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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

The Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 1 ~ EE scene, “You listen to me” ~ plus essay….

Posted on 2007.07.23 at 08:17
Tags: , ,
~*~


Well, I’m back.

We spent two weeks visiting my sister who lives where it is sunny and warm and gorgeous. I tramped along river beds winding through gorges, hiked over yellow hills, and sat long hours under a canopy by her swimming pool set amid roses, live oak and tall grass. Wild turkey gobbled unseen in the pasture below, vultures wheeled and horses neighed. I listened to the audio book of “The Order of the Phoenix” (as a refresher before seeing the new film—my hearty recommendations for Jim Dale's readings of the Harry Potter series, less hearty recommendations for the fifth film), read my print-out of a huge and famous Frodo fanfic, and had time left over for some books on myth and Jungian archetypes (the last will make its way into my discussion below).

Note: I started writing the essay for this post before my trip, but it became so long and involved I couldn’t finish it. So beware. The remaining parts to this series will have only brief discussions. Also, until I get the full series posted, the links to the other parts won’t work. The book excerpt, since the film and book versions of this scene have nothing in common, is at the bottom.



~*~


Discussion.

The Stairs of Cirith Ungol from RotK will probably never stop being controversial for book fans. Plot-wise, it represents what may be the most radical departure in the three films. When RotK opened book fans almost unanimously were scandalized by change, some eschewing the trilogy altogether because of this heresy. Frodo sends Sam away!—and Sam obeys! Outrageous!

Putting the book aside—something the screenwriters obviously did—I must say I think the scene does work. The filmmakers’ Frodo was already somewhat different from Tolkien’s Frodo, differences that helped make what would happen in this scene plausible. He’s far younger (thus more inexperienced) for starters. Also, perhaps on account of his youth and inexperience, he is both less wise and less hardy. Frodo bearing his burden silently is not Frodo of the film, nor could he be if audiences were to become involved with him as a character. His lack of wisdom is most displayed in his trust of Gollum, something his book counterpart never does. His gullibility heightens Sam’s mistrust. This dynamic between the three is fully in place at the opening of the Stairs scene and only escalates. In Frodo’s defense it is also true that when the scene opens he is physically exhausted and emotionally spent, his reserves depleted by the recent near-encounter with the Witch-king at Minas Morgul.

Considering the writers’ thorough preparation for the events that unfold here, it is not outrageous but nearly inevitable that Gollum—strong, tireless, and unrelenting in his malice—should finally succeed in driving a wedge between these two more vulnerable characters. At this point in the film, except for a few moments of lucidity, Frodo seems no longer aware of how much he is under Gollum’s power, which is made worse by the warping of his perceptions by the Ring.

Additionally, Frodo’s intense sense of identification with ‘Sméagol’ makes him easy game for Gollum’s machinations, Sam’s resentment and hot temper fanning the fires that bring about the melt-down of “Go home, Sam.” That Frodo would find Sam’s ongoing jealous tirades a drain on his reserves (something he could ill afford) seems more plausible, too. To all this the filmmakers go further, portraying Frodo, driven to paranoia by Gollum, as temporarily unhinged. He would have to be unhinged to believe Gollum’s ridiculous claim that Sam has eaten all their food. Right at the opening Sam is shown carefully rationing their food, giving Frodo his share. Sam is the very last person who would eat up the provisions, especially when they still have far to go. Unfortunately, film Sam is so wholly at the mercy of his emotions, rather than pointing this out, he goes to pieces. Stricken to the heart by the charges and Frodo dismissal, he actually begins to go home (as if he’d ever get there). He stumbles down the Stairs choking on sobs, finally falling blinded by tears, just where he will discover the hard evidence of Gollum’s duplicity. The sight and feel of the lembas, along with the understanding it brings (that Frodo is alone in the hands of a murderous schemer), is the jolt Sam needs. Restored to his senses, he rushes back.

This plot device is strained for obvious reasons, but I still think the sequence packs emotional power. Much of the power comes from the performances. Throughout, Elijah Wood and Sean Astin (and CGI Gollum) are at the top of their form. I still can barely take in that “Go home, Sam” was one of the first scenes filmed. Everyone knows the story of how they were forced to shoot this scene out of sequence because of floods that made the outdoor shooting schedule impossible, how after a coin toss Sean’s coverage was shot first, to be followed by Elijah’s, even though they didn’t end up filming it for another year (the sun came out). I think Sean Astin is dynamite in this scene, pulling out all the stops, converting his terror at having to play such a difficult scene right off the bat into emotional commitment in the scene. Some people have scoffed at Sam’s“blubbering” on the Stairs (when Frodo coldly dismisses him), but I think it is some of the most effective, most naked emotion I’ve seen on screen. Playing off Elijah certainly helped, who, even if his close-ups would come a year later, still was acting the scene full out. My mouth drops further when I think Elijah Wood was eighteen and nineteen years old in this sequence. His work is amazing. Does this gushing mean I approve of what was done to Tolkien’s scene? No, but I do think the film scene works.

After my initial outrage over “Go home, Sam” had receded, I found I enjoyed this sequence, actually looking forward to watching it. A reader of this screencap series might wonder how I can watch this highly uncanon scene with pleasure yet detest watching the EE TTT scene in which Faramir sanctions the beating of Gollum and Frodo sits by. My answer is that the Stairs scene does not offend my core concepts of who the characters are, and Henneth Annun does. The Henneth Annun scene makes noble characters behave vilely. The Stairs scene makes noble characters behave foolishly. Foolish behaviour, in my opinion, is not nearly as damaging as vile behaviour.


~*~


Regarding Sam’s Warning: “You listen to me” (EE scene).

This little EE scene, inserted after Minas Morgul before Pippin lights the beacon, is quite good. I think it adds a lot to the overall Stairs of Cirith Ungol sequence, even if it doesn’t mesh perfectly with the final arch of the Frodo/Gollum/Sam story.

For one thing, it lets Sam appear controlled and canny. Instead of lashing out at Gollum in one of his usual fits of rage and hurt feelings, Sam is sharp, shrewd, and level-headed. He’s just as concerned for his master’s welfare, but without the histrionics. He is direct with Gollum, and effective. He is not the Sam Gollum so easily goads and manipulates. This is probably why they didn’t use this scene in the theatrical version. The “Go home” scene depends on Sam being so upset and beaten down that he loses it. In lashing out, he precipitates Frodo’s decision to dismiss him. Still, as a book-Sam fan, I deeply appreciate seeing him getting a chance to show his shrewdness, and his worth as Frodo’s protector, keeping his focus on what’s important.

The other thing I really like about this scene—and it’s something that does further the objectives of the filmmakers—is that it strongly reinforces the sense of real injury, indeed hatred, Gollum feels towards Sam. In the Stairs scene, Gollum’s actions are not only geared to get the Ring back, but to split up the two friends. That he should expend so much energy on splitting them up is made far more understandable by this scene. While book Gollum patently dislikes Sam, and finds Sam’s constant vigilance a plague and a nuisance, what really matters to him is to seizing the Ring. Disposing of Sam in the process is a side-benefit, if a pleasurable one.

