Shagrat and Gorbag Carry Frodo to Mordor

As soon as Sam hangs the chain and the Ring that it holds about his neck we feel it!

“At once his head was bowed to the ground with the weight of the Ring, as if a great stone had been strung on him.”

Until this moment we have not known how great a burden Frodo has had to bear. We could not have known because the story is being told through Sam and Sam could not possibly have known for Frodo has hidden it from him.

But now we do know about Frodo’s burden even as we know that Frodo was wounded by the sword of the Lord of the Nazgûl and even as we know that he has been stung by Shelob. All that is left of him, or so it would seem, is a body bound by Shelob’s cords and that is what Shagrat, Gorbag and their orc companies find upon the road. They pick Frodo up and carry him to their tower that stands at the border of Mordor.

So this is how Frodo enters Mordor. Not as a mighty hero, sword in hand, nor even as a stealthy spy slipping through the defences of his foes; but as a body carried by orcs.

Even the orcs only carry him because, as Shagrat puts it, Frodo is “something that Lugbúrz wants.” Lugbúrz is the name that the orcs give to Barad-dûr, the fortress of Sauron. If it had not been for the orders that the orcs received from Sauron they would have left Frodo to die by the roadside or played with his body like a football. As it is The Dark Lord is concerned about news that someone has penetrated his defences and so gives some attention to the matter. His greater attention is given to the armies that he sent to overwhelm the defences of Gondor or else it would not be orcs that he would have sent to the pass of Cirith Ungol but something more trustworthy that would have carried Frodo straight to his presence. As it is the orcs carry Frodo just far enough…

For this theme is one that is very important to Tolkien. In this blog we have looked at it a number of times before, thinking about how Sam carried Frodo to Mordor https://stephencwinter.com/2015/03/17/sam-carries-frodo-to-mordor/  and how the Fellowship carried Frodo and Sam there as well https://stephencwinter.com/2015/03/31/the-fellowship-carry-frodo-and-sam-to-mordor/ . In Sam’s case he carries Frodo because it is a task that he has been given  (“Don’t you leave him, Sam Gamgee!”) and because he loves him. In the case of the Fellowship from the time of the attack by the  Uruk-hai at the Falls of Rauros until the Battle of the Pelennor Fields it is something that they are unaware that they are doing even though their thoughts often turn to Frodo and Sam. In the case of the orcs there is, of course, absolutely no sense of being a help at all. But for Tolkien what governs the actions of all that we have considered is Providence. It was Gandalf who told Frodo that he was “meant” to have the Ring and that this was “an encouraging thought”. Gandalf is reflecting on how the Ring first fell into Bilbo’s hands and was then passed onto into Frodo’s. Neither of them chose to have the Ring and this is terribly important. Sauron made the Ring, Isildur cut it from Sauron’s hand and Gollum murdered his friend so that he  could have it. Neither Bilbo nor Frodo ever desired the Ring although both found it hard to give up once they possessed it.

Here we see the vital relationship between Providence and Freedom. Providence does not destroy Freedom but works with it, but only if it is Freedom in the service of the Good. So at every point in Frodo’s journey help is given and most especially when unlooked for and at the darkest moments. Now even the implacable will of Sauron himself must serve the Good. Under his orders Shagrat and Gorbag carry Frodo into Mordor and thus bring about its destruction.

16 thoughts on “Shagrat and Gorbag Carry Frodo to Mordor

  1. Even the orcs only carry him because, as Shagrat puts it, Frodo is “something that Lugbúrz wants.” Lugbúrz is the name that the orcs give to Barad-dûr, the fortress of Sauron. If it had not been for the orders that the orcs received from Sauron they would have left Frodo to die by the roadside or played with his body like a football.

    Didn’t they want to eat him? Because soft hobbit flesh is yum for them…

    • Ha ha! I can’t imagine the orcs ever saying, “So sorry.” Actually there is a challenge for Tolkien readers. Find an occasion when an orc apologises! And I think there is one more factor here, and I would be interested to know what you think. At the moment the orcs find Frodo he is full of Shelob’s poison. Don’t you think that would make him a little unappetising, even for orcs?

  2. Oh dear! When I am working on my tablet it is too easy to hit the “Send” button. I meant to say that, of course, the orcs did not discover the hobbits’ true identity. I guess in your story they did. I hope they escaped.

  3. “Now even the implacable will of Sauron himself must serve the Good.”

    “And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that has not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite.” ^_^

  4. Thank you for a wonderful quote. Surely it is the key dividing point in all of our lives that we hear the word to Melkor spoken to us that either we respond with anger or with delight.

    • Chills. It gives me chills. As does most of that section of the Silmarillion. Whether they are chills of wonder and hope, or dreadful awe depends on the day (and whether I am less, or more, Melkor-like in the moment). 😉 Fortunately, it’s usually more the former.

      When I first read those lines, it was like finding confirmation of something I had known, but could not entirely prove with just The Hobbit and LotR under my belt. The powerful overarching Providence in the work. It is clear that many of the characters believe in providence, but Tolkien was able to make the challenges real enough, the darkness dark enough, the stakes (and losses) high enough that faith is needed to trust the existence of Providence in Arda. And it’s all the more powerful for that, isn’t it?
      And then those lines in the Silmarillion confirm it. Tolkien never makes me doubt that 1. his characters are free to make choices, and choices that truly matter. and 2. All is yet under the protection of Providence.

      • I think that one of the many, many ways in which Tolkien shows himself to be someone of profound spiritual insight is that Providence is hugely significant to the story and yet it never robs any character of their freedom. Indeed it is the wise use of freedom that brings Providence to their aid. And I love the way in which this happens to characters like Sam who are largely unaware of their own wisdom or goodness. It gives me hope for the rest of us!

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