CotW, Book 4, Ch. 9, "Shelob's Lair"

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Michelle J. Haines

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Nov 15, 2004, 9:48:32 AM11/15/04
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CotW, Book 4, Chapter Nine, "Shelob's Lair"

I have a more-than-usual amount of direct quotes in this chapter,
because this chapter is much about atmosphere, and my skills of
writing atmosphere aren't up to the original prose.

This chapter leads directly on from the previous one, so it's a bit
difficult to recap it right from the start. Let's back up a
paragraph or two.

After Sam and Gollum's "sneak" exchange, Sam rouses Frodo, because
it's technically daytime and time to move on again. Frodo asks
Gollum if he and Sam can find the rest of the way themselves, willing
to release Gollum of his role as a guide at this point. Gollum
refuses, in a very whining, self-pitying manner.

The day is very dark, described as "the heavy sky above was less
utterly black, more like a great roof of smoke". No doubt the
volcano is still putting up a huge cloud. They are in a long ravine
amongst lots of weather rocks, with a wall about a mile further on.
As they approach and see the opening to a cave, they start detecting
an ugly reek. Having personally smelled animal decay in small
amounts, I shudder to think how horrific the Lair must smell. How
many piles of bodies must have rotted in there? *shudder*

Frodo asks if it's the only way, is told it is, and Sam complains and
wonders if Orcs live here. Very gently, Frodo tells him to zip it,
because if it's the only way, in they go. Sam also makes a snarky
comment about what smells Gollum can tolerate, but Gollum replies
that Sam "doesn't know what we minds, does he, precious?" There's a
danger sign, if they had known to look for it.

As they enter the tunnel, the lightlessness is compared to Moria, but
with an ominous difference. Moria was big, and full of air and lots
of space. This cave has stagnant, foul, unmoving air, plus the
hideous reek. Once again, however, we have to defer to Tolkien's
excellent prose on this particular subject. I love this line:

"They walked as it were in a black vapour wrought of veritable
darkness itself that, as it was breathed, brought blindness not only
to the eyes but to the mind, so that even the memory of colours and
of forms and of any light faded out of thought. Night always had
been, and always would be, and night was all."

The last line has a bit of an echo of Tolkien's Catholicism, being
similar to the end of the "Glory Be" prayer.[1]

The hobbits find their senses extremely sensitive. Each hobbit
touches a separate wall to keep on course, and can't reach each
other. For a while they hear Gollum in front of them, but as they
progress through the tunnel, all their senses become dull, and they
can't hear him any more. Obviously at some point in here Gollum
leaves them.

So, what's going on with the dulling of the senses? Some of it just
may be numbness from sensory overload -- for example, their poor
abused nostrils. However, the dulling of their hearing and touch
seems more akin to what happened to Frodo descending from Emyn Muil
-- a Black spell of some sort, perhaps woven by Shelob. Confusion
and an inability to sense what's going on would certainly make it
easier for her to catch dinner.

Soon they begin to feel openings in the wall, and sense other
passages. "The breathlessness of the air was growing as they
climbed; and now they seemed often in the blind dark to sense some
resistance thicker than the foul air." Now unknown Things are
brushing against them in the dark -- feeling like tentacles or
growths. How shudderingly creepy! I know how I flinch and panic
even brushing against real world spider webs, I can't imagine walking
into huge monsters like these!

We find that, in fact, the dulling of their senses doesn't include
the sense of smell, and the horrific stench is only growing. The
trip through the tunnel now seems endless. Sam draws away from his
wall, and he and Frodo clasp hands as they continue their trip. In
the unending horror of such a place, I imagine just touching your
friend's hand would be an important touchstone to keeping your
sanity.

They finally reach the opening where the source of the stench and
sense of evil comes from, and they both are nearly overpowered by it.
No doubt Shelob was lurking in that place right then. After six
steps, they either have passed the opening, or "some hostile will for
the moment had released them." Any theories as to which might be
correct?

They immediately come to a fork in the road, and baffled, call for
Gollum -- who has long since disappeared, of course. Groping in the
dark, they discover the left passage is blocked, so they must take
the right.

"They had not gone more than a few yards, when from behind them came
a sound, startling and horrible in the heavy padded silence: a
gurgling, bubbling noise, and a long venomous hiss. They wheeled
round, but nothing could be seen. Still as stones they stood,
staring, waiting for they did not know what."

Sam despairs of the trap, but plucky hobbit that he is, prepares to
draw his sword anyway. This action reminds him of the barrow, which
then leads his thoughts to Tom, and to a wish that Tom was with them
in this darkness. At this point, either through more Divine
Intervention, or just by association, Sam has a vision of Frodo
receiving the star-glass from Galadriel, and cries to Frodo to
bring it out to save them.