In this EE scene, however, Sam so truly knows what Gollum is about—hiding none of his antipathy towards him as he confronts him—it makes plausible the degree to which Gollum hates Sam. That film Gollum should not only lust for the Ring but for vengeance is made clearer by this scene. And what better way to exact his revenge than to strip Sam of what he most cherishes—Frodo’s love and trust in him—even going so far as to dismiss Sam from his side in the middle of their enemies? With this little scene in place, it makes better that sense that Gollum would plot not only to get the Ring through Frodo's death, but to get back at Sam.

~*~



Film Scene: On the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, the EE version. (Book excerpt after the caps.)


Gollum: (Gleefully cheering on the tired hobbits, Frodo passing first) Up, up, up the stairs we go, and then it’s into the tunnel!

As Frodo goes on ahead Sam stops and looks at Gollum with suspicion.

Sam: Hey! What’s in this tunnel?

Gollum tries to scurry ahead but Sam grabs him and holds him threateningly against the rock, speaking so only Gollum can hear.

You listen to me and you listen good and proper. Anything happens to him, you’ll have me to answer to. One sniff of something that’s not right, one hair stands up on the back of my head, it’s over. No more Slinker, no more Stinker, you’re gone. Got it? I’m watching you.

Gollum gives a forced smile then looks after Sam with loathing. Frodo turns and sees they have fallen behind, speaking to Sam when he catches up.

Frodo: (Looking suspicious) What was that about?

Sam: Nothing. Just clearing something up.

Gollum looks after them with calculating, malevolent amusement.



~*~










~ From Track 16, Sam’s Warning, on Pt. 1 of the EE version of RotK:




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~*~




More discussion.

I so wanted to believe the writers had suffered from stress-induced bad judgement when they wrote the “Go home” scene, I was taken aback last year reading Brian Sibley’s book on Peter Jackson as filmmaker. A snippet in the book strongly implied that the “Go home, Sam” scene was not a last-ditch effort to “up the ante”, but had been long in the works. Writing screencap posts for TTT and RotK this year has confirmed for me that the scene was prepared for carefully in all the Sam-Frodo-Gollum scenes that preceded it. I just hadn’t wanted to see it.

In the Sibley book is an anecdote concerning a problem early in the shooting schedule. The producers at New Line were voicing strong concerns, not only plaguing Jackson and his team about going over budget so early, but expressing doubts that Weta could accomplish the special effects, in paricular the CG version of Gollum.

Sibley writes,

"Despite Bob Shaye’s comments on how impressed he had been by the tests he had seen of the Massive software, and an appreciation of the fact that Weta promised to be considerably cheaper than ILM [Industrial Light and Magic], there was a clear level [of] anxiety as to whether the key CG figures would be able to match the standards set by the American special effects studios."

Sibley illuminates with a quote from Peter Jackson:

"Bob Shaye told me that he considered Gollum to be way beyond Weta’s capabilities. So I instigated Gollum development a long time before we needed him. Weta started doing tests so that we could prove ourselves. The shot we tested was the long crane shot from The Two Towers, when Gollum sneaks out and takes the lembas bread and throws it over the ledge.

I screened the shot for Bob and he agreed that it was fine, although, looking at it today, it’s embarrassing to realise just how crude it seems and that it’s really nothing like the finished Gollum. Still, it was the first ever attempt to create what we all knew was going to be a key CG figure and it at least proved that we were able to deliver".


~ from Peter Jackson: A Film-maker’s Journey, by Brian Sibley; Ch. 9, pp. 476-77.

What this shows me, for one thing, is that early in screenplay development the scene on the Stairs was going to be in the second film, not in RotK. But the main thing it shows me is that Gollum setting up Sam by throwing the lembas over the ledge was part of the film’s plot from very early on if not from the start of shooting. Peter Jackson would not have put the team through the trouble and expense of making the lembas-over-the-ledge scene as the Gollum test shot unless they were very sure they were going to use it.

Why did they do it? Why make this radical departure? If I recall correctly, in the director’s commentary for RotK, Fran, Philippa, and Pete gave their usual reason for making a big change: “to up the ante”. They didn’t think it would be dramatic enough for Frodo and Sam to enter Shelob’s tunnel together. Frodo needed to go it alone. So they created the plot device in which Gollum would split up the friends.

I find "upping the ante" a very inadequate answer. The book scene wouldn’t have been exciting enough? Nonsense. Think of it: Sam and Frodo entering the noisome blackness of the tunnel, two little hobbits creeping fearfully towards who-knows-what—this was not exciting enough? Frodo terrified, yet advancing towards Shelob, Sting brandished and the Light of Galadriel held high in his trembling hand—this was not exciting enough? Frodo, in sudden relief and joy, thinking the way clear, dashing ahead, Sam attacked at the last minute, Frodo running unaware into the trap—this was not exciting enough??? They had to have been after something else as they orchestrated this huge change, even if they were not aware of what they were after. But what?

I have looked and looked at the scene, book and film, and the main departures the screenwriters made are two: Frodo entering the tunnel and facing Shelob alone, but also Frodo (not Sam) having a violent confrontation with Gollum. The "bones" of the scene are not that different and yet it is very different. But different as it is, unfaithful to Tolkien as it is, the sequence resonates for me in a way that is more profound than what can be explained with, “upping the ante”.

I think the film scene works for me the way it does (both the Stairs scene and Shelob’s Lair, since I think of them as parts of the same sequence) because although the film departs from the book, the film narrative is still grounded in the same primal story, but a different version of it: the story of the hero who must confront his monster(s). Thus both the book and film versions are deeply rooted in myth and archetype, resonating with the ancient stories of heroes who undergo ordeals. It is just that the ordeals are not met for the same reasons, nor are the results the same.


The hero’s ordeal in book and film.

First of all, in Tolkien’s story the hero in these scenes (the whole section in Cirith Ungol) is actually a pair of heroes, operating as a team. Frodo and Sam, joined in purpose and love (and who remain joined in purpose and love), entering the tunnel—and their ordeal—together. They do become separated, but not by their own choice. When they are separated, evil gains the ascendancy. Sam is attacked by Gollum. Frodo, in a rush of exhilaration, unaware of his (and Sam's) danger, dashes ahead, leaving his partner in heroism behind. Sam, having extricated himself from Gollum, is yet too late to intervene and Frodo is stung by Shelob. (Frodo gets into trouble in nearly the same way on the Barrow Downs, rushing ahead to what he thinks is the way out, leaving his friends and protection behind. Hmmm...)

