You'd think this would be one of my least-favorite chapters, what with this having a giant spider in it and me loathing spiders so much. But actually, I find it quite exciting. Maybe it's just the change after all that endless walking and climbing? It helps that even though the text talks about her enormous legs and that she's spider-like, my imagination kind of turns her more into a crab and saves me from getting too creeped out.
Anyway, I think I'm never fonder of Frodo than I am here, when he holds up Galadriel's Phial and his sword and advances toward Shelob. Wow! That's so courageous. I'm getting goosebumps just remembering it. "Then holding the star aloft and the bright sword advanced, Frodo, hobbit of the Shire, walked steadily down to meet the eyes" (p. 705). Wooooooooow.
I find the bit of backstory on Shelob really fascinating. She "was there before Sauron" (p. 707) -- craziness!
Random other thing: it says here that Sam is smaller than Gollum! Not how I picture them (thanks to the movies). Huh.
And we return again to the idea of doing what must be done if there is no choice. Frodo says, "Orcs or no, if it's the only way, we must take it" (p. 701), which sounds so much like what Gandalf said before entering Moria: "However in may prove, one must tread the path that need chooses!" (p. 289).
They walked as it were in a black vapour wrought of veritable darkness itself that, as it was breathed, brought blindness not only to the eyes but to the mind, so that even the memory of colours and of forms and of any light faded out of thought. Night always had been, and always would be, and night was all (p. 702).
Tolkien says Sam hides the Phial out of "his long habit of secrecy" (p. 709). I don't recall Sam being secretive -- I tend to think of him as rather open. Does this strike you as incongruous? Or am I missing the secretiveness up until now? Or by 'secrecy' is he maybe referring to Sam's habit of hanging onto stuff and not bothering to mention he has it, like the rope?