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Old 03-21-2007, 03:14 PM   #1
Mansun
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Sting Did Gollum deserve death?

Gollum was a psychotic serial murderer, a traitor & a liar. He was obviously going to set out to continue this if the Elves released him from Mirkwood. Did he deserve death?:-

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“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” (FR I:2, 68–69)
Gandalf thinks not, but he also sees that Sauron sent Gollum out of Mordor on an errand. Gollum was perhaps the first ever prisoner to be freed out of Mordor alive & more or less unharmed. Does this mean he had agreed to come under the service of the Darklord? If so, doesn't a servant of Sauron deserve death, or at least substantial punishment by being locked up for eternity? In the real world Gollum would be put to death.
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Old 03-21-2007, 03:29 PM   #2
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Gandalf didn't say that Gollum didn't deserve to die! He said Gollum did deserve to die. However, he told Frodo not to be eager to deal out death in judgement. Death is final, and it's too final for a hobbit like Frodo to deal out. It wasn't Frodo's place to judge people unto death, that's what I think Gandalf was saying.

As for Gollum deserving death...yes, I'd say so. He deserved death many times before the LotR began, and he deserved death many times during the LotR. But not everyone gets what they deserve. Other forces work, rather, and for all that Gollum did, no one punished him as he deserved (not even Faramir). That other force had a job for him to do. Justice was still dealt out in the end, but not the way Frodo would have planned, nor Gandalf foreseen.

He shouldn't be locked up for eternity, regardless his crime. Besides, that wouldn't be possible in that world, would it?
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Old 03-21-2007, 03:41 PM   #3
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Well my country doesn't execute either murderers or the mentally ill ..theoretically it could execute a traitor, I believe...

For me Gandalf's words, were a factor in shaping my opinions on the death penalty, but given that ME is a world where capital punishment exists I will leave that to one side.

Gollum was tortured in Mordor - if he wsa "relatively unharmed" it was because he was so damaged already ...

You cannot punish people for things that they might do - well the state can't (to no doubt misquote PJ O'Rourke in "Parliament of Whores", "the supreme court can not punish you for having a smart look on your face - which is the difference betwen having a judicial system and having a mother").

Gollum was after the Ring for himself so to that extent, I don't think he was consciously on an errrand for Sauron or his servant .

Gollum's "treachery" if such it was, was essential to the destruction of Sauron.
So I disgree with you other than that I do think, but from a very different perspective, that Gollum deserved his death - as a release from the terrible burden of his life and reunited with his Preciousssss
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Old 03-21-2007, 04:23 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Folwren
Gandalf didn't say that Gollum didn't deserve to die! He said Gollum did deserve to die. However, he told Frodo not to be eager to deal out death in judgement. Death is final, and it's too final for a hobbit like Frodo to deal out. It wasn't Frodo's place to judge people unto death, that's what I think Gandalf was saying.
Where the plague did Gandalf say Gollum did deserve to die?? It seems much more like he is making a case that Gollum deserves a chance to see if he could recover & recapture his former self.

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Old 03-21-2007, 04:23 PM   #5
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As Mithalwen already pointed out, Gollum never was on an errand for Sauron intentionately.
This matter is presented well in the Hunt for the Ring chapter of the UT.
It is said that after Gollum was allowed to escape, he was followed by spies from Mordor, but that they were unable to follow him in the Dead Marshes. Afterwards he was captured by Aragorn, and taken north to Thranduil's realm.
If he had known that by seeking The Shire he would help Sauron find the Ring, he would have definitely taken much more precaution. Gollum definitely hated Sauron, and saw him as his greatest foe, if it was someone Gollum would have done anything to prevent from getting the Ring, it would have been Sauron.

One could debate that he might deserve death for other deeds such as killing Deagol, but definitely not for serving an evil power.
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Old 03-21-2007, 05:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mansun
In the real world Gollum would be put to death.
I'd say this depends largely on the 'where' in the real world.

Concerning whether servants of Sauron deserve death or substantial punishment:
Quote:
'You think, as is your wont, my lord, of Gondor only,' said Gandalf. 'Yet there are other men and other lives, and time still to be. And for me, I pity even his slaves.'
~The Siege of Gondor
I think it is one of the key elements of the LotR, that even though one might indeed deserve death, he should still be pitied, if this is possible.
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Old 03-21-2007, 05:25 PM   #7
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[QUOTE=Folwren]Gandalf didn't say that Gollum didn't deserve to die! He said Gollum did deserve to die. However, he told Frodo not to be eager to deal out death in judgement. Death is final, and it's too final for a hobbit like Frodo to deal out. It wasn't Frodo's place to judge people unto death, that's what I think Gandalf was saying.

QUOTE]

While he addresses Frodo specifically, I thought that by adding the words "For even the wise cannot see all ends" Gandalf's comment implied that not even the wise should deal out death in judgment. Since their knowledge of the future is imperfect, they don't know what role someone may play in the evolving tale of Arda and therefore should not issue a final punishment such as death.

Did Gollum deserve to die? I certainly had no problem with him falling into the cracks of doom. By then he was beyond any sort of redemption. But I agree with Mithalwen that he also deserved to die in the sense that he had far outlived his time. IIRC when he comes upon the sleeping pair of Frodo and Sam in Cirith Ungol (??), Tolkien describes him as old and weary, having lived to long. Death would have been a release.
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Old 03-21-2007, 05:35 PM   #8
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Where the plague did Gandalf say Gollum did deserve to die??
Right here...

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Deserves it! I daresay he does.
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Old 03-21-2007, 06:00 PM   #9
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Thank you Kuruharan. Right in the quote you quoted, Mansun, Gandalf said he deserved it.

Just because someone can not see into the future does not mean that they can not deal out punishment. There are crimes that deserve death, and even mortals and those that are immortal and wise are allowed and possibly expected to kill them for it.

Consider it thusly - If Bilbo had killed Gollum when he had a chance, Gandalf wouldn't have rebuked him, would he? Probably said something along the lines, "Well, well, well, I think there's more to this hobbit than meets the eye at first."

Or, if Gandalf himself had come across Gollum cradle stealing, I somehow think he wouldn't've spared his life.

Gandalf's rebuke to Frodo was not a question of 'If Gollum were brought to court for his crimes he wouldn't be killed' it was 'That's not very nice of you, Frodo, nor very wise. The fact that Bilbo didn't kill him when he had the chance should tell you that Gollum's time hadn't yet come. Don't be so hasty in such a matter and think before you speak and act.'
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Old 03-21-2007, 06:45 PM   #10
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I don't equate "dealing out death in judgment" with situations that involve self defense or the defense of others. Bilbo killing Gollum in self defense or a parent killing Gollum for attempting to murder his child is not the same as Frodo sitting in his living room making pronouncements on the fate of someone.

I agree that Gandalf is telling Frodo don't rush to judgment. But as for Gandalf's personal position on "dealing out death in judgment" he refrains from doing so at least twice, in the case of Gollum and Saruman. In the case of Gollum, Legolas reports at the Council of Elrond that Gandalf had told the elves of Mirkwood to hope for a cure. In the case of Saruman, in response to a question by either Merry or Pippin as to what he plans to do with Saruman, he states that he doesn't plan to do anything to him and regrets that much that was good now festers in the tower. Both Gollum and Saruman have done things that one might possibly kill them for but Gandalf does not suggest that such a thing be done and others seem to content to follow his lead.

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Old 03-21-2007, 11:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Macalaure
I'd say this depends largely on the 'where' in the real world.
I agree. I fail to see how dealing out death would redress any past deeds. I also believe that Manwe's words concerning justice/healing in the case of Finwe and Miriel can apply in here too:
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Originally Posted by Of the severance of marriage, Manuscript A, Later Quenta Silmarillion, HoME X
Neither must ye forget that in Arda Marred Justice is not Healing. Healing cometh only by suffering and patience, and maketh no demand, not even for Justice. Justice worketh only within the bonds of things as they are, accepting the marring of Arda, and therefore though Justice is itself good and desireth no further evil, it can but perpetuate the evil that was, and doth not prevent it from the bearing of fruit in sorrow.
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Old 03-22-2007, 04:39 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mithalwen
Well my country doesn't execute either murderers or the mentally ill ..theoretically it could execute a traitor, I believe...

For me Gandalf's words, were a factor in shaping my opinions on the death penalty, but given that ME is a world where capital punishment exists I will leave that to one side.

Gollum was tortured in Mordor - if he wsa "relatively unharmed" it was because he was so damaged already ...

You cannot punish people for things that they might do - well the state can't (to no doubt misquote PJ O'Rourke in "Parliament of Whores", "the supreme court can not punish you for having a smart look on your face - which is the difference betwen having a judicial system and having a mother").

Gollum was after the Ring for himself so to that extent, I don't think he was consciously on an errrand for Sauron or his servant .

