I’ve finisehd The Two Towers. I’m 2/3 done in my slow trek through The Lord of the Rings. The last three chapters were terrifically exciting, and terrifying in their presentation of Sam and Frodo journeying into Shelob’s lair. I found Shelob to be a fascinating character. Tolkien tells you a lot more about her than is revealed in the movies. In the book, Gollum worships her (724). Also, she is revealed to be older even than Sauron (723), and known to Sauron, who sends her prisoners for her to make prey of (724). Here is a sample from this section, right after Frodo lights the Phial of Galadriel:
“But other potencies there are in Middle-earth, powers of night, and they are old and strong. And She that walked in the darkness had heard the Elves cry that cry far back in the deeps of time, and she had not heeded it, and it did not daunt her now. Even as Frodo spoke he felt a grace malice bent upon him, and a deadly regard considering him. Not far down the tunnel, between them and the opening where they had reeled and stumbled, he was aware of eyes growing visible, two great clusters of many-windowed eyes – the coming menace was unmasked at last. The radiance of the star-glass was broken and thrown back from their thousand facets, but behind the glitter a pale deadly fire began steadily to glow within, a flame kindled in some deep pit of evil thought. Monstrous and abominable eyes they were, bestial and yet filled with purpose and with hideous delight, gloating over their prey trapped beyond all hope and escape” (720).
Peter Jackson did an awesome job bringing this story to the big screen, but no movie could ever make a creature as terrifying as this one in the book!!
This is one example of what I see thus far as the greatest theme of Tolkien’s work – its vivid presentation of the nature of evil as seductive, oppresive, terrifying, and utterly dark and terrible.