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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Sammath Naur Pt. 5: Gollum Bites, plus jan-u-wine’s “Frodo’s Remembrance of Gollum”.

Posted on 2007.10.08 at 09:49
Tags: , ,

Warning: Many images (my apologies to dial-up viewers), some very gory.

There was a lot of talk about this scene among fans on the messageboards when RotK first came out. There was praise, but also plenty of argument about the departures from the book--not just about the loss of most of the Sammath Naur dialogue, but the manner of Gollum's death, that is, the fight at the brink.

In the book, after Gollum bites off Frodo’s finger and takes the Ring, Frodo gives no response but remains on his knees, apparently too stunned to react. Gollum meanwhile exults, making his mis-step and falling to his death.

In the film scene, Gollum's exultation is more drawn out. Although wounded and bloody, Frodo does recover. Seething, he assails Gollum mid-dance, and, as they grapple with each other for possession of the Ring, they both mis-step, and topple over together.

To me, the idea that Frodo, given the time he was given in the film scene, would have gone after Gollum with everything he had to retrieve the Ring, does not seem un-book-like. Had the film-makers gone through with their original idea, however, in which Frodo would push Gollum over the edge, murdering him, it would have been most un-book-like indeed. In fact, it would have spoiled the trilogy for me. Thankfully, the book-adaptation gods were doing their job and everyone was spared this travesty.

As might be guessed, I think this is an excellent scene. The images of the biting itself, Frodo's pain and rage, Gollum's euphoric joy as he holds the Ring aloft, all are unforgettable. The scoring, and Renee Fleming’s vocals for the moment of Gollum's ecstasy are out of this world. I also love the way the camera gives the Ring's eye view of Gollum as he holds it up, letting us see his face through the circle of the Ring. Even if it didn't make an effective book-end with the shot from the Prancing Pony in Bree, in which Frodo is seen through the circle of the Ring before it lands on his finger, I would think it brilliant.

~ Frodo in Bree, the Ring descending:

Incidentally, it wasn't until I saw this scene discussed on messageboards that I realised the subtle symbolism expressed by the fact that in Bree, Frodo's face is not enclosed by the descending Ring. His face is shown off-centre behind its framing. In the Sammath Naur, Gollum's face is completely encircled by it. That's the sort of subtle detail I just love, and which helps make these films as great as they are.

Again, I think this is a brilliant sequence, with little to mar it. Only the spectacle of Gollum riding an invisible Frodo piggy-back seemed “off” to me (which was why I didn't cap it). The book text described a to-and-fro grappling, which would have worked better. Come to think of it, it did work better, since that's just the sort of fight we see *after* Frodo's finger is bitten off, and he is visible again. I merely thought the look of Gollum riding around on [invisible] Frodo piggy-back looked cartoonish, bringing in a note of the ridiculous, which surely was not the intended effect. But never mind that. Many viewings on, I have long since got used to it, able now to simply revel in the glories of the scene.

Because it was written to the book scene rather than the one portrayed in the film, I am posting jan-u-wine's Frodo's Remembrance of Gollum below the book excerpt, which follows the caps. Written from Frodo’s point of view, Jan's poem shows the empathy and mercy at the heart of this character I so love.



Book scene, continued, from Mount Doom.

Something struck Sam violently in the back, his legs were knocked from under him and he was flung aside, striking his head against the stony floor, as a dark shape sprang over him. He lay still and for a moment all went black.

And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.

From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired. For they were forgotten. The whole mind and purpose of the Power that wielded them was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain. At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.

Sam got up. He was dazed, and blood streaming from his head dripped in his eyes. He groped forward, and then he saw a strange and terrible thing. Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe. To and fro he swayed, now so near the brink that almost he tumbled in, now dragging back, falling to the ground, rising, and falling again. And all the while he hissed but spoke no words.

The fires below awoke in anger, the red light blazed, and all the cavern was filled with a great glare and heat. Suddenly Sam saw Gollum’s long hands draw upwards to his mouth; his white fangs gleamed and then snapped as they bit. Frodo gave a cry, and there he was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm’s edge. But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle. It shone now as if verily it was wrought of living fire.


Frodo’s Remembrance of Gollum

~ by jan-u-wine

It would be good,
it would comfort me
to waken
from strange,
and believe
that it had all
been a dream.

Like looking
the slender,
distant curtain
of a water-fall,
I see myself

and you.

hated It.
As did I.


My heart stops:



There are some
which mean more
than a life-time of
what were your thoughts
in that

Did you know
I wished
to take your hand?

Did you know

I wished
to go
with you?

(for one should never
such a journey

Did you know,
as you
and fell,

I saw
at last
in your eyes

and you knew...

who you were.

I will remember


Entries in this series:

~ Sammath Naur Intro: "Why I fell for Frodo” ~ Main essay for series(this essay is friends locked).

~ Sammath Naur 1: ‘I’m here, Sam.’

~ Sammath Naur 2: ‘Throw It in the fire!’

~ Sammath Naur 3: ‘Just let It go!’, plus three poems by jan-u-wine.

~ Sammath Naur 4: ‘The Ring is mine’, plus jan-u-wine’s “That Which Is My Own”.

~ Sammath Naur 5: Gollum Bites, plus jan-u-wine’s “Frodo’s Remembrance of Gollum”.

~ Sammath Naur 6: Gollum Falls, plus essay on Gollum’s oath.

~ Sammath Naur 7: ‘Give Me Your Hand’, plus jan-u-wine’s “Within the Chamber”.

~ Sammath Naur 8: ‘Take my hand’, plus jan-u-wine’s “The Claiming".

~ Sammath Naur 9: ‘Don't you let go’, plus jan-u-wine’s “In the Garden of the Mind".

~ Sammath Naur 10: ‘Reach’, plus jan-u-wine’s “And I Don’t Mean To".

Other Tables of Links:

~ Entries with jan-u-wine's poems.

~ Frodo & Elijah Wood screencap entries

~ Mechtild


verangel at 2007-10-08 18:37 (UTC) (Link)
oh this poem..so much recognition of himself through this fallen creature, vulnerable and merciful.
Its beautiful (as always..perfect).

I love this scene but hate where Frodo had gone. The screencaps close up were really gruesome (close up of finger)...ew. But Frodo's face is AMAZING! His pain to anger to want and take...determined. The eyes..

I have to say when reading the excerpt again I felt that really, the scene was very well depicted of the moving around and erratic grapplingin mid air of Gollum. It is what was called for, although in the text no words are heard.
"Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe. To and fro he swayed, now so near the brink that almost he tumbled in, now dragging back, falling to the ground, rising, and falling again. And all the while he hissed but spoke no words."

Then of course his fangs bit off the poor finger. ick..(not having read the book before I was like...no he's not!! ewew...poor Frodo.)

xoxoxo v
mechtild at 2007-10-08 20:16 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks so much for commenting, Verangel. His face is amazing, and so is Gollum's. What a terrific job they all did here.

It is what was called for, although in the text no words are heard.

"Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe. To and fro he swayed, now so near the brink that almost he tumbled in, now dragging back, falling to the ground, rising, and falling again. And all the while he hissed but spoke no words."

You're quite right to bring up the text, Verangel. It made me think some more so edited in some additional remarks, explaining that it was the look of the piggy-back moment that struck me as silly-looking. If they had done what was described (grappling madly with Frodo, but in a back-and-forth sort of way, as they tugged their hardest for possession of the Ring), I would have been happy. But, as I said above in the edit, that sort of fight is *exactly* what they choreographed for the visible fight scene. I will repeat some of this for that post, so don't be surprised if I sound redundant!

Yes, the caps with the finger still in the Ring are very "ew", thus my warning. Yet the frames are so brilliantly done, I couldn't *not* post them. Gollum's face in those shots is just crazed.
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2007-10-08 20:19 (UTC) (Link)
It's a super, super scene, I agree, Mews. It's hard to believe he's the same character from the rest of the films. And Jan's poem.... *sigh* She really captures the heart-wringing beauty of his character there.
shirebound at 2007-10-08 19:29 (UTC) (Link)
That is such a heartbreaking, heart-stopping scene.

