HASA Resources

Timeline Event

Shelob traps Frodo and Sam in her lair

Event Type: General

Age: 3rd Age - Ring War

Date: March 12, 3019

Description:

The tunnel forked, or so it seemed.... Which should they take, the left, or the right?.... [A] false choice would almost certainly be fatal.

'Which way has Gollum gone?' panted Sam. 'And why didn't he wait?'

'Sméagol!' said Frodo, trying to call.... But his voice croaked, and the name fell dead almost as it left his lips. There was no answer, not an echo, not even a tremor of the air.

'He's really gone this time, I fancy,' muttered Sam. 'I guess this is just exactly where he meant to bring us. Gollum! If ever I lay hands on you again, you'll be sorry for it.'

Presently, groping and fumbling in the dark, they found that the opening on the left was blocked: either it was a blind, or else some great stone had fallen in the passage. 'This can't be the way,' Frodo whispered. 'Right or wrong, we must take the other.'

'And quick!' Sam panted. 'There's something worse than Gollum about. I can feel something looking at us.'

They had not gone more than a few yards when from behind them came a sound, startling and horrible...: 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.

'It's a trap!' said Sam, and he laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword; and as he did so, he thought of the darkness of the barrow whence it came. 'I wish old Tom was near us now!' he thought. Then as he stood, darkness about him and a blackness of despair and anger in his heart, it seemed to him that he saw... a light in his mind, almost unbearably bright at first.... Far off... he saw the Lady Galadriel... in Lórien, and gifts were in her hands. And you, Ring-bearer, he heard her say, remote but clear, for you I have prepared this.

The bubbling hiss drew nearer, and there was a creaking as of some great jointed thing that moved with slow purpose in the dark. A reek came on before it. 'Master, master!' cried Sam, and the life and urgency came back into his voice. 'The Lady's gift! The star-glass! A light to you in dark places, she said it was to be. The star-glass!'

'The star-glass?' muttered Frodo, as one answering out of sleep.... 'Why yes! Why had I forgotten it? A light when all other lights go out! And now indeed light alone can help us.'

Slowly... he held aloft the Phial of Galadriel. For a moment it glimmered, faint as a rising star struggling in heavy earthward mists, and then as its power waxed, and hope grew in Frodo's mind, it began to burn, and kindled to a silver flame..., as though Eärendil had himself come down from the high sunset paths with the last Silmaril upon his brow. The darkness receded....

Frodo gazed in wonder at this marvellous gift that he had so long carried, not guessing its full worth and potency. Seldom had he remembered it on the road..., and never had he used it for fear of its revealing light. Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima! 1 he cried, and knew not what he had spoken; for it seemed that another voice spoke through his, clear, untroubled by the foul air of the pit.

But other potencies there are in Middle-earth..., and they are old and strong. And She that walked in the darkness had heard the Elves cry that cry far back in the deeps of time..., and it did not daunt her now. 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 2 — the coming menace was unmasked at last. 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,... yet filled with purpose and with hideous delight, gloating over their prey trapped beyond all hope of escape.

Frodo and Sam, horror-stricken, began slowly to back away, their own gaze held by the dreadful stare of those baleful eyes; but as they backed so the eyes advanced. Frodo's hand wavered, and slowly the Phial drooped. 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; but... Frodo looked back and saw with terror that at once the eyes came leaping up behind....

'Stand! stand!' he cried desperately. 'Running is no use.'

Slowly the eyes crept nearer.

'Galadriel!' he called, and gathering his courage he lifted up the Phial once more. The eyes halted. For a moment... some hint of doubt troubled them. Then Frodo's heart flamed within him, and without thinking what he did..., 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.

They wavered. Doubt came into them.... One by one they dimmed, and slowly they drew back. No brightness so deadly had ever afflicted them before. From sun and moon and star they had been safe underground, but now a star had descended into the very earth. Still it approached, and the eyes began to quail. One by one they all went dark; they turned away, and a great bulk, beyond the light's reach, heaved its huge shadow in between. They were gone.

'Master, master!' cried Sam.... 'Don't go down to that den! Now's our only chance. Now let's get out of this foul hole!'

And so back they turned once more, first walking and then running....

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 4, Ch 9, Shelob's Lair


Notes
1Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima (II 329) 'hail Eärendil brightest of Stars' is derived at long remove from Éala Éarendel engla beorhtast. 3

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 297 to 'Mr Rang', August 1967

2In this and other respects Shelob is not like normal spiders, which do not have compound eyes.

The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, by Wayne G Hammond and Christina Scull, Book 4, Ch 9, Shelob's Lair

3The language is Anglo-Saxon; the sentence is excerpted from a passage in which Tolkien discusses the origin in that language of the name Eärendil.

Contributors:
Elena Tiriel 12Mar10

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