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Old 02-27-2005, 03:30 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 4 - Chapter 01 - The Taming of Sméagol

We now leave the travellers in Rohan and Gondor behind to catch up with Frodo and Sam again. As the lands that surround them are barren, so is the cast of characters - only two at the beginning of the first chapter, plus one more during its course. There is some descriptive writing, showing us the landscape through which they are attempting to travel.

Frodo says something very important almost at the beginning:
Quote:
It's my doom, I think, to go to that Shadow yonder, so that a way will be found. But will good or evil show it to me? What hope we had was in speed. Delay plays into the Enemy's hands...
And then comes a sentence that seems to echo Aragorn's similar statements from Chapter 1 of Book 3:
Quote:
All my choices have proved ill.
As for Aragorn, later events prove that this isn't true.


One object is very significant in this chapter, and it almost seems to be a character - the Elven rope. It radiates light, gives hope, courage and confidence to the good persons, loosens when needed, and hurts the evil character. How significant is it that Sam called Galadriel's name when taking leave of the rope? Why does it (and the Elven cloaks too, apparently) hurt Gollum?


There is another statement that echoes one of the Three Hunters - Frodo says:
Quote:
I wish there was a clear path in front of us: then I'd go on till my legs gave way.
Remember Gimli's words?
Quote:
My legs ... would be more willing, if my heart were less heavy.

Gollum's appearance is foreshadowed for both Frodo and Sam as well as the readers. The gleaming eyes and the soft but audible sounds give him away. Then comes a direct echo of words from the past, the quote about pity.

It's interesting to read Sam's point of view about seeing Frodo and Gollum, different and yet similar. Frodo shows himself as Master here! How does what Gollum says make you see his character? What do you think of his promise - can he be expected to keep it?


There's one little mystery that is left unresolved - the fact that Frodo could not see when he fell down the cleft. What reason can you imagine for that, and what significance do you think it had?
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Old 03-01-2005, 03:50 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
There's one little mystery that is left unresolved - the fact that Frodo could not see when he fell down the cleft. What reason can you imagine for that, and what significance do you think it had?
I see there a clear image related to the situation, in which Frodo is arranged. Frodo left the Fellowship with not knowing what will happen resp. going a way, which is dark.

The circumstances, in which Frodo decided to go alone to Mordor, were very hectically ones.
He decided to go into the dark, but do not knowing the clear way, that lies before him. Like the situation, in which he fell down the cleft.
There must be a way down, but what way is this exactly?
There are many parallels to Frodo's general situation.
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Old 03-01-2005, 09:09 AM   #3
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1420!

Gollum makes two promises in this chapter. By his end, he keeps one of them, the other he breaks....

Quote:
"And what would you swear?" asked Frodo.

"To be very very good," said Gollum. Then crawling to Frodo's feet he grovelled before him, whispering hoarsely: a shudder ran over him, as if the words shook his very bones with fear. "Smeagol will swear never, never, to let Him have it. Never! Smeagol will save it. But he must swear on the Precious."
Quote:
"Down! down!" said Frodo. "Now speak your promise!"
"We promises, yes I promise!" said Gollum. "I will serve the master of the Precious. Good master, good smeagol, gollum, gollum!"
Then Tolkien gives us this small paragraph of foreshadowing, and the events to happen, up until Gollum thinks Frodo "betrayed" him...
Quote:
At once Gollum got up and began prancing about, like a whipped cur whose master has patted it. From that moment a change, which lasted for some time, came over him. He spoke with less hissing and whining, and he spoke to his companions direct, not to his precious self. He would cringe and flinch, if they stepped near him or made any sudden movement, he avoided the touch of their elven-cloaks; but he was friendly, and indeed pitifully anxious to please. He would cackle with laughter and caper, if any jest was made, or even if Frodo spoke kindly to him, and weep if Frodo rebuked him.
This is coming straight from Tolkien, not from character's dialogue, or from their conscious thinking, but from Tolkien. Gollum did "change," he wasn't putting on an act, trying to lull them into a false sense of security. He honestly changed, and I believe if Gollum had not misunderstood the Hennuth Annun situation, then he wouldn't have tried to kill Frodo. A few paragraphs earlier, Tolkien compares the Frodo and Gollum relationship as a master-dog one. Being a dog lover, and just recently getting a new puppy (5 months now, cocher spaniel) dogs are quite loyal animals. They don't hold grudges, if you yell at them for doing something they shouldn't, they will go off and whine, and you'll feel bad, but they'll wake up the next day happy and ready to start a new day. They watch over you (which we see Gollum also do later on)...and so on, the point is not to brag about dogs, but to show the comparison between a dog/owner relationship, to that of Frodo's and Gollum's. A comparison that is echoed in the paragraph above.

But in that same paragraph we also have some more foreshadowing, but a little darker than the previous passage above...
Quote:
Sam said little to him of any sort. He suspected him more deeply than ever, and if possible like the new Gollum, the Smeagol, less than the old.
This mistrust could be something that hurts Gollum, more so than being "tricked" by his master as he thinks it, something we'll have to look at when the time comes.

Edit:

Something davem has been talking about recently, is mercy, and the absence of mercy. This again is seen within this chapter, which is filled with pity. Gollum does deserve to die, and is surely not worthy of Frodo's mercy. Despite this Frodo still shows his pity, and offers it to Gollum. Gollum reacts to it in a positive way, and we see hope that he could change. Opposite of Sam, who suspects Gollum, and keeps a closer eye on him, distrusting him, showing him no mercy. Again makes you wonder, if Sam would have shown mercy to Gollum, like Frodo, what would have happened? (Don't worry Sam, I still love ya).

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Old 03-01-2005, 02:45 PM   #4
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I find this chapter always when I read through over and over again fascinating. The "real" introduction of the character "Gollum" is very interesting and absolutely surprising.
In the previous chapters, Gollum is always represented in a very indirect way. There are only some sounds or a pair of eyes in the darkness.

Until that chapter the reader is viewing Gollum as a mysterious dark creature (save he/she let him/her influencing by the Hobbit. ;-) ). And it is all the more surprising, that Gollum is suddenly a creature with a distinct character, and not that evil and dark. Rather a bit to smile.

As Estelyn and Boromir have already mentioned, the pointer back to the beginning of the story, the discussion of mercy is very important here.
All the senses of the reader are crying, no don't make a trade-off with this creature. It wants the Ring for itself, No Frodo, no! Naturally with the words of Gandalf about 'deserve to die" in mind, which stands for understanding Frodo in a way.

It would be too simple, that Gollum would be a honest servant of Frodo until the Ring is destroyed. Tolkien introduced Gollum to the readers in a way, that reminds me at to the reaction of Gandalf as he heard from Faramir, that Frodo was going with Gollum. Horror mixed with the feeling, that this is the only solution.
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Old 03-01-2005, 03:32 PM   #5
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I don’t know where to start with this chapter, so I may as well do what I usually do & just go with the scenes that made the strongest impression on me.

I think the first one was:

Quote:
For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog.
This is odd in itself - why does Sam see Frod in that way? Is it the effect of the Ring - ie is Sam picking up on what Frodo could become if he took the Ring - ‘a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord’? or is he somehow picking up on thee deeper, spiritual changes Frodo is going through, as he becomes increasingly like a ‘clear glass shining with an inner light:

Quote:
'Still that must be expected,' said Gandalf to himself. 'He is not half through yet, and to what he will come in the end not even Elrond can foretell. Not to evil, I think. He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can.'
Can’t remember if anyone pointed out that that description of Frodo is virtually a description of the Phial he now carries. It is (perhaps ?) significant that at this moment Frodo bears both the Ring & the Phial of Galadriel, the source of greatest evil in Middle earth & the source of the purest Light, that of the Silmaril of Earendel.

But the other thing that struck me was the similarity of Sam’s ‘vision’ here & that of Legolas’ ‘vision’ of Aragorn:

Quote:
Gimli and Legolas looked at their companion in amazement, for they had not seen him in this mood before. He seemed to have grown in stature while Eomer had shrunk; and in his living face they caught a brief vision of the power and majesty of the kings of stone. For a moment it seemed to the eyes of Legolas that a white flame flickered on the brows of Aragorn like a shining crown.
The two great heros of the two parts of this second volume are seen by their closest companions in remarkably similar ways - both are ‘seen’ to have ‘grown’ & suddenly seem to reveal a hidden light. Of course its interesting that they are seen that way as the result of a ‘confrontation’ with another - in the case of Aragorn it is the confrontation with Eomer which ‘sparks’ Legolas’ vision, in the case of Frodo it is the confrontation with Gollum. In both cases it happens when the ‘hero’ asserts his ‘lordship’. In other words, both Aragorn & Frodo are revealing something of themselves to those with eyes to see it. Perhaps more significant in this context, both of them carry an ‘sacred’ Elvish object given them by Galadriel - Aragorn has the Elessar, Frodo the Phial. They both carry objects ‘out of the Elf country’.

Which brings me to Frodo’s ‘blindness’ :

Quote:
Frodo was calling with a weak voice. He was not actually very far away. He had slid and not fallen, and had come up with a jolt to his feet on a wider ledge not many yards lower down. Fortunately the rock-face at this point leaned well back and the wind had pressed him against the cliff, so that he had not toppled over. He steadied himself a little, laying his face against the cold stone, feeling his heart pounding. But either the darkness had grown complete, or else his eyes had lost their sight. All was black about him. He wondered if he had been struck blind. He took a deep breath. 'Come back! Come back!" he heard Sam's voice out of the blackness above. "I can't," he said. "I can't see. I can't find any hold. I can't move yet."
& its ‘cure’ when Sam lowers the Elven rope to him:

Quote:
The darkness seemed to lift from Frodo's eyes, or else his sight was returning. He could see the grey line as it came dangling down, and he thought it had a faint silver sheen. Now that he had some point in the darkness to fix his eyes on, he felt less giddy. Leaning his weight forward, he made the end fast round his waist, and then he grasped the line with both hands.
This rope seems more than just ‘soft, strong & very, very long’ it seems to have some kind of healing power, but of a spiritual kind. It seems Frodo’s sudden blindness was not physical but ‘psychological’ - one is reminded of the kind of hysterical blindness some of the soldiers on the front in WWI suffered. This rope seems to bring light into the darkness of Frodo’s world. It is all the more significant in this context that it has the opposite kind of effect on Gollum - ‘It burns, it freezes’. If we are to attribute the power of healing to the rope should we not also attribute to it the power to hurt? Perhaps Gollum really is harmed by the rope & the Lembas. If so, what does that tell us about the nature of things made by Elvish hands?

Finally, another occurance of ‘sanwe’?

Quote:
Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another's minds. Gollum raised himself and began pawing at Frodo, fawning at his knees.
What are we seeing here - Frodo & Gollum seem in very close accord if they can do that. One can only speculate - along the lines of Lalwende’s recent thread, that there may be some effect of the Ring which increases the capacity of Osanwe between its bearers
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Old 03-02-2005, 02:51 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
If we are to attribute the power of healing to the rope should we not also attribute to it the power to hurt? Perhaps Gollum really is harmed by the rope & the Lembas. If so, what does that tell us about the nature of things made by Elvish hands?
Interesting point, davem! To hurt someone would usually be seen as a negative aspect, but I don't think that can be attributed to the Elven objects, which are intrinsically good. I would rather imagine it like light, which can be so bright in its purity that it hurts eyes not accustomed to it. We know that looking directly at the sun can cause blindness, but that does not make the sun evil. Since the ability to emanate light is attributed to the Elven rope, that comparison seems appropriate.

I'm not sure what comparison would work for the lembas, though...
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Old 03-02-2005, 04:04 PM   #7
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Because of Estelyn's urging, and the fact that I have a very convenient place to come popping back in, well... I've come popping back in. And I'm going to try to keep up this time. As for the first impressions from this chapter...

