I am, and have been since I can remember, afraid of spiders. Therefore, Tolkien’s giant monster guarding the back entrance to Mordor was the worst of all possibilities. This horrid creature still makes my hair stand on end when I think about it. I remember that my first read of the passage was very difficult because I kept feeling a strong desire to put the book down to get a reprieve from the creepy thing.
This giant spider felt to me like something taken straight from my nightmares and placed as an obstacle for Frodo and Sam. I could not imagine a worse foe to come across. Since it had not been too long since I read H, I anticipated that the creature was a spider early. I knew for certain by the time Frodo held up Galadriel’s gift and revealed ‘two great clusters of many-windowed eyes’ (TT, IV, ix, 720), but I believe I suspected as early as the ‘venomous hiss’ (TT, IV, ix, 719). As I read the struggle between this ancient beastie and the protagonists, I frequently experienced shivers down my spine.
When Shelob stabs Frodo with her stinger, I did not, could not, believe that he was dead. Sam’s courage in this moment was infections, and I remember vividly cheering him on to vanquish the awful creature. I was disappointed when the despicable thing was able to retreat. Again, I did not really believe that Frodo was dead. I remembered Frodo’s tendency to receive a stab wound in battle and fall, as if he were dead, only to revive a minute or two later: look no further than Weathertop and the Chamber of Mazarbul. It was Sam’s lamentation that started to make me consider that this time was different.
Ultimately, when Sam took the Ring from Frodo and claimed the quest as his own, I truly believed that Frodo was dead. I was elated, then, at the reveal of the poison that mocks death and the realization that Frodo was not dead! I also remember my response to the final line of TT.
‘Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy’ (TT, IV, x, 742).
I exclaimed aloud: ‘Wait…What?’ and immediately picked up the next volume.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Gollum then Sam’s ruminations.
What Do You Think?
Was Shelob the worst creature battle for you as well?
What did you make of Sam’s courage and Frodo’s death?
Did I miss anything? Let me know!
2 thoughts on “LotRFI Pt.37–Of Shelob”
I still get chills when I read that last line–even though I know what happens next!
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The heroism of Samwise is truly infectious and so buoying especially when he calls on Galadriel and then Elbereth. The searing pain of Her light to Shelob was a powerful moment. It was hard to accepts Frodo was dead but Sam’s determination required allegiance. Then, in learning Frodo was alive, the whole thing become too much for me, I could not help myself and skipped ahead in ROTK…I was 15 at the time of this first reading, some 40 years ago.
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