Henneth Annun, Pt. 4: Frodo calls to Sméagol at the Forbidden Pool.
The book excerpt below is rather long. If you’d rather not read it, the bit of film script is below it, followed by the caps.
Book scene, from The Forbidden Pool:‘Let me go down quietly to him,’ said Frodo. You may keep your bows bent, and shoot me at least, if I fail. I shall not run away.’
‘Go then and be swift!’ said Faramir. ‘If he comes off alive, he should be your faithful servant for the rest of his unhappy days. Lead Frodo down to the bank, Anborn, and go softly. The thing has a nose and ears. Give me your bow.’
Anborn grunted and led the way down the winding stair to the landing, and then up the other stair, until at last they came to a narrow opening shrouded with thick bushes. Passing silently through, Frodo found himself on the top of the southern bank above the pool. It was now dark and the falls were pale and grey, reflecting only the lingering moonlight of the western sky. He could not see Gollum. He went forward a short way and Anborn came softly behind him.
‘Go on!’ he breathed in Frodo’s ear. ‘Have a care to your right. If you fall in the pool, then no one but your fishing friend can help you. And forget not that there are bowmen near at hand, though you may not see them.’
Frodo crept forward, using his hands Gollum-like to feel his way and to steady himself. The rocks were for the most part flat and smooth but slippery. He halted listening. At first he could hear no sound but the unceasing rush of the fall behind him. Then presently he head, not far ahead, a hissing murmur.
‘Fissh, nice fissh. White Face has vanished, my precious, at last, yes. Now we can eat fish in peace. No, not in peace, precious. For Precious is lost; yes, lost. Dirty hobbits, nasty hobbits. Gone and left us, gollum; and Precious is gone. Only poor Sméagol all alone. No Precious. Nasty Men, they’ll take it, steal my Precious. Thieves. We hates them. Fissh, nice fish. Makes us strong. Makes eyes bright, fingers tight, yes. Throttle them, precious. Throttle them all, yes, if we gets the chances. Nice fissh. Nice fissh!’
So it went on, almost as unceasing as the waterfall, only interrupted by a faint noise of slavering and gurgling. Frodo shivered, listening with pity and disgust. He wished it would stop, and that he never need hear that voice again. Anborn was not far behind. He could creep back and ask the huntsmen to shoot. They would probably get close enough, while Gollum was gorging and off his guard. Only one true shot, and Frodo would be rid of the miserable voice for ever. But no, Gollum had a claim of him now. The servant has a claim on the master for service, even service in fear. They would have foundered in the Dead Marshes but for Gollum. Frodo knew, too, somehow, quite clearly that Gandalf would not have wished it.
‘Sméagol!’ he said softly.
‘Fissh, nice fissh,’ said the voice.
‘Sméagol! he said, a little louder. The voice stopped.
‘Sméagol, Master has come to look for you. Master is here. Come, Sméagol!’ There was no answer but a soft hiss, as of intaken breath.
‘Come, Sméagol!’ said Frodo. ‘Bring fish with you. Come!’
‘No!’ said the voice. ‘Not nice Master. Leaves poor Sméagol and goes with new friends. Master can wait. Sméagol hasn’t finished.’
‘There’s no time,’ said Frodo. ‘Bring fish with you. Come!’
‘No! Must finish fish.’
‘Sméagol!’ said Frodo desperately. ‘Precious will be angry. I shall take Precious, and I shall say: make him swallow the bones and choke. Never taste fish again. Come, Precious is waiting!’
There was a sharp hiss. Presently out of the darkness Gollum came crawling on all fours, like an erring dog called to heel. He had a half-eaten fish in his mouth and another in his hand. He came close to Frodo, almost nose to nose, and sniffed at him. His pale eyes were shining. Then he took the fish out of his mouth and stood up.
‘Nice Master!’ he whispered. ‘Nice hobbit, come back to poor Sméagol. Good Sméagol comes. Now let’s go, go quickly, yes. Through the trees, while the Faces are dark. Yes, come, let’s go!’
‘Yes, we’ll go soon,’ said Frodo. ‘But not at once. I will go with you as I promised. I promise again. But not now. You are not safe yet. I will save you, but you must trust me.’
