Tolkien Gateway

The Tower of Cirith Ungol

The name Cirith Ungol refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Cirith Ungol (disambiguation).
The Return of the King chapters
Book V
  1. Minas Tirith
  2. The Passing of the Grey Company
  3. The Muster of Rohan
  4. The Siege of Gondor
  5. The Ride of the Rohirrim
  6. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
  7. The Pyre of Denethor
  8. The Houses of Healing
  9. The Last Debate
  10. The Black Gate Opens
Book VI
  1. The Tower of Cirith Ungol
  2. The Land of Shadow
  3. Mount Doom
  4. The Field of Cormallen
  5. The Steward and the King
  6. Many Partings
  7. Homeward Bound
  8. The Scouring of the Shire
  9. The Grey Havens

The Tower of Cirith Ungol is the first chapter of the sixth book in The Return of the King.

[edit] Summary

As Book VI begins, the narrative returns to focus on Sam and Frodo, who are still in the Tower of Cirith Ungol in Mordor. Sam wakes to find himself in the dark, outside the Orc stronghold. He knows he needs to rescue Frodo, but a massive door blocks his path. He turns and makes his way through the tunnel behind him.

Without reason or purpose, Sam puts on the Ring. Immediately, he feels the great physical weight of the Ring’s power. His hearing improves, but his sight becomes hazy. He hears the sound of savage fighting in the tower. He turns and runs back toward the door, hoping that the two Orc-captains have come to blows. Spurred by an intense love for Frodo, Sam takes off the Ring and approaches the main gate of Cirith Ungol. As he does, he sees Orodruin, or Mount Doom, in the distance to the east. He again feels the wild, heavy pull of the Ring and begins to fantasize about becoming “Samwise the Strong,” a great hero. Remembering his love for Frodo, Sam shakes off such thoughts. He is convinced that he is too much of a plain hobbit and a humble gardener to control the Ring.

Pressing on with a shrug, Sam halts helplessly before the gate, as if held by a web. He is under the influence of the Two Watchers who forbid all entrance into Cirith Ungol. Sam unconsciously draws the Phial of Galadriel from his breast and extends it forward. Its great light pierces the gloom, and Sam is able to pass quickly through the gate. The Watchers let out a shrill cry.

Inside, Sam notices the bodies of dead orcs as he reaches a narrow staircase. The dark figure of an orc moves down the stairs. The orc sees Sam and halts, perceiving Sam as a great, grey shadow brandishing an Elven blade that shines bitterly in the darkness. The terrified orc turns and runs up into the tower. Sam follows stealthily, jovially terming himself the “Elf-warrior.” Upstairs, Sam can hear the orc, Snaga, speak to another, Shagrat; they are the only two orcs left in the tower. Shagrat orders Snaga to descend, but Snaga will not go back downstairs. Snaga runs into an unknown chamber of the tower, leaving the furious Shagrat alone. Sam reveals himself to Shagrat and moves to attack, but the orc, overwhelmed by the power of the Ring, runs in panic around Sam and out the door.

Sam looks desperately around for Frodo, but cannot find him. He begins to sing to himself. His song draws a snarl from Snaga, who mistakes Sam’s voice for Frodo’s. Sam follows the sound of the snarl and finds the orc climbing a ladder through a hidden door in the ceiling. Sam climbs after Snaga and attacks him in the secret chamber. In a panic, the surprised orc charges Sam, trips over him, and falls through the hidden door to the hard floor below.

Frodo lies naked on a heap of rags in the middle of the room. He is surprised to see Sam and utterly elated to find that Sam has saved the Ring. Suddenly, Frodo demands that Sam hand over the Ring, calling Sam a thief. Grabbing the Ring, Frodo apologizes to Sam. Frodo and Sam outfit themselves in Orc gear and climb down the ladder. With the phial of Galadriel, the two hobbits move past the Watchers and out into Mordor. Suddenly, the terrifying cry of a Black Rider rends the sky above them.