The images of the biting itself, Frodo's pain and rage, Gollum's euphoric joy as he holds the Ring aloft, all are unforgettable. The scoring, and Renee Fleming’s vocals for the moment of Gollum's ecstasy are out of this world.

I completely agree. The lighting, acting, music... it was amazing.
mechtild at 2007-10-08 20:28 (UTC) (Link)
I'd say this sequence is a real tour de force. I still dislike the image of piggy-back Gollum (prompted by Verangel's comment, I added a qualifier to my comment in the post, to be more specific re: what it was I didn't like about it). But, what the heck. It's GREAT.

You know what I think is ultra-cool and brilliant about the score for Gollum holding up the Ring (with cuts to Aragorn and co. at the Black Gate), the melody line Renee Fleming sings? Not only is it mesmerizing just as a piece of vocal music, it is a slightly altered re-statement of the theme they always play when someone is coming to the rescue. It's the music for the march of the Ents on Isengard, and it plays as Théoden looks down on burning Minas Tirith, while assembling his charge. The theme gets used in other places similarly, always when things are in crisis, but the forces for good are mobilizing.

I always wondered if Howard Shore used it here on purpose to signal viewers, ever so subliminally, that although Frodo was down and Gollum had the Ring, although Aragorn and his remnant looked about to be annihilated at the Black Gate, that a change--the eucatrastrophe--was about to happen, and Right would, suddenly, wonderfully, be restored. I look forward to the release of the Complete RotK soundtrack, which is bound to discuss all the themes and their uses. In all your discussions, have you ever heard this use of the theme at the Crack of Doom mentioned?
addie71 at 2007-10-09 00:12 (UTC) (Link)
I know I don't comment very often, but I do love these posts of yours. Thank you so much for them.
mechtild at 2007-10-09 04:56 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks very much, Addie. I appreciate your comment. :)
aprilkat at 2007-10-09 01:53 (UTC) (Link)
As always, your photo and word essays on Frodo and the Ring are amazing. And matched with Jan's poetry, they resonate even more with our own pain and horror.
mechtild at 2007-10-09 05:01 (UTC) (Link)
And matched with Jan's poetry, they resonate even more with our own pain and horror.

Astutely observed, Aprilkat. Along with loving Frodo as a character quite different from us, I hear over and over how much people who love him identify with him, sharing his suffering and his joys. No wonder watching or reading his story is such an emotional experience.

Thanks for posting!
shelbyshire at 2007-10-09 01:55 (UTC) (Link)
In all the times I've watched this scene, I don't think I've ever actually "seen" Frodo's finger in Gollum's mouth. Yuck!

*blushes* I just love the dark cap of Frodo, the one right before Sam. I fall hard for Frodo looking like that!!
mechtild at 2007-10-09 05:07 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, isn't Frodo furious a fine thing? I knew you'd love that one, judging from your icon. *G*

P.S. I never noticed the finger, either--not until I made the caps. I thought they did a fabulous job. Not to be gross, but the detail is just superb--not just the gory stuff but the expressions on Gollum's face from frame to frame, the set of his fingers as he holds it, even the little strand of spittle trailing from his mouth--I am just wowed by the artistry of the film-makers in this scene.

To be honest, Shelbyshire, I don't think I noticed because whenever I'm actually watching the film, if Frodo's in the scene my eyes are always glued to him. *sheepish face*
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2007-10-09 23:20 (UTC) (Link)
Meep. Stunning doesn't say it. I love him.

*meep* back at you. Good to hear from a fellow-meeper.

