Here concludes the EE scene of Sam and Frodo descending the cliff in the Emyn Muil. The film scene excerpt will be followed by the caps, which will be followed by a poem by jan-u-wine, inspired by the film scene. After the caps I will post an excerpt from the book scene, followed by a longish reflection.
In the caps below, Frodo opens the little box and looks inside, while Sam further defends his reasons for bringing it. The succession of looks on Frodo’s face is wonderful to me. Subtle, yet vivid, they lead the viewer to look more closely into Frodo’s character, suggesting the variety and depth of his feelings and associations as he gazes at the crystals of salt inside.
As Frodo looks, the tone of the scene changes from what it was, signalled by Howard Shore's scoring, which introduces a reflective, melancholy version of the Shire theme. The score shifts to a whimsical figure as the mood of the scene shifts back to light humour, the topic of conversation switching to the Elven rope. When it inexplicably falls to the ground, Sam is comically confounded and astonished. Frodo plays the straight man, matter-of-factly remarking, “real Elvish rope.”Film scene, concluded:Sam: It's very special, that. It's the best salt in all the Shire.
Frodo: It is special. It's a little bit of home.
Frodo: (Looking at the rope.) We can't leave this here for someone to follow us down.
Sam: Who's going to follow us down here, Mr. Frodo. It's a shame, really. Lady Galadriel gave me that. Real Elvish rope. Well, there's nothing for it. It's one of my knots. Won't come free in a hurry. (Sam gives a tug, the rope comes free.)
Frodo: Real Elvish rope!
As usual, the screencaps of this scene have been cropped and adjusted for brightness, contrast and focus.
~ Frodo considers the box of salt:
~*~In the following poem jan-u-wine treats on the little box Sam carries in this film scene, the box of salt from the Shire. I think it beautifully opens out this scene from Sam's point of view.A Gardener’s Gift
~ by jan-u-wine
'Tis a fair way
(such a very fair way)
'twixt here and the bright
fields of home.
I have carried it
all that long way,
plain as a wish
against my heart.
And now I draw it out.
It speaks to me,
it recalls to me the things I've lost
and those I never shall.
And for one moment,
here in this dark land,
you are curious,
as ever you were,
and wonder what
might be contained
within such a homely box.
Yes, it is all of that.
It speaks of Home,
and the simple things
that lie an age and more
My fingers touch the rough carve
of the lid
(picked out by myself one lazy summer's eve
not so long ago),
prize the brass hasp open.
And Home spills out,
shining sweet and fine
upon black rock.
We call it such at home,
these strange pebbles
that of the Sea-Lady's distilled tears are made.
Other tears there are,
spilling silent in this dread place.
Tears of remembrance.
And I close your hand about the plain
solid comfort of the box.
Little enough it is,
little enough to remind us of sweet ale
and bitter leaf,
of Spring-green mornings,
and bonfire Harvest nights…
this crystalline bit of home,
a gardener's gift of
There is no “little box of salt” scene in LotR, but there is a retrieving of the rope. The scene is quite different from the film version; not in the bare details, but in the tone, and the way the two characters react to the loosing of the rope.Book scene, continued, from "The Taming of Sméagol":Frodo and Sam get down safely, but realise they must sacrifice the Elven rope, still tied fast to the stump above. Sam is dismayed and grieved.
’I don’t like leaving it, and that’s a fact.’ He stroked the rope’s end and shook it gently. ‘It goes hard parting with anything I brought out of the Elf-country. Made by Galadriel herself, too, maybe. Galadriel,’ he murmured, nodding his head mournfully. He looked up and gave one last pull to the rope as if in farewell.
To the complete surprise of both the hobbits it came loose. Sam fell over, and the long grey coils slithered silently down on top of him. Frodo laughed. ‘Who tied the rope?’ he said. ‘A good thing it held as long as it did! To think that I trusted all my weight to your knot!’
Sam does not laugh, defending his knot-making skills, learned in Tighfield.
’Then the rope must have broken—frayed on the rock-edge, I expect,’ said Frodo.
‘I bet it didn’t!’ said Sam in an even more injured voice. He stooped and examined the ends. ‘Nor it hasn’t neither. Not a strand!’
‘Then I’m afraid it must have been the knot,’ said Frodo.
