Moria Pt. 1: Frodo and Gandalf talk about Pity, plus jan-u-wine's "In Durin's Halls"....
When I was at my mother’s last month, I watched all the LotR films on her big, lovely flat-screen TV, something we don’t own. While watching this scene I thought what fine screencaps it would make. Having watched all the films through again, I don’t think there’s a scene in the trilogy in which Frodo looks younger. More than in any of the scenes that come before it, Frodo’s face looks terribly young in this exchange with Gandalf, his cheeks still plumped with the underlying fat of childhood. Even though he's wearing the same costume and make-up as in other sequences, in this scene Elijah Wood looks little older than he did in The Ice Storm or even Oliver Twist.
It may seem odd to have Frodo still so young-looking half-way into the Quest, but I think it serves the film-story well. When I watch Frodo in this scene, spitting out his testy complaint to Gandalf after finding that Gollum has followed them into the mines, I can’t help comparing him to the Frodo who spares Gollum in Shelob’s tunnel, two films later. The angry, even contemptuous face of the plump-cheeked boy has become that of a care-worn adult, lined and streaked with dirt and tears and sweat, weary with bone-deep tiredness.
When I watch the scene in Shelob's tunnel I am referred back, consciously or unconsciously, to this early scene with Gandalf in Moria about Gollum and the showing of pity. To have finished Gollum off, throttling him in the tunnel, would have been the consummation of callow Frodo's wish. But Frodo in the tunnel is sadder, wiser, and far older than the hobbit who entered Moria only months before.
The tone of Frodo’s condemning remark (“It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him while he had the chance!") comes across differently in the book, as it is set in a different place in the narrative. The remark comes early on, just after Gandalf has told Frodo of the nature of the Ring -- dreadful and terrible. Gandalf checks Frodo's vindictive response, reminding him of the wholesome effects of Bilbo's "Pity", and Frodo relents a little. "I am sorry," Frodo apologizes, "but I am frightened." Alarm and distress seem to have prompted his ejaculation more than the spirit of judgement, although Frodo clearly finds Gollum contemptible (“He deserves death”).
After Gandalf delivers his admonition in the film, Frodo is chastened by the wizard's words, but he makes no explicit apology. But his worried, aggrieved face foreshadows the one he will show in the crises to come, when he will struggle again and again to discern -- and do -- what he thinks is right towards Gollum -- even after Gollum has not only followed him into the mines but betrayed him, cut him off from his dearest friend, and tried to kill him in order to get the Ring. That Frodo spares him at this point, mid-throttle (how sweet it must have felt), shows how far Frodo has come from the Mines of Moria.
For easy reference, I am including excerpts from both the book and film scenes. I have provided quite a lot of the book scene because the lines used in the film come from various places in the sequence. And just because I love it, I have included the concluding bit when it is said of Frodo, "a great desire to follow Bilbo flamed up in his heart – to follow Bilbo, and even perhaps to find him again," along with Gandalf's remark that hobbits "really are amazing creatures". Indeed they are. Well, at least a few of them.
Again, there are a lot of screencaps (36), so I apologize to dial-up readers. Also, as usual, the caps have been tweaked and cropped.
Film scene from FotR:
Frodo looks down into the cavern and sees a small figure leaping from stone to stone. Startled, he approaches Gandalf.
Frodo: There’s something down there.
Gandalf: It’s Gollum.
Gandalf: He’s been following us for three days.
Frodo: He escaped the dungeons of Barad-Dur!
Gandalf: Escaped? Or was set loose?
From the distance below, Gollum looks up, his large eyes pierces the darkness and observes the company
Gandalf: He hates and loves the Ring, as he hates and loves himself. He will never be rid of his need for it.
Frodo: It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance!
Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo?
Gandalf: Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. Even the very wise can not see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.
Gollum slinks off. Frodo sits down next to Gandalf
Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you also were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.
Book scene, abridged, from The Shadow of the Past :
Before the story of Gollum, before the story of Isildur and Gil-galad, Gandalf has told Frodo that the Ring is the One Ring, and that Sauron has arisen again.
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do the the time that is given us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black.
Gandalf tells Frodo the story of how Sauron lost the Ring, how it was discovered in the Great River by Déagol of finishing up by confirming that the nine Ringwraiths are now looking for the Shire, and for Baggins....
’But this is terrible!’ cried Frodo. ‘Far worse than the worst that I imagined from your hints and warnings. O Gandalf, best of friends, what am I to do? For now I am really afraid. What as I to do? What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’
‘Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership with the Ring so. With Pity.’
‘I am sorry,’ said Frodo. ‘But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.’
‘You have not seen him,’ Gandalf broke in.
‘No, and I don’t want to,’ said Frodo. ‘I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.’
‘Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is boung up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least. In any case we did not kill him: he is very old and very wretched. The Wood-elves have him in prison, but they treat him with such kindness as they can find in their wise hearts.’
‘All the same,’ said Frodo, ‘even if Bilbo could not kill Gollum, I wish he had not kept the Ring. I wish he had never found it, and that I had not got it! (…)
Trying to encourage Frodo, Gandalf tells him:
’There was more than one power at work, Frodo. The Ring was trying to get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur’s hand and betrayed him; then when a chance came it caught poor Déagol, and he was murdered; and after that Gollum, and it devoured him. It could make no further use of him; he was too small and mean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!
Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.’
‘It is not,’ said Frodo. (…)
Gandalf tells Frodo that the Ring must be cast into the Cracks of Doom, if Frodo really wishes to destroy it.
‘I do really wish to destroy it!’ cried Frodo. ‘Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?’
‘Such questions cannot be answered,’ said Gandalf. ‘You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.’
‘But I have so little of any of these things!’ (…)
’I should like to save the Shire, if I could – though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don’t feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.
‘Of course, I have sometimes thought of going away, but I imagined that as a kind of holiday, a series of adventures like Bilbo’s or better, ending in peace. But this would mean exile, a flight from danger into danger, drawing it after me. And I suppose I must go alone, if I am to do that and save the Shire. But I feel very small, and very uprooted, and well – desperate. The Enemy is so strong and terrible.’
He did not tell Gandalf, but as he was speaking a great desire to follow Bilbo flamed up in his heart – to follow Bilbo, and even perhaps to find him again. It was so strong that it overcame his fear: he could almost have run out there and then down the road without his hat, as Bilbo had done on a similar morning long ago.
‘My dear Frodo!’ exclaimed Gandalf. ‘Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.’
~ From FotR: "There's something down there..."
After I posted this, I found out that jan-u-wine had written a brilliant short poem that went very well with these caps. In it Frodo reflects on being in the long dark of Moria. Jan-u-wine's "In Durin's Halls" is below.
In Durin's Halls ~ by jan-u-wine
It grew desperate there,
desperate within the close confines of Khazad-dum,
evil waiting before,
devilry following hard after.
Poison spreading, even in our midst.
And there, with the dark,
in the dark, came the smooth, certain first fear
that I should never know Home again.
And I must not, between the goodly cause of all that lies behind, and the darkened prospect of that which yet