1. What does Aragorn see from the high seat on Amon Hen? (403)
2. Who are the “Three Kindreds” to which Aragorn refers? (410)
3. What, and how, does Aragorn know about the horsemen of Rohan? (420)
4. Why is Saruman the chief concern of the Rohirrim? (426)
5. What are the Orcs’ orders regarding the hobbits? (435)
6. How do Merry and Pippin escape from the Orcs? (445)
1. As they prepare Boromir’s funeral, Aragorn says to Gimli, “We must guess the riddles, if we are to choose our course rightly.” And Gimli responds, “Maybe there is no right choice.” How often does choosing the right course of action depend upon guessing “riddles” correctly? In what circumstances might there be “no right choice”?
2. Why does Aragorn choose to follow the Orcs and not go after Frodo? Why is that choice so painful? In what ways might our more difficult and painful choices be the most important?
3. Why does Aragorn proclaim his true identity—with all his names—Éomer at this time? What direction does his mission take as a result? What does Aragorn’s mission turn out to be and how is it related to Frodo’s mission?
4. “Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?” Éomer asks. After finishing The Lord of the Rings, how would you answer Éomer’s question? How would you explain Aragorn’s response: “A man may do both”? How would you describe the relationship between legends and day-to-day living?
5. Merry and Pippin look back out of the shadows of Fangorn, “little furtive figures that in the dim light looked like elf-children in the deeps of time peering out of the Wild Wood in wonder at their first Dawn.” How would you describe the initial innocence of all the hobbits? How is their innocence a counter to the more complicated experience of men, the ancient knowledge of Elves, the wisdom of Gandalf, and the evil of Sauron?
BOOK THREE: CHAPTER IV, TREEBEARD—CHAPTER V, THE WHITE RIDER
1. Why is Treebeard reluctant to reveal his real name? (454)
2. What is Entmoot, and where will it occur? (467)
3. Who is Gwaihir the Windlord, and what has he been doing for the past several days? (484)
4. What must Aragorn do now, according to Gandalf? (489)
5. Who is the White Rider? Who gives him that name, and why? (490)
6. How did Gandalf escape from the abyss? (490)
1. Treebeard says of Saruman, “He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things.” In what other ways does Tolkien show the evils of technology and the goodness of growing things? What characters and creatures are associated with “metal and wheels” and their effects and which with “growing things”?
2. What does Treebeard mean when he says, “But there, my friends, songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way.” To what extent is this true of the songs in The Lord of the Rings? In what ways might it also be true of individual people?
3. How would you explain the failure of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas to recognize Gandalf in the forest of Fangorn, even after he speaks to them? In what other instances does Gandalf successfully hide or disguise his identity? What are his reasons and what are the consequences? What instances are there of other characters hiding or disguising their identity?
4. How do Gandalf’s comments on the Enemy reveal Sauron’s limitations and the limitations of any evildoer? What might result from Sauron’s expectation that his foes will act as he would act? To what extent do we expect others to think and act as we do?
5. What does Gandalf mean when, speaking of Saruman’s supposed allegiance to Sauron, he comments that “a treacherous weapon is ever a danger to the hand”? What instances of this kind of danger occur throughout the novel? How might Gandalf’s comment refer to the Ring itself?
6. Gimli is told that Treebeard, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli himself are all dangerous. In what ways is each dangerous? How is the danger that each presents revealed? To what extent and in what ways might this also be true of Frodo, Sam, Elrond, and others?
BOOK THREE: CHAPTER VI, THE KING OF THE GOLDEN HALL—CHAPTER VIII, THE ROAD TO ISENGARD
1. What changes come over Théoden when he goes outside his hall with Gandalf? (504)
2. Where is Helm’s Deep, and how did it get its name? (516)
3. What do Gimli and Legolas promise one another as they ride toward Isengard? (535)
4. What has the Wizard’s Vale, Nan Curunír, become? (540)
5. What stands at the center of Isengard, and what is its appearance? (541)
6. By whom, and when, was the “the true pipe-weed” first introduced among the hobbits? (544)
1. Awaiting entrance to Théoden’s hall, Gandalf says, “A king will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom.” Replacing “king” with “person” and applying it to Bilbo, Gandalf, Saruman, Celeborn, Aragorn, Sauron, Tom Bombadil, and others, how is this true throughout the novel?
2. What is characteristic of each building and residence in the various regions of Middle-earth? How is each peculiar to its location and the ways of its residents? What details provide a clear picture of each?
3. “The world changes,” says King Théoden, in the citadel of Hornburg, “and all that once was strong now proves unsure.” To what does he refer? What other instances are there in the book of the once-strong now proving unsure?
4. In response to Éomer’s attributing the victory in Helm’s Deep to Gandalf’s wizardry, Gandalf says, “Your own valour has done more, and stout legs of the Westfold-men marching through the night.” What is the importance in The Lord of the Rings of wizardry and of valor, strength, and stamina?
5. How are Théoden’s remarks to the Ents after the siege of Isengard related to present-day environmental concerns and past and present attitudes toward nature and the earth? What other statements and episodes in The Lord of the Rings have a bearing on this issue?
BOOK THREE: CHAPTER IX, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM—CHAPTER XI, THE PALANTÍR
1. Who or what are the Huorns? (551)
2. Why is Aragorn suspicious about the pipe-weed that Merry and Pippin have found? (560)
3. What effects does Saruman’s voice have? (564)
4. What does Gandalf advise that Treebeard do to prevent Saruman’s escape? (572)
5. According to Gandalf, who is more in Saruman’s thoughts than anyone else, and why? (574)
6. What is the palantír, and why is it appropriate that Aragorn be its guardian? (580)
1. What has corrupted Saruman and transformed his wisdom and caring to greed and hate? How are Gandalf, Aragorn, Frodo, and others able to withstand the temptations and desires to which Saruman, Gollum, Wormtongue, and others succumb?
