The Lord of the... whatever, Book IV, Chapter 3:
The Back Gate Is Hosed
Before the next day dawned they were well into the student residential
area of Mordor. The old shopping and dining districts with their distinctive
urban sprawl were behind them. Before them, darkling against pallid sky,
the great dormitories reared up threateningly.
Upon the west of Mordor marched the Ethel Duwap, the Mountains of Jazz
which Sauron had renovated in yet another of his musical "renaissances".
The hobbits and Boromir observed that whom the Valar would drive mad,
they indeed first destroyed. Upon the northern border the Ered Lithography,
grey and steep, gave many a geography student of Muddle-earth pause with
their frighteningly confusing contours. But as these ranges approached one
another, being indeed but parts of one great wall about the gigantic parking
lots of Lithlad Station and the Mall of Gorgoroth with its factory outlets
skirting the posh waterfront of Lake Nurnenshire, they swung out long arms
northward; and between these arms was a deep defile. This was Cirith
Googol, the Mystical Pass, the entrance to the land of the Enemy. High
cliffs lowered upon either side, and thrust forward from its mouth were two
sheer hills, black-boned and bare. Upon them stood the Teeth of Mordor,
two towers strong and tall. In days long past, they were built by the Men
of Gondor to taunt Sauron, and indeed the exterior of each was still
graven with many mocking runes; but the strength of Gondor failed, and men
slept, and their amusement parks stood empty, not least of them this
outpost. Then Sauron returned, and had the last laugh. Now the
towers, which had fallen into decay, were repaired, and filled with students
of the musical and literary arts, ceaselessly scribing and generating reams
of hackneyed tripe year upon year. Stony-faced the dorms were, with dark
window-holes staring north and east and west across the Googol Quad, and
each window was full of sleepless eyes.
Across the mouth of the pass, from cliff to cliff, the Dark Lord had built
a rampart of stone. In it there was a single gate of iron, and upon its
battlements sat the laziest-looking campus security orcs that Sam could
ever have imagined. Beneath the hills on either side of the rock was a
vast network of underground libraries, late-night cafes, and mediocre jazz
joints. There a host, the denizens of these caves, lurked, ready at a
signal to issue forth like vast legions of undergraduates going to class.
None could pass the Teeth of Mordor and not be pressed against a sheer
wall of tired and very ornery people with caffeine-reddened eyes, unless
they were summoned by Sauron, and knew the secret passwords that would open
the back gates of his land.
The two hobbits gazed at the towers, the wall, and Boromir in despair.
Even from a distance they could see the rent-a-cops munching donuts upon
the wall, and the endless stream of muttering students streaming out of an
establishment that was labeled "JAVA" in very flowery Tengwar. Winging the
heavy air in a straight flight a raven, were it inclined to savor this
atmosphere of despondency, would have flown but a furlong from their
hiding-place to the black summit of the nearer dorm.
Day came, and the fallow sun blinked over the almost artificial-looking
ridges of Ered Lithography. Then suddenly the peal of an enormous
carillion was heard, calling the student body of the University of Northern
Mordor to arise. This was followed by the cry of brazen-throated trumpets
from a hundred classrooms across campus not fifteen minutes later. Another
dreadful day of fear and toil had come to Mordor, and the day students,
sleep-deprived and fell, were marching to their morning classes. The steel
of their bicycles gleamed dimly on the battlements.
"Well, here we are!" said Sam. "Here's the Gate, and it looks to me as if
that's about as far as we are ever going to get. My word, but the Gaffer
would have an endless stream of abuse to heap upon me if he saw me now!
Often said I was dumber than a post and the dirt it was planted in, he did.
But now I don't suppose I'll ever see dear old Dad again. He'll miss his
chance of You worthless idiot, if you had HALF your wits you could at
least live up to your name... Call yourself a WORKER? You're a disgrace
to the Cause! But he could go on ragging on me as long as he'd got
breath, if only I could see his drug-addled face again.
"I suppose it's no good asking 'what way do we go now?' We can't go no
further - unless we want to ask the Orcs for directions."
"No, no!" shrieked Spiegel. "No use. Can't ask fat cops for directions,
they is useless, they is. Spiegel said: we'll go to the Gate, and now
we sees. Time to go home."
