Boat on a lake

Gladden Fields

The third and final part of the Lord of the Ring trilogy opens, as always, with a beautiful Howard Shore composition. The Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers both opened with a mellow musical introduction that swelled gradually to accompany the action scenes. In the Return of the King, however, the music never reaches such heights, for the scene is somewhat different.

Although the music in itself fills an entire room with its majestic volume, it also provides a hint of sadness and melancholy as it transforms into the all-known Seduction of the Ring piece. This piece, however, ends on a more jolly note than usual. This is where the opening scene combines wonderfully with this particular piece. A single worm, wiggling between two fingers of one of the river folk. A wonderful sunny day in Gladden Fields.

Refocus

The focus on this worm is of significance to us as an audience. Although our expectations may have been raised given the action sequences of the previous two films, this one refocuses our attention on what is important, the small and simple things.

This epic voyage we have been on until now has brought us face to face with the origin of Gollum. Although not recognized as such in this particular scene, we do get a glimpse of Sméagol as he was before the Ring took him. It is a very helpful insight into the character and his journey before any of the later stories took place.

Something unsettling

Gollum gazes at the worm particularly penetratingly. The joy of simple things might be one way of interpreting it. However, there is another way. The way he looks at the hook as he brings it closer to this worm gives me a sense of chill.

It is almost as if he enjoys knowing that he is about to fatally hurt this worm by putting a hook through him. This is, of course, a natural thing to do if one enjoys fishing. But there is something sadistic in his unblinking look that makes it enjoyment in brutality. His eagerness is somewhat unsettling.

This part of his character can be traced back to Sméagol`s curiosity about his surroundings. He used to dig under trees and plants to find things that haven`t yet been discovered. He never took the time to admire the Sun, the warmth, the leaves on the trees he was burrowing under. All his interests lay in the ground or underneath it.

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A precious find

Both Sméagol and Déagol enjoy a day of fishing. Déagol`s line pulls him into the water with a fish pulling him along the bed of the lake. He gives up the fight with the fish, and as he starts to reach for the surface, something small and golden catches his eye. But not just as a shiny and exciting find.

His eyes widen in a kind of drawn wonder. This deepens as he struggles onto the shore. He opens his palm to see the treasure he found. Up until this point, there were sounds of birds chirping and the wind blowing through the trees, now, all of a sudden, there are no nature sounds to be heard, only the “beating heart” of the Ring.

His initial smile fades as the Ring`s influence starts to emanate. He admires the Ring without ever blinking, without even taking the time to clean it. Déagol is caught up in this little piece of gold that has him enticed in its simple yet dangerous beauty. He himself might not check his own reactions, but as Sméagol approaches, there is a slight glimmer in his eyes of the need for instant possession of this Ring.

Sméagol happily comes behind Déagol and stops dead in his tracks. His eyes unblinking, widening, his smile slowly turning into an expression of astonishment. As Déagol still holds the Ring, caressing it ever so slightly, Sméagol`s need for the Ring, although not yet conscientiously acknowledged takes over his body. His speech trembles along with his facial expression.

Photo by Ondřej Neduchal on Unsplash

A fatal altercation

Sméagol: “Give us that, Déagol, my love.”

Déagol: “Why?”

Sméagol: “Because it`s my birthday and I wants it.”

Sméagol does not ask for Déagol to give him the Ring but rather demands it. The fact that it is his birthday comes as reason enough. Sméagol here puts his arm around Déagol`s shoulders. This gesture could mean that he is trying to soften Déagol into compliance, or he is manipulating him by faking kindness. Sméagol tries to snatch the Ring out of Déagol`s hand and a vicious fight for the Ring ensues.

It would seem that for one short moment Déagol has the upper hand, getting his hands around Sméagol`s neck, wanting to choke him. At this moment the rage in his face over this short-lived conquering gives us an insight into the velocity of the Ring`s influence on Déagol. It is incredible that a small round piece of gold could make enemies of these two close cousins.

In an instant their harmonious relationship shown while fishing, changes into a fight for life and death. The possession of the Ring has become as crucial as breathing, and neither of them would stop until the other one is dead. Sméagol manages to bring Déagol to the ground with his hands around his neck.