One thing that attracts my attention is the way Frodo and Sam seemed so fixed on fulfilling this quest. At the very beginning of the chapter, it is stated that they 'did look look... back to Gondor, to their friends.' They looked in the direction of Mordor. They weren't constantly talking of what lay behind, but what lay ahead. If I remember correctly, there are not many instances where they discuss lighter things concerning the Shire, etc.

Considering this constant looking ahead, and other instances, I feel rather urged to read faster, as if it might make the hobbits move faster. A great sense of time is given, or rather the lack of it. There seems to be some feel of a necessity to hurry, which is not only felt by the hobbits, but by the readers, as well.

When they're on the cliff-side, that sense of time is very clearly portrayed when Frodo says he grudges every hour, every minute (and more than once he repeats this). It is increased by the swift approaching of the storm, and gives a sense that there is more than one storm approaching, and that there is a need for hurrying. Everything seems rushed, though the words are still descriptive and steady. The atmosphere of leisure, that was present when the hobbits first set out from Bag End, is gone. It's quite enough to to make my heart quicken and my lips urge: "Hurry, hurry!"

Another thing that drew my attention is that Frodo is still able to laugh and enjoy himself. That overwhelming feeling of despair has not a tight grip on him yet. When he fell, he told Sam to stop chattering, and was feeling amused. Later he laughed at the knot on the rope. Not only is he laughing, but he's laughing frequently. It reminds me to keep my eyes open for how and when and where he falls more under the sway of the Ring, and loses much of his laughter.

One thing, one thing very brief, that impressed me, was the instance of Gollum and the rope. When Sam tied the knot, he (Gollum) appeared to be in great pain, but Frodo checked and found that the knot was loose, and perhaps even too loose. 'Sam was gentler than his words.' I don't know how I missed this in previous readings. Up until now I always imagined that Sam had some terribly ill feeling for Gollum and was unjustly cruel to him. Now it seems to me that Sam merely had a repulsion and distrust of Gollum, which made him mutter, and threaten, and be especially cautious, but... I can't recall any instance where he was actually cruel. He muttered, and such and such, but as far as my memory goes, he never inflicted harm upon Gollum until it was necessary in a way of defense. Am I forgetting something? It seems that Sam, as well as Frodo, had that thought of pity and mercy towards Gollum.
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Old 03-02-2005, 05:11 PM   #8
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Random thoughts...

In accordance with Nuru's thoughts above regarding Sam and Gollum, I came across a line I didn't remember, in which Sam sort of mocks Gollum after he tries to escape. Gollum says to them earlier:

Quote:
"And where are they going in these cold hard lands, we wonders, yes we wonders?"
Sam then says...

Quote:
"And where were you off to in the cold hard lands, Mr Gollum? We wonders, aye, we wonders."

Quote:
Since the ability to emanate light is attributed to the Elven rope, that comparison seems appropriate. (Esty)
Gollum seems averted to all sources of light -- the Sun and Moon, the elvish rope, and even the "bright eyes" of the Elves, whom he describes as fierce and terrible. We know that he was imprisoned by the Elves of Mirkwood, but perhaps the light associated with them makes his hatred for them even greater.

Frodo keeps referring to Gollum by his old name of Smeagol, deliberately repeating it whenever he talks to the creature. He's trying to remind Gollum that he had a normal life once, and that he can still be that person. It's a part of Frodo's idea that maybe he can help the poor thing out by showing him pity when few others have.
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Old 03-02-2005, 05:47 PM   #9
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One of my favourite chapters! I always reach it with such glee after having been away from Sam and Frodo for too long. And at long last – Gollum!!

It’s Gollum who really dominates the chapter, and he does so in some interesting ways. There’s some fascinating foreshadowing of his treachery, and of the bond that he shares with the hobbits:

Quote:
Sam looked and breathed sharply through his teeth. ‘Ssss!’ he said…Look at him! Like a nasty spider crawling on a wall.’
Quote:
As [Gollum fell from the cliff], he curled his legs and arms up round him, like a spider whose descending thread is snapped.
That’s two descriptions of Gollum as being like a spider in the course of only a few pages, not just that, but right at the beginning of his introduction to the story. The reference to Shelob could not be more clear, and thus in the very moment that he arrives he comes bearing with him the mark of his treachery. At the same time, the way Sam reacts to him is telling: “Ssss!” he says “sharply through his teeth.” This is an extremely Gollum-like sound and gesture, and it hints at the affinity that these three figures will come to feel for one another. Frodo’s understanding of Gollum is forged here. He has borne the Ring long enough to know almost at first glance that he and Gollum are a lot a like – there is a meeting of minds, or even souls, that Sam doesn’t understand, and this recognition is what allows the Quest to be fulfilled for it convinces Frodo to accept Gollum as his guide.

But the link between Sam and Gollum looks even further ahead to the moment upon Mount Doom when Sam will show pity to Gollum and not kill him. Sam, by that point, will have been a Ringbearer and thus understand Gollum the way Frodo does now. So if this initial meeting with Gollum contains allusions to his treachery, it also looks ahead to the moments and the virtue (Pity) that will allow that treachery to be overcome and even made to serve the purpose of the Quest. It’s compelling that the rest of the Quest is contained in this single moment: Gollum’s treachery and evil will combine with the Pity of the hobbits, there will be some kind of understanding forged between these different characters, that will somehow allow the ‘miracle’ to occur that puts the Ring into the fire.

But it’s not all fate and providence. These three characters are not just tools to an overwhelming plan, and this is made clear when Frodo misremembers Gandalf’s words to him. In “The Shadow of the Past” Gandalf says:

Quote:
“Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
But here, Frodo remembers it as:

Quote:
“Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.”
It’s on the basis of this that Frodo spares Gollum’s life. What I think is important about this is that while Frodo is responding to the words of Gandalf, he is not slavishly following them. He is not reacting to Gandalf’s precise words, but to those words as they apply to Frodo’s own particular circumstance. It’s the difference between remembering a lesson and actually having learned it. Gandalf told Frodo an important thing about Pity, and Frodo here is able to apply that lesson rather than just trot it out. In this moment, in this place, Frodo “fears for his own safety” and knows that he will be dealing out death not “in judgement” (which is, presumably, deserved) but “in the name of justice” (that is, using justice as a pretext to justify a selfish act).

