Middle-earth: Shadow of War is expanding its scope beyond the borders of Mordor and roping in new classic Lord of the Rings characters and villains, including Shelob, the giant Spider Frodo and Sam encounter in The Two Towers. Surprisingly, Shelob will be getting a bit of a makeover – she’s trading in the eight legs for an attractive human female form, which has raised a few eyebrows. Have Shadow of War developers Monolith Productions gone a little far with their re-interpretation of Tolkien’s works?
Well, GameCrate recently caught up with Shadow of War’s creative director Michael de Plater and The Walking Dead’s Pollyanna McIntosh (who will be playing Shelob) and asked about the new take on the Lord of the Rings baddie. According to De Plater, shapeshifting is actually a common thing in their take on Middle-earth.
"Our approach to Shelob and a lot of these characters is that they're spirits. They're effectively angels or gods, and they take on different forms depending on what their needs are. Shelob and her mother are these elemental spirits, so she can take on the form of a great spider, because that's absolutely terrifying, but she can also take on other forms, ‘fair forms,’ if she's communicating with Talion or Sauron."
Okay, I suppose I can accept the “they’re actually spirits” explanation, but why does Shelob take human form when she can be a badass intimidating spider? And why have we never seen this form before? McIntosh took a crack at explaining it from a character point of view…
"Shelob goes into the giant spider form after Sauron lets her down, and leaves her for dead. A spider is a creature that is singular and alone, and she's not interested in dealing with humans. She's building up this great grief and resentment, and by the time Talion comes along, that's been her form for so long. Talion almost forces her to step into this lighter form, in order to guide him. You almost see a mothering aspect in their relationship, so some of that resentment is lessened by their relationship."
Interestingly, later in the interview McIntosh let slip that her family actually knew J.R.R. Tolkien well, so I suppose if somebody’s going to re-interpret Shelob, she’s a good choice to do it.