Gollum's "treachery" if such it was, was essential to the destruction of Sauron.
So I disgree with you other than that I do think, but from a very different perspective, that Gollum deserved his death - as a release from the terrible burden of his life and reunited with his Preciousssss
I agree with everything Mithalwen says here. And for me too, Gandalf's words are very important to me in the Real World - together with the words of other wise men and women on this subject. I don't doubt Tolkien had his own experience of summary justice, having been in WWI where men, disturbed by what they had seen, deserted and refused to fight or simply went mad; instead of being cared for and receiving counselling they were seen as Traitors and shot at dawn. Even today, almost 100 years later, few of them have had any kid of pardon. Ask any ex-serviceman about this and they will shake their heads at the injustice and inhumanity of it all.

And it's interesting to note how many traitors there are in Tolkien's work and what 'judgement' is dealt to them - sometimes it is harsh judgement, sometimes there is no judgement. As Morwen says, Gandalf is also kindly with Saruman who is a much bigger traitor than Gollum. Ultimately, in Tolkien's world, it is not the 'place' of Hobbits or Men or Elves or Dwarves or even Wizards to mete out Judgement. We see those who are kindly and who show mercy and pity being revered for their actions whereas those who 'judge' harshly are not painted in this light. Aragorn allows his Men to desert on the way to the Black Gate, he gives the Oathbreakers a chance, Frodo pities Gollum and stays Sam's angry hand, the Ents allow Saruman to walk free, etc. etc. Being merciful is most definitely an act of 'taking the moral high ground' in Tolkien's world. Being judgemental is not.

What did Gollum do though? The only 'crime' we know for sure that he engaged in was to kill his brother for the Ring. Who else did he kill? Orcs, to eat. Was that wrong? The tales about his eating children are just that - tales! Gollum is the classic 'bogeyman' attracting legends and folklore to his reputation, the twisted, shrivelled Hobbit of your nightmares. But what was he really? What drove him? He wanted his Precious - he didn't want to kill for the fun of it, for the kick, he killed and schemed and lied in order to get his Precious back. That puts any judgement of him into a whole different arena I'm afraid.

It's like the story of the Allied soldiers locking the guards of Belsen in a room and then kicking them to death. As soon as something extreme like that happens all normal sense of 'right and wrong' goes flying out of the window. Not for me the job of being a lawyer on a War Crimes tribunal! And that's what Tolkien is telling us, the Readers, through Gandalf's words. He says "while you're sitting in your comfortable armchair, reading about 'crimes' and misdemeanours, can you really know the full story? And if you did know the full story, do you really think it would make 'judgement' any easier?" He tells us that no matter how much we discuss and think about this 'Matter Of Gollum', there are no answers.

There was in the end to be nobody to 'judge' Gollum. He died. In the pursuit of the Ring, this object that had made him who he was, a thing he could not live peacefully without, but a thing which could not be allowed to continue existing anyway. He died reunited with his love, the thing which had destroyed him. And just to add to the perfection of this ending, he died saving Middle-earth as nobody else was going to destroy it.

So rather than asking if Gollum ought to have been executed, maybe we ought to be asking if he was ultimately Middle-earth's ultimate martyr?

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Old 03-22-2007, 05:54 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lal
The only 'crime' we know for sure that he engaged in was to kill his brother for the Ring.
Hm, where is it stated that Deagol was his brother? He is only reffered to by Gandalf as his friend.
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Originally Posted by Lal
The tales about his eating children are just that - tales!
I disagree
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Originally Posted by The Shadow of the Past, FotR
The Wood-elves tracked him first, an easy task for them, for his trail was still fresh then. Through Mirkwood and back again it led them, though they never caught him. The wood was full of the rumour of him, dreadful tales even among beasts and birds. The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood. It climbed trees to find nests; it crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find cradles.
This new terror appears just when Gollum escapes and wanders in Mirkwood. I see no reason to discard this as a mere tale, since it fits with his description of "persistent in wickedness" and "damnable".
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Originally Posted by Lal
So rather than asking if Gollum ought to have been executed, maybe we ought to be asking if he was ultimately Middle-earth's ultimate martyr?
I strongly disagree. Gollum had little if any intention to sacrifice himself for the sake of others, not even to kill himself or destroy the ring in the very first place, quite the contrary. If anything would have been up to him, none of this would have happened.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter #181
Into the ultimate judgement upon Gollum I would not care to enquire. This would be to investigate 'Goddes privitee', as the Medievals said. Gollum was pitiable, but he ended in persistent wickedness, and the fact that this worked good was no credit to him. His marvellous courage and endurance, as great as Frodo and 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, and appear to be 'damnable'. Their 'damnability' is not measurable in the terms of the macrocosm (where it may work good). But we who are all 'in the same boat' must not usurp the Judge.
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Old 03-22-2007, 07:29 AM   #14
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I agree with Raynor here.
As Tolkien shows in Letter #144 (I think that's the one), Gollum would have indeed become a martyr had he repented before entering Shelon's Lair. Had this happened, he would have probably taken the Ring from Frodo and thrown himself in the lava, trying to keep Frodo safe, and ultimately saving Middle-earth.
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:00 AM   #15
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I agree with Raynor, and possibly somewhat with something that Lal said.

I didn't say Gollum deserved to die because I thought his treason deserved it. That was no where in my mind. I was thinking more of his murders and his over all corruption. He had to have been pretty corrupt to kill Deagol as soon as he saw the other Hobbit holding the ring in the first place.

I don't deny that Mercy is a wonderful thing and sometimes is better than Judgement, but you can't always put Mercy in as a substitution for Judgement. Not on earth (in this case, Middle-Earth). If you did, what would you be left with? (What's the world today left with?) Either a lot of murderers and criminals (and that doesn't belong in quotation marks, I'm talking real criminals) running around loose, or a lot of murderers and criminals locked up in prison for years upon years. Sometimes, capital punishment is appropriate punishment, and to have mercy in such cases would be jepordizing other people.

I guess in a case like this, one has to choose the lesser evil. That is, unless you believe the Bible, and then you won't have a problem with capital punishment, because that's God's law, when it comes to murderers and just a couple other crimes.

The real mercy comes after life.

But I didn't want to get into all that because it's not LotR or ME related.

I still think Gollum deserved to die, and I think Gandalf knew it.

I also think that Gandalf was supposed to make judgements. He did judge Saruman, to a certain extent.

But judgement and mercy are often mixed together when good people judge.
Aragorn, for instance, judged Beregond (spelling may be incorrect, and I haven't got a book with me), but he did so with mercy.

Won't go farther, I haven't the time.

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Old 03-22-2007, 08:13 AM   #16
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Is it me or has the the discussion already long left the original track?
Is this still a lore discussion based on the writings or only on personal emotions?
Because, after all, each person has his/her own opinion on capital punishment, which I respect, but I think that's a bit too off-topic.
As far as laws and capital punishment in ME I remember Boromir88 started an interesting thread on that topic, somewhere around here.
Of course, both Beregond, and Hama are good examples of people, who although broke the law, were only lightly punished by their superiors.
As for Gollum, he would deserve or not deserve death in ME depending on the laws of the areas he commited his crimes. If the Stoors had such a punishment for Hobbitcide (just made that word up), then I guess this was his fate.
If we are to consider this matter on a higher level, then probably Manwe as King of Arda, or Eru himself would be the ones with right to decide on such matters. Anyway, Eru's decision seemed pretty clear judging by his action in the Sammath Naur.
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:23 AM   #17
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Is it me or has the the discussion already long left the original track?
No it's not just you. I'm afraid this will becaome the next bloody (not used a s a swear word here, though that might be almost appropriate ) moral debate thread in the books...
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:28 AM   #18
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I agree with Raynor, and possibly somewhat with something that Lal said.

I didn't say Gollum deserved to die because I thought his treason deserved it. That was no where in my mind. I was thinking more of his murders and his over all corruption. He had to have been pretty corrupt to kill Deagol as soon as he saw the other Hobbit holding the ring in the first place.

I don't deny that Mercy is a wonderful thing and sometimes is better than Judgement, but you can't always put Mercy in as a substitution for Judgement. Not on earth (in this case, Middle-Earth). If you did, what would you be left with? (What's the world today left with?) Either a lot of murderers and criminals (and that doesn't belong in quotation marks, I'm talking real criminals) running around loose, or a lot of murderers and criminals locked up in prison for years upon years. Sometimes, capital punishment is appropriate punishment, and to have mercy in such cases would be jepordizing other people.

I guess in a case like this, one has to choose the lesser evil. That is, unless you believe the Bible, and then you won't have a problem with capital punishment, because that's God's law, when it comes to murderers and just a couple other crimes.

The real mercy comes after life.

But I didn't want to get into all that because it's not LotR or ME related.

I still think Gollum deserved to die, and I think Gandalf knew it.

I also think that Gandalf was supposed to make judgements. He did judge Saruman, to a certain extent.

