Now that we’ve gotten to know Faramir a bit, it’s time for him to offer advice and justice to the best of his knowledge.
For a while Frodo stood there on the high stone, and a shiver ran through him, wondering if anywhere in the vastness of the nightlands his old companions walked or slept, or lay dead shrouded in mist. Why was he brought here out of forgetful sleep?
Sam was eager for an answer to the same question and could not refrain from muttering, for his master’s ear alone as he thought: ‘It’s a fine view, no doubt, Mr. Frodo, but chilly to the heart, not to mention the bones! What’s going on?’
Faramir heard and answered. ‘Moonset over Gondor. Fair Ithil, as he goes from Middle-earth, glances upon the white locks of old Mindolluin. It is worth a few shivers. But that is not what I brought you to see – though as for you, Samwise, you were not brought, and do but pay the penalty of your watchfulness.’
It’s interesting how Tolkien made the Sun feminine and the Moon masculine, contrary to Western mythological conventions. I don’t recall the story behind it (I only read The Silmarillion once), but perhaps it’s just meant to remind you of the different linguistical background. At least he didn’t feel the need to include a footnote here…
Anyhow, this is actually about Gollum, because of course he has to show his face again – specifically, in the titular Forbidden Pool beneath the Rangers’ secret base.
‘Shall we shoot?’ said Faramir, turning quickly to Frodo.
Frodo did not answer for a moment. Then ‘No!’ he said. ‘No! I beg you not to.’ If Sam had dared, he would have said ‘Yes,’ quicker and louder.
Frodo ends up pleading for Gollum’s life, because he clearly doesn’t know that the pool is forbidden or why, only that there’s fish.
‘The creature is wretched and hungry,’ said Frodo, ‘and unaware of his danger. And Gandalf, your Mithrandir, he would have bidden you not to slay him for that reason, and for others. He forbade the Elves to do so. I do not know clearly why, and of what I guess I cannot speak openly out here. But this creature is in some way bound up with my errand. Until you found us and took us, he was my guide.’
Faramir agrees to let Frodo try to get Gollum to come along quietly, and then we’re reminded of how incredibly unpleasant Gollum’s company can be (in case you forgot).
‘Fissh, nice fissh. White Face has vanished, my precious, at last, yes. Now we can eat fish in peace. No, not in peace, precious. For Precious is lost; yes, lost. Dirty hobbits, nasty hobbits. Gone and left us, gollum; and Precious is gone. Only poor Sméagol all alone. No Precious. Nasty Men, they’ll take it, steal my Precious. Thieves. We hates them. Fissh, nice fissh. Makes us strong. Makes eyes bright, fingers tight, yes. Throttle them, precious. Throttle them all, yes, if we gets chances. Nice fissh. Nice fissh!’
So it went on, almost as unceasing as the waterfall, only interrupted by a faint noise of slavering and gurgling. Frodo shivered, listening with pity and disgust. He wished it would stop, and that he never need hear that voice again. Anborn was not far behind. He could creep back and ask him to get the huntsmen to shoot. They would probably get close enough, while Gollum was gorging and off his guard. Only one true shot, and Frodo would be rid of the miserable voice for ever. But no, Gollum had a claim on him now. The servant has a claim on the master for service, even service in fear. They would have foundered in the Dead Marshes but for Gollum. Frodo knew, too, somehow, quite clearly that Gandalf would not have wished it.
It’s times like this when you can’t help but feel sorry for Gollum. I appreciate the way he’s characterized in the films as an “addict” – although some might lay blame on him for getting caught up in the lifestyle to begin with, that was long ago (hundreds of years, in this case), and he’s long since lost the capacity to even want a normal life, never mind achieving it.
‘Got him?’ [Sam] said to Frodo.
‘Yes. Well no, I didn’t get him. He came to me, because he trusted me at first, I’m afraid. I did not want him tied up like this. I hope it will be all right; but I hate the whole business.’