Difference in character

There is a difference between Déagol`s strangling attempt and Sméagol`s death grip. Déagol`s face shows an enraged, angered individual.

Sméagol, on the other hand, is perfectly calm.

He kneels over Déagol with his hands around his neck. He is determined, focused, with a murderous look on his face. While his cousin is running out of air to breathe, Sméagol doesn`t even look at him. There is no sense of pity, no reason to stop himself. It is an unemotional, unrepenting moment.

His eyes, however, do well up. He doesn`t cry or even wants to, but rage fills his eyes with tears. As the last heartbeat escapes Déagol, Sméagol bends down to look at his cousin’s stiff face. There his expression changes, into something akin to shock that he had actually killed his cousin.

However, apart from this single look at Déagol, there is nothing else in Sméagol’s expression to suggest remorse, for his eyes turn to the Ring in Déagol`s hand.

A lack of melody

Throughout the fight, there isn`t a single note heard. No terrifying music accompanying this act of rage. There is just a heartbeat and the sound effects that emanate from the Ring.

The heartbeat holds a steady rhythm, until the moment where Sméagol starts to strangle Déagol. Then the heartbeat accelerates while Déagol struggles to pull himself out from under Sméagol`s grip. The slowing of the heartbeat gives us an indication of what life there is left in Déagol, for only seconds later the heartbeat stops.

The sound effects emanating from the Ring maintain a similar curve. The sound swells as the heartbeat accelerates. The louder the Ring the stronger the grip around Déagol`s neck. This sound provides us with the information on the impact the Ring has on Sméagol and its rapidly increasing hold over him.

Sméagol takes the Ring from Déagol`s hand, holds it with two hands in front of his face with a most overwhelming look in his eyes. The Ring becomes his “precious”.

Shunned

They cursed us. “Murderer” they called us. They cursed us and drove us away. And we wept, precious. We wept to be so alone. And we forgot the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name. My precious.

Sméagol/Gollum

The “they” Gollum refers to are his kin, most of all his grandmother. They shunned him for becoming a thief. The Ring influenced his behavior in a harmful way, in which all those around him suffered from his malice and thievery. He was a disgrace to his otherwise well-standing family. So they drove him away. He sought refuge under mountains to satisfy his need for the underground.

The transformation of Sméagol into the creature Gollum was, in my opinion, beautifully done. The emotional and physical torture Sméagol went through is wonderfully depicted. He transforms gradually into Gollum and its journey into the caves of the Misty Mountains is clear, the Ring took over his senses. He could not feel or taste anything anymore.

Metamorphosis

Sméagol has lost himself. All that he ever was, has been almost eradicated. Without knowing what he is actually turning into, panic, anger, and confusion take over. Since he cannot feel his surroundings anymore, and they cannot influence him, he focuses all of his attention on his inner world. He immerses himself into the world the Ring is creating for him. And it starts to show. The creature he is becoming directly reflects his own feelings, his state of mind.

He could not face himself because of his cruel action towards Déagol. The Ring claimed this as leverage to influence him to the fullest of its potential.

The following lyrics about Sméagol/Gollum delve into the pain and suffering his personal journey brought him.

This is one of my personal favorites of the entire soundtrack, so what I like I share with others. I suggest the soundtrack in its entirety for a complete immersion into the musical journey of the films. I hope you enjoy it.

 Gollum`s song

Where once was light
Now darkness falls
Where once was love
Love is no more
 
Don't say goodbye
Don't say, I didn't try…
 
These tears we cry
Are falling rain
For all the lies
You told us
The hurt, the blame!
 
And we will weep
To be so alone
We are lost!
We can never go home
 
So in the end
I will be, what I will be
No loyal friend
Was ever there for me
 
Now we say, goodbye
We say, you didn't try
 
These tears you cry
Have come too late
Take back the lies
The hurt, the blame!
 
And you will weep
When you face the end alone
You are lost!
You can never go home
You are lost!
You can never go home

Lyrics by Frances Rosemary Walsh
Music by Howard Shore
Performer Emiliana Torrini

Featured photo by Foto-Rabe on Pixabay

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