But judgement and mercy are often mixed together when good people judge.
Aragorn, for instance, judged Beregond (spelling may be incorrect, and I haven't got a book with me), but he did so with mercy.

Won't go farther, I haven't the time.

-- Folwren
Firstly I must correct something. The Bible does not say that capital punishment is acceptable. One of the fundamental things I was taught being brought up, at Sunday School and in church was that Mercy comes above all and that to resort to capital punishment was wrong; reacting with violence is allowing oneself to sink to the level of the criminal; that only God was able to make such judgements. Only certain interpretations of scripture says capital punishment is OK and we must also remember that many of the 'laws' contained therein are not God's laws but reflections of the culture of an ancient middle eastern society - e.g. not eating shellfish, stoning adulterers etc. And as for those who are against the cruel treatment of criminals, many of the prime movers in the movement against Capital Punishment were/are committed Christians. Today we have the Quakers solely to thank that prisoners are not beaten and left to rot in foul dungeons.

Now on the matter of Gollum's crimes. Again, there is not enough evidence that he committed much more crime than to kill Deagol. Anything else he 'did' is simply hearsay, as we as Readers are not there when events rumoured to be Gollum's work take place and there is no reliable evidence. Had he been a Real Life criminal the case would be laughed out of court as it's only circumstantial evidence at best - and that's a push of credibility!

And we simply cannot say that because he killed Deagol he was already corrupt. If we do so we are omitting to consider that most powerful of all the dangers in Middle Earth. What's that? The Ring of course. What about the powerful draw that the Ring has on him? If it was so unimportant then we might as well dismiss the whole story of LotR, as it was quite pointless trying to get this risky object out of anyone's hands forever, and we might as well dismiss Frodo's struggles, and decide Boromir really was a nasty pigheaded bully and not just troubled by thoughts of the Ring and what it might do.

I'm afraid that this is one of those examples whereby seeking to impose simplistic Real World moral mores onto Tolkien's complex creation just results in stripping away all the subtlety.

As indeed Gandalf said "can you really judge?" No, none of us can.
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:41 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by The Might
Is it me or has the the discussion already long left the original track?
Is this still a lore discussion based on the writings or only on personal emotions?
Because, after all, each person has his/her own opinion on capital punishment, which I respect, but I think that's a bit too off-topic.
I think the problem is that, in order to decide whether a particular person does deserve death or not, we would first need to agree on what it takes for somebody to deserve death in general, which leads us almost necessarily into a debate about the good and bad of capital punishment. I doubt such a discussion, though it would surely be interesting (esp. with Middle-earth as background), will ever come to a final result here. It's not off-topic, but pointless.


A minor point: Gandalf says: "I daresay he does.", not "I say he does." This sounds to me like, although it is Gandalf's opinion that Gollum deserves death, he is aware that his opinion alone doesn't make it so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Might
Anyway, Eru's decision seemed pretty clear judging by his action in the Sammath Naur.
Exactly, and I would say that Eru alone can really make such a judgement. What is not clear, however, is Eru's motive, as Gollum's death doesn't necessarily strike me as a punishment.
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:48 AM   #20
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I strongly disagree with you on the Bible subject, but I won't get into it here. The Might's right, and I don't want to lead this anymore off track in such a blatant matter.

Gollum, though...

No good person in the books ever killed someone who already had the ring of power. No one ever looked at it and said, "Wow, I really like that Ring, let's kill him for it." The only person who almost did was Boromir, and that was after a long time of struggling with it, and that was also with the knowledge of what it was. Smeagol killed Deagol because Deagol had a pretty gold ring, not because Deagol held a powerful weapon that could defeat Sauron. (Tell me if I'm wrong about there not being anyone else but Boromir, it's really bad practice of me to be in an argument now...I haven't read the books in nearly two years.)

Okay, so if you wish to disregard his cradle stealing, then consider the fact that when he met Bilbo, his soul intention of the riddle game was so that in the end, he could throttle him and eat him. You don't think that's good evidence? And during the riddle game, Gollum is getting hungrier and hungrier and all the while of the riddles, wishes only to kill poor Bilbo. When Bilbo gives him an unanswerable question (unfair, yes, I'm aware of that), Gollum admits defeat, but plans to go, get his precious, and return and kill Bilbo in secret. You don't call that murderous?

Quote:
As indeed Gandalf said "can you really judge?" No, none of us can.
Ha. I almost said something much like that in my last post, but I didn't.

