As Frodo and Sam sleep en route to the cross-roads, Gollum and Sméagol hold their final internal dialogue. Shore’s Menace theme begins this composition, though it’s soon intercepted by the opening triplets of the Pity of Gollum. Sméagol’s transformation into Gollum illustrated the pity of the creature’s servile devotion to the One Ring. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers presented that needy creature in all his sadness. This was the Gollum represented by Shore’s Pity theme. By The Return of the King, Gollum has made a choice. He has put aside the neediness, the vestigial traits of Sméagol, and has decided to kill Frodo and Sam in order to retrieve his precious Ring. Shore’s Pity theme appears very little in this score, though its broiling, seething relative will dominate a later sequence. The cimbalom-based Menace of Gollum overtakes the creature’s musical representation, vellicating with deadly intent. As Sméagol enthusiastically agrees to follow through with Gollum’s plan to deliver the hobbits to “her” the Pity theme all but hands the reigns of this ravaged creature over to Menace.
Sam overhears this conversation, and attacks Gollum, branding him a murderer. Pinched brass over trilling winds and strings and rumbling percussion recall Sam and Gollum’s first violent encounter in The Two Towers. Angry brass chords accompany the accusations Sam spits at Gollum, but Frodo won’t hear them. Gollum turns the tables, accusing Sam of having a vendetta against him.
Frodo steadies Sam. A tender string passage begins as Frodo reminds Sam that they need Gollum’s guidance. Harp arpeggios over emotive triads play to the emotional weight that both Frodo and Sam are carrying, and the rift it threatens to tear in their friendship. With a final dissonant suspension Gollum retakes the lead, shooting a sneering half-smile back at Sam.
Listening Example: Disc One | Track Eight| 0:00
Just as Gollum was once nearly a hobbit, the cimbalom was once nearly a standard hammered dulcimer. Developed in the Nineteenth Century, the cimbalom is an elaborate Hungarian variant on the dulcimer—with nearly twice the range and a chromatic tuning. Like the dulcimer, the strings of the cimbalom are struck with small hammers that create a tactile, twitchy sound that matches the character of Gollum’s Menace theme.
© The Annotated Score (The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films)
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