Beasts

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
To be more specific, the book does say that she wants to "sting" Sam, and that he is out of stinging range when he is under her, but it does not describe a kind of bee sting in her abdomen.
 

MithLuin

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Tolkien uses the word 'sting' to describe a spider bite. He does not describe Shelob as having a stinger like a bee. That was an interpretation chosen for the films, as I guess they thought it was more dramatic than just having her threaten to squash Sam with her belly.

No real-life spider has a stinger like a bee or wasp, of course. That was a fantasy element of Shelob's design.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
I don't necessarily agree that the abdomen stinger is a completely off-base interpretation, especially the way it is described. Tolkien wasn't a biologist, and he didn't have Google. Considering how many misconceptions people currently have about spiders, it would not surprise me to find that Tolkien made a mistake in this regard. That said, I prefer to assume he did not and was, as you say, using "sting" to mean "bite". As to Ungoliant, do you think giving her solifuge jaws would work?
 

MithLuin

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I am getting flashbacks to a conversation I had in 2004 on this topic on another Tolkien forum, so I'm just going to copy/paste from that if people don't mind!

What we know about Shelob:

her eyes appear in two clusters.​

"her out-thrust head. Great horns she had, and behind her short stalk-like neck was her huge swollen body, a vast bloated bag, swaying and sagging between her legs; its great bulk was black, blotched with livid marks, but the belly underneath was pale and luminous and gave forth a stench. Her legs were bent, witih great knobbed joints high above her back, and hairs that stuck out like steel spines, and at each leg's end there was a claw."​

Then she runs and jumps after Frodo.​

She uses her "great forelegs" to carry Frodo's body away - are these the pedipalps?​

the "green-yellow slime" is either her blood, or whatever the 'poison' is that came from the wound to her belly.​

Her body is often described as "squelching" - or in some other way softish, squishable. Does that matter for classifying her?​

As I read it, the "livid marks" are on the top of the body, not underneath. Not sure if that is helpful.
As for the 'sting':

"There she crouched, her shuddering belly splayed upon the ground, the great bows of her legs quivering, as she gathered herself for another spring-this time to crush and sting to death: no little bite of poison to still the struggling of her meat; this time to slay and then to rend."

Shelob is not described as having a stinger, per se. When Sam is under her, he is "out of the reach of her sting and of her claws". The claw has already been mentioned on the end of the foot. The sting is her poison, I would think - the vemon from her bite. Later it says: "her beak drabbling a spittle of venom" and of Frodo: "Shelob with hideous speed had come behind and with one swift stroke had stung him in the neck." Of course, the movie Shelob has a stinger, which gives her a reason to try to come down on Sam. But they have to have her above Frodo for it to work.
But the more significant point is actually from Letters:

"I knew that the way was guarded by a Spider. And if that has anything to do with my being stung by a tarantula when a small child, people are welcome to the notion (supposing the improbable, that any one is interested). I can only say that I remember nothing about it, should not know it if I had not been told; and I do not dislike spiders particularly, and have no urge to kill them. I usually rescue those whom I find in the bath!" Letter 163

So, yes, for whatever reason, Tolkien refers to spider bites as stings - even real-world spider bites. Since spiders don't have stingers and Tolkien never says that Shelob or Ungoliant does have a stinger, I have no reason to imagine them with one.


Source: http://forums.theonering.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=79736&start=35
 
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Haakon

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I'm sort of stuck with a picture of a black widow with the head of a tarantula and the fangs of a camel spider...
 

Haakon

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It looks great but... I would like long, thin legs and a huge body. Also, not so much hair.
 

MithLuin

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The sting they gave Shelob in the film was likely because they may have had trouble figuring out a way to deliver her venom by her fangs alone.

As to spider "beaks" ... There is the camel spider. True, it's not really a spider, but Ungoliant could at least have the mouth parts of one, no?

I am fine with that beak; it's apparently quite strong. One difficulty is that Solifugae don't have venom, so there's no venom-delivery-system in that mouth, but that's a minor detail we can work around, no doubt. Also, the name means "those that flee from the sun," so that's rather apt.

Hairy is fine on a spider, but probably not so hairy that it obscures the shape.
 

Marielle

Well-Known Member
I don't have my Tolkien library with me right now but as I remember, Tolkien mentions the 'beak' of Shelob a few times as a feature that is really scary. The chosen spider should have one of those, whatever that is. (To me 'beak' doesn't sound like something a spider has, but then English isn't my first language.)
A bit late, but you're right, Haakon, that "beak" is not a word usually used in English to describe the pincers of a spider.I don't know enough about Old/Middle English literature to know if that's an old-fashioned way of speaking of a spider's bite, but I've never heard it in conversation outside of discussions of Tolkien.

Nick's suggestion of the camel spider's maw is interesting, and would work. Our Ungoliant/Shelob probably won't be a one-for-one of any particular spider species, but if we're committed to a "beak", camel s. is a good start.
 

MithLuin

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Oh look, it's an adorable friendly spider who is shy and (usually) doesn't bite humans!*


*Okay, so this is the six-eyed sand spider, one of the 5 most deadly venomous spiders in the world, but, you know, it's still kinda cute.....

The Brazilian Wandering Spider is extremely venomous, aggressive, and also has that 'rearing up' thing going on, so it might be an acceptable alternative to the Sydney Funnel Web...but it is a different color. Does that matter to us?

 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Couple notions.

1) We could choose to (or choose not to) mess about with the mandible/"beak" in such way as to make human speech seem... plausible(?) coming out of it.

2) I have a buddy who is an entomologist and famously pedantic, and he would be pleased so far with how well the group here has been correctly using "poisonous" and "venomous", which have very different meanings and get misused all the time (spiders are venomous, mushrooms are poisonous). Good work!

3) I think it would be marvelous if Ungoliant took the form of whatever type of spider most suited the task at hand - spinning, jumping, running, biting, etc. Maybe with some sort of distinctive markings or features that carry across.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
So as to the first point, the hosts seem extremely opposed to the idea of the spider-form actually talking. To the point where they originally wanted the spider obscured from view up until the time of the physical altercation.

As to the third ... I don't know that we really need to go there. I am confident that the audience will accept that a single mythological creature will be able to do all of those things without having to shift form.

As to the second... we try. ;)
 

MithLuin

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I think we should just steal whatever characteristics we need from each type of spider. For instance, the camel spiders do not have the extreme flexibility you associate with spiders, as they don't have spinnerets and don't need to contort their abdomens. They're very fast, but likely don't have a 'spider' gait. But we can totally steal their mouths (and just add fangs for the poison).


I think the tarantula shown at the 5 min. mark in this video is worth considering. There's some pattern to it, which could be emphasized as livid splotches, and the head does have 'horns' where the eyes are.

The advantage of the Black widow is the coloring screaming venomous (thanks for the heads up, Mike) and the long spindly legs really stretching out from the body. We would have no worries with viewers perceiving the form as dangerous. Might be a bit 'delicate' for Ungoliant, but definitely influenced John Howe's illustrations.

 
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