Sam shook his head and did not answer. He was passing the rope through his fingers thoughtfully. ‘Have it your own way, Mr. Frodo,’ he said at last, ‘but I thing the rope came off itself—when I called.’ He coiled it up and stowed it lovingly in his pack.
‘It certainly came,’ said Frodo, ‘and that’s the chief thing. But now we’ve got to think of our next move. Night well be on us soon,. How beautiful the stars are, and the Moon!’
Reflection on the Elven rope scene (book version).
To me, this book scene demonstrates a significant difference between the perspectives of Frodo and Sam. This scene shows well how Sam is most likely to take things on faith, operating out of his instincts and feelings, while Frodo tends to put things to the test of reason, acting according to what he judges to be right or just based on what he thinks, rather than what he feels. In fact, Frodo typically undertakes a course of action in spite of his feelings, however strongly felt they are. Sam, on the other hand, feels he's gone wrong when he doesn't follow his feelings. But this relates to the primary concerns of each in the Quest, too. Frodo's goal is to accomplish the Quest, Sam's goal is to stick by and help Frodo in it. Frodo's eye is on the mission, Sam's is on Frodo. It's appropriate that Frodo as Quest leader should make decisions based on his best-weighed judgements, and Sam on his deep feelings of protective loyalty. (These preferences have their limiting aspects, for Frodo anyway, which I will address further on.)
This is one of the differences between them that makes them so complementary as a team, although they do learn to operate (or are forced to learn) in each other's styles.
During the Quest, Sam is forced to use his reason to come up with plans of action as Frodo becomes more and more incapacitated, carrying the Ring. Sam is never comfortable doing that, but he proves himself more than capable, no matter how he berates himself for leaving Frodo in the pass of Cirith Ungol in order to carry out the Quest (a habit acquired from years of hearing the Gaffer call him names). Sam must assume the role of leader, then, and needs to use strenuous thinking in order to do it. I am agog every time, so impressed am I as I read the darker chapters, witnessing “simple Sam” using his wits, trouble-shooting and just flying by the seat of his pants in very tight places, meeting each crisis and challenge as it comes. His example inspires me when I feel at my own wit's end in some new emergency, in which there seems to be no way out.
So, too, Frodo is made to learn Sam’s way of knowing things—made to rely on "feelings": intuition, instinct, "faith", if you will—when his reason can’t be trusted, or he’s too weary to use it. When I read scenes like the Emyn Muil, when Frodo is made blind, I almost get the sense that these situations are put there to *force* Frodo to turn to these other ways of knowing—ways he tends not to use, preferring to know things by reason or “sight”. "Sight" can mean extra-sensory understanding (as in the Tookish Sight), but “sight” also means knowledge obtained by reason. “Yes, I see,” one says to the maths professor or the plumber explaining the new drains, to show a concept is understood.
In the Emyn Muil scene it is comparatively early on in Frodo’s “education”. He has learnt a lot about the “reality under reality” in Lórien—his senses for both the natural and supernatural world sharpened by the wound at Weathertop and having put on the Ring—but he still doesn’t “believe” in, or trust what he’s perceived. This is not true for Sam, even though Sam is not [yet] nearly as observant, hasn’t worn the Ring, and hasn’t had his perceptions changed by a wound from the Morgul blade. But Sam nevertheless seems readier to “see,” in the intuitive sense, to “believe” and "trust" in the world the Elves make visible and which operates through them.
In the scene above, it is Sam who insists that the loosing of the rope, however uncanny, happened because the rope is from the Elves, from Galadriel. Frodo insists it’s due to something physical, something "normal".
Speaking earlier about when he felt suddenly blind on the ledge, Frodo says he saw the rope out of his blindness because it “shimmered somehow”. Sam answers that it does look a bit silver, in the dark, although he hadn’t noticed it before. This exchange tells me that Frodo—plunged into total, inexplicable darkness at the cry of the Nazgul overhead—did *not* see the Elven rope because it was particularly silvery, but because the rope was a gift of the Elves, with otherworldly properties, given to be a help at need. It is characteristic of Frodo, though, to go for an empirical explanation.
In the argument with Sam about why the rope came loose, Frodo similarly tries to establish an explanation from reason. The rope broke. It was frayed. Sam tied it improperly. No, Sam says, showing how none of these could be true. Sam insists—even against the revered Mr. Frodo—that the rope came down of its own accord (i.e. by otherwordly means).
“Have it your own way,” Sam says to Frodo, not budging an inch. “But the rope came when I called for it.”
