There are far too many caps for this scene to present in one post, so I am dividing them up into two entries, also dividing up the film script to go with them. Since the film scene reverses the order of parts of the book’s dialogue, however, the book scene sections won’t perfectly fit with the caps. Just so you'll know.
In the book version of this scene, the whole discussion about Gollum serving as their guide to Mordor happens directly after the night attack (Sam attacking Gollum, with Frodo lending his assistance).
The tying-up of Gollum (which I will post in the next entry), doesn’t come until he tries to sneak off. It is after Gollum cries pathetically at being tied that Frodo extracts Gollum’s promise to serve him, the “Master of the Precious.” Note, too, that Frodo calls Gollum Sméagol for the first time in this scene, but nothing special is made of it.
Book scene ~ from "The Taming of Sméagol", TTT.Frodo and Sam have been sleeping in the cold night of the Emyn Muil. Frodo gets up to go on guard when he spots Gollum climbing down the wall of rock, spider-wise. They watch and wait, determined to do something about the creature who has been following them since Moria. When Gollum slips and falls to the ground, Sam makes his lunge. Gollum is too quick and strong, though, and soon has Sam overpowered. Things might have gone ill if Frodo hadn’t sprung up, drawing Sting from its sheath.‘Let go! Gollum,’ he said. ‘This is Sting. You have seen it before once upon a time. Let go, or you’ll feel it this time! I’ll cut your throat.’
Gollum collapsed and went as loose as wet string. Sam got up, fingering his shoulder. His eyes smouldered with anger, but he could not avenge himself: his miserable enemy lay grovelling on the stones whimpering.
‘Don’t hurt us! Don’t let them hurt us, precious! They won’t hurt us will they, nice little hobbitses? We didn’t mean no harm, but they jumps on us like cats on poor mices, they did, precious. And we’re so lonely, gollum. We’ll be nice to them, very nice, if they’ll be nice to us, won’t we, yes, yess.’
‘Well, what’s to be done with it?’ said Sam. ‘Tie it up, so it can’t come sneaking after us no more, I say.’
‘But that would kill us, kill us,’ whimpered Gollum. ‘Cruel little hobbitses. Tie us up in the cold hard lands and leave us, gollum, gollum.’ Sobs welled up in his gobbling throat.
‘No,’ said Frodo. ‘If we kill him, we must kill him outright. But we can’t do that, as things are. Poor wretch! He has done us no harm.’
‘Oh, hasn’t he!’ said Sam rubbing his shoulder. ‘Anyway he meant to, and he means to, I’ll warrant. Throttle us in our sleep, that’s his plan.’
‘I daresay,’ said Frodo. ‘But what he means to do is another matter.’ He paused for a while in thought. Gollum lay still, but stopped whimpering. Sam stood glowering over him.
It seemed to Frodo then that he heard, quite plainly but far off, voices out of the past:What a pity Bilbo did not stab the vile creature, when he had a chance!
Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need.
I do not feel any pity for Gollum. He deserves death.
Deserves death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.
‘‘Very well,’ he answered aloud, lowering his sword. ‘But still I am afraid. And yet, as you see, I will not touch the creature. For now that I see him, I do pity him.’
Sam stared at his master, who seemed to be speaking to some one who was not there. Gollum lifted his head.
‘Yess, wretched we are, precious,’ he whined. ‘Misery misery! Hobbits won’t kill us, nice hobbits.’
‘No, we won’t,’ said Frodo. ‘But we won’t let you go, either. You’re full of wickedness and mischief, Gollum. You will have to come with us, that’s all, while we keep an eye on you. But you must help us, if you can. One good turn deserves another.’
‘Yess, yes indeed,’ said Gollum sitting up. ‘Nice hobbits! We will come with them. Find them safe paths in the dark, yes we will. And where are they going in these cold hard lands, we wonders, yes we wonders?’ He looked up at them, and a faint light of cunning and eagerness flickered for a second in his pale blinking eyes.
Sam scowled at him, and sucked his teeth; but he seemed to sense there was something odd about his master’s mood and that the matter was beyond argument. All the same he was amazed at Frodo’s reply.
