Sep 18 2009 3:54pm

LotR re-read: Two Towers IV.1, “The Taming of Sméagol”

cover of The Two Towers We embark on the second half of The Lord of the Rings with chapter IV.1 of The Two Towers, “The Taming of Sméagol.” As always, spoilers for the entire book and comments after the jump.

What Happens

Frodo and Sam have been trying to get out of the Emyn Muil for three days, and finally that night come to a cliff that they can descend with the help of a handy self-untying Elven rope, after a brief pause for Nazgûl-inspired terror and blindness. As they rest near the bottom, they see Gollum, who they saw was following them the first night, coming down the cliff. He falls near the bottom (having no rope of his own), and Sam pounces on him, but is bitten and nearly throttled before Frodo pulls out Sting.

Frodo, remembering Gandalf’s words about pity, decides not to kill Gollum but to force him to accompany them so they can keep an eye on him. Gollum agrees but then makes a break for it when the hobbits feign sleep. They catch him easily and tie his ankle with their rope. However, the Elf-made rope causes Gollum pain, so Frodo agrees to take it off in return for his oath on the One Ring. Gollum, now calling himself Sméagol, becomes abjectly devoted to Frodo and begins guiding them to Mordor.


Let’s start with Frodo, who is more tired and worn out at this point than I’d remembered. At the start of the chapter, as they try to figure the way to Mordor, he says, “All my choices have proved ill. . . . Every day that passes is a precious day lost. I am tired, Sam. I don’t know what is to be done.” He recovers pretty well during the chapter—and I’m certainly not blaming him!—but I hadn’t expected to see that kind of comment this early in the book.

Also, just in case anyone’s unfamiliar with the usage: when Frodo says “It’s my doom, I think, to go to that Shadow yonder, so that a way will be found,” he’s using “doom” in the older sense of “fate,” not “doom and gloom.” Which belatedly makes me wonder what sense the drums in Moria were using the word . . .

* * *

Frodo remains more suspectible to the Nazgûl than Sam, being temporarily struck blind at the sound of its cry. The rope appears to play a role in Frodo’s sight returning. I wonder if it shimmers generally, not just in response to significant evil? I’m not sure I’d take odds either way, since the Elves are so associated with light: Galadriel’s phial and the Silmarils back in the First Age, but even the cloaks, which control light through their color-blending properties.

The very convenient rope (remembered to be in Sam’s pack, very light, longer than they expect, stronger than they expect, lifts their hearts) becomes a little too convenient for me when it unties itself at Sam’s wish and invocation of Galadriel. I’m also not sure it really makes a difference: yes, if Gollum had had a rope it would have been harder for the hobbits to catch him at first, but I think a way could have been found.

Also, the storm that accompanies the Nazgûl appears ordinary at first, but a later passage suggests otherwise:

The skirts of the storm were lifting, ragged and wet, and the main battle had passed to spread its great wings over the Emyn Muil, upon which the dark thought of Sauron brooded for a while. Thence it turned, smiting the Vale of Anduin with hail and lightning, and casting its shadow upon Minas Tirith with threat of war. Then, lowering in the mountains, and gathering its great spires, it rolled on slowly over Gondor and the skirts of Rohan, until far away the Riders on the plain saw its black towers moving behind the sun, as they rode into the West. But here, over the desert and the reeking marshes the deep blue sky of evening opened once more, and a few pallid stars appeared, like small white holes in the canopy above the crescent moon.

I point this out for three reasons: I hadn’t noticed it before; it adds a layer of menace to the storm, which was already physically dangerous and had a bonus Nazgûl, to have Sauron’s thought linked to it; and it’s a nice reminder of the other things that are going on. I’m not sure what I’m going to end up thinking about the splitting of the story into separate chunks, but I do recall that Tolkien makes an effort to remind readers of how the timelines match up and show that the characters are thinking of each other.

