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Now alone, Frodo follows Gollum’s lead. He is beckoned to enter the dank mouth of a tunnel. Hesitant, he falters, but Gollum prods him. “Go in, or go back.” Shore’s music here is unusually dissonant, seemingly free of the tones that have thus far painted Middle-earth. Something is very wrong. The orchestra moves in opposing directions, the linear counterpoint thickening into a complex web. A chromatic eight-note motive in bassoon and low strings falls, striking an oddly regular rhythmic profile. Frodo is surrounded by death. The moldering carcasses of birds and Orcs hang from the ceiling; bone fragments litter the ground. Frodo darts away as a slew of sixteenth notes scramble through the orchestra.

Outside, Sam descends the stairs. He still sobs, and is backed by a chromatically altered Evil Times. He loses his footing and falls down the steps, landing by the lembas bread that Gollum tossed aside. He looks to the top of the stairs, the strings’ scrambling sixteenths returning.

Now in a full panic, Frodo wildly searches the web-encrusted tunnel for an exit. But the more he struggles to depart, the deeper in he seems to find himself. The orchestra’s strings frantically bowing, Frodo flails in the dark until he finds himself ensnared in web. He remembers the Light of Eärendil, the phial Galadriel gave him so long ago, hearing her words in his head, “May it be a light for you in dark places, where all other lights go out.” Celli and basses sing Lothlórien, a theme that was at one time so foreign, so exotic and dangerous, but is now a welcome friend and ally. But the warmth is short lived, and the end of the melody shoots up in a noisome portamento. The light has exposed what lurks behind Frodo—Shelob!

The orchestra wriggles, contrapuntal fragments entwining and disengaging independently. The beast rears, hungry to feast upon Frodo, but warded off by the light. Frodo darts down a narrow corridor, thinking he has evaded Shelob, who is too large to follow. The orchestra charges, variations on the stepwise opening of the Seduction theme playing in fitful bursts, not unlike the music heard in Moria. But its forward momentum runs aground, restrained by jittering twitters and dissonant swells. Frodo is caught, suspended in an enormous web. The eight-note phrase returns. Shelob has come to claim her prize.

With a static trill, Gollum pops up from behind a boulder, taunting Frodo, finally revealing that, yes, he is more than ready to see the hobbit dead. The eight-note theme sounds again, this time clearer. Shelob approaches. Frodo slices at the web with Sting, hobbity rhythms singing sour dissonances behind him—as if the Hobbits’ Antics figure were spoiled into a desperate action motif. At the last minute, Frodo is able to escape, leaving behind his sword in the process.

But as soon as he is out of Shelob’s range, Gollum’s spindly form tackles him. Low brass chords are speared with individual pitches, doubled in octaves as Gollum tries wildly to snatch the Ring from around Frodo’s neck. But, driven by the Ring, Frodo protects it with an equal fervor. He turns the tables on Gollum, taking the offensive, beating him down to the ground. The music is unchanged. Be they instigated by a villain or a hero, the violent actions dictated by the Ring are equally awful.

In a harsh trill of woodwinds and strings, Frodo remembers himself. The six-note version of the Evil of the Ring sounds distantly as he falls back off Gollum. He cannot kill this wretch. But Gollum has no such qualms. Frodo tells him he plans to destroy the Ring. The low end of the orchestra shudders as string lines amass above, again suggesting Evil. Gollum throws himself murderously at Frodo, but topples over him and down the side of a cliff. Cor anglais sounds Evil’s six-note theme one more time as Gollum plummets down into darkness.

Frodo is overwhelmed with exhaustion. He drops but, just as he hits the ground, experiences a vision. He is back in Lothlórien. Flutes play with the clean, bright open fifth intervals of Elvenkind, soon to be joined by wordless female chorus. A glowing figure draped in white appears as the cor returns Galadriel’s theme to The Lord of the Rings for the final time. She offers Frodo her hand and, with a sudden, slight crescendo, lifts him back to his feet.

© The Annotated Score (The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films)

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