So Frodo is being influenced by the memory of Gandalf, directed even, but he is not a passive tool – he is making a freely willed choice that is setting a series of events in motion in which Gollum’s evil will be in conflict with the understanding (love?) that he forges with the hobbits.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Tolkien was a very good writer.
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Old 03-02-2005, 07:49 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
Gollum seems averted to all sources of light -- the Sun and Moon, the elvish rope, and even the "bright eyes" of the Elves, whom he describes as fierce and terrible. We know that he was imprisoned by the Elves of Mirkwood, but perhaps the light associated with them makes his hatred for them even greater.
This got me wondering...

If Gollum hates lights, up to and including the bright Elven eyes, is it not somewhat ironic that his own eyes shine in the dark?

As for the chapter in general, I often find it a letdown to go back to Frodo and Sam and more mundane, dirty, and less rewarding journey they face after all the light and glory of Edoras, Fangorn, the Battle of Helm's Deep, and the great powers of Orthanc and the Palantir. It generally takes me until the Black Gate or Ithilien to really get into the swing of their quest, consequently leaving me with an under-appreciation for this stage of Frodo's quest.
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Old 03-02-2005, 08:22 PM   #11
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Old 03-03-2005, 04:01 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
This rope seems more than just ‘soft, strong & very, very long’ it seems to have some kind of healing power, but of a spiritual kind. It seems Frodo’s sudden blindness was not physical but ‘psychological’ - one is reminded of the kind of hysterical blindness some of the soldiers on the front in WWI suffered. This rope seems to bring light into the darkness of Frodo’s world.
Now I keep thinking of Sam lowering toilet paper over the edge of the cliff.

Anyway...Frodo's temporary blindness seems to me to have been very much the result of his shock. He was about to tumble to a certain death from the cliff face, and it is as though his body has prepared for this. The rush of fear, followed by the sudden landing could easily have caused this temporary problem. Again Tolkien shows his knowledge of simple medical facts associated with trauma.

What the rope symbolises alongside Light is simple Hope. Here is a defenceles Hobbit stuck on a cliff face with no means of escape and suddenly a rope appears. I often see that Light and Hope go together in LotR, in the Phial, and particularly in the symbolism surrounding Aragorn.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
Gollum seems averted to all sources of light -- the Sun and Moon, the elvish rope, and even the "bright eyes" of the Elves, whom he describes as fierce and terrible. We know that he was imprisoned by the Elves of Mirkwood, but perhaps the light associated with them makes his hatred for them even greater.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil
If Gollum hates lights, up to and including the bright Elven eyes, is it not somewhat ironic that his own eyes shine in the dark?
As with much in Tolkien's work, this can work on many levels I think. Gollum's fear of light could simply be down to his long life spent in the total darkness beneath the Misty Mountains. His eyes seem to have grow larger to compensate, making me think of deep-sea fish and other such creatures; his hearing is certainly sharper, like that of a bat, relying on sonic communication.

Now why would he also hate things associated with Light, such as the rope and lembas? It could be alluding to something evil and dark within him; is this because he is by nature evil? Or is it because the Ring has made him so? He is certainly no ally of Sauron.

Is it that Gollum knows nothing of divinity and goodness? He seems to have led a troubled life and never had the benefit of the 'good' things, so perhaps to him, such a thing as lembas would be wholly unnatural. Of course, his fear of the rope could be down to a simple fear of captivity; he has been captured before, and he would know that to protest strongly of pain might lead to him being released from his bonds.

One thing I found interesting was the animal symbolism used for Gollum in this chapter. At first, when he is independent Gollum, he is like a spider, solitary and predatory. He also has something cat like about him with his large luminous eyes, his stealth and his ability to right himself after a tumble. He lives on his instincts and wits like any solitary creature. Then once he is subdued and is Smeagol, he has indeed been 'tamed' and he becomes like a dog, even behaves like one. So he goes from being a predator to being a servile animal, yet like all dogs, there is still something wild and wolflike hidden beneath his apparently faithful demeanour.
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Old 03-03-2005, 11:36 AM   #13
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Lalwendë said
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Now why would he also hate things associated with Light, such as the rope and lembas? It could be alluding to something evil and dark within him; is this because he is by nature evil? Or is it because the Ring has made him so?
I'm unsure if there is anything else about Gollum's life before the Ring besides that which is told in LotR, so I don't know if there is something about him I've missed, but a possibility is that Gollum did know something of Light, and that was what made him so averse to it. If he knew Light, if he knew goodness, it could be that the sight of Elven things, the sight of the Sun and Moon, made him see how wretched and without it he was. Perhaps he hated Light because, when there was light, it showed him up, so to speak, and his darkness.

I would not say that Gollum was, by nature, evil. It seems to me, reflecting on the scene where he touched Frodo's knee, that there was at least the possibility of goodness in him. But he had not lived a very good life, despite his capability to be good. He murdered, etc. It could be that Light showed to him clearly what he wasn't and what he could have been, perhaps still could be. The light of the Elves... their beauty, and he was a wretched sort of creature, and so on.

