Welcome to Part III of my Lord of the Rings art project, if you have missed the first two parts click the following links and they will open in a new tab on your browser:
We are now at the halfway point through the journey of this project and this is where things start to get really interesting, no more wandering aimlessly through the lands of Middle-earth, this is the point when direction is provided and the road goes ever on and on.
“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”
The aim of this part of the project is to give an insight into the scene of the narrative that I have chosen to depict in my final painting, it’s took a lot of thought and sifting through the vast amount of rich and captivating content available. I have finally made the choice and this post will pick apart the scene both described in JRR Tolkien’s literature and Peter Jackson’s films.
The scene that I have chosen to depict is from The Return of the King.
We’ll begin the analysis with the movie:
The Return Of The King – Movie III – Scene 66
This scene has got to be one of the most emotional and touching scenes in cinema history, it’s raw, it’s heartwarming and it shows the bond formed by the strongest force there is; love. Sam has been optimistic throughout the journey but at this stage, with Frodo collapsed and exhausted on the slopes of Orodruin¹, Sam seems to realise that they are on the verge of failing entirely and that the journey is very unlikely to be one from which they return.
In his attempt to lift Frodo’s spirits, Sam talks to him about the Shire and some of the pleasantries of their long missed home, this nostalgic speech doesn’t seem to help Frodo much but it gives Sam a much needed final bout of strength and determination to get through the final phase of their quest, Sam is a living personification of hope, not just for himself and his friend, but for the audience as well; his ability to muster the strength and courage based on being able to see just a glint of light in a land full of darkness and shadow makes him one of, if not the most admirable fictional characters I have ever known.
Then come the famous words “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” and Samwise picks up his beloved friend and carries him up the scorched, rocky slopes of Middle-earth’s deadliest landscape, the lethal and active volcano, Mount Doom. The atmosphere and feeling of this particular scene puts one in mind of war, and Tolkien’s writings most definitely reflect his experiences in the trenches of World War One throughout his work; but probably nowhere more so than this emotion provoking and tear jerking scene; which Peter Jackson, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood have portrayed exceptionally well.
One of the things that I love most about this scene as shown in the movie is the state the two Hobbits are in; their clothes are tattered and worn, they are completely filthy, covered in the soot, dirt and muck from their travels through the parched volcanic land of Mordor. Coupled with this is the visual display of the landscape itself, it allows the viewer to engage with the scenery around the Hobbits and provides a beautiful insight into both Tolkien’s and Jackson’s ingenuitive imaginations.
As will be evident if you have read the books as well as seen the movie, the wording of this scene differs slightly but the overall feeling and effect is the same and to the same end.
Now we’ll take a look at the book itself.
The Return Of The King – Book Six – Chapter III – Mount Doom
‘Now for it! Now for the last gasp!’ said Sam as he struggled to his feet. He bent over Frodo, rousing him gently. Frodo groaned; but with a great effort of will he staggered up; and then he fell upon his knees again. He raised his eyes with difficulty to the dark slopes of Mount Doom towering above him, and then pitifully he began to crawl forward on his hands.
Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. ‘I said I’d carry him, if it broke my back,’ he muttered, ‘and I will!”
‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear!
Although this passage of writing gives a good insight into the emotion and atmosphere of the scene, it has been built up over the thousands of preceding words describing in detail the plight of the two Hobbits in the polluted and dead land that they’ve been traversing for approximately two weeks; having left the Shire around six months before. I’ll list some more passages that add to the scene:
- At their last halt he sank down and said: ‘I’m thirsty, Sam,’ and did not speak again. Sam gave him a mouthful of water; only one more mouthful remained. He went without himself; and now as once more the night of Mordor closed over them, through all his thoughts there came the memory of water; and every brook or stream or fount that he had ever seen, under green willow-shades or twinkling in the sun, danced and rippled for his torment behind the blindness of his eyes.
- He could not sleep and he held a debate with himself. ‘Well, come now, we’ve done better than you hoped,’ he said sturdily. ‘Began well anyway. I reckon we crossed half the distance before we stopped. One more day will do it.’ And then he paused.
‘Don’t be a fool, Sam Gamgee,’ came an answer in his own voice. ‘He won’t go another day like that, if he moves at all. And you can’t go on much longer giving him all the water and most of the food.’
‘I can go on a good way though, and I will.’
- The last stage of their journey to Orodruin came, and it was a torment greater than Sam had ever thought that he could bear. He was in pain, and so parched that he could no longer swallow even a mouthful of food.
- It remained dark, not only because of the smokes of the Mountain: there seemed to be a storm coming up, and away to the south-east there was a shimmer of lightnings under the black skies. Worst of all, the air was so full of fumes; breathing was painful and difficult, and a dizziness came on them, so that they staggered and often fell.
These passages are just few of many that highlight the difficulty of this journey for both the Hobbits, Sam was sacrificing his own well-being even down to the small amount of water that they had, in order to ensure that his master and companion was being kept alive. Whereas Frodo was being constantly dragged down, enticed and tortured by the burden of The One Ring, every step closer to Mount Doom was causing extreme physical pain and exertion as well as mental anguish.
The literature gives one an amazing insight into the struggle felt by the two companions, it’s also very helpful for me to work with in the creation of my final piece, knowing how they were feeling gives me a lot more to work with in the depiction of this scene; coupled with the atmosphere provided by the screenplay from the movie, there’s a lot of thought and feeling to go into this piece of work.
For my painting, which will be created using Oils, the main focus will be Samwise, Frodo slumped over his shoulders being carried up the slopes of Orodruin, with that in mind, Frodo’s face will be obscured, he will be depicted as limp and frail as is evident from the story itself.
There are four key points that I’ll be considering with my depiction of Samwise and they were covered in the four different passages listed above:
- Sam’s self-sacrificing spirit is only making his own struggle worse and the reason for this is the love he has for his dear friend which goes well and truly beyond any love for himself, his selflessness needs to be evident in any portrayal of him.
- He is bordering madness, exhaustion and dehydration are taking their toll on his mental faculties, debating with himself and battling demons throughout this leg of the journey. The mental suffering he is going through is different to Frodo’s but still a torment that’s wearing him down; that being said he is doing a very good job at fighting it.
- Sam was also in physical pain, extreme dehydration to the point of not even being able to swallow food for pain.
- Breathing was painful and difficult, the air was polluted and noxious, causing them both to feel dizzy and nauseous and making the final leg of the journey even more of a struggle, this thick, disgusting air was worsening with every step closer to the Mount Doom, the fumes being spewed out of the volcano constantly.
These four points provide valuable information for me to use, combined with the determination, strength and courage shown by Sam as he carries Frodo toward their quest’s end are enough factors to be able to give the painting a lot of feeling.
In a sense, I now feel like Sam Gamgee on the last leg of the journey, facing an enormous task with the possibility of no return after its completion. As I haven’t created any work previous to this using Oil paints, I may well be setting myself up for a struggle beyond any of my previous artistic ventures, but without challenge there is no progression or advancement and growth. One of my favourite quotes by Leonardo da Vinci is:
‘Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.’
A funny saying for a man who was renowned for not finishing work but nonetheless it is wise and it is true, it’s also true for the two characters in the narrative I’ve chosen to portray as well as for the man who invented and wrote the stories and also the man who endeavored to bring them to life on the big screen. So with that in mind, I have to focus what can be achieved by strength, hope and determination to carry on and see it through; rather than focus on the fact that I’ve just decided to spar with the giants.
Next Wednesday I’ll be publishing another LOTR related post and the following Wednesday 2nd September; will be Part IV – my preparatory sketches for this final piece as well as a detailed drawn up cartoon that will be the image I work from for the final painting. I’ve bought my canvas board, primed it and given it a wash with yellow ochre so it is ready for the drawing and under painting now, the canvas itself is 16 x 20 inches.
Well that’s about it for this part of the project, I hope you have enjoyed the project so far and will continue this road with me the rest of the way; feel free to comment, follow my blog, re-blog and leave any feedback, I greatly appreciate it and until next Wednesday, take care!
¹Mount Doom, also known as Orodruin and Amon Amarth, was the volcano in Mordor where the One Ring was forged, and finally destroyed. It was the ultimate destination for Frodo’s Quest of the Ring – lotr.wikia.com