The tale then shifts to Sam, who, inspired to heroic fury by the loss of his fellow-hero and friend, defeats the monster on his own. Through a series of providentially right mis-choices, Sam then gets the chance to rescue Frodo, who meanwhile has wakened to near-despair in the Tower, believing himself to be the last of his friends, all alone and at the mercy of his tormenters, and bereft of the Ring. Rejoined by Sam, Frodo revives and the two continue to their next heroic test, surviving the privations of Gorgoroth before they go on to the final ordeal at Mt. Doom.

The book tale is a tale of the power of fellowship, in which shared love and labour (aided by a series of providential interventions) prevail over the power of evil. When the original Fellowship is sundered, the fellowship is not destroyed but continues to operate, but in microcosm, each pair (or trio) continuing to struggle to further the goal of the Quest. The theme of noble fellowship—i.e. of individuals freely binding themselves to one another in love for a common high purpose—triumphing over the single Eye of Sauron remains primary. Tom Shippey made nice points in both his books on Tolkien, The Road to Middle-earth and The Author of the Century, about the single nature of Sauron, that he was a lone entity, the opposite of a fellowship. (Sauron might have many slaves, but no fellowship.)

As for Frodo’s particular role, like the rest of the members of the Fellowship he is a hero, but he is specifically a sacrificial hero. And the sacrificial nature of his ordeal leaves its mark, making him wiser but sadder. What Frodo endures hones his spirit to fineness, but it also gives him sorrow that does not depart. Elrond, Gandalf, and the hands of the King can heal Frodo’s bodily hurts but not the ones sustained by his spirit. Although his bodily wounds are healed, the memory of them continues to plague him, flaring up at the anniversaries. Worse, his mind, which was repeatedly violated by Sauron's Eye, continues to feel tainted. No wonder, when he continues to desire the Ring, the token of that taint, the desire giving him shame as well as pain. Tolkien, in his letters, also notes that Frodo continues to regret that he was not himself able to cast the Ring into the fire. No amount of telling him this was impossible seems to take away his sense of failure. Thus, failure, guilt, and shame continue to plague Frodo once he is back in the Shire.

But not only negative things make it difficult for Frodo to settle into his old life. The Quest has changed him in other ways, positive ways, with visions and new experiences that have opened his mind irrevocably to a world more vast and deep and beautiful than anything he had imagined. Back in the Shire, with its parochial ways and little, even petty concerns, it is not surprising Frodo should feel out of place, even estranged from it. Sadly, as Frodo learns, it is the case that in order to keep what one loves, someone must lose it. In LotR that someone is Frodo. And so he passes into the West.


In the films, Frodo’s story plays quite differently. He’s still portrayed in terms of the mythic story of the hero who must undergo an ordeal, but it’s a different ordeal with different ends. Book Frodo is a hero who must undergo dreadful things in order to accomplish a goal that is for the common good, in which evil, or the cosmic dark side, is vanquished. Film Frodo’s story is still cast in a mythical mold, but its particular shape recalls psychology more than Tolkien's epic.

In terms of Jungian theory (in so far as I understand it from a couple of thin books), every person’s psychological make-up is comprised of both “light” and “dark”, just like ancient myths of yin and yang, or pairs of creative and destructive gods and goddesses, who together make up the working of the cosmos in an unending rhythm of birth and death, gods which are themselves a projection of the human psyche. Thus one’s dark side may be frightening or repellent, but it cannot be ignored or dismissed, since it is integral to each person. It must be confronted and mastered—but not destroyed. In the mastering comes transformation. In this mythical context the “dark side”, though destructive—driven by instinctive self-serving appetites and passions—is also creative since the same passions and appetites energize individuals for the doing of good.

This was not Tolkien’s view of the world or of the human person, but it is very pervasive today, and no doubt influenced the filmmakers. It certainly resonates with viewers, of which I am one.

So film Frodo is still a hero who must undergo an ordeal, but his ordeal is to enter into a darkness that ultimately is his own psyche. If he succeeds, he will master his dark side. Mastering it, he will prosper, having harnessed his shadow side for good ends.

What happens in the film sequence? Unlike their book counterparts, Frodo and Sam do not enter Shelob’s lair as a united ‘mini-fellowship’, but have been divided. Evil forces, in the person of Gollum, cut Sam off from Frodo. Frodo, benighted, enters Shelob’s dark, noisome tunnel alone. Very soon Frodo discovers Gollum has been false, and that he has been cruelly tricked. His empathy for Gollum has been ill-founded, just as Sam warned. Shocked back to reality by the horror and stench and the extremity of his situation, it comes upon Frodo (as it did for Boromir on Amon Hen): What have I done?

Here is another major difference in characterization between book and film: book Frodo has no reason to add guilt to his already dreadful experience in the tunnel, film Frodo does. The moment in Shelob’s lair in which film Frodo, appalled, realises he has been duped, that he has made a monumental blunder—foolishly and wrongly sending Sam away, likely to his death, trusting Gollum instead—is for me one of the most moving in the trilogy. EW’s acting is superb. In that brief moment of screen time, knowledge dawns. Horrified disbelief, grief, angry self-castigation, and resultant fury flit vividly across Frodo’s face in succession. As I watch I experience the “horror and pity” Sophocles described. I have made my own terrible, benighted decisions. I will not be casting any stones.

To make matters worse, Gollum taunts him, hidden from view. The disembodied voice could be Frodo’s own, castigating himself. No wonder he becomes incensed. In a fit of rage and terror, Frodo cuts his way free, tumbles through a hole into another tunnel, only to be attacked by Gollum. Frodo fights him off, grasping at life. Things look bad until Gollum tries to take the Ring. Thoroughly revived, Frodo throws him off. The tables turn and Frodo is ascendant, Gollum’s throat compressed under his fingers. Gollum now makes his plea: “It was the Precious made us do it!” Frodo relents, recognizing the truth in Gollum’s plaint. Getting up he walks away, stopping only to turn and say he is going to destroy the Ring for his sake and for Gollum’s.

This is not what Gollum wants to hear. He jumps Frodo and they struggle until Gollum tumbles down a chasm. Frodo, almost done in, struggles to his feet and stumbles along the pass, thinking of how he has cast Sam aside, feeling utterly bereft and alone. He falters, stops, and swoons. In a vision, Galadriel comes to him, encouraging him, pulling him to his feet. Restored to purpose and courage, Frodo forges stealthily ahead. But not stealthily enough. Shelob slips out of a hole and catches him unawares, delivering her stunning blow.

Shelob is wrapping Frodo in her silk when Sam intervenes. He fights her and prevails, but, in Sam's arms, Frodo appears to be dead. Sam weeps. Only when he sees Sting’s blue sheen and hears the voices of Orcs does he hide behind rocks. There he learns that Frodo is not dead but unconscious. He upbraids himself as they carry off the body, but follows the group to the Tower where he will find and free Frodo.


~*~


In terms of Frodo’s part of the tale, what happens in the film version is very different from what happens in the book. Instead of being the story of two comrades-in-arms united against a dark foe, the story is of a lone hero’s descent into darkness. Frodo must meet his enemy stripped of every friend and helper. And he goes to meet not just one enemy but two: Shelob, who represents the evils arrayed against him from without, and Gollum, who represents the evil arrayed against him from within. In the film, Frodo has consistently been portrayed as believing Gollum to be his unfortunate alter-ego. It is fitting in the film tale that Frodo should be forced to come to grips with that belief. In archetypical terms, the hero of the film version enters the darkness not only to fight the demon, but his own demons.

I see Frodo entering Shelob’s lair and struggling with Gollum as a sort of foreshadowing, or rehearsal, for what will happen in the Sammath Naur. There, too, Frodo will meet his adversary from without, Sauron, the Dark Lord, but also his internal adversary, in the person of Gollum, the dark persona he fears he has become, a small-scale Dark Lord. In Shelob’s tunnel, Frodo still was able to forgive Gollum and walk away, even though he was attacked, his sentiments noble and redemptive. In the Sammath Naur, there is no forgiveness and no spirit of redemption. Once Frodo surrenders to the Ring's call he wants It, and that is all he wants. In doing so, he has succumbed to his own ‘dark side’ (the self-serving appetites and passions). He struggles with Gollum on the brink with no reservations: the Ring or nothing.

In the end, symbolically, mythically, or psychologically, Frodo is saved because his dark side, Gollum, comes in and takes the hit for him. He falls, not Frodo. As happened in the fight in Shelob’s tunnel, Gollum tumbles over the brink, as if by chance. This time, though, it is to his death. He will not be coming back. But neither does film Frodo come back. In the thought world of the filmmakers (a world that draws on a different mythic world than Tolkien’s), although Frodo survives, only a half a person survives. It’s as if his fire, his vitality, his desire and zeal for life went into the abyss with Gollum. Frodo never recovers his old taste for life. He wastes and dwindles, finally opting to pass into the West. In psychology, especially the Jungian sort, a person can’t be whole without both sides of himself intact: light and dark, constructive and destructive, the ordering impulse and the spontaneous chaotic urges that are the springs of creativity. In the film, Frodo’s “dark side” dies with Gollum, and, clearly, Frodo does not recover from its loss.

As a mere dabbler in myth and archetypes (inspired to new readings by estelanui), I am not sure what this all means, but it made a big impact on my thinking about Frodo’s story line in the films. The film version's strong grounding in myth is why I think the “Go home” Sam scene on the Stairs works so well, in spite of its heresy, along with the errant version of Shelob’s lair that follows. The film treatment of the myth of the hero who enters the dark/abyss/labyrinth to battle his designated monster is not the same as Tolkien’s, but it is a compelling version of the hero motif in its own right. Rather than the story of the hero who sacrifices his happiness for the good of others, the film portrays the story of the hero who enters his own inner darkness to confront his demons. Confronting one's inner demons is a theme dear to the hearts and minds of most modern viewers (witness the recent installments of "Batman", "Spiderman", and the teenage-angst volumes of the Harry Potter series).

That Frodo experiences some sort of internal struggle is implied in Tolkien's tale, of course, but it is never made explicit since Frodo’s personal travails are not the ultimate point of LotR, LotR remaining a story of a fellowship and not just Frodo (even if Frodo, as Ring-bearer, is its dramatic focus). But if hundreds of fanfic writers can invent inner trials for Frodo made visible, I suppose New Zealand filmmakers can, too, updating the myths of heroes who confront their personal monsters as they do so.

In the old heroic tales, when the hero vanquishes his monster, right order is restored so that life can flourish, including the hero’s. But the more modern psychological take, based on myths at least as ancient—if I understand it properly—is that while the hero (personifying the ego or conscious decision-making centre) must prevail over the monster (personifying the ungoverned, instinctual side) so that he can flourish as an individual, he still needs his “dark side” to thrive as a person, since that part of his self is the seat of the passions and desires that fuel intuition, creativity, and renewal at their deepest level.

Again, it is notable that after the Quest film Frodo is shown not so much as suffering from his ordeal, but listless, lacking in vitality. I long have thought film-Frodo seems so vitiated that he doesn’t really feel the loss of the Ring, nor the pain of his anniversary illness. It’s as if the part of him that can experience strong emotions—whether pain or hate or joy—has gone with the Ring into the fire. After mulling over this post, I am emending that to say that Frodo’s capacity for feeling joy or hate or pain went into the fire not so much with the Ring, but with his alter ego, his dark side, Gollum.

As I said, this is not Tolkien’s take on the tale, but it is a profound one nevertheless, even if the writers could say no more about their choices than they wanted to “up the ante”. I think it is the film’s grounding in myth that makes the scenes as powerful as they are, whether the writers knew what they were doing or not. As a writer, and a friend of writers, I know that writers often create out of unknown springs, producing what they have not consciously intended. I am guessing that happened with Jackson/Walsh/Boyens. And I am grateful for it.


~*~



Book scene: from The Stairs of Cirith Ungol.

Then at a great distance, as if it came out of memories of the Shire, some sunlit early morning, when the day called and doors were opening, he heard Sam’s voice speaking. ‘Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Wake up!’ Had the voice added: ‘Your breakfast is ready,’ he would hardly have been surprised. Certainly Sam was urgent. ‘Wake up, Mr. Frodo! They’re gone,’ he said.

There was a dull clang. The gates of Minas Morgul had closed. The last rank of spears had vanished down the road. The tower grinned across the valley, but the light was fading in it. The whole city was falling back into a dark brooding shade, and silence. Yet still it was filled with watchfulness.

‘Wake up, Mr. Frodo! They’re gone, and we’d better go too. There’s something still alive in that place, something with eyes, or a seeing mind, if you take me; and the longer we stay in one spot, the sooner it will get on to us. Come on, Mr. Frodo!’

Frodo raised his head, and then stood up. Despair had not left him, but the weakness had passed He even smiled grimly, feeling now as clearly as a moment before he had felt the opposite, that what he had to do, he had to do, if he could, and that whether Faramir or Aragorn or Elrond or Galadriel or Gandalf of anyone else ever knew about it was beside the purpose. He took his staff in one hand and the phial in his other. When he saw that the clear light was already welling through his fingers, he thrust it into his bosom and held it against his heart. Then turning from the city of Morgul, now no more than a grey glimmer across a dark gulf, he prepared to take the upward road.

Gollum, it seemed, had crawled off along the ledge into the darkness beyond, when the gates of Minas Morgul opened, leaving the hobbits where they lay. He now came creeping back, his teeth chattering and his fingers snapping. ‘Foolish! Silly!’he hissed. ‘Make haste! They mustn’t think danger has passed. It hasn’t. Make haste!’ (…)

‘Careful!’ he whispered. ‘Steps. Lots of steps. Must be careful!’

