Gollum is excited that they will be at the River Anduin soon. That means more water and more food.
The hobbits' hearts start to rise as the ruined land shifts to a (still barren but slightly healthier) heath, covered in shrubs.
Still, they can't forget that they're in dire straits and serious danger. This is no fun hike through the woods.
The road guides them down below the Morannon, back into the wild, and they pass through the country of Ithilien.
Spring is in the air, and they stop for a rest, allowing themselves to forget the horrors of Mordor for a time.
Sam is feeling all right for once, so he starts to think about food. He decides to ask Gollum to find some.
Gollum agrees, and disappears into the bushes, just as Sam notices that Frodo has fallen asleep.
When Gollum returns to camp, he also looks at sleeping Frodo for a few minutes before going off and muttering to himself.
Well, at least he brought back some rabbits.
His food-finding success prompts Sam to ask Gollum a second favor: how about some water, buddy?
Then he starts skinning the rabbits and preparing to make a fire.
Gollum flips out. A fire is a Bad Idea because it will alert their enemies to their whereabouts. Plus, why in the world would you want to cook rabbits in the first place? They're young and soft.
Sam replies, "Our bread chokes you, and raw coney chokes me" (4.4.38)—"coney," of course, meaning "rabbit." We have to side with Sam on this one.
Sam asks if Gollum can bring him some bay leaves, thyme, and sage.
A very angry Gollum flatly refuses, so Sam picks his own herbs.
Sam watches over the rabbit stew until Frodo wakes up.
This rabbit stew with a bit of lembas bread seems like a feast to the two hobbits.
But Sam warns Frodo: "I don't feel too sure of [Gollum]... We don't see eye to eye, and he's not pleased with Sam, O no precious, not pleased at all" (4.4.57).
When Sam goes to the river to rinse his cooking gear, he realizes that their little fire is actually extremely visible, so he stamps it out.
But it's too late. He hears voices of men coming closer.
There are four armed men, in green and brown clothes to camouflage with the landscape.
They look at Frodo and Sam and are utterly confused: "Not Orcs [...] Elves?" (4.4.67-9).
The leader of the men introduces himself as Captain Faramir, and then asks about the third member of their party: "the skulking fellow" with an "ill-favoured look" (4.4.76). Could he be an orc spy?
Frodo replies that he doesn't know where he is, but that Faramir shouldn't kill him. Sure, he's wretched, but he is bound to Frodo.
Time to return the introduction. Frodo explains who he and Sam are, and tells Faramir that they have come from Rivendell.
Frodo continues, "Seven companions we had: one we lost at Moria, the others we left at Parth Galen above Rauros: two of my kin, a Dwarf there was also, and an Elf, and two Men. They were Aragorn; and Boromir, who said that he came out of Minas Tirith, a city in the South" (4.4.77).
Frodo asks if Faramir knows the riddle Boromir brought to Rivendell with him: "Seek for the Sword that was Broken./ In Imladris it dwells" (4.4.80).
You see, explains Frodo, Aragorn is the bearer of the Sword that was Broken.
And he and Sam are the Halflings the rhyme speaks of.
Well this is all very interesting to Faramir, who asks if Frodo knows what Isildur's Bane is, which Boromir set out from Gondor to find.
Frodo brings an end to this cryptic conversation by assuring Faramir that it has been hidden.
Faramir warns Frodo that there will be fighting before the day is out, so he leaves Frodo and Sam with two guards, Mablung and Damrod.
Their main job is to pick off as many enemies as they can, using ambushes and guerilla-style tactics.
Usually, they don't come this far from the river, but they are on a mission to attack the Southrons using the old roads built by Gondor to join Sauron.
As they wait around for things to happen, Sam dozes off, only to wake to the sounds of battle. Sam goes over to stand with the guards and watch the fight. He has never seen a war between humans, and he finds it, well, horrifying.
The upside is that he finally gets to see an Oliphaunt, which the Southrons are using as a beast of burden. It is huge. We're talking gigantic.
Sam comments, "So there are Oliphaunts, and I have seen one. What a life! But no one at home will ever believe me" (4.4.103).
To this, Mablung says that they can sleep for now, but Faramir will be back soon.