Even if Sam couldn’t demonstrate why this was so, as he might the lay-out of a planned Bag End marrow plot, he “knew” the rope came because he called for it. He had called on the name of its giver, even if he hadn’t called for the rope intentionally.
“Galadriel,” Sam murmurs after he finishes pining for the Elvish rope that would have to be left behind. That’s when the rope slithers to the ground. I think this is meant to be understood as Sam's unconscious invocation of the Lady of the Golden Wood. Interestingly, it is Frodo, not Sam, who remains sceptical. Frodo, who actually talked more with the Lady, and at greater depth than anyone in the story, is unmoved by the notion, even by the sight of Sam stowing the rope “lovingly” in his pack. Frodo merely concedes the fact of what happened: “It certainly came." He qualifies his concession immediately by stressing the practical aspect, saying, “and that’s the chief thing. But now we’ve got to think of our next move.” Frodo effectively dismisses the idea of ropes that come when called and changes the subject.
Using more contemporary categories, compared to Frodo, Sam resembles a person who goes by faith, while Frodo, whatever he believes, is a rationalist. Sam’s is a simple faith, almost childish, but sustaining and heart-felt. Implicitly, he believes in a power for good, the power that is behind and working through the Elves—working for the good of the Fellowship, which means Frodo and Sam—and he understands without thinking that whatever the Elves make or give carries that power in or with it. For Sam, if Galadriel has given these ropes for their use, then they aren’t just especially well-made ropes, they are imbued with special virtues, virtues that cannot be demonstrated to or appropriated by reason.
One needn’t be a rustic or a simpleton to have this sort of faith in the "charmed" or "supernatural" properties of objects. Sam’s is a strong example, but there are lesser, every-day versions of it. Take the CEO, who holds no conscious beliefs about the supernatural, who nevertheless won’t enter a high-stakes poker game without his “lucky pants” (or some equivalent good luck charm). Whatever his conscious beliefs, his actions show he believes that there is something like providence, if called only “luck”. For this sort of “luck” is not the same as “chance,” because it can be appealed to. Chance "just happens". But people's actions imply that whatever provides "luck" can be influenced. If they do such-and-such, luck will come to them. If they fail to do it, they will be without luck: "luck-less"; "un-lucky".
Frodo would not be this sort of gambler (if he gambled). As a rationalist, even if his belief system included a whole pantheon of divinities, he would not wear “lucky pants,” or carry a rock that had pointed the way out when lost on a childhood camping trip. He’d more likely eschew such things on purpose: pants are pants and rocks are rocks. To insist otherwise is foolishness—like listening to the tales of old gammers. This is a reasonable and recognizable point of view, but it is at odds with the one undergirding LotR, which continually supports the premise that there is more to the world than what can be perceived by the senses, and more that walks and has walked than what this individual or that people judge from narrow experience. There are many instances in which the "stuff of tales", dismissed, is shown by the wise to be greater than "sensible" knowledge.
Think of how Gandalf calls Aragorn to come and tend the sick in the Houses of Healing, as well as the subsequent to-do about finding some athelas. It’s Ioreth who still is in touch with the old lore, knowing the old rhymes and sayings, even if she has been taught to think of them dismissively. Her recited rhyme (about the king who has the hands of a healer) prompts Gandalf to send for the king. And when Aragorn comes, asking for athelas, Ioreth, although she repeats what she’s learned (“it’s a weed”), is open and eager to give the old lore a chance. Her attitude is contrasted with that of the herb-master. Asked about the plant, he trots out a great deal of academic knowledge, but does not, cannot see that “kingsfoil” has any special virtue. Aragorn admonishes the herb-master. He has much lore but little wisdom. He’s lost touch with older, deeper, truer knowledge, and would do well to follow Ioreth’s example.
I think had Aragorn been present in the Emyn Muil during Frodo and Sam’s argument about the rope, he would have taken Sam’s part. Sam’s reasoning would compare to Ioreth’s, but Frodo’s to the herb-master's. At the start of the Quest, Frodo is a gentleman scholar. He has more book-knowledge and lore than anyone in the Shire, after Bilbo. But the deeper wisdom Aragorn represents and encourages is something Frodo gains as the Quest goes on, by increments. Sam, who thinks of himself as foolish because he is unlearned, is often ahead of Frodo in this. But Sam has the advantage of Frodo in this, on account of his habitual perspective. He is at his best operating out of his feelings, which are strong and pure. He would have “known” the rope came when he called, even without the proofs.
