Be wary! This tale is graphic, but I have tried to adhere to Tolkien's style with respect.
Many moons ago, a friend asked for my help in musing about the
moments Frodo spent it the hands of the orcs before Samwise rescued
him. She wrote a touching and terrifying tale, one that I have kept and
often re-read. I kept my own notes as well, and the scene continued to
play out in my dreams. Seeing ROTK brought it back again, so that it
blocks all other stories in my mind. So I find myself writing it out,
to get it 'out of my head'.
Reading LOTR, I try to keep in mind that the Author wanted us to think
that the tale we were reading was written by hobbits. And in true
gentlehobbit fashion, certain private details are excluded; sensuality,
bodily functions, and extreme and grafic violence is understated. I
think that Frodo would not dwell long on such things, wishing to tell
the tale and not recall the suffering of others and himself overmuch,
being a modest hobbit and respecting the privacy of others.
But of course, I have no such moral code, and I pick such details
apart, searching for that which is unspoken, and my imagination
produces the following scene.
It kinda bothered me that in the movie, when Frodo woke in the Tower,
his first conscious thought was of the Ring. I don't think that would
have been his very first concern.
Frodo awakes in the Tower of Cirith Ungol
It was dark, and Frodo felt a fear following him as he ran. He ran and
ran, and seemed that his feet were not bearing him anywhere. The pass
was ahead; he could see the tall horn of the tower and its evil
gleaming red light like an eye... not The Eye, but still foreboding and
grim. If only he could cover those last paces... just a few more steps,
and he will have done it! He would be in Mordor!
But a terror stalked him, hanging just behind, and to turn and seek it
would be to be defeated. He ran until his lungs burned, but the tower
only grew more distant and indistict. It was difficlt to breathe. Then
the thought came to assail him; where was Sam?
Dreams suddenly resolved themselves into horrible reality. Frodo opened
his eyes, and wished that he were still deaming, for this waking was
far more terrifying. All around him were leering, ugly orcs, coughing
and grunting in their foul language, assaulting his ears. His head
roared with dizziness and his neck was sore. Some awful liquid lay on
his tongue, burning into his belly. He spat and tried to clear his
mouth, but one of the orcs siezed him by the hair and thrust a flask
between his teeth. The liquid was bitter and syrupy, and burned as it
flowed down his throat. He coughed again, spitting out the foul stuff
and was rewarded with a bruising slap across his face.
"You'll take your medicine and like it, you little rat, or its back to
Shelob you go!" The orc growled, shoving the flask into another orc's
hands. He grabbed Frodo by his hair again and lifted the halfling to
his feet. Frodo cried out and fell as soon as the orc released him. He
was hauled up again roughly.
Frodo felt his limbs tugged at; his garments were being torn from him,
but he felt this only remotely. The cobwebs of Shelob's venom still
clouded his mind and he felt a nagging thought pulling at him,
distracting him even from the beastly treatment of the orcs as they
despoiled and debased him. Where was Sam?
The orc was Shagrat, though Frodo had not yet wit to learn his name,
had he cared to listen to the speech of his captors. Shagrat
methodically stripped the hobbit of his clothing, handling the elvish
cloak with distaste, until he uncovered the glittering prize of the
mithril coat. Frodo was half aware, completely unresisting. The mail
shirt was pulled off of him and he was shoved aside. Shagrat held aloft
the shirt to the lantern that burned redly above. By its light, the
glittering metal looked as if it had been drenched in blood.
Frodo was kicked into a corner of the chamber and he huddled there,
fighting nausea and nightmares. The orcs examined his things and rifled
through his pack, scattering the foodstuffs. The provision that Faramir
had given was quarreled over and eaten, while the elvish waybread was
thrown down and trampled. Frodo could not rouse himself to care. His
heart was covered in blackness. This had to be some awful dream.
But he was allowed no more than a few moments respite. Shagrat was not
satisfied with what he found. He hauled Frodo up with a shout and
shoved him across the chamber into the arms of another orc; a squat,
black-skinned brute with long yellowed fangs. "Hola, Gorbag! Shake this
little rat and see if anything else comes loose!"
Frodo could not defend himself. He was shaken and tossed about, like a
toy in a children's game. The orcs leered and laughed as he stumbled
and struggled, and they wielded knives with evil blades, holding them
out as if to slice or stick him, then turning them aside at the last
moment. Shagrat had been plain; he was not to be harmed. But they liked
their games, did the orcs of Cirith Ungol, as much as did those of
"Who are you, little rat? What's your name, and what are you doing in
the Pass?" They demanded, taunting him with threats and curses. "Can't
speak yet? Maybe he needs another draught!" Shagrat took a drink of the
liquor himself, letting the foul stuff trickle down his chin. Frodo
turned his head to avoid another dose. Shagrat spun him toward Gorbag,
who was gibbering with laughter.
Frodo ducked under his grasp, backing against the wall of his prison.
Gorbag grabbed his chin and showed him a saw-bladed dagger. His hand
was filthy and his claws grey as iron, biting into Frodo's flesh like
"Speak, or I will give you reason to run away! Why are you here? Who
sent you?" Frodo did not answer, and Gorbag let the knife touch his
cheek. "You don't need to see to talk, spy." Frodo froze in terror,
squeezing his eyes shut as he waited for the burning pain to begin.
"Gorbag! You know the orders! He's not to be harmed!" Shagrat grabbed the orc's arm and pulled the knife away.
