Sam was weary. He was weary from the days and
nights of constant tension, of watching Gollum leering at his master’s ring
and being unable to convince Frodo of his true purpose; weary from the forced
march that he and Frodo had had to endure at the hands of Faramir; weary
of resenting Faramir and his rough, churlish, disrespectful men who pushed
Frodo about as if he were just anybody, pushed him beyond his endurance.
But more than weary he was angry: fiercely, hotly angry. These men, these Gondorian men who thought they were the guardians of Middle-earth, who thought they were higher than anybody - these large men treated Frodo with careless indifference, his dear Frodo, who already suffered beyond what anyone should ever have to; they treated him roughly and drove him cruelly beyond his strength.
Sam fumed as he was forced down the rough path toward the burning city. After that last cry of despair to Faramir, Mr. Frodo had stumbled along quietly, his face growing more and more drawn. Sam wanted to shake Faramir until his teeth rattled. He could not believe Frodo’s entreaty had not touched Faramir’s heart, especially when he had cried, “The ring will not save Gondor...” For a moment he thought it had touched him, but Faramir had simply hardened his heart and ignored Frodo’s pleas. At this memory, another rush of anger passed over Sam. He stumbled again, blinded by his hot tears.
“Move along, halfling,” the man behind him said brusquely, giving him a sharp push.
Sam gave the man a scowl. “Leave me be!” he muttered as he pulled his shoulder away from the man’s grasp and moved out of his reach.
“Are you alright, Sam?” Frodo called back to him.
“Of course I’m alright, Mr. Frodo,” he said with as cheery a voice as he could muster. “Right as rain.” In spite of it all, he still thinks of me, Sam thought. You’d better calm down, Samwise Gamgee, if you want to be any good for him when we get to where we’re going. He settled down to a sullen hike, bristling every time poor Frodo missed his footing or sighed.
At length the marchers reached the end of the forest cover, under which they had travelled in safety, and entered onto a open plain once of grassland and crop but now an emptiness of cinder and desolation. Ahead of them, beyond the smoking, ruined fields, lay the city of ivory spires and ramparts. This, the first city of man Sam had ever seen, was beautiful beyond anything his imagination had wrought. But thick columns of foul black smoke rose unnaturally from parts of the skyline, and a more careful look revealed the ruins of many buildings. For one moment, as the men paused in anger and grief, Sam felt a touch of sympathy.
Faramir called for the company to pick up the pace. As they neared the city, the sounds of battle, the clashing swords, the crash of catapulted stone against sturdy walls, the cries of men and orc grew in intensity. When at length they entered the city, the battle raged around them. The assault of sights, sounds and smells on his senses overwhelmed Sam but, his heart thumping with fear and concern, he slipped from his minder and got as close to Frodo as he could. At last Faramir stopped, and Sam pushed Frodo to safety against a stone wall.
Sam at Osgiliath Part 2
Osgiliath from a distance, even under siege, had appeared to Sam to have a radiant beauty, its rounded domes and sturdy towers gleaming shadow and gold in the afternoon sun. Up close, however, the city was not ivory. It was grey. Every piece of road, every building, whole or in ruins, was covered with a fine dust that lingered in the air, affecting sight and choking lungs. The outer walls of many structures had shattered. leaving rude brickwork exposed and gaping holes where men had taken up positions. The fighting was fierce, and the white hand of Saruman waved from flags raised amid jeering on the east side of the river.
Faramir led his group of fighters through a labyrinth of broken masonry and half standing walls. His men wove their way in and out of familiar streets become unfamiliar, some breaking away to help their comrades, the others ducking arrows and flying mortar as they pushed Sam, Frodo and the cringing Gollum toward the city centre. At last Faramir found the city captain, a man rough hewn and spent, who spoke of orcs taking the eastern shore. Sam registered this information in the back of his mind, but his attention was on Frodo who, since they had entered the city, had been moving strangely, to his eyes. I have to do something, he thought.
He broke away from the man who held him and pushed Frodo to safety against a stone wall, looking closely at his drawn face. “Are you alright, Mr. Frodo?” he whispered quickly. Instantly two of the men grabbed the hobbits again and separated them, but Sam shivered with fear as Frodo stared through him with blank eyes and appeared close to collapse.
At that moment came the cry, “Watch out!” causing them all to duck as a large rock crashed into one of the few towers which remained standing. His voice unheard amidst the crashing masonry, Sam turned back to Frodo. “Mr. Frodo, Mr. Frodo!” he called again, but his voice tapered off to a whisper. For Frodo was clutching at his chest, at the ring, clearly fighting terror, moving in slow motion. “He’s looking for me, Sam. His eye is nearly on me.”
Aghast and frustrated, Sam struggled to reach Frodo, but his captor still held him firmly. “Hold on tight, Mr. Frodo, you’ll be alright,” Sam called to him, his voice cracking. “He can’t get you here. Hold on!” But Frodo appeared to be listening, not to him, but to unheard voices, beyond his ears. He had never seen his beloved Frodo so distant, so unreachable. Struggling still, he finally pulled away from his captor and spoke with more urgency, seeking somehow to reach him, to bring him back, but Frodo was in the clutch of an experience beyond Sam’s comprehension. “Please, Frodo, please,” he pleaded, half to himself.
Even as he watched Frodo’s face, the deep eyes darkened and rolled upward. Time slowed down for Sam. In slow motion he saw his master mouth words that at first he did not understand. “They’re here,” said Frodo, his mouth barely moving, his voice not his own. His eyes, usually so full of life, of beauty rolled up, as if compelled to look in other worlds. Sam had never been so frightened in his life. ‘Ringwraiths!” he thought to himself just as Faramir’s cry went up.
Sam felt the clutch of ice-cold fear squeeze his heart and drain his will even before the cry came or the great winged beast swooped down above them, its wings punishing the air. Others around him responded equally with fear and the incapacity to react, cowering where they were. Faramir had the strength to take Frodo and push him through a nearby doorway into a place of relative safety. Sam stumbled after them.
“Stay here,” Faramir whispered fiercely as he turned to see what must be done.
One look at Frodo’s face told Sam that this was not his Frodo. He moved away from the wall, looking through Sam as if he were not there, and walked with an eery deliberate pace, almost gliding, his hands limp by his sides. He walked out of the safety of their refuge and back through the doorway.
“Where are you going?” cried Sam, desperate to understand, though fearing he understood all too well.
“What are you doing?” He watched with horror as his Frodo continued walking in this unnatural way, his eyes filled with absence, walking toward steps that led up to a rampart, a place of great exposure.
“Come back!” he called to him, knowing now that the spell was too strong on him, that he could no longer stop himself. Indeed, he had given up the struggle, it was clear, and walked no more in this world, in thrall to a power beyond what Sam understood. Sam could do no more than follow his master up the stairs.
Frodo reached inside his shirt and gently took the ring from under his mithril shirt. He climbed the stairway, his eyes gazing ever upward, his hand tightly clutching the ring. Puzzled, Sam followed. When he reached the top, Frodo breathed a sigh, but Sam barely heard, for suddenly the winged Nazgul rose in front of Frodo. Time stood still. And suddenly Sam knew exactly what Frodo was about to do.
Heart racing, Sam leapt up the steps; but no matter how hard he tried, he felt as if he were running through honey, his legs barely able to move him. He saw Frodo pause, perhaps in one last effort of will. Fight it! Fight it! Sam called in his mind, perhaps even aloud. As he reached the second last step, he saw Frodo hold up the ring, hold it out so that he could at last feel the bliss of putting on his precious ring.
As Sam reached the top step, he felt the power of the Nazgul strike at him, creating a barrier of will. But for Sam, the will to save Frodo was greater. He reached forward and embraced Frodo
from behind, pulling his groping finger from the ring, and the two of them plummeted backward down the steps. Only as they fell did the look on Frodo’s face register in Sam’s mind. Relief, he thought. It was relief that he no longer had to resist, relief and joy that he would at last claim the ring. This Samwise felt more than he felt the bruising tumble on hard stone to the very bottom of the steps.
But to his horror, when they reached the bottom, with him on top, Frodo twisted from beneath him and with one swift movement was kneeling, his sword held fiercely at Sam’s neck. What nightmare could be worse than this, than seeing Frodo fierce and insane with anger, grief and the madness of stolen bliss. Sam lay beyond believing, but there above him was still Frodo, not his beloved master, but Frodo disconnected, his eyes tortured yet empty of anything resembling himself. What terrible beauty.
He lay still, only his chest moving with the effort to breath calmly. “It’s me,” he said, seeking some recognition in those hollow eyes. He fought back the tears, but they came nonetheless. “Don’t you know me? It’s your Sam.”