Shelob's Lair

Gollum led the Hobbits through dead marshes, over arid planes and in and out of dark tunnels. For many nights he served as a faithful guide, but he still could not be trusted. As they neared Mordor, Gollum grew more and more tormented. He could not bear to think that Frodo might throw away his precious ring.

At last, they stood before the iron gates of Mordor. But they would not be entering this way. No, Gollum knew another way, a secret way- down through Shelob's lair. The Dark Lord had left this one passage unguarded – it seemed that Shelob was deterrent enough.

Following Gollum, Sam and Frodo entered a tunnel from which issued the most putrid stench, the stench of rotting carcasses. Down they went as Gollum sped off in front. Now he was nowhere to be seen. Sam and Frodo got an eerie feeling they had walked into a trap. They found themselves in a cave full of spiderweb as thick as rope. And then they saw her. Two clusters, of a thousand eyes each, moved slowly towards them. At first the hobbits ran, but then she ran, so they turned and stood their ground. What was it? They could see nothing in this dark.

At that point Frodo remembered the vial of light given to him by Galadriel. As he drew it out, the star-glass lit up the whole cave. There she was - Shelob, a great spider, the size of ten men or more. Whilst Frodo held the star glass Shelob came no closer. The hobbits backed away slowly, cutting through the webbed tunnels. When they had clear passage, Frodo handed Sam the light and ran on ahead.

But Shelob was too quick- she knew her own lair better than they. While the hobbits groped through the tunnel, she had come around its other end. Frodo now ran straight towards her.

"Look out, master!" cried Sam, but it was too late. Shelob pounced upon Frodo and there was nothing more to be heard.

Sam was distraught, a rage brewed up within him. With the star glass in one hand and a sword in the other he charged at Shelob, who now stood hovering over his master. With the first stroke he severed a leg, with a second, he sliced her belly. Now he was beneath her. Sam was trapped, Shelob prepared herself to squash him.

Shelob dropped on him but this time it was Sam who was too quick. He had placed his sword on the ground with its tip pointing directly up. Shelob came down upon the sword and shrieked. The elven blade pierced her with a strength that no hobbit could ever muster.

It was a crippling wound and Shelob crawled away. She could no longer bear the light held by this little hobbit. Sam ran to his master. There he was, cocooned in lashings of Shelob's web. Quickly Sam cut him free, but Frodo lay still.

Leaving his master for dead, Sam took up the Ring just as some orcs came and took Frodo away. From the discussion of the orcs Sam learnt that Frodo was not dead, only paralysed.

After the orcs had imprisoned Frodo, Sam came looking for his master. Together they escaped the orcs and were now within the bounds of Mordor.

Galadriel’s Lothlorien brought to light the positive and supportive face of Mother Nature. With Shelob, the spider, we meet her dark face. In Hindu myth the spider spins the web of maya - the illusion of reality. One falls into the web of maya when one is caught up by the material world. Shelob is this binding and restrictive aspect of nature.

The Dark Lord had left Shelob’s lair unguarded as he believed no one would wilfully enter her tunnels. This is, however, the only way forward. To enter Shelob’s lair is to accept the limitations of nature. Frodo’s confrontation with Shelob reminds us that the return to nature and a simpler existence will not be without pain.

Returning the Ring means living a life with less power and control over nature. In returning all that we have wrongfully taken from nature we may well be left with the feeling that we are unable to act or function in the world. Like Frodo we will most likely feel bound and paralysed as we meet the dark face of Mother Nature. We may not be able to move about so freely, progress may be slowed, and more effort may be required to achieve the same outcome.

The return to nature will be a challenging transition. Our technology offered us an escape from nature’s laws and restrictions, but this was an unholy gift, which we should not have accepted. In abiding by the laws of nature we will lose the false freedom that our technology has provided.

The only defence the hobbits have against Shelob is the star-glass given to Frodo by Galadriel. With the star-glass they remain safe; without it, Frodo is captured by Shelob and then imprisoned by the orcs. A positive appreciation of nature’s rhythms makes it easier to accept nature’s restrictions. Similarly, a slower pace of life is more easily accepted when one has a rich inner life. Without this consciousness the restrictions of the simple life can be tortuous.

Without the aid of Sam, Frodo would not have survived this passage. Where Frodo is captured by Shelob, Sam manages to slay the monster and free Frodo from imprisonment. Sam has been with Frodo since the beginning. He is humbler and more well-meaning than most hobbits. His loyalty to Frodo and the quest could never be questioned. Also, up until this point, Sam has never held the Ring.

When Frodo is captured, it is Sam who becomes the new Ring bearer. Sam personifies our simplicity. Just as one culture is built on top of another, we, as individuals, are made up psychological layers that stretch all the way back to the Stone Age. Beneath our modern mind and attitude the simple man lives on. As a figure in our story Sam, the gardener, has a strong relationship to this past heritage. It is not long ago that we lived a life much closer to nature. Sam is always there for Frodo. We do not have to reach too far back to revive this capacity.