"I was only trying to loosen his tongue, you fool! Garn, he's too far
gone for fun anyway." Gorbag released Frodo suddenly. "Shelob's kiss
has left him swooning!" Frodo slid down the wall to fall to his side,
inert with pain and fear. The orcs roared with laughter.
"Let's give him some time think about what's in store for him once he
gets to Lugbùrz! He'll wish he had been more cooperative, once
he meets the Questioner. Wish he was back here with his mates, he
will!" Harsh laugher grated loudly and then faded in Frodo's ears as
darkness loomed to take him again. There was a boom as a door slammed;
he felt to tremour through stone floor on which he lay. Then he was
"Sam, Sam!" Frodo whispered helplessly, "How could I have let you come
with me to Mordor, knowing that this would be our end?" The orcs must
have killed him, Frodo thought with crushing sorrow. Nothing else would
have kept him from Frodo's side. For some reason he couldn't bring
himself to say this aloud.
"And now they have the Ring as well." The place where it had hung,
chafing his flesh with the chain about his neck, felt cold and
strangely vunerable. He was more conscious of it than his own
nakedness. "It would be better to die now, if only they would let me."
Frodo lay in the red light of the lantern and wept, for his friends and
his home that he had failed to protect. The Shadow would soon cover
all. The Quest had failed.
Frodo lay for a time, it could have been hours or minutes; he was
barely aware of himself. Only the yawning blackness of his fear and the
echoing hollow feeling in his heart did he heed. The floor upon which
he lay was cold and fithy, covered with rags and straw. Every so often
a tremour ran through the stone, accompanied by a distant roar like
muffled thunder. The sky through the high window would turn from black
to red, slowly bleeding into sullen darkness again.
Exhausted and sick, Frodo could not sleep. The orcs would return soon
to continue their game. Or worse, they would take him to Barad-dur. The
very thought of this made Frodo's stomach sieze, and he retched. He
began to sweat; the poison of Shelob was being driven from him by the
foul but effective draught of the orcs. He could not control his
spasms; he vomited until his stomach was empty.
He fell back, weak and lightheaded. The sound brought Gorbag back up
the ladder, slamming the trapdoor open. He laughed at Frodo's state,
then cursed him for fouling the cell. The orc dumped a bucket of sand
over the waste. He had a bottle in his hand and taking Frodo by the
jaw, he poured it into the hobbit's mouth, water this time;
foul-tasting but only water.
The orc stared at Frodo for a moment, as if contemplating some evil
pleasure. Frodo felt the paralysis of the bird, hypnotized by the snake
that hungers. Softly, Gorbag spoke, "If not for the Orders, you would
already be dead, little fellow. I kinda hope that He lets me help with
the inquiry. I would take that as a reward for catching you. Yes,
Gorbag will have his reward." He tossed a chunk of hard bread and a
strip of meat onto the floor. "Eat that, and I'll give you more water.
You need to keep up your strength." His smile could not be pleasant
under any circumstance.
Frodo did not want to eat anything; he still felt sick. Gorbag raised
his scourge and cracked it on the stones near Frodo's head. Frodo
winced and shrank away.
With shaking hands, Frodo picked up the bread. He ate it without
tasting. It crumbled on his tongue like charcoal. He refused the meat.
Who could tell what manner of beast it had come from?
Gorbag smiled and ate the meat himself, with relish. Frodo tried to
keep images from his mind of his missing friend. The horror of his
imagination drew his throat tight shut, and tears sprang into his eyes.
The orc stared at him. He handed Frodo the water bottle and let him drink as much as he wanted.
Frodo handed him back the empty bottle. "Thank you," he said, by reflex.
The orc looked at him as if Frodo had cursed him. Without a warning, he
raised the whip and laid it with a snap against Frodo's pale flesh.
Frodo cried out in agony. It burned as if he had been touched by a
brand. He huddled within himself, trembling, waiting the next stroke.
Gorbag mastered himself. 'Not to be harmed', he told himself firmly.
"Speak only when your spoken to, rat!" he muttered, and slammed the
door behind him.
Frodo lay in pain and despair. Below he heard the orcs talking. Their
voices raised to shouts as the debate heated. There was the sound of
weapons clashing, and the screaming began. Frodo cowered and tried to
shut out the sounds. He felt a trickle down his side near the burning
lashmark, sweat or blood, he did not know. He kept his eyes closed and
wished that he was far, far away.
After a while he became aware of a strange sound. Not thunder or
quaking earth, nor the cries of orcs or shriek of wraiths that he
feared. It was a soft sound, and it climbed and murmured just below
Frodo's hearing. The other noises had fallen silent. There was just the
crackling of the fire in the red lantern above him, and the teasing
whisper in his ears.
Suddenly the sound became as song, sung strongly as if from a dream.
Frodo knew the words, though he could not have said where or when he
had learned them. He rolled over and crawled toward the trapdoor, where
the sound was clearer. It echoed up the tower. Frodo began haltlingly
to sing along.
"While here at journey's end I lie
In darkness buried deep
Beyond all towers strong and high..."
Frodo felt hot tears falling from the corners of his eyes as he lay. A
dream. It was all a dream. In the distance he felt the growing dread of
the approach of the Nazgùl, coming for him. Coming to take him
He heard the scrape of stone as a door opened below, and an orc shouted
at him to be silent. He ignored him. They were ordered not to harm him.
What could they do, that would be worse than what awaited him in the
Frodo sang louder.
"Above the Shadow rides the sun
There stars forever dwell
I will not say the day is done
Nor bid the stars farewell!"
The trapdoor flipped open with a boom. Frodo raised his arm to shield his head, and waited for the blow to fall.