Frodo brings out the Phial, as cries out with a voice strange to him,
"Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima!" Translation, anyone? Also, who's
voice was that? It seems especially supernatural because it is not
stopped by whatever spell or mood causes the hobbits' own voices to
fall dead and not resonate. Shelob's response is the spider
equivalent of, "Yeah, whatever. Come here, little snack."

"Even as Frodo spoke he felt a great malice bent upon him, and a
deadly regard considering him. Not far down the tunnel, between them
and the opening where they had reeled and stumbled, he was aware of
eyes growing visible, two great clusters of many-windowed eyes -- the
coming menace was unmasked at least. The radiance of the star-glass
was broken and thrown back from their thousand facets, but behind the
glitter a pale deadly fire began steadily to glow within, a
flame kindled in some deep pit of evil thought. Monstrous and
abominable eyes they were, bestial and yet filled with purpose and
with hideous delight, gloating over their prey trapped beyond all
hope of escape."

Frodo and Sam are Horror-stricken and spellbound (yeah, I would be
too!), only able to back away slowly. They're suddenly released from
her will, so turn and run, only to realize that's what she wanted,
and they would be attacked from behind. In a magnificent moment,
showing why some think Frodo the best hobbit in the Shire, Frodo
stands his ground.

"Then Frodo's heart flamed within him, and without thinking what he
did, whether it was folly or despair or courage, he took the Phial in
his left hand, and with his right hand drew his sword. Sting flashed
out, and the sharp elven-blade sparkled in the silver light, but at
its edges a blue fire flickered. Then holding the star aloft and the
bright sword advanced, Frodo, hobbit of the Shire, walked steadily
down to meet the eyes."

Shelob is afflicted with doubt at her snack defying her, and decides
retreat is the better part of valor -- for now.

Sam is all praises for Frodo's achievement, but warns him not to
chase back into the den after the monster. As they turn around and
make a break for it, they rise out of the spells and stink, and begin
to feel better and freer -- at least until they run smack into an
apparently invisible spider web. They really don't see what it is
until the light of the Phial is used to illuminate it. Sam gives a
shot at clearing the road with his sword, only to have the spider web
snap back and smack him on the hand. Frodo hands over the Phial for
Sam to keep watch, and has a go at it with Sting, which handily does
the job. Frodo is nearly drunk on the exhilaration of their sudden
freedom, shouting as he leaves the tunnel and heads for the pass, and
entirely forgetting that danger still lies ahead, also. Sam is more
cautious, in keeping with his suspicious nature, but doesn't know
enough about their adversary or that she has more than one trap laid.

We pause for a little history of our Monster. She is the last child
of Ungoliant, and survived the ruin of Beleriand. She had offspring,
and then mated with them, to produce the spiders of Mirkwood. She
eats living things, not light like Ungoliant, but shares the
attribute of vomiting darkness, although perhaps to a lesser degree
than her progenitor. On his escape from Mordor earlier, Gollum had
somehow convinced her not to eat him, but rather offered his service,
no doubt not intending to come back until this wonderful opportunity
presented itself. In fact, he not only plans to use her to get the
Ring, but then to get revenge upon her after he has it.

I like the reference to Sauron considering her his cat, "but she owns
him not."

Sam is not familiar with the history, but feels the fear and menace
growing again, obviously a chief weapon of Shelob. He sees the guard
tower, and fearing exposure, puts the Phial away -- a dangerous
mistake. As soon as the light is hidden, Shelob runs to pounce on
Frodo! Sam charges to run to the rescue -- and Gollum attacks from
behind! At last, these two adversaries come to blows; a
confrontation that has been brewing since Gollum joined the party.

In his anger, Gollum snarls insults at Sam, including throwing his
"sneak" label back at him, and spits on him. Sam is driven by
absolute desperation and fury, does his best to escape, but is
thwarted until he simply throws himself and Gollum backwards,
knocking the wind out of Gollum. He brings his staff into the fray,
smacking Gollum across the arm and then breaking it across his back,
and in his rage nearly follows Gollum to finish the fight, but
Frodo's danger reasserts itself in his mind, and he turns again to
run to the rescue.

"He spun round, and rushed wildly up the path, calling and calling
his master's name. He was too late. So far Gollum's plot had
succeeded.

[1] Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without
end. Amen.

Michelle
Flutist

--
Drift on a river, That flows through my arms
Drift as I'm singing to you
I see you smiling, So peaceful and calm
And holding you, I'm smiling, too
Here in my arms, Safe from all harm
Holding you, I'm smiling, too
-- For Xander [9/22/98 - 2/23/99]

Simon J. Rowe

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Nov 15, 2004, 10:07:29 AM11/15/04
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Michelle J. Haines wrote:

> "Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima!" Translation, anyone?

Hail Eärendil, brightest of the stars!

Christopher Kreuzer

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Nov 15, 2004, 5:11:36 PM11/15/04
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Though there is slightly more to this than just that... :-)

Forgive me for pasting in something I wrote about this before, which
uses quotes from Tolkien's letters and stuff that I've read about this
here, as written by others. (I've added some new stuff at the end).

[START QUOTE 1]

The light that Frodo bears in the phial of Galadriel is indeed from the
Silmaril that Earendil and his ship carry through the night sky. Frodo's
cry in Shelob's lair "Aiya Earendil ancalima!" translates as "Hail
Earendil, brightest of stars", and is actually the kernel from which
Tolkien's mythology grew (dating to before 1914). In Letter 297 Tolkien
says the phrase is "derived at long remove from 'Eala Earendel engla
beorhtast'", which is a phrase from Anglo-Saxon English.

This would explain why Tolkien would probably have felt it to be very
important to put the poem [Bilbo's Lay of Earendil chanted in The Hall
of Fire in Rivendell] and the phrases [the 'Aiya Earendil...' bit] in
his magnum opus, 'The Lord of the Rings'.

[END QUOTE 1]

[START QUOTE 2]

Actually, Earendil/Earendel started the whole thing off. [...]

[...] the gift to Frodo allows Tolkien to put the "Aiya Earendil
ancalima" phrase in the story (in Shelob's Lair), which brings the whole
thing full circle to the original phrase he read in an Anglo-Saxon text.
In Letter 297 Tolkien says that Frodo's cry in Shelob's Lair is "derived
at long remove from 'Eala Earendel engla beorhtast'", which is a phrase
from Anglo-Saxon English. The full thing is:

"Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
Offer middangeard monnum sended."
(Cynewulf's Christ I, 11.104-105)

'Hail Earendil, brightest of angels
Over Middle-earth to Men sent'

[END QUOTE 2]

I read about this again recently in the book 'Tolkien and the Great War'
by John Garth, which mentions some of the history surrounding this
phrase, and I also looked up what Carpenter says about it in the
'Biography'.

[A lot of the following is paraphrased from Carpenter]

In 1913, Tolkien, at the end of his second year at Oxford University,
switched from reading Classics to reading English. It was soon after
that he read those two lines from the /Crist/ of Cynewulf (a group of
Anglo-Saxon religious poems that Tolkien found mostly very boring).
Carpenter quotes Tolkien reactions (written long afterwards) to the
crucial two lines:

[Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
Offer middangeard monnum sended]

"I felt a curious thrill, as if something had stirred in me, half
wakened from sleep. There was something very remote and strange and
beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient
English."

It was at the end of the summer of 1914 that Tolkien wrote a poem that
he headed with that line from Cynewulf's Crist. The poem was called 'The
Voyage of Earendel the Evening Star'. This was, to quote Carpenter, "the
beginning of Tolkien's own mythology".

Then, in 1915, Tolkien returned to these poems and began to work the
theme into a larger story. Tolkien is reported to have said (in 1914)
that he was trying to _find out_ what happened (not invent). He saw
himself as a discoverer of legend. This resulted in 'The Shores of
Faëry' which was intended to be the first part of a 'Lay of Earendel'.

Parts of these two early poems are given in Carpenter's 'Biography'.

Garth gives more details in 'Tolkien and the Great War'. He identifies
Tolkien's reaction to the Cynewulf's Crist lines as being from 'The
Notion Club Papers' (unfinished tale from the 1940s), and quotes more:

"[...] far beyond ancient English [...] I don't think it is any
irreverence to say that it may derive its curiously moving quality from
some older world."

Garth also gives more than just the opening verse of 'The Voyage of
Earendel the Evening Star', he also gives the closing two verses.

[end of paraphrasing]

These two early poems then, from 1914 and 1915, are the seeds from
which, from 1917 onwards, Tolkien began writing the legends and stories
that would become the BoLT (the Book of Lost Tales) and then 'The
Silmarillion'. Then we had 'The Hobbit' in 1937, and its sequel, 'The
Lord of the Rings' (1954-5), which were drawn into the world of
Middle-earth that had started with those lines about Earendel.

I wonder what Tolkien felt about placing these words in Frodo's mouth.
It must have seemed very appropriate to him.

Christopher

--
---
Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard

Christopher Kreuzer

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Nov 16, 2004, 3:12:01 PM11/16/04
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Christopher Kreuzer <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:
> Simon J. Rowe <sr...@mose.org.uk> wrote:
>> Michelle J. Haines wrote:
>>
>>> "Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima!" Translation, anyone?
>>
>> Hail Eärendil, brightest of the stars!
>
> Though there is slightly more to this than just that... :-)
>
> Forgive me for pasting in something I wrote about this before

<snip>

<SIGH> That'll teach me to paste stuff in like that from old posts. I
managed to misquote the key passage not once but twice!

> Frodo's cry in Shelob's lair "Aiya Earendil ancalima!"

> [...] the gift to Frodo allows Tolkien to put the "Aiya Earendil


> ancalima" phrase in the story (in Shelob's Lair)

Those should read "Aiya Earendil _Elenion_ Ancalima".

Christopher Kreuzer

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Nov 22, 2004, 9:02:58 PM11/22/04
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Michelle J. Haines <mha...@nanc.com> wrote:
> CotW, Book 4, Chapter Nine, "Shelob's Lair"

<snip>

> As they enter the tunnel, the lightlessness is compared to Moria, but
> with an ominous difference. Moria was big, and full of air and lots
> of space. This cave has stagnant, foul, unmoving air, plus the
> hideous reek. Once again, however, we have to defer to Tolkien's
> excellent prose on this particular subject. I love this line:
>
> "They walked as it were in a black vapour wrought of veritable
> darkness itself that, as it was breathed, brought blindness not only
> to the eyes but to the mind, so that even the memory of colours and
> of forms and of any light faded out of thought. Night always had
> been, and always would be, and night was all."

[for darkness - see Ungoliant quote below]

The bit about colours reminds me of the descriptions in Lorien and in
OFS. I don't have OFS (On Fairy-stories) to hand, but the Lorien quote
is a very appropriate contrast:

"Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had
stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light
was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was
shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been
first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as
if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold
and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he
had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and
wonderful. [...] On the land of Lorien there was no stain." (Lothlorien)

It seems like there is a nasty stain in Torech Ungol!

> The hobbits find their senses extremely sensitive.

And this reminds me of the blindfolding in Lorien:

"Being deprived of sight, Frodo found his hearing and other senses
sharpened. He could smell the trees and the trodden grass. He could hear
many different notes in the rustle of the leaves overhead, the river
murmuring away on his right, and the thin clear voices of birds in the
sky. He felt the sun upon his face and hands when they passed through an
open glade."

Again, this contrasts very sharply with the experience in Shelob' Lair.

> [...] but as they progress through the tunnel, all their senses
> become dull [...]

> So, what's going on with the dulling of the senses?

<snip>

> -- a Black spell of some sort, perhaps woven by Shelob.

That would make sense. A bit like the Nazgul as you say, and also a lot
like Ungoliant:

"...but Ungoliant belched forth black vapours as she drank, and swelled
to a shape so vast and hideous that Melkor was afraid.
So the great darkness fell upon Valinor. [...] In that hour was made
a Darkness that seemed not lack but a thing with being of its own: for
it was indeed made by malice out of Light, and it had power to pierce
the eye, and to enter heart and mind, and strangle the very will." (Of
the Darkening of Valinor, The Silmarillion)

> Soon they begin to feel openings in the wall, and sense other
> passages.

About this point there is a mention of something strange happening with
time:

"Before they had gone very far, perhaps, but time and distance soon
passed out of his [Sam's] reckoning..."

When we look at the Tale of Years, we find that the climbing of the
Stairs and passing through Torech Ungol, up to the point where Frodo is
captured by the orcs, does take a couple of days. As best as I can make
out, they do seem to spend nearly a whole day in Shelob's Lair, or at
least the tunnels in and around it.

Does a day in there seem about right? Morning to evening?

<snip>

> They finally reach the opening where the source of the stench and
> sense of evil comes from, and they both are nearly overpowered by it.
> No doubt Shelob was lurking in that place right then. After six
> steps, they either have passed the opening, or "some hostile will for
> the moment had released them." Any theories as to which might be
> correct?

I think the hostile will has released them. Much like the later
description:

"Then suddenly, released from the holding spell to run a little while in
vain panic for the amusement of the eyes, they both turned and fled
together..."

Though it would make sense for Shelob to let her victims get past her,
and then she attacks from behind as they flee towards the exits that are
blocked with her webs. Cat and mouse sort of thing. It was lucky they
had Sting!

I do wonder though, whether this ability of Shelob to hold people
trapped by the force of her will is a Maia-like ability, or at least an
ability like that possessed by Glaurung and other dragons?

<snip>

> "They had not gone more than a few yards, when from behind them came
> a sound, startling and horrible in the heavy padded silence: a
> gurgling, bubbling noise, and a long venomous hiss. They wheeled
> round, but nothing could be seen. Still as stones they stood,
> staring, waiting for they did not know what."

<fearful shiver>

The whole sequence here, from "behind them came a sound" to "they were
gone" (when Shelob retreats) is absolutely spellbinding in its horror!!
A great piece of writing.

Incidentially, there is a bit in Carpenter's 'Biography...' that
mentions how a very young Tolkien had a nasty experience with a spider
in South Africa. He was bitten by the nasty thing! It was part of
Tolkien's earliest memory, I think, "running in terror through the
grass" or something. Looking at the book before I misremember too much,
Carpenter says that Tolkien says that the incident faded from his memory
and "left him with no especial dislike of spiders."

Hmm. Right!

