Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

The Dead Marshes, Pt. 2 – Frodo asks Gollum, “Who are you?”


As was the case for the first set of caps from this scene (Frodo caressing the Ring), there is no real equivalent to it in the book. It is a creation of the screenwriters. Dialogue was plucked from other places (such as using a version of the Barrow Wight's song), but it is quite original. Yet, like the portrayal of Frodo as deeply enamoured of the Ring, I think the scene works and is consistent with the film's portrayal of Frodo. Frodo has been shocked out of his Ring-reverie, startled to find he is not alone in a private moment, and shocked to hear the words in his head ("So bright... So beautiful...") being mouthed by his nemesis, the loathsome Gollum.

In the caps below, the whole succession of Frodo's feelings is vivid as they rush upon him—surprise, alarm, defensiveness, hostility—the conjoined emotions launching him into a full-frontal assault into the personal space of Gollum, pressing Gollum with questions about his past until the two are virtually nose to nose.

I have often wondered what the writerly motivation was for this scene, other than to underscore the theme of film Frodo's intense, empathic identification with Gollum ("I have to believe he can be saved!" Frodo will confess, his reasoning being that if Gollum can be saved, he can be saved). In the films, Frodo needs Gollum, not just practically as a guide, but psychologically. Gollum is like the canary sent down a mine shaft. If Gollum can survive being possessed by the Ring, so can Frodo.

It's not book Frodo, whose pity is without self-interest, but the scene's portrayal of Frodo does work within the film's more pragmatic emotional world. In fact, I think the scene is rather brilliant.

As I discussed this scene back and forth with jan-u-wine, it seemed clear that Frodo is galavanized into pressing Gollum to recall the person he once was—if only to prove to himself that Sméagol still can be retrieved—when he hears Gollum's voice. But the fervour with which he launches into the attack seems to have come from the shock of being discovered. When people are surprised doing what they know they ought not to be doing, they often will react by going on the offensive, the assault drawing attention away from what makes them feel uncomfortable—having been discovered doing what they wish to remain hidden.

Below is the script from the film scene, followed by the caps, followed by the script of the related film scene (which I won't be capping). Last is a book scene that throws some light on the relationship of Frodo and Sam to Gollum in the Marshes, as well as Frodo's personal hopes.


1. Film scene: Frodo confronts Gollum, calling him Sméagol.

It is night in the Dead Marshes, after Frodo has been rescued by Gollum from his fall into the water, having stared too long at the corpses there. Sam is asleep but Frodo is still awake. Lying on his side, turned away, he has been holding the Ring in the palm of his hand, gazing at it and stroking it. Suddenly Frodo hears a voice.

Gollum: So bright! So beautiful! Ah, Precious. (Gollum is squatting some yards away, not looking at Frodo, miming stroking the Ring in his palm as he speaks.)

Frodo: What did you say?

Gollum: Master should be resting. Master need to keep up his strength.

Frodo: (Frodo leaps up and comes quickly to Gollum, who still does not look at him.) Who are you?

Gollum: (Gollum barely gives Frodo a glance.) Musn't ask us. Not his business, gollum, gollum.

Frodo: (Crouching behind Gollum as he speaks.) Gandalf told me you were one of the river-folk.

Gollum: Cold be heart and hand and bone, cold be travellers far from home.

Frodo: (Coming round to crouch before Gollum, face to face.) He said your life was a sad story.

Gollum: They do not see what lies ahead, when sun has failed and moon is dead. (Frodo moves around again, to stay face to face with Gollum.)

Frodo: (Leans in, nearly nose to nose when he calls Gollum by his old name.) You were not so different from a Hobbit once, were you... Sméagol?

Gollum: What did you call me? (Gollum finally looks up at Frodo.)

Frodo: That was your name once, wasn't it? A long time ago.

Gollum: (Looks away, as if remembering.) My... my name. (Gollum smiles.) Sméagol....


As usual, the screencaps of this scene have been cropped and adjusted for brightness, contrast, and focus.

~ Frodo hears Gollum's voice.

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2. Related film scene, from later in “The Two Towers”, in which Sam challenges Frodo about his unwholesome fixation on Gollum and the Ring. Frodo's most heated outburst comes after Sam says he's seen Frodo with the Ring, that he can't take his eyes off it.

Sam: Hey Stinker! Don't go getting too far ahead!

Frodo: Why do you do that?

Sam: What?

Frodo: Call him names. Run him down all the time.

Sam: Because. 'Cause that's what he is, Mr. Frodo. There's naught left in him but lies and deceit. It's the Ring he wants. It's all he cares about.

Frodo: You have no idea what it did to him! What it's still doing to him! I want to help him Sam.

Sam: Why?

Frodo: Because I have to believe he can come back.

Sam: You can't save him, Mr. Frodo.

Frodo: What do you know about it? Nothing! (Sam nods resignedly and walks away.) I'm sorry, Sam. I don't know why I said that. (Sam stops and turns to Frodo.)

Sam: I do. It's the Ring. You can't take your eyes off It. I've seen you. You're not eating. You barely sleep. It's taken hold of you, Mr Frodo. You have to fight it.

Frodo: I know what I have to do, Sam! The Ring was entrusted to me! It's my task! Mine! My own! (Frodo stalks off while Sam calls after him.)

Sam: Can't you hear yourself? Don't you know who you sound like?


