What a scene this is. The previous Stairs scene (“He wants it!”) sets it up beautifully. And just look at that face! How could he have been so young and produced this performance? But I become tiresomely redundant.
The book excerpt below the caps continues from the one in Pt. II and is a favourite of every Frodo fan. How radically the film departed from the book's narrative and themes is shown in this passage, in which Frodo and Sam together discuss the problem of Gollum, then drop off into sweet sleep, Frodo's head in Sam's lap. It is in this scene that Gollum comes closest to grace.
Film Scene: On the stairs of Cirith Ungol, the theatrical version.
High above the Morgul vale Gollum, Sam, and Frodo are shown lying on a series of jagged outcroppings on the wall of the stairs. Frodo and Gollum sleep. Sam tries to fight it off but finally turns on his side, wrapped in his cloak. When his eyes close, Gollum’s eyes snap open. Stealthily he climbs down and reaches into Sam’s pack, taking out the leaf-wrapped packets of lembas. With an expression of disgust he takes out a wafer and crumbles it over the back of Sam’s cloak. He throws the rest over the edge and watches as it gently disperses into the depths below. Sam, as if sensing movement, starts and wakes. He sees Gollum looking over the edge, dusting his hands together.
Sam: Where are you up to? Sneaking off are we?
Gollum: Wasn’t sneaking! Sneaking? Fat hobbit is always so polite. Sméagol shows them secret ways that nobody else could find and they say “sneak”. (Sam stands, buckling his sword belt.) Sneak! Very nice friend. Oh yes, my preciousss, very nice, very...
Sam: All right! All right! You just startled me is all. (Sam continues to look around distractedly, as if trying to remember something.) What were you doing?
Sam: Fine. Have it you own way. (Stooping and shaking Frodo gently by the shoulder.) I'm sorry to wake you, Mr. Frodo. We have to be moving on.
Frodo: (Looking up, obviously still exhausted.) It's dark still.
Sam: It’s always dark here.
Sam rummages in his pack, finding an empty mallorn leaf.
Sam: It’s gone! The elven bread!
Frodo: What? That's all we have left!
Sam: (Pointing to Gollum where he squats on a rocky outcropping.) He took it! He must have!
Gollum: Sméagol? (To Frodo) No, no, not poor Sméagol. Sméagol hates nasty elf's bread.
Sam: You lying rat! What did you do with it!
Frodo: He doesn't eat it. (Frodo gets up.) He can’t have taken it.
Gollum: Look, what's this? (Wiping crumbs off the front of Sam’s cloak and shirt then looking at Frodo.) Crumbs on his jacketsses. He took it. He took it!! (Drops down to squat before Frodo.) I seen him. He is always stuffing his face when Master is not looking.
Sam: That's a filthy lie! Ah! (Sam swats Gollum onto the rocks and goes after him, punching him repeatedly, beside himself.) You stinking two-faced sneak!
Frodo: Sam! Stop it! No, Sam! (Frodo hauls Sam off forcibly, separating them.)
Sam: I'll kill him!
Frodo: Sam! No! (Frodo collapses from the effort and sinks down the rock wall to a sit. Sam crouches beside him to try and explain.)
Sam: Oh, my! I'm sorry! I didn’t mean it to go so far. I was just so… so angry. Here. You just... just rest a bit. (Frodo seems utterly depleted. He does look at Sam.)
Frodo: I’m all right.
Sam: No, no you’re not all right. You’re exhausted. It’s that Gollum. It’s this place. It’s that thing around your neck. (Frodo slowly looks up at this, his eyes full of suspicion. Sam seems not to notice.) I could help a bit—I could carry it for a while.... (
Sam’s voice echoes in Frodo’s head, saying, “…carry it for a while... I could carry it... carry it... share the load... the load,” as tighter and tighter close-ups alternate between Sam’s lips and Frodo’s darkening eyes.
Book scene: from The Stairs of Cirith Ungol.
‘I don’t like his sneaking off without saying,’ said Sam. ‘And least of all now. He can’t be looking for food up here, not unless there’s some kind of rock he fancies. Why, there isn’t even a bit of moss!’
‘It’s no good worrying about him now,’ said Frodo. ‘We couldn’t have got so far, not even within sight of the pass, without him, and so we’ll have to put up with his ways. If he’s false, he’s false.’
‘All the same, I’d rather have him under my eye,’ said Sam. ‘All the more so, if he’s false. Do you remember he never would say if this pass was guarded or no? And now we see a tower there—and it may be deserted, and it may not. Do you think he’s gone to fetch them, Orcs or whatever they are?’
