Mummy statue

The Stinger

In his weakened state of mind and body but with determination in his heart, Frodo stumbles forward and comes within sight of the Tower of Cirith Ungol. After the tunnel experience, this particular sight does not bring him relief as much as it otherwise would. To be near this formerly Númenorian outpost, now under the possession of Mordor Orcs, maybe relief in a sense of coming closer to his goal. However, the mere onlook onto this towering menace may provide Frodo with more terror than the hope of having cleared all danger.


What Frodo isn’t aware of, is the silent crawl of his enemy right above his head. The precision and silence with which Shelob approaches her prey are remarkable. For all her bulkiness, she is able to seem invisible to those she means to devour. She has excellent hunting skills, no doubt perfected over the ages. She may be ancient but her feeding instinct is as accurate as ever. 

As a means of distraction, Shelob lets fall come rocks behind Frodo’s back. With this action, she turns his attention to what is behind him rather than what awaits him.

Frodo reacts to the sound of falling rocks, looking toward the place where the sound emanated from, however, there is nothing to see. His eyes never pointed his head directly over him. Had his attention stayed with the sound and scattered his vision in all directions, he may have had a chance of avoiding another encounter with Shelob. As he ignored the sound and turned for the stairs to the Tower, Shelob managed to come ahead of him and present him with her stinger.

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The sting

There wasn’t time for Frodo to even comprehend, much less act on, what was facing him. Shelob swiftly stabs Frodo. There is no sound he could make apart from that of air being driven out of his lungs. He cannot cry for help or defend himself in any way. His eyes stare blankly in front of him, he froths at the mouth and passes out.

At this point, Shelob grabs Frodo’s limp body and starts to wrap him into a cocoon, not unlike all other casualties she has displayed inside her lair. The wrapping process seems to be producing a sensation of joy for the spider. Her mouth motions excitement that may be parallel to those of humans when they rub their hands together in excited expectation.

We may use it in jest before a meal, conveying that we are very hungry and can’t wait to eat, or that of a villain who is eager to crush his opponent, and knowing how he would go about it and succeed, rubbing his hands together in glee.

The hand in the frame

However, all her jovial expectation is for naught, as Sam approaches her. The only thing we see in the frame is his hands holding the Sting. The interesting thing about this particular frame is that it wasn’t Sam’s hand at all that held the Sting before the camera, it was Peter Jackson’s. He clothed himself as Sam and enacted this small part of the scene.

He wanted this frame to be as in the old John Wayne films where the hero’s hand is only seen in anticipation of a fight. As Sam was not present that day, Peter Jackson took it upon himself to convey that moment in the best possible way.

Sam vs. Shelob

In his attempt to escape Shelob, Frodo had lost sight of the phial of Galadriel in the process. Thankfully, as Sam appears now before the mighty spider, he has retrieved both the Sting and the phial. 

Let him go, you filth! Let him go! You will not touch him again! Come on and finish it!


Although in obvious fear of Shelob, Sam smiths at her with all his might. In his first attempt of attack, Sam loses the phial rendering him almost defenseless, since his fighting skills cannot accommodate the enormousness of Shelob’s body. However, he does not give up easily, so a few stings to Shelob’s eyes, prove effective, temporarily blinding her.

After a number of tumbles and close encounters with Shelob’s stinger, Sam manages to injure her more permanently. He sticks the Sting right in the middle of her bulky body. She writhes in pain, squirming away from Sam in order to protect herself.

Sam picks up the phial and uses it to drive Shelob back into her lair. After she retreats out of sight, Sam runs to Frodo’s side.

Losing Frodo

Mister Frodo!


A somewhat disturbing image of his friend welcomes his return. Frodo can neither breathe nor move. His eyes, however, are still open and staring into space. 

Oh, no! Frodo! Mister Frodo! Wake up! Don’t leave me here alone! Don’t go where I can’t follow. Wake up! You’re not asleep… dead!


As Sam tears the webs of Frodo’s face, his worst fear faces him. By his expression of surprise, we can conclude that he was hoping to find Frodo alive once unwrapped. What he finds breaks his heart. Sam tries waking Frodo up without success. As he slowly begins to accept the reality of the situation, tears stream down his cheeks. His friend isn’t waking up. Frodo is dead. 

Sam has come too late. He should not have listened to Frodo when he ordered him away, he should have stayed with him and none of this would have happened. Sam blames himself partly for this tragedy. 

Trouble ahead

Unfortunately, Sam does not even have time to grieve or say goodbye to his friend, as the Sting begins to glow blue, signaling approaching Orcs. Sam hears them descending the stairs and frantically looks around to figure out what to do. Does he leave Frodo there, thinking the Orcs would find him dead as well and leave him in peace? Does he take Frodo with him? Is there even time to hide?

Gorbag: “You get lost, scum!”

Shagrat: “What’s this? Looks like ol’ Shelob’s been having a bit of fun.”

Sam peaks out of a small crevice in the wall where he found refuge for himself. As much as he is worried about what will happen to Frodo, his own safety is a risk as well. He knows that he alone cannot attack a group of Orcs by himself. The Orcs inspect Frodo’s body. 

Gorbag: “Killed another one, has she?”

Shagrat: “No. This fellow ain’t dead!”

Sam: “Not dead?”

There are immediate feelings of guilt and regret for leaving Frodo to these Orcs, just because he believed his friend is dead. More than anything he would like to jump out of his hiding place and claim Frodo for himself in order to save his life from any other torture that might come his way. 

Anger and guilt

Shagrat: “She jabs them with her stinger… and he goes as limp as a boned fish! Then she has her way with them. That’s how she likes to feed. Fresh blood!”

Shagrat: “Get him to the tower!”

Sam: “Samwise, you fool!”

Gorbag: “This scum will be awake in a couple of hours.”

Shagrat: “Then he’ll wish he’d never been born!”

As the Orcs head back toward their tower, Sam looks on helplessly. He is angry at himself for presuming the death of his friend when he had merely been stung so as to provide Shelob with fresh blood. But how could he have known about it anyway?

The mere existence of Shelob herself has not been proven, because of the threat she poses to any living thing. Therefore a reconnaissance mission to establish a life form in those tunnels was not on anyone’s to-do list. Of course, wizards and the inhabitants surrounding the Winding Stair would know of her existence, but they too would never divulge that information to someone they wanted dead. So, she remains one of the most powerful weapons the enemy possesses. 

Nevertheless, Sam is wrought with guilt over leaving his friend to his fate in the Cirith Ungol Tower in the hands of the same race they were trying to avoid the whole journey. His anger at himself, however, transforms into determination no matter the cost. Sam transfers his anger for himself toward Frodo’s captors, letting it build inside him so as to provide him with courage he will need to face the tower of Cirith Ungol alone. 

Let us see how far Denethor’s madness has taken him. Follow me to my next post.

Photo by F. Muhammad on Pixabay

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