34

Did Frodo take it off? Or was the fell spider's sting simply too strong to be stopped by Mithril?

If it is the latter, that would be pretty surprising, because that would mean Shelob could possibly sting a sleeping dragon! (I remember Gimli saying "Mithril... hard as dragon scales!")

  • 8
    Didn't she sting him in the neck? Or was that someone else? – TLP Dec 21 '12 at 15:49
56

She stung him in the neck.

From "The Choices of Master Samwise"

She's got more than one poison. When she's hunting, she just gives 'em a stab in the neck and they go as limp as a boned fish, and then she has her way with them.

So the mail would not have protected him.

  • 5
    Therefore the movie depiction, though more practical and artistic, is incorrect. One might surmise for the movie that she got in below the chainmail's lower edge; it was only a shirt, so maybe she got him in the pelvis area? – KeithS Dec 21 '12 at 22:26
  • 9
    @KeithS and had her way with 'em? Most likely. – AncientSwordRage Dec 22 '12 at 8:02
13

In support of DQdlM's answer, Shelob doesn't pierce Frodo's mithril chainmail at all.

While in the book she stings him in his unprotected neck, it's clear that this doesn't happen in the movie! We see Shelob stinging Frodo from the front (since he turns to face her just before getting stung) and we can clearly see his neck is unhurt, so that's not the place. (As a bonus, we can see Shelob has a stinger, unlike real-world spiders. But that's neither here nor there).

However, I can still provide evidence that Frodo doesn't get stung through his chainmail. In this scene just minutes before his encounter with Shelob, we can see the mithril coat is actually way below his neck. Frodo's upper chest is unprotected!

enter image description here

Later we can clearly see at least two of his wounds: the wound from the Nazgul, and the other must be Shelob's attack, within his exposed upper chest.

enter image description here

and

enter image description here

Which makes us wonder why Frodo didn't wear his chainmail in a more practical fashion.

Disclaimer: evidence gathered from the forums of TheOneRing.net

  • 10
    This amply illustrates the perils of style over substance. Open neck Mithril shirt = big hole where bad things can stick their sharp bits. He might as well have been wearing a chain mail bikini – user11154 Dec 22 '12 at 20:25
  • 1
    Wasn't the shirt originally made for a dwarf? It could simply be hanging a little low on a smaller hobbit frame. – user1786 Apr 1 '14 at 3:23
  • 2
    I believe the hobbit book states that it was originally made for an elven prince, but I may be wrong – Steven Wood May 15 '14 at 9:02
  • 3
    +1 For the "unlike real world spiders" which do not have stingers (their poison is administered through their chelicerae). – Lexible Aug 25 '15 at 19:40
9

Chainmail is composed of small rings, interlinked together. Against some piercing weapons it was ineffective. Arrows in particular could still injure the wearer. And since the monster would only need to penetrate it enough to inject poison (unlike an arrow that causes more injury the further it goes through), it doesn't seem that this would be much of an impediment to Shelob.

enter image description here

  • 9
    Going by the movie would indicate that Shelob's fangs are about the size of baseball bats and very unlikely to pierce through the rings. Note also that real chainmail rings will break allowing piercing weapons to penetrate whereas Mithril rings will almost certainly not. – user11154 Dec 21 '12 at 15:23
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    @UserEleventyOne Going by the movie, Shelob's stinger was not located in her fangs, but was instead on the end of her abdomen. Additionally, as already mentioned, the stinger only needs to penetrate enough to break the skin, in order to effectively poison the target. – Xantec Dec 21 '12 at 15:30
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    @UserEleventyOne Well, she is a magical creature in a fantasy story. – Xantec Dec 21 '12 at 15:49
  • 2
    @Xantec Yes, but Mithril chainmail is also fantasy armor. No, Shelob couldn't pierce it or bypass it with its stinger; that's why she stung Frodo in the neck. – Andres F. Dec 21 '12 at 19:53
  • 3
    @WadCheber Tolkien admitted he was too scared of spiders to examine their anatomy closely. :P – Ber Jun 15 '16 at 2:49
5

Shelob was no ordinary foe. It was of a "higher" (or lower) lineage than your average dragon. Recall that Shelob was the "last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world", where Ungoliant destroyed more or less everything that's fair in Valar (together with Melkor). Plus, a chainmail is not particularly effective against piercing weapons.

  • 4
    That just makes Sam freaking Legendary. – Aditya M P Dec 21 '12 at 15:20
  • 2
    @adityamenon agree. In a previous question is discussed if Sam is the "true hero" of the LotR: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/6238/… – Francesco Dec 21 '12 at 15:24
  • @adityamenon - I don't think Sam has so many upvotes – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 21 '12 at 16:41
  • 1
    Thank you for giving me a chance to vote The Mighty Sam, who did things that would have even made Aragorn quake in fear.. – Aditya M P Dec 21 '12 at 16:53
  • Shelob was not ordinary foe, but neither is Mithril ordinary chainmail. Shelob stung Frodo's neck, which was unprotected. – Andres F. Dec 21 '12 at 19:55
5

The Mithril only covers his torso, not his whole body, so unless it's explicitly mentioned where Shelob stings Frodo we have to assume that she gets an uncovered area.

  • She doesn't bite, she uses a stinger on her butt, and the book specifically says (at least twice) that she stung him in the neck. – Wad Cheber May 23 '15 at 6:45
4

The final draft of the script was much closer to the book than the final film; Shelob stings Frodo in the neck, rather than the shoulder:

CLOSE ON: FRODO suddenly senses the LURKING MALICE... he SPINS AROUND: Before he can react, SHELOB VICIOUSLY STABS FRODO in the NECK with her monstrous abdominal STINGER!

Return of the King (2003)

As far as I know there's been no official comment on why this was changed in the final version.

1

I agree that logic takes a place in fantasy but so also does imagination...I mean think in fantasy mithril is renowned for being extremely hard and durable. and may even have "magical" properties. But logically yes piercing weapons (including the fangs/stinger) would be effective against chainmail, normally. but in the movie you get several good looks at just how fine the rings in Frodo's mail is. we also see a troll attempt to kill Frodo with a hefty thrust with a spear of sorts. the pressure alone would be enough to kill a Halfling without actually piercing his body. we can assume that Frodo was not wearing his mail properly when the spider stings him. you can get a good idea of the trajectory of the stinger going straight to his gut .... I think its safe to assume that the spiders stinger has a point just fine enough to pierce Frodo's mail and puncture his skin..... abet barely....

0

Or he simply wasn't wearing his armour as he was traveling and climbing at the time he was captured. He likely stored the armour in his backpack, from where the orcs looted it after his capture.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! Do you have any references or evidence that could support your answer? It would really benefit your answers to be more substantial. – kjw Jan 28 '16 at 21:59
-3

It's really a flaw in the story. If Frodo really were stabbed in the chest with something as large as Shelob's stinger, realistically, good luck with surviving. Also, for those of you saying that chain mail is vulnerable to stabbing, Frodo got stabbed with a very large spear by a troll, and didn't get hurt at all. Lastly, how is it that the wound is already a scar when Frodo was stung just a couple of hours beforehand?

  • Shelob is intentionally keeping them alive for later eating, as spiders do. So she would have learned on Orcs over the centuries how to stab lightly and inject venom correctly to not kill him. – Oldcat Jul 24 '14 at 21:19
  • The movie gets everything in that scene wrong. There is no flaw in the book, because she simply stings him in the neck. The mithril is doing its job, but it only protects what it covers. – Wad Cheber May 23 '15 at 6:51

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