> Sam despairs of the trap, but plucky hobbit that he is, prepares to
> draw his sword anyway. This action reminds him of the barrow, which
> then leads his thoughts to Tom, and to a wish that Tom was with them
> in this darkness. At this point, either through more Divine
> Intervention, or just by association, Sam has a vision of Frodo
> receiving the star-glass from Galadriel, and cries to Frodo to
> bring it out to save them.

The description of Sam's vision is interesting:

"...it seemed to him that he saw a light: a light in his mind, almost
unbearably bright at first, as a sun-ray to the eyes of one long hidden
in a windowless pit. Then the light became colour: green, gold, silver,
white. Far off, as in a little picture drawn by elven-fingers he saw the
Lady Galadriel standing on the grass in Lorien, and gifts were in her
hands. And you, Ring-bearer, he heard her say, remote but clear, for you
I have prepared this."

I love the description of a little picture drawn by elven-fingers! And
does the description of the voice as "remote but clear" not remind you
of the voice in Boromir's dream?

"In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a
growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I
heard a voice, remote but clear, crying..." (The Council of Elrond)

Maybe Sam's vision has a similarly semi-divine origin??

> Frodo brings out the Phial, as cries out with a voice strange to him,
> "Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima!" Translation, anyone? Also, who's
> voice was that?

"...for it seemed that another voice spoke through his, clear,
untroubled by the foul air of the pit."

I'm trying to remember other cases where people speak in altered voices.
Pippin does this when he is possessed by Sauron after looking into the
palantir, and Merry has a similar "other voice" experience in the
Barrow-downs. Sam has the same sort of experience in the next chapter
when he confronts Shelob:

"And then his tongue was loosed and his voice cried in a language which
he did not know..." (The Choices of Master Samwise)

So it seems that this might be an identical influence to the one that
affects Frodo here. As for _what_ the influence is, there are obvious
implications for it being some kind of divine or semi-divine
intervention, but I would prefer to think of it as something that can
happen in Faërie, especially Tolkien's Faërie.

<snip>

> "Even as Frodo spoke he felt a great malice bent upon him, and a
> deadly regard considering him.

This should be a big clue as to what sort of creature Shelob is. Not
many creatures in Middle-earth should be able to do this. It reminds me
more of the Nazgul and Sauron.

Or can Frodo percieve this malice and regard because he is wearing the
Ring? The Ring is hardly (maybe never) mentioned in this chapter. Is the
Ring having any effect on Frodo or Shelob??

<regretful snip>

> "[...] Then holding the star aloft and the


> bright sword advanced, Frodo, hobbit of the Shire, walked steadily
> down to meet the eyes."

Yay! :-)

> Shelob is afflicted with doubt at her snack defying her, and decides
> retreat is the better part of valor -- for now.

About this moment, I started wondering where Gollum was...

> Sam is all praises for Frodo's achievement, but warns him not to
> chase back into the den after the monster. As they turn around and
> make a break for it, they rise out of the spells and stink, and begin
> to feel better and freer -- at least until they run smack into an
> apparently invisible spider web.

Do they realise yet that Shelob is a monster in _spider_ form? I think
they've only seen the eyes and a monstrous dark bulk. Imagine the shock
when later they (well, actually only Sam - Frodo never _sees_ Shelob)
see Shelob in all her glory.

> They really don't see what it is
> until the light of the Phial is used to illuminate it. Sam gives a
> shot at clearing the road with his sword, only to have the spider web
> snap back and smack him on the hand. Frodo hands over the Phial for
> Sam to keep watch, and has a go at it with Sting, which handily does
> the job. Frodo is nearly drunk on the exhilaration of their sudden
> freedom, shouting as he leaves the tunnel and heads for the pass, and
> entirely forgetting that danger still lies ahead, also.

This is another moment of Frodo-madness to rival the moment at the Black
Gate where he was going to try and march up to the Gate and walk in to
Mordor. Why _does_ Frodo run off like this? It seems slightly contrived
by the author to satisfy the plot requirements....

<snip>

> We pause for a little history of our Monster. [...]
> attribute of vomiting darkness

I wonder if the naming of the Ephel Duath (the Mountains of Shadow) are
because Shelob and her brood dwelt there?

> although perhaps to a lesser degree
> than her progenitor. On his escape from Mordor earlier, Gollum had
> somehow convinced her not to eat him, but rather offered his service

The description of her influence on Gollum is riveting:

"...and the darkness of her evil will walked through all the ways of his
weariness beside him, cutting him off from light and from regret."

Wow! Sounds like Gollum has his own Ring to bear! This phrasing also
sounds very biblical. Is it? It also reminds me of the Shadow of Morgoth
that is described in early Silmarillion texts, and of which bits are
still seen in the published Silmarillion (such as in Hurin's case).

> Sam is not familiar with the history, but feels the fear and menace
> growing again, obviously a chief weapon of Shelob.

In common with the Nazgul.

And at this point Gollum reappears, and I began wondering again where he
was waiting. Did he go through the tunnel another way, or was he in the
tunnel while Shelob was repelled by the hobbits and the phial? I had
always thought that Gollum had crept round another way, but then I found
this bit in the passage where Gollum starts to lose his fight with Sam:

"Everything had gone wrong with his beautiful plan, since that horrible
light had so unexpectedly appeared in the darkness."

Surely this means that at the moment that Frodo uses the phial, Gollum
is also in the tunnel! I wonder if he is behind the hobbits (with the
hobbits between him and Shelob) or whether he is behind Shelob (with
Shelob between him and the hobbits)??

I think the latter, which allows Gollum to escape Shelob's Lair in the
same way that Sam and Frodo do, through the rent in the webs torn by
Sting.

R. Dan Henry

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Dec 27, 2004, 3:13:28 AM12/27/04
to
On Mon, 15 Nov 2004 07:48:32 -0700, Michelle J. Haines
<mha...@nanc.com> wrote:

>As they enter the tunnel, the lightlessness is compared to Moria, but
>with an ominous difference. Moria was big, and full of air and lots
>of space. This cave has stagnant, foul, unmoving air, plus the
>hideous reek.

Yes, I was impressed by Tolkien's nice distinction of two dark
underground areas. It's fairly easy to make two forest or city scenes
distinct, but characterizing two unlit underground passages so clearly
and creating a different feel for them is much more difficult. JRRT
can't fall back on his famous list-the-plants technique, either, but
sets the stage with non-visual sense descriptions.

>"They walked as it were in a black vapour wrought of veritable
>darkness itself that, as it was breathed, brought blindness not only
>to the eyes but to the mind, so that even the memory of colours and
>of forms and of any light faded out of thought. Night always had
>been, and always would be, and night was all."

Not only an echo of Ungoliant's light-eating darkness, but also
suggestive of Nazgul induced blindness? (Frodo's earlier blindness on
the cliff was probably blindness of the mind, whether magically
influenced or not.)

>They finally reach the opening where the source of the stench and
>sense of evil comes from, and they both are nearly overpowered by it.
>No doubt Shelob was lurking in that place right then. After six
>steps, they either have passed the opening, or "some hostile will for
>the moment had released them." Any theories as to which might be
>correct?

We know both Sauron and Saruman can extend their wills to create an
oppressive force at a distance (the Three Hunters, the hobbits before
the Black Gate), so why not Shelob, only a generation removed from
whatever Ungoliant was?

>Sam despairs of the trap, but plucky hobbit that he is, prepares to
>draw his sword anyway. This action reminds him of the barrow, which
>then leads his thoughts to Tom, and to a wish that Tom was with them
>in this darkness. At this point, either through more Divine
>Intervention, or just by association, Sam has a vision of Frodo
>receiving the star-glass from Galadriel, and cries to Frodo to
>bring it out to save them.

Well, what's puzzling is not that Sam now thinks of the light, but
that neither thinks of a light earlier -- at all, seemingly. No
attempt to make a torch, use Sting as a light (where in Mordor would
it not at least glow a little?), or carefully leak a little light from
the star-glass. This seems foolish. A light might "give them away",
but it seems more likely that running blind they will be taken the
more easily by the servants of the Dark Lord, most of whom don't need
light.

>Frodo brings out the Phial, as cries out with a voice strange to him,
>"Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima!" Translation, anyone? Also, who's
>voice was that?

And why did anyone bother with such an inspiration, given it had been
tried on Shelob before (by Elves surely more capable of calling on
Earendil) without success? Perhaps Frodo just picked it up in
Rivendell and its just his own subconscious elven lore at work. Either
that or the Valar are at work and once again displaying that they lack
Eru's wisdom.

It is also possible that Galadriel placed a virtue of inspiration on
the phial, so that one remembers it in times of greatest need (Minas
Morgul, as well as here) and shouts Elvish cries when appropriate.

>We pause for a little history of our Monster. She is the last child
>of Ungoliant, and survived the ruin of Beleriand.

Old and scary, she is. And are Ungoliant's children ever mentioned in
the Silmarillion? I don't recall, if they were. The brief reference
here is creepy and a nice bit of deep backstory.

>She had offspring, and then mated with them, to produce the spiders of Mirkwood.

And we learn that such lesser giant spiders are spread around quite a
bit, not just confined to Mirkwood. I guess this is why Sauron never
bred giant flies. :-)

>On his escape from Mordor earlier, Gollum had
>somehow convinced her not to eat him, but rather offered his service,

Perhaps she didn't eat Gollum because he was so scrawny? Also, I think
the fact that he was able to make a deal with her is evidence enough,
should it be needed, that she could speak.

>no doubt not intending to come back until this wonderful opportunity
>presented itself. In fact, he not only plans to use her to get the
>Ring, but then to get revenge upon her after he has it.

Ambitious, isn't he. Lord Smeagol wants more than fishes.

>I like the reference to Sauron considering her his cat, "but she owns
>him not."

He sends her food and listens to accounts of her feasting on it! This
is actually one of Sauron's few character moments.

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Dec 27, 2004, 3:13:30 AM12/27/04
to
On Tue, 23 Nov 2004 02:02:58 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:

>This is another moment of Frodo-madness to rival the moment at the Black
>Gate where he was going to try and march up to the Gate and walk in to
>Mordor. Why _does_ Frodo run off like this? It seems slightly contrived
>by the author to satisfy the plot requirements....

He does it at Minas Morgul, too.

Ring influence?

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

AC

unread,
Dec 27, 2004, 12:43:20 PM12/27/04
to
On Mon, 27 Dec 2004 00:13:28 -0800,
R Dan Henry <danh...@inreach.com> wrote:
> On Mon, 15 Nov 2004 07:48:32 -0700, Michelle J. Haines
><mha...@nanc.com> wrote:
>
>>We pause for a little history of our Monster. She is the last child
>>of Ungoliant, and survived the ruin of Beleriand.
>
> Old and scary, she is. And are Ungoliant's children ever mentioned in
> the Silmarillion? I don't recall, if they were. The brief reference
> here is creepy and a nice bit of deep backstory.

Being too lazy to go downstairs, but I remember the spiders of Taur-nu-Fuin
were associated with Ungoliant.

--
Aaron Clausen
mightym...@hotmail.com

Conrad Dunkerson

unread,
Dec 28, 2004, 8:30:46 PM12/28/04
to
R. Dan Henry wrote:

> We know both Sauron and Saruman can extend their wills to create an
> oppressive force at a distance (the Three Hunters, the hobbits before
> the Black Gate), so why not Shelob, only a generation removed from
> whatever Ungoliant was?

That does seem to be the most likely implication of the published text,
but in letter #144 Tolkien said that Shelob was a descendant of the
spiders of Nandungorthin rather than a direct offspring of Ungoliant
herself. The 'last child' bit COULD mean 'last descendant', but as the
Mirkwood spiders are said to be descended from Shelob they too would be
descendants of Ungoliant through her. That leaves only something like
last 'true' descendant... that is one having inherited the full power of
the great Nandungorthin spiders.

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Jan 6, 2005, 12:13:49 AM1/6/05
to

Well, he writes in the letter that "She is represented in vol. II p.
332 as descendant of the giant spiders of the glens of
_Nandungorthin_... themselves only the offspring of Ungoliante". But
the text, while it describes her as being "even such as once of old
had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the
Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath", this
doesn't strictly mean she isn't one of them and even if it is a
non-inclusive comparison, just not having fought Beren would cover
that. She is also said to have "come there, flying from ruin" -- if
not the Ruin of Beleriand, it is unclear what this ruin would be. Thus
it seems she was one of those ancient spiders. (Not as old as
Galadriel, Tolkien says in the letter, but that still allows Shelob to
be old enough.) The references to her hunting Elves in the distant
past also suggest she was a Beleriand spider, who fled when the land
sank.

I'm not willing to overturn "child of Ungoliant" for a brief mention
in a letter that offers no real elaboration. Note that at this point
it is "Ungoliante", so the manuscript is not yet in its final form, so
the published text must surely take precedence over the letter.

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

Stan Brown

unread,
Jan 6, 2005, 12:09:48 PM1/6/05
to
"R. Dan Henry" wrote in rec.arts.books.tolkien:

>But
>the text, while it describes her as being "even such as once of old
>had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the
>Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath", this
>doesn't strictly mean she isn't one of them

I think that's a stretch; I think it _does_ mean she wasn't one of
them. We don't say of Augustus Caesar "He was a noble man, even such
as once of old were Emperors in Rome." I think the "even such as"
construction means "this is not actually one of them, but is of like
kind."

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Tompkins County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://users.telerama.com/~taliesen/tolkien/lettersfaq.html
FAQ of the Rings: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm
Encyclopedia of Arda: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/faqget.htm

Stan Brown

unread,
Jan 6, 2005, 12:10:59 PM1/6/05
to
"R. Dan Henry" wrote in rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>I'm not willing to overturn "child of Ungoliant" for a brief mention
>in a letter that offers no real elaboration.

"Child of Ungoliant" can mean "descendant of Ungoliant", just as the
"children of Israel" were not all sons and daughters of the man
himself.

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Jan 6, 2005, 6:30:28 PM1/6/05
to
On Thu, 6 Jan 2005 12:10:59 -0500, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

>"R. Dan Henry" wrote in rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>>I'm not willing to overturn "child of Ungoliant" for a brief mention
>>in a letter that offers no real elaboration.
>
>"Child of Ungoliant" can mean "descendant of Ungoliant", just as the
>"children of Israel" were not all sons and daughters of the man
>himself.

And under that definition, she is not the last.

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

the softrat

unread,
Jan 6, 2005, 7:00:47 PM1/6/05
to
On Thu, 6 Jan 2005 12:09:48 -0500, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

>"R. Dan Henry" wrote in rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>>But
>>the text, while it describes her as being "even such as once of old
>>had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the
>>Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath", this
>>doesn't strictly mean she isn't one of them
>
>I think that's a stretch; I think it _does_ mean she wasn't one of
>them. We don't say of Augustus Caesar "He was a noble man, even such
>as once of old were Emperors in Rome." I think the "even such as"
>construction means "this is not actually one of them, but is of like
>kind."

Nope.

the softrat
"Honi soit qui mal y pense."
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--
"I shun publicity wherever I can find it." -- Allan Lamport
(deceased), former mayor of Toronto.

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Jan 6, 2005, 7:12:19 PM1/6/05
to

I was just getting ready to agree with Stan, when this point threw me. I
think if you are calling her the last, under the "children of Israel"
definition, you have to say: "last of the _children_ of Ungoliant".

But I do agree that "even such as once of old" tends to imply that
Shelob was not in Beleriand personally. The bit about Elves can refer to
other Elves outside of Beleriand.

The bit about "flying from ruin" is harder to refute, and seems to
decisively swing Shelob back to Beleriandic origins. So the only bit of
evidence still supporting the 'Shelob was a later descendent of
Ungoliant' stance (IMO) is the "even such as once of old" bit. And
looking at that more closely, I think that this might allow Shelob to be
included in the description as one of them.

Of course, if softy reveals what "nope" means, then all might become
clear. How about it, softrat? Why did you disagree with Stan?

Stan Brown

unread,
Jan 6, 2005, 10:46:24 PM1/6/05
to
"Christopher Kreuzer" wrote in rec.arts.books.tolkien:

>How about it, softrat? Why did you disagree with Stan?

That's like asking Sir Edmund Hilary why he climbed Everest.

Softrat disagrees with me because I'm there. :-)

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Jan 7, 2005, 2:01:13 AM1/7/05
to
On Fri, 07 Jan 2005 00:12:19 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:

>The bit about "flying from ruin" is harder to refute, and seems to
>decisively swing Shelob back to Beleriandic origins. So the only bit of
>evidence still supporting the 'Shelob was a later descendent of
>Ungoliant' stance (IMO) is the "even such as once of old" bit. And
>looking at that more closely, I think that this might allow Shelob to be
>included in the description as one of them.

To me, that reads like one of the typical, "this is what it looks like
to me, but I can't actually confirm it" type references in the text as
part of the conceit that it is a traditional history. Much as the Gate
of Minas Tirith breaks "As if stricken by some blasting spell" when
its pretty darned clear that it was, in fact, stricken by a blasting
spell from the Witch-King (plus being beaten by neo-Grond). But the
author is no expert on sorcery, so cannot say that with true
certainty, hence the "as if" phrasing. Likewise, I take the "even such
as once of old" phrase as indicating that she sure as heck seems to be
one of them, but given the Noldor didn't think to tag the things, we
can't be certain.

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

the softrat

unread,
Jan 7, 2005, 3:42:53 AM1/7/05
to
On Thu, 6 Jan 2005 22:46:24 -0500, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

>"Christopher Kreuzer" wrote in rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>>How about it, softrat? Why did you disagree with Stan?
>
>That's like asking Sir Edmund Hilary why he climbed Everest.
>
>Softrat disagrees with me because I'm there. :-)

Yeah: you're there and I'm HERE!

the softrat
"Honi soit qui mal y pense."
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--

In space, no one can hear your teddy bear scream!

Conrad Dunkerson

unread,
Jan 7, 2005, 5:17:23 AM1/7/05
to
R. Dan Henry wrote:

> But the text, while it describes her as being "even such as once of
> old had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the
> Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath", this
> doesn't strictly mean she isn't one of them and even if it is a
> non-inclusive comparison, just not having fought Beren would cover
> that. She is also said to have "come there, flying from ruin" -- if
> not the Ruin of Beleriand, it is unclear what this ruin would be. Thus
> it seems she was one of those ancient spiders.

Setting aside the 'even such as' question... I agree. My impression has
always been that Tolkien most likely did consider Shelob a survivor of
the Nandungorthin spiders. However, that does not speak to her
immediate parentage at all.

> I'm not willing to overturn "child of Ungoliant" for a brief mention
> in a letter that offers no real elaboration.

I prefer the 'direct child' interpretation too, but there is no denying
that Tolkien said this was not the case. Though whether this is what he
intended all along or a late change in his conception is difficult to
determine.

> Note that at this point it is "Ungoliante", so the manuscript is
> not yet in its final form, so the published text must surely take
> precedence over the letter.

This letter was written in response to questions ABOUT the text as it
was being prepared for publication. That is, Tolkien wrote 'Ungoliante'
in this letter AFTER having used 'Ungoliant' in LotR. Both forms (with
and without 'e') appeared in his drafts.

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