Care was certainly needed. Frodo and Sam at first felt easier, having now a wall on either side, but the stairway was almost as steep as a ladder, and as they climbed up and up, they became more and more aware of the long black fall behind them. And the steps were narrow, spaced unevenly, and often treacherous: they were worn and smooth at the edges, and some were broken, and some cracked as foot was set upon them. The hobbits struggled on, until at last they were clinging with desperate fingers to the steps ahead, and forcing their aching knees to bend and straighten; and ever as the stair cut its way deeper into the sheer mountain the rocky walls rose higher and higher above their heads.

At length, just as they felt that they could endure no more, they saw Gollum’s eyes peering down at them again. ‘We’re up,’ he whispered. ‘First stair’s past. Clever hobbits to climb so high, very clever hobbits. Just a few more little steps and that’s all, yes.’

Dizzy and very tired Sam, and Frodo following him, crawled up the last step, and sat down rubbing their legs and knees. They were in a deep dark passage that seemed still to go up before them, though at a gentler slope and without steps. Gollum did not let them rest long.

‘There’s another stair still,’ he said. ‘Much longer stairs. Rest when we get to the top of the next stair. Not yet.’

Sam groaned. ‘Longer, did you say?’ he asked.

‘Yes, yess, longer,’ said Gollum. ‘But not so difficult. Hobbits have climbed the Straight Stair. Next comes the Winding Stair.’

‘And what after that?’ said Sam.

‘We shall see,’ said Gollum softly. ‘O yes, we shall see!’

‘I thought you said there was a tunnel,’ said Sam. ‘Isn’t there a tunnel or something to go through?’

‘O yes, there’s a tunnel,’ said Gollum. ‘But hobbits can rest before they try that. If they get through that, they’ll be nearly to the top. Very nearly, if they get through. O yes!’

Frodo shivered. The climb had made him sweat, but now he felt cold and clammy, and there was a chill draught in the dark passage, blowing down from the invisible heights above. He got up and shook himself. ‘Well, let’s go on!’ he said. ‘This is no place to sit in.’ (…)

Still on and up the stairway bent and crawled, until at last with a final flight, short and straight, it climbed out again on to another level. The path veered away from the main pass in the great ravine, and it now followed its own perilous course at the bottom of a lesser cleft among the higher regions of the Ephel Dúath. (…) Still far ahead, and still high above, Frodo, looking up, saw, as he guessed, the very crown of this bitter road. Against the sullen redness of the eastern sky a cleft was outlined in the topmost ridge, narrow, deep-cloven between two black shoulders; and on either shoulder was a horn of stone.

He paused and looked more attentively. The horn upon the left was tall and slender; and in it burned a red light, or else the red light in the land beyond was shining through a hole. He saw now: it was a black tower poised above the outer pass. He touched Sam’s arm and pointed.

‘I don’t like the look of that!’ said Sam.



~*~







Entries for this series:


~ Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 1: Main essay for this series, plus EE scene, "You listen to me...."


~ Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 2: “He wants it….”


~ Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 3: “I can carry it….”


~ Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 4: “Go home….”






Tables of Links:



~ Frodo and Elijah screencaps Main Page.



~ Mechtild


Comments:


Prim
primula_baggins at 2007-07-23 14:15 (UTC) (Link)
“I still can barely take in that “Go home, Sam” was one of the first scenes filmed. Everyone knows the story of how they were forced to shoot this scene out of sequence because of floods that made the outdoor shooting schedule impossible, how after a coin toss Sean’s coverage was shot first, to be followed by Elijah’s, even though they didn’t end up filming it for another year (the sun came out).”

Hee! Just what I wrote in my other comment. I didn’t see these other posts until just now.

Didn’t we all want to applaud Sam’s warning to Gollum. The little sneak! I loved this part. Gollum’s little look at the end was great too.

Somewhere I read that either Fran or Phillipa said they felt Frodo needed to “lose his mind” along the way, to make Frodo more interesting to a movie audience. This was their attempt at that, I think they said.

Speaking of departing from the book, the Shelob scene is much different than the movie scene. Heck, in the movie, Sam isn’t even with Frodo in the tunnel until Frodo’s already been attacked by Shelob.

“He jumps Frodo and they struggle until Gollum tumbles down a chasm.”

One thing that bothered me was how Gollum fell into a chasm that seemed to never end, et he showed up later, perfectly fine. The filmmakers were trying to make us think he was dead and then we’d be surprised to see him alive later. This didn’t work for me.

“In a vision, Galadriel comes to him, encouraging him, pulling him to his feet. Restored to purpose and courage, Frodo forges stealthily ahead.”

I just adore that scene!




Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-23 23:27 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Primula! I am just now home from work and opening the mail. Never mind about out-of-sequence comments; comments in any order are always a good thing. I love to see that people are still thinking about the book and film.

Yes, I agree that Gollum seems to have taken a fatal tumble in the pass, he should have been dead. I guess he's just like a bad penny. But, no, you are correct, of course. The filmmakers merely wanted the non-book audience to think he was out of the picture, so that they could be surprised when he turned up again on Mt. Doom. I think PJ simply can't resist action sequences. I wonder how he'll manage directing "The Lovely Bones", unless he just uses up all his screen time on the more violent flashbacks?
Maeglian
maeglian at 2007-07-23 15:22 (UTC) (Link)
Welcome back!

While everyone else seems lost in the throes of the Deathly Hallows, and I'm just crawling away from the Harry frenzy, you give us this perceptive and interesting essay! Love it. Chance would have it that RotK aired for the first time on National TV here this weekend, so I have the Stairs and Shelob's Lair scenes very fresh in my mind.


"In psychology, especially the Jungian sort, a person can’t be whole without both sides of himself intact: light and dark, constructive and destructive, the ordering impulse and the spontaneous, chaotic urges that are the springs of creativity. In the film, Frodo’s “dark side” dies with Gollum, and, clearly, Frodo does not recover from its loss."

What can I say except this makes complete and perfect sense to me? Previously I have argued -and at length - that I have no problem with the stairs scene and what follows, however much it deviates from canon and from Tolkien's Frodo/Sam relationship, because the film scenes seem so psychologically true, the emotions and reactions recognizable and believable. I stand by that, now that I just re-watched it. (Part of it is EJW's formidable acting, of course.)But I've *never* been able to piece it all together the way you do here. I think you've hit the nail on the head. This explains the portrayal of film!Frodo in many a following scene.

Thank you, Mechtild. This essay must surely be considered one of your best.


And by the way, *do* have a look at the advance promo that TV2 made and kept airing last week to let people know they were showing RotK. It's something else, - and taps directly into your analysis above.

Here's the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXDUOMlmWIU
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-24 00:40 (UTC) (Link)
While everyone else seems lost in the throes of the Deathly Hallows, and I'm just crawling away from the Harry frenzy...

I'm just crawling *into* it! I was on the request list at the library to get it, and was number 27 (pretty good out of 139). What do you know? Here, on the first day of the library releasing it, I got a copy. I'll be reading it tonight, well, part of it. Have to get up and work tomorrow and I've developed a nasty cold.

Maeglian, thanks for posting. And thanks for the lovely comments. I will open the link as soon as I've posted this comment. *smooch*

You know I always wonder how you're doing. I mentioned above that I read a great big famous Frodo fic on vacation, that I even had printed out to be able to read by my sister's pool (her computer is usually on the fritz, too). It was "All That I Had". I hadn't realised until I read the acknowledgements how much of a hand you had in its creation and fine-tuning. Go, you for beta-ing such a committed, fully-told story. I didn't love all of it in terms of some of her choices portraying Frodo's post-Quest condition, but I admired the work deeply on writerly grounds. When I'm feeling better I'll send Elenya my feed-back, which I promised to do. It would be cavalier to send an "Thanks! That was great!" to someone who put so much into such a rich, thoroughly-imagined story, and of such quality.

Maeglian
maeglian at 2007-07-25 19:13 (UTC) (Link)
I know Elenya greatly appreciates thoughtful comments to ATIH, so it's lovely if you take time to give her your impressions. It truly was a labour of love for her, and "long was the making". I've beta'd a few other fics, but ATIH was special and much more demanding due to its sheer scope and extent. I learned a lot. :-)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-26 12:04 (UTC) (Link)
Good morning! My cold has broken and I feel much perkier. Thanks for encouraging me to go ahead and send feedback. Maybe I'll have time this weekend. It's a huge fic, I've got reams of notes expressing both my moments of admiration and reservations, and it deserves thoughtful comment. It *feels* like a labour of love, and labours of love all the more require a full reply.

P.S. I got a notice about your recent LJ entry about HP, but I haven't read it yet and am staying away from posts and threads that have anything to do with it. :)
(Deleted comment)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-24 00:20 (UTC) (Link)
I think your outlook was wholesome one, Mews, concerning keeping the films and book in separate appreciative compartments. Thanks so much for commenting.
Estelanui - Francesca
estelanui at 2007-07-23 21:19 (UTC) (Link)
Welcome back!
Wow, Mechtild, this post and your essay are clever and brilliant!
You touched on a series of intriguing ideas with a very clear description. I think you were inspired in writing these comments.
The “Go home, Sam” scene of the film always ‘worked’ for me, also in its distance form the book Cirith Ungol. It’s for me one of the main example of the difference in narration but similarity in the messages between the book and the movies.
I have been surprised from the beginning of the trilogy how the characters and the plot were distant from the original and how the final messages and symbols were similar if not the same.
Frodo, Sam, Bilbo, the cousins, Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir, Boromir, Gollum….all of them are more or less different characters respect the book. And the list can continue with other characters, with very different sub-plots, with the insertion of new scenes, with the lacking of main part of the book.
Then why did the original message of the professor remain intact and was conveyed to a new audience or was met again for the old book reader?
I simple answer may be because both movies and book were telling the same tale, but with completely different languages. Because words and images are very unlike, they are perceived by different part of the brain, have different time and address distinct human feelings.
So book Frodo is an hero fighting his ordeal on the outside in the lands of Middle-earth, but most at all inside his soul. He and Sam are joined in purpose and love, as in Shelob’s Lair, but they fight their separate, personal battle, with different aim and ways. This seems to me clear from the book and is conveyed by its narration. They are together but are different types of hero with unlike fate.
How is possible to convey this difference using image? Separating the two and showing they distinct battles, and evidencing his difference with an argument.
Your post is too intriguing, I would like to add other comments, but I have no time at present. Thank you for now, I will return later.
*hugs you*
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-24 00:56 (UTC) (Link)
[re-posted for terrible formatting]

So book Frodo is an hero fighting his ordeal on the outside in the lands of Middle-earth, but most at all inside his soul. He and Sam are joined in purpose and love, as in Shelob’s lair, but they fight their separate, personal battle, with different aim and ways. This seems to me clear from the book and is conveyed by its narration. They are together but are different types of hero with unlike fate.
How is possible to convey this difference using image? Separating the two and showing they distinct battles, and evidencing his difference with an argument.


Estelanui! Thanks for not taking me to task on my rudimentary statement of Jungian archetypes! But besides thanking you for your indulgence, I wanted to comment particularly on the portion quoted above. What a cool concept! Yes, they are two different heroes (even if joined in purpose and in love), so of course their experiences, roles, and satisfactions/dissatisfactions in their roles would be very different.

I so appreciate that you said this:

How is possible to convey this difference using image? Separating the two and showing they distinct battles, and evidencing his difference with an argument.

The film did do that, you're right. I am in your debt for pointing it out. Although standard viewers ended up saying "Sam's the hero and Frodo's a wuss", it's not true, not even in the films. They were doing very different things, even if the two different things served the same cause--for the Quest and for themselves as individuals.
Estelanui - Francesca
estelanui at 2007-07-24 08:49 (UTC) (Link)
Also my knowledge of Jungian archetypes is rudimentary, Mechtild, I’m only enchanted by the depth of these subjects and from their capacity to enlighten both our culture and how we are ‘made’.

The filmmakers’ Frodo was already somewhat different from Tolkien’s Frodo, differences that helped make what would happen in this scene plausible. He’s far younger (thus more inexperienced) for starters. Also, perhaps on account of his youth and inexperience, he is both less wise and less hardy. Frodo bearing his burden silently is not Frodo of the film, nor could he be if audiences were to become involved with him as a character.

This is so true. I think the strong difference between book and movies is also derived from the different type of used language. The words arrive to and are understood by our logical part of the brain, while images go to the intuitive part. Logical and intuitive parts work in a different ways and use separated elements. I like to think that the logical brain is more detailed, subtle and complex, but intuitive part is fast, immediate, less subtle but more piercing.

So, book Frodo is a fifty years old, a grown man also for hobbit standard, with his life experiences and an introverted character. His quest is the transformation of an adult person in the middle of his life. As I wrote, his personal battle is external, but most of all internal. In the book we have direct clues of this fight till TTT, then Frodo’s POV is fading, the main POV is Sam’s and he became the front line hero. Frodo remains the main hero, IMO, but Professors seems disinclined to speak directly with Frodo voice. Till the end, during the climax at Sammath Naur, where his internal battle became again clear and continues toward the Grey Havens.

How is possible to show with images Frodo internal battle that also Tolkien let see by means of other character POV? How to show Frodo’s slow and progressive transformation during the quest and his dramatic failure with the aftermath leading to the giving up to Middle-earth?
Image language isn’t slow, or progressive; they convey a concentrated content in a short time. This language uses ‘quantum’ of communication instead of the constant flowing of words.

I think Fran, Phillipa and Peter chose to ‘externalize’ Frodo battle showing his transformation with dramatic scene disseminated along the story. “Go home, Sam” is one of them, along with the controversial scene in Orgiliath with the nazgul.
While in the book Frodo transformation was slow with the sudden peak at Sammath Naur, in the movie we saw a decreasing step by step with the expected failure at the end. In the film at Sammath Naur the descent is complete and we don’t need the aftermath in the Shire.

They also ‘externalize’ Frodo character, from a middle aged hobbit, to a young man with an amazing look. The transformation of a young person is more visual than the adult one.

So, Frodo book and Frodo movie are different characters. Oh, yes, but they are the same hero.

Besides the beauty and technical perfection of the films this is the reason why PJ’s LotR was an accurate transposition of the book: changing almost every main character aspect he gave us the same archetypes and also Professor’s message.

IMHO, of course.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-25 12:57 (UTC) (Link)
Sorry I'm late replying. I didn't have time to answer before work yesterday and when I got home last night LJ was down. It was still down when I went to bed (earlyish, I have a cold). Woo hoo, it's back!

Wow, Estelanui, you should put this all in an essay. You are right about making their point with a young Frodo to accentuate the difference in Frodo "before and after". And I think you are right about the scene in Osgiliath on the wall (another favourite controversial scene) serving to "externalize" Frodo's inner battle, too, although I wish they had left Faramir out of it (declaring he would take the Ring to his father).

I'm not sure I understand you here, though:

So, Frodo book and Frodo movie are different characters. Oh, yes, but they are the same hero.

Did you mean that although they are different characters they both are [archetypical] heroes? I would agree with that, but not that they end up portraying the same hero.
Estelanui - Francesca
estelanui at 2007-07-25 14:51 (UTC) (Link)
I have a cold
I hope now you feel better, Mechtid!

I wrote "So, Frodo book and Frodo movie are different characters. Oh, yes, but they are the same hero."
Sorry for my usual wild English. :)

I meant that Frodo book and Frodo movie represent the same archetype even if their characteristics as characters (age, nature, temper) are different.

Frodo’s quest in LotR is the transformation journey of an adult person. His well settled life sudden change because of the Ring, he is the chosen one and consent to sacrifice his life for a task concerning all Middle-earth. To accomplish his task he face both external and internal evil and the quest increase his awareness and complete the span of his life.
I think this is applicable to both Frodo book and movie. This archetype, IMO, symbolizes one of the human passage related with middle age, a sort of preparation for the last part of the life.

The archetype is different from Harry Potter one, for example.
HP quest is the journey of a young person from childhood to adult, and a character-building. Also HP is a chosen one, face external evil and personal limits, the quest increase his awareness and prepare him for adult life.. This is a ‘rite of passage’ in the human growing toward adulthood.

Elijah-Frodo look maybe drive audience to think of his quest is like HP one, but I don’t think so. Frodo movie is young only in his look, he is an adult and his quest isn’t about character-formation.

The filmmakers choices of Frodo look and to underline his initial innocence and the loss during the quest, may be, help in make apparently different film character from the book.

But I can’t see the difference in the hero archetype between movie and book. I can see only different ways (languages) of expression.

What do you think about, Mech? :)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-25 23:46 (UTC) (Link)
Hi! I'm back home. I still have a cold but I'm hoping it's improved. I am tired of falling into bed at night after I finish washing up after dinner.

I like very much what you said about the two versions of Frodo based on their place in life (person on the cusp of adult life, person settled in adult life), both undergoing a transformative journey (hero quests always being transformative journeys?).

I didn't mean to say Frodo was like HP, though, only that film Frodo shared with HP an emphasis on an internal journey that focussed on his meeting a dark side within himself (Frodo-his special connection to Sauron via the Ring, HP-his special connection with Voldemort via his wounding, moreso in HP than LotR, even), that is not evident in book Frodo's journey. Well, it isn't evident to me, anyway. I know people see it there, especially after the films. But I really don't see Frodo Baggins facing his dark side being a theme in LotR, only that he faces the Dark Side, which overpowers him whether he will or not. The sense I get in the film, however, is that the "dark side" is something waiting to be tapped in Frodo, as it is in HP, using their intuitions and emotions to "get" them. In that way they seem to touch upon the idea of human beings needing to master their more primal emotions, which not only provide the wellsprings of life but destroy it if allowed to run amok. I have never seen this as a theme running through the Frodo story line in LotR, or any of the story, perhaps because the novel is so permeated by the world view of its creator. Or maybe because I have read so much about Tolkien and his views I simply am not able to see what is in his text, even if he did not intend it.

Is that what you mean? That Tolkien has written into his Frodo story line the sort of "journey into the heart of darkness that is in fact his own darkness" that is in the films, but didn't realise it? I am confused, perhaps. I still don't have a clear head.

Estelanui - Francesca
estelanui at 2007-07-28 15:05 (UTC) (Link)
This answer is delayed because I was in the last week before vacation and at work I had to close pending stuff and deadlines that always arrive inevitably when you think you have finished. :)
Now I’m tired but free from job rush, at least.

I think quite all hero quests are transformative journeys, a cycle of death (of the old stage of life) and resurrection (in a new, more aware stage).

I used HP quest only as an example because it contains a lot of elements of Frodo’s one, and this because Rowling said she was strongly inspired from Tolkien’s word. But HP and Frodo quest are similar only on the surface, being the two heroes and archetypes completely different: the growing from childhood to adult for the former, and the transformation of a middle aged adult and his preparation for the last part of the life for Frodo.

I also think that Frodo in the book face his internal dark side and have to accept/tame/fight with it, but isn’t immediately evident like in LotR movies. First at all because, from TTT, Tolkien seems disinclined to speak directly with Frodo voice and we see him through other POV. And then because LotR is a very sophisticated tale written with the ‘language’ of ancient legend and its symbols are complex and have a not univocal meaning.

The Ring, the Barrow-wights, the Black readers, Watcher in the Water, Shelob and most at all Gollum are not only characters of the story, but also representations of Frodo’s ‘dark side’. And some of them more in the book than in the movie.

Is that what you mean? That Tolkien has written into his Frodo story line the sort of "journey into the heart of darkness that is in fact his own darkness"…

I agree with Timothy O’Neil’s idea in ‘The individuated hobbit’: Frodo’s quest is the individuation journey of an adult. He have to face Middle-earth Darkness, that is also his personal darkness.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-28 17:02 (UTC) (Link)
I agree with Timothy O’Neil’s idea in ‘The individuated hobbit’: Frodo’s quest is the individuation journey of an adult. He have to face Middle-earth Darkness, that is also his personal darkness.

That sounds familiar. Was the the piece you pointed me to last year, that we discussed in emails and for your review? If so, that was pretty fascinating. I wish I could remember things properly. I think my brain is on a downhill slide.
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2007-07-24 13:34 (UTC) (Link)
Welcome back from your holiday Mechling!

Thank you for your insightful essay, I enjoyed it very much.

--Estë
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-07-24 13:48 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Estë!
Elycia
elycia at 2007-08-04 08:44 (UTC) (Link)
Hi! I wandered over here from Middle Earth News, and I have to say, I'm REALLY impressed! It's obvious that you've put a TON of thought and research into this. It's fascinating reading and provides a number of perspectives and background details that I never had considered before. I very much appreciate your taking the time to write this up and share it. As a semi-rabid devotee of all things Frodo & Sam, I always welcome any new opportunity for character evaluation, and this has provided that in spades. Thank you so much!
mechling at 2007-08-04 14:26 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for dropping in, Elycia. I have put a lot of thought into this essay, yes. But, as has been the case preparing a lot of the screencap entries, the thought is stimulated by preparing the caps, and typing out the book and script excerpts. When I sit down to reflect on them, the act of finally trying to clarify my thoughts in writing always seems elicit ideas and possible conclusions. I have always wondered how I could enjoy this sequence, including Go Home Sam, so much, yet be such a book purist, and such a critic of so many other parts of the films, parts that don't even deviate as much. I decided there had to be something fundamentally "true" about the scenes, or I wouldn't find them as effective and evocative as I did.

That's generally been my approach to things. If something moves me strongly, postively or negatively or both, I always want to know why. Sort of like St. Augustine's approach towards thinking about god, "faith seeking understanding." He started from the experience that had seized him, then tried to make sense of it.
earths_daughter
earths_daughter at 2007-08-07 09:29 (UTC) (Link)
Brilliant essay, Mectild. I have to say I love this scene for its acting and it dose not offend me as much as I feel it should.

Although it offends against canon, this is one of the best-acted scenes in the entire trilogy. Frodo, exhausted and only half-awake, is hit in quick succession with the loss of their food, Sam’s accusation of Gollum, Gollum’s denial, supported by logic, his counter-accusation of Sam, apparently supported by evidence, and finally, Sam’s murderous physical attack on Gollum followed by what might be the initial signs of a desire for the ring. His disbelief, his struggle to take in the implictions of the loss of their food, his confusion at the accusations and counter-accusations, his suspicion and his pain at having to dismiss Sam are vivid. I don’t think he believes for a moment that Sam ate the lembas; he just doesn’t know what to believe. As Frodo struggles to make sense of these events, Sam, also exhausted and consequently prone to ill-judged actions, attacks Gollum more violently than ever. This is the second time Frodo has had to physically rescue Gollum from Sam and the confontations are escalting. As in the book “sneaking” scene, Frodo is too tired to address Gollum’s sense of injury, here he is too tired to continue keeping Gollum and Sam apart. The success of the quest is paramount and he needs a guide more than he needs Sam. Sam’s innocent (or maybe not so innocent) offer to carry the ring may herald what he must have dreaded since Galadriel’s warning that “one by one……”, regardless of Gollum’s insinuations. Taken all together, the risk of continuing with Sam is too great and he makes the fateful decision to go on with Gollum alone.

The greater equality of status between Frodo and Sam in the film make this scene almost inevitable. In the book Sam often wishes he could get his hands on Gollum but Frodo’s presence is enough to constrain him. Faced with a insubordinate Sam losing control of himself, book Frodo might well have come to the same decision, though he owuld have explained to Sam more gently why he had to go.
mechling at 2007-08-07 13:23 (UTC) (Link)
Super laying out of the film scene, Brummie. Yes, I am sure this is what the writers talked about planning how it would work.

The success of the quest is paramount and he needs a guide more than he needs Sam. Sam’s innocent (or maybe not so innocent) offer to carry the ring may herald what he must have dreaded since Galadriel’s warning that “one by one……”, regardless of Gollum’s insinuations. Taken all together, the risk of continuing with Sam is too great and he makes the fateful decision to go on with Gollum alone.

I think this is absolutely the right take on the situation. I like that you stressed that it wasn't the silly "Sam ate all the food" charge that carried weight with Frodo but the fact that he couldn't afford to lose Gollum, the only one who could get him into Mordor. In the book Frodo is less fraught and at about this time he actually dismisses Gollum, telling him they ought to be able to find their way at this point so that he's free to go, as long as he doesn't inform on them.

Film Frodo is far more stressed and depleted, and does not seem able to entertain the idea of *not* needing Gollum's help anytime in the foreseeable future. This emphasizes exponentially his need to keep Gollum alive and willing to lead, even at the expense of dismissing Sam. To me, film Frodo is not portrayed as focussed on the completion of the Quest as is book Frodo, which makes his choosing Gollum over Sam play a little differently. But I am willing to accept that we are to *assume* Frodo is as focussed on completing the Quest (rather than just slogging ahead hanging onto the Ring as long as possible).

I also think you are right on target about the greater equality of Sam and Frodo in the films. Yes, book Sam never was insubordinate, although he gave his opinion. But mostly he kept his mouth shut, never openly countermanded Frodo, and did not attack Gollum even when he would like to. But I can't agree that book Sam would have behaved like film Sam even if he had been permitted. He's just a lot more canny, and even-tempered, than film Sam. It's perhaps part of the overall change of this storyline, in which Sam's scene of mercy towards Gollum is cut (on the side of Mt. Doom), with only his attack on Gollum preserved. That strong, even violent emotions play better than reflective, thoughful ones in a basic thesis of this film. I'd say it worked very well on screen.

Well, off to work! Thanks so much for commenting Brummie. You bring a lot to the conversation. :)

~ Mechtild
julchen11
julchen11 at 2007-08-29 21:12 (UTC) (Link)
Welcome back! OK, I AM late but better late than never. It’s wonderful to see you here and
M y reader’s heart is beaming!

What a post. Finally I finished the translation and – yay – there is so much to come, busy bee.
The scene … one can’t compare this scene to the books and I never did. Of course when Frodo sends Sam away “Go home Sam!” it’s hard to bear. This scene is one of the most emotional scenes – for my part – of the trilogy.
It’s true some people were screaming – NEVER ever would Frodo have sent Sam awa and NEVER ever would have Sam left Frodo alone. But … this scene works. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood did an incredible job here, imagining how many time went by between those shots. Some people said it’s a horrible scene, Frodo is .. how to say – simply vile …
For me he’s not. As I said one can’t compare book Frodo to film Frodo. In the films Frodo constantly loses character, in the books he doesn’t.
When Sam discovers the lembas – this scene shows much of book-Sam, he’s strong, hardly to manipulate, no… NOT to manipulate no matter what.
This scene is amazing, for me it fits very well to both hobbits.
The screencaps … oh my … I can only but stare, dream and think about those wonderful works – Tolkien’s book, Peter Jackon’s films and your post.
Thank you, love.
Your discussion, the caps, everything is truly stunning.

And now – I’m off to the next part.

You should know – snails are NOT faster *giggles*

Love you, my dear
Julchen

Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-08-30 00:50 (UTC) (Link)
I still can't get over how much work you put into reading these posts, Julchen. You are a true-blue Frodo and LotR fan, that's for sure.

Thanks so much for your comments. From my post you can see that I agree that the scene is a powerful one, well-played and shot--but so shocking to the book-reader! Because the scene worked for me so well as drama, in spite of the fact that it was heretical, made me wonder what about it was true. For I don't find I can really love scenes if I don't find them "true" to something running through Tolkien, at a deep level, even if they aren't canon.
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