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-wineIt would be good,
it would comfort me
that it had all
been a dream.
of a water-fall,
I see myself
As did I.
My heart stops:
There are some
which mean more
than a life-time of
what were your thoughts
Did you know
to take your hand?
Did you know
(for one should never
such a journey
Did you know,
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: