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THE LORD OF THE RINGS
The Two Towers
By Richard Gunther
Anyone who reads the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis and the Rings books will be struck by the contrast in vocabulary. On the right hand we have a tale full of darkness, caverns, tunnels, night journeys, hideous creatures, monsters, dragons and such, and on the other a story which features a glorious lion, and themes to do with creation, love, redemption, forgiveness and ultimate happiness. In the Rings book the history of the Ring spans about 4000 years and covers centuries of wars, with the ending being but another sequence with no final cleansing of the world in sight, while the Narnia stories always keep in view the final perfection of all the world and the riddance of evil. The Rings story ends with yet another Age of good and bad, with no final solution in sight, the Narnia story always has this in sight.
This is not to say that the Rings story is all darkness. There are many wonderful themes running through it, and some moments of great beauty. The book is firmly grounded in nature – many vivid descriptions of mountains, streams, rivers, lakes, trees, hills, earth abound, with tier colours and smells beautifully described, but it is always the old earth and the decaying world which is described. Nature in the Rings story is always ancient, and there is no word about its future renewal. The Narnia books see nature in a similar way, but they are described as Aslan's business. He breathed nature into existence, and all of nature is his domain. Middle Earth on the other hand is always there. It has no origin, no creator, and it will continue for ever. It is more of a prison than a holding cell. Once you enter Middle Earth you never leave, but walk the hills of Narnia and you know the whole world will soon be changed into sheer beauty.
The vocabulary of the Rings books is also interesting in that the word “dark” and all its variations and synonyms is by far the most commonly used description. It seems to be the only colour available in Tolkien's dictionary at times. This is a device which works famously of course, but it leaves the reader with a gathering shadow in his mind, an impression of coiling, seeping, damp, musty unpleasantness, as if one is lost in the Mines of Moriah at night. One wonders if this predominance of darkness in the Rings story is a reflection of the writer's own personal, inner disposition? We know for certain that Lewis was a Christian, whose heart was flooded with light, (see 'Surprized by Joy') but Tolkien was never known for any similar experience. It is quite possible that he never became a Christian, but remained a true son of the Roman Catholics, and so missed the “new birth” conversion experience. If one looks a little further for evidence of this, his other books about Middle Earth and other topics contain no clues either. (The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, the Book of Lost Tales, Farmer Giles of Ham, The Hobbit, Monsters and Critics, Mr Bliss, The Silmarillion, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Smith of Wootton Major, Tree and Leaf and Unfinished Tales)
In the first part of the story, as presented in the book, we went from the time when Gandalf the Grey discovered that the ring possessed by Frodo the hobbit was in fact the One Ring, ruler of all the Rings of Power. We were told how Frodo and his companions fled the Shire, pursued by the Black Riders of Mordor, until at last, with the aid of Aragorn the Ranger they came through dangerous events to the House of Elrond in Rivendell.
In Rivendell the Council of Elrond was held at which it was decided that the Ring must be destroyed, and Frodo was appointed Ring-bearer. The Companions of the Ring were chosen and it was decided to attempt the task of taking the Ring to the Mountain of Fire in Mordor, the land of the Enemy Sauron himself. Only there could the Ring be destroyed.
Nine were chosen: Aragorn, and Boromir son of the Lord of Gondor (representing Men), Legolas the son of the Elven-king of Mirkwood (representing Elves), Gimli son of Gloin of Lonely Mountain (representing Dwarves), Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, Meriadoc and Peregrin (representing Hobbits) and Gandalf the Grey (representing the Wizards).
The companions journeyed in secret far from Rivendell to the north until they reached the mountains. They tried, and failed, to cross the high pass of Caradhras (it was winter), then Gandalf led them through the Mines of Moria, under the mountains. There Gandalf, in battle with a dreadful spirit of the underworld, fell into a dark abyss. But Aragorn, now revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, led the company on from the East Gate of Moria, through the Elvish land of Lorien, and down the great river Anduin until they came to the Falls of Rauros. By now they knew their passing was watched by spies, and Gollum, who trailed them all the way. He still lusted for the Ring and would not rest until he held it once more.