* * *

And now, Gollum and Sméagol. A question for you all, to start: has anyone with a better sense of rhythm than I analyzed Gollum’s speech to see if there’s some pattern lurking there? It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that his uses of repetition, pauses, non-standard plurals, and interjections—which are so characteristic and flow so well—are part of a modified verse form or some such.

Frodo decides not to kill Gollum because of his conversation with Gandalf, which is described with a slightly different emphasis than I remembered. The dialogue is introduced like this: “It seemed to Frodo then that he heard, quite plainly but far off, voices out of the past.” And after, Frodo’s reaction suggests this was more literal than metaphorical, as he “answer(s) aloud” and “seem(s) to be speaking to some one who was not there.” But I don’t believe that Gandalf actually spoke to him now or stirred that memory from afar, as he did on Amon Hen; it just feels wrong. What do you all think?

After Frodo answers out loud, the viewpoint for the rest of the chapter shifts to Sam; to this point, it had been mostly Frodo. (Oh, and the intrusive narrator made a brief appearance when Sam attempted to go over the cliff first: “It is doubtful if he ever did anything braver in cold blood, or more unwise.”) The effect is of alienation and distance, emphasizing the ways that Frodo is like Sméagol and moving away from Sam; indeed, Sam thinks that “the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another’s minds.” And Frodo does show surprising insight. He is the first to call Gollum “Sméagol,” perhaps prompted by the memory of his conversation with Gandalf, but that conversation hadn’t made clear the significance of the name the way that Gollum does, shortly after:

Then suddenly his voice and language changed, and he sobbed in his throat, and spoke but not to them. ‘Leave me alone, gollum! You hurt me. O my poor hands, gollum! I, we, I don’t want to come back. I can’t find it. I am tired. I, we can’t find it, gollum, gollum, no, nowhere. . . . ’ He got up and clenched his long hand into a bony fleshless knot, shaking it towards the East. ‘We won’t!’ he cried. ‘Not for you.’ Then he collapsed again. ‘Gollum, gollum,’ he whimpered with his face to the ground. ‘Don’t look at us! Go away! Go to sleep!’

‘He will not go away or go to sleep at your command, Sméagol,’ said Frodo. ‘But if you really wish to be free of him again, then you must help me. . . . ’

Gollum sat up again and looked at him under his eyelids. ‘ . . . Don’t ask Sméagol. Poor, poor Sméagol, he went away long ago. They took his Precious, and he’s lost now.’

‘Perhaps we’ll find him again, if you come with us,’ said Frodo.

‘No, no, never! He’s lost his Precious,’ said Gollum.

(Note also the switching between “I” and “we” in the remembered statements in Mordor. He and Mark Vorkosigan might have some interesting conversations . . . )

The first time Sméagol refers to himself by that name is when he offers to swear on the Ring. The resulting promise also contains mixed speech patterns: “‘We promises, yes I promise!’ said Gollum. ‘I will serve the master of the Precious. Good master, good Sméagol, gollum, gollum!’” Which probably ought to have been a warning sign to Frodo.

(Who, despite telling Gollum to beware swearing on the One Ring, that it is “treacherous” and “may twist your words,” doesn’t seem to notice the ambiguity in this promise, the ambiguity that Gollum will later exploit. That twisting can go more than one way, Frodo . . . )

And then Sméagol gets the dog imagery that once upon a time was applied to Sam, only more so: “like a whipped cur whose master has patted it,” “like a dog inviting them for a walk.” I’m fully with Sam on this one, for a change:

[Sméagol] would cackle with laughter and caper, if any jest was made, or even if Frodo spoke kindly to him, and weep if Frodo rebuked him. Sam said little to him of any sort. He suspected him more deeply than ever, and if possible liked the new Gollum, the Sméagol, less than the old.

Well, maybe not so much on the suspicion, but definitely on the dislike. Pity, too, but his abjectness makes my skin crawl. To go back to the dog metaphor: if I step on my dog’s paw by accident, she will yelp and then immediately start licking my hand and wagging her tail, as if to say, “I’m a good dog, really I am, don’t hurt me, see, I’m a good dog!” Which I hate. I would much rather she go sulk for a while, odd as that may sound, because it wouldn’t make me feel like a domestic abuser (especially when I apologize by petting her, which I can’t help but suspect is reinforcing the dynamic).

 . . . that is probably a controversial example, so let’s just say that one person’s self-worth ought not depend so wholly and intensely on another person’s opinion of them, which I think we can all agree on. I have no idea if Frodo does anything to try and discourage this, or if it’s even something he has the capacity to comprehend as a problem as the Ring begins to wear on him more.

Oh, yes: I wondered last time if it would feel weird, coming back to Frodo and Sam after so long away. It did at first, especially since we are plunked right down into Sam’s idiom in the first line, so different from what we’ve been hearing: “‘Well, master, we’re in a fix and no mistake,’ said Sam Gamgee.” But from there I fell back into the story very easily. I don’t know if that was familiarity or technique, and would be particularly interested in other people’s experiences.

« Two Towers III.11 | Index | “Frodo and the Great War” »

Kate Nepveu is, among other things, an appellate lawyer, a spouse and parent, and a woman of Asian ancestry. She also writes at her LiveJournal and booklog.

mark Proctor
1. mark-p
I alway thought that maybe Gollum had something to do with the rope falling
but I was never sure if the rope did actually cause him pain, when it was tied to him, or if it was in his head or if he was just exaggerating so they would untie him (or a combination).
I guess if the elvish rope did actually cause him pain he wouldn't have been able to untie it.
j p
2. sps49
It was most severe the first time, but I am always annoyed when yanked from Rohan to the Emyn Muil, until I am immersed again in the story. Which happened when the story left the Ring with Book 3 and will happen again with Book 5.

Now I think that multithreading a story can be very enjoyable, but they must be resolved well (like Fletch or the early WoT books) and not be too long (perhaps LotR, certainly the later Wot books) or never resolved.

And is Frodo fooled by Sméagol?
3. DemetriosX
I wouldn't say that Frodo is fooled by Sméagol, exactly. Rather he wants to believe in a core of goodness somewhere deep down. It may be a tad naive given what we know about Sméagol's early history, but Frodo doesn't have that advantage. It should also be noted that he does come very close to taming Gollum.

I always assumed the rope untied itself and that the shimmering is an inherent property of the rope itself, not a response to the presence of evil. Of course, if Sam really knows a lot about rope and knots, he probably could have come up with a way to retrieve the rope without any elvish "magic".

I can't really say anymore what my original reaction to the sudden change of POV was the first time I read it. These days it's really more a sense of "Oh, geeze, now we get all this Frodo and Sam stuff. Let's hurry up and get back to Merry and Pippin. They're more interesting." For me, this section really drags with only a few highlights, namely the Window on the West and the very end. The rest is mostly dreary filler.
4. DBratman
I wonder how people who find the opening of this chapter disconcerting would react if they read it without the sudden jump: try reading the story with Book 4 immediately following Book 2.

Book 4 is much quieter than Books 3 and 5, but as they're full of war and battle and strategy, we need a respite. When I did research on the most-quoted lines in LOTR, I found that Book 4 had the fewest of them. There is one thing, though, that it has more of than the rest of LOTR put together: botany. Ithilien is full of vegetation, and Tolkien is indefatigable about describing it.

I agree, Gandalf is not actually speaking when Frodo remembers the conversation. But then in a sense he wasn't speaking on Amon Hen either, nor was Sauron speaking to Pippin in the palantir.

Omit rant here about people who seem to actually like the tendency of dogs to behave so abjectly.
Evan Langlinais
5. Skwid
I wonder if anyone has ever referred to the presence of a Nazgûl as a bonus, before. Ever.
David Goldfarb
6. David_Goldfarb
When I was a kid (and read LotR many times) my reaction to book 4 was very similar to that of DemetriosX. I came to it again after not reading it for a while and was surprised to find that that had changed.
Michael Ikeda
7. mikeda
All my choices have proved ill

It occurs to me that Aragorn is saying much the same thing at a similar point in time.
8. pilgrimsoul
I think JRRT would say that the rope had "the virtue of the Elves" which evil could not suffer. I would guess that Orcs would find themselves burned by it as Gollum did.
Jo Walton
9. bluejo
I always found reading it (before it became utterly familiar) that the POV shift here, and then the POV shift back both disconcerted me, both times I wanted to stay with the characters I was with and not switch, both times I quickly became immersed again.

Also, I am very fond of poor Smeagol, and have no problem identifying with him, though I also identify with Sam's mistrust of him.
Sharon Asbury
10. Dreadlady
Hi, Kate!

Re: your dog's behavior ... What you're actually looking for is a cat! I accidentally stepped on the tip of (one of) my cats tail, and I had to follow him all over the house, then corner him, just so I could apologize.

Also, we're coming up on my favorite part of the whole sage: Ithilien.
David Dyer-Bennet
11. dd-b
let’s just say that one person’s self-worth ought not depend so wholly and intensely on another person’s opinion of them, which I think we can all agree on

Given that you're rejecting the entire structure of "romantic love" here, I wouldn't be all THAT sure that we can all agree on it.

I do, though.
12. Dr. Thanatos
A couple of items:

The Elven-rope shimmering. Is Galadriel, who at least supervised the making of the rope, not referred to in one place or another as the Lady of Light?

Also, when Frodo was recovering in Imladris, Gandalf noted a translucency about his arm and thought to himself that something had changed about Frodo's fundamental nature. "not to evil, I think; he may become a vessel filled with light for those to see who can." Since that time, whether because of his near-wraith experience or his possession and use of the Ring, he seems to be more sensitive to the supra-natural. Remember when he saw Aragorn at Cerin Amroth speaking to someone who wasn't there? And Aragorn was described as looking different? And he's having a vision placed in his mind here?

Whether it's Gandalf or whether he's become a direct tool of the One it seems to me that Frodo has a connection with Divine inspiration.

Re: Gollum. Gandalf was not kind, and hints that he may have applied advanced interrogatory techniques. Aragorn got rough with him, too. Is this the first time anyone has treated Gollum with kindness and respect? Look at the results. There are those who have theorized that the creation of the Fellowship was an experiment on Gandalf's part to see if interspecies friendship and cooperation was possible and that therefore the people of Middle-earth would be worthy of salvation from Sauron; consider the transformation of the relationship between Legolas and Gimli. Look at Frodo's treatment of Gollum vs. Sam's in this light.

I am also reminded of the Harry Potter sequence where the surly angry and semi-evil house-elf Kreature is transformed from nasty to nice by the simple act of treating him with kindness, dignity, and respect rather than cuffing him, kicking him, and treating him as a slave. A parallel?

Oh, and let's all remember that Bilbo could have killed Gollum, but pity stayed his hand. "It's a pity I've run out of bullets, he thought..." "
Tony Zbaraschuk
13. tonyz
Book IV is stark and bleak, but I've grown to like it more and more over the years, as my insight into the characters, and my experience of life, has grown. When I was young the battles were what it was all about (and indeed I still love Book V), but Book IV is where we get the clearest look at the Ring in action.

Our gaze is hampered by the fact that we're seeing most of this through Sam's eyes and he doesn't grok what's going on, which is that Frodo is struggling with the Ring for domination; and beginning to use it for the same. I think part of Frodo's insight into Gollum, and ability to get him to do what he wants, is because of the Ring's power. (But only part; he's also a hobbit understanding a fellow hobbit here.)
Hugh Arai
14. HArai
I was happy for the POV change on my first reading because I had become very curious how Frodo and Sam were faring. Personally, I don't find multiple POV threads jarring except when the switches are always cliffhangers.

With regard to the very convenient rope:

I'm definitely in the rope untied itself camp. It seems like almost all of Tolkien's items of interest have at least some form of awareness.

I wanted one the first time I read LotR. Light, strong, long enough - things a good crafter can achieve. Unties itself when you need it to? That's _magic_ :) I've always enjoyed magical items that aren't earth-shaking or grant wishes, just a little elevated from the mundane. The sort of thing that answers the question: So what is this magic thing good for if no one is trying to take over the world?
15. Dr. Thanatos

Frodo is the one who sees the rope shimmering in the darkness. He is also noted, since Weathertop, to be more able to see in the dark and is more sensitive to things in the wraith world. Does the convenient rope, made by Galadriel, exist in both realms rather like the High Elves . Does the rope have special qualities that allows Frodo to see it glimmering, even when he's blinded to the "real" world?
16. PerKellum
I was rooting around in Unfinished Tales yesterday (specifically in the chapter "The Istari," and noticed something that might be relevant to the issue of Frodo's imaginary conversation with Gandalf about Gollum's fate.

There's a reference to Gandalf's original name, Olorin, saying that it's related to olor, dream, but in the elvish sense of a clear vision in the mind of things that are not physically present, including "the vivid contents of their memory, as of their imagination." It adds "but not only as an idea, but to a full clothing of this in particular form and detail." It then references Olorin's habit of going among the elves unseen and that they "did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts."

So Gandalf had been in the habit of gifting wisdom in a more magical way than just speaking. He may have done it with Frodo, who needed it more than most. And Frodo might be doing something like Elvish "dreaming" when he has a dialogue with his clear memory of Gandalf's words...?
Kate Nepveu
17. katenepveu
Hello, everybody.

mark-p @ #1, welcome. While Gollum is certainly capable of lying when it suits him, I've always read this bit as him being honest--in the next chapter he can't eat lembas, and he's got no reason to lie about that, he's really hungry, so I think he does have a reaction to Elvish things.

sps49 @ #2, I'm not sure Frodo is _fooled_ by Gollum (and indeed on reading ahead he is much more cautious), but I, for one, would have had Smeagol word that oath quite a bit differently regardless of what I thought of his change of heart.

DemetriosX @ #3, you're right, Frodo's not wrong that there is some goodness in Smeagol. And I'm definitely finding myself less enthused about this book, but having read chapter 2 already, I'm surprised that more happens in it than I remembered. It may be a case of the landscape and psychological goings-on overriding everything else in my memories.

DBratman @ #4, have you or has anyone you know ever tried reading it in strict chronological order, or as close to as possible (say, on a chapter basis)? I think that would be a pretty interesting experiment.

Skwid @ #5, collect all Nine and get a prize! =>

David_Goldfarb @ #6, I wouldn't be surprised if my reaction changes.

mikeda @ #7, yes, I had a note about Aragorn's comment being similar and edited it out. It'll be interesting to see the extent we have further parallels or contrasts between the two.

pilgrimsoul @ #8, good point--I'd bet on Orcs being even more burned.

bluejo @ #9, I still remember the audience reaction when you said, at a con panel, that you strongly identified with Gollum when you were a teenager! I sympathize with him a great deal, though I'm not sure it's the same thing as identifying with, and also with Sam. That may be one reason why I don't look forward to this book, the whole dynamic makes my stomach hurt.

Dreadlady @ #10, I used to have a cat and miss it. (Our dog wouldn't get along well with one.) And yes, Ithilien (and Faramir!).

dd-b @ #11, I see your point but I don't agree in the degree, but further discussion of that would take us _really_ far afield, so if you don't mind, perhaps we can table it for now?

Dr. Thanatos @ #12, it's ambiguous whether Sam also sees the rope shimmer; he says "it does look sort of silver in the dark," now that Frodo mentions it.

The text does come down squarely on the side of kindness with respect to Gollum--add Faramir to your list--which makes me feel a bit better about the whole thing.

tonyz @ #13, the clearest look at the Ring in action--that may be why I used to find it hard going! We'll see.

HArai @ #14, you have convinced me: I want that rope too now. =>

PerKellum @ #16, I'm going to take your comment and go off on a tangent, which is:

Olorin's habit of going among the elves unseen and that they "did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts."

Wow, that's creepy.
Tony Zbaraschuk
18. tonyz
It took me a while to be able to separate analysis from experience. Seeing the Ring in action is ugly and degrading and Not Fun. Understanding that what you are seeing is Frodo putting the Ring into action... there is a certain amount of intellectual pleasure there. Getting past Sam's viewpoint and into what's happening is good, but it took me many years and several readings to be able to do it.

There are good moments, too, and Faramir is one of them. More on that (and the Ring) when we get to Henneth Annun. But a lot of Book IV really is summed up by the opening line. "We're in a fix, and no mistake."

We've spoken of the repeated alternation in the book: light to dark, homey to lonely, etc., etc., etc. I think Book IV is a large-scale example of that in action: it's the reversal from public (wars and battles and politics) to private (the landscape of the soul). Understanding how it works helps make it easier to read. And there are sub-alternations within the Book itself, of course.

And there are some moods in which Book IV ought not to be read: it's stark and dark and bracing, and if you're looking for light hobbit-humor or stirring banners passing, then that's not the day to read Book IV. (Unless your mood needs a corrective...)
Soon Lee
19. SoonLee
Re: Frodo's decision to recruit Gollum.

I thought it was Frodo thinking aloud rather than any telepathy on Gandalf's part.

I'm not creeped out by Olorin's dream promptings because I think of it more as a benign/benevolent being imparting wisdom & insight rather than being mentally dominated by a malign force.

I do think that Frodo's decision was that of a good person gambling on the possibility of rehabilitation, plus the alternatives aren't that palatable: to let Gollum go (with the possibility that Gollum might come back and ambush them later) or kill him (Frodo doesn't have that in him).

Extracting a promise from Gollum, despite it being a promise sworn by the Ring (and twisty as all get up) was probably the best option available at the time. I am also reminded that at this time, Frodo & Sam do not have the other (wiser) members of the Fellowship to consult.

The dog imagery makes me uncomfortable, but it is effective. Gollum doesn't behave like a normal person; he is damaged goods and I think that explains his lack of self-worth. One wouldn't expect a damaged person to behave like a normal person.

The elven rope: I'm in the 'rope untied itself because y'know, it's Elvish' camp.
20. DBratman
Kate @17: No, I've never tried reading the whole LOTR in chronological order, though the website at is sure determined to help you if you want to try.

I have re-read Le Guin's The Dispossessed in chronological order, and that was certainly a different experience.

Then there's the publishers' determination to make new readers of the Chronicles of Narnia think that they ought to start with The Magician's Nephew instead of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is a huge, huge mistake. (In my opinion, and that of every Lewis scholar I know.)
Terry Lago
21. dulac3
Kate: I think you are supposed to feel squeedgy about Gollum's subservience and I'd agree with SoonLee @19 that this is a direct (and very logical IMHO) result of his being severly damaged goods. To expect him to act with self-respect and strength of character would be to completely misunderstand who and what he is, I think. It's actually a testament to the great strength of character of hobbits in general that a creature that held onto the Ring for so long (and who had initially obtained it under evil circumstances) still did have the kernel of goodness that Frodo was almost able to awaken.

The oath is indeed tricksy and I would only suspect that your legal training would necessitate that you do away with such ambiguities, but Frodo is no lawyer and I imagine that he knows this is the best he's likely to get from Gollum. :)

I am also definitely of the 'elvish rope can untie itself' party. Magic in Tolkien is usually pretty subtle and usually works along the lines of enhancing already existing abilities of the item in question or making the item some kind of 'ideal exemplar' of it's this case the ideal rope will obviously do such things as untie itself when you desperately need it to do so. :)

Great insight @16 about Gandlaf/Olorin and the inspiration of the heart that seems to be at the core of who Gandalf is. I don't think, though, that this means there is any kind of long distance communication from G. going on here, simply that the wisdom he has already imparted to Frodo is able to surface when it's most needed and give him a push in the right direction. I would strongly agree with SoonLee @19 again that it's not meant to be creepy, but inspiring. Gandalf isn't making you do things you don't want to, he is encouraging the better part of your nature to make the right choices when push comes to shove. As a Catholic Tolkien would certainly see this as a Good Thing and in line with the movement of Grace in the soul...not the coercion of it.
22. Your mailbox is full.
dulac3@17: The oath is indeed tricksy and I would only suspect that your legal training would necessitate that you do away with such ambiguities, but Frodo is no lawyer and I imagine that he knows this is the best he's likely to get from Gollum. :)

Couldn't agree more. A lawyer friend of mine has said more or less the same thing. But consider the following revision (slightly rearranged for added effect):


'Down! down!' said Frodo. 'Now speak your promise!'
'We promises, yes I promise!' said Gollum. 'I will serve the master of the Precious.'
'You speak empty words whilst you twist them in your own mind,' said Frodo in a dreadfully quiet voice. 'I am the master of the Precious! Swear to me!'
For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his power in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog.
'I swear!' said Gollum. 'I swear to serve you master! Good master, good Smeagol, gollum, gollum!' Suddenly he began to weep and bite at his ankle again.


...better for Frodo's soul that he let the ambiguity slide, perhaps.
rick gregory
23. rickg
But Frodo could not claim the Ring - to do so would be perilous. And to kill Gollum... an evil act perpetrated in the vicinity of the Ring would be hazardous also, esp one that is an echo of what Gollum did to claim the Ring. Had he killed Gollum the West would have fallen and Sauron would have repossessed the Ring at the last - it was Frodo's act of mercy that ultimately determined the outcome of his quest.

This is why Frodo is the perfect Ringbearer. He's essentially a good being, strong of will and not one to take the expedient way. He's not perfect and he makes mistakes... but until the end his essential nature is exactly what's needed to possess the Ring for so long on such a journey and not end up possessed by it in turn.
Andrew Foss
24. alfoss1540
I have always read the beginning of this chapter as being a part of the surroundings - Rough, jagged and lost. They are lost and trying to get their bearings in Emyn Muil - and the writing is too. I reread the descriptions of turning east, then south, then north and can never get the bearings on the landscape.

As for gollum - I specifically have been reading this to see the nature of gollum. Andy Serkis - one of the only positive points of the movie - adds some masterful insights into gollum's midset - though they didn't always get it right. He is a great case study on psychosis and multiple personalities.
Kate Nepveu
25. katenepveu
tonyz @ #18, so it's like the Teckla of the book?

SoonLee @ #19, I just have a visceral reaction to someone consciously attempting to influence my actions without my knowing it. This may be because I'm not religious? I don't know.

DBratman @ #20, you don't have to be a Lewis scholar to think the renumbering of the Narnia books is a terrible idea . . .

dulac3 @ #21, sorry, I hadn't meant to imply I was supposed to like Smeagol's behavior! It's one of the reasons I find this section tough going, is all.

Your mailbox is full. @ #22: oooh, great point about what a tighter oath might've done to Frodo.

rickg @ #23, I've got more about this in the draft post about the next chapter, but yes, the thing that makes this so difficult for me is that everyone acts reasonably or in ways that I can sympathize with, and yet I know it's all going to go pear-shaped.

alfoss1540 @ #24, yes, I couldn't get a picture of the landscape either, but I'm pretty bad at that kind of thing so I hadn't examined the reasons closely. And Serkis's voice is definitely a plus in my head.
26. Meteorplum
Re: Gandalf/Olorin "implanting" ideas in people's (Elves and Frodo) heads

It's sort of Matrix-y:

"What d'you want, Frodo? 'Genealogy of Gondor's Stewards', 'Wizard Diaries', 'Giant Eagle Flying 101', Rose Cotton in the Red Dress?"

"Hit me with the wizards. I know Back Story!"

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