The Two Towers: Novel Summary: Book IV - Chapter 10
Summary: Sam attacks Shelob, driving her away from Frodo, whom she has begun wrapping in her web. Frodo seems dead to Sam. Sam, not quite knowing what should be done, takes the Ring from Frodo's body, resolved to see "the errand" through to its conclusion. He puts on the Ring in order to be unseen by the eyes of patrolling orcs; when he hears the orcs, however, discussing what to do with Frodo-whom, they say, is still alive, having been only poisoned by Shelob-he returns to his fallen master. Sam follows as the orcs take Frodo into the tower of Cirith Ungol, but he is unable to follow as its gate is slammed shut.
Analysis: In this final chapter of Book IV, readers see the degree to which Sam has developed as a character. In fact, the narrative all but explicitly asks readers to compare Sam with Aragorn. At the beginning of Book III, Aragorn was faced with difficult choices, as is Sam at the end of Book IV. Sam does not run away from these hard choices, however; he chooses, even with the knowledge that his choices-borrowing Aragorn's language from Book III-may "go amiss." Sam realizes, as Gandalf told Frodo in Book I, that people must do the best in the times that they are given. Readers may question whether Sam's only proper place really is beside Frodo, but, within the context of Tolkien's story, Sam is quite right: that is where he has been placed-apparently by some guiding providence (i.e., "luck" or "fate")-and that is, in fact, where he does the most good: for it is in returning to Frodo that he learns his master is still living. Concerns about social status are those of 21st century readers, not necessarily those of Tolkien himself. Sam does not yet know, as Book IV closes, how he will act on that knowledge, but he knows that he must and will. And his actions will help bring about the successful conclusion of the quest to destroy the Ring.
Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. 1981. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Shippey, Tom. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. 2000. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.