Archive for the ‘1 – The Tower of Cirith Ungol’ Category

And so we finally come to the last page of this chapter, and Frodo and Sam’s escape from Cirith Ungol. The vigilance of the statues at the gate can be felt once again, holding them back with an invisible force. Frodo collapses, unable to go any further. Sam once again pulls Galadriel’s phial out and its light shines bright across the courtyard.



This breaks the will of the statues, and Frodo and Sam sprint out. A bell and shriek sounds once again, but this time it’s answered from the skies above. The arch of the gate collapses just as Frodo and Sam run through.

To be clear, when I read this the first time, I thought that the entire tower was brought down. I guess that’s still possible – we’ll see what happens in the beginning of the next chapter – but it looks like my 7th grade mind exaggerated things a little bit. Either way, what gets me excited about this escape is the Indiana Jones-ness of it. Run out right before something falls on you, isn’t that the dream?

I guess you could call it that.

I guess you could call it that.

Whatever happens, it brings up the question of the nature of these statues, and how they interact with the tower and those around them. At a first glance, they appear to be a gate and alarm system. At least, it seems that way when Sam breaks in and the shriek goes off. On the way out, they seem to function differently, in this case to keep Frodo and Sam held within the tower. Most alarms won’t work both ways, so this one appears to have some amount of sentience. Then, is it their magic that brings the archway down? This is yet but another of the small unanswered questions hidden with Lord of the Rings.

Totally true answer: Tom Bombadil used to be one of these statues, but he escaped!

No one dies today.

“Out of the black sky there came dropping like a bolt a winged shape, rending the clouds with a ghastly shriek.”

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And now Frodo becomes a Jewish mother. Not, but really. Sam realizes that he hasn’t eaten in some time, instead becoming consumed by his desire to rescue Frodo. Frodo won’t stand to let Sam leave without having some bit of food.

No. You're hungry. Have a bagel.

No. You’re hungry. Have a bagel.

Sam is worried, though, about the amount of food and water that they have. Thankfully, Frodo has found his food pack, and picked up the bits of lembas scattered around the floor. The orcs took the food given to them by Faramir, but they left the elven bread. Unfortunately, water is truly the problem. Sam may only have a drop left in his canteen, and Frodo’s has been destroyed.

After Sam eats, the two begin their descent on the stairs. Fear starts to creep in as they travel through the dark tower.

Yeah, the basic thing here is that orcs don’t like anything that elves have had anything to do with. Faramir’s food looks plenty tasty to them, but it’s likely that the elvish waybread smells and tastes foul to them. Think of it what you will, elven magic or just taste preferences, but it’s sure helpful. There’s probably also some poor orc who grabbed Frodo’s grey elven cloak and had his fingers burned or something. Elven materials are to orcs as holy water is to demons.

Which is why you never see priests at synchronized swimming competitions.

Which is why you never see priests at synchronized swimming competitions.

Now, we’re starting to get back to those creepy statues at the entrance to Cirith Ungol. One of the more interesting moments is approaching, that being one that I still quite clearly remember from my first reading of this some 12 years ago.

No one dies today.

“Even from where they stood they felt the malice of the…”

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Is it worth it to document every little bit of Frodo and Sam’s dress-up playtime?

Well, then.

Well, then.

Yeah, when Sam comes back, he bears a bag of things that might fit Frodo. Most orcs are bigger than hobbits, so pickings were slim. Thankfully, Frodo finds enough pieces to cover himself with. Sam also grabs a cloak and helmet, though he just puts them over his own clothes. He doesn’t want to fully change and leave any items behind that might leave clues of his presence. With that, Sam is ready to go, but Frodo reminds him of food and drink.

Did they run out of food before getting into Mordor? Was Frodo the only one carrying food, and that was taken from him? I thought Sam had it, so why is it gone?

Food, so delicious, but such a problem when you’re traveling. And no, nothing grows in Mordor that they might be able to harvest for themselves. It’s whatever they brought in or nothing…or, maybe, some foul orc stuff. Nobody wants that.