2. “Often does hatred hurt itself,” says Gandalf. How is this true of hatred and evil inThe Lord of the Rings and in actual life?
3. “Well, well,” says Treebeard, “things will go as they will; and there is no need to hurry to meet them.” On the other hand, Gandalf repeatedly acts to make things happen and to influence the outcome of events. What are the benefits and limitations of both approaches? What are their results?
4. What does Pippin see and hear—and what happens to him—when he looks into Saruman’s glass ball? How is Pippin’s experience a threat to the Company? Why might it have been more of a threat than it turns out to be?
5. What does Gandalf tell Pippin about the palantíri? How have they served Sauron? Why might they be important to Middle-earth now?
BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER I, THE TAMING OF SMÉAGOL—CHAPTER III, THE BLACK GATE IS CLOSED
1. How do Frodo and Sam succeed in descending the eastern cliffs of Emyn Muil? (596)
2. What does Gollum tell Frodo and Sam about Mordor? (601)
3. What is the answer to the riddle posed by Gollum’s song, “Alive without breath”? (607)
4. What are the “tricksy lights” that appear in the Dead Marshes, and why are they dangerous? (613)
5. What are the names of Mordor’s principal landmarks? (622)
6. What does Sam say about Minas Ithil and the Tower of the Moon? (527)
stooped (v.) (631)
1. In what ways, as it seems to Sam, are Frodo and Gollum “in some way akin and not alien”? What accounts for their similarities and their differences?
2. Frodo does not think “we need give thought to what comes after” he and Sam complete their mission. When does he begin to think otherwise, and what does he then think of? What do Sam and others think of when they look beyond their respective missions?
3. Why is it both appropriate and ironic that Sméagol leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes and over the mountains into Mordor? Do his motives turn out to be what they seemed to be at the start?
4. What details does Tolkien give to establish a sense of the regions, landscapes, and terrains through which the Fellowship travels? Can you compare each with an actual landscape or region that you know about?
5. How would you describe Frodo’s new look and new tone that Sam notices when Frodo speaks to Sméagol before the gate of Mordor? What do they, and the warning that Frodo addresses to Sméagol, tell us about the ways in which Frodo has changed?
BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER IV, OF HERBS AND STEWED RABBIT—CHAPTER VI, THE FORBIDDEN POOL
1. How far is it from the Morannon to the Cross-roads above Osgiliath, and how long does Gollum plan on taking to cover that distance? (634)
2. What was once the relationship between Ithilien and Gondor? (636)
3. What does Sam notice about the sleeping Frodo? (638)
4. What is the Mûmak, and what becomes of it? (647)
5. How did the Rohirrim become the allies of Gondor? (663)
6. Why does Faramir advise Frodo not to follow Gollum to the high pass of Cirith Ungol? (677)
1. What lineage does Faramir claim, and how is it related to Aragorn’s lineage? What other lineages are presented in the novel? Why do you think Tolkien places so much emphasis on his chief characters’ family histories and ancestries?
2. What concept of war does Faramir support in his talk with Frodo? What other kinds of armed conflict are found in The Lord of the Rings? Where do recent and current armed conflicts in the actual world fall along the spectrum of wars presented in The Lord of the Rings?
3. What does Sam mean when he says, “It strikes me that folk takes their peril with them into Lórien, and finds it there because they’ve brought it”? What instances are there in The Lord of the Rings of people carrying their own peril with them wherever they go?
4. “I am wise enough to know,” says Faramir, “that there are perils from which a man must flee.” What perils, physical and other, are there from which Tolkien’s characters flee or do not flee? Why? Why is it wise to flee from some perils and not from others?
5. Sam says that Faramir reminds him of Gandalf. In what ways are Faramir and Gandalf alike? How is Sam’s observation proven by Faramir’s actions and words, up to now and later? Who else do you think shares these qualities?
BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER VII, JOURNEY TO THE CROSS-ROADS—CHAPTER X, THE CHOICES OF MASTER SAMWISE
1. What is special about the staves that Faramir gives to Frodo and Sam? (679)
2. As the Black Rider and his army emerge from Minas Morgul, how does Frodo resist putting on the Ring? (691)
3. What does Sam hope for, “all the time”? (697)
4. What happens to Sam when he puts on the Ring? (717)
5. What are the orders from Lugbúrz to the Watchers in the tower regarding any prisoners? (723)
6. How does Sam get into the blocked passage? (724)
covert (n.) (683)
warrant (v.) (701)
1. In Sam’s speech on “the old tales and songs,” what does he say characterizes the tales and songs that really matter? How does he distinguish between “the best tales to hear” and “the best tales to get landed in”? What examples of each can you give?
2. What do you think Gollum feels and thinks when he sees Frodo and Sam sleeping, with Frodo’s head in Sam’s lap? How does Sam’s reaction destroy that feeling? To what extent does Sam destroy any chance of Gollum’s changing?
3. How do you picture “She that walked in the darkness,” as she approaches Frodo and Sam in Shelob’s Lair? In what ways does she embody the malice and terror of “the powers of night”? What dislikes and fears does Tolkien draw on to create Shelob and other creatures of malice and evil?
4. What moves Sam to decide that he has to go on, “to see it through,” even though doing so is “altogether against the grain of his nature”? How do you explain Sam’s dedication, courage, and decisiveness? What is there about Sam that enables him to “walk and bear his burden”?
5. What towers give the second part of The Lord of the Rings its title, and why are they important? What parts do towers play in Frodo’s and Aragorn’s missions and other actions throughout the novel?
Discussion guide written by Hal Hager.
Copyright © 2011 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt