Not only was the ground floor of the forest a peril to tread, but the creatures living in its branches make the canopy just as perilous, if not deadly. Bilbo falls into a cobweb and meets the owner of the one of the voices he had heard before but couldn’t place. The spider he meets is no ordinary spider, it is the spawn of the quintessential evil of Middle-Earth that destroyed all the light of the Two Trees of Valinor, along with the help of her cohort Melkor – Ungoliant.
Bilbo is wrapped in spiderwebs similarly to Frodo in Cirith Ungol, only he wasn’t stung. This time though the spider gets stung by Bilbo, releasing himself from the cocoon. He can see that other spiders are on their way to wrap him again and make him their meal.
Bilbo hides for a moment behind a tree trunk, long enough for him to put the ring on his finger. As he does so his perception of the world around him changes. He can hear what the spiders are talking about between themselves. What before were only clicking sounds have now converted into words that he can understand.
Spider1: “Kill them! Kill them. Eat them now while their blood is running.”
Spider2: “Their hide is tough, but there’s good juice inside.”
Spider1: “Stick it again. Stick it again. Finish it off.”
Spider2: “The meat’s alive and kicking!”
Spider1: “Kill him! Kill him now. Let us fest. Feast!”
Spider3: “Feast! Feast!”
Spider4: “Eat them alive! Feast!”
Spider2: “What is it?”
Spider1: “What is it?”
Spider4: “Eat them alive!”
Spider3: “Fat and juicy. Just a little taste.”
This conversation between the spiders is unappetizing. Bilbo listens closely, with his facial expression depicting his mind finding ways to help his fellow company members. While the spiders swarm around the Dwarves, with their mouths watering over their catch of the day, Bilbo uses a small branch lying by his feet and throws it to distract them.
Greedy by nature, and always hungry, like their mother, the spiders follow the sound of the piece of wood Bilbo threw, to see if they could scrounge up even more than they have.
Using this distraction, Bilbo can come closer to the hanging Dwarf cocoons. As the spiders cannot see him, he can come as close as he dares. The one spider left behind, eager to taste Bombur, is the one Bilbo decides to engage. He could not have fought all the spiders at once, this one-on-one meeting fits him better.
Spider3: “Curse it! Where is it?! Where is it?!”
Spider3: “Ah! It stings! It stings!”
Bilbo: “Sting. That’s a good name. Sting.”
Glóin: “You alright there, Bofur?”
Balin: “I’m all right!”
Thorin: “Get it off me!”
Bofur: “Where’s Bilbo?”
Bilbo: “I’m up here!”
With a swing of his arm Bilbo directs his sword toward the spider’s backside, injuring its hide. This makes the spider turn viciously wanting to defend itself, but it cannot see anything there that could have injured it. Bilbo then swings again, this time hurting its head. It must be frustrating not to be able to see one’s own opponent and face it head on. To alleviate the spider’s frustration Bilbo takes his ring off in front of it, appearing seemingly out of nowhere.
Bilbo is smug and aware of the advantage this ring brings him in a confrontation. As soon as he takes his ring off, he stabs the spider between the eyes, causing the spider to scream in pain, simultaneously naming his sword. Now, even his sword thought of by Balin to be a letter opener, has been christened Sting, a sword that Frodo will later use himself.
Bilbo uses the Sting to cut the Dwarves off of their hanging places. They all reach the ground and burst out of their cocoons, one by one. Bofur is the only one of the company to ask about Bilbo’s whereabouts. Since he is not one of the cocoons he has to wonder where he could be. From a branch above his head comes Bilbo’s answer which only lasts a second. Another spider has spotted his position and attacks.
Bilbo manages to drive the sword through his thick hide but in this maneuver, the spider clutches onto him with its legs. As they are falling through the branches, Bilbo’s hand opens, releasing the ring from its grasp. It falls onto the ground as do Bilbo and the spider.
Bombur vs. spider
Óin: “Grab the legs! Pull!”
The Dwarves regroup in the middle of a small clearing surrounded by the oncoming spider attacks. They fight them off one by one with teamwork. Not every one of them being a warrior they need to step in and take care of them. Without a possibility to defend himself properly and with a spider lying on top of him, the only thing Bombur can do is wrestle against its two front sabertoothlike facial extensions. The others surround him, pulling the legs of the spider, succeeding but having the bulk of the spider’s body fall on top of Bombur.
Bilbo: “Where is it? Where is it? Come on. Where is it? No! No!”
Dwalin: “Thorin! Get them!”
Kili: “Come on!”
Glóin: “Look out, brother!”
While the Dwarves are otherwise occupied, Bilbo seeks the ring on the ground. As if by some pull of energy, he feels his presence behind his back, turning to find it lying on dead leaves. He straightens himself up and walks over to the ring to retrieve it. There is a visible influence the ring already exercises on Bilbo. It draws Bilbo to itself, without Bilbo even realizing its potency. When he comes close enough to pick it up, a spider-like creature crawls out from under a rock.
It is blind and only walks forward toward Bilbo because there is no other way to go, but as it moves it pushes the ring slightly out of the way, without perceiving its existence. Seeing this Bilbo suddenly becomes extremely mad, possessive, and violent. He rushes for the creature cutting its legs, hurting its hide, and killing it by stabbing the creature through its head.
Facing the Ring
With the sword still protruding the creature’s head Bilbo looks at the ring with a determined and captivating expression on his face. He takes the ring with him sitting himself on the ground with the ring in front of his eyes.
Suddenly, a flood of emotions drowns him in sadness and terror. He had just taken the innocent life of a creature who was blind and unable to fend for itself and from which he was never in danger to secure the safety of the ring that the creature hadn’t even wanted.
The heinousness of his act hits him like a ton of bricks. Here, in this forest, before this dead creature, he has gone against Gandalf’s advice and taken a life without any need for death. It is himself that he now doubts, himself and the influence the ring has begun to have on him. Bilbo didn’t even think about another way of retrieving the ring, he simply went for the obvious kill. He is disgusted by himself.
This, however, does not change his resolution to use the ring further. A single moment of clarity may have occurred but has not lasted long enough for him to change his mind and dispose of the ring.
Read on in my next post.
Photo credit to “Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen” written by Daniel Falconer