Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


Chapter 5, Revisited

I mentioned in my original post that if there was one scene that Peter Jackson needed to get right in this film, perhaps in the whole series, it would be this one.  Probably the most iconic chapter of the book, “Riddles In The Dark” is the direct link between this volume and the three-book epic of “The Lord of the Rings”.  And Jackson delivered.  If there was one benefit to lengthening these films it’s that we get to see so much of this particular part of the story.

The history and revision of this chapter I have already laid out.  So, I’ll cut to the chase.  As I mentioned in the revisit of Chapter Four, this scene does not play continuously from beginning to end but rather it cuts back and forth a couple of times with the scene of the Dwarves’ capture and escape from Goblin Town.  Cinematically, this makes sense since they both take place over the same time frame.  At the point of departure, Bilbo falls behind the group and is attacked by a lone goblin that he fends off with Sting.  However, in the process both of them plummet off of a wooden bridge and land at the bottom of an open crevice – one that leads to Gollum’s underground lake.

Upon regaining consciousness, Bilbo (while hidden) sees a gleeful Gollum discover the goblin and drag him away.  The goblin, not quite dead, awakens and resists.  Gollum grabs a rock and finishes him off.  In the struggle, we see the Ring fly out of his pocket and land near where Bilbo is hiding.  Once the coast is clear, Bilbo cautiously follows and notices the Ring which he stows in his vest pocket for safe keeping.  This obviously represents a departure from book however it is consistent with the idea that originated in the first trilogy that the Ring “abandoned Gollum” – that it is able to exert a will of its own.  As Gandalf would say “it wants to be found” and it was likely stirred by the growing evil presence in Mirkwood.

 Gollum here is presented as quite menacing since he has no reason to hide his malevolence.  But the Smeagol aspect of his personality is very present and acts as a counterbalance to Gollum.  This duality wasn’t really a part of the Tolkien depiction is this first book.  Whenever Gollum is meant to be scary I noticed that his eyes reflected the light, making them appear as they are described by Tolkien: “like small green lamps”.

As Gollum skins the dead goblin as his island in the middle of the subterranean lake, we sings two “songs” that were featured in the LOTR films.  He starts with the “Cold be heart and hand and bone” verse he spoke in the Dead Marshes and segues into that “Rock and pool is nice and cool” tune that he crooned at the Forbidden Pool (both scenes from “The Two Towers”).  I had hoped we would see this.

He notices Bilbo and travels across on his little boat to investigate.  When he comes upon the hobbit he asks what he is.  Bilbo replies “I am Bilbo Baggins.”  What he does not say (as he does in the book) is “I have lost the dwarves and I have lost the wizard, and I don’t know where I am and I don’t want to know, if only I can get away” (though he does convey that he is lost).  In response to “what is a Bagginses?” he says “I am a hobbit of the Shire.”  While this isn’t part of the dialogue from the book it is important for the film because the words Gollum repeats under torture in Mordor as depicted in “Fellowship” are “shire” and “baggins”.

Bilbo, flummoxed by this strange creature asks “what is your game?”  The Smeagol personality – the more social of the two – immediately perks up at this question and wonders if the hobbit can guess riddles.  So he asks the mountain riddle, which Bilbo guesses correctly.  It appeals most to Smeagol when Bilbo proposes a game of riddles so that by winning he would be shown the way out of the caves.  And, if he loses, Gollum “eats it whole” - to which Bilbo reluctantly agrees.

The game then follows the same as in the book with a few omissions.  Bilbo asks the teeth riddle and after answering Gollum points out the he only has nine (six in the book).  Gollum then asks the wind riddle.  Smeagol, incidentally, exclaims comically that “oh, we knows it!”, to which Gollum admonishes him to “shut up”.  This is followed by Bilbo’s egg question.  Things tense up when Bilbo has trouble guessing the next one.  But when Gollum says “time’s up” he guesses right with “time”.  Gollum is not pleased and demands that he “asks us a question”.  Bilbo, fumbling to think of another riddle, muses “what have I got in my pocket?”

Now of course Gollum protests that this is not fair but Bilbo points out “No, you said to ask you a question and the question is what have I got in my pocket!”  (Note: the riddles from the text that were not asked in the film: sun on the daisies, dark, fish and the one with the man sitting at a table next to a cat).

After demanding three guesses and making four, Gollum is enraged at the prospect of missing his prospective meal.  Now, rather than venturing back to the island to search for the Ring he checks his own pocket to discover it missing.  Frantically searching and splashing in the water he looks at his reflection in the water in the same manner that he does in “Return of the King” and asks “what has it got in its pocketses?!?”  At that moment he realizes exactly what may have become of the Ring.  The look of horror on his face is priceless.

Gollum chases the “thief” Baggins and almost catches him until the hobbit squeezes through a narrow gap in the rocks (and loses his buttons – a nice 3D effect, BTW).  Now it is here that the Ring ends up on Bilbo’s finger.  And it happens in a way that is identical to the first time Frodo wears it while at the “prancing pony”.  Bilbo falls after he squeezes through the rocks and the Ring goes up into the air, landing on Bilbo’s finger.

This circumstance is just as implausible as Frodo’s but nonetheless it provides a nice echo to the LOTR.  I had wondered how wearing the Ring would be portrayed here and Jackson imitates the effect that Frodo experienced though it is toned down a bit.  The coloring has a kind of sepia quality and the edges are blurred.  Things even appear in a slightly “slow motion” manner.

Up ahead, Bilbo sees Gandalf and the Dwarves escaping and Gollum (who cannot see Bilbo) stands in the way.  The moment where Bilbo takes pity on the creature is very well done.  Twice he brings Sting very close to Gollum’s throat and both times he withdraws.  The pathos of Gollum/Smeagol’s expression at having lost his “precious” moves him to spare his life and simply jump over him.  And here Howard Shore reprises some of the theme that played during Gandalf’s voice over at the end of “Fellowship” (“all we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us”).

The ripple effect of Bilbo’s decision will be felt all the way to the cracks of Mount Doom.

I know it's not in keeping with the original text, but we can expect to see Gollum again in this series at least one more time.  The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists him as part of the cast for the "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."  Likely we'll see him emerge from the Misty Mountains in search of his "precious" but where he goes from there (if at all) we will have to wait until next December to find out.

And as Bilbo retreats from the mountains, Gollum utters the iconic “Thief!  Baggins!  We hates it forever!”

Now, we can wrap up this analysis of the first portion of “The Hobbit”: from Book to Script with a reexamination of Chapter 6.


At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pity of Gollum was probably my favorite part (besides seeing Frodo again). :) I wish they had done the voiceover of Gandalf saying about courage being about knowing when to spare a life like we heard his voice while Frodo was on the riverbank trying to pluck up his courage to the point he could go on. That would be great to see Gollum again! I liked that Smeagol was there too.

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


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