Shelob’s Lair

An unrecognizable shadow of a once spirited Hobbit makes his way towards a tunnel. He is incredibly weak stumbling forward to the path-showing Gollum. His expression presents us with his feelings, not guided by overpowering manipulation of the Ring but rather his self-preserving inner voice. Although heavily influenced by his enemy, Frodo can still sense and distinguish right from wrong. 

A cold welcome

Gollum on his part makes every effort to present this passage as welcoming as possible. 

Gollum: “There.”

Frodo: “What is this place?”

Gollum: “Master must go inside the tunnel.”

Frodo: “Now that I’m here, I don’t think I want to.”

Gollum: “It’s the only way! Go in or go back.”

Frodo: “I cannot go back.”

From the look of the place, Frodo is in the discrepancy between his own sense of right and wrong and the quest he was appointed to fulfill. The place itself discourages him from ever entering it. However, Gollum gives him the ultimate choices of entering or returning. Since there is nowhere to go, seeing as the army of Minas Morgul has vacated the city, there is only one choice. 

Gollum, for his part, impatiently directs Frodo into entering the tunnel. Now that he has finally reached the final stage of his plan, there is nothing that will deter his ability to persuade Frodo from entering. The smell of victory, the possession of the Ring, is so close. He has played his part masterfully, now it is time to reap the rewards. 

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Frodo: “What’s that smell?”

Gollum: “Orcses filth. Orcses come in here sometimes.”

Gollum: “Hurry!”

As Gollum hurries forward to prepare his trap, Frodo lags behind. He cannot keep up with the creature, the low visibility of the tunnel does not aid him. Suddenly, he realizes he has lost track of his guide. 

Gollum: “This way!”

Frodo: “Sméagol?”

Gollum: “Over here!”

Gollum’s voice seems to be emanating from different directions. Frodo starts down one path only to be called onto another. Panic begins to color his voice as he calls for his guide. He is guideless in an unfamiliar and dangerous place stumbling through tunnels without any sense of orientation or direction His wide eyes search for any recognizable patterns or anything at all that could define his current environment. 


As Frodo stumbles forward again, he touches the wall to acquire balance. The web his hand is now stuck to befuddles him. 

Frodo: “Ahh! It’s sticky! What is it?”

Gollum: “You will see. Oh yes, you will see.”

Frodo: “Sméagol? Sméagol? Sméagol!”

Never having encountered a substance of this kind, Frodo’s fear of the unknown develops into a scream. The only thing he can feel is the stickiness of this new-found material. 


Gollum becomes this hidden narrator of horror. He is taunting Frodo, providing him with information that he will soon have his answer but in a frightening way. He has trusted Gollum with his life believing he would lead him to a more favorable path to Mordor.

Gollum actually accomplished what he promised Frodo, he brought him to another entrance into Mordor. However, to call this entrance a favorable one is misguided. Frodo might have imagined this path being less of a threat than that of the Black Gate of Mordor. It doesn’t appear that way though. 

From the sound and implication of Gollum’s voice, there is nothing else Frodo can look forward to now but danger. There is not only malice in Gollum’s answer but also the enjoyment of seeing his “master” suffer and panic. It is as if he cannot wait for Frodo’s pain. Gollum’s excitement is palpable.


Frodo calls out to Gollum, still holding on to his name as if he were asking for a friend, still holding onto hope that Sméagol is in there somewhere. Frodo glances in panic in all directions, trying to find some glimpse of Gollum. Gollum has left him alone. There is no more Sméagol. 

As this realization sinks in, his expression changes, from fear and panic into regret. 

Frodo: “Sam.”

Frodo’s eyes well up with tears as he remembers Sam, implicitly regretting his former decision and wishing he were here with him. He has finally come to understand Gollum’s deception, leaving him to feel sorry for ever dismissing Sam’s conclusion about the creature in the first place.

Frodo’s face signals, however lightly, comprehension of his own wrongdoing. Although he was influenced by the Ring and skewed into thinking of Gollum as a friend, there can be no more evidence to the contrary. Sam was right all along. Gollum was not to be trusted. 

Compassion and understanding

Is it really that black and white though? Through the entire journey, Gollum’s behavior improved. He himself became more human than a wretched creature up to a point. He even managed to overcome his Gollum self in order to keep his “master” safe, because he himself felt safe and taken care of. For over the last five hundred years since he has been in possession of the Ring, there haven’t been any friendly faces. Everyone seemed to pursue him and the Ring drove him into seclusion where it only made his transformation worse.

Apart from Bilbo and the “Riddles in the Dark” part, which in itself was not a positive experience, in the end, no one ever bothered getting to know him. Frodo was the only one who gave this creature a chance. He understood him better than anyone ever had, for he himself would face the same fate if the Ring is not destroyed. Moreover, Gollum awakened not only pity in Frodo but also the need to extend a helping hand. 

Through compassion and understanding, Frodo wanted to bring Gollum onto the right track again. He believed Gollum could be helped, he could come back from this still. This, however, worked both ways: he felt pity and thus wanted to help; Frodo also wanted to make it a sort of an experiment, seeing if he could bring him back to what he once was, hoping that it would work on him as well once the quest was over. As much as Frodo was concerned about Gollum’s fate, he was concerned about his own as well. 

Fear and trust

Frodo always had this fear of Gollum bubbling underneath the surface. He feared to become like him, and unconsciously he feared Gollum himself. Although he started to trust him based on his actions, he knew it could come to a complete change of mood in an instant. He was aware of the risk of Gollum’s state of mind. Frodo always took it with a grain of salt. He might never have said it, but in certain situations, his inner voice sporadically alerted him to danger from the creature. 

Gollum has been the only other person in the world who understood what the Ring was doing to him, and for that Frodo might have a sweet spot for the creature. However, he also knows how treacherous the Ring is and what it is capable of doing to one’s own insides. Therefore, to trust Gollum completely was never really an option. It is more a matter of how much it is possible to trust such a creature rather than diving in with full confidence. 

As Frodo takes a step forward, he glances down at his foot having felt more than just ground. He stepped on a skeleton of a creature devoured long ago. He looks around himself clearly for the first time. A dead bird in an intact condition hangs from the cave’s ceiling, as well as, a skeleton which might have been human, or Orc. All that is left of the skeleton is a terrified expression. This site brings back panic and he begins to run.

Finding Lembas

Meanwhile, Sam is descending the Winding Stair, with his sadness pouring out of his eyes. He slips and falls down the steps. On the ground, he looks up and sees the Lembas, the same bread he was accused of eating. His sadness transforms into a rage as he realizes Gollum’s evil doing. It would be one thing if Gollum ate the bread himself, after having feigned choking at the Marshes, but to throw their only source of nourishment only to supplant Sam approaches deviousness. 

For Sam, this is doubly infuriating as his personal mission was to take care of his friend, and now, with the Lembas bread all but inedible, the anger boils into tactile violence as he crushes the bread in his hand. Had Gollum been around Sam would have probably lunged at him and killed him in his fury. 

Since Gollum is not here to take the punishment for his crime, Sam turns his hate of Gollum into spite and motivation for climbing the stairs once again. There is nothing that can stop his determination now. 

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Photo by Adam Bixby on Unsplash

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