There exists a parallel world to the known reality of Middle-Earth. Within it a great evil festers, waiting patiently to ensnare another carrier of its world`s portal, the Ring. This reality is a much more “members only” zone, where few enter and remain sane to tell the tale.
The power of this dark world gathers all evil to it and corrupts susceptible characters to its will. None are important only the Lord of the Ring himself, everyone else is a simple pawn in his chess game. Corrupting Peoples is not all that hard, as it turns out. They all only strive to gain power. So, the take-over formula is to simply promise a share of the power or, even better, manipulate to a point of disease and disarm.
The first inhabitants of this parallel universe we encounter, are the Black Riders. These former nine Kings of Men are the most faithful servants Sauron ever had. Their own existence depends on finding the Ring. The incredible pull they sense when the Ring is put on a finger can only be imagined. It is vile and paramount to them.
They are drawn to its call, they want it back so they could regain their strength and become reincarnated and powerful. That is the only thing keeping them, not alive, but not dead, as an obsessive spirit purposefully roaming Middle-Earth to find it. They resemble themselves as they once were. However, now they are these twisty spirits that are no more than apparitions, covered with a dark cloak.
Under the tree root
The nearest we come to them is in the epic scene of one hovering over the roots of a tree, trying to smell and locate the Ring. This is the first time that any of our characters in the scene sense danger and evil, although they don’t quite understand it yet.
This scene is not only masterfully filmed, but every aspect of it has been made with great care and meaning. The gang takes cover in a light mood, not understanding why they have to get off the road in the first place, but they also don’t second guess Frodo`s instruction. They simply follow it’s all the same to them because they only want to start eating the food found in the bag. Frodo, on the other hand, can feel the presence of evil, without seeing it, he knows something is coming after him. He is, however, the only one to notice. This could be sole because of the Ring and the power it emanates from his pocket.
As the Black Rider dismounts the horse Pippin, Merry and Sam start to wonder what this really is. Frodo looks up in terror as he spots the horses bleeding and pierced hoof and the Black Rider`s ironclad foot dismounting the horse. This new development confuses Merry. He only wants to eat in peace. As the Nazgûl leans over to smell and his hands touch the ground, so do the centipedes, the spiders and the worms start coming out of the ground as if he is calling upon them.
Fear of the unknown
The Hobbits start feeling the fear and creepiness that hovers over them, without even seeing it. Frodo starts losing his grip on himself and begins to fall under the same spell as the worms, the spider and the centipede are under. The Ring is calling for him. And Frodo without willing moves his finger ever closer to the Ring. As he takes it out of his pocket, the Black Rider gets a better whiff. As the Ring wants the Nazgûl to find it. The Black Riders` obsession in finding is ever greater when in its proximity.
Frodo knows, as Gandalf had told him, that if he put the Ring on, the Wraiths will find him. However, he is unable to gain control over his actions and is lead by the will of the Ring itself. Thankfully, Sam distracts him just in time to prevent Frodo from putting it on. The Black Rider is distracted for a moment. Merry uses his distraction to throw him off track by throwing the bag with the food a bit further away.
This is a terrifying scene for me. On the one hand, you get to see the Wraith up close and well, not as personal, but you fear what might be hiding under that cloak. At least I am. Every time I watch this scene at night, I become frightened. For the Hitchcock generation, I imagine they fear the knife while alone in the shower. I, on the other hand, fear the ironclad hand opening my shower curtain.
This is a fear-inducing scene for anyone who watches the film for the first time. It introduces the evil and terror in one simple scene. Well, simple in the way we perceive it, but complicated in the way it was filmed. It needed to capture everything, the Rider, his menacing presence and the effect he has on all living things, the Hobbits’ fear of the unknown creature standing above them, the power of the Ring and his influence on Frodo and the overall change in atmosphere.
This scene does not entail any music only sound effects designed to transform the situation from a light one to a terrifying one and to give the viewer a taste of the evil and power of the Ring itself. Plus, anything said in Black Speech makes my skin crawl.
After this fearsome experience, the urgency of reaching Bree becomes predominant.
The uneasiness of Bree
Ah, Bree. Bree is one of those places you don’t want to be hanging out for too long. A pint, some food, and a warm bed and you`re off. It would seem that only strange folk, from the Hobbits` perspective, dwell here. It could be said that mostly vagabonds, thieves and criminals reside in Bree, for that is the atmosphere that surrounds it. They keep to themselves as they sit at the table, and want to be noticeable as little as possible.
Of course, Pippin is always there to light a spotlight on Frodo or the rest of the Company, but hey, there is always one. He is just a curious little fellow, trying to get the best of every moment.
Call to darkness
Frodo starts twiddling with the Ring in his fingers, he loses himself yet again. Almost every time this happens, his eyes roll to the back of his head, as if falling unconscious. The Power of the Ring takes over his consciousness. Which is why, out of all the clamor and the clangor, he can only hear the Ring calling for Baggins.
It is amazing the telepathic communication between anyone and the Ring. Saruman had said the eye of Sauron sees all. His life force is in the Ring itself, they are one. The Ring intoxicates anyone who carries it, so as to bring them on the path of Mordor.
Frodo fiddles with the Ring as he feels eyes glaring at him in the Prancing Pony. He wants to flee the situation in some way, knowing full well he can’t simply leave. The Ring is his escape route. Its call invites, its potency sways him.
“Life” in the void
As Pippin reveals the name Baggins and Frodo, in his feeble attempt to stop him falls and lands on the floor with the Ring landing on his finger, we enter the void. Frodo meets Sauron for the first time and experiences the world of the Ring. As he becomes invisible to everyone else, so does everyone else turn to dark shadows, mere distorted outlines of figures standing around him.
Sauron calls to Frodo saying: „You cannot hide. I see you. There is no life in the void. Only death.“ Frodo`s surroundings whilst wearing the Ring is a void, some kind of distorting black hole, where nothing is ever formed. It gives the feeling of a vacuum. It is as if the eye of Sauron, when coming ever closer to Frodo, devours all around it.
Everything surrounding Frodo has no fixed shape. It is formless and insignificant. The only fixed thing in the twisted reality is the Ring. Everything else is not important and therefore loses its shape. As Sauron himself states there is no life in the void, it really is so.
Everything that is living does not exist in this reality as he calls it. There is only death, so naturally, everyone around him turns to black shadow, only the Nine are visible to Frodo because they are neither living nor dead, and thus appear as white ancient decaying Kings of Men.
As Frodo learns all this in the void, the realization of the severity of this foe and the reality he resides in stirs fear and genuine terror in him. He is, therefore, relieved as he slips the Ring off and perceives his actual surroundings. Now, he feels more comfortable in it somehow. However, Sauron’s servants follow him to the Prancing Pony.
“But they were all of them deceived”
The way the Nazgûl are filmed going into the Prancing Pony and stabbing what should have been Hobbits is marvelously done. Since they are mostly spirit beings, they don’t have the weight that they once had as men, which is why they carry armor, to make themselves heavier and therefore more grounded when riding horses.
However, as they enter the inn, they have this free-flowing dynamic movement with which they appear to be gliding along the floor, not necessarily touching the floor, there is no bounce in their step. Alone that thought can creep me out. An unseen menace that seems out-of-worldly in not only behavior but appearance as well.
They express their disappointment by screeching, which living creatures find deafening and quickly terrifying. Their disappointment of not killing the Hobbits in their sleep leads them to believe that they have left Bree already. Thankfully, they move on, while the Hobbits are safely ensconced in Aragorn’s room. All other Hobbits are sleeping, whilst Frodo stands to watch with Aragorn, this is where his sleepless nights slowly begin. The fear of what may find him does not let his mind rest.
The Hobbits get a false sense of security whilst resting on Weathertop. They figured they have Aragorn to look after them. Everyone but Frodo that is. As Frodo is startled by their chatter about tomatoes, he runs to put out the fire, fearing the Nazgûl may find them sooner. As this occurs, the Nazgûl are already on their doorstep, so to speak.
They quickly run to a higher level of Amon Sûl to try and protect themselves. The Ringwraiths are, however, inescapable. They surround them, with Sam throwing the first sword slash to fight them off, which only lands him flying across the circular watchtower. Pippin and Merry endure the same fate. Frodo is left alone, unprotected in possession of the one thing the Ringwraiths „live“ for.
As Frodo takes the Ring from out of his blazer pocket, so does the Witch-King of Angmar draw his Morgul-blade and move closer to him. Frodo puts the Ring on figuring the Nazgûl would not be able to see him. It then becomes clear to him, that the Nazgûl are dead and that they are the only ones seen in the void of the Ring.
They can see him as well as if he hadn’t even put the Ring on at all. The Ring calls to them in Black Speech and drives Frodo’s hand ever closer to that of the Witch-King. Frodo’s eyes in that singular moment widen with incredulity and utter fear, as he himself is not lightly able to regain control of his own hand and its actions.
The actions and will of the Ring are much more influential in the “void” as in reality. It becomes its own caretaker and does as it chooses, moving the hand of the carrier to that of the servant.
Even though the “void” is a frightful reality to dwell in, Frodo uses it to hide, not only now, but its moments to come. To avoid a fight, or simply vanish when it becomes uncomfortable, he uses the “void” as a kind of safe haven. I will delve ever deeper into his relationship with the Ring, but for the time being, let’s get acquainted with Frodo, shall we? Follow me to my next post.