"Now wait a minute!" shouted Boromir. "I brought us this far, and I
say we go on!"
"No you didn't!" said a voice that sounded like Sam's.
"Yes, I did!" insisted Boromir.
"We doesn't think so, preciouss. He didn't get us through the marshes, did
he?" said Spiegel. "Stabs nice Master and feeds him to the alligators, he
does. Not nice Man."
"I didn't see you complaining!" cried Boromir defensively. "Besides,
you haven't heard MY side of the story! Frodo stabbed ME..."
"Now, see here, I know he stabbed you, and that's a fact. But I also saw
you telling him terrible stories about how Sauron was planning to cheat him
of his inheritance and overrun the Shire..." countered Sam, or so it seemed.
"He WILL overrun the Shire! And he'll put opera houses in every town from
Hobbiton to Bree! I wouldn't put it past him to set up a branch campus of
the Mordor Academy for the Performing Arts in Michel Delvi---"
"DAWN TAKE YOU ALL AND BE STONE TO YOU!" thundered a voice that sounded
like Gandalf's, at least to Boromir. Truth to tell, Boromir was
really feeling the effects of his injuries, a ride down the Anduin
strapped into a boat, and the dreadful voice of Frodo's unquiet spirit,
which had haunted him since the hobbit's untimely murder and dismemberment
two nights ago. At this final pronouncement, Boromir could take no
more. "Frodo, come back!" he shrieked. "A madness took me, but it has
passed! Come back!" Finally Boromir fell prone as if indeed petrified
by the dawn.
As Spiegel and Sam looked on in utter amaze, Frodo crept up the path and
greeted Boromir. The dumbstruck man shrieked anew and dashed into
the defile, hollering, "I see deead people!" The last time the hobbits
glimpsed him, he was being hounded by a detachment of fraternity types
who had placed a large horned helmet on his head in some sort of hazing
Spiegel screamed, "Wraiths! Wraiths with hairy feet!" and began to follow
Boromir into the defile, but Frodo grabbed her still-emaciated wrist
and hauled her back by main force. Sam cowered from Frodo's advancing
form until Frodo noticed his growing fear and laughed. "What's the
matter, Sam? You look as if you've seen an invisible hobbit!"
Sam, still baffled, stumbled, "You mean you've been using IT? To fool
Boromir into thinking you... you're alive after all, then?!"
"By Eru, Spiegel, I think he's got it!" chuckled Frodo at the
"But Master... how did you survive being stabbed through the heart with
that sword of Boromir's?"
"Haven't you seen how he filed that thing on a ROCK?! That's no way to
treat a sword, if you can call it that! The thing almost bent double on
this trusty suit of mithril mail here, though I've got another scar for
my trouble. Suffice it to say that he missed any vitals."
"But how did you escape the alligators? I saw them rolling you in the
"Fortunately, I have some knowledge of hapkido, which the Elves call
Eru ex machina. It's just a fancy term for escaping death with a
neat trick, say, a Ring of Power. The gators couldn't see me, either."
"But... but... all that red miasma that bubbled up..."
"I'm afraid that was a pack of strawberry creme-filled twinkies
weighted down with your pots, Sam. Who would have thought that
alligators like those, eh?"
At this awful revelation, Sam drew his sword and prepared to run the
bourgeois scum through in earnest, but Frodo looked so beatific having
just returned from the dead that he through better of it. Sam, still
abstracted and bemused, saw that all traces of the sometimes brooding
young man he had known before were gone. The confused nouveau
riche bachelor had vanished. Even the decadent young esquire who had
made unwanted advances upon him in the trek through the marshes no
longer existed. In their place stood the form of Frodo son of Drogo,
the Eternal Hobbit, shimmering in the faint light of Sting.
"All right, that's enough gawking," said Frodo, breaking Sam's reverie.
"I told you that I purpose to enter Mordor, and I know no other way.
Therefore I shall go this way. I do not ask anyone to go with me,
unless he still seeks to be rid of the Dark Tyrant." At this Spiegel
gnawed at her well-worn nails and thought of the tyrant that had ruled
her every waking (and bingeing, and purging) moment since the day she
had gone fishing with her friend Schmiegel.
