The End?

Anna Isaacs '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam overcome many odds and escape countless perils on the quest to destroy the Ring. They find their way through Mordor -- and almost meet their doom -- with the help of Gollum, whom Sam never fully trusts. The power of the Ring overcomes Frodo as he is standing at the Cracks of Doom, and he refuses to destroy it. To Sam's horror, Frodo puts the Ring on and vanishes. Gollum streaks in out of nowhere, jumps on Frodo, and in his lust for the Ring, bites off Frodo's finger. As Frodo is clutching his hand in agony, Gollum dances about with his prize. In his ecstasy he accidentally dances right off the cliff and into the Cracks of Doom, where he and his Precious meets destruction together. Sam carries Frodo out of the mountain. The kingdom of Mordor crumbles beneath his feet, and Sam can go no further.

"Well this is the end, Sam Gangee," said a voice by his side. And there was Frodo, pale and worn, and yet himself again; and in his eyes there was a peace now, neither strain of will, nor madness, nor any fear. His burden was taken away. There was the dear master of the sweet days in the Shire.

"Master!" cried Sam, and fell upon his knees. In all that ruin of the world for the moment he felt only joy, great joy. The burden was gone. His master had been saved; he was himself again, he was free. And then Sam caught sight of the maimed and bleeding hand.

"Your poor hand!" he said. "And I have nothing to bind it with, or comfort it. I would have spared him a whole hand of mine rather. But he's gone now beyond recall, gone forever."

"Yes," said Frodo. 'But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam." [p. 926]


1. What is the difference between Sam and Gollum's use of the term "Master" with Frodo?

2. What is the significance of Sam noticing Frodo's mangled hand when he believes the end of the world is upon them?

3. What does Tolkien accomplish with phrases such as "the end," "beyond recall," "gone for ever," "bitter end," and "all is over?"

4. Why does Frodo credit Gollum with the Ring's destruction?


Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.

Victorian Web Overview J. R. R. Tolkien Victorian courses

Last modified 26 February 2004