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Archive for the ‘2 – The Passage of the Marshes’ Category

It’s the end of another chapter, with two Nazgûl flyovers.

Frodo, Sam, and Gollum cower on the ground the first time, although the feeling of fear passes quickly. Nothing can be seen in the sky. They move on, but the fear comes again. Gollum breaks down, crying out that three times must mean that someone is on to their journey. They feel the ring somewhere near. Frodo has to threaten Gollum before he’ll get up, and the walking continues.

Casual Ringwraith?

Excuse me, do you have a moment to talk about our Lord God Sauron?

Excuse me, do you have a moment to talk about our Lord God Sauron?

The fact that two flyovers get shoved into the same not-even-full page is strange. I guess, with every time they fly by, the excitement of the occasion lessens. Ho hum. Just another EVIL DEMON SPIRIT ON A WINGED BEAST. No big deal.

Today’s Gollum Meter: 47 – “I’m not convinced about you anymore.”

What this all adds up to is pretty much undoing all the work that had been done (other than pure travel) in the last chapter. That chapter was called “The Taming of Sméagol”. This one might as well have been called “The Un-taming of Sméagol”. He’s gotten more fearful, and had more breakdowns where he’s thought about doing horrible things to the hobbits in order to get his hands on the ring again. Don’t look now, but the arrow is pointing down on the Gollum Meter.

No one dies today.

“So they stumbled on through the weary end of the night, and until the coming of another day of fear they walked in silence with bowed heads, seeing nothing, and hearing nothing but the wind hissing in their ears.”

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Sam makes one of his better decision today. That’s a rare thing. Instead of hopping up and surprising Gollum, trying to catch him in his plotting, Sam opts to pretend to wake. He yawns loudly, to which Gollum hisses and skitters away from Frodo. When Frodo comes to, he sees a happy Gollum, eager to please. Frodo smiles and tells him that he must take them to the Black Gate of Mordor. Once there, they will not require his guidance any further. They move out at dusk.

Onward!

Onward!

Today’s Gollum Meter: 43 – “Feeling better. But you’re still sketchy.”

Believe it or not, it’s not a far stretch to say that they’re getting close. If everything were to go according to plan, Frodo and Sam could sneak into Mordor in the next few days. Think of how much easier things would be if that happened! Not only would they already be in Mordor, but Gollum would be set free, so there wouldn’t be that whole issue with Shelob later. Of course, Sam rightly recognizes that setting Gollum loose wouldn’t necessarily be the best option right now. Is he more dangerous in the shadows, or right in front of them? It looks like he’s alright for now.

With not much else to say about this very page, I want to bring up my dream from last night. I had a dream that I was simply walking into Mordor! I think I dreamed that I was Frodo, I guess, and Sam and I were at about the same place in the journey where they actually are right now. Somehow or another, we made it to the Black Gate, and Gollum just swung the whole thing open from the inside. Easy! However, instead of going straight to Mount Doom, we took the eastern way around it, because I guess we thought that would keep us out of sight more? I don’t know. That’s when we ran into the giant crabs guarding Mordor from the hilltops.

What.

What.

Yes. Crabs. Unfortunately, we alerted them, and they all ran down and surrounded us. That’s how it all ended. Thanks for playing.

WHAT. Sometimes, I get bored.

No one dies today.

“They had not gone far…”

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Now comes the great debate: Sméagol versus Gollum, nicely contained almost in its entirety on this one page. There’s not much to report in the actual content. Gollum wants the ring, but fights with himself because of the promise he made to Frodo. However, he can’t bear the thought of Sauron regaining the ring, so he must take it from Frodo before that can happen. But no! Promise! Screw promises. Take the ring, run away, and be all powerful. Right? That’s how it works. Sam watches this whole thing go down.

A more visual representation of Gollum.

A more visual representation of Gollum.

Today’s Gollum Meter: 27 – “BIG PLUMMET. The murderous nature shows its ugly head yet again. Look out.”

Ick. Bad things are afoot, especially with Gollum ending on the thought of: “She might help.” Who’s she? Just a friendly spider down the way. He’s planning that already.

But, my main focus today is to look at the structure of the conversation itself. How does Tolkien establish the two different characters inherent in Gollum at once?

Well, it looks quite simple, really. First of all, each personality is given its own new paragraph when speaking, much like two different characters would in any other context. Going a step further, the quotation marks (or, Tolkien actually uses single quotation marks  – apostrophes – instead of the usual doubled variety) are bracketed to define two different characters. What do I mean, exactly? Normally, when a character is speaking for a long time, there end up being separate paragraphs and thoughts in the speech. If the same character continues speaking for a second (or further) paragraph, there usually isn’t a quotation mark at the end of the previous paragraph. Like so:

“But Narsil was broken and its light extinguished, and it has not yet been forged again.

“Fruitless did I call the victory of the Last Alliance?”

See there, taken directly from Elrond’s speech at Rivendell. At the end of that first paragraph (and there is more to that paragraph, of course), there isn’t any quotation mark. It picks up again in the second paragraph. When he finishes speaking (long after this), there is a final mark at the end of that last paragraph.

Punctuation is fun!

Punctuation is fun!

Anyway, this defines the two characters of Gollum as separate, even though, technically, they’re the same person. It’s the little things. That, and also Gollum’s evil personality speaks with much worse grammar and more made-up words. Being evil will do that to you.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-ourselfs

Guess which side says that? The evil one! THREE TIMES.

No one dies today.

“Each time that the second thought spoke, Gollum’s long hand crept out slowly, pawing towards Frodo, and then was drawn back…”

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Instead of buckling down and trying to get started across this wasteland, the hobbits decide to find a place to rest. I guess I can’t fault that. However, finding that place to rest is part of the problem. At first they shelter under an overhanging rock mound, but there are fumes pouring out of it. That doesn’t last long.

As pictured.

As pictured.

They scuttle away, led by Gollum, to find a crater of sorts, with an oozing puddle at the center. They stop here, and Frodo and Sam take turns to sleep and take watch. Neither can find much sleep, but when Sam finally does, Frodo goes a bit crazy. He sees dark faces in the sky before falling prey to sleep himself. Sam wakes to see Gollum standing over Frodo, creepily talking to himself.

Today’s Gollum Meter: 53 – “Woah there! This looks bad. Very bad. Don’t push it.”

Like I said, things are going to get worse before they get better. There isn’t even a safe place to rest anymore! When your best option is a wrecked crater-like hole with a poisonous pool at the bottom, things aren’t going very well for you. Add to that, Frodo hilariously slides down the slope of the hole when he falls asleep. Whoops.

Frodo suffers greatly.

Frodo suffers greatly.

The end of the page leads us into something that will be fun to watch tomorrow: Gollum’s chat with himself. Will that be confusing? The movie did a pretty good job with that, I thought. I’ll compare it to what it’s based on in the first place.

No one dies today.

“‘Yes, yes, my precious,’ came the answer, ‘we promised: to save…'”

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Walking is best when done en masse, so I guess I can’t complain about today. After remarking that it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s going on in Gollum’s head, and making a brief pit stop to say that Sam is starting to really worry about Frodo, the narrative skips ahead TWO WHOLE DAYS.

Still walking, though. No skipping.

Still walking, though. No skipping.

They’ve gotten out of the marshes by now, and the days were filled with trudging through the barren lands dotted by a pool here or there. Nothing too memorable. Now, with the mountains only a few miles away, the hobbits can see out to the wasteland on the borders of Mordor. IT’S HORRIBLE. Nothing is alive. Absolutely nothing. The only water is stagnant and covered with ash, and mounds of rock lie as the only markers other than the mountains. Sounds great.

Today’s Gollum Meter: 72 – “Nothing much to report, other than this road SUCKS.”

Looks exciting, huh? As if the Emyn Muil wasn’t confusing enough, or the Dead Marshes gross enough, we finally get to the worst land yet. It’s just…nothing. When they say (whoever they might be) that the air and water of Mordor are simply poisonous, this is basically what they’re talking about. There’s a volcano, remember? That doesn’t usually translate into a great, flourishing ecosystem. The ash spewed out from Mount Doom has covered this land, and I would imagine that the lands inside the mountains (true Mordor) have it worse off.

Because this kind of thing will do some damage.

Because this kind of thing will do some damage.

Don’t even try to forget about the damage to a land that evil can cause. Not only is there this horrible natural feature that will destroy the land, but there’s this dude sitting in a tower imparting his evil will on everything. Plants don’t seem to like that sort of thing, so they just go away. Do you see Treebeard wanting to come anywhere near this place?

Things aren’t looking too promising for our heroes. But…what else can you do, turn around?

No one dies today.

“They had come to the desolation that lay before Mordor: the lasting monument to the dark labour of its slaves that should endure when all their purposes were made void; a land defiled, diseased…”

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The Nazgûl passes over uneventfully. Well, not truly uneventfully, because this is a pretty high-stakes moment, but nothing really comes of it. Frodo and Sam get up, slightly shell-shocked, but Gollum stays pinned to the ground. The hobbits try to bring him up, but he’s cursing the moon and coughing. They wait until the moonlight dies down.

Hugo knew what was up.

Hugo knew what was up.

Sam notices a change in Gollum now, as he seems a little more conniving than he had been after committing himself to guide Frodo. Meanwhile, Frodo himself is wearying under the weight of the ring. Truly, Frodo feels the ring getting heavier, along with a strong sense of being watched by Sauron from Mordor. He can feel the evil will striving to find him in the marshy mists.

Today’s Gollum Meter: 54 – “Uh oh, things are going sour…”

I think Gollum’s fear is real, but a little exaggerated. Yes, the Ringwraiths are horrible beings, but he cries out that they can see through anything, and will always find him. Really? Then how come this one didn’t swoop down and pick them up? They can’t see everything; that’s impossible. If they could, then the three of them wouldn’t be standing alive in the Dead Marshes right now. Get up, Gollum, and please don’t start being tricksy again.

I don't understand how he just transforms into this, but whatever.

I don’t understand how he just transforms into this, but whatever.

This is also the very first time that Frodo is beginning to degrade in front of our eyes. The ring weighs on him, and so does the will of Sauron, who must sense that his prize is close. This is also really the first time that the ring has traveled into truly evil lands. They’re closer than you’d think, with so much of the book left to go, and evil is strong with this place. It’s only going to get worse, too.

No one dies today.

“Gollum probably felt something of the same sort. But what went…”

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I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord. And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my NEVER. OH LORD.

Didn't feel that coming, did you?

Didn’t feel that coming, did you?

Everything seems to be going alright until Gollum suddenly stops. He sniffs the air, which Sam scorns wrongly. Gollum says the air has changed, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Frodo and Sam don’t get it, until they suddenly do, hearing a cry in the distance. The wind picks up, the moon brightens, and they can see a dark shape moving against the sky. Winged and terrible, it’s a friendly neighborhood Nazgûl!

Today’s Gollum Meter: 74 – “Once again, your guidance is invaluable. Sam is stupid.”

In this corner, weighing a lot of pounds, flying on a terribly horrifying winged steed, from the deepest, darkest corners of Mordor, it’s a Ringwraith! I was just thinking a few days ago to myself, we haven’t actually seen one of them on their new dragon-things. There’s been a lot of talk about them: Boromir mentioned something flying over the army of Gondor that drove them back in fear, Legolas shot at something dark in the night on the river, something flew over Rohan, and now Frodo and Sam have finally caught sight of it. The description of fear has always been palpable, but no one has gotten a look at anything. It must be pretty heinous.

Yearbook photos?

Yearbook photo?

Now, with this thing flying above, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum do the thing that they do every time that this happens: fall face forward onto the ground. In the marsh. Oof. Safety in faceplant, I guess?

No one dies today.

“They fell forward, grovelling heedlessly on the cold earth. But the…”

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