In comments to Pt. 1 of “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”, estelanui agreed that splitting off Sam from Frodo earlier in the film scene meant that Frodo had to enter the tunnel all by himself (reminding me of tales such as Theseus in the labyrinth, in which he had to enter the dark maze to vanquish the minotaur alone). But she also pointed out that the device extended the time that Sam and Frodo had for their own story lines. The prolonged separation accentuated their different experiences of events, compared to each other, extending their individual character arcs. I thought that was a perceptive observation, about which I am still thinking.
The separation of Sam and Frodo happens in the book, too, but without the device of Frodo sending Sam away. That plot device changed the dynamics of the scene radically, even if a lot of the narrative nuts and bolts were the same. For instance, in both versions it is Gollum who splits the pair of heroes. In the film, Gollum goads Frodo into sending Sam away. In the book, Gollum attacks Sam when Frodo is running on ahead, incapacitating Sam so that Frodo is attacked with none to help. In both the book and film Frodo is left alone at the crucial moment, but for very different reasons. The main difference remains the fact that the separation was directly effected by Frodo, not Gollum.
In Shelob’s tunnel, film Frodo, unlike book Frodo, experiences a debilitating sense of abandonment bordering on despair. For film Frodo (unlike book Frodo) knows that *he* is responsible for his abandonment. He can blame Gollum—and clearly he is furious with his guide—but he seems just as furious at himself, knowing that he has allowed it to happen.
In the book, Frodo has Sam beside him (see book scene below, in which the two first grope along in the darkness side by side, then find each other's hands and proceed that way, both not to lose each other and to give each other support). Not only do they have each other as they creep through the noisome blackness of the tunnel, but they are together for Shelob's onset and first attack.
Sam’s presence is not negligible. His presence matters for more than sentimental reasons. For starters, Frodo is bolstered by knowing he faces the monster with his stout-hearted friend and companion at his side. But it’s not just for moral support that Sam is important. It is Sam who receives the internal message reminding him of Galadriel’s phial. Frodo could not have cowed Shelob without the light of Eärdendil. Further, Frodo’s courage is shored up by knowing he is the appointed leader, and that he still is Sam’s master. As so well depicted in the Henneth Annun scene with Faramir (book version), Frodo takes being a good master very seriously. He accepts and feels the full responsibility of it. In the book version of Shelob’s tunnel he can’t fall apart, but must carry on, if only for the sake of the one he leads and for whom he feels responsible. Film Frodo, on the other hand, has no Sam nor anyone else. He is utterly bereft, both of moral support and persons for whom he might feel responsible. From his own perspective, he is at the nadir of the Quest.
As film Frodo stumbles among the webs and corpses, his horror and wretchedness are accentuated exponentially by feelings of self-blame and grief for Sam: grief that Sam is not there, but also grief that he himself is responsible for Sam’s absence, perhaps even Sam’s death in enemy hands.
Elijah Wood, even at his young age, powerfully conveys these varied feelings.
Film Scene:Frodo follows Gollum into Shelob’s tunnel.
Gollum has disappeared and Frodo finds himself fearful and disoriented.
Gollum’s voice: Over here!
Frodo stumbles carefully along, inadvertently putting his hand into a bit of spider web.
Frodo: Ah! It's sticky! What is it?
Gollum: (Still hidden from Frodo.) You will see. Oh yesss, you will see.
Frodo: Sméagol? Sméagol? Sméagol!
Realising he has been duped and abandoned, Frodo reacts.
~ Frodo realises he has been betrayed, full-screen edition:
Book scene, cont’d, from Shelob’s Tunnel, TTT.
Drawing a deep breath they passed inside. In a few steps they were in utter and impenetrable dark. Not since the lightless passages of Moria had Frodo or Sam known such darkness, and if possible there it was deeper and denser. There, there were airs moving, and echoes, and a sense of space. Here the air was still, stagnant, heavy, and sound fell dead. They walked as it were in a black vapour wrought of veritable darkness itself that, as it was breathed, brought blindness not only to the eyes but to the mind, so that even the memory of colours and of forms and of any light faded out of thought. Night always had been, and always would be, and night was all.
But for a while they could still feel, and indeed the senses of their feet and fingers at first seemed sharpened almost painfully…. Gollum had gone in first and seemed to be only a few steps ahead. While they were still able to give heed to such things, they could hear his breath hissing and gasping just in front of them. But after a time their senses became duller, both touch and hearing seemed to grow numb, and they kept on, groping, walking, on and on, mainly by the force of the will with which they had entered, will to go through and desire to come at last to the high gate beyond…..
‘There’s more than one passage here,’ [Sam] whispered with an effort: it seemed hard to make his breath give any sound. ‘It’s as orc-like a place as ever there could be!’
After that, first he on the right, and then Frodo on the left, passed three or four such openings, some wider, some smaller; but there was as yet no doubt of the main way, for it was straight, and did not turn, and still went steadily up. But how long was it, how much more of this would they have to endure, or could they endure? The breathlessness of the air was growing as they climbed; and now they seemed often in the blind dark to sense some resistance thicker than the foul air. As they thrust forward they felt things brush against their heads, or against their hands, long tentacles, or hanging growths perhaps: they could not tell what they were. And still the stench grew. It grew, until almost it seemed to them that smell was the only clear sense left to them, and that was for their torment. One hour, two hours, three hours: how many had they passed in this lightless hole? Hours—days, weeks rather. Sam left the tunnel-side and shrank towards Frodo, and their hands met and clasped, and so together they still went on.
At length Frodo, groping along the left-hand wall, came suddenly to a void. Almost he fell sideways into the emptiness. Here was some opening in the rock far wider than any they had yet passed; and out of it came a reek so foul, and a sense of lurking malice so intense, that Frodo reeled. And at that moment Sam too lurched and fell forwards.
Fighting off both the sickness and the fear, Frodo gripped Sam’s hand. ‘Up!’ he said in a hoarse breath without voice. ‘It all comes from here, the stench and the peril. Now for it! Quick!’
Calling up his remaining strength and resolution, he dragged Sam to his feet, and forced his own limbs to move. Sam stumbled beside him. One step, two steps, three steps—at last six steps. Maybe they had passed the dreadful unseen opening, but whether that was so or not, suddenly it was easier to move, as if some hostile will for the moment had released them. They struggled on, still hand in hand….
‘Which way has Gollum gone?’ panted Sam. ‘And why didn’t he wait?’
‘Sméagol!’ said Frodo, trying to call. ‘Sméagol!’ But his voice croaked, and the name fell dead almost as it left his lips. There was no answer, not an echo, not even a tremor of the air.
Entries in the Shelob's Lair series:
~ Pt. 1: Entering the tunnel.
~ Pt. 2: Frodo is betrayed.
~ Pt. 3: Shelob perceived, plus jan-u-wine’s “That Which Waits”.
~ Pt. 4: The Star-glass.
~ Pt. 5: Shelob attacks.
~ Pt. 6: Gollum taunts Frodo.
~ Pt. 7: Frodo attacked by Gollum.
~ Pt. 8: Gollum makes his plea.
~ Pt. 9: Frodo resolves to go forward, plus jan-u-wine’s “The Web-ring”.
Tables of Links: