirith Ungol”
How are the orcs who have captured Frodo defeated? What message about evil does this convey?
How does Sam find Frodo?
How does Frodo react to Sam when he learns that Sam has the ring? What does he call Sam? What is happening to Frodo after his long journey and captivity?
ROTK, Book VI, Chap. 2 “The Land of the Shadow”
What is the landscape of Mordor like?
What do Frodo and Sam need that Mordor has so little of?
Who is pursuing Sam and Frodo?
ROTK, Book IV, Chap. 3 “Mount Doom”
Who catches up to Frodo and Sam on the slopes of Mount Doom, and what does he do to them? How does Frodo defeat him? What does Sam want to do that he does not do? What does this tell us about Sam’s character?
How does Frodo fail when he comes at last to the Cracks of Doom? Why didn’t Tolkien depict Frodo as triumphing victoriously? Explain.
How is the ring destroyed? What message about evil does this convey?
ROTK, Book VI, Chap. 4 “The Field of Cormallen”
What two things change the outcome of the very unequal battle between Gondor and Mordor on the field of Cormallen? How is this a “eucatastrophe”?
Frodo’s words “I am glad that you are here with me … here at the end of all things, Sam,” appear in chap. 3 and chap. 4. Why does Tolkien repeat them? How are Sam and Frodo rescued?
Gandalf tells Frodo and Sam they will meet the King. The hobbits are worried about what they will wear – and then surprised to find Aragorn is the King – their friend and someone whom they already know and love well, Strider. What do you make of the fact the Tolkien depicts the reunion unfolding in this manner? Why was Gandalf so cryptic when he could have just told the hobbits who they were going to see?
p.s. Think about how the chapter concludes: “And ther ein the midst of the fields they set up their pavilions and awaited the morning; for it was the Eve of May, and the King would enter his gates with the rising of the Sun.”
ROTK, Book VI, Chap. 5 “The Steward and the King”
How does Éowyn feel in the Houses of Healing, and what does she want? Notice how she goes over the Warden’s head to the higher authority: Faramir, the wounded Steward of Gondor. What does she understand about hierarchy / authority? Why does she doubt herself when she actually speaks to Faramir?
When Faramir tells Éowyn she is beautiful, she replies, “Look not to me for healing!” What messages does this convey? By what process does Tolkien show these two noble people growing and changing?
Why does Éowyn stay in the Houses of Healing when she is healed? After Aragorn is crowned King, does she marry Faramir immediately? What duty does she fulfill before her own desires?
What does Gandalf show Aragorn at the feet of Mount Mindolluin? Why is finding this living thing even more significant than his crowning in symbolically opening the way for Arwen, his bride, to come and be married on the Eve of Midsummer?
ROTR, Book VI, Chap. 6 “Many Partings”
What does Arwen give to Frodo?
Who does Legolas say is fairer than Galadriel? Why is this acceptable to Gimli?
After the burial of Théoden, Faramir and Éowyn are troth-plighted. Aragorn wishes Éowyn joy, and the two are reconciled. Why do you think Tolkien includes this detail?
What did Treebeard allow Saruman to do? What did he obtain from Saruman? To whom are these given?
When the travelers overtake Saruman and Wormtongue on the road, Gandalf gives Wormtongue another opportunity to leave his master. Does he? Why is Gandalf so merciful?
Who do Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin meet again in Rivendell? What song does he sing for them, and what is its message? What does he ask Frodo to do for him? How might this relate to J.R.R. Tolkien’s relationship with his son, Christopher?
At the end of the chapter, where does Elrond say he shall be when the leaves are gold in the fall? How does this relate to Arwen’s gift to Frodo at the beginning of the chapter?
ROTK, Book VI, Chap. 7 “Homeward Bound”
What wound still bothers Frodo? How does this relate to PTSD?
What does Butterbur warn the hobbits about?
ROTK, Book VI, Chap. 8 “The Scouring of the Shire”
What has happened to the Shire in the absence of the hobbits? Make a list with several examples. What messages does this situation convey about evil?
How do the hobbit win back the Shire from the Chief and Sharkey? Why is it morally acceptable for the hobbits to break The Rules in the process?
What does Frodo refuse to do in all of this? Why?
ROTK, Book VI, Chap. 9 “The Grey Havens”
What does Sam do with the Lady Galadriel’s gift?