"No, no, master!" she wailed, pawing at Frodo, and seeming in dire
hunger. "No use that way! No use! Don't take the Precious to Him!
Stay out of Mordor! He'll eat us all, if He gets it, eat all the
world, and vomit it up into Lake Nurnenshire. And you'll not have a
penny of your inheritance. Keep it, nice master. Or better yet, give
it... to old Spiegel!"
"Get out of my way, you... dame of Udun!" exploded Frodo. Spiegel
cowered now, covering her ears against the awful thunder of Frodo's
voice. "I am commanded to go to the land of Mordor, and therefore I
shall go," said Frodo. "Neither would I be cheated out of my
birthright," he added vigorously.
Sam said nothing. The look on Frodo's face was enough for him; he
knew better than to ever get between the Master and his money. Words
were useless. Deeds, gratuitously violent ones, would see his Cause
through. And after all he never had any real hope in the affair from
the beginning; but being an incorrigible fanatic he had not needed hope,
so long as imperialist blood was available to be shed. But he had
stuck to his master all the way, even when he had seen him apparently
chewed to pieces by river-dwelling alligators; that strange resolve,
too, was part of what made him a Gamgee. Yes, all through the history
of the Shire and before, the Gamgees had been renowned for being rabid,
seething revolutionaries who served a mean cup of tea, passionate
fighters who were just earnest enough to remain loyal to the landed
gentry who adopted them (and, truth to tell, just too dumb NOT to).
Gullible, however, did not intend to be got rid of, yet. She knelt
at Frodo's feet, wringing her hands and shrieking several octaves
higher than the hobbits had ever heard her do. "Not this way, master!"
she pleaded. "There is... another..." she grated. Frodo and Sam
peered at her intently. As if releasing her last breath, she panted,
"Another shortcut!" said Frodo hopefully, looking down at Gullible
eagerly. "By the Valar, perhaps we can get into Mordor without all
that crap Galadriel showed me in her mirror! All that intrigue,
fighting and killing - it really had me, well, blue."
"Yess! Yess indeed! There was another shortcut. Spiegel found it.
Let's go and see if it's still there!"
"You have not spoken of this before."
"No. Master did not ask. Master was conservative, sedentary homebody.
Speigel says to self, if Master wants to live out life in fear, let
him. Then voice in Spiegel's head says, no, no, no, Spiegel promised
not to lead them into lethal tra-- err, wrong voice. Voice says,
even the smallest person can change the course of the future. Spiegel
wants to help."
"What a coincidence! Galadriel said the very same thing to me!"
Sam frowned. If he could have drawn his barrow-blade and held it to
Spiegel's waifishly thin throat, pressing its point into the hollow of
her wrinkled flesh, menacing her inch by inch until she relented and
explained what she meant by "lead them into lethal tra--", he would have
done. But Sam, remembering how Spiegel had indeed uttered these words
in a bizarre debate with herself, found it hard to believe that anyone
with that many voices in her head could hatch a coherently treacherous
plot. At least, the Elvish-aphorism-uttering part(s) of Spiegel, whom he
called Witty, seemed to have the bitter-spinster part(s), whom he called
Biddy, under control. And of course, both had catastrophic eating
disorders, severe enough to keep Witty/Biddy from getting far in
Mordor's college town without the Enemy's notice.
"And it's a good thing neither half of the old girl don't know what I'm
trying to get master to do," he thought. "If she knew that I'm going
to get her Precious into the fire if it means tossing dear Mr. Frodo,
kicking and screaming, into the roiling pit of molten lava with my bare
hands, ahem, well, she might not be so eager. Perhaps I'll be able to
distract her with a twinkie when the time comes. It's beyond any
Gamgee to come up with more than a basic tactical plan, anyhoo. I just
hope Mr. Frodo doesn't decide that he wants his inheritance more than
he wants Sauron and the Nazdaq all dead as doornails. He's as wise as
any, or so they keep telling me, but he's a greedy son-of-a---"
"All right, Spiegel," interjected Frodo, putting an end to Sam's silent
deliberation. "I trusted you once, and it nearly got me run through
and torn into bite-sized pieces, but anyone could have led me into the
waiting hands of a psychopathic killer. I'm willing to call it an
honest mistake and let bygones be bygones. Indeed it seems that I must
do so, if I am to get my hands on the estate that Sauron's minions have
promised me. But I warn you, Spiegel, you are in danger."
"Yes, yes, master!" said Gullible. "Spiegel is surrounded by fatty
foods! Her bones shake to think of the calories, but she doesn't run
away. You will find adventure or it will find you, Spiegel's uncle
told her long ago."
"I did not mean the danger that we all share," said Frodo, glancing
down at the spare tire that he had acquired since leaving Lothlorien.
"I mean a danger to yourself alone. You swore a promise by that which
you call the Precious. Remember that! It will hold you to it, but it
will find the most semantically perverse interpretation possible.
Already you can feel word senses and speech acts being twisted. You
revealed yourself to me just now, foolishly."
At this Spiegel and Samwise both looked stuporously at their pants.
"No, you idiots! Give it back... to old Spiegel, she said. Now
the Precious is giving back all the bad mojo that our murderous lady
friend here has dished out over the years! Throttled your childhood
girlfriend, did you, Spiegel? Was she more popular than you were?
Did you think she had a shaplier figure?"
"Told you, did he?" sobbed Spiegel. "But Gandalf never told you
what happened to Schmiegel, did he?"
Frodo paused, momentarily confused. "What do you mean? He told me
enough! He told me you killed her!"
"No. I am Schmiegel." said Spiegel simply. "That was the nickname
that my Grandmother gave me when I was a little girl. One day - it
was my birthday - I was fishing in the river and dropped my pole. I
dove in after it and saw something glittering at the bottom. I came
up with it and saw that it was a golden ring. I-- I tried to put it
"But you couldn't, could you?" said Sam softly.
"You see, I really was fat."
"No, you weren't, Spiegel. The Precious was using you then, even as it
"That's not true! It can't be! It's impossible!" cried Spiegel.
"Search your feelings... you know it to be true," countered Frodo.
"Noooooo!" shrieked Spiegel shrilly. Then she began to weep brokenly.
"So, when Gandalf said that Spiegel killed Schmiegel..." began Sam.
"It's true - from a certain point of view," explained Frodo.
"A certain point of view?! That wicked old dotard! Serves him right,
being dragged to a pink fluffy death in Kringle-Dum!" exclaimed Sam,
looking at the wreck of a hobbit with mingled pity and abhorrence.
"We fasted, yess, we starved, but we could never get the Precious on.
Schmiegel is Kuduk for 'dumpling' in our Stoor dialect, you know.
Nana could never bear to call us that after we wasted away, saddam,
saddam. Tried to hang ourselves, we did. Twice. But rope kept
breaking. Burned uss, it did..."
Frodo and Sam gaped in fascinated horror.
"We ran away. Once we loved to suck eggses, but the yolks, they
disgusted us now. The yellow face made us look fat. The white face,
too. We hid under the earth, ate bugs and little orcses. Then, one
day, the Precious... the Precious..."
"It fit. It fit because it was ready to get back to its master," mused
Frodo. "But Schmiegel was long dead, wasn't she?"
"Yess, saddam, deead, dussst and ashes." Spiegel stopped blubbering
momentarily to blow her nose.
Frodo sighed. There was a long, awkward silence. Then Frodo spoke again
less sternly. "Come now, Gullible or Schmiegel if you wish, tell me of
this other shortcut, and show me, if you can, what hope there is in it,
enough to justify me in turning aside from my plain path. Time is
fleeting towards the appointed hour in which I must appear to claim my
But Gullible was in a pitiable state, clearly traumatized by the
recounting of her tale of ruin. It was not easy to get any clear
account out of her, amid her sniffling and squeakings, and the frequent
interruptions in which she crawled on the ground and begged them not
to look at how emaciated she had become. After a while she grew calmer,
and Frodo gathered bit by bit that, if a traveller followed the road
that turned west of Ethel Duwap, he would come in time to a crossing
in a circle of trees. On the right a road went down to Disgiliath
and the bridges of the Anduin; in the middle the road went on southwards.