At the end of the first book the company was trying to decide whether they should turn east towards Mordor, or follow Boromir to aid the city of Minas Tirith. Frodo decided to go east. Boromir tried to seize the Ring and failed. Samwise and Frodo went on alone.
In the first movie, the sudden attack of the orcs prior to Frodo's departure with Sam is a fitting end to the first part of the trilogy. In the book the battle takes place after Frodo and Sam leave. Aragorn hears the horn of Boromir and rushes to his aid, but arrives too late. Many arrows have already pierced the valiant fighter as he sits dying against a tree. He repents of his foolishness: “I have failed!” but Aragorn tells him “No! You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!”
It is undeniable that Boromir did give in to his desire for power and tried to seize the Ring, but he realized how wrong this action was and repented, with tears. Aragorn spoke the greatest words Boromir could ever hear. Boromir was not a fallen man but a forgiven one, and worthy of great praise for his valiant fight against the orcs. This battle was on behalf of the hobbits, which were now taken hostage by the orcs but still alive. Boromir had done well. He had given his life to save his friends.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 In a more glorious way, Jesus gave his life to save his enemies.
Boromir is conveyed by Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas to the river, where he is placed in a boat, and sent away ceremoniously. Aragorn is now caught between two decisions, to follow Frodo and Sam, or to follow the orcs and try to rescue the other two hobbits. He chooses the latter and they begin the long, arduous chase. Soon they come upon some dead orcs and it seems plain that Saruman's orcs, which bear the white hand as an emblem, have been fighting with orcs from other districts. Obviously there is trouble within the ranks of the rebellious. Sadly there is also trouble at times within the ranks of the saints.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10
The three trail the orcs and their captive hobbits for several days, never quite catching them, until they meet a force of horsemen, the Riders of Rohan with their leader Eomer. The horsemen surround the three and a hostile interchange ensues. Aragorn demands: “Tell me whom you serve . Are you friend or foe of Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor?”
“And if it seem evil to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
Eomer tells Aragorn that Theoden, king of the people of Rohan, is not friendly towards Gandalf (whose horse Shadowfax has been seen riderless), and that not long before Aragorn arrived the riders of Rohan destroyed a company of orcs. There were no hobbits among them, says Eomer. Horses are given to the three and they bid farewell to their friends and ride on until they come to the battlefield. No sign of the hobbits can be found (according to the book) so they camp for the night close to the forest of Fangorn – an ancient and magical forest, in which Ents live – keepers of the forest. In the book a vision of someone they think might be Gandalf as an old man appears beside the fire and then vanishes. Gandalf later explains that this must have been Saruman, spying on them. In the movie, the three wander into Fangorn forest on the trail of the hobbits and meet Gandalf, now robed in glorious, shining light. Whatever the sequence, the point is made that Gandalf, far from being dead, is alive and now advanced in power and wisdom.
In a similar way Jesus spent about 30 years living with mortals, and hid for the most part his glory. Having accomplished the work he was sent to do he gave his life for the sins of the world and was buried, then three days later, having battled with and utterly defeated Satan and all his power, Jesus returned. Curiously, in a similar way, his first appearances were quite mysterious. He appeared and disappeared at will, and once he came to meet two disciples on the road to Emmaus and they did not recognize him until he broke bread with them in the house – then he vanished. To John on the isle of Patmos he appeared with such glory the disciple fell at his feet.
In a general way, the return of Gandalf reminds us of the resurrection. He who should have been dead was now alive. He who had always been “the Grey” was now “the White”.