I think this scene was translated quite well into film. The bulk of the book dialogue was cut, leaving a bare but efficient structure of words, but, yes, it worked well. The scoring under the scene (and all of the Henneth Annun scene) suited perfectly. The lighting wasn’t nearly as dark as it was in the book, but that was to be expected. Visual beauty was the gain, the scene glimmering with moon light, but the sense of Frodo listening to this nasty voice in the dark, almost as if he were listening to the darkest part of himself fingered into life and made larger by the workings of Sauron through the Ring, is lost. Not that the book says that Frodo experiences the voice of Gollum as part of himself, and perhaps Tolkien intended no such thing. But as I read, imagining Frodo there by the pool, his eyes wide, his ears straining, I picture the hearing of this voice as if it were as potent as the Ring's whisperings to engender negative, discouraging feelings in Frodo. But since in the film Frodo can actually see Gollum the whole time he is talking to him—thus Gollum able to see his expressions and he to see Gollum's—Gollum preserves his separateness as a character.
The only thing I truly missed was a clearer sense of the conflict book Frodo experiences as he watches Gollum. He’s disgusted by him, listening to his nasty-minded talk and slavering. But he also is sorry for him. It’s wretched for Frodo. He feels terribly at the thought of ensnaring Gollum through trickery, but also for secretly wishing Gollum really could be got rid of at the twang of a bow—he himself not having to fire a shot. To me, this is another of Frodo's "temptation scenes". Just as in the Emyn Muil he was tempted to kill another for expediency, for convenience, he is tempted here. This has always been one of my favourite book passages for the way it reveals what it is like for Frodo, making difficult decisions about right and wrong actions.
Some of Frodo's intense, ambivalent feelings described in the book do seem to come across in the film scene immediately preceding this one, when Frodo is looking down at Gollum from the ledge. But who knows what Elijah Wood was given to play in terms of acting objectives? Since he’d never read the book, he would have been guided solely by Peter, Fran, and Philippa's coaching and direction—and his own instincts. Whatever they told him, his instincts in the ledge scene were right on target.
In this scene, Elijah Wood continues to do a remarkable job. My one reservation viewing this scene has been the way Frodo calls Gollum, as he might a dog to get in the a car to go to the vet’s. The line actually comes in the second half of this scene, which will be included in the next entry, but Frodo smiles and says cajolingly, "Come, Sméagol. Nice Sméagol. That’s it. Come on." Book Frodo sounds so much more pressed and desperate; he has no time to appeal to "good dog Gollum", and Frodo's winning smiles (if any) can't be seen anyway.
Yet there is a "dog" reference in the book text. Book Frodo does not call Gollum as he would a dog, but the Gollum who emerges reminds him of a dog. The reference comes at the end of the sequence. In the darkness, Frodo having to rely only on his words and the tone of his voice, has asked, pleaded, commanded, and finally threatened Gollum (telling him he'll say to the Precious, make him choke on the bones) to lure him out. When Gollum finally emerges from the darkness, the description is that Gollum came, “like an erring dog called to heel.” The dog image is not used the same way in the film as in the book, but the dog image is there in the text for the adaptors to use.
Actually, there is a Gollum-as-a-dog motif that runs throughout his storyline in the book, when I come to think of it. But a discussion of that must wait for some future post. Suffice it to say that in Tolkien not all dogs are noble and faithful like Huan.
ETA: It occurs to me that I completely overlooked a major difference between the film and book scenes: what Frodo overhears Gollum saying down at the pool. In the book, as Faramir's men draw their bow strings taut, Frodo overhears him saying very nasty, alarming things about him and Sam. In the film, Frodo overhears (and sees) Gollum singing a little ditty about the pleasures of fish. That's very different. That book Frodo should still feel pity for Gollum, even as he listens to him talking about how he hates him and would like to throttle him, is rather profound. It is less remarkable that film Frodo should feel sorry for Gollum who, while equally ignorant of his danger, is sporting happily and harmlessly in the water.
Film Scene: Frodo goes to Smeagol.Faramir allows Frodo to go down to Sméagol. From the bushes, Frodo calls to Gollum, who is eating fish.
Frodo: Sméagol. Master is here. Come, Sméagol. Trust master. Come.
Gollum: We must go now?
Frodo: Sméagol, you must trust master. Sméagol, you must trust master. Follow me, come on. Come.
~ Frodo comes to Gollum at the pool.
~ HA 1 ~ Faramir questions Frodo and Sam.
~ HA 2 ~ “Come with me!” Faramir tells Frodo.
~ HA 3 ~ Faramir asks, “Shall I shoot?”
~ HA 4 ~ “Trust Master!” ~ Frodo tries to persuade Sméagol.
~ HA 5 ~ “Don’t hurt him!” ~ Faramir’s men capture Sméagol.
~ HA 6 ~ The Goons of Gondor: the EE interrogation of Gollum.
~ HA 7 ~ “The Ring is taking me, Sam”.
Other screencap entries: