When they leave Henneth Annûn for Cirith Ungol (in the second section in Journey to the Crossroads), Faramir advises the hobbits:

If you take my counsel, you will not turn eastward yet. Go straight on, for thus you will have the cover of the woodlands for many miles.

In the evening of the next day they see “high dim tops and broken pinnacles of old towers forlorn and dark”, and Gollum says:

This is the road from the Tower of the Moon, down to the ruined city by the shores of the River. The ruined city, yes, very nasty place, full of enemies. We shouldn’t have take Men’s advice. Hobbits have come a long way out of the path. Must go east now, away up there. And we can’t use this road. Oh no! Cruel peoples come this way, down from the Tower.

On the map in The Return of the King there is only one road visible, close to the feet of the mountains.

Where would Gollum have preferred them to go, why, and would it have been better for them and/or him?

1 Answer 1



I think, just this once, we can believe Gollum. He says he wants to avoid the road that goes from Minas Morgul to Osgiliath because he is afraid of being caught the the "cruel people" who travel it.

The alternative would be to avoid the road and travel cross-country through the foothills of Ephel Duath until they reach the stair. Remember that Gollum has already taken the hobbits on a longer journey with no road (through the Emyn Muil and the Dead Marshes).

I can find nothing in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien to help with this question. The War of the Ring has a chapter on the writing of The Journey to the Cross-roads. It doesn't address the issue of what route Gollum would have preferred, but there are indications that the journey changed as the drafting progressed.

Tolkien was concerned with matching up the chronology of the various threads of the story (Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Theoden). In his early drafts, Frodo takes two days to travel from Henneth Annûn to the cross-roads. Later drafts add a third day to the journey in order to place the Dawnless Day on March 10th (as in the other threads of the story).

The synchronization of Frodo's story with that of the events west of Anduin required both that Frodo should take longer and that Day 4 should be the Dawnless Day.

The History of Middle-earth Volume VIII, Part Two, Chapter VII: The Journey to the Cross-roads
Page 182 (Houghton Mifflin 2000 paperback edition)

It is possible that this change involved a modification to the geography of the area or the exact route taken by Frodo. Gollum's complaint about travelling too far south before turning east may refer to a different version of the journey.

  • Surely they have come off-road, following Faramir’s advice? All they have perhaps done wrong is leave it too late to turn east before hitting the E-W road. I fear there is probably nothing in the LotR to settle this, but do you know of any other evidence, e.g. in letters?
    – PJTraill
    Mar 9, 2017 at 13:07
  • Faramir's advice had them following the road but near the woods. Gollum had them go through the rough (and, in my opinion, making sure Frodo doesn't know what he's getting into)
    – Edlothiad
    Mar 9, 2017 at 13:19
  • @PJTraill I can't find any other writings that directly address your question. I have edited the answer to include a small amount of information from The History of Middle-Earth.
    – Blackwood
    Mar 9, 2017 at 14:08

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