As always, some spoilers present. Enjoy!
Fingolfin vs Morgoth
Fingolfin, the High-King of the Noldor, is probably my favourite character in ‘The Silmarillion’, by far. Not only managing his incredible feat in crossing the almost impassable route of the Helcaraxë, but his benevolent and non-violent nature has always stood out for me the most.
He is mainly renowned for his brave act at standing proud and unwavering against the fury and destructive power of Morgoth; and rightly so. Challenging him to a duel (to which Morgoth was scared to accept- imagine that!), the two find themselves engaged in an impressive fight that sees the Elf-warrior wounding the Dark Lord seven times (and ultimately maiming him for life).
The sheer bravery at taking on a superior foe (one’s an elf, the other is an angelic-power) single-handedly, has got to be a truly memorable moment in ‘The Silmarillion’, and a reminder of one of the most iconic individuals in Middle-earth.
Beren & Lúthien vs Morgoth
Beren and Lúthien, the most famous Man-Elf relationship of the First Age, find themselves on a quest to reclaim a Silmaril from the Dark Lord himself. After a quest beset of perils, which further reinforces the love between these two individuals, Beren and Lúthien manage to infiltrate Morgoth’s own fortress.
Using her magical qualities as a singer, Lúthien wooes the Dark Lord in a trance, in which Beren manages to extract one of the Silmarils from Morgoth’s crown.
No fighting is really involved – no violence or bloodshed, but plain emotions. Tolkien demonstrates how the power of Love (aided by a good chunk of Elven “magic”), is able to overcome the most impossible of obstacles – including Death itself.
Echtelion vs Gothmog
Imagine the scene: Morgoth has discovered his way into the hidden Elven city of Gondolin and has entrusted his servant (a Balrog by the name of Gothmog), to lead the forces and besiege the city. In a scene that goes from dark to worse (if that is even possible), the (first) Dark Lord’s forces break into the “impregnable” fortress, hacking their way through one of the darkest moments in ‘The Silmarillion’ – so dark, in fact, that it makes any reader of the book think: “If Gondolin falls, then truly will the good side lose completely”.
But, I digress … (maybe for another time).
The character of Gothmog finally finds his match as he confronts highly-skilled Elf-warrior, lord (and probably one of the coolest elves in Middle-earth), Ecthelion. Name sounds familiar? Perhaps you’ve read it, heard it, or even seen it in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, as the words: “Denethor son of Ecthelion”.
So, back to the subject … again.
This chapter in ‘The Silmarillion’, depicts these two individuals, meeting upon the battlements of a currently-besieged city, as they fight to the death. The descriptions in the book are very vivid and you can almost feel the tense and brutal atmosphere of the moment as it is unfolding – with the battle occurring in the background.
Gothmog is a character you love to hate. Having been involved in some of Morgoth’s most cruel acts throughout the narrative, it’s wonderful to finally see him meet his match in such an appropriate way.
As to the outcome of the fight between the two, I’m afraid you’ll have to discover that by yourselves 🙂 (trying to give those still non-Silmarillion-knowledgeable beings an incetive to pick up the book and read it!).
Bilbo vs Spiders
In a bid to avoid spoiling any unwary individuals on the story of ‘The Hobbit’ (in anticipation of the film’s release, even though I did warn you about spoilers – yes, I have a soft heart), I’m just going to skim through this particular example with as little detailed information, as possible.
The event sees Bilbo facing a horde of hideous spiders in the dark recesses of evil forest Mirkwood. The whole company of Dwarves (who have all been captured and neatly packed in tight cobweb string), depend on the courage and resolute determination of the hobbit, in trying to lure the spiders from their supper.
Sure, for the most part he uses the magical abilities of his recently-found Ring, to aid his way across dozens of the eight-legged creepy-crawlers; but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t require a good dose of guts and guileful tricks to keep his companions safe – not to mention a few good sword-handling moments when dealing death with his trusted dagger, Sting.
It is one of those instances in the book where the real character transformation of Bilbo becomes apparent – where the Took-ish side begins to take over. And clearly, from the very few shots we’ve seen in the new trailer for ‘The Desolation of Smaug’, Peter Jackson will certainly do this sequence the right amount of justice it deserves.
Sam vs Shelob
Talking about spiders, it would be appropriate to discuss the mother of all Middle-earth spiders (pun naturally intended). Yes, those pesky creatures in ‘The Hobbit’ are the offspring (or spawn, bleh!) of none other than Shelob herself.
Making a “diva-style” entrance in ‘The Two Towers’ (or ‘The Return of the King’ if you’re into the film-verse), Sam’s indomitable courage against a massively superior foe, in order to save his beloved master from a brutal death, is unquestionable and definitely marks an iconic moment in both book and film.
Having by now absolute dislike for the traitorous Gollum, managing to lure the two hobbits in the spider’s lair, we as audiences and readers find ourselves rooting 100% for Sam as he “swash-buckles” his way through the claustrophobic caverns of the monster, unwavering even in what would have seemed a definite last stand had not a slight sprinkle of Fate (a deep subject in Tolkien’s Middle-earth narratives which will be discussed in a future post) been at hand to help the hobbit.
Not only is the actual confrontation memorable, but also Sam’s own struggle once he gets hold of the Ring (thinking that Frodo is dead) is dramatic. This very crucial moment in the book (delved into later on in the film), determines Sam’s true heart and his even greater courage at not succumbing to the temptations of the Dark Lord’s weapon.
I’ve not stated it yet on this blog. But here it goes: Sam was, and is, my favourite character in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – the real true hero upon whose decisions the outcome of the story really depended upon. Simply fantastic.
Frodo vs Gollum
This is it. The final push, the doom hanging by a thread and the end of all things. Throughout ‘The Two Towers’ and ‘The Return of the King’, we’ve always been wary (and began hating, or pitying) Gollum’s “shifty” consciousness, leading to him betraying the hobbits at the hands of the above-mentioned creature.
Tolkien brilliantly creates a secondary narrative of sorts beneath the overall story, cleverly building up tension between the characters of Frodo and Gollum – placing the temptation for the Ring at the centre of both.
Needless to say therefore, that the confrontation between the two inside the Cracks of Doom (in ‘The Return of the King’) is such an “explosive” moment – not only since we find ourselves rooting for Frodo (hopefully), but also because of the high stakes currently depending on the outcome of this engagement – not least, the future of Middle-earth.
In the film, this “battle” is more prolonged, with Frodo lunging at Gollum in an attempt to wrench the Ring from him – playing strongly on the theme of Temptation. In the book, after a short, but bitter engagement (which leaves Frodo with a finger less), Gollum bursts into a very peculiar dance of joy which sends him toppling into the Fires of Mount Doom (yet again, Fate is at play here – and yes, a future post about that soon).
Despite the scene differences in the two, the outcome and impact on audience/readers is still the same. The emotion is all there and the memorable moment is certainly existent in the film and the book.
Suffice to say, there are more (or probably even better) confrontations that one can think of within the Tales of Middle-earth. If you’ve got any other suggestions, just let me know and I’ll do my best to conjure up another post with the new additions – and not only ones related specifically to Tolkien.
In the meantime, I’ll be covering some different ground in my next posts. 🙂
(Artwork copyright belongs to John Howe and Anke Katrin Eissmann for the illustration of Beren)
- Memorable confrontations in Film and Literature: Part I (atolkienistperspective.wordpress.com)