He describes the Elf eyes as 'fierce and terrible.' Generally I imagine Elf eyes as something entirely different. Perhaps the Elf eyes are good and bright, but Gollum, not being that, finds them fierce and terrible? Perhaps because he knows Light and his lack of it, he hates it more than he would otherwise?
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Old 03-03-2005, 11:51 AM   #14
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I'm unsure if there is anything else about Gollum's life before the Ring besides that which is told in LotR, so I don't know if there is something about him I've missed, but a possibility is that Gollum did know something of Light, and that was what made him so averse to it.
Of course, we don't know what sort of life Gollum had as innocent Smeagol the fisherman, but we could surely assume it was a quite one, untroubled by dilemmas of good and evil. Some might say Gollum was inherently evil for killing Deagol in order to get the ring. I don't think he was. My take is that the sight of the ring filled him with desire for the thing, and it was due to this that he went on to commit evil. But I agree wholeheartedly that Gollum may have known something of Light in the past, whether he knew it as Light I could not say, but the knowledge and memory of what he had turned away from must have remained within him, and so to be reminded of this would quite literally be painful to him. He has now gone so far that he possibly knows that there is little or no chance of his ever successfully returning to the Light. This is possibly what drives his hatred of Light, his anger, he is downtrodden by the Ring and almost displays a feeling of shame which drives his hurt pride to rail against Light.
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Old 03-03-2005, 03:01 PM   #15
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As to what Smeagol was like before the Ring came to him, Tolkien does make some interesting comments in Letter 181:

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Gollum was pitiable, but he ended in persistent wickedness, & the fact that this worked good was no credit to him. His marvellous courage & endurance, as great as Frodo & Sam's or greater, being devoted to evil was portentous, but not honourable. I am afraid, whatever our beliefs, we have to face the fact that there are persons who yield to temptation, reject their chances of nobility or salvation, & appear to be 'damnable'. Their 'damnability' is not measurable in terms of the macrocosm (where it may work good). But we who are 'in the same boat' must not usurp the judge. The domnation of the Ring was too much for the mean soul of Smeagol but he would never have had to endure it if he had not become a mean sort of thief before it crossed his path.
So, Smeagol was a 'mean sort of thief before it crossed his path', & had a 'mean soul'. Which, as Tolkien points out in the same letter, doesn't mean he deserved to be tempted by it, merely that (unlike the way the discovery is depicted in the movie) he was the kind of person who was likely to respond to it in the way he did. In the book, nobody is instantly tempted to snatch the Ring & use it. It works slowly & subtly on most & there is always he opportunity to reject it (at first) - hence Faramir can say that he would not pick it up if he found it by the wayside, because, unlike Smeagol, he doesn't have a 'mean soul'.

Certainly Smeagol didn't go looking for the Ring, but equally certainly he grabbed it as soon as it appeared. Not such a tragic victim as one might be tempted to think - especially in light of the movie. This, for me, makes Frodo's compassion & display of pity & mercy towards him all the more moving - Smeagol didn't deserve Pity & Mercy, but Frodo gave him both...
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Old 03-04-2005, 08:57 PM   #16
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Nuru said:
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Perhaps the Elf eyes are good and bright, but Gollum, not being that, finds them fierce and terrible? Perhaps because he knows Light and his lack of it, he hates it more than he would otherwise?
I think this is very interesting, and quite true. Gollum hates what he is, but he hates what he is not much more. Perhaps this hits even deeper with him, because not only is he not good and bright, but perhaps he cannot be these things. This is what makes Gollum so utterly wretched: he is so consumed by hate that, until he is shown mercy and pity, there really is no chance for him to escape that hatred. Martin Luther King Jr. said that "You cannot overcome darkness with darkness, only light can do that. You cannot overcome hate with hate, only love can do that." This is Gollum's problem. Until he was given prolonged contact with Frodo, he was not shown mercy or kindness that he could understand. Frodo was uniquely suited to the role of providing Gollum with mercy; though he was 'elvish' in his way, he shared the understanding of the burden of the Ring, resulting in that comprehension of each other's minds remarked upon in the chapter and earlier in the thread.

The other thing I noticed upon rereading the chapter that I had never noticed before was (yet another) one of Gollum's internal struggles: the one seemingly argued with Sauron himself, though I imagine that it must have been in recollection of Sauron's task for him than actually occurring at that moment. It is yet one more evil that Smeagol would have to overcome if he had ever been saved. Quite honestly, the odds that the good in Smeagol would ultimately triumph are extremely slim: he has been living in Darkness for half a millenium dwelling on the evil, and now he is battling not only himself and his own desire of the Ring, but also the will of Sauron. Not impossible, I think, as he came quite close just before he led them to Shelob, but extemely hard.

I think that the Sauron factor does not crop up again (if memory serves correctly) is that in this chapter, Gollum apparently renounces Sauron's will for him saying: "Smeagol will swear never, never, to let Him have it. Never!"
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Old 03-05-2005, 09:49 PM   #17
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I get really interested in the story line with Aragorn and co. when I'm suddenly reading about Frodo and Sam again. It takes me a few pages before I have grudgingly accepted that there's no going back to the other story (to exagerate a little)

One part of this chapter that I remember distinctly is the incident with the elven rope. It is one of those small moments that explains a lot about elves and their magic. It seems subtle, their magic is not very showy but happens in a lot of small ways like the rope coming loose when Sam didn't want to leave the rope behind. Its not like some magic that authors describe in their own books, things like fire bolts etc.
I like it how Tolkien keeps the magic subtle and only makes it seem big at a few moments in the course of LOTR. (Compared to some other authors who make magic huge;not that I mind)

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Far away ---the Anduin, that had gleamed fitfully in sun-breaks during the day,was now hidden in shadow.
After this image Frodo and Sam don't see any light till Ithilien. This certainly sets a darkening mood. And it isn't just because of the setting it also makes it clear that the story has become much more serious.There are also several other thing that make the story darker such a the Nazgul that flies over Emyn Muil.
Plus the entrance of Gollum,who helps the hobbits but who also will turn dangerous. There is a bit of foreshadowing for this already because immediatly upon meeting Gollum we see that he quickly switches from one position. When he swears not to hurt Frodo and Sam he changes his mind several times on who/what to swear. This could also be seen as a way of trying to please Frodo and sam but it also shows that he quickly changes his mind all the time.It also shows suspicion which proves to be dangerous later on at Henneth Annun when he thinks Frodo is responsible for his capture.
Thus with all these gloomy prospects all the light and hope is slowly dissapearing for Frodo and Sam.
This is especially for Frodo who feels the ring growing heavier and heavier the closer they get to Mordor. But I think the ring makes it easier for Frodo to loose hope as well.This always makes me anxious and when I read the chapter I want things to go faster before Frodo can't go on any longer.
This is one of the reasons why Frodo and Sam become so closely connected. They find what they need in order to survive this journey, in their relationship. With their friendship they are able to pull through their ordeal.
At first while they were still with the fellowship they could relie on Gandalf or aragorn. Now however, they have to depend on each other and their friendship which has begun to grow now comes into full bloom.
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Old 03-09-2005, 11:12 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
One of my favourite chapters! I always reach it with such glee after having been away from Sam and Frodo for too long. And at long last – Gollum!!

