As Sauron tightens the noose in all the lands of Middle-Earth. The idea of two Hobbits being brave enough to seek the entrance to his lair still had not occurred to him. He is still under the impression that Pippin is the one holding his most precious weapon hostage.
The Winding Stair taking a toll
Meanwhile, the two brave Hobbits accompanied by their wretched guide climb the Winding Stair toward the Pass of Cirith Ungol. For all the fear and terror that sweeps the land, for all the darkness that clouds the skies and all the danger that is about to be unleashed, the plan to undermine the enemy is all but unknown to Sauron.
The Winding Stair proves its name quickly. It takes a toll on both Hobbits. As they climb to a ledge Frodo starts to struggle. His weakened mind and body cannot take the physical strain, so his grip gives way. His eyes take in the high altitude that falls under his feet, with eyes wide in horror. There is no safety net to hold him if he should stumble. Fortunately, he has Gollum and Sam to help him reach his goal.
Careful, master! Very far to fall. Very dangerous on the stairs. Come, master! Come to Sméagol!Gollum
Frodo climbs onto the ledge where Gollum is waiting for him. The One Ring shows itself from under Frodo’s shirt. The Ring’s “heartbeat” is ever stronger as they move closer to Mordor. It holds Gollum’s eyes with him unthinkingly reaching out his hand toward it.
It could have been the easiest steal ever. Gollum could have taken the Ring right then and there. He could have let Frodo fall down the stairs and into the way of the army leaving Minas Morgul.
It could have all ended there, with not even a confrontation. It would only be a simple nudge that would have taken Sam along with him. Gollum would have had his precious and all would be right in his world. This might be the scenario that Sam had in mind as he saw Gollum’s hand reaching toward the Ring.
Sam: “Mister Frodo! Get back, you! Don’t touch him!”
Gollum: “Why does he hates poor Sméagol? What has Sméagol ever done to him?”
Sam cautions Frodo of Gollum possible treachery, drawing his sword toward Gollum. He threatens Gollum, with little effect. Gollum’s treachery proves to be one of Sam’s fantastical constructs. Although he would have bet his life on Gollum taking advantage of this opportunity, he is proven wrong.
Gollum holds his hand to reach Frodo and help him onto the ledge. Referring to himself as Sméagol he successfully wears the mask that his master has come to trust – the one of a friend, a confidant, the only person who could understand his plight.
Gollum also objectively diffuses the situation by asking a question that shines a light on Sam’s excessive behavioral reactions. Objectively, one would think that this poor pitiful creature would never be able to hurt anyone, much less someone he has pledged himself to. Moreover, Gollum had never really done anything bad for Sam to deserve this kind of treatment. As long as he uses objective argumentation, his bond to Frodo becomes ever tighter.
A heavy burden to carry
Master, Master carries a heavy burden. Sméagol knows. Heavy, heavy burden. Fat one cannot know. Let Sméagol look after Master.Gollum
After helping Frodo onto the ledge, Sméagol seizes this brief window of opportunity to show his compassion for his master’s burden, for he is the only one who can truly understand it. Gollum’s eyes show empathy and valid concern for Frodo, which Frodo, in turn, accepts as genuine feeling of camaraderie.
In this barren wasteland, filled with dread and fear, with no one to confide in that can truly understand the inner deterioration that is taking place, Frodo must trust his own strength and strive to move forward. However, his strength is failing, with doubt and fear taking over his inner world.
A welcome comfort
Suddenly, there comes a flash of comfort, a hint of possible recognition and an understanding of the pain that flows through every fiber of Frodo’s being. Even though at the beginning of their acquaintance, Frodo did not want to have anything to do with Gollum, with every challenge they faced together, his sympathy for the creature, and the undeniable pity he feels toward him, drew him ever nearer to Gollum.
Although weakened by the sheer “weight” of the Ring both physically and mentally, the need and will to save this creature still grows strong within Frodo.
As Frodo had defended Gollum in front of Sam on multiple occasions, Gollum is returning the favor. Now Gollum wants to take care of Frodo, and in this place and his state of mind, that is a very welcoming offer.
Gollum, however, knows exactly what his good-heartedness will bring him and his relationship with Frodo. He means to drive a wedge between Frodo and Sam and put himself as the only possible companion.
It is much easier to maneuver and manipulate when there is only one weak pawn on the chessboard. As soon as Gollum’s plan succeeds, nothing will stand in his way.
He wants It. He needs It, Sméagol sees it in his eyes! Very soon he will ask you for It! You will see! The fat one will take It from you!Gollum
And there it is. A single seed of doubt planted at precisely the right moment. It is only a matter of Sam’s next reaction, which Frodo will interpret according to Gollum’s guidelines.
When there is something we start to believe to be true about someone, then it doesn’t take long before evidence creeps up that proves our theory. It only depends on the perspective of the situation. If Gollum had told Frodo that Sam was only trying to protect him, Frodo would have believed that too, as he believed that up until now.
However, the seed of doubt that has now started to grow inside Frodo, awakening his greatest fear – a fear of Sam’s betrayal and want of the Ring – will only prove accurate as Gollum follows through with his plan of undermining Sam.
There is true fear in Frodo’s eyes giving away the thin layer of trust that had been dwindling between him and Sam. For all their years of friendship, a single doubt, still unproven, starts to gnaw at him. The trust between the two Hobbits is not only fading but slowly turning into a feeling of hate, for there is a thin line between love and hate and if the trust is broken, there is nothing that can stop the hate from spreading.
As Frodo isn’t able to judge for himself or trust his own feelings about anything anymore, the outside counsel of the only one who can understand him is valuable. He is already spent using all his might and power in sustaining himself and surviving as best he can, he cannot waste energy deliberating what Sam’s true intentions are.
Let us continue with Gandalf and Pippin’s part of the story. Read about it in my next post.