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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Analysis of Gollum

Registered User

Sep 8 2012, 9:46pm

Post #1 of 11 (1146 views)
Analysis of Gollum Can't Post

I am a rookie to the Lord of the Rings series, but I am loving them nonetheless. I just finished the Two Towers. I love the progression and maturity of the characters throughout this book. I found some of Gollum's actions strange though. It is obvious that he is gaining the hobbits' trust in order to escape but also true that he is controlled by the ring wholly, that he must submit to the ring and therefore Frodo. Here's where I find confusion...why does Gollum caress Frodo when he is sleeping? Sam catches him and love is implied, but I do not what that says about Gollum's character. Please respond with your opinions!!

Tol Eressea

Sep 8 2012, 10:00pm

Post #2 of 11 (729 views)
Hallo [In reply to] Can't Post

- good question. In The Shadow of the Past, Gandalf says that Gollum was not wholly ruined; there was still a corner of his mind which could not be conquered. Tolkien himself said in a letter that to him, this shows a tragic side to real life - that a good person (Sam) could react in this way; what finally tipped Gollum over the edge (as it were) was an unpremeditated speech by the most unselfish character of all.



Sep 8 2012, 10:24pm

Post #3 of 11 (821 views)
Gollum is a very complex character. [In reply to] Can't Post

Smeagol was a pretty nasty character even before he got the Ring. And, yes, he is completely controlled by it. But he has also led an incredibly lonely and miserable existence for many years, and Frodo is probably the first person since his youth who treated him with respect and kindness. Tolkien describes Frodo's attitude as "pity", but it isn't the kind of deprecating "feeling sorry for" pity that we think of, but more of sympathy and understanding. Gollum in this scene is finally responding positively.

Tolkien wrote ("Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien" #246), "For me perhaps the most tragic moment in the Tale comes [in the episode on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, which you're referring to] when Sam fails to note the complete change in Gollum's tone and aspect... His repentance is blighted, and all Frodo's pity is wasted."

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Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Sep 8 2012, 10:26pm)


Sep 9 2012, 2:46am

Post #4 of 11 (694 views)
To add [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with everything said so far. I'd also add that Frodo is the first person Gollum has ever met who has the slightest first-person understanding of the burden of the ring.

I think this is pretty important. Gandalf reports that the elves who held Gollum captive showed him what pity they could, but doesn't suggest that Gollum is capable of responding with any warm feeling of his own. I don't know if I'm over-reading here, but my impression is that ordinarily, Gollum is incapable of anything but self-absorption. But when he meets Frodo - a hobbit, as he once was; a ring-bearer, as he once was - something buried deep inside him flickers back to life. Not enough to overcome the power of the ring over him, but enough to allow him some brief moments of humanity...

Grey Havens

Sep 9 2012, 3:51am

Post #5 of 11 (730 views)
One has to wonder [In reply to] Can't Post

what would have been if Sam had not spoken so harshly. Could Gollum have redeemed himself?

Of course, it is only through Gollum that the Ring was destroyed... ultimate payback.

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Sep 15 2012, 9:11pm

Post #6 of 11 (683 views)
Also [In reply to] Can't Post

Smeagol was a halfling, twisted and ruined by the Ring. As wistful as it may seem and even though the Ring drove him to madness, madness enough to kill his kinsman Deagol, deep inside he regretted it and deep down inside loathed himself because of the guilt for it. Being around Sam and Frodo reminded him of this, but don't forget after leaving the doorstep of the Black gates he plotted to kill them via Shelob. Perhaps Frodo's pity which he mistook for sympathy allowed him to temporarily harbor the illusion and denial, but when Faramir's men roughed him up that snapped him out of it back to his murderous ways .

Take this Brother May it Serve you Well
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Sep 16 2012, 1:54am

Post #7 of 11 (659 views)
Roughing it [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't remember Faramir's men "roughing up" Gollum. They grabbed him, pinned him, and took him prisoner to be interviewed with Faramir. He became sullenly cooperative because they made it clear they would kill him if he gave trouble. Sure, they're tough. But they don't torture him or abuse him.

I always thought it was Frodo's "betrayal" - that is, Frodo telling Gollum that nothing was wrong when in fact the Rangers were about to pounce - that drove Gollum "back to his murderous ways". Although the author suggests that Gollum's backsliding towards betrayal actually came much earlier, in the Marshes, when the party was buzzed by the Nazgul. It was then, we are told, that Sam first noticed Gollum reverting to his traditional way of talking, and looking oddly at Frodo when he thought he was unobserved.

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Sep 16 2012, 2:19am

Post #8 of 11 (659 views)
It's nice to be important but sometimes it is more important to be nice. [In reply to] Can't Post

The average person could easily understand the point of view of Faramir's men according to various frames like "just doing their job", "just following the rules", "I guess I wasn't giving them due respect for their position and I should get my kissy-face brown-nose on" and take it a lot better along the lines of what you seem to assume as normal.

Gollum, though, had a memory filled with being hated, driven out, and needing to fight for his life like an animal for very long stretches of time ... maybe not too much different than a wild animal. To someone like that, things like soldiers having a job to do (not having ever been a soldier most likely), the rules (which he was probably not aware of), and the importance of positions of political power are not quite so clear and obvious so he reverts to what he understands: fight or flight (going with flight on that one - not looking for a fight).


Sep 16 2012, 3:00am

Post #9 of 11 (656 views)
perhaps [In reply to] Can't Post

Manhandled or captured would have been more precise terms, and yes the entire debacle of the 'wicked tricksy master' was more where Gollum demanor changed. Been a while since I read it, but I meant it was that event in general where this occured.

Take this Brother May it Serve you Well
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Sep 16 2012, 4:40am

Post #10 of 11 (666 views)
He had learned to think like an animal. [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think anything short of physical restraint would have worked here. And I seriously doubt Aragorn was less firm:

He will never love me, I fear; for he bit me, and I was not gentle. Nothing more did I ever get from his mouth than the marks of his teeth. I deemed it the worst part of all my journey, the road back, watching him day and night, making him walk before me with a halter on his neck, gagged, until he was tamed by lack of drink and food, driving him ever towards Mirkwood.

Faramir's rangers did rough him up in the movie, but don't appear to have been more than firm in the book.

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Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'

Ethel Duath

Sep 17 2012, 12:23am

Post #11 of 11 (903 views)
Yes, the forced betrayal. [In reply to] Can't Post

I've often felt almost as bad about that as I did about Sam's outburst, but tended to blame Gollum somewhat more and Frodo not really at all for the debacle at Henneth Annûn. The echoes of things things like these that happen in real life, especially with foreign policy or in misunderstandings (willful or otherwise) between cultures sharpens the frustration and tragedy.


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