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Old 12-03-2017, 05:25 PM   #1
Kuruharan
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Boots Frodo in the Tower of Cirith Ungol

I was recently rereading The Return of the King and came to the part of the Tower of Cirith Ungol where it reads:

Quote:
They stripped me of everything; and then two great brutes came and questioned me, questioned me until I thought I would go mad
-The Tower of Cirith Ungol
This passage gave me pause for the first time. What would Frodo have told them under the questioning? He clearly did not tell them much of value since Shagrat would (presumably) have told Sauron everything he knew about Frodo before he was (evidently) killed. The information in the possession of the orcs about the "spies" being some kind of strange dwarf-men, which was the closest to accurate information that the Mordor orcs had at their disposal must have come from Shagrat and the Morgul orcs that made it out of the Tower first. We don't have any idea who the Morgul orcs who made it out first were or their status but I don't believe it is safe to assume they would have been present in the interrogation given Shagrat's distrust of Gorbag's "lads".

The fact that the orcs did not glean more useful information out of Frodo is rather incredible.

Clearly, there is no reason to suppose that Shagrat and Gorbag knew the right questions to ask to really get to the bottom of things and Frodo would certainly not want to volunteer any information in that direction.

But that begs the question of what he could have told them to satisfy them. They did eventually leave him alone, which is stated in the passage:

Quote:
I didn't dare to move when I was left alone, or one of the guards came.
But the questioning did apparently go on for some extended period of time because Frodo describes it as "until I thought I should go mad."

I suppose he may have just refused to speak to them at all, and I would think it would take a long time of this before Shagrat and Gorbag grew bored and frustrated.

However, the timeline is interesting because Frodo's statement implies that some time passed between the end of his questioning and the beginning of the fight. The two captains did not begin the fight right there in front of Frodo.

They did not torture Frodo because of Sauron's orders and Frodo even said that he was not seriously hurt. That might have yielded some useful results...or it might not have. Again, if nothing else Shagrat and Gorbag would not have had the information needed to ask the right questions.

I have a hard time imagining that Frodo didn't say anything to them but I also cannot imagine anything he could have said that would not have raised more questions that I don't think Frodo would have been able to satisfactorily explain away to get them to leave him alone.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:37 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan View Post
Clearly, there is no reason to suppose that Shagrat and Gorbag knew the right questions to ask to really get to the bottom of things and Frodo would certainly not want to volunteer any information in that direction.
I agree. If the idea of an enemy trying to enter Mordor with the aim of reaching Mt. Doom in order to destroy the One Ring had not occurred to Sauron himself, lowly fighting-orcs couldn't have been any more perceptive regarding Frodo.

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But that begs the question of what he could have told them to satisfy them.
Well, I think it's safe to say the presence of Faramir's band in Ithilien was known to the orcs in the area. Frodo had a staff given him by Faramir, and maybe that would have been observed as being a product of Gondor. The orcs might have begun with the assumption that Frodo was indeed just a forsaken spy sent by the hated men of Minas Tirith.

Also, judging from the conversation of Shagrat and Gorbag as overheard by Sam, the orcs were considering that Frodo was the lesser of two spies in the area, the one still loose maybe being an elf-warrior. That being the case, Frodo himself would probably have been the main focus of the orcs' worries.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:51 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan View Post
I was recently rereading The Return of the King and came to the part of the Tower of Cirith Ungol where it reads:



This passage gave me pause for the first time. What would Frodo have told them under the questioning? He clearly did not tell them much of value since Shagrat would (presumably) have told Sauron everything he knew about Frodo before he was (evidently) killed. The information in the possession of the orcs about the "spies" being some kind of strange dwarf-men, which was the closest to accurate information that the Mordor orcs had at their disposal must have come from Shagrat and the Morgul orcs that made it out of the Tower first. We don't have any idea who the Morgul orcs who made it out first were or their status but I don't believe it is safe to assume they would have been present in the interrogation given Shagrat's distrust of Gorbag's "lads".

The fact that the orcs did not glean more useful information out of Frodo is rather incredible.

Clearly, there is no reason to suppose that Shagrat and Gorbag knew the right questions to ask to really get to the bottom of things and Frodo would certainly not want to volunteer any information in that direction.

But that begs the question of what he could have told them to satisfy them. They did eventually leave him alone, which is stated in the passage:



But the questioning did apparently go on for some extended period of time because Frodo describes it as "until I thought I should go mad."

I suppose he may have just refused to speak to them at all, and I would think it would take a long time of this before Shagrat and Gorbag grew bored and frustrated.

However, the timeline is interesting because Frodo's statement implies that some time passed between the end of his questioning and the beginning of the fight. The two captains did not begin the fight right there in front of Frodo.