“I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Revelation 1:18
The journey of Merry and Pippin is described well in book and film. They encounter many trials with the orcs, and finally manage to escape into Fangorn Forest, where they meet Treebeard (or Fangorn), who catches them and talks very slowly about all sorts of things. In short, he is a long-winded, rather pedantic, boring old character: “It takes a very long time to say anything in (Old Entish). Because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.” For all that he is a lovable old bore, and his deep, grumbly voice is captured perfectly in the movie, though I doubt whether many theater-goers could stay awake if they had to listen to all he said. The hobbits persuade Treebeard to take action against the enemy and an Ent Council is called, which takes a very long time to reach any sort of decision, but the outcome is favourable. As Treebeard says: “You do not know, perhaps, how strong we are ? . . . we are stronger than Trolls. We are made of the bones of the earth. We can split stone like the roots of trees, only quicker, far quicker, if our minds are roused! . . . we could split Isengard into splinters and crack its walls into rubble.”
While it would be foolish to compare the Church with Ents, ancient though some saints may be, but there is still the principle of a slumbering giant buried in the words of Treebeard which can reveal something true about the Church. Too many Christians hold back from full obedience, too many remain only half-committed, too many fail to focus on the task God has given them, and as a result the Church never marches at full strength. Like the peaceful Ents, the Church has become slow and ancient, while it could be, if it roused itself, a mighty army. Jesus described the general state of the Church today in these words:
“So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16.
The Ents gather and walk to “the end of the mountains, Nan Curunir, the Valley of Saruman.” Below them is the circle of stones around a central rock on which is built the tower of Orthanc, Saruman's headquarters. The film portrays this place with chilling realism.
The idea that Saruman, the servant and mouthpiece, the arm and rod of Sauron can have a central base is found, in essence, in the Bible too.
“I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan's seat is: and you hold fast my name, and have not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells.” Revelation 2:13
Logically, Satan is a created being, and despite his supernatural powers, he can be in only one place at a time. He exercises his power by delegation, through other fallen angels, who each have appointed to them specific areas of the world. We have a glimpse of this hidden world in Daniel. When he prayed, he was not answered immediately and the angel who came at last explained why:
“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.” Daniel 10:13
“Then said he, . . . and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.” Daniel 10:20
In both cases, the “prince” refers to some evil angelic power which is working behind the Gentile ruler or king. In this way the Bible reveals how Satan, like Sauron, wields his power through his lower ranks, such as Saruman and others in Middle Earth who have given their allegiance to the Dark Lord.
Meanwhile, as the hobbits make their way through Fangorn Forest, Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas are following their trail. They meet the old man again but this time he approaches them. They suspect that it may be Saruman and prepare to attack but he removes his disguise and appears, shining and powerful. Gandalf has returned, only now he is changed. It is the same Gandalf but not the same. In a similar way when Jesus rose from the dead it was the same Jesus but somehow not the same. Gandalf says: “I am white now. Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been.”
It is a common and universal failure among humans to reach the full potential they are capable of. Laziness, lack of determination, lack of wisdom and other factors all play their part in producing people who could do a lot better but never do. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. Perhaps one day God will reveal to us what we could have become IF we had followed Him to the limit He asked of us? Perhaps Jesus shows us what we should be like, and what we could be like, IF only we do what we know we ought to do? In a similar way an overweight person may look longingly at a picture of slimmer days, or an unfit person may reminisce about childhood times of great fitness? The musician who cannot play well may regret a lack of practice, the student may regret a lack of study? Saruman could have been a great and good wizard, if he had not yielded to his baser self, so in his failure many of us perhaps find ourselves.
Gandalf the White talks at length with the company of three, and he is pleased to learn that Sam is with Frodo. He tells the three that Saruman has been a traitor to the Dark Lord, by trying to take the Ring to himself, and because of this the orcs of Isengard with the white hand on them, and the orcs of Mordor quarreled as they were drawn to Isengard, which led to their defeat and destruction – and this allowed the hobbits to escape into Fangorn. As the Bible says: “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee.” Psalms 76:10 Because God is in charge, even the bad things and the chaotic things of this world, however random and futile they may appear to us to be, will all be a part of God's greater plan. In the Narnia story, it was the “deeper magic” which the evil queen forgot which totally undid her murder of the lion.
Gandalf warns that the nine Black riders no longer use horses, but fly on the backs of Nasgul, which in the movie are spectacular reptilian creatures with ragged dark wings, many teeth, and black bodies. He goes on to explain the political situation and decides to journey to Edoras, where king Theoden is not well. At this Aragorn says to Gandalf: “You are our captain and our banner. The dark Lord has Nine. But we have One, mightier than they; the White Rider. He has passed through fire and the abyss, and they shall fear him. We will go where he leads.”
“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68
Gandalf describes something of the battle had had with the Belrog. It was, as the film portrays, an immense battle, which continued as the two fell together into the underworld. Gandalf, protected I suppose by magic, managed to survive the ordeal as he hacked and cut at his foe, chasing the beast through tunnels and then following him up to the world above, where finally the monster lay dead. In a similar way Jesus, when he fought Satan through his life and finally in the garden of Gethsemane, battled in a way too deep and too immense for us to comprehend, yet Jesus gained the victory at last. We would not say that Gandalf and Jesus are the same, but the battle was far beyond any mortal strength, and only Gandalf could slay the Belrog – only Jesus could defeat Satan.
To save the long walk to Edoras, Gandalf whistles and three horses come galloping to his side. (In the movie only Shadowfax appears,) In the book Gimli sits with Gandalf, while Aragorn and Legolas have a horse each, and they gallop away towards Edoras to visit king Theoden. They reach the city on the hill and discover that a man called Wormtongue has been there two days already. The company manages to enter enter the Hall where king Theoden sits with Wormtongue before and his daughter behind the throne. Gandalf tells Wormtogue what he thinks of him and addresses the king, who questions Gandalf's credibility at which Gandalf reveals his power and begins to exorcise the king. In the book this process is covered by Gandalf's encouragement, but the movie depicts the change in Theoden as a dramatic deliverance. Saruman flies from the body of Theoden and the king is restored from the withered, useless form he has become.
The movie graphically shows the effect that Satan can have on people. His lies can lead to drug addiction, alcoholism, obsessions, depression, depravity and utter futility. As Jesus said: “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10. Stealing. Killing. Destroying. These are strong words.
Gandalf says to Theoden: “Look out upon your land! Breath the free air again!”
“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, 'Loose him, and let him go.” John 11:44
Jesus said: “And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond . . ? “ Luke 13:16
“From the king's hand the black staff fell clattering on the stones. He drew himself up, slowly, as a man that is stiff from long bending over some dull toil. Now tall and straight he stood, and his eyes were blue as he looked into the open sky.
“Dark have been my dreams of late,” he said, “But I feel as one new-awakened.”
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” Isaiah 60:1
Theoden recognizes Grima the Wormtongue for what he is, and says to him: “Your leechcraft ere long would have had me walking on all fours like a beast!” Gandalf follows this with: “Hours of my precious time he has wasted already. Down, snake! Down on your belly! How long is it since Saruman bought you? What was the promised price?”
Judas, like Wormtongue, betrayed the truth when he accepted a bribe from the priests. That was his price – a mere 30 pieces of silver. Like Wormtongue, Judas lived close to the very one he betrayed, and like Wormtongue he was exposed for what he was. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” John 12:6 “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” Acts 1:18
Because of his treachery, Wormtongue is given a choice: to fight in the king's army, or leave the lands of Rohan. In response to this Wormtongue spat at the king's feet (in the movie he spat into Aragorn's hand, and fled. A soldier washed the stones where Wormtongue had soiled them.
In this we have a picture of those who are true Christians and those who are not. S Jesus put it, those who are not for Him, are against Him. If we do not fight alongside our Lord and Master, we are His opposition.
“He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37
“And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38
According to the book, the king and the company ride, with Gandalf, and the cavalry of Rohan for a two days, intending to go to the fords of Isen, but they meet a soldier returning who tells of defeat, so they decide to go to Helm's Dike, Helm's Gate and Helm's Deep instead. At this point Gandalf rides away without saying why. The force reaches Helm's Dike and an attack by the orcs is repelled: “They enemy is at hand! They said, “We loosed every arrow that we had, and filled the Dike with Orcs. But it will not halt them long. Already they are scaling the bank at many points, thick as marching ants. But we have taught them not to carry torches.”
According to the movie, the people of Edoras flee with Theoden to a mighty fortress called Helm's Deep. On the way they are attacked by some monstrous beasts, (huge, hyena/wolf type creatures) sent by Saruman from Isengard, on which Orcs ride. One of these assailants accidentally catches Aragorn's hand in a saddle strap and he falls into a river, apparently perishing. The people of Rohan and their small armed force make it to Helm's Deep and a small but deadly army of Elvish bowmen also arrives. The ramparts are lined with fighters and they wait, while in the distance they hear the tramp of 20,000 feet. Shortly after that ten thousand Orcs arrive and marches up to the walls. An enormous battle follows. I think the movie version is far better than the book here because it shows a small army defending truth and light fighting a much larger evil army representing the very opposite. In a similar way, the army of God has never been in the majority,in fact Jesus Himself said: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
An explosion suddenly blows the main wall apart and the Orcs move closer to victory. Facing defeat the king calls to Aragorn: “The end will not be long, but I will not end here . . . when dawn comes . . . I will ride forth. Will you ride with me then, son of Arathorn? Maybe we shall cleave a road, or make such an end as will be worth a song – if any be left to sing of us hereafter.” In the movie these words are spoken just as the first light of dawn breaks over the hill, and Aragorn remembers something Gandalf said about his return about that time. As the Riders of Rohan charge into the Orcs, Gandalf appears with the sun behind him and a large cavalry behind him. He rides towards the enemy hordes with his staff shining, and the brilliant light of the sun blinding the eyes of the opposition. The battle is won and the enemy flees to the Forest of Fangorn, where the trees finish off the remainder.
There is something stirring about a 'last stand'. It is heroic to the highest degree, and there are many war stories in which this ideal has elevated those who died this way to the greatest place of honour. There is also a parallel between Theoden's charge into the Orcs and Gandalf's timely arrival. These are two great events in the story, which find their echo in the plan of God: the crucifixion and the return of Christ.
In the first we have the 'last stand' of the Saviour as he hung voluntarily on the cross. Only Jesus was able to take the sins of the world because he alone was sinless. Only Jesus could fight against Satan and prevail because he alone was strong enough to conquer him. Only Jesus could take on the entire body of evil amassed through the ages since the day of fallen creation, like the enormous Orc army. In the second area, Jesus alone is glorious enough to return at the end of the Age in glory and power. He will come with his armies and a full riddance will be made of all his enemies.
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
When the battle is over, Eomer says to Gandalf: “Once more you come in the hour of need, unlooked for.” to which Gandalf replies: “Unlooked for? I said that I would return and meet you here.” Eomer says: “But you did not name the hour, nor foretell the manner of your coming.”
“For as the lightning, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shines unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.” Luke 17:24 The word “lightning” is a verb, meaning the gradual increase in light as in a sunrise. Just as Gandalf appeared with the sun behind him, Jesus will come one day, in glorious light.
“Behold, he comes with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” Revelation 1:7
In the book and movie Gandalf rides to Isengard, where Saruman's headquarters is. He and his weary companions join him, and they discover that the entire place has been destroyed and drowned by a flood. The movie shows how this happened – the Ents destroyed a dam. The pinnacle of orthanc stands like an island in the middle of the ruined place, and as the company approaches they see two figures, sitting on a pile of rubble. It is Merry and Pippin, both safe and well, and full of food from a hearty meal. They recline restfully, and smoke their pipes as Gandalf approaches. After a happy exchange the hobbits describe how they escaped from the Orcs, and met Treebeard. They went, say the hobbits, through the forest for a while, and met some other Ents, then they went to Saruman's headquarters. As they came closer they heard trumpets and then Saruman's Orc army marched away, leaving the place nearly deserted.
(In the book), according to the hobbits, the battle to destroy Isengard goes well as the furious Ents pull down walls and destroy any remaining Orcs or men who remain, but they are unable to pull down the pinnacle in which Saruman and Wormtongue now take refuge. Eventually Treebeard calls the Ents together and they go up to higher ground, where they spend a day digging and damming, then they release the waters of Isen and flood Isengard. Wormtongue arrives and Treebeard makes sure the treacherous old man is trapped with Saruman in the tower – as Gandalf instructed.
A scene not included in the movie covers an extended conversation between Eomer, Gimli and Gandalf and Saruman. Cornered and beaten Gandalf gives the fallen wizard one last chance to surrender and change to the side of goodness, but for a short time Saruman works a kind of spell, and tries to lure his enemies over to his side. He offers them safety, and safe passage, but eventually the spell is shattered. As Gandalf says: “The treacherous are always distrustful. But you need not fear for your skin. I do not wish to kill you, or hurt you, as you would know, if you really understood me. And I have the power to protect you. I am giving you a last chance. You can leave Orthanc, free – if you wish.” Saruman refuses to take the offer and Gandalf casts him from the order and from the Council.
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” Galatians 4:16
In the verse above is a question asked by a Christian to people who did not want to hear the truth. In principle, this is a common situation. Unbelievers quite often suspect God of all sorts of underhand things, or they love the evil they follow more than the freedom offered to them, so when the gospel reaches them they retreat from it rather than rush to it. Like Saruman, they resist the wonderful offer of salvation, and choose rather to hide in the fortress of their enslavement. As Jesus said: “And you will not come to me, that you might have life.” John 5:40.
Wormtongue throws a “globe of crystal, dark, but glowing with inner fire” down from the tower, missing Gandalf. The wizard picks it up and hides it under his cloak. Later, after more journeying, Pippin waits until Gandalf is asleep and sneaks the ball from him. He looks into it and is seized by its power and collapses. The ball is called a 'palantir', and it is passed to Aragorn as a restored treasure for his future kingdom. The palantir and the Mirror of Galadriel share in common their ability to sometimes give a glimpse of the future. This somewhat shaky prophetic ability is extremely poor and unreliable compared to the mighty Scriptures of God, which contain hundreds of predictions, all exact, all accurate to the finest degree.
Gandalf sets of for Minas Tirith with Pippin, and they ride together on Shadowfax for hundreds of miles, and for many days. Meanwhile Frodo and Sam are on their own slowly journey. They struggle through much bleak, cold, foggy landscapes, and at one stage they discover how handy the Elven rope is – it unties its own knots on command – and on they go until, having noticed Gollum trailing them, they prepare a trap to catch him. Gollum pits up a terrific fight but Frodo draws out Sting and holds it at the creature's throat. “Let go! Gollum. This is Sting. You have seen it before once upon a time. Let go, or you'll feel it this time! I'll cut your throat.” The hobbits force Gollum to promise to “be very, very good” and he agrees to lead them safely through the dangerous lands ahead and across the Marshes. This he does, and more descriptions of dreariness and tiredness follow – very much the colouring of the entire book unfortunately.
The Marshes are also called the Dead Marshes, for they contain the bodies of long-dead Men, and Orcs and Elves. In the movie Frodo falls into the water, drawn by the power of the dead, and Gollum rescues him before Sam can get to the place. In the book no such event occurs, but the movie I think is better, because it underlines the power and fascination of the things of darkness. The world is truly fascinated by darkness. Sadism, pain and torture have become a part of the Western culture. Thousands of movies and television programs, thousands of other entertainments, including music and dance, feature the gross, the distorted, the ugly and the dark. Humans thrive on depictions of horror, violence and death. 'Nature red in tooth and claw' is the main attraction in many wildlife programs. The News on radio and TV focuses on crashes, war crime, scandal, immorality and the negative. Every night on 'the box' there are several murders. CSI, Crime suspect and other series involve graphic scenes involving death. If we follow the media in its widest meaning, then we all live in the midst of the Dead marshes.
The character of Gollum, or Smeagol is developed more fully as the hobbits interact with him. He seems to have a little 'humanity' left in him, but he has also developed a split personality, in which one Smeagol wants to trust the hobbits and obey them for the good of all, while the other hates them, and plots to destroy them whenever possible. The only thing which constrains him from attacking is the fact that Frodo has the Ring – the center and focus of his own heart. So Gollum is caught in a vicious trap. He argues with his alter-ego all through the story, torn between murderous action and passive obedience. He hates the Ring, yet he calls it his “precious”. The Ring has already eaten most of his soul, yet like drug addiction, the thing he wants so much is the same thing which is killing him.
“Then when lust (or great desire) has conceived, (or started) it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” James 1:15
Gollum takes Frodo and Sam as far as the the great iron Gate of Mordor, (Black Gate) but he is so afraid that if Frodo goes through it the Ring will be lost, he tells Frodo of another way into Mordor. This way goes up to an ancient fortress, once built by Isildur, thousands of years ago. It is known as Minas Ithil or the Tower of the Moon, now occupied by Sauron's troops. They set off for this narrow path into Mordor and on the way are waylaid by Faramir, captain of Gondor, and the younger brother of Boromir. In the book he hears them out and them bids them farewell. In the movie he captures them and desires the Ring, but later heroically resists its lure and thus proves what a great man he really is. In the book a battle between Gondor's soldiers against Men who have joined Sauron, with an 'Oliphaunt' takes place. In the movie this battle is also depicted, though in a time just before Faramir arrives on the scene.
Whatever the sequence, the movie has brought out a powerful theme. Two brothers, one loved by his father, the other scorned. Boromir, the father's favourite goes to the Council of Elrond to get the Ring, because he thinks it holds the solution to defeating Sauron. Boromir, as we know, is killed by Orc arrows. Boromir is short-sighted, and seeking power for himself, and probably admiration from his father.
Boromir dies, but not before Aragorn forgives him and reveals that he has decided to be the reluctant king. The movie portrays Aragorn as a man afraid of his own weaknesses, who up to this point chooses to hide, rather than pursue his rightful place on the throne at Minas Tirith. The younger brother, despised by his father, realizes he has the chance of 'redeeming' himself in his father's eyes, but he has enough sense to see that if he took the Ring, he would not bring the desired victory, but sure defeat to his city and people. In Faramir we see a young man who deserves the place of leadership because of his character, and a father who does not recognize the worth of his own son.
Faramir takes the hobbits to a cave near a waterfall and there, after much talk, he discovers that the Ring is with the hobbits: “So that is the answer to all the riddles! The One Ring that was thought to have perished from the world. And Boromir tried to take it by force? And you escaped? And ran all the way – to me! And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune! A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality! Ha!”
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Faramir sees Gollum in the pool below the cave, and questions Frodo about him. He threatens to shoot arrows at Gollum, to kill him, but Frodo pleads for the creature's life, and is more or less forced into luring Gollum into a trap to save his life. Gollum is seized and taken, questioned, and released under oath never to return to the waterfall or speak of it. Gollum swears by the Ring to do what is required, and Frodo and Sam marvel at the honourable way in which Faramir treats them all.
Faramir, who at first meeting is expected to be highly dangerous, turns out to be quite the opposite. In a similar way, when Isaac and Rebekah went to stay with Abimelech, Isaac had a completely wrong impression of their host. “And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. Genesis 26:7 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is your wife: so why did you say She is my sister? And Isaac said to him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.” Genesis 26:9
Frodo and Sam set off, well cared for by Faramir, and travelled many miles until they came to the road which lead to the Tower of the Moon, but just before they begin their climb they encounter a Wraith king, and see an army issuing from his city Minas Morgul, and marching off towards Osgiliath, the city of Captain Faramir. As Frodo watched the army go by he felt great despair, but he recovered himself when he held the phial, given to him by Galadriel, close: “When he saw that the clear light was already welling through his fingers, he thrust it into his bosom and held it against his heart.”
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19
“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Psalms 119:130
Frodo and Sam and Gollum begin to climb the stairs, of which there are three sets. The Straight Stair section is reasonably vertical and very difficult, then comes the Winding Stair which is longer but slightly easier, and then comes a section which Gollum is unwilling to reveal, because this is a tunnel section in which lives a monstrous spider called Shelob. It is Gollum's plan to lead the hobbits into Shelob's lair and let her eat them, then sneak in afterwards and take the Ring. And the plan nearly works, because the hobbits go along the tunnel and find themselves about to be devoured, but Sam calls out: “Master, master! The Lady's gift! The star-glass! A light to you in dark places, she said it was to be. The star-glass!” and Frodo remembers: “Why had I forgotten it? 'A light when all other lights go out!' And now indeed light alone can help us.”
“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” Matthew 4:16
“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Psalms 119:105
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; which you do well if you take heed to it, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” 2 Peter 1:19 (Interesting how the light of the star is in a bottle for Frodo, but the light of Christ is in the hearts of the believers)
In the movie, Frodo faces Shelob by himself, because Gollum tricks Frodo into turning against his friend; Frodo sends Sam away, but in the book it is Sam and Frodo, still good friends who meet the spider, and it is Frodo who takes the initiative by drawing Sting and advancing on the spider shouting the name of Galadriel, and holding the glass bottle forth to shine in the spider's eyes, and with Sam coming along behind with his sword also drawn. They drive Shelob back then race down the tunnel, only to find the entrance blocked. Sam's sword is useless against the web, but Frodo's cuts it easily and they run towards the top of the pass free and excited. Frodo runs ahead, while Sam runs behind, and Frodo is the faster, until a gap widens between them, then Shelob reappears and takes Frodo, while Sam finds himself grabbed by Gollum. A furious fight ensues, with Sam gaining the upper hand, and Gollum flees, but the distraction by Gollum has served its purpose and Frodo is caught.
Sam runs to help Frodo who lies inert, and Shelob attacks him. He wounds her in one eye and in the belly, then he too holds the starlight bottle and calls the name of Galadriel. Shelob retreats, wounded and stung by blade and light, then Sam mourns his fallen companion. In the book Sam thinks Frodo is dead, so he takes Sting and the mithril (coat of chain mail), and, after much inner debate, he also takes the Ring. In the movie Frodo is wrapped by Shelob so tightly he looks like a cocoon, and when the orcs arrive the silk is largely undisturbed, because all Sam took in the movie was Sting and the Ring.
But Sam himself is very much the center of the story at this point. He has several choices to make. He could abandon the quest. He could stand guard over Frodo's body and quite likely be killed by orcs. He could take the Ring and try to reach the fires by himself. He chooses to go on, and (hopefully) return to honour his friend. In this way Sam realizes that the great good takes precedence over the smaller. It would be fine to defend Frodo's body, but if he did this, ultimately all hobbits would be slaves or worse.
In the movie some orcs arrive and carry Frodo back to their tower. In the book Sam tries to attack them but he is too tired and too slow to reach them before they carry Frodo past Shelob's tunnel and away up to the tower. Sam is momentarily stopped by a block of stone which serves as a door, then he passes through and heads up the path to the tower. He overhears the orcs say that Frodo is not dead, but stunned, so now Sam resolves to rescue him: “ . . . now a wild fury was upon him. 'I got it all wrong!' he cried, 'I knew I would. Now they've got him, the devils! The filth! Never leave your master, never, never; that was my right rule. And i knew it in my heart. May I be forgiven! Now I've got to get back to him. Somehow, somehow!”
The remorse which Sam feels is echoed in the response by Peter after he denied his Master three times: “And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:62
In the book, Sam rushes towards the orcs, but he is too late. The orcs are too noisy to hear him, and the doors shut before Sam can go through. He finds himself shut out of the tower and helpless. In the movie, Sam arrives a lot later, after the orcs have nearly wiped themselves out by infighting. All Sam needs to do is kill the last three or four and rescue Frodo, who is now recovering from the effects of the spider's venom. And so their journey continues into the third film. But whether we leave Sam at the door of the tower, or back on the road with Frodo, the faithfulness of Sam carries the day. Who cannot be touched and moved by his constancy and faithfulness?
“Where you die, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part you and me.” Ruth 1:17
“And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:1
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love . . .” Colossians 2:2
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