Sam feels so loyal to Frodo that he hesitates to do something he wants to do. How is that situation resolved? How is this one more instance of Tolkien showing us that love between men and women should be in the higher service of others?
Frodo continues to suffer from his memories of pain, writing more of Bilbo’s book, while Sam and Rosie welcome their first child. How is Tolkien showing us two different responses of soldiers to war? Does he depict one as better than another? Why or why not?
Who goes to the Grey Havens? Who departs over the sea? Who remains in Middle-earth? Why is the last image in the epic of Sam with Rosie, his baby daughter in his lap, saying, “Well, I’m back?”
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 6 “The Battle of Pelennor Fields”
1) Théoden chooses to charge into battle, though he seems to know he won’t make it through alive. Why did Tolkien choose Snowmane to be his “master’s bane” rather than choose a more heroic death for the king?
2) How do the words of the film, “I am no man,” and those of the book, “You look upon a woman,” differ?
3) After Éowyn slays the Witchking, Théoden tells Merry that he “shall not see her again, dearer than daughter.” Why didn’t Tolkien let Théoden and Éomer see her triumph and instead let Éomer believe his sister to be dead? Why was Merry the only one to see her victory?
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 7 “The Pyre of Denethor”
1) Do you think Gandalf made the right decision in helping Faramir out of burning rather than following the Black Rider to prevent him from killing more? Why or why not?
2) What is the deal with Denethor? What is the cause of his madness and logic for trying to burn Faramir? And what is his logic for setting himself on fire?
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 8 “The Houses of Healing”
1) When Gandalf comes to find Merry and Pippin, he talks about how important the hobbits have proven in the midst of battle. Is their presence as important as Gandalf claims? What is Gandalf’s other “charge on [his] hands” that he talks about?
2) This is the second time that Aragorn has called for athelas (or kingsfoil) in healing people grievously wounded. What is the significance of this plant? How does its description affect the way people regard it?
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 9 “The Last Debate”
1) What do you make of Gimli and Legolas’ conversation as they enter Minas Tirith? Either about their plans to help the White City rebuild or their judgment concerning the worth and ability of Men?
2) Before he died, Denethor said, “You may triumph on the fields of the Pelennor for a day, but against the Power that has now arisen there is no victory.” What is the significance of Gandalf saying that the council should look for the wisdom in Denethor’s final words?
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 10 “The Black Gate Opens”
1) Before battle is met outside the Morannon, an emissary of Sauron rides out to tell Aragorn’s company that Frodo has been captured. Gandalf reacts to this messenger and his offer of “parley” with uncharacteristic rage. Why do you believe Gandalf acts this way? Has the gravity of their situation left him with no other choice but wrath?
2) In this chapter, we see another miraculous last-minute intervention on the part of the Great Eagles. It seems as if the eagles only lend their strength to a conflict if their presence is absolutely necessary. Why is this? Do the eagles owe loyalty or allegiance to anyone but themselves?
Christine Danielsson, Book V, Chap. 1 “Minas Tirith”
1) In this chapter the idea of darkness is very present. What do you think the reasons for that are?
2) What do you think are the reasons behind the tension existing between Gandalf and Denethor?
Uni Kim, Book V, Chap. 2 “The Passing of the Grey Company”
1) It is said in the text that the Dúnedain are almost entirely in gray. Why do you think this is? Explain.
2) What were your thoughts on the history of the Paths of the Dead? Explain why you think Tolkien had Aragorn recite this song and the importance behind it.
Jaime Pincin, Book V, Chap. 3 “Muster of Rohan”
1) What is the darkness emanating from Mordor symbolic of? Are there any biblical undertones to this darkness, and if so, what are they?
2) Why do you think Merry so insistent on riding to Minas Tirith? Was there any reason for Tolkien portraying Merry as almost childlike in this insistence?
Keri Hosler, Book V, Chap. 4 “Seige of Gondor”
1) Pippin must trade his clothes for those of Gondor – by order of Denethor. What does this represent? Why does it weigh on his spirits?
2) Denethor seems to hate Faramir by his speech to him, wishing he had died and not Boromir. Do you believe his words to be true? Why would Tolkien put this into his story?
Austin Chang, Book V, Chap. 5, “Ride of the Rohirrim”
1) Think about the Wild Men and how they’re described. How do they differ from other allies against Mordor? Why do you think Tolkien chose to describe them in this manner, and what could they be an analogy for?
