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Old 12-05-2017, 10:39 AM   #12
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
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Originally Posted by Nerwen View Post
It's like Werewolf. Once the pack has winning numbers, it's time to stop bluffing and start gloating, no?

Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
I'm leaning towards Shagrat keeping mum about the whole thing about the Elf warrior in a "not my fault, I don't know anything, it was all Gorbag" kind of way.
I think this is true; and furthermore, I think the way Tolkien wrote the Mouth's speech is deliberately structured to slowly reveal how little he knows:

Originally Posted by RotK: The Black Gate Opens
The Messenger put these aside, and there to the wonder and dismay of all the Captains he held up first the short sword that Sam had carried, and next a grey cloak with an elven-brooch, and last the coat of mithril-mail that Frodo had worn wrapped in his tattered garments. A blackness came before their eyes, and it seemed to them in a moment of silence that the world stood still, but their hearts were dead and their last hope gone. Pippin who stood behind Prince Imrahil sprang forward with a cry of grief.

‘Silence!’ said Gandalf sternly, thrusting him back; but the Messenger laughed aloud.

‘So you have yet another of these imps with you!’ he cried. ‘What use you find in them I cannot guess; but to send them as spies into Mordor is beyond even your accustomed folly. Still, I thank him, for it is plain that this brat at least has seen these tokens before, and it would be vain for you to deny them now.’

‘I do not wish to deny them,’ said Gandalf. ‘Indeed, I know them all and all their history, and despite your scorn, foul Mouth of Sauron, you cannot say as much. But why do you bring them here?’

‘Dwarf-coat, elf-cloak, blade of the downfallen West, and spy from the little rat-land of the Shire-nay; do not start! We know it well - here are the marks of a conspiracy. Now, maybe he that bore these things was a creature that you would not grieve to lose, and maybe otherwise: one dear to you, perhaps? If so, take swift counsel with what little wit is left to you. For Sauron does not love spies, and what his fate shall be depends now on your choice.’
When the Mouth brings out the 'tokens', he is showing the Company things owned both by Frodo and Sam. So far as they know, this means that both hobbits have been captured, and the Ring reclaimed. The Mouth, then, is here to gloat, nothing more.

But then (appropriately enough) he opens his mouth, and reveals what he doesn't know - 'but to send them as spies into Mordor is beyond even your accustomed folly', he says, instantly telling Gandalf that he doesn't know about the Ring.

But he's still saying 'spies', plural, and here Gandalf (who still has no reason to doubt that both Frodo and Sam are prisoners) is simply lucky: he doesn't say anything to confirm that plural.

Then the Mouth puts his foot in it: he stops using vague plurals, and speaks of a single spy. Possibly the plural was a deliberate ploy (to try and tease out any information the Company might have about the inconsistency in Shagrat's story), possible just sloppy languages; whichever way it goes, instantly, Gandalf knows that only one hobbit was captured. He can't be sure which (the sword says Sam, the cloak says nothing, the vest says Frodo), but he can be confident that there is still a good chance that a Ringbearer is free in Mordor. He doesn't let it slip - telling the Mouth that would be the height of folly! - but it informs his actions thereafter. In effect, Gandalf has been brought to the exact same knowledge the reader has at this point.

As an aside: it's a real pity that no adaptation of the books will ever be able to capture the suspense of this chapter. A first time reader has no idea what's happening in Mordor. They know only that Sam is alone in Mordor, Frodo a captive - and now the Mouth says he's going to be tortured! And then the battle, and it's clear that the West is losing, that everything is going to fall... and away we cut to Book 6, and the eucatastrophe comes.

I'm also really surprised, looking at the chapter list, at how short the journey in Mordor is. It's only three chapters! The stuff the movies packed into the 'Endings' is twice as long as Frodo and Sam's journey from Shelob to Mount Doom! Eesh, it doesn't feel that way in the book, does it?

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