Frodo looked straight into Gollum’s eyes which flinched and twisted away. ‘You know that, or you guess well enough, Sméagol,’ he said, quietly and sternly. ‘We are going to Mordor, of course. And you know the way there, I believe.’
‘Ach! sss!’ said Gollum, covering his ears with his hands, as if such frankness, and the open speaking of the names, hurt him. ‘We guessed, yes we guessed,’ he whispered; ‘and we didn’t want them to go, did we? No, precious, not the nice hobbits. Ashes, ashes, and dust, and thirst there is; and pits, pits, pits, and Orcs, thousands of Orcses. Nice hobbits mustn’t go to—sss—those places.’
‘So you have been there?’ Frodo insisted. ‘And you’re being drawn back there, aren’t you?’
Frodo makes Gollum admit that he has been there, implies that he was tortured there, shakes his hand against the Dark Lord in the East, and falls to the ground whimpering, telling "him" to “Go away!”.’He will not go away or go to sleep at your command, Sméagol,’ said Frodo. ‘But if you really wish to be free of him again, then you must help me.’ (…)
Gollum sat up again and looked at him under his eyelids. ‘He’s over there,’ he cackled. ‘Always there. Orcs will take you all the way…. Don’t ask Sméagol. Poor, poor Sméagol, he went away long ago. They took his Precious, and now he’s lost.’
‘Perhaps we’ll find him again, if you come with us,’ said Frodo.
‘No, no, never! He’s lost his Precious,’ said Gollum.
‘Get up!’ said Frodo.
Gollum stood up and backed away against the cliff.
‘Now!’ said Frodo. ‘Can you find a path easier by day or by night? We’re tired; but if you choose the night, we’ll start tonight.’
‘The big light hurts our eyes, they do,’ Gollum whined. ‘Not under the White Face, not yet. It will go behind the hills soon, yess. Rest a bit first, nice hobbits!’
‘Then sit down,’ said Frodo, ‘and don’t move!’
On the film scene.
I do think, with one reservation (saved for the next post), the scene of their first dealings with Gollum is very well-done in the film. It accomplishes a lot with not very much dialogue, strongly setting up the “triangle” dynamic that is so important for the film’s portrayal of these three. It’s not the dynamic that’s in the book, but it works for the films.
Sam in the book is protective and concerned for his master, and he nurses his suspicions and grievances—but primarily in silence. He does not openly call Frodo’s decisions into question—and he does not physically bully Gollum. Book Gollum is scheming and pathetic, but truly pathetic, more obviously wretched and careworn. And since he has never laid hands on the hobbits, when he struggles with Sam it’s really in self-defense. Therefore he is far less deserving of harsh treatment than his film counterpart. Frodo in the book scene feels pity for Gollum in his wretchedness, and shows mercy, but he is clear-eyed and sharp in his assessment of him.
In the film, Sam is protective but also jealous, his roiling emotions continually bursting forth in heated protests to Frodo, as well as bullying Gollum. Film Gollum is scheming and pathetic, but he has an almost winsome charm. Viewers of TTT said they “just loved” Gollum, he was “so cute”. Few readers have found Gollum cute or lovable. But, like Frodo, they might feel true pity for him, however loathsome and untrustworthy he was.
The character most changed from the book in this scene is probably Frodo. Film Frodo, portrayed with an intense empathic identification with Gollum, is not only merciful, but eventually credulous. Sam, fearing it, and goaded by jealousy, keeps attacking Gollum, verbally or physically. And every time Sam attacks, Frodo, from empathy and pity, takes Gollum's part, with Sam coming back with more protests. The foundation for everything that happens later in the films between these three, culminating in the “Go home, Sam” scene, is laid here. As the screenwriters said, they wanted to "up the ante" in the Frodo-Gollum-Sam scenes, letting Gollum be a wedge to drive between the two hobbits, creating heightened dramatic tension.
As I said, it’s not the book, but the story of this dysfunctional ménage makes for a fascinating story on film. (It fascinated me, anyway.)
On the way Frodo is moved to show mercy in the book.
I want to make one other little note. It is concerning the moment in the book that prods Frodo into showing mercy to Gollum.
