Frodo gets a weird wake-up call after his previous day of hijinks. Faramir apparently wants him to come and see some moonlight, but he also has “another matter”. Interesting way to build tension I suppose, but it certainly is a bit creepy.
Faramir shows us Ithilian, again, in all its beauty, yet another picture perfect Tolkien description of a landscape is a little wasted under these conditions. All we want to know is what’s going on, and why Faramir had decided to bring Frodo out here, as long as it’s not some kind of clumsy come on. That physical description being sidelined isn’t really that good, because it’s supposed to be another way of letting us know that Gondor, the opposite of the desolate wasteland of Mordor, is something worth fighting for.
It’s Gollum, of course, who has drawn the attention. He’s been out of sight, out of mind for a while now, his absence barely noted in the previous chapter. It’s quite a feat, we are told, for the skulking creature to get to this location, but this passage betrays another possible plot hole, or perhaps not. Gollum is supposed to be an expert hunter and tracker, one who has seen every last scrap of landscape on his travels and knows every trick in the book. Yet, he can’t detect the horde of men hiding around him, all ready to kill him at the briefest of words?
Maybe it’s just a way to big-up the concealment powers of the Gondorians, but I don’t really think so. Gollum’s after the Ring, and he’s a good enough tracker to find this place, just by trailing Frodo. He wants to find this place, and he has.
That is, the “Stinker” part of the personality has. Poor abused “Slinker” is the innocent one. Stinker wants to get to Frodo and not leave the Ring-bearer out of his sight and so brings Gollum after the Gondorians. Realising he can’t get back to Frodo without revealing himself, he puts Gollum into this position, a sort of nominal control given over to the far more innocent Slinker, who capers around after the fish, perhaps genuinely not knowing what is all around him. That’s just my theory of course, but I think that it matches the Gollum character.
Sam has the desire to have Gollum killed right there and then, one which he does not voice. It’s worth remembering, after the more comical aspects of the character in the last few pages, that Sam is a great deal harder then he appears, much harder then poor Frodo.
Another example of Faramir’s inherent wisdom is also shown off here, as he allows Gollum to get this far in the first place, rightfully guessing that he is a creature of some import. He knows that he can end Gollum any time he chooses, so he’s in control. It’s another way for him to get information out of the hobbits, presenting them with the very direct evidence of their companion, a companion that they can no longer deny. Frodo is not being very generous with information, and Faramir is well able to get it out of him.
All this cloak and dagger stuff is turning this book into a spy adventure, with Gollum moments from being either killed or betrayed, based entirely on the actions of Frodo. I think this a neat little scene, one that allows for a decent amount of heart-thumping narrative, without being overly violent or actiony. That stuff is to come with a bang at the end of the Book after all.
Gollum, overheard by Froddo, has become bitter and resentful, the Stinker side firmly on show, cursing the hobbits at what he deems their abandonment of him. That being plain, I still hold to my above theory, and I think Stinker is well aware of what is about to happen, even if Slinker is not.
Frodo, like Sam, now has the secret desire to have Gollum killed, to rid himself of this particular burden. But, he relents in his thinking, with the reasoning that Gollum deserves the break, seeing as how he has saved their asses on several occasions. It’s a good piece of reasoning for Frodo to make, that marks him out from the slightly more impulsive Sam. It’s also important to differentiate them in terms of mercy, and let us know who has the ascendency in that reward (even if it’s not a good thing).
The betrayal comes, as poor Slinker gets done over by Frodo. The Ring-bearer is in a no-win here, and his thought process – “Frodo followed behind, feeling very wretched” – reads as very genuine, as someone who is caught in such a situation is bound to feel. Frodo is a hostage to his emotions sometimes, and this particular moment is actual crucial to the whole Frodo/Gollum relationship for the rest of the book: Frodo’s guilt at this juncture is going to cause trouble down the line.
Faramir questions Gollum, and faces a different challenge to that which he faced with Frodo. Frodo needed to be beaten down with logic, evidence and the right reveals at the right time. This worked, mostly because Frodo could not bring himself to lie. Gollum is a liar, in and out, so Faramir must be more forceful, more aggressive, more blunt. Gollum is as a child before the Captain of Gondor, and Faramir treats him as such. You are never in any doubt in this scene as to who is in charge. And, like any person in authority should be able to, Faramir can see through Gollum’s lies easily, the falsehoods, the barely hidden malice. Sam see’s this too, but leaves it aside on Frodo’s instruction. Faramir has no such drawbacks.
This is a problem for Stinker, who is put through the ringer here. Slinker shuts down under the questions, and like in Chapter Four, has difficulty looking someone honest in the eyes. Faramir see’s Stinker, “the malice”, that is growing ever stronger inside the Gollum creature.
Faramir is eventually placated, following a vigorous oath-taking, one that gives Tolkien another neat little opportunity to expand on hobbit customs in regards to such things. Interestingly, Faramir corrects Frodo on “Minis Ithil”, changing it to “Minis Morgal”. I really liked that little bit, as it shows Faramir as someone who has lived a life of familiarity with the place, and is unwilling to be as loose with place names as Frodo.
Faramir, having seen through Gollum’s plan quickly, gives the lore on “Cirith Ungol”, the pass that Frodo is heading to. The “dark terror” is mentioned again, but no other info is offered. I begin to wonder how anyone can even know of this “dark terror” without knowing any more, but this section serves to remind us that there is still trouble a plenty ahead. Faramir is just in his treatment of Frodo, though Frodo gets away with it a little by tugging on the Gondorian’s heartstrings, implying the doom of Minis Tirith if he isn’t let about his task. It’s cynical but it works.
The hopeless task is put back into focus, as Frodo argues simply that he has to get into Mordor, Gollum knows a way, however dangerous, and Frodo must try that way. It was never going to be easy after all, and this argument beats down Faramir. Like Sam, he knows the trouble that Gollum can cause, but he has no choice but to let it go.
The movie alters large parts of this chapter, making the Gollum capture and interrogation much more brutal and heart rending. Gollum is the one to give up the existence of the Ring, which leads on to the vast changes, as Faramir drags Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath before realising the error of his ways, much in the way that Frodo reasons with him here.
Next up, back on the road, for more travelling.
For more Chapter by Chapter reviews of The Lord of the Rings, check out the index here.