‘So do I,’ said Sam. ‘And nothing will ever be all right where that piece of misery is.’
The worst of it isn’t that any trust Gollum had in Frodo is gone now, but that he actually trusted him, and Frodo was forced to betray that trust.
‘Loose us! Loose us!’ he said. ‘The cord hurts us, yes it does, it hurts us, and we’ve done nothing.’
‘Nothing?’ said Faramir, looking at the wretched creature with a keen glance, but without any expression in his face either of anger, or pity, or wonder. ‘Nothing? Have you never done anything worthy of binding or of worse punishment? However, that is not for me to judge, happily. But tonight you have come where it is death to come. The fish of this pool are dearly bought. […] Only to come here and look on the pool bears the penalty of death. I have spared you so far at the prayer of Frodo here, who says that of him at least you have deserved some thanks. But you must also satisfy me. What is your name? Whence do you come? And whither do you go? What is your business?’
‘We are lost, lost,’ said Gollum. ‘No name, no business, no Precious, nothing. Only empty. Only hungry; yes, we are hungry. A few little fishes, nasty bony little fishes, for a poor creature, and they say death. So wise they are; so just, so very just.’
‘Not very wise,’ said Faramir. ‘But just: yes perhaps, as just as our little wisdom allows. Unloose him, Frodo!’
Once Faramir is convinced that Gollum really didn’t know about their hideout, Gollum swears by the Precious that he won’t try to go back there again or lead anyone else there, which is really all that could be hoped for under the circumstances. Faramir declares Frodo (and in turn his servants) free within the realm of Gondor, basically under the condition that he stop and visit the Lord of Minas Tirith should he be able and willing to renew his membership in the future. Gollum’s still facing the death penalty, but as long as he’s under Frodo’s protection, they won’t execute him (read: if he abandons Frodo for any reason, he’s dead).
Then Faramir finds out where Gollum’s leading them: Cirith Ungol.
‘Frodo, I think you do very unwisely in this,’ said Faramir. ‘I do not think you should go with this creature. It is wicked.’
‘No, not altogether wicked,’ said Frodo.
‘Not wholly, perhaps,’ said Faramir; ‘but malice eats it like a canker, and the evil is growing. He will lead you to no good.’ […]
‘I have promised many times to take him under my protection and to go where he led. You would not ask me to break faith with him?’
‘No,’ said Faramir. ‘But my heart would. For it seems less evil to counsel another man to break troth than to do so oneself, especially if one sees a friend bound unwitting to his own harm. But no – if he will go with you, you must now endure him. But I do not think you are holden to go to Cirith Ungol, of which he has told you less than he knows. That much I perceived clearly in his mind.’
Faramir explains why he should avoid Cirith Ungol, and although Frodo dismisses his concerns about the place as the superstitions of Men, it’s old men and loremasters who even know about the place, not some common myth.
‘But where else will you direct me?’ said Frodo. ‘You cannot yourself, you say, guide me to the mountains, nor over them. But over the mountains I am bound, by solemn undertaking to the Council, to find a way or perish in the seeking. And if I turn back, refusing the road in its bitter end, where then shall I go among Elves or Men? Would you have me come to Gondor with this Thing, the Thing that drove your brother mad with desire? What spell would it work in Minas Tirith? Shall there be two cities of Minas Morgul, grinning at each other across a dead land filled with rottenness?’
‘I would not have it so,’ said Faramir.
‘Then what would you have me do?’
‘I know not. Only I would not have you go to death or to torment. And I do not think Mithrandir would have chosen this way.’
‘Yet since he is gone, I must take such paths as I can find. And there is no time for long searching,’ said Frodo.
Of course Frodo doesn’t want to go to Cirith Ungol, but he always knew his mission was pretty hopeless, and this seems like the best chance he’ll get of accomplishing it (even if he can’t escape torment or death).
Until next time…