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Smeagol's metamorphosis into Gollum

noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 11 2017, 4:50pm

Post #1 of 17 (2056 views)
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Smeagol's metamorphosis into Gollum Can't Post

What does Smeagol look like before he gets the Ring (or, before the Ring gets him)?


Quote
"‘Long after, but still very long ago, there lived by the banks of the Great River on the edge of Wilderland a clever-handed and quiet-footed little people. I guess they were of hobbit-kind; akin to the fathers of the fathers of the Stoors, for they loved the River, and often swam in it, or made little boats of reeds."

FOTR I,2


I'm imagining he looked fairly hobbit like, and fairly different from Gollum as Bilbo first encounters hi in The Hobbit:


Quote
"Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum—as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face. He had a little boat, and he rowed about quite quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and deep and deadly cold. He paddled it with large feet dangling over the side, but never a ripple did he make. Not he. He was looking out of his pale lamp-like eyes for blind fish, which he grabbed with his long fingers as quick as thinking."

TH


So, although it's not completely explicit in the book, I'm thinking that the Peter Jackson movies got it pretty much right: showing Smeagol as a hobbit initially, and Gollum as a something much monstrous (rather than Smeagol looking like he does later, but jolly and better dressed)

What happened? And did the Ring have anything to do with it?

I notice that Gollum has a number of what look like adaptations for his lifestyle in the dark among rocks and pools. For example he has 'pale lamp-like eyes' (for dark vision?), and long, bony fingers. In LOTR we also encounter him as 'snuffling' (tracking by smell) and as having a most un-hobbit-like ability to climb head-first down a cliff. I'm not sure about the slime, btw : whether Gollum exudes it, or merely likes getting messy.

I'm wondering whether the Ring had a role in these physical changes. In particular, I'm wondering whether Smeagol's evil deeds and thoughts are manifesting in changes to his physical form?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 13 2017, 12:39pm

Post #2 of 17 (1991 views)
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When hobbits go bad [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm with PJ on this one: his movies came right from my head. The hobbits were an offshoot of Men originally, just short ones, so there's every reason to think that Smeagol looked like Frodo and Bilbo. But the centuries under the mountain caused him to evolve to adapt to his environment, which I would say is Darwinian, except that evolution is supposed to take place over generations and not all in one life, even if it's supernaturally lengthened to centuries.

So maybe one weird thing is that it seemed the Ring was actually trying to help Gollum adapt to the miserable solitary life he had adopted. Does the Ring ever *help* anyone but Sauron? I'm puzzled by this one. Certainly I think we're meant to infer that the Ring corrupted and twisted Smeagol's body as much as his brain/soul, but still, it could have made him into, I dunno, a vegetarian bat eating cave mushrooms or something, if it had no agenda and just wanted him to survive.

So my opinion is the Ring wanted to twist something good into something bad, and it did a good job of that, but it wanted to keep him alive until it had no other use for him.

But I'd say the larger Tolkien lesson is that evil itself twists & corrupts people, because Wormtongue is acting quite Gollum-like by the time he's in the Shire, eating Lotho and walking on all fours and talking to himself. I think that parallel is clear and deliberate, and in the Wormtongue case there was no Sauron or Sauron's Ring involved, only an impotent, evil, ex-wizard (Saruman). But Grima had pledged himself to what he knew was an evil cause, hoping for personal gain, and he was in so deep and full of servitude and bondage to that cause that he couldn't seem to mentally process the challenge from Gandalf in Dunland that he should just leave and find his own freedom.

