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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Gorgoroth Revisited 1b: 'No return journey’ ….

Posted on 2007.08.27 at 09:36
Tags: , ,

This is really just a series of concluding close-ups. It is short, but very important, conveying Frodo and Sam’s new mutual understanding [that there will be no return journey]. The book passage, too, is a powerful one, cherished by most fans, if for various reasons.

As an aside, I have just finished reading John Garth’s excellent, Tolkien and the Great War. In this book Garth convincingly makes the case that Tolkien’s wartime experiences as a young signals officer in WWI were crucial for what became his full-blown secondary world, and many of its themes. Certainly, the description of Sam and Frodo’s wretchedness in Mount Doom as they trudge and crawl across Gorgoroth, reminds me very much of the descriptions Garth provided from the writings of officers who experienced trench warfare, especially in the Somme. It is not just Sam and Frodo’s pain and exhaustion, but the landscape itself, and the spirit-draining bleakness of it that strikes me: a blasted, ruined land, full of smoke and ash. Slogging or dashing through it, or hunkering down trying to hide in it—exploding flares and rockets lighting up one’s position, or the enemy all about, invisible in the darkness, or stretches of sheer eerie silence, all the while painfully breathing in noxious fumes from poison gasses, smokes from artillery fire, dust from shelled earth, and the stench of bodies filthy or dead—the misery, and potential for camaraderie sharing it, must have been very great. But Tolkien made these memories work for him, pouring it into his art to create unforgettable scenes.


Book scene, from Mount Doom.

The last stage of their journey to Orodruin came, and it was a torment greater than Sam had ever thought that he could bear. He was in pain, and so parched that he could no longer swallow even a mouthful of food. It remained dark, not only because of the smokes of the Mountain: there seemed to be a storm coming up, and away to the south-east there was a shimmer of lightnings under the black skies. Worst of all, the air was full of fumes; breathing was painful and difficult, and a dizziness came on them, so that they staggered and often fell. And yet their wills did not yield, and they struggled on.

The Mountain crept up ever nearer, until, if they lifted their heavy heads, it filled all their sight, looming vast before them: a huge mass of ash and slag and burned stone, out of which a sheer-sided cone was raised into the clouds. Before the daylong dusk ended and true night came again they had crawled and stumbled to its very feet.

With a gasp Frodo cast himself on the ground. Sam sat by him. To his surprise he felt tired but lighter, and his head seemed clear again. No more debates disturbed his mind. He knew all the arguments of despair and would not listen to them. His will was set, and only death would break it. He felt no longer either desire or need of sleep, but rather of watchfulness. He knew that all the hazards and perils were now drawing together to a point: the next day would be a day of doom, the day of final effort or disaster, the last gasp.

But when would it come? The night seemed endless and timeless, minute after minute falling dead and adding up to no passing hour, bringing no change. Sam began to wonder if a second darkness had begun and no day would ever reappear. At last he groped for Frodo’s hand. It was cold and trembling. His master was shivering.

‘I didn’t ought to have left my blanket behind,’ muttered Sam; and lying down he tried to comfort Frodo with his arms and body. Then sleep took him, and the dim light of the last day of their quest found them side by side.


Film Scene, concluded.

Frodo: There'll be none left for the return journey.

Sam: I don't think there will be a return journey, Mister Frodo.

The two exchange looks of understanding and Sam offers Frodo a hand, pulling him to his feet.


Entries in the ‘Gorgoroth Revisited’ series:

~ Gorgoroth Revisited 1a: “None Left”.

~ Gorgoroth Revisited 1b: ‘No Return Journey’.

~ Gorgoroth Revisited Pt. 2: Frodo falls, plus jan-u-wine’s “Where You Are Bound”.

~ Gorgoroth Revisited Pt. 3a: ‘Do you remember the Shire’, plus jan-u-wine’s “Another Sunless Dawn”.

~ Gorgoroth Revisited Pt. 3b: ‘Let us be rid of it’, plus jan-u-wine’s “The Last Hours”.

Other RotK entries:

~ All ROTK screencap entries.

Tables of Links:

~ All Frodo and Elijah screencaps.

~ Mechtild


Gentle Hobbit
gentlehobbit at 2007-08-27 15:10 (UTC) (Link)
I really like these screen caps. Although I feel that the scene watered down Frodo's character by hinting that Frodo didn't really, completely understand that there would be no return journey until then (despite an earlier scene near the Crossroads), visually I love the scene, and you have caught him well in those caps.