2) Théoden looks upon the burning Minas Tirith with his head hung low. All seems low. Then he sees a flash in the distance and is transformed – by proxy transforming the Rohirrim as well. What do you think this flash is? What did Théoden see in it? Are we meant to understand this process at all?
Chapter 1 “The Taming of Sméagol”
1) Tolkien again presents the destructive force of nature; how is this storm similar to previous events? How does this sequence continue Tolkien’s water metaphors?
2) What does both the physical description of Gollum and his behavior tell us about him? Sam seems to be very wary about trusting Gollum whereas Frodo is more willing. Would you behave more like Sam of Frodo if you were in their position?
Chapter 2 “The Passage of the Marshes”
1) What could the lights be or symbolize? What does this passage say about mortality when the trio see elves, men, and orcs all rotting in the same place in the marsh?
2) Thinking back to Gandalf’s hope that even Gollum could be saved, is there evidence in Gollum’s monologue to suggest he can still change?
Chapter 3 “The Black Gate is Closed”
1) How are the teeth of Mordor and their former use representative of Tolkein’s relationship between good and evil?
2) Gollum claims to have ‘sworn on the precious’ that he will help Frodo and Sam find a way into Mordor. Do you feel the hobbits should be more concerned about the fact that he is clearly still deeply influenced by the power of the ring or are they right in trusting him because they have no other way?
Chapter 4 “Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit”
1) When Sam is watching Frodo sleep, he notices that the Ringbearer is looking much more more weary and aged than he was just a short time ago. Do you think that this is a product of carrying the ring or is it just the exhausting nature of the quest they are on?
2) Is Frodo’s insistence on keeping Gollum alive despite Faramir’s distaste for the creature an example of care for the creature, or is it just because Gollum is their guide and is much more experienced in the wild than the hobbits? Do any examples in this chapter point to either answer?
Chapter 5 “The Window on the West”
1) From Faramir’s questioning of Frodo, is there any association between the acceptance of Aragorn as the true King of Gondor and what group a character belongs to? Are there any biblical undertones in this?
2) How are Faramir and Boromir different? How are they alike?
Chapter 6 “The Forbidden Pool”
1) What is the significance of the pool? Why would even looking at it subject someone to the penalty of death?
2) Does Frodo’s acceptance of Faramir’s “doom” have any bearing or is it more out of courtesy? Would he be more liable to believe Aragorn’s friendship gains him access to parts of Gondor?
Chapter 7 “The Journey to the Cross-Roads”
1) As Frodo, Sam, and Gollum approach the Crossroads leading to Cirith-Ungol, the terrain around them becomes more blasted and desolate. How did the land come to be this way? Is this its natural state? Is this desolation a product of mere barbarism on the part of the Orcs or is the state of the terrain indicative of a deeper corrupting power?
2) At the Crossroads, Frodo sees a statue of an old king, defaced and beheaded by the servants of Mordor. However, a crown of blossoms decorate the fallen head of the statue. How is this shattered effigy significant in regards to the kingly line of Gondor?
Chapter 8 “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”
1) Frodo and Sam witness a great host pouring forth from Minas Morgul. However, rank-and-file soldiery and brute force are not the greatest weapons of the enemy. What weapon do you believe is the strongest of Sauron’s arsenal? How does it serve him better than simple strength of arms?
2) While Frodo and Sam are discussing the possibility of a story being written about them in the future, Frodo asks Gollum if he’d like to be a hero. Unfortunately, he doesn’t answer as he is sneaking around elsewhere at the time. Do you believe Gollum still has the capability of being good? Or has the Ring well and truly consumed him?
Chapter 9 “Shelob’s Lair”
1) What is Shelob? Why does Gollum lead Frodo and Sam to her lair?
2) How does Frodo fight Shelob? What happens to Frodo? How does this event change Sam’s identity?
Chapter 10 “The Choices of Master Samwise”
1) How does Sam defeat Shelob? Describe his strategies and weapons.
2) What mistake did Sam mistake when considering Frodo’s plight after Shelob attacked? How does Sam realize his mistake? What does Sam decide to do about it?
Book III, Chap. 6 “The King of the Golden Hall”
1) Throughout the chapter, Theoden slowly begins to return to himself. By what power is he being restored? Is it Gandalf? Or his own will?
2) Theoden was overcome by the evil words of Wormtongue, which aged and weakened him. What does this signify when we consider Tolkien’s view on giving advice?
Book III, Chap. 7 “Helm’s Deep”
1) During the battle of Helm’s Deep, lightning falls upon the attacking orcs, breaking their defenses. Do you think the lightning is natural –or sent? If sent, from whom?
2) Throughout the battle, Gimli and Legolas call the number they have killed to each other. Why did Tolkien put this in?
Book III, Chap. 8 “The Road to Isengard”
1) What does Gimli and Legolas’ discussion about caves vs. trees represent on a deeper level? What does this reveal about how they are different/similar?
2) There is little time to rest in between everything that happens in this chapter. What does this say about the urgency of the journey that the fellowship is on?
Book III, Chap. 9 “Flotam and Jetsam”
1) The Ents are presented as slow moving, sleepy creatures who do not stand up for themselves. Explain how the underestimation of the Ents ended up aiding them in their attack against Saruman.
2) How does the flood of Isengard reflect biblical imagery? Does it represent a new beginning?
Book III, Chap. 10 “The Voice of Saruman”
1) Upon their arrival in Isengard, Gandalf warns the others of Saruman’s magic, advising them not to approach Orthanc with a “light heart.” Tolkien takes great strides to describe Saruman as a deceitful villain who uses magic to aid his deceptions. How are Saruman’s arcane abilities similar to the power of the Ring and how are they different?
2) In the heated parley between the two parties at Orthanc, Theoden says he wishes to see Saruman dead, but Gandalf is not so vengeful. Have Gandalf’s naturally generous ways blinded him to the crimes of his former friend and counselor, or does he truly recognize some reason to leave Saruman alive?
Book, III Chap. 11: “The Palantír”
1) Gandalf describes the palantiri as ancient tools which were created to serve a good purpose but were later corrupted by Sauron. How is Aragorn’s reclamation of the Orthanc Palantir significant in regards to the coming of the new age?
2) In this chapter, we are given some insight to the dealings between Orthanc and Barad-dur. Is Saruman a servant of Mordor, or is he his own master? Before his defeat at Isengard, was Saruman in control of his own fate?
Patrick Pagenhart, The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 1 “The Departure of Boromir”:
1) Close to death Boromir says, “I tried to take the Ring from Frodo … I am sorry. I have paid.” Was sacrificing himself for Merry and Pippin a fair price to pay for trying to take the Ring?
2) Boromir blows the horn of Gondor when leaving Rivendell, in the Mines of Moria, and finally at Parth Galen. What is the significance of the horn in Tolkien’s story? How could it be an inspiration from Tolkien’s life?
The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 2 “The Riders of Rohan”:
1) From the encounter between Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and the Riders, what can we gather about the people of Rohan? How do they differ from the Men of other kingdoms in Middle Earth in their philosophies, culture, and relation to other races?
2) How has Rohan’s perception of strangers, sorcerers, and wizards changed over time? Why have the people of Rohan as well as their King become so focused on isolating themselves from the outside forces around them and the conflicts therein?
Keri Holsler, The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 3 “The Uruk-hai”
1) The orc Ugluk seems to be in charge of the orc hoard. Why is that? What makes him different from the others?
2) Merry and Pippin were able to escape using a clever lie about the Ring. What does this say about the Ring’s corruptive powers?
3) There were two different foods that where spoken of in this chapter, orc-draught and lembas bread. What are the differences between the two, not just physically but emotionally or spiritually?
The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 4 “Treebeard”
1) Tolkien often likes to personify his forests. What does Treebeard seem to represent thematically?
2) Treebeard explains that many Ents are becoming “sleepy.” What do you think he means by this? Why do you think this is happening?
Dr. B, The Two Towers, Book 3, Chap. 5 “The White Rider”
1) Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli enter Fangorn looking for Merry and Pippin. Instead of finding them, they encounter an old man, cloaked in gray. Why do you think that the old man’s true identity is hidden from them when they first see him and speak with him?
2) Gandalf says of Sauron: “That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs in his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream.” Why is Sauron incapable of imagining this?
3) What is the “long sorrow” (as Legolas puts it) of the Onodrim (Ents)? How does their experience relate to Tolkien’s thematic concerns with married love and the necessity of self-sacrifice (vs. selfishness) in defense of a shared land or country?