So I derive from that story that Smeagol played a part in his own metamorphosis and it was not entirely due to the Ring. As another example, I'd cite the Mouth of Sauron who was so deep in servitude to evil that he'd forgotten his own name. Tolkien's point seems to be that you lose yourself in these situations and get twisted into a mockery of what you used to be. Maybe if the Mouth of Sauron and Grima were given centuries tacked onto their lives, they would have become Gollum-like creatures too, but perhaps without the night vision unless they'd gone spelunking too.


noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 13 2017, 1:24pm

Post #3 of 17 (1986 views)
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in Middle-earth, sins become teratogenic, perhaps? [In reply to] Can't Post

I like the example of Wormtongue, and the Mouth of Sauron. It does seem that behaving badly in Middle-earth can have exaggerated bodily consequences, no Ring of Power necessary. That reminds me of this comment about the Horror genre:


Quote
'Horror is about disproportion. It takes acts of cruelty or spite or neglect that are perfectly recognisable from the world as we know it ...and it amplifies them till they dominate the whole little world of the fiction, by having these ordinary causes produce extreme effects, sometimes supernatural ones. Another way of putting it is that, in horror, sins become teratogenic. ... It means, ‘giving birth to monsters’.

"The Child that Books Built" by Francis Spufford http://amzn.eu/1iRy1DS


~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 13 2017, 1:32pm

Post #4 of 17 (1987 views)
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Immortal evil? [In reply to] Can't Post

One is reminded of how Satan’s appearance degenerates from angelic beauty to frog-like repulsiveness in Milton’s Paradise Lost:

So saying, on [Gabriel] led his radiant files,
Dazzling the moon; these to the bower direct
In search of whom they sought: [Satan] there they found
Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve….


Evil makes him ugly, especially since a beautiful angel is supposed to be good.

Then there's the unnatural effect of immortality upon a mortal body. The forms of Great Ring wearing Elves and Maiar are pretty much unaffected (unless one goes nuclear). On the other hand the forms of Great Ring wearing mortal Men and Hobbits end up pretty nasty. Indeed the description of the Nazguls' paleness as well as their “haggard hands” seem to echo that of Gollum.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”




noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 13 2017, 2:11pm

Post #5 of 17 (1980 views)
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Evil makes you ugly? [In reply to] Can't Post

That sounds likely (and as you say is a reasonably widespread fiction trope).

Also, wasn't Sauron at one time able to manifest as an attractive person, only to lose that ability later?



We do of course also learn that evil might disguise itself as beautiful, but that this might not fool the discerning (I'm thinking of Frodo's 'look fair and feel foul' comment about Strider when they first meet).
I guess this idea also overlaps a little with my near-as cross-posting, about sins turning someone physically monstrous in Middle-earth.

PS - I don't think it works that way in Real Life. Or maybe I *would* say that :)
I remember reading or hearing somewhere about a photographer who had worked for a local newspaper, and had kept a file of portraits: people who had been in the local news for different reasons good or bad. He'd challenge people to sort out the criminals from the local heroes, based just on appearance. People couldn't do it.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 13 2017, 2:24pm

Post #6 of 17 (1981 views)
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Exhibit B: Bilbo's metamorphosis into Gollum [In reply to] Can't Post

Then, there's this:


Quote
Bilbo put out his hand. But Frodo quickly drew back the Ring. To his distress and amazement he found that he was no longer looking at Bilbo; a shadow seemed to have fallen between them, and through it he found himself eyeing a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands. He felt a desire to strike him."

Frodo shows Bilbo the Ring - FOTR 'Many Meetings' (my italics)


The effect this has on me is to make me think of Gollum immediately, and to imagine that Bilbo might potentially have become Gollum-like, had had made different choices, had different luck, and not had a powerful wizard for a friend. But, I think, maybe Bilbo has some inherent 'Gollumness'. And so Frodo must have too. I think we're being set up for Frodo's act of mercy in Taming of Smeagol, when he doesn't just have the wretched creature killed, as he proposed back in Book I Ch2.

But I don't know whether the 'little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands' best represents the damage the Ring has already done to Bilbo, or what exactly. Any thoughts?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 13 2017, 3:16pm

Post #7 of 17 (1975 views)
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And immortality makes you *really* old... [In reply to] Can't Post

...especially flying-in-the-face-of-nature immortality, as opposed to the real deal that elves have.

Just thought - some of the change that happen to Smeagol might just be regular ageing. In real life, us older folks can find it harder to maintain or increase muscle mass. So someone who remains very active, can become 'bony' - especially if they aren't all that well-fed.