(My favourite scene for "new understandings" is the book conversation in Two Towers when Frodo tells Sam that there most likely will be no return journey, and Sam is the one who has to come to terms with that.)
westmoon at 2007-08-27 16:01 (UTC) (Link)
That's my one quibble as well. It's very clear at the crossroads scene that Frodo already understands (and has come to a resigned acceptance) that there will be no return journey, yet this scene seems to forget that. I think the writers are trying to show how far gone he is at this point, and Sam's strength, but it really does contradict what has come before, which is especially jarring in the same movie.

However, all that being said, it's beautifully shot and acted, and breaks my heart every time.

Looking at these screencaps is like watching the film all over again.

mechtild at 2007-08-27 16:44 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Westmoon. See my response to Gentlehobbit, above, on the issue of Frodo's reaction in this scene. It works for me, and in the right sense, per the book. :)
mechtild at 2007-08-27 16:43 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for posting, Gentlehobbit. Actually, I never interpreted Frodo's look in this scene to mean that their not coming back was news to him. I always thought it was meant to convey his understanding that Sam now knew it too, as in, "Ah, Sam, so now you know, and we needn't pretend to each other any longer".

But the addition of the out-of-sync EE scene in Ithilien really did make no sense for Frodo's character ("It's just a feeling...I don't think I'll be coming back" -Duh-really Frodo? Thought you'd figured that out on the banks of the Anduin!).
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2007-08-27 16:46 (UTC) (Link)
I agree, Mews. It was indeed made clear in Ithilien (theatrical scene, not the EE addition) that Frodo knew he wasn't coming back. I have always thought that this scene merely established--beautifully and movingly--that now Sam knew it too.

I love that live, too, and so did Philippa Boyens, judging from her use of it in the commentaries. Wish she'd pressed her point, being the resident book expert and Tolkien fan, more strongly and more often.
lily_the_hobbit at 2007-08-27 20:45 (UTC) (Link)
These scene all have me in tears, be they movie or book. What I like especially in the book is that the reader's attention is constantly drawn to the lack of water from the moment Frodo and Sam enter into Mordor (you never find me drinking that much, except when I'm reading Frodo and Sam in Mordor and I feel I have to drink for both of them). And of course Sam's inner debate and that he sticks to his task even "if it breaks his back and heart".

However, I totally agree with what gentlehobbit said in her post. There is a bit of "Frodo" lacking but that is a continued effect from earlier scenes (ever since the fellowship parted Sam got most of book Frodo's wonderful lines, if they were included at all).
mechtild at 2007-08-28 02:05 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for commenting, Lily. I agree this section of Sam and Frodo's story line is superb. And the drinking passages really are excellent.

I agree with you and Gentlehobbit that Frodo is lacking compared to his book character, not only in RotK but throughout. But I don't agree that Frodo, in the waterskin scene, doesn't already know that "there will be no return journey." I thought the opening scene in Ithilien (when the hobbits are resting in a sort of culvert formed by some ruins) made clear that while Sam still thought they'd be coming back, Frodo had no such belief. In the scene above, when Frodo says "There'll be none for the return journey," I have always understood his reading of that line to mean that he was humouring Sam, pretending to go along with the fiction of "there and back again" for Sam' sake. When Sam says, "I don't think there will be a return journey" and they exchange looks, I have understood that to show that Sam is saying, "You don't need to pretend anymore, Mr. Frodo. I know there's no hope of coming back." But they go on anyway, committed to accomplishing the Quest if they possibly can.

BUT, if you and Gentlehobbit are right, and the line means what it says--that Frodo really did not know until Sam gave his line that they would not survive the Quest--then that is a grave fault indeed. In fact, I would find it impossible to take pleasure in the scene, it would be so wrong-headed--just as bad as the inane EE scene in Ithilien in which Frodo says, as if it just occurred to him (and right after the scene in which his look made it clear that he did not think they were going to come back), "I don't think I'll be coming back."

If you are right, and the line really means to convey the sense that Frodo still is not aware on Gorgoroth that he's unlikely to come back, my only excuse is that I so *want* the line to mean the other thing I've *forced* it to mean that in my mind. I suppose that is very possible, for I really do want to like the scene! *rolleyes*
(Anonymous) at 2007-08-29 16:38 (UTC) (Link)

In the scene above, when Frodo says "There'll be none for the return journey," I have always understood his reading of that line to mean that he was humouring Sam, pretending to go along with the fiction of "there and back again" for Sam' sake. When Sam says, "I don't think there will be a return journey" and they exchange looks, I have understood that to show that Sam is saying, "You don't need to pretend anymore, Mr. Frodo. I know there's no hope of coming back."