Frodo, of all the book characters, is perhaps closest to modern-era people. As Elvish as he is in some ways—highly perceptive, and with a keen aesthetic sense—Frodo is curiously resistant to the transcendent in other ways. He accepts the gifts the Elves give him. He acknowledges that they are beautifully made and fair to see, and useful when put to the test, but it is only gradually that he seems to accept them as gifts that bear virtues he cannot see or understand through reason. Perhaps hardest of all is seeing that they are gifts for him—him in particular—Frodo of the Shire—Mr. Ordinary Person Baggins (so he thinks). While he sees that he has been singled out to bear a unique and dreadful burden, it is far less often that he sees that he has been singled out for rare gifts, too. Similarly, he’s able to believe there are Valar who care in some way for Middle-earth, but that they should care for him, and convey that care in the form of “magical” gifts, gifts for him, seems harder for him to take in.
I don’t mean to imply that Sam believes in the gifts as magical objects. People through the ages have believed in supernatural things—talismans, holy places, magical incantations—but they have not always connected the supernatural things to whatever made or gave these things for their benefit. They just do it. Rub the rock, say the incantation, and it delivers a benefit. Sleep in a special grotto, and a beneficial dream will come to you. Press a button on the remote control and the TV will turn on. Who or what provided the rock or grotto (or TV) is not dwelt upon; these things just *are*.
Sam’s faith is not like this. His faith is more like that of characters in other legends and tales, in which the empowering gifts are seen for what they are: clear signs of favour, to be blessings to their bearers and their endeavours. LotR is full of such empowered objects—tangible things blessed with special powers for good—but objects that are meant to point beyond themselves. Anduril, Sting, Glamdring; the swords of Westernesse inscribed with mighty runes, the fabulous Dwarvish mail, the phial filled with the light of Eärendil, the wonderful Elven ropes and cloaks, the uncanny way-bread that not only sustains the body but hardens the will, trees that bloom as signs to Kings wondering if they will have issue, specially protective gems, boats that won’t sink, restorative liquors—all of these are common things made uncommon, because of who made them and gave them, their intentions passed into them to work for the good of those who receive them.
Frodo sees that the gifts are special, but the sense of these tangible things as bearers of the intangible—especially in so far as they bear these things for him— is not quite there for Frodo, not in this scene, anyway. Only as his situation becomes more dire does Frodo begin to use these gifts with a better sense for what they truly are. I am thinking of when he reaches inside his inside his clothes to clutch the phial in states of terror or trying to resist the Ring, or clutching the white gem in the midst of his travail post-Quest.
Perhaps the greatest instance of Frodo coming to be able to truly accept and trust in tangible gifts that convey the supernatural was his sailing West. A tangible Elf-woman offered him her tangible place on a tangible ship, that would sail to a tangible place—even if in another dimension of the created world—but what Frodo was meant to receive through it was purely supernatural, not tangible: grace that he might be healed. Not just in body, for that was already mended in Gondor (and would remain mortal, anyway), but in heart—mind—soul: the parts that were completely intangible: that which is called, "spirit".
All this goes to offer yet more reasons (to myself and to you) why I love Frodo. I, too, have difficulty resisting the urge to judge and value things according to the tangible: that which can be assessed by empirical means. I know I should not, but I do it anyway. It is the way of the world, or my world. That Frodo, a person of reason, could yet learn to use other, deeper ways of knowing what is important, what is of value, and learn to surrender to it, encourages me in my own journey, as I try to come closer to whatever is “the reality under reality”.
ETA: In an email, jan-u-wine noted that I left out the One Ring, *surely* an object charged with supernatural powers. How true! But in this post I meant only to talk about the objects empowered for the good, not evil.
~ The Emyn Muil, Pt. 1 ~ “We’re not alone.”
~ The Emyn Muil, Pt. 2a ~ "Catch it, Mr. Frodo!"
~ The Emyn Muil, Pt. 2b ~ "A Little Bit of Home", essay,
plus jan-u-wine's "A Gardener's Gift".
Other tables of links:
~ Entries with jan-u-wine's poems.
~ Frodo & Elijah Wood screencap entries.
~ Art Travesty LJ presentations.
~ ALBUM of all Art Travesties (images only).