That doesn't explain the big eyes, though...

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 13 2017, 3:30pm

Post #8 of 17 (1976 views)
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Also "Power according to his stature" maybe? [In reply to] Can't Post

Answering this part of your post:


In Reply To
So maybe one weird thing is that it seemed the Ring was actually trying to help Gollum adapt to the miserable solitary life he had adopted. Does the Ring ever *help* anyone but Sauron? I'm puzzled by this one. Certainly I think we're meant to infer that the Ring corrupted and twisted Smeagol's body as much as his brain/soul, but still, it could have made him into, I dunno, a vegetarian bat eating cave mushrooms or something, if it had no agenda and just wanted him to survive.

So my opinion is the Ring wanted to twist something good into something bad, and it did a good job of that, but it wanted to keep him alive until it had no other use for him.


That seems reasonable. I wonder also whether physical changes might be a monstrous outcome from something Smeagol desired (like that trope about wishes on magic items always giving you what you asked for, but in some way you won't like). Describing how the Ring changed Smeagol at first, Gandalf tells us:


Quote
"He became sharp-eyed and keen-eared for all that was hurtful. The ring had given him power according to his stature. It is not to be wondered at that he became very unpopular and was shunned (when visible) by all his relations."

FOTR Book I Ch 2


So the first changes are either to do with Smeagol literally hearing and seeing more keenly, or to do with becoming better at using what he finds out for, spiteful gossip, blackmail or other nasssty purposses.
I'd previously imagined 'power according to his stature' to be a matter of degree - for example, Smeagol is weak so the Ring doesn't give him much power. Gandalf, Galadriel or Aragorn are much stronger, so the Ring would give them a lot of power (but they are wise enough to realise that this would be a bad thing). But maybe the Ring doesn't only have the Power of Command, which it can dole out according to the stature of the bearer. Perhaps it has lesser gifts to offer, to do with sneakiness, and these gifts manifest perceptually at first, physically later?

What Gollum doesn't do is become the Chief Goblin (which is what one might expect if the only power the Ring could offer was about command).

It seems like yet another possibility...

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 13 2017, 6:36pm

Post #9 of 17 (1957 views)
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Metamorphosis or the deceits of the Ring? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure it's clear that Bilbo does turn into a Gollum-creature at all - the scene is entirely from Frodo's point of view, and he sees it through a "shadow", in much the same way as Frodo's vision of Sam is seen through a "mist" in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, when Frodo snatches the Ring from him:
“A mist seemed to clear from his eyes, and he passed a hand over his aching brow. The hideous vision had seemed so real to him, half bemused as he was still with wound and fear. Sam had changed before his very eyes into an orc again, leering and pawing at his treasure, a foul little creature with greedy eyes and slobbering mouth. But now the vision had passed.”
This reaction seems very similar to what happens with Bilbo, but this second one is very definitely a vision and not a real change. Based on this, I very much doubt that Bilbo actually changed either - nobody else noticed any change in him, it seems, but Bilbo himself noticed a change in Frodo:
“Bilbo looked quickly at Frodo’s face and passed his hand across his eyes. ‘I understand now,’ he said.”
I've always assumed this just meant that Bilbo noticed the expression of fear and possessiveness that must have passed across Frodo's face. But now I come to think of it, he may have had a similar vision himself, with Frodo as the greedy, grasping creature.

Since it's pretty clear that it's the Ring causing the hallucination in the Tower, I would argue that that's what happens in the Hall of Fire too. So my thought is that the "little wrinkled creature" represents the damage the Ring has already done to Frodo, who already can't see his own dear old uncle as himself any more when the Ring comes between them. It's a foreshadowing of the Frodo/Gollum relationship, for sure, but for me this moment is all about Frodo, not Bilbo. I think your idea that we're being set up for Frodo's act of mercy is a very good one - but perhaps it's telling us how much Frodo must have had to exert his will to do it, seeing as even in Rivendell he has to restrain himself from striking his dear uncle Bilbo just for asking to see the Ring.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 13 2017, 8:15pm

Post #10 of 17 (1947 views)
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It’s wonderfully unclear, as usual [In reply to] Can't Post

I don’t myself think that Bilbo ‘really’ turns into the small bony creature ( though that does also seem to be a reading that one can make from the text). I think Frodo is getting a vision of something, whether an enhanced look at truths that are usually invisible, or something quite false.