"On, on, on," said Gullible. "We never went that way, but they say it
goes on a hundred leagues, until you can see the Great Water that is
never still. There are lots of nice fishes there (mmm... seafood),
and big birds eat fishes (mmm... big birds): but we never went there,
alas, no! never ate fried food. And further still there are more lands,
they say, but the Yellow Face is very hot there, and there are seldom
any clouds, and the men have huge curved swords and talk funny and chop
anything they doesn't recognize into bits. We do not want to see that
"What of the third turning?" asked Frodo.
"O yes, O yes, there is a third way," said Gullible. "The old fortress,
very old, very horrible now. We used to hear tales from the South,
when Schmiegel was young, long ago. After dinner, when we sat by the
banks of the Great River and had dessert, saddam, saddam." She began
to weep and mutter. The hobbits rolled their eyes and waited again.
"Tales out of the South," Gullible went on again, "about the tall Men
dressed in funny costumes, with their fair daughters whose eyes were
the size of teacups, and their cities with shops in every house, and
the silver crown of their King and his Magic Studio: wonderful tales.
They built great parks, and one was set atop a hill shaped like some
nameless animal, and its towers were silver-white, and there was a
gate, like all the gates of Gondor, collecting tribute from all
who would enter the gardens of the Sea-Kings. O yes, there were many
tales about the Tower of the Moonies."
"That would be Minas Ethel that Elendil the son of Isildur built," said
Frodo. "It was Elendil who cut off the finger of the Enemy."
"Yes, He has only three on the Black Hand, but they are enough," said
Gullible shuddering. "And He hated Elendil's city."
"What does he not hate? But they call it Minas Goofy now. What has it to
do with us?"
"Well, master, there it was and there it is: the tall tower and the white
pavilions and the gate; but not nice now, not beautiful, just really
expensive. He conquered it long ago. It is a very terrible place now.
They say an awful Singing King rules over it now, always singing terrible
songs about the coming of the shadow and what a small world it is after all.
Often he is away, but when he returns... ohh!"
"But how will it help us to go this way?" demanded Sam. "Surely the Enemy
knows all about his own mountains? Or has he sold them off to pay off his
debts?" he asked sardonically.
"Speak not of which you know little," spat Spiegel with surprising
vehemence. "He has many debts, not the least of which he owes to those
who would take more than his pinky in recompense." Frodo and Sam raised
their eyebrows at each other.
"Spiegel helps again, though hobbits are bitter and sarcastic.
She found it. She knows it."
"What did you find?" asked Frodo.
Gullible crouched down and her voice sank to a whisper again.
"A little path leading up on a 15-degree incline into the mountains; then
an 85-degree turn, then a stair, 2 fathoms wide with each step 17 inches
deep and high, then a tunnel 3.25 fathoms in diameter and 1.211 furlongs in
length, barely illuminated at either end on nights when the moon is gibbous
waxing or fuller; and at last a little cleft, in which one human or a dwarf
and a hobbit can stand shoulder-to-shoulder, connecting into a path 200 feet
about the main pass. Got that?"
"Hold on, I'm still writing," said Sam distractedly.
"Is it not guarded?" asked Frodo sternly. "And did you escape out of
the darkness, Spiegel? Were you not rather permitted to depart, with
the Enemy's sorcerous tools of map-making in hand? That is at least
what Aragon thought, who found you by the Dead Marshes with that crystal
around your neck."
"It's a lie!" hissed Gullible, and a wry look came into her eyes at the
name of Aragon. "He lied on me, that fat, henpecked weed-smoker did.
I did escape, all by my poor self. And I took that crystal from some
dead elf in the marshes. Indeed I was told to seek for the Precious,
and I have searched and searched, of course I have. But not for the
Black One. The Precious was ours, it was mine I tell you. I did
Frodo and Sam exchanged glances again. "Denial."
"I ask you again," Frodo said. "is this secret way guarded?"
Gullible stared at the hobbits with a resentful look.
"Is it not guarded? Is it kindasorta guarded?"
"Yes, yes, perhaps. No safe places in this country," said Gullible
with an impetuous pout that recalled Arwen in one of her "moods".
They could not get her to say more. The name of the perilous place
and the high pass she could not tell, or would not.