In the Emyn Muil scene itself, it’s clear that Frodo is not under any misconceptions about Gollum. “You’re full of wickedness and mischief,” he says plainly. When Sam suggests they tie Gollum up and leave him, and Gollum protests that it would kill him (which it would), Frodo does not say, “Sam! How could you suggest such a thing?” He says, “If we kill him, we must kill him outright.” That is, such a decision would not be out of the question. But Frodo goes on to say, “But we can’t do that, as things are.” As things are does not mean because Frodo has suddenly developed warm feelings for Gollum. "Poor wretch," Frodo adds, "He has done us no harm." They can't kill Gollum because it wouldn't be fair. (In the book, Sam and Frodo first attack Gollum, not the other way around.)
It is at this point that Frodo remembers Gandalf’s words from the past about the "Pity of Bilbo". What he remembers seems to confirm his judgement, that it would not be right to kill Gollum. Interestingly (to me), what he remembers is not exactly the same as what Gandalf said to him back in the parlour of Bag End.
“He deserves death!” Frodo remembers saying as he stands looking at Gollum. And this is how he remembers Gandalf’s words:Deserves death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.
In “The Shadow of the Past,” after Frodo declared that Gollum deserved death, Gandalf actually had said:‘Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.’
Tolkien was such a careful writer, and because this sequence stresses one of his most important themes, I have to think that Tolkien created this discrepancy intentionally. The original saying was more general, with Gandalf admonishing Frodo (or anyone), "do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.” Killing the wicked, even if deserved, should not be resorted to rashly. But Frodo remembers the saying as, "be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety."
It’s as if Frodo has subtly altered Gandalf’s words to apply precisely to his present situation. To kill Gollum there in the Emyn Muil would be to kill him in cold blood, killing an enemy because it was convenient. Such a killing could never be done “in the name of justice”. I think this alteration of wording shows an important advance in Frodo’s sympathetic imagination, and a maturing of his moral thinking.
In past readings, I always wondered if these words of Gandalf in their altered form were coming to Frodo the way Gandalf's words came to him on the Seat of Seeing, on Amon Hen. There Frodo heard a voice in his mind, striving with Sauron's, urging him to take off the Ring. But in this instance Frodo has already reached the conclusion that it would be wrong to kill Gollum simply because it was expedient, and call it justice. Gandalf's remembered words—in their altered form—only confirm the decision Frodo has already made.
Film scene: The Emyn Muil ~ Frodo is moved to pity at the sight of his pathetic captive.The night scene in which Frodo holds Sting to Gollum’s throat turns now to day. In that scene, the vanquished Gollum has let out a frustrated wail. The wail builds as the scene segues into a long shot of the Emyn Muil, until it is a series of howls and screams echoing from the rocks. Gollum emerges, the Elven rope tied like a leash around his neck, pulled along roughly by Sam.
Gollum: It burns! It burns us! It freezes! Nasty Elves twisted it. Take it off us!
Sam: (To Gollum.) Quiet you! (To Frodo.) It's hopeless! Every Orc in Mordor's going to hear this racket! Let's just tie him up and leave him!
Gollum: No! That would kill us, kill us!
Sam: It's no more than you deserve! (Gollum moans and flails about on the ground.)
Frodo: Maybe he does deserve to die. But now that I see him, I do pity him.
Gollum: (Hearing this, Gollum perks up.) We be nice to them if they be nice to us. Take it off us. We swears to do what you wants. We swears.
Frodo: There's no promise you can make that I can trust.
Gollum: (Kneeling before Frodo.) We swears to serve the master of the Precious. We will swear on... on the Precious! gollum, gollum!
Frodo: The ring is treacherous. It will hold you to your word.
Gollum: Yes... on the Precious. On the precious.
As usual, the screencaps of this scene have been cropped and adjusted for brightness, contrast and focus.
I must say I think these caps are particularly good in terms of demonstrating the acting. The script pares away most of the words, but an astonishing amount of substance remains, played out in the features of Frodo's face.
”Now that I see him, I do pity him.”
~ 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".
~ The Emyn Muil, Pt. 3-a ~ “I do pity him.”
~ The Emyn Muil, Pt. 3-b ~ "You know the way to Mordor."
Other tables of links:
~ Entries with jan-u-wine's poems.
~ Entries with Frodo & Elijah Wood screencaps.
~ Art Travesty LJ entries.
~ ALBUM of all Art Travesties (images only).