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:
Tables of Links: