Lord of the Rings : The Towering Read - Book 4, Chapter 7

Faramir sends our fair hobbits back on their path, gifted with provisions and +2 walking staves.  I can't help but remain suspicious of Gollum and the noted "he seemed better pleased with himself," but then I have read this before and know what he's leading them into.  The leave taking here to some extend mirrors the entering of Lothloiren, but bleaker and more barren as befits the closer proximity to the darkness.  Upon entering the woods the party all donned blindfolds, even those exempted, and on meeting the Lady Galadriel received guidance/prophesy and gifts.  From Faramir they receive gifts, warning, and the hobbits down blindfolds even when released from that requirement.

In Gollum's defense, he does commit to shepherding Frodo and Samwise.  That he is shepherding them to a death of his choosing is almost a moot point... after all isn't that what shepherds do in the long run?  He no longer possesses the awareness or the empathy to understand how hobbit needs differ from his own (such as dietary preferences and needs), but if Frodo (and at this point Samwise is part of the package) stray from the route he leads them on or die through other means, the Ring may be lost to him.
Sam stared at him suspiciously: he seemed frightened or excited.  "Go now?  What's your little game?  It isn't time yet.  It can't be tea-time even, leastways not in decent places where there is tea-time."

"Silly!" hissed Gollum.  "We're not in decent places.  Time's running short, yes, running fast.  No time to lose.  We must go.  Wake up, Master, wake up!"
Yet, for the clear darkness our party is walking both literally and figuratively into, the chapter ends with a note of inspiration.  The defaced statute of a King long past has it a living crown of silver and gold, small star flowers growing across his brow.

As mentioned with last chapter's write up, a bit of extra content shows up in the film and significantly changes the circumstances of their send off.  The chapter as we read it here does not exist in the movie, Jackson taking the narrative and cinematic focus in a different direction.  The contrast between the battle in the East and in the West does work well, if dragging things out, and the absence of Gollum focusing on his thoughts rather than the tired hobbits confirms the viewer suspicions and builds tension as Jackson brings film number two to a close.

The narrative purposes of these two chapters, as told by Tolkien in the book and Jackson in the film stand opposite.  Tolkien is still bringing us to the close of this book, bringing us further into shadow and despair.  Jackson's narrative arc has shifted this, each movie intertwining the two relevant books, and then stopping several chapters from the end at moments of uncertainty and tension before resolving the most present threat at the start of the next film.  I've been known to complain about how poorly the ending of The Return of the King is handled, and I will likely complain about it again, but looking back on both The Fellowship of the Ring and now The Two Towers I'm wondering if endings themselves are the problem with how Jackson works with this narrative.  We'll see in a few months how it goes.


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