They did not torture Frodo because of Sauron's orders and Frodo even said that he was not seriously hurt. That might have yielded some useful results...or it might not have. Again, if nothing else Shagrat and Gorbag would not have had the information needed to ask the right questions.

I have a hard time imagining that Frodo didn't say anything to them but I also cannot imagine anything he could have said that would not have raised more questions that I don't think Frodo would have been able to satisfactorily explain away to get them to leave him alone.
Maybe they had other things to attend to in the meantime? Such as itemising his possessions- which Shagrat had orders to do: "Prisoner is to be stripped. Full description of every article, garment, weapon, letter ring or trinket is to be sent to Lugbúrz at once, and to Lugbúrz only."

But it's also possible they left him alone deliberately, to let his imagination do the work. After all poor Frodo didn't know they weren't allowed to torture him.
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:15 PM   #4
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But it's also possible they left him alone deliberately, to let his imagination do the work. After all poor Frodo didn't know they weren't allowed to torture him.
I can see that happening, or something close. Maybe a pair of brutes sitting in his room and promising him all sorts of things to come, only throwing in an occasional question. To them it was more play, but Frodo could have taken it as questioning.

As far as what Frodo told them - it certainly wasn't much, going by what we have from the Mouth of Sauron. And if Pippin's fiasco with the Palantir can be used to judge all hobbits, he would have probably given as little as possible, some one-word answers or nods or something. What makes me wonder, though, is that the Mouth of Sauron never mentioned the second spy. The orcs knew of Sam's presence, and the question "did you come alone" does not seem very much out of repertoire. With even the shred of this knowledge, the Mouth could have bluffed and told them the other spy was also captured or killed. Is it all thanks to the orcs forgetting everything in the fight and then covering up their misses by failing to report the high suspicion of the second, more powerful spy? Is orc delinquency the only reason the whole plot failed through - Sam was not searched for properly and the Mouth inadvertently gave the spokespeople an indication that not all might be lost yet?
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:55 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
I agree. If the idea of an enemy trying to enter Mordor with the aim of reaching Mt. Doom in order to destroy the One Ring had not occurred to Sauron himself, lowly fighting-orcs couldn't have been any more perceptive regarding Frodo.
Would individuals like Shagrat and Gorbag have even been aware of the Ring?

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But it's also possible they left him alone deliberately, to let his imagination do the work. After all poor Frodo didn't know they weren't allowed to torture him.
That is true. He may have been told stories about lovely Lugburz and what to expect...at least they said that is what they would do.

Frodo may have been surprised that they did not physically harm him.
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Old 12-04-2017, 03:20 AM   #6
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It's also worth considering Frodo's state of mind (and body) at this point. To take a few select quotes:

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He was naked, lying as if in a swoon on a heap of filthy rags: his arm was flung up, shielding his head, and across his side there ran an ugly whip-weal.

`Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!’ cried Sam, tears almost blinding him. `It’s Sam, I’ve come!’ He half lifted his master and hugged him to his breast. Frodo opened his eyes.

`Am I still dreaming?’ he muttered. `But the other dreams were horrible.’

`You’re not dreaming at all, Master,’ said Sam. `It’s real. It’s me. I’ve come.’

`I can hardly believe it,’ said Frodo, clutching him. `There was an orc with a whip, and then it turns into Sam! Then I wasn’t dreaming after all when I heard that singing down below, and I tried to answer? Was it you?'

[...]

`Only that?’ said Frodo. `It seems weeks. You must tell me all about it, if we get a chance. Something hit me, didn’t it? And I fell into darkness and foul dreams, and woke and found that waking was worse. Orcs were all round me. I think they had just been pouring some horrible burning drink down my throat. My head grew clear, but I was aching and weary. They stripped me of everything; and then two great brutes came and questioned me, questioned me until I thought I should go mad, standing over me, gloating, fingering their knives. I’ll never forget their claws and eyes.’

[...]

`They’ve taken everything, Sam,’ said Frodo. `Everything I had. Do you understand? Everything!’ He cowered on the floor again with bowed head, as his own words brought home to him the fullness of the disaster, and despair overwhelmed him. ‘The quest has failed Sam. Even if we get out of here, we can’t escape. Only Elves can escape. Away, away out of Middle-earth, far away over the Sea. If even that is wide enough to keep the Shadow out.’
Frodo was still suffering from the effects of Shelob's poison when he was 'questioned' (whatever form that took). He was delirious - look at the nightmarish description of the Orcs, with his focus on 'their claws and eyes'. He was still not entirely connected with reality when Sam showed up - 'There was an orc with a whip, and then it turns into Sam'. Not 'and then Sam rescued me', but 'it turned into Sam'.

He was also filled with Orc-draught, which could have interacted in any number of ways with spider-venom. What does happen if you mix a powerful sedative with a powerful stimulant, both of them steeped in the Shadow? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say 'nothing good'.