3. Book scene, showing a bit of the dynamic between Gollum and the two hobbits. In the book, there is no serious division between Frodo and Sam in their attitude towards Gollum. They are united in their distrust of him, alternating watch. It also contains the first, clearest expression of what Frodo expects to be his final end, should he accomplish the Quest. He is not at all concerned with his redemption, with or without Gollum. The excerpt below is from The Passage of the Marshes.

Gollum turned to the right, southward more or less, and splashed along with his feet in the shallow stony stream. He seemed greatly delighted to feel the water, and chuckled to himself, sometimes even croaking in a sort of song.

The cold hard lands
they bites our hands,
they gnaws our feet.
The rocks and stones
are like old bones
all bare of meat.
But stream and pool
is wet and cool:
so nice for feet!
And now we wish—

‘Ha! Ha! What does we wish? he said, looking sidelong at the hobbits. ‘We’ll tell you,’ he croaked. ‘He guessed it long ago, Baggins guessed it.’ A glint came into his eyes, and Sam catching the gleam in the darkness thought it far from pleasant.

Alive without breath;
as cold as death;
never thirsting, ever drinking;
clad in mail, never clinking.
Drowns on dry land,
thinks an island
is a mountain;
thinks a fountain
is a puff of air.
So sleek, so fair!
What a joy to meet!
We only wish
to catch a fish
so juicy-sweet!

These words only made more pressing to Sam’s mind a problem that had been troubling him from the moment when he understood that his master was going to adopt Gollum as a guide; the problem of food. It did not occur to him that his master might also have thought of it, but he supposed Gollum had. Indeed how had Gollum kept himself in all his loney wandering? ‘Not too well,’ thought Sam. ‘He looks fair famished. Not too dainty to try what hobbit tastes like, if there ain’t no fish, I’ll wager—supposing as he could catch us napping. Well, he won’t: not Sam Gamgee for one.’

[Here follows the scene follows in which Frodo offers Gollum lembas, which Gollum cannot tolerate.]

‘Look here! ‘Sam whispered to Frodo, not too softly: he did not really care whether Gollum heard him or not. ‘We’ve got to get some sleep; but not both together with that hungry villain nigh, promise or no promise. Sméagol or Gollum, he won’t change his habits in a hurry, I’ll warrant. You go to
sleep, Mr. Frodo, and I’ll call you when I can’t keep my eyelids propped up. Turn and about, same as before, while he’s loose.’

‘Perhaps you’re right, Sam,’ said Frodo speaking openly. ‘There is a change in him, but just what kind of a change and how deep, I’m not sure yet. Seriously though, I don’t think there is any need for fear—at present. Still watch if you wish. Give me about two hours, not more, and then call me.’

So tired was Frodo that his head fell forward on his breast and he slept, almost as soon as he had spoken the words.

[Despite Sam’s best intentions, he too falls asleep, sleeping the day away. When he wakes, Frodo still sleeping, Sam flails himself in his mind with various reproachful names, “drawn from the Gaffer’s large paternal word-hoard.” But he realises Frodo was right, Gollum had not touched them.]

Frodo made light of it when he learned that they had slept soundly for hours with Gollum, and a very hungry Gollum too, loose beside them. ‘Don’t think of any of your Gaffer’s hard names,’ he said. ‘You were worn out, and it has turned out well: we are now both rested. And we have a hard road ahead, the worst road of all.’

Note: I love the little observation of Frodo's, picked up briefly in the film script quoted directly above, about Sam's use of "hard names". In the book, Frodo now knows Sam well enough to realise how his servant has internalized his parent’s “hard names”, probably the reason Sam is quick to call Gollum names. Frodo does not call others “hard names", but he can see the harm it does.

[The scene continues.]

‘About the food,’ said Sam. ‘How long’s it going to take us to do this job? And when it’s done, what are we going to do then? This waybread keeps you on your legs in a wonderful way, though it doesn’t satisfy the innards proper, as you might say: not to my feeling anyhow, meaning no disrespect to them as made it. But you have to eat some of it every day, and it doesn’t grow. I reckon we’ve got enough to last, say, three weeks or so, and that with a tight belt and a light tooth, mind you. We’ve been a bit free with it so far.’

‘I don’t know how long we shall take to—to finish,’ said Frodo. ‘We were miserably delayed in the hills. But Samwise Gamgee, my dear hobbit—indeed, Sam my dearest hobbit, friend of friends—I do not think we need give thought to what comes after that. To do the job as you put it—what hope is there that we ever shall? And if we do, who knows what will come of that? If the One goes into the Fire, and we are at hand? I ask you, Sam, are we ever likely to need bread again? I think not. If we can nurse our limbs to bring us to Mount Doom, that is all we can do. More than I can, I begin to feel.’

Sam nodded silently. He took his master’s hand and bent over it. He did not kiss it, though his tears fell on it. Then he turned away, drew his sleeve over his nose, and got up, and stamped about, trying to whistle, and saying between the efforts: ‘Where’s that dratted creature?’


*weeps; loves*

~ Mechtild

Most Recent Entries:

~ The Dead Marshes, Pt. 1: "So bright... So beautiful..." plus jan-u-wine's poem of the same name.

~ The Dead marshes, Pt. 2: 'Who are you?"—Frodo tries to revive Gollum's memory of Sméagol.

~ 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 Frodo & Elijah Wood screencaps.

~ Art Travesty LJ entries.

~ ALBUM of all Art Travesties (images only).

Tags: essay, frodo screencaps, the two towers

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