(It may be considered chapter 1 of "book two" of The Two Towers. I'm calling it chapter 12 based on my EPUB file names.)

‘It’s good to be able to see again,’ said Frodo, breathing deep. ‘Do you know, I thought for a bit that I had lost my sight? From the lightning or something else worse. I could see nothing, nothing at all, until the grey rope came down. It seemed to shimmer somehow.’

‘It does look sort of silver in the dark,’ said Sam. ‘Never noticed it before, though I can’t remember as I’ve ever had it out since I first stowed it. But if you’re so set on climbing, Mr. Frodo, how are you going to use it? Thirty ells, or say, about eighteen fathom: that’s no more than your guess at the height of the cliff.’

The "I can’t remember as I’ve ever had it out since I first stowed it." part confuses me a lot. I interpret it as:

I can’t remember whether or not I’ve ever had it out since I first stowed it.

But even though it "felt" like a long time, they were basically just in Lorien where (as they were leaving) he got the rope. After that, they spent nearly all their time in the boat on Anduin, and only extremely little time after the group split up until the present time. How can Sam not remember whether he has taken out the rope before?

Am I completely misreading?

  • 7
    Surely he's talking about not having seen it in the dark before
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 20:59
  • @Valorum "though I can’t remember as I’ve ever had it out since I first stowed it"?
    – W Bregel
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 21:03
  • 3
    He can't recall if the rope is silver because he doesn't think he's taken it out of his bag while moving other items around...
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 21:25
  • 6
    They are 10 days out from Lorien by the time the Fellowship even breaks up. If you were on a two week hike, how many times would you be in and out of your pack?
    – tbrookside
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 21:59
  • 8
    "Hey, you're right. It does look silver. I've never noticed that before, but then again, I don't recall if I've ever taken it out at night before"
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 15:59

4 Answers 4


Yes, you are misreading. The operative part is "Never noticed it before." Sam is reasoning that if he had taken it out, and if at the time it were dark, he would remember its looking silver. Since he doesn't, and is as surprised as Frodo now that the crisis is over and the latter mentions it, he must never have seen that aspect of the rope, even though he remembers packing it in Lothlórien. All the evidence is in what you quoted in your question.

  • Maybe my brain is stuck reading it the wrong way...
    – W Bregel
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 22:11
  • 8
    @WBregel - Not to worry. A list of all my readings of Tolkien I later concluded must have been incorrect would exceed the character limit here. :-)
    – Lesser son
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 22:15
  • 3
    I don't see how this answers the question. The question is "how could Sam not remember if he'd ever taken the rope out of his pack before?", and your answer seems to be "he never noticed it was silver because he never took it out in the dark." But that wasn't the question. The OP also doesn't seem to be misreading, because their interpretation of the text seems correct. Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 11:15

"Can't remember as [something occurred]" is a colloquial version of "can't remember that [something occurred]". It expresses that the speaker thinks the thing didn't happen, rather than a lack of certainty. (See: OED, examples such as I can't remember his taking a single day off work.)

Sam is saying that as far as he can recall, he hasn't taken the rope out of his pack since he first put it in.

  • Hi, welcome to the site. You could improve this answer by editing it to include a source corroborating the notion that "can't remember as [something occurred]" is commonly used the same way as "can't remember that [something occurred]". Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 13:54
  • 3
    Yes, this is definitely how I'd read the passage. Sam is saying he can't distinctly remember ever taking the rope out since it was packed.
    – Showsni
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 14:53
  • Maybe stress that "can't remember as ..." should not be read as "can't remember if ...", since I think that is roughly how the OP originally interpreted it, which leads to the question.
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 12:32

Your confusion would be reasonable if Sam said he wasn't sure whether he had used or deliberately examined the rope before, but that is not what he says. Instead, he says he's not sure if the rope has been inside his pack since he acquired it.

There are plenty of reasons you might take something out of a pack incidentally, without it being the primary focus of your attention. For instance, in order to retrieve something stashed below it, or to settle the weight differently.

Sam is wondering whether he has never seen it glowing, or whether he just didn't notice it because he wasn't paying attention.


No, you aren’t misreading it. That is approximately correct, whether he is more sure than unsure is relatively unimportant. What you are missing is how can he not remember? And that’s dead simple if you think about it —- if he had taken it out with intent, say to rappel down a hundred foot plus cliff, he’d remember that, but if he was rummaging around for a bit of lembas, well, he might not remember pulling it out and setting it aside for a second, particularly if it wasn’t all glowy at the time.

So, what he is saying is: he doesn’t remember taking it out, and while he rather doubts that he has, he wouldn’t bet anything he couldn’t afford to lose on the proposition that he hasn’t; either way he hasn’t seen it go all glowy before, and btw could they please focus on the important bit of not tumbling down the cliff to their deaths?

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