And finally, he was (once he realised what was happening) in the depths of absolute despair - so far as he knew, the Orcs had the Ring. Look at that description of his failure; it has the lyrical construction of utter misery.

So: delusional, drugged both up and down, and sunk into despair. He thinks the Orcs know exactly what's going on - their gloating over capturing him reads, to Frodo, as gloating over reclaiming the Ring. Their questions, then - who are you? Why are you here? Is there anyone else with you? - must feel like purest mockery. They can't be expecting him to answer (Frodo thinks), because they already know everything that matters.
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Old 12-04-2017, 11:17 AM   #7
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And finally, he was (once he realised what was happening) in the depths of absolute despair - so far as he knew, the Orcs had the Ring.
That is a good point and points up a flaw in my original thinking. I overlooked Frodo's belief that the orcs had taken the Ring, which would mean that he would no longer have had a mission to try to protect.

Perhaps Frodo struck the orcs as so delusional and strange that there was little to learn from him and that is why they eventually left him alone.
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Old 12-05-2017, 01:28 AM   #8
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I can see that happening, or something close. Maybe a pair of brutes sitting in his room and promising him all sorts of things to come, only throwing in an occasional question. To them it was more play, but Frodo could have taken it as questioning.

As far as what Frodo told them - it certainly wasn't much, going by what we have from the Mouth of Sauron. And if Pippin's fiasco with the Palantir can be used to judge all hobbits, he would have probably given as little as possible, some one-word answers or nods or something. What makes me wonder, though, is that the Mouth of Sauron never mentioned the second spy. The orcs knew of Sam's presence, and the question "did you come alone" does not seem very much out of repertoire. With even the shred of this knowledge, the Mouth could have bluffed and told them the other spy was also captured or killed. Is it all thanks to the orcs forgetting everything in the fight and then covering up their misses by failing to report the high suspicion of the second, more powerful spy? Is orc delinquency the only reason the whole plot failed through - Sam was not searched for properly and the Mouth inadvertently gave the spokespeople an indication that not all might be lost yet?
I'd say Gandalf deduced that last from that fact that he (the Mouth) was attempting to bargain at all. If Sauron had had the Ring at that point, he'd have won.

It's like Werewolf. Once the pack has winning numbers, it's time to stop bluffing and start gloating, no?

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Old 12-05-2017, 09:32 AM   #9
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Fortunately for the good guys, there was only one survivor of the mutual slaughter at Cirith Ungol- Shagrat, who took the confiscated items to Barad-dur and was promptly executed for his trouble (this last in an unpublished MS.) It is entirely possible, even likely, that Sauron took his tale of a "great Elf warrior" as a lame excuse for what was plainly Orcs being Orcs (as the Nazgul probably would already have told him), a fiasco for which the commanding officer would be held accountable, in the usual Evil Overlord manner of enforcing discipline.
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.

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I'd say Gandalf deduced that last from that fact that he (the Mouth) was attempting to bargain at all. If Sauron had had the Ring at that point, he'd have won.

It's like Werewolf. Once the pack has winning numbers, it's time to stop bluffing and start gloating, no?

~Brought to you by the Foundation for Gratuitous Werewolf Comparisons.
Well also it's that you thought it was end-game but then you realized the wolves neglected to make a kill last Night and you have an extra person and therefore another game phase.
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Old 12-05-2017, 10:39 AM   #10
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It's like Werewolf. Once the pack has winning numbers, it's time to stop bluffing and start gloating, no?
++Nerwen

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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:

Quote:
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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Old 12-05-2017, 12:38 PM   #11
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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.
Would it have been possible for Shagrat to have kept anything back from Sauron at that juncture?
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Old 12-06-2017, 06:45 AM   #12
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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'm getting confused now. When did we start assuming the "Great Elf Warrior" story never got out of Cirith Ungol? I don't think that can be right, because later, in "The Land of Shadow", Frodo and Sam hide from a couple of Orcs who are unsure who or what they're supposed to be hunting:

"That comes from Higher Up. First they say it's a great Elf in bright armour, then it's a sort of small dwarf-man, then it must be a pack of rebel Uruk-hai; or maybe it's all the lot together."

And I believe Shagrat is the only possible source for that information (such as it was). Sounds like he might have changed his story several times, actually.

Anyway, I don't think the Mouth's failure to mention the presence of a second "spy" is, by itself, what tipped Gandalf off- he doesn't openly show scepticism until somewhat later, and then it pertains to the Mouth's "haggling". I'd say it's more that there's an accumulation of "tells" that make it clear that the Ring hasn't been recovered and that, in fact, he has no idea what the "spy's" real mission was (cf. my points and Huinesoron's).
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