This is exactly how I have always interpreted the ‘water-skin’ scene, Mechtild. For me, Frodo and Sam reach a new understanding here, when at last they are BOTH fully aware of the terrible reality of their situation - that they are unlikely to survive the Quest. Sam has come to understand what Frodo has known and accepted for some time. I think this short scene strengthens their bond of affection and comradeship in a poignant yet positive way; as Frodo takes Sam’s offered hand - ‘we know we are going to our deaths, but we will go on, and we will do what we have to do, together - no matter the cost.’ It’s very moving.

The added EE scene you mentioned, when Frodo baulks and announces 'I don't think I'll be coming back,' really jars with me. It seems that the film-makers just tossed it into the mix as an after-thought, without giving it serious consideration. For me it is contradictory and superfluous – even in the extended version of the film - as it has already been established that Frodo knows there will be no going back. As both yourself and Mews point out, I believe this is clearly displayed by Frodo’s expression in the earlier 'culvert' scene. Sam's 'There should be enough,' (lembas) prompts Frodo to ask 'For what?' 'The journey home,' Sam replies. Frodo says nothing (unwilling to shatter Sam’s sense of hope, perhaps), but his expression speaks volumes.

I have only recently listened to the BBC LOTR radio adaptation for the first time, and I cannot praise Bill Nighy’s Sam highly enough. But Sean Astin makes a fine film-Sam; loyal and stout-hearted, his love and concern for Frodo is written plain in his gentle eyes, and on his open, honest face.

Thank you for another excellent presentation, Mechtild.

mechtild at 2007-08-30 01:22 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks so much, Blossom. It is a real pleasure to hear from you.

I am glad, too, to hear you "read" the film scene the similarly.

I think this short scene strengthens their bond of affection and comradeship in a poignant yet positive way; as Frodo takes Sam’s offered hand - ‘we know we are going to our deaths, but we will go on, and we will do what we have to do, together - no matter the cost.’

That expresses better than I did what I was getting at. It *is* very moving.

And I'm so glad you got to listen to the BBC production. It has some bad moments, and some miscasting, but the Sam and Frodo material is just superb, I think. It was hearing William Nighy's Sam that made me see, at last, what it was that Frodo might not only love but really enjoy about Sam. Nighy's Sam has a sense of wonder and sweetness, which I think Astin's Sam showed in the beginning, but he also has Sam's wonderful sense of humour, his wit (that could make up the songs about the trolls and the oliphaunts), as well as his prudence. Sam is not foolish, nor is he a fool, no matter how many names he takes to himself. Nighy's performance really showed me Sam's mental acuity, resourcefulness, and perceptiveness. I feel as though he opened my mind and heart to what Sam in the book could be, who he could be, and I am immensely grateful.
frodosweetstuff at 2007-08-31 13:33 (UTC) (Link)
*happy sigh* Thank you so much for making these screencaps.
mechtild at 2007-08-31 13:35 (UTC) (Link)
You are welcome again!
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2007-09-03 09:15 (UTC) (Link)
Simply wonderful screen caps, Mechling. Thank you.

I’ve just finished reading Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I feel inspired by it too. I needed something to cheer me up after reading John Garth’s 'Tolkien and the Great War'.

The Passage of the Marshes, in both book and film are going to have greater clarity and poignancy for me.

You may have read Coelho's book – It’s a fable about following your dream. The protagonist is a young shepherd, Santiago, and I have to admit it – I imagined Frodo as Santiago. Squee! :D

I have also learned that the actor, Laurence Fishburne is going to be producing the film version for Warner Brothers. Double squee! for the Moors and their beautiful garb (Laurence of Arabia anyone?). Now how do we go about getting Elijah Wood cast as Santiago? I’d love to see him dressed in a white caftan trying to become the wind. *biggest grin ever*

mechling at 2007-09-03 13:47 (UTC) (Link)
I just loved John Garth's book, Estë. I thought it was one of the best Tolkien studies I'd read, and one that will very much stick with me as I read the books. I made lots of quotes and if I ever finish this I'd like to write a little recommendation of it.

I had not even heard of 'The Alchemist' (but I haven't heard of most books written in the last fifty years, lol); it sounds fascinating! And it will be a film? I admire Laurence Fishburne very much. When I'm at work (at the library) this week, perhaps I'll go take a look at it. I have two books in on reserve that I'll be reading first, but maybe I'll place i'The Alchemist' on request if it's not on the shelves.

~ Mechtild
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2007-09-04 07:47 (UTC) (Link)
I agree with what you said about John Garth's book and it really is one to be re-read.

Paulo Coelho’s 'The Alchemist' can be read in a few hours. I managed to squeeze it in between tidying up the garden at the week-end.

mechtild at 2007-09-04 13:05 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the tip on the book's brevity, Estë. All the more reason to reserve it!
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