Mariorc Batali never gets enough credit for his innovations.

Mariorc Batali never gets enough credit for his innovations.

Meanwhile, Sam still feels as if he’s being watched, even though now we can basically confirm that nothing is left alive in Cirith Ungol. Is that a reasonable feeling, or is it just because they’re in Mordor now and everything feels evil? I’m willing to bet on the latter.

And you know what? I’m ready to move on. We got used to moving at a quick pace in the chapters of the first half of Return of the King, but now this first Frodo and Sam chapter is dragging. Come on, pace! We’re nearing the end, so let’s get there!

No one dies today.

“‘Bless me, Mr. Frodo, but you’ve gone and made me that hungry and…'”

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Well, now we can get over that moment where Frodo almost attacked Sam, and it’s awkward. Frodo recoils from a vision of Sam as a greedy orc grasping for his treasure. He sees Sam again, and he’s hurt by Frodo’s aggression. They both know it’s the ring’s doing, and though Sam wants to help, this is a burden that Frodo must bear alone.

Alone, huh?

Alone, huh?

Sam breaks the tension by offering to go and scrounge up some clothes and gear for the two of them. Frodo needs new clothes, and they might as well go with matching orc attire so as to better blend into Mordor. Thankfully, there’s plenty of stuff lying around on the dead orcs. Sam goes down to look, and leaves Frodo with instructions to keep the ladder up until he hears Sam’s password.

My only quizzical moment is why Sam and Frodo are even worried about orcs sneaking around and surprising them in Cirith Ungol. When Sam pulls Sting out to show Frodo that it also has been kept safe, they notice that the blade isn’t glowing. So…no orcs! Yeah, that’s what that usually means.

But, yeah. I feel like maybe I’m losing steam. Let’s move on to something that I’ve been thinking a lot about.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, And Why Some Little Things Can Make a Good Thing Confusing: A Special Feature:

So, to start, this is still a good movie. Now, this new trilogy will always fall short when compared to the original Lord of the Rings films, but one can’t be surprised. Overall, I think I liked this movie better than An Unexpected Journey, but I also found more problems with it.

I found the departures from the original story more jarring here. No, Tauriel isn’t my problem. I actually fully support creating another wood elf to hang around with Legolas, because you know what? Those characters aren’t really named in The Hobbit. Obviously, in connecting that story to the canon of Lord of the Rings, Legolas has to be there, because he’s the son of Thranduil, king of the woodland realm. Sure, make up someone like Tauriel, because you need more than just Legolas and Thranduil to connect to when you’re hanging out with the elves in Mirkwood, especially when Thranduil’s being a jerk and Legolas is pretty blindly following his orders, at least at the start. However, it’s the nature of Tauriel’s storyline as it evolves that makes me cringe. Really? She’s falling in love with Kili? What? Add on to that the fact that we now have Fili, Kili, Óin, and Bofur awkwardly staying behind in Lake-town, and suddenly the dwarves are all split up instead of going to gaze upon their treasured lost kingdom. And you know what? I see an easy way to fix this: don’t have Kili get hit by a poisoned arrow and get sick. Newsflash: Fili and Kili die in the end. What’s the point of having Kili fall ill now? I certainly don’t want to see the storyline changed so much that we have dead characters not dying. Legolas and Tauriel still have plenty of reason to follow the orcs to Lake-town, and then that’s not deliberately changing anything from the book. Just because it doesn’t mention that this happened doesn’t mean it necessarily didn’t. I can handle that. However, it does mention that all the dwarves go to the Lonely Mountain. Don’t change that.

But you know who’s gonna die? Tauriel. She gonna die. Why else wouldn’t she show up in some way with Legolas in Lord of the Rings? She’s going to die, and in some way that can be fuel for Legolas to go on this crazy quest later on in his life. And maybe, since she loved a dwarf, he understands the value of befriending them? I don’t know. This is weird.

Filler image to break up the text!

Filler image to break up the text!

Meanwhile, there’s something that worked in the first film that is suddenly complicated here. I had liked the addition of Azog (even though he’s not really around during the time of The Hobbit) to provide a consistent and known antagonist. Suddenly, in this film, he goes away. Instead, he places Bolg in his place to hunt Thorin and the dwarves down. Azog goes and hangs out in Dol Guldur. So, what was the point of building Azog up in the first film if he’s not going to continue in that role? Since Bolg is the orc who actually makes sense in established canon to be the one doing the hunting, why not have him doing that from the beginning? In textual canon, Bolg is Azog’s son, and ends up leading the orcs in the Battle of Five Armies at the end. Sure, have him show up sooner, whatever. Again, known antagonists are a good thing, but having a whole film of Azog and then discarding him is silly. And, truly (again in textual canon), Azog was killed by Dáin long ago. We could still have that happen, because Dáin shows up later at the Bo5A (I made that up just now)! Why not have Dáin kill him then? Ah, but probably not. We’ve established Azog as Thorin’s mortal enemy, so Thorin will probably get the honors. See why this gets confusing? And it could have been avoided if this was all just Bolg from the start. Bah.

Among other things I found jarring were the extended chase and battle with Smaug in Erebor (extended action sequences sell, you know) and the business about Bard having to using some silly contraption with the black arrow (which isn’t really a true arrow – more of a bolt) to fire at dragons. In the book he uses a bow. Bows are simple. A bow shouldn’t be able to bring down a dragon, but it does, and that’s what’s cool. When Bard inevitably shoots Smaug down in the next film with this wind lance thing, it’s not going to be as impressive as if he had done it with his modest bow. Also, Bard in the book is a soldier of Lake-town, not some smuggling miscreant. Why not let him have some honor?

Gosh, I’m going on and on here, but here’s the thing: this move is entertaining. I can live with changes, though these are paining me more than some others have. Thankfully, I still have the wherewithal to be able to separate those feelings from my enjoyment of a film. May that never cease.

And, we all just have to laugh when Bombur presses Z or R twice and barrel rolls a score of orcs down.

In looking ahead, how is the last film going to start?! Smaug is literally seconds away from attacking Lake-town. That’s no place to just jump back into a story. Ball’s in your court, Jackson.

No one dies today.

“Then he got up, drew the grey elven-cloak…”

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Let the rescue of Frodo commence! Well, it’s already going pretty well, considering that all the orcs in Cirith Ungol are dead, but Frodo is worried because he’s been stripped bare. No, it’s not just because being naked isn’t always helpful when you’re on a quest, but also because he thinks the ring is gone. The ring! That’s important!

Throw a marker up on the HUD! This is a plot point!

Throw a marker up on the HUD! This is a plot point!

Ah, but wait! The ring is not beyond their reach. Sam has it. He tells this to Frodo, and offers it right back to him. What follows is an awkward contentious moment where Sam briefly wants to keep the ring, but Frodo demands it harder. Frodo gets it, even with Sam’s thoughts lingering on if he can help carry it for a while…SHARE THE LOAD.

No, he doesn’t say “share the load,” but I think this is where it’s presence is culled from.

Anyway, it’s actually a major point in that the ring is surrendered rather easily from one person to another. That just isn’t how it’s used to working. Sure, Sam has some second thoughts about handing it over to Frodo, but he hasn’t held it long enough to really form a bond to it. Nevertheless, that thing is powerful. It’s already got some hold on our poor gardener.

And I don't think that Sam is that familiar with anthropomorphized piranha plants.

And I don’t think that Sam is that familiar with anthropomorphized piranha plants.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:


In other news, I saw the new Hobbit movie! I would normally go into a detailed discussion of it right now, but I really don’t have the time or energy after a full day. I should have time to get into it tomorrow. Basic thoughts: it was pretty good! I have some issues with some of the plot additions and choices, but it’s still holding together relatively well. I do think that people are giving these three new movies a bit of a hard time. More thoughts tomorrow.

No one dies today.

“‘No, no!’ cried Frodo, snatching the Ring and chain from Sam’s…”

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Sometimes, you plan on doing your post at a relatively normal time and then head to bed, but then you end up listening to nearly 20 minutes of uninterrupted white noise, and that really changes things.

Don't worry, there's nothing haunted about it.

Don’t worry, there’s nothing haunted about it.

Sam’s brief fight with Snaga is concluded when the orc stumbles over the trap door and falls down the ladder to his apparent demise. Sam rushes over to the shape on the floor, and unsurprisingly finds Frodo. Though stripped and disoriented, Frodo is alive, and amazed that Sam’s rescue is real. He heard him singing down below, and tried to respond. Maybe that was actually what Snaga heard? Anyway, the two are reunited, but Sam realizes that the happiness cannot last. They still must escape from the foul tower of Cirith Ungol.

Never mind that Frodo is naked this whole time.

Meanwhile, Frodo feels like it’s been weeks since he last saw Sam and was semi-aware of his surroundings. With the weather outside being, um…frightful, Sam can’t tell time for sure, but he thinks it’s been about a day since they parted. Sam’s been alone a long time! Well, that, or this time without Frodo has seemed a whole lot longer to him than normal. The text certainly doesn’t seem to read like it’s been that long. It hasn’t been weeks, at least. Sam is closer to being accurate than Frodo.

Sam is blue and Frodo is red.

Sam is blue and Frodo is red.

In other news, Frodo appears to have been forced to drink the same swill that the orcs forced on Merry and Pippin. This world has many consistencies, and that’s just one of them.

I…don’t have any little recurring features to put at the end of this post, and it feels lonely.

“‘I’ll never forget their claws and eyes.'”

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There’s nothing like singing your lungs out in dark evil tower in a dark evil land. Unfortunately, it’s also not very safe. Yeah, most of the orcs in Cirith Ungol are dead, but not all of them. Sam stops singing when he hears a clamoring above him. A door (which at first was locked) near the dead end opens, and Snaga calls out.

Grumpy neighbors are grumpy.

Grumpy neighbors are grumpy.

Snaga doesn’t think anything about Sam, though. He thinks that someone else has been making noise, and he brings out a ladder to ascend to the highest room in the tower. Aha! Yes, that’s how the dead end is passed! Snaga climbs up and begins whipping someone upstairs. This is probably Frodo, and Sam gets angry about that. He scampers up the ladder and attacks, cutting off Snaga’s hand. Yikes!

Let’s just start with the end of the song.

Tolkien Songs In Real Life:

My time today actually worked out better than I expected. Doing this wasn’t so hard at all!

“Though here at journey’s end I lie

in darkness buried deep,

beyond all towers strong and high,

beyond all mountains steep,

above all shadows rides the Sun

and Stars for ever dwell:

I will not say the Day is done,

nor bid the Stars farewell.”

Better late than never, I present:

Hobpeii pt.2

(Pompeii – Bastille)

In other matters, Sam’s luck just can’t run out. Snaga’s hearing is clearly horrible, and he can’t differentiate from noises coming from above or below him. (Sam, for reference, is sitting back on the stairs a few steps below the level on which Snaga is holed up.) Orcs: sometimes they dumb.

And Sam even gets a good jump on Snaga in battle. I’m sure most readers to this point couldn’t imagine Sam being useful in a fight (well, he was halfway decent against Shelob), especially one on one with a “trained” fighter. Well, the element of surprise is strong with this one.

I certainly didn't.

I certainly didn’t.

Of course, that’s not to say that Sam is still really any good at this. He’s still having a good battle against a newly one-handed scamp of an orc. A truly great fighter would have had this over with quite quickly. That, Sam is not.

No one dies today.

“Sam’s next blow went wide, and thrown off his balance he fell backwards, clutching at the orc as it…”

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