Thanks for posting, White Gull!
stillscarlet at 2007-10-09 23:20 (UTC) (Link)
Wow. These are fantastic. It all goes by so quickly in the film; what a treat to see the details - however gory. :D That string of saliva you just mentioned... it's one of those details that demonstrates the love of their craft that the film-makers poured into these movies. Bravo! *applauds*

But (there's always a 'but') I agree with you about piggy-back Gollum. Someone had a very quirky sense of humour, and just couldn't resist throwing in silly or kewl moments amidst the sublime; I suspect PJ. I'm sure it's a lovely part of his personality, but I wish someone else had slapped his hand at times. Roll on the day when we can edit our own version of the films! ;)

Gorgeous poem from Jan, as always. Guh.

Last but certainly not least: isn't Tolkien just a master of language? (Does a bear shit in the woods?) I adore that image of Sauron's mind "shaking free" of his dark webs.
mechtild at 2007-10-10 02:25 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you don't think I'm crazy for popnting out the thread of saliva. It's that sort of detail, as you say, that shows what craftsmen and women they were, working on this project. Just brilliant stuff like that, all over the place, much of it barely noticeable watching the films. Yet I do think it's part of what makes the films great.

Your remarks about PJ's little weaknesses as a filmmaker made me laugh. Yes, he does need taking in hand sometimes. He can't resist his little jokes.

And the language? That whole passage is marvelous. I loved the description of the Nazgûl, once summoned: on a storm of wings they "hurtled" southward to Mt. Doom. That was conveyed pretty well by the film artists!

And Jan's poem. Ah, Jan's poem. Yes, it is gorgeous. What a feel she has for her characters, and what eloquence conveying what is going on inside them.
fordsflappers at 2007-10-12 18:29 (UTC) (Link)
The only true ending for me is the alternative one Tolkien spoke of in his letters: Gollum purposely jumping in and saving the Quest. The ending Tolkien went with completely undercut his point about pity, (I guess it DOESN'T elevate) and if God was going to intervene (shoving in dancing Gollum) he should have done it a hell of a lot sooner and saved everyone the trouble of the whole thing. And if it was Frodo cursing Gollum that made him fall then the Quest was saved only by an act of malignancy (when Quests are achieved through evil actions, Sauron Wins.)

Sorry for the rant. It gets to me. JRR came so close to getting it right.
mechtild at 2007-10-13 02:06 (UTC) (Link)
Maybe I misrepresented what I meant in my account of oaths and curses, Fordslappers. I didn't mean to imply that Gollum died the way he did because Frodo cursed him, but because he had made an oath that couldn't be broken, but broke it. Sorry to be vague, especially after so many words! *emabarrassed*
frodosweetstuff at 2007-10-19 16:51 (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow, I love your observation about Frodo's face not being framed by the Ring while Gollum's is. :)
mechtild at 2007-10-19 19:26 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Frodosweetstuff. It really is a cool little symbolic detail, the sort of thing I never noticed actually watching the films. But it's this sort of detail that adds so much to the richness of the films, even if in a subliminal way. I am absolutely sure of it.
julchen11 at 2008-01-05 21:09 (UTC) (Link)
What a post! All happens so quickly in the movie and now I’m scrolling back and forth, up and down … looking at those wonderful details. The filmmakers and all people working on this scene (ok, not only on this scene) did a wonderful job.
Frodo *sigh* - just beautiful, yes, beautiful!

Jan’s poem … *sigh* - I know why she’s my favourite poem !
Not only the words are written down, oh no, - there are emotions BETWEEN the lines – there’s so much to hear, one just has to “listen” to the beauty of words.

Great work, lovey, absolutely great. I wanted to read your 10 chapters all at once – but I’ll make it step by step because emotions taking over.

You should see the pictures PRINTED ... they are fascinating, I don't even dare to touch them.

See you later again!
Love and gently hugs,
mechtild at 2008-01-05 21:35 (UTC) (Link)
It's such a powerful scene, how can it *not* make great caps and inspire super poetry?

Not only the words are written down, oh no, - there are emotions BETWEEN the lines – there’s so much to hear, one just has to “listen” to the beauty of words.

That's great, Julchen, a wonderful description! But it takes a good hearer to hear. :)
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