Its name was Cirith Googol, a name of dreadful rumour. Aragon could
perhaps have told them its name and significance, being well acquainted
with webs of ill repute. But they were alone, and Aragon was smoking
some of the Shire's finest far away, and Gandalf stood amid the ruin of
Isengard and strove with Aruman, delayed by the unraveling of what
seemed to all onlookers to be a hideously complex plot. Yet even as
he hurled Aruman down to his doom, his thought was ever upon Frodo and
Samwise, over the long leagues his mind sought for them in hope and
Frodo sat on the ground, pondering anxiously all that Gandalf,
Galadriel, and El Rond had said to him. Here he was a little halfling
from the Shire, a simple hobbit of the quiet contryside, expected to
remember his middle school Geography and World Cultures classes. It
was an evil fate.
The day drew on. A deep silence fell upon the little grey hollow where
they lay. Not even an eagle poised against the sun would have marked
the hobbits sitting there, silent and unmoving, in their thin grey
cloaks. For a moment he might have paused to consider Gullible - there
perhaps lay the famished skeleton of some child of Men - before he
recalled that he was not a scavenger and moved on to stoop on some nice
Frodo's head was bowed over his knees, but Sam leaned back, with hands
behind his head, staring out of his hood at the empty sky. At least
for a long while it was empty. Then presently Sam thought he saw a dark
bird-like figure wheel into the circle of his sight, and hover, and then
wheel again. Two more followed, then a fourth. The first three seemed
to be trying to impress the fourth with aerobatic maneuvers. A warning
fear gripped Sam's vitals as he had felt in the presence of the Black
Riders, a feeling quite different from the apprehension the Fellowship
had felt on the night that Lego-lass had shot some flying creature out
of the night sky.
Sam took a deep breath. "The Riders are about again, up in the air,"
he said in a hoarse whisper. "I saw then. Do you think they could see
"According to Galadriel, no," replied Frodo, "but she also said I should
stay away from 20-foot-long giant spiders. I'm not sure she's juggling
with all three Silmarils, if you know what I mean."
Sam suppressed his momentary hilarity to prick his keen hobbit ears at
a new sound. Singing and hoarse shouting came from the distance, but
they could hear it drawing nearer. The fear of armed soldiers sent to
capture them hurled the travellers out of their languorous state.
Frodo and Sam loosened their small swords in their sheaths. Flight was
Gullible rose slowly and crawled to the lip of the hollow. Very
cautiously she peered over the rim. She drew back and whispered, "More
Men going to Mordor. Dark faces. We have not seen Men like this
before, no, Spiegel has not. They are fierce. They have black eyes,
and long black hair, and gold rings in their ears, and noses, and
eyebrows, and navels, yes, lots of beautiful gold. And some have
red paint on their cheeks, and red cloaks, and red kilts, and their
flags are red, and the tips of their spears..."
"Wait, are you sure these are men?" interrupted Sam.
Gullible gave him a sardonic look. "We can tells better than you can,
"Well, were there any oliphaunts?" asked Sam, forgetting his fear in
his eagerness for news of the strange and sensational like many of his
descendants after him.
"No, no oliphaunts. What are oliphaunts?" said Gullible.
Sam stood up, resting his right elbow in the palm of his left hand and
stroking his chin (as he always did when 'trying to look somewhat
educated'), and began:
Grey as a louse,
Big as a house,
Nose like a snake,
A big mess I make,
As I poop on the grass;
Young trees do I bash.
With horns in my mouth
I dance in the South,
Flapping big ears.
Beyond count of years
I stump round and round
I do not like my father Ham
My family life's a great big sham
My Master's head I'd gladly wham
I do not like him, Sam I am.
If ever you met me
You'd best not forget me
'Cause I'd stomp you flat
If you said I look fat
Old Oliphaunt am I,
Believe it, or die.
"That," said Sam, when he had finished reciting, "that's a rhyme we have in
"We can tell, Precious," answered Spiegel.
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
William H. Hsu <w-hsu-aaaaaaat-uiuc-dawt-edu>.
Copyright © 2001 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this
as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain
degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text,
available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books,
is to be preferred.
Boromir and Gondor are trademarks of Saul Zaentz and Tolkien Enterprises, who hold all merchandising rights to Gondor and its subsidiaries.
Scholarships and student assistant programs are currently available at the University of Northern Mordor to all qualified applicants. The ROTC scholarship program comes with particularly high recommendations. Please be advised, however, that failure to repay student loans carries particularly harsh penalties.