Sam, Frodo, and Gollum proceed through the desolate landscape of Mordor. Gradually, they notice that the land is becoming greener, more fragrant, and less barren, and they welcome the change. As always, they travel by night and rest by day. They do not travel on the open road, but near it. They worry about their dwindling food supply. After several days, they arrive in a country full of woods and streams once known as Ithilien. Gollum coughs and sputters in the verdant setting, but the hobbits rejoice in the reappearance of greenery and water. They stop at a stream to drink and bathe. Again, they are troubled by hunger. Sam sends Gollum off to hunt some food for them all, reminding him that Hobbit food is different from the food the creature is accustomed to eating. Sam watches the sleeping Frodo, observing the fine lines visible on Frodo’s aging face. Sam acknowledges that he feels deep love for Frodo.
Gollum returns with rabbits, which he does not want to cook, preferring to devour them raw. Sam proceeds to make a nice dinner for himself and Frodo, calling upon Gollum again to gather wild herbs for his rabbit stew. Frodo awakens and sees the cooking fire burning. Sam informs Frodo of the nice dinner being prepared, but Frodo warns Sam about the dangers of fire in the open field.
Suddenly Frodo and Sam hear voices nearby, and they see four tall Men wielding spears. The warriors wonder whether the hobbits are Elves or perhaps Orcs. One of the Men identifies himself as Faramir, Captain of Gondor. The hobbits identify themselves as halflings. Faramir says that the hobbits cannot be travelers, as uninvited travelers are not allowed in his land. Frodo explains the hobbits’ separation from Aragorn and Boromir. At the mention of the name of Boromir, Faramir is startled and becomes stern.
Two men named Mablung and Damrod guard Frodo and Sam, telling the hobbits of their enemies, the Southrons, who threaten to attack. Sam wonders where Gollum is. Suddenly, they hear noises of battle and the name of Gondor called out. Damrod announces that the Southrons are attacking and that Faramir’s men are setting out to meet them. The hobbits climb into a position where they can see what is going on, and they witness their first battle among Men.
Suddenly, Damrod calls out for help from a large elephant-like creature called the Mûmak, which arrives from the forest and crushes the enemy. Sam is pleased that he has seen his first oliphaunt, as the creature is called. Damrod tells the hobbits to sleep, as the Gondor captain will soon return and they will have to flee the enemy. Sam replies that the troops of Gondor will not disturb him when they leave. Damrod answers that it is not likely that the captain will allow Sam to stay, but will instead force him to travel with the troops.
The relationship between Frodo and Sam, already at the center of the novel, is deepened by Sam’s expression of affection for Frodo. Sam seems almost surprised by his feelings of solicitude toward Frodo when he notes the wrinkles appearing on his master’s aging face. As Sam’s thoughts are only a private musing, we know that they are sincere. Sam’s concern for Frodo, along with his noting of Frodo’s increasingly haggard and weak appearance, foreshadows the ever-greater role and responsibility Sam must bear in the remainder of the quest. Sam gains no profit or benefit from his attachment to Frodo, and, in fact, his dedication brings him only great hardship. Again, Tolkien, in his depiction of the relationship between the two hobbits, emphasizes the importance of loyalty and selflessness as essential traits for his brand of epic hero.