TTT: Bk 4, Ch 7
Journey To The Cross-Roads
"'A wating silence broods above the Nameless Land. I do not know what this portends. But the time draws swiftly to some great conclusion. Storm is coming. Hasten while you may!'"Faramir sends them off later that morning, giving them walking staffs and a store of provisions. He advises Frodo to travel under cover of the woods for as long as possible before reaching the intersection that will lead them to Minas Morgul and beyond. Most of the chapter is dedicated to that journey. Frankly, I always found this chapter to be pretty boring as nothing really eventful happens until the end. Actually Tolkien originally included this material as part of one continuous chapter with "The Forbidden Pool".
But once again, when it came time to revising his draft to match up the chronology with the other stories he had to deal with a major event that would affect all of them at once. The Dawnless Day was coming up too quickly at this point. He went back and made the journey to the cross-roads last an additional day so that March 10th would be the point when Sauron sent a darkness westward out of Mordor to give cover from the sun to the majority of his Orc forces. The events taking place at Minas Tirith in preparation for the coming battle would then be better synchronized with the arrival of Sauron's army.
As Frodo, Sam and Smeagol travel on they notice a silence throughout the land. Even the birds seemed to have fallen dumb. They sleep into the night and Smeagol wakes them before the first glimmer of light. There are rumblings of thunder off in the distance and they come upon a stream, one that flowed the Morgul Vale and into Anduin. This river was the Morgulduin and they followed it East towards the main road. At the end of this second day they slept, but were roused by Smeagol just after midnight. He told them that they needed to make haste, leading them through thickets and brambles. It was then that they noticed that a blackness darker than the night seemed to be coming from Mordor.
They looked forward to the coming of day.
"But no day came, only a dead brown twilight. In the East there was a dull red glare under the lowering cloud: it was not the red of dawn. Across the tumbled lands between, the mountains of the Ephel Duath frowned at them, black and shapeless below where night lay thick and did not pass away, above the jagged tops and edges outlined hard and menacing against the fiery glow. Away to their right a great shoulder of mountains stood out, dark and black amid the shadows, thrusting westward."They would soon be at the Cross-roads. For some time, Smeagol disappears and the hobbits assume he is off hunting. They rest until he returns later that afternoon. Again, when Smeagol returns, he wakes them and bids them to hurry after him. They turned eastwards now and came upon the Harad road that they had left when they went with Faramir. Walking south, they finally came upon the cross-roads. It lay within a great ring of trees, open to the sky. Behind them led the way to the Morannon and before them the road continued through South Ithilien and the lands of the Southrons. To their right, the way led towards Osgiliath which straddled the Anduin and further on was Minas Tirith. To their left was the way that they would go.
As they continued on, a shaft of light broke through the darkness for a short time. It fell upon a stature presumably built by the Gondorians. It was crafted in the manner of the sentinels at the Argonath and was in the likeness of a king on his throne. However its head had been removed and in its place set a huge rock. Painted on it was a crude face with one red eye. The statue's head lay on the side of the road. As Frodo noticed it, he was startled. The light fell upon it and illuminated it. "Look", said Frodo, "The king has got a crown again!"
"A trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across it's brows as if in reverence for the fallen king, and in the crevices of his stony hair yellow stonecrop gleamed."For a brief moment, we are given a foreshadowing of hope, that the forces of good might persevere and the king of Gondor might soon return. The light faded, and soon the darkness fell again. And unbenownst to the reader, an army had come forth from the Morannon gate and was headed toward the island stronghold of Cair Andros, on the Anduin to the north. The first group of Sauron's forces had been unleashed.
[Chronology: March 8th - March 10th 3019 T.A.]
Next: The Stairs Of Cirith Ungol