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Posts Tagged ‘Gollum’

I’m travelling toward Mordor with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum; currently Sam has just stewed his coneys in the glade of Ithilien, and Faramir and his men have happened upon them. I want to take a step back, though, and talk for a moment about Gollum. He irritates me beyond belief, but as my wise friend Seth says, he is “one of the most necessary evils in all literature.” Tolkien traces the hobbits’ journey with Gollum in sometimes tedious detail, but as I read through it again, I begin to understand why. Gollum exemplifies the human struggle, which is also Frodo’s struggle, between darkness and light. His two halves, Smeagol and Gollum (whom Sam calls Slinker and Stinker) are constantly at war, provoking pity in Frodo, frustration in Sam, and both reactions in the reader. Tolkien uses several devices to bring out Gollum’s struggle: for example, a green light flashes in his eyes when his evil side takes over, and he also uses “us” to refer to himself in that mode. When in Smeagol mode his eyes are lighter, and he refers to himself as “I” and even gives the hobbits anecdotes about when he was young.

Throughout the journey, Frodo never gives up the hope that there is yet some good in Gollum; he remembers his conversation with Gandalf in Moria and the wizard’s comment that “the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.” Sam is suspicious of Gollum from the beginning and enmity grows between them, but Frodo treats Smeagol kindly and always tries to help bring out his better side. This is a really fabulous picture of a persistent friend trying to minister to a hurting friend…although at times I want to tell Frodo to give up, that Gollum is hopeless, I admire his strength of spirit, even while the Ring is weighing on him with an ever greater power. Sam, watching the two of them, realizes with amazement that they are “akin and not alien”…Frodo can empathize with Gollum because they are fellow Ring-bearers. Instead of writing Gollum off as hopeless, or loathing him for what he has become, Frodo remembers the toll the Ring has taken on Gollum and is kind to him because of it. He may also be thinking (though the book does not give this much detail) that he could possibly be in Gollum’s place someday. He treats Gollum as he would like to be treated if he were in the same position. Tolkien uses this relationship to make a powerful statement about kindness to, and faith in, people who seem hopeless.

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