I like that idea of each hobbit seeing the other as an enemy, and yet being able to realise why that has happened (the Ring has, quite literally, come between them).

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 13 2017, 9:08pm

Post #11 of 17 (1943 views)
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Teratogenic--what a cool new word I learned [In reply to] Can't Post

Since we're discussing The Silmarillion in another thread, I was reflecting how sinful the Sons of Feanor are, yet they never become ugly at all. Even though Maedhros loses his hand when Fingon rescues him from Morgoth early on, that disfigurement is never considered ugly or a sign of divine punishment. To the contrary, Maedhros becomes an even fiercer warrior with only one hand. So oddly, sins don't hold you back in the First Age.

The exception is Morgoth, whose power is dispersed into his evil creations, and he becomes stuck in a physical body which he can't even heal from Fingolfin's and Thorondor's wounds.

But the rules of the Third Age are different, it seems. Or maybe the rules apply more to mortals than to Elves.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 13 2017, 9:13pm

Post #12 of 17 (1940 views)
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Why Gollum didn't become the Chief Goblin [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder if the reason goes back to the Ring giving power according to your stature, and Smeagol had no inherent leadership skills? If he had, he should have become leader/tyrant of his hobbit-kin, but instead he was banished. But it did enhance his already existing (nasty) traits, as you point out.

But think of Lotho somehow getting a hold of the Ring and ruling the Shire, and how he probably would have had a stronger hold over the ruffians as a result. Good or bad, Lotho seemed able to command people and amass power in a way that I doubt Smeagol ever could.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 13 2017, 9:18pm

Post #13 of 17 (1941 views)
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I must admit, serial killers in the news never look as evil as I wish they did. [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess some part of my psyche wishes they had some identifying snarl or sneer or other sign of having an evil disposition, but they usually don't. It is more of something we see in fiction than in real life. Exactly why it has persisted since the dawn of storytelling--that evil people almost always end up ugly--I'm not sure. It's not like we have centuries of proof that things work that way.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 13 2017, 9:24pm

Post #14 of 17 (1943 views)
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Did the Ring make Frodo more merciful? [In reply to] Can't Post

Back to the rule that the Ring makes you more of what you are: Frodo had borne it a long time when he and Gollum finally met. Did the Ring amplify Frodo's inner decency? Or did he struggle against the Ring's sinister influence when he decided to spare Gollum despite Sam's wishes? Or did the Ring play no part at all in this act?

It is hard to think of the Ring making anyone doing good, except that both Gandalf and Galadriel warned that it would start out that way, though it would ultimately lead to evil.

I personally would like to give Frodo credit for having grown & matured, developing empathy for Gollum that he didn't possess back in Bag End, and the Ring wasn't involved.


Petty Dwarf
Bree


Nov 8 2017, 10:52pm

Post #15 of 17 (1529 views)
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The Ring can't really make someone good. [In reply to] Can't Post

This was almost certainly Frodo's own inner goodness. However, the Ring probably would not have wanted Frodo to kill Gollum at this point, since Gollum could lead them into Mordor-- closer to its true master.

"No words were laid on stream or stone
When Durin woke and walked alone."


CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 9 2017, 3:08pm

Post #16 of 17 (1506 views)
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Thanks for your reply, Petty Dwarf, and welcome to the Reading Room! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Petty Dwarf
Bree


Nov 10 2017, 2:20am

Post #17 of 17 (1492 views)
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At your service! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you, CuriousG. I'm looking forward to participating in many discussions and learning a whole lot more about Arda.

"No words were laid on stream or stone
When Durin woke and walked alone."

 
 

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