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Originally Posted by Formendacil
As for the chapter in general, I often find it a letdown to go back to Frodo and Sam and more mundane, dirty, and less rewarding journey they face after all the light and glory of Edoras, Fangorn, the Battle of Helm's Deep, and the great powers of Orthanc and the Palantir. It generally takes me until the Black Gate or Ithilien to really get into the swing of their quest, consequently leaving me with an under-appreciation for this stage of Frodo's quest.
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Originally Posted by Lathriel
I get really interested in the story line with Aragorn and co. when I'm suddenly reading about Frodo and Sam again. It takes me a few pages before I have grudgingly accepted that there's no going back to the other story (to exagerate a little)
I have hesitated to respond to this chapter in part because of the sentiments which are expressed here by Fordim, Formendacil, and Lathriel. I had asked the question in our discussion of the previous chapter, and no one really took up the point: Why did Tolkien choose to divide literally the journeys of the two groups of the Fellowship into two separate Books? Why did he not entertwine them? What has he gained by splitting the action this way?

We have a "three day gap" in Sam and Frodo's journey as well as a wrenching pull away from the heroic concerns of Aragorn and Co. I cannot now remember what it felt like to make this readerly jump when I first read the book, but now I find it very strange indeed.

I also wonderwhy, suddenly, we are in such a hostile terrain. Even with the physical travails of Merry and Pippin and of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, the land they covered was never this barren. Yes, yes, I know where Sam and Frodo are. I just wonder why, so suddenly, we are brought into the harshness of their struggle.

One answer, of course, is that the journey of Sam, Frodo and Gollem is not part of the 'realism' of LotR. It does not belong to the art of realistic narrative nor of mythology per se. It is a symbolic journey or act. It is action on a completely different plane.

Seen this way, I begin to think about this threesome, this triumvirate or trinity and I wonder if we cannot see them as the unconscious aspects of the individual soul. Well, rather than soul, perhaps I can use mind. Freud's tripartite theory of the unconscious mind might well be considered, with the recognition that what is absent here is what is so dominant in Freud, the tieing in of all aspects of human behaviour with sexuality.

So, leaving sex out of it, in some ways can we understand these three characters as reflecting a division somewhat similar to that of Freud's Id, Ego, and Superego?

Gollem in this model might be understood as the Id, that primitive, instinctual mass of urges, desires, aggressions and gratifications. The predominance of animalistic descriptions of Gollem, not just the dog and spider references, but the constant emphasis on his sensory responses, particularly his use of his sense of smell, reflects the most basic of human contacts with the world.

I was at first tempted to see Sam as the Superego and Frodo as the Ego, but then I took a closer look at how they react to each other, to events, and to Gollem in this chapter and I would not be inclined to reverse that. Sam is the character who represents the structured sense of identity and self, constantly referring back to the Gaffer and to Galadriel, his past experience, mixing both deliberate acts of behaviour and sudden impulses. Frodo, particularly with his remembrance of Gandalf's lesson on pity and mercy, reflects the moral agent or Superego. I realise one can argue that Frodo's moral sense is a consciously articulated one, but at the same time I think we can consider him as the character who respresents the moral aspect of the unconscious, particularly in the manner wherebye he accepts the Ring and then agrees to carry it to Mordor without really understanding why.

Of course there are elements of the behaviour of all three characters which do not fit neatly into this structure, but it seems to me that broadly we have these three aspects of the human mind brought into interplay with each other. "Behind" the heroic actions of the other members of the Fellowship lies this primitive or basic aspect of our existence: how we learn to become moral agents. Perhaps only by separating the journey of Sam, Frodo and Gollem from the more social or culture struggles of Aragorn and Co did Tolkien feel he could make symbolic this journey to destroy the Ring.
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Old 03-09-2005, 02:12 PM   #19
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I have wondered about the possibilities of a Freudian interpretation of these three characters. Of course, one could put forward an equally valid Jungian interpretation - Gollum as the Shadow, the complex of repressed & denied aspects of the personality, both positive & negative, Sam as the conscious personality & Frodo as the developing Self & see the whole sequence as an account of the Individuation process...
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Old 03-09-2005, 02:21 PM   #20
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The latter (Jungian individuation interpretation) has been done in a very interesting article. You can find the link on this thread. I find both interpretations of the triumvirate highly fascinating! They are not applicable through and through, of course, but are definitely thought-provoking.
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Old 03-09-2005, 03:09 PM   #21
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Hmm. Interesting how other people feel a let down after leaving the other story line - particularly on my first reading, I experienced a very different reaction. Upon my first reading, I was very much into Frodo (still my favorite character, but I appreciate others more as well now) - after leaving Frodo and Sam at Amon Hen, they were the only two characters I really wanted to know about. Admittedly, I did not get a whole lot out of Book 3 that first reading with the exception of a few notable passages. So eager was I to find out when I was getting on to Frodo that in name-scanning the proceding chapters I accidently found out Gandalf came back... oops. So, anyway, suffice it to say that I was thrilled to reach this chapter.

As for why Tolkien decided to split it up, I will voice a few conjectures. Certainly in doing it this way he built up a great deal of suspense as far as wondering what was happening on the other side. Frodo and Sam are left heading toward Mordor. Then those characters west of Anduin are left off 'at the deep breath before the plunge,' to steal Gandalf's words. Then we leave Frodo and Sam again - and at an even worse spot than before (for me, anyway)! And, once again, we are left wondering just what is happening at the Black Gate. But why for so long? My guess is that because, just as the plots are divided in a literary sense, so also are the plots separate, with the only bridges being Faramir and (sort of) the Mouth of Sauron. Frodo and Sam especially have no idea what is going on with the remainder of the Fellowship. It also helps establish a flow in the two threads (though they are broken off rather abruptly).

Perhaps it could have worked just as well or better, maybe, if he had alternated every few chapters or so. However, I rather like the way he did it, and I think it does establish a real divide between the two sides, just as at the plot level.
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Old 03-10-2005, 11:05 AM   #22
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The question of the narrative splits -- ruptures, really -- is a good one. For my money, I've always just assumed that the primary reason was for suspense. It's a great way to keep the reader going: Gandalf and Pippin riding to war in Minas Tirith *whap* back in time by a few days and with Sam and Frodo. Of course, the worst one is still coming: "Frodo had been taken by the enemy" *wap* back to Gandalf and Pippin -- AAAAAGGH!!

But Bb points out a very interesting possibility with the thematic apposition of these two stories: the action-packed group-communal effort of societies against evil on the one hand, and the quieter suspenseful individual-private struggle between good and evil within each individual's heart and mind. It's not so much a back and forth movement as an in and out: history (Aragorn/Ganalf et al) and biography (Frodo, Sam, Gollum); societal and individual.

I'm really not happy, though, with any kind of Freudian approach to the current tale, if for no other reason than Freud was pretty much wrong about everything other than the fact that childhood experiences leave a mark on the developed adult. That, and the absence of a sexualised dynamic between Frodo, Sam and Gollum, makes Freud rather a red herring. Ditto for Jung, who would have us looking at these three -- who are among the most well-developed of Tolkien's characters -- as archetypes.

I suppose if I were to say anything about this division of the tale in the language of psychobabble, I would say that the story in the west is the "conscious" tale of history: it's composed of the events that everyone knows about and that everyone would expect to be a part of the tale of the End of the Third Age. Frodo, Sam and Gollum are history's "unconsious" part: unseen and unknown by almost everyone, quietly working away at a deeply personal level where the battles are moral and spiritual not physical (although there is physical trial).

Is this a way of looking at Sauron? He is so totally committed to the "conscious" face of history that he ignores the "unconscious" part until it is too late. Frodo's arrival at Mount Doom as the return of the repressed?????

Herm. . . .
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Old 03-10-2005, 02:26 PM   #23
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I like the way the stories have been divided in this way, and possibly one of the reasons why is that the division serves to underline the true nature of the peril all our heroes are in. Aragorn and the others have absolutely no idea what Frodo and Sam are up to and vice versa. Yet Aragorn and co. get on with the tasks which come their way just as do Frodo and Sam, despite never knowing if the risks they are taking will all turn out in vain.

If Frodo fails, then they might as well not have bothered with the Battle of Helm's Deep, and if Sauron succeeds in annihilating Gondor then Frodo's mission will not save it. Yet there is a message in this, and I think it is that despite what we know or do not know, there are always things which must be done in order to do the right thing. The division of the two main story threads only underlines the fact that each group knows nothing of the other yet still has the courage to continue and not lose faith.

Another reason that I like the division is that in Book 3 we see the more epic side to the struggle and learn of the great deeds of nation states and various races within the war, while in Book 4 we learn of the great deeds of individuals. Of course, it is not as quite as clearly cut as that, but the broad approach of each book follows this pattern; Book 3 is epic and Book 4 is intimate.
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Old 03-10-2005, 06:20 PM   #24
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Another reason that I like the division is that in Book 3 we see the more epic side to the struggle and learn of the great deeds of nation states and various races within the war, while in Book 4 we learn of the great deeds of individuals. Of course, it is not as quite as clearly cut as that, but the broad approach of each book follows this pattern; Book 3 is epic and Book 4 is intimate.
An interesting train of thought is here: the theme of division tears the four hobbits two by two away from each other (Frodo and Sam are separated from Merry and Pippin). The Fellowship is fractured, and so is the storyline. Book Three ends with the division of Pippin from Merry; Book Four with the division of Frodo from Sam. Things become even more intimate, as each hobbit is forced to act completely independently of his compatriots and rely more on his own instincts, sense of right, etc. This is my own hobbito-centric view of the tale and it struck me as interesting in light of the discussion of storyline separations here.

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Old 03-10-2005, 09:18 PM   #25
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Wow! I'm really glad to see my late entry produced some more movement on this thread. I would be very proud to see the Barrow Downs sustain an entire book reading week by week.

Firefoot, I think your comments about your reading habits are some of the most honest I've ever seen here on a fan-based board.

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Hmm. Interesting how other people feel a let down after leaving the other story line - particularly on my first reading, I experienced a very different reaction. Upon my first reading, I was very much into Frodo (still my favorite character, but I appreciate others more as well now) - after leaving Frodo and Sam at Amon Hen, they were the only two characters I really wanted to know about. Admittedly, I did not get a whole lot out of Book 3 that first reading with the exception of a few notable passages. So eager was I to find out when I was getting on to Frodo that in name-scanning the proceding chapters I accidently found out Gandalf came back... oops. So, anyway, suffice it to say that I was thrilled to reach this chapter.
I think that quite naturally there are passages and events that various readers skim through while others linger over them. It must reflect the various interests we have as readers--perhaps there is ground here for a thread on "What we skip and why".

I didn't mean to imply that I am not interested in Sam and Frodo. My interest in this "gap" really extends to trying to understand how it works rather than to discredit either side. And I think Lyta's observation about the Merry/Pippin and Sam/Frodo split is a good one. We can probably later discuss what different lesson, if any, each takes home with him.

Thank you Estelyn for the link to your thread with its link to a fascinating article and thank you davem for pointing out Jung's tripartite model. I have to laugh to myself at Fordim's dismissal of "psychobabble." While I myself do not have faith/ grant credence to either Freud or Jung's models, I think they can be useful to provide a model or layout of understanding, a way of thinking about the characters. It is also wise to keep in the back of our minds the possibility that the author was consciously working with some kind of pattern like this--not that it means automatically that the pattern works in the text for later readers, but that some kind of modelling or grouping might be going on.

Quote:
That, and the absence of a sexualised dynamic between Frodo, Sam and Gollum, makes Freud rather a red herring. Ditto for Jung, who would have us looking at these three -- who are among the most well-developed of Tolkien's characters -- as archetypes.
I will grant Fordim his point that Sam, Frodo and Gollem are some of the most complexly portrayed characters. Yet I don't see that it necessarily follows that they cannot be "archetypes." Literature abounds with characters who readers feel are fully actualized characters with agency and subjectivity but which also somehow partake of a larger aspect. Seen this way, archetype does not mean psychological simplicity but in face greater complexity.

The interiority or individual nature of Sam's, Frodo's andGollem's struggle is I think very interesting and made more interesting by the fact that they are isolated from the historical struggles of Aragorn and Co. Furthermore, I think it is interesting that while we can find relational patterns among Sam, Frodo and Gollem, I am less able to do that with the Aragorn/ Legolas/ Gimli axis. Perhaps this occurs simply because the plotting is different and the presence of the Ring and its power allows a more tightly developed focus. Without the kind of historical and cultural knowledge which Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli have, the hobbit three act out the problem of evil on the personal level.

As for a repressed Sauron, while we are at it, Fordim, I'm sure we could manage some kind of Hegelian model to account for him.

ahem.
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Old 03-11-2005, 08:19 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Thank you Estelyn for the link to your thread with its link to a fascinating article and thank you davem for pointing out Jung's tripartite model .
Re: the 'tripartite' model: I find this image by S. Juchimov from the Russian edition of LotR to sum up the symbolism & interrelationships between the three characters. Sam (the ego) stands between Gollum (the Shadow), holding it at bay with his sword, while he looks towards Frodo (the 'Self') symbolising psychic wholeness. Frodo is depicted as a saint, standing within a double 'halo', the outer one of which seems maybe to be symbolic of the Ring.
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Old 07-17-2005, 08:43 PM   #27
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I was rereading this today a passage stuck in my mind in a way it never had before.

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Frodo looked straight into Gollum's eyes which flinched and twisted away. "You know that, or you guess well enough, Smeagol," he said quietly and sternly. "We are going to Mordor, of course. And you know the way there, I believe."

"Ach! sss!" said Gollum. covering his ears with his hands, as if such frankness and the open speaking of the names, hurt him. "We guessed, yes we guessed," he whispered; "and we didn't want them to go, did we?"
This is an interesting exchange for a number of reasons. Gollum was obviously in possession of information that Sauron lacked. However, it makes one wonder how long Gollum had suspected that Frodo was on his way to Mordor. Sauron never guessed that the Ring was on its way to anyplace other than Minas Tirith. Did Gollum also believe that was where Frodo was headed or did he think from the time that he picked up the Fellowship's trail that they were going to Mordor? That also brings up the issue of what Gollum thought Frodo was doing…
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Old 12-13-2005, 09:03 PM   #28
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Holy Iluvator. I havn't read The Taming of Smeagol in a long while. It was one of my favorite chapters when in the TWO TOWERS. I am reading through lotr on my 3rd time through and i am almost finished with ROTK.

Kuruharan, thats a great point! I've never really thought about it. Gollum apparently began following the fellowship from Moria. Perhaps he guessed like he said, or maybe he was watching as Boromir tried to take it...? I dont know, i just love discussing LOTR with yall.
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Old 09-26-2018, 11:20 AM   #29
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There's a certain amount of analysis that could be done, dredging up these ancient threads and seeing how the Chapter-by-Chapter project went in its original attempt. The threads gradually get shorter, for one thing--there's less and less reading for me to do to catch up with them--and fewer attempts to reinvigorate them the further into the books one goes.

This is a major breaking point, in that we deviate from the characters we've been following and go back to Frodo and Sam. Not QUITE back to where they left the Fellowship--Tolkien is content to advance the action three days from there to the end of their struggle getting past the Emyn Muil--but close enough. Earlier commentators pointed out that the landscape here is far more different and barren than in the other storyline, which I would attribute to the growing closeness of Mordor: both in literary terms and in literal terms. The decision that weighed upon Frodo and the Company all down the Great River can be seen as choosing between the green, living lands west of the River and the barren, diseased lands to the East.

Comparisons between the two books keep wanting to crop up, at least here at the beginning, and others on the thread have alluded to them. One that does not get much attention from our venerable forebears is something that caught my eye only a chapter ago: a direct encounter with Sauron. Like Pippin's encounter in the palantír, we do not see Sauron directly but only mediated through another character, but Gollum's one-sided dialogue with Sauron is, nonetheless, an encounter with the story's villain:

Quote:
Originally Posted by "The Taming of Sméagol
Then suddenly his voice and language changed, and he sobbed in his throat, and spoke but not to them. 'Leave me alone, gollum! You hurt me. O my poor hands, gollum! I, we, I don't want to come back. I can't find it. I am tired. I, we can't find it, gollum, gollum, no, nowhere. They're always awake. Dwarves, Men, and Elves, terrible Elves with bright eyes. I can't find it. Ach!' He got up and clenched his long hand into a bony fleshless knot, shaking it towards the East. 'We won't!' he cried. 'Not for you.' Then he collapsed again. 'Gollum, gollum," he whimpered with his face to the ground. 'Don't look at us! Go away! Go to sleep!'
One thing I hadn't noticed before with this passage, though I feel as though I ought to have, is the extent to which Gollum/Sméagol wavers between "I" and "we" here. Gollum has always talked to himself, of course--that goes right back to the 1937 Hobbit, but it is possible that the full bifurcation into the Gollum/Sméagol personalities is a later development--even one driven by terror at the encounter with the Sauron?

Speaking of Sauron, the imagery of Sauron as a great eye ramps up in this chapter, and while I will never quite forgive the Peter Jackson movies for reducing him to that, it is certainly not out of line with the actual way that Frodo experiences him. The more "personal" encounters of Pippin and Gollum (and Aragorn and Denethor) are all the more terrifying to think about because of their connection to the demonic, impersonal presence that Frodo presents to us far more frequently.
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