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A Journey Long Coming

And so it begins. After claiming the LOTR trilogy to be my favourite movie series ever since it first came out, and having watched the extended editions and the special features on the boxed sets, it has taken me this long to finally pick up the actual books.

I am major bookworm who typically tries to read the book before watching the movie, but even after all the movies were out, I never put real effort into tackling Tolkien’s trilogy (though I technically attempted to start reading them about 10 years back, but following along with an audio book of a different edition than your physical book is fairly off-putting).

So here I am again, attempt number two, years wiser, and more patient to getting out of the shire. This time I figured I’d try to blog about my thoughts on the differences from movies to books.

We’ll see how it goes.

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Thus the second third of the Journey ends…

So the first 80% of this book was going good on the weekly schedule, but then I started getting busy, and then I moved, and now I am behind. I should have started Return of the King a month ago at least. So we’ll see how this goes, especially since I’m taking an online class and working full-time. Hopefully I can catch back up.

Overall this book was good, but I do think I enjoy the movie way better; better dialogue in spots, and changes in story for the better (though some for the worse). I guess we will see how Return of the King goes.

Just as soon as I find the box I still have it packed in…

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4.X. The Choices of Master Samwise

Thoughts: Oh my does Sam ever go after Shelob, ’No onslaught more fierce was ever seen in the savage world of beasts, where some desperate small creature armed with little teeth, alone, will spring upon a tower of horn and hide that stands above its fallen mate.’

And then later on, even Sam knows that suicide is not the way to go in moments of pure despair. ‘He thought of the places behind where there was a black brink and an empty fall into nothingness. There was no escape that way. That was to do nothing, not even to grieve.’

Outline: Sam fights Shelob with Sting and takes out one of her eyes. And then Shelob proceeds to stab herself on Sting by trying to use her body to squish Sam. So the main injury is by her own doing, not Sam’s. And apparently the Light of Eärendil allows elf speech because Sam also speaks in an elvish language which gives him strength, and makes the phial shine so bright it hurts Shelob’s eyes and causes her to flee back into her hole. He finds Frodo ‘dead’, and proceeds to stay with him for an indeterminate amount of time before deciding to take the Ring and continue on the journey to the end. First, he puts it around his neck, not just in his pocket. Then, up the path farther he gets cornered by Orcs and to avoid being seen he puts the ring on! Sam actually wears the One Ring!!! Then he follows the orcs because they find Frodo and pick him up to take him back to the tower. Shagrat and Gorbag, the two in charge of the groups, stop to have a private conversation that Sam eavesdrops on.

Learned: The One Ring gives the gift of tongues; while Sam is wearing it he can understand the Orc speech. Also, according to the orcs, Sauron may not just be a great eye stuck in Barad-dûr, he may be able to leave: “And the prisoner is to be kept safe and intact…until He sends or comes Himself”.

Known: Sam finds out that Frodo isn’t dead, but gets locked out of the tower as he tries following the orcs.

Interesting: Apparently the orcs were warned that there might be spies on the stairs which is why the orcs where patrolling along it.

Evaluation: Too much plot telling by the orcs at the end, and may be a bit too much wishy-washiness on Sam’s part on what to do next, but I do understand that he is grieving so I do have to at least cut him some slack.

Notes:  Movie inconsistency: Frodo is stabbed in the neck by Shelob not in the chest/stomach or whatever it is in the movie.

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4.X. Thought 39

Orcs just wanna have fun.

“If it does go well, there should be a lot more room. What d’you say? – if we get chance, you and me’ll slip off and set up somewhere on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there’s good loot nice and handy, and no big bosses…like old times.”

This is almost as great as Sauron calling Shelob his cat! The Orcs have such casual speech, and two of them just wanting to kick back after the war with pillage, is just the greatest thing.   

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4.IX. Shelob’s Lair

Thoughts: Gollum is more crafty than I though he was. Apparently Gollum actually worshiped and bowed before Shelob, bringing her food, so that he would not be eaten, and thus his plan to let Her kill the Hobbits. When he disappeared a while back, he was actually coming to Her to lay his trap for the Hobbits.

Outline: Sam is not ordered away by Frodo like in the movie and instead the three enter the darkness of the cave, Sam and Frodo feeling their way along the walls, passing smaller openings as they go. They also ‘felt things brush against their heads, or against their hands, long tentacles, or hanging growths perhaps…’, ugh, this creeped me out, knowing what they actually are. I hate spiders and spider webs…

They find a fork in the tunnel as they try escaping from a void they could sense evil coming from. They finally notice that Gollum has left them, and find they can only take one tunnel because the other is blocked. Then Sam says, “There’s something worse than Gollum about. I can feel something looking at us.” Makes me shudder thinking about this, especially when it’s followed by, ‘They had not gone more than a few yards when from behind them came a sound, startling and horrible in the heavy padded silence: a gurgling, bubbling sound, and a long venomous hiss.’

It is Sam that reminds Frodo about the Light of Eärendil. And apparently Frodo doesn’t even know what it is that he speaks to light it up, ‘it seemed that another voice spoke through his’. However, in the book it seems that Shelob isn’t as afraid of the light as the movie. ‘And She that walked in the darkness had heard the Elves cry that cry far back in the deeps of time, and she had not heeded it, and it did not daunt her now.’ Brave Frodo takes out his sword and holds it and the phial out and advances on Shelob, until She backs away, becoming afraid of this piercing light, and leaves them. So they turn and continue on their way. Sam falls behind Frodo as he runs ahead outside the tunnel, and of course that’s when Shelob comes out to get Frodo, Sam tries to warn him, but Gollum appears, covering his mouth to stop his shout. Sam fights with Gollum and gets the upper hand, thus Gollum turns and runs away (so you don’t get the assumption that he is defeated for good like in the movie). Then Sam takes off towards Frodo.

Learned: Only Sting, created by the elves, can cut through Shelob’s webs.

Known: Sam will find Frodo too late. Not sure if he still fights Shelob though; probably does.

Interesting: Confirmation that Shelob isn’t necessarily a spider always: ‘an evil thing in spider-form’, so I guess it was fine for the Shadow of War video game to make a humanoid Shelob thing. Also, apparently She’s been in those mountains for ages, longer than Sauron and his tower of Barad-dûr, she is the ‘last child of Ungoliant’ (whoever that is).

Evaluation: Creepy and unpredictable, just like Spiders. I liked the differences from the book to the movie, it kept this chapter fresh.

Notes: More affirmation to the dark sky, saying that they can’t tell the difference between day and night anymore, that the sky is black with smoke.


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4. IX. Thought 38

Sauron calls Shelob ‘his cat’.

‘And sometimes as a man may cast a dainty to his cat (his cat he calls her, but she owns him not) Sauron would send her prisoners…’

I burst out laughing at this! Hilarious that Sauron calls her ‘his cat’, but even more than that, that Tolkien made a cat joke! “his cat he calls her, but she owns him not). Get it!? Cause cat’s own their humans, not the other way around.

Ermagerd this just gets me in the funny bone.   

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4.VIII. The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Thoughts: Surprisingly, Frodo still has a lot of his own strength of will left. He is able to overcome the urge to put the Ring on, and instead holds on to the phial that Galadriel gave him.

Outline: They leave the cross-roads, with the Ring beginning to feel heavy again, and head up the roads into the valley. Apparently Minas Morgul is set up on the side of the mountains, not at the bottom of the valley, but it does glow with a ‘corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing’. At first there is a path just off the side of the road that winds up the opposite side of the valley from the castle. Once the group is up level with Minas Morgul, the castle unleashes its power and opens to let out its army. On a horse at the head of the army is the Wraith king, clad in black with a ‘helm like a crown that flickered with a perilous light’. There is more than one stair. The first is long, straight, and very steep in the crease between two rock walls, the danger is the fall, this is the Straight Stair. The second is longer but still treacherous, with a sheer drop on one side, and is the Winding Stair. Frodo is also at least agreeing with Sam on the sneakiness/schemingness of Sméagol. He still believes that he could be setting them up for a trap, but also knows that they wouldn’t have made it half as far without him.

Learned: The epitome of my disappointment with this book compared to the movie: Sam’s monologue. The one that occurs in the movie while they are in Osgiliath and just after being attacked by the Nazgúl. It is my favourite scene in the entire trilogy, and apparently it was mostly just written for the movie. They pull half bits of sentences from a scene in this chapter, but most of it was made up by the screen writers. And it’s a lot more epic sounding in the movie than in the book. This has decided it for me. No matter what happens in the rest of this book and the next. I will always believe that the movies are better (sorry Tolkien).

Known: They get into view of the guard tower and the path to the tunnel and Frodo tells Sméagol that he can go back now, that they can make it into Mordor by themselves now, but Sméagol insists that he carry on with them still, towards the lair of the beast (though only Sméagol knows that).

Interesting: Sam goes and makes a tie-in to the Simarillion. Saying that because the Simaril came to Eärendil, of which Frodo has the light of, means they are kind of carrying on that tale. (Now I’m going to have to read that one).

Evaluation: Samwise the Brave sounds so much better than Samwise the Stouthearted. End of story.

Notes: The Hobbits can no longer tell the time of day, because the night seems to keep going on, with Mordor always draped in shadow.

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4.VII. Journey To The Cross-roads

Thoughts: The ‘Valley of Living Death’, sounds like such a lovely place that they are heading towards…

Outline: Faramir was so nice, he gave them extra food and even carved walking sticks for the rest of their journey. The three are blindfolded on the way out, though Faramir says that Frodo and Sam don’t really have to. Gollum leads them towards the Cross-roads, they can go during the day because of shade and then a growing darkness over the sky.

Learned: The Cross-roads is apparently the meeting of the road from the gates of Morannon going past towards the sea, and from Osgiliath into the road that they must take to Minas Morgul. The area is surrounded by a ring of very old trees, and apparently there aren’t any other paths to take besides the road itself.

Known: Off they go now, silent as cats, down the road to Minas Morgul and the pass of Cirith Ungol.

Interesting: They find a stone figure head lying on the ground, which is a scene included in the extended cut of RotK, but this time it’s Frodo who says, “Look! The king has got a crown again!” when the ‘crown’ of flowers on its brow is lit up by the setting sun. But then the chapter quickly ends with; ‘“They cannot conquer for ever!” said Frodo. And suddenly the brief glimpse was gone. The Sun dipped and vanished, and as if at the shuttering of a lamp, black night fell.’ It’s even more depressing reading the scene than having the visuals of the movie.

Evaluation: Very short, and mostly unnecessary chapter.

Notes: As the old gaffer used to say: “where there’s life there’s hope… and need of vittles.” Cause when you’re living, you need food to stay that way.