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When Frodo and Sam wake up after being rescued by the Eagles, Gandalf mentions that the clothes that they wore to Mordor have been "rescued", and that they shall wear them in a ceremony.

He specifically mentions the "Orc rags" as separate entities, so he's not referring to those.

But did they not throw away all their things except for the most necessary items, hidden somewhere together with the Elf-sword and surely covered by lava long before anyone could possibly be sent there with another Eagle to look randomly on a huge mountain for their old stuff?

How did they even know about this at all? Even if Frodo was awake before Sam and explained their recent actions before dropping the Ring, that would be after they were rescued. So did they actually bring back some brave person to go scanning for their disposed-of (and hidden, lest Gollum found Sting) belongings after the mountain had already cracked in half and there's lava covering everything?

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    Gandalf Dry Cleaning is renowned for their service.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 6 at 1:02

2 Answers 2

44

Gandalf got them from the Mouth of Sauron who got them from Shagrat who took them from Frodo in Cirith Ungol:

As Sam entered Cirith Ungol to find Frodo, an orc ran out of the tower and:

Behind him came Shagrat, a large orc with long arms that, as he ran crouching, reached to the ground. But one arm hung limp and seemed to be bleeding; the other hugged a large black bundle. ... [After altercations, a]way below Shagrat went leaping down the stairs and out over the court and through the gate, bearing [the bundle]. If Sam could have seen him and known the grief that his escape would bring, he might have quailed.

Shagrat -- or the bundle, anyway -- finds its way to Barad-dûr and into Sauron's hands and it is given to the Mouth of Sauron to taunt the leaders of the Host of the West:

The Messenger put these aside, and there to the wonder and dismay of all the Captains he held up first the short sword that Sam had carried, and next a grey cloak with an elven-brooch, and last the coat of mithril-mail that Frodo had worn wrapped in his tattered garments.

So, Frodo's mithril mail, Sam's sword (which he left with Frodo in Shelob's lair) and Frodo's elven-cloak and brooch arrive in Gandalf's hands via the Mouth.

The orc rags came off Frodo's back after he was rescued. In the Tower of Cirith Ungol, Frodo is naked and in order to leave, Sam dresses both of them in orc gear:

'Quick now. Mr. Frodo!' he said. 'I've had a bit of a search to find anything small enough for the likes of us. We'll have to make do. But we must hurry.

He opened the bundle. Frodo looked in disgust at the contents, but there was nothing for it: he had to put the things on, or go naked. There were long hairy breeches of some unclean beast-fell, and a tunic of dirty leather. He drew them on. Over the tunic went a coat of stout ring-mail, short for a full-sized orc, too long for Frodo and heavy. About it he clasped a belt, at which there hung a short sheath holding a broad-bladed stabbing-sword. Sam had brought several orc-helmets. One of them fitted Frodo well enough, a black cap with iron rim, and iron hoops covered with leather upon which the evil Eye was painted in red above the beaklike nose-guard.

When they finally left the road from the Black Gates to Barad-dûr, Frodo and Sam threw away most of this orc-gear, including all the military stuff, but apparently kept wearing the clothing. That clothing was still on them when Gandalf and the Eagles rescued them on the slopes of Mt. Doom and are the "orc-rags" that they wore through Mordor.

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To add one step to Mark Olsen's answer, Tolkien writes in his plot timeline that the clothes went from Shagrat to Sauron (who killed him), prior to the point where the Mouth of Sauron shows them off.

Away below Shagrat went leaping down the stairs and out over the court and through the gate, bearing his precious burden. If Sam could have seen him and known the grief that his escape would bring, he might have quailed.
The Lord of the Rings - Book VI, Chapter 1, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"

Shagrat brings the mithril coat and other spoils to Barad-dȗr; but is slain by Sauron
Synoptic Time-Scheme, entry for "Enemies" on March 17th. (Marquette Tolkien MS. Mss-4/2/18)

The Messenger put these aside, and there to the wonder and dismay of all the Captains he held up first the short sword that Sam had carried, and next a grey cloak with an elven-brooch, and last the coat of mithril-mail that Frodo had worn wrapped in his tattered garments.
The Lord of the Rings - Book V, Chapter 10, "The Black Gate Opens"

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    Wonder why he killed him. Maybe it went “You brought me the armour but not the bearer, you nincompoop?” <force choke>
    – Marakai
    Aug 6 at 23:05
  • @Marakai I'd guess he was more concerned about the absence of the ring from the captured items than the absence of its bearer.
    – reirab
    Aug 8 at 1:51
  • How would he have expected the Ring to be among the items? At that point Sauron was still expecting one of the Western lords to claim it. Sauron didn't recognise his folly until too late.
    – Marakai
    2 days ago

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