‘No, I don’t think so,’ answered Frodo. ‘Even if he’s up to some wickedness, and I suppose that’s not unlikely. I don’t think it’s that: not to fetch Orcs, or any servants of the Enemy. Why wait till now, and go though all the labour of the climb, and come so near the land he fears? He could probably have betrayed us to Orcs many times since we met him. No, if it’s anything, it will be some little private trick of his own that he thinks is quite secret.’
‘Well, I suppose you’re right, Mr. Frodo,’ said Sam. ‘Not that it comforts me mightily. I don’t make no mistake: I don’t doubt he’d hand me over to Orcs as gladly as kiss his hand. But I forgetting—his Precious. No, I suppose, the whole time it’s been The Precious for poor Sméagol. That’s the one idea in all his little schemes, if he has any. But how bringing us up here will help him in that is more than I can guess.’
‘Very likely he can’t guess himself,’ said Frodo. ‘And I don’t think he’s got just one plain scheme in his muddled head. I think he really is in part trying to save the Precious from the Enemy, as long as he can. For that would be the last disaster for himself, too, if the Enemy got it. And in the other part, perhaps, he’s just biding his time and waiting on chance.’
‘Yes, Slinker and Stinker, as I’ve said before,’ said Sam. ‘But the nearer they get to the Enemy’s land the more like Stinker Slinker will get. Mark my words: if ever we get to the pass, he won’t let us really take the precious thing over the border without making some kind of trouble.’
‘We haven’t got there yet,’ said Frodo.
‘No, but we’d better keep our eyes skinned till we do. If we’re caught napping, Stinker will come out on top pretty quick. Not but what it would be safe for you to have a wink now, master. Safe, if you lay close to me. I’d be dearly glad to see you have a sleep. I'd keep watch over you; and anyway, if you lay near, with my arm around you, no once could come pawing you without your Sam knowing it.’
‘Sleep!’ said Frodo and sighed, as if out of a desert he had seen a mirage of cool green. ‘Yes, even here I could sleep.’
‘Sleep then, master! Lay your head in my lap.’
And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead. Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo’s head, drowned deep in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast. Peace was in both their faces.
Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded form his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee—but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing. But at that touch Frodo stirred and cried out softly in his sleep, and immediately Sam was wide awake. The first thing he saw was Gollum—‘pawing at master,’ as he thought.
‘Hey you!’ he said roughly. ‘What are you up to?’
‘Nothing, nothing,’ said Gollum softly. ‘Nice Master!’
‘I daresay,’ said Sam. ‘But where have you been to—sneaking off and sneaking back, you old villain?’
Gollum withdrew himself, and a green glint flickered under his heavy lids. Almost spider-like he looked now, crouched back on his bent limbs, with his protruding eyes. The fleeting moment had passed, beyond recall. ‘Sneaking, sneaking!’ he hissed. ‘Hobbits are always so polite, yes. O nice hobbits! Sméagol brings them up secret ways that nobody else could find. Tired he is, thirty he is, yes thirsty; and he guides them and he searches paths, and they say sneak, sneak. Very nice friends, O yes my precious, very nice.’
Sam felt a bit remorseful, though not more trustful. ‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry, but you startled me out of my sleep. And I shouldn’t have been sleeping, and that made me a bit sharp. But Mr. Frodo, he’s that tired, I asked him to have a wink; and well, that’s how it is. Sorry. But where have you been to?’
‘Sneaking,’ said Gollum, and the green glint did not leave his eyes.
‘O very well,’ said Sam, ‘have it your own way! I don’t suppose it’s so far from the truth. And now we’d better all be sneaking along together. What’s the time? Is it today or tomorrow?’
‘It’s tomorrow,’ said Gollum, ‘or this was tomorrow when hobbits went to sleep. Very foolish, very dangerous—if poor Sméagol wasn’t sneaking about to watch.’
‘I think we shall get tired of that word soon,’ said Sam. ‘But never mind. I’ll wake master up.’ Gently he smoothed the hair back from Frodo’s brow, and bending down spoke softly to him.
‘Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Wake up!’
Entries for this series:
~ Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 1: Main essay for this series, plus EE scene, "You listen to me...."
~ Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 2: “He wants it….”
~ Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 3: “I can carry it….”
~ Stairs of Cirith Ungol Pt. 4: “Go home….”
Tables of Links: