Even in these dark places, when all their strength has drained from their bodies, Sam still keeps a close eye on Gollum. He is determined to not give him a moment’s peace. His eyes are always watching him, assessing his behavior, tensing over his every movement around Frodo. But it is not only Frodo, he worries about. Sam’s own safety is also at stake. Since there has been no truce between the two characters, despite Sam’s threats, he can only stay on constant alert and fear for his life.
Sam manages to keep his one eye open at all times, even when he desperately needs his rest. However, he falls asleep in spite of his efforts to stay awake.
As soon as Gollum assures himself of Sam’s closed eyes and inability to wake up to silent sounds, with a cunning expression on his face, Gollum makes for Sam’s backpack. He opens it to search for their Lembas bread, Sam and Frodo’s only sustenance in this God-forsaken place. However, Lembas is not one of the foods Gollum is comfortable with.
With his many years spent as a wretched creature, his original form unrecognizable as well as his eating habits, this bread is a very disgusting form of food. As he once tried it while starving, his natural reflexes of refusing the food almost made him choke. Therefore, the existence of Lembas bread on this particular journey is of no significance to him.
Even the sight of Lembas produces a sound of disgust in his mouth. Remembering his Dead Marshes choking incident, he frowns at the mere sight of it. To eat it would not bring any pleasure, only pain to his insides. However, Frodo and Sam depend on this Elven waybread to nourish them, as they will not be able to find any other source of food, aside from Orc corpses, in this barren place.
So, to create as much damage as possible and to make himself indispensable by simultaneously discrediting Sam, Gollum follows through on his plan. He takes the bread crumbs and scatters them on Sam’s cloak as he sleeps undisturbed by this action. The crumb trail to the eventual culprit has been placed, now the only thing to do is to dispense the rest of the bread over the ledge, thereby eliminating any evidence of its existence.
As soon as he is done with his devious deed, Sam awakens, seeing Gollum turning his back to the ledge. There is immediate suspicion in Sam’s face as well as his words. He wants to know exactly what Gollum was doing. An argument ensues.
Sam: “Where are you off to? Sneaking off are we?”
Gollum: “Sneaking? Sneaking! Fat hobbit is always so polite. Sméagol shows them secret ways that nobody else could find and they say sneak. Sneak? Very nice friend. Oh yes, my precious, very nice, very…”
Sam: “All right! All right! You just startled me, that’s all. What are you doing?”
Sam: “Fine. Have it your own way.”
Sam’s worries this time center on the possibility of Gollum’s sudden disappearance. There is nothing stopping him from leaving the two Hobbits on the Winding Stair. He could have just taken leave without any feelings of guilt or responsibility. However, it is in Gollum’s best interest to stay by their side.
Sam’s suspicions seem to be groundless so he lets this argument go. He is, however, still curious as to Gollum’s whereabouts and plans. To cover his tracks and simultaneously annoy Sam, Gollum gives the answer Sam was looking for. At this moment there is no point in arguing since it would lead them in a circle of repeats.
Sam had a sneaking suspicion that whatever Gollum was up to had to do with the end of the ledge they were sleeping on. He looks down the stairs they climbed in an instinctual move to cover all his bases. The Lembas bread, however, cannot be seen from this high distance. Therefore, there is no need for an overreaction.
Gollum’s innocent defense
Gollum doesn’t use offense as the best defense strategy here. He merely points out the obvious: Sam offended him and Gollum gives him a reason why he should be trustworthy.
Noone would have taken them on this particular path, not because it is unknown but because a grave danger looms in the tunnels above the stairs. No one would dare climb here.
Fortunately, Gollum had presented the Hobbits with the only possible solution to their problem without disclosing the possible terror that awaits them at the end of the climb. For Gollum to come into possession of the One Ring he needs the help of an old terror that dwells in the tunnels.
Gollum simply wanted to present himself as the all-helpful creature, doing his best to provide them a “safe” path toward their goal. He is miffed by Sam’s distrust at his intentions, so he makes sure to present his hurt feelings in the most obviously manipulating way.
Sam: “I’m sorry to wake you, Mister Frodo. We have to be moving on.”
Frodo: “It’s dark still.”
Sam: “It’s always dark here.”
True. Since they left the statue of the Fallen King of Gondor, there has been nothing but darkness brewing in the sky, and this is not just meant to be metaphorical. Sauron is making sure his army travels under the constant cloud and shadow so as to move unobstructed toward their goal. There is no telling how long this darkness will keep prevailing over the sun, or if the sun will ever touch the sky again.
Frodo is almost angry as Sam awakens him because all he can see is darkness. Any trace of a good mood has all but perished. There is nothing to look forward to but darkness, not only on the outside but on the inside as well.
…Right where he wants them
Sam: “It’s gone! The elven bread!”
Frodo: “What? That’s all we have left!”
Panic-stricken Sam realizes the missing Lembas bread. Frodo also expresses his incredulity at this new information.
Sam: “He took it! He must have!”
Gollum: “Sméagol? No, no, no poor Sméagol. Sméagol hates nasty Elf bread.”
Sam: “You lying rat! What did you do with it!”
Frodo: “He doesn’t eat it. He can’t have taken it!”
Sam’s suspicions reach their boiling point. For all of their struggling up the Winding Stair, the sleeplessness, the agitation between the three companions and now the lack of nourishment brings Sam’s patience to its limit. There is no more room left for suspicion, there are only accusations left.
Gollum naturally defends himself with a reasonable argument. There is no way he could have eaten it when its contents choke him. Therefore, he cannot be culpable for the lack of food. There is no sound reasoning behind why Gollum would have eaten Lembas, as Frodo points out.
The boiling point
The expression of innocence on Gollum’s face could almost be thought of as genuine if we didn’t already know how cunning he could be.
Gollum: “Look, what’s this?”
Gollum: “Crumbs on his jacketses. He took it. He took it! I’ve seen him. He is always stuffing his face when Master is not looking.”
Sam: “That’s a filthy lie! You stinking filth face!”
To clear the argument Gollum points to the crumbs he had so lovingly placed on Sam’s cloak. Gollum feigns surprise at this new development and provides additional information about Sam’s eating habits, which are, of course, false. However, Gollum’s accusation against Sam brings Sam over the edge of sanity, which in turn makes him extremely irritable and short-tempered. Sam’s aggressive outburst turns violent as he goes after physically hurting Gollum for his lying.
Frodo: “Sam! Stop it! No, Sam!”
Sam: “I’ll kill him!”
Frodo: “Sam! No!”
Frodo intervenes and interrupts Sam’s physical attack on Gollum, holding him back as best as he can. However, due to Frodo’s rapid physical deterioration, he collapses leaving Sam to take care of him.
Sam: “Oh my! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it to go so far. I was just so, so angry. Here. You just… just rest a bit.”
Frodo: “I’m all right.”
Even the most even-tempered person crumbles under too much stress, it is, therefore, no wonder Sam had turned into this violent person all of a sudden. He knows that anger had driven him to react in this violent manner and is apologetic for his behavior. Sam is aware that no amount of his personal discomfort, anger or irritation will ever match the unyielding inner destruction of Frodo. Nothing they face will ever be as horrible as that.
Doubt turning into truth
No, no you’re not all right. You’re exhausted. It’s that Gollum. It’s this place. It’s that thing around your neck.Sam
Sam knows exactly what is making Frodo so weak and why he cannot take care of himself as he otherwise would have. The Ring is getting ever stronger as they near Mordor. However, given the “advice” and perspective on the situation that Gollum has provided Frodo, Sam’s observations are heard as a threat. Frodo worries, as Gollum had already pointed out, that Sam is after the Ring himself and is waiting for any opportunity to become its bearer.
The look in Frodo’s eyes is almost that of a stranger. A friend would never look that menacing at another friend, especially not one that has perpetually tried to help him overcome obstacles during their journey. There are anger and hate in Frodo’s expression, something we got a glimpse of when he had Sam’s throat at the tip of his sword in Osgiliath.
I… could help a bit. I could carry it for a while…carry it for a while… I could carry it… carry it… share the load… the load.Sam
Sam’s words echo in Frodo’s head with a touch of reverb, implanting themselves firmly into Frodo’s psyche confirming the seed of doubt that Gollum had previously planted. Now, there is no other alternative to Sam’s intentions. From Frodo’s point of view, Sam wants the Ring for himself and his offering to share the burden are only pretenses to his true motivation.
Frodo: “Get away!”
Sam: “I don’t want to keep it! I just want to help!”
Frodo rejects his friend as if he were the enemy out to get him. Even when Sam’s eyes show a genuine want to help him, Frodo does not believe him. Frodo has chosen his side and, as it is now, he has no intention of changing his mind, at least not while he is under the influence of Gollum.
Gollum: “See? See! He wants it for himself.”
Sam: “Shut up you! Go away! Get out of here!”
Frodo: “No Sam. It’s you. I’m sorry, Sam.”
This is all the proof Gollum needed to solidify his take on Frodo. Here, at last, he has Sam wording what Gollum had already told Frodo would happen. There are no words left for Sam to speak that could rectify his position in this unfortunate trio. He is defeated. All the struggle, the hunger, the stress he had endured until now has only one outlet, his eyes. Tears start pouring down his face as he realizes there is no more room for him in his friend’s heart.
Sam: “But, he’s a liar! He’s poisoned you against me!”
Frodo: “You can’t help me anymore.”
Sam: “You don’t mean that.”
Frodo: “Go home.”
The words strike hard. Once they are said, they cannot be taken back. They sting as a sword pierced heart, and we bleed the longer the argument continues. At that precise moment, the world turns dark, our own thoughts conspire against us, leaving us spiraling downward to the lowest possible level of self-hatred.
Frodo does not need him anymore. Sam is free to go home. Even if he had the option to stay, he would have if only to make sure his friend did not come to any harm. But, as Frodo states without a trace of guilt or doubt that he should turn back and head for the Shire, so does Sam lose any will to go on. The only duty he had been charged with, the one promise he made Gandalf, has now been broken. He has failed and there is nothing left for him here but misery.
His whole body gives way to his crumbling emotions bringing it to the ground. His tears have a will of their own now, and there is no point for him to cease their passage. There is no reason why he should not break down.
Sam has been holding his inner world to himself, putting on a brave face even when his own emotions rattled against him. He did it all for Frodo, and now he is no longer needed, no longer wanted. He is free to fall to pieces as Frodo and Gollum continue their way up the stairs, leaving him behind.
Follow the story of the film in my next post.