There's also another meaning to deserves... I just realized that. We've all been thinking of 'deserve' in this thread as a bad thing. But there are times when deserve is meant as a good thing. "He deserves a metal, therefore he shall have one." Did Gollum deserve the right to die?

I'd say he deserved it in both senses - both for justice and for relief.
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:52 AM   #21
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Cross posted with Mac, therefore, I'm double posting...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Macalaure
Exactly, and I would say that Eru alone can really make such a judgement. What is not clear, however, is Eru's motive, as Gollum's death doesn't necessarily strike me as a punishment.
If we all agree that Eru had everything under his control (which I believe), then I think, deserving or not, Gollum was spared death by anyone's hand only so that he could go and die while destructing the ring. No, it wasn't punishment, but it was justice. (Heh...whatever that means...)

Gandalf, I think, thought Gollum deserved death, but the fact that he hadn't gotten what he deserved yet made Gandalf think that Eru had something else planned for him. Isn't that what I said at the beginning?
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:56 AM   #22
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Foley, a few points.

First, Sméagol didn't attack or kill Déagol because he had some random pretty gold ring. He attcaked because he was overtaken by the lust and the lure of the ring. He maybe had some natural inclination to greed since he acted this quickly, but I daresay he didn't do this because he was a bad/evil person. Greed was his weak point and it proved fatal here. (Also, one must consider that it is possible that the Ring put more "luring power" to Sméagol than to Boromir, but I'm not sure why would it so so or can it control itself that much..)

Second, I wouldn't call his actions towards Bilbo murderous. He was hungry. He didn't want to kill Bilbo because he (Gollum) is an evil person, but because he was hungry. A lion doesn't kill an antilope because it's evil. It kills to satisfy its hunger. (And I'd rather not start arguing is it a worse crime to eat people than to eat animals, it's a horrible debate...)
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:56 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Macalaure
I think the problem is that, in order to decide whether a particular person does deserve death or not, we would first need to agree on what it takes for somebody to deserve death in general, which leads us almost necessarily into a debate about the good and bad of capital punishment. I doubt such a discussion, though it would surely be interesting (esp. with Middle-earth as background), will ever come to a final result here. It's not off-topic, but pointless.


A minor point: Gandalf says: "I daresay he does.", not "I say he does." This sounds to me like, although it is Gandalf's opinion that Gollum deserves death, he is aware that his opinion alone doesn't make it so.

Exactly, and I would say that Eru alone can really make such a judgement. What is not clear, however, is Eru's motive, as Gollum's death doesn't necessarily strike me as a punishment.
I agree. Such a discussion is ultimately pointless as nobody will agree!

Anyway...there's a very good point about what words Gandalf uses. "I daresay..." is incredibly different to "I say...". Remembering that Tolkien was English, it's important to consider how English people use the language, and "I daresay..." is very often used when someone really means "I think you're talking out of your backside, actually". As in when you get into a taxi and the driver lets fly with a stream of racist comments - "I think they should all be sent home, the scrounging foreigners, blah blah blah" may be met by a reply from you along the lines of "I daresay they should, but have you ever thought what it's like for them at home? Could you send them back to being tortured?" "I daresay..." is an opening statement used when we wish to appease the ranter, and is usually followed by an opposing statement of common sense - as is Gandalf's own "I daresay..." Miss out on that subtlety at your peril.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:12 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Again, there is not enough evidence that he committed much more crime than to kill Deagol. Anything else he 'did' is simply hearsay, as we as Readers are not there when events rumoured to be Gollum's work take place and there is no reliable evidence. Had he been a Real Life criminal the case would be laughed out of court as it's only circumstantial evidence at best - and that's a push of credibility!
You are right that the reference to Gollum stealing from cradles is, legally defined, hearsay. In fact, it is (to Frodo), second hand hearsay as Gandalf did not personally witness Gollum doing this, but was presumably told of it by another. To add a further level of complication, it is third hand hearsay to the reader, who is being told of the conversation between Gandalf and Frodo by the author.

However, a work of fiction is not a court of law, and the rules of evidence applicable to a court of law are irrelevant, or, at best, marginally relevant, since they may be used as a technique by an author to convey the extent to which an aspect of the tale may be considered reliable. The principal question here is whether Tolkien intended the reader to believe that Gollum fed on babies or whether he intended the reader to dismiss it as rumour. Tolkien chose to convey this information in a very important conversation between Gandalf and Frodo in which key background information to the tale was imparted, some of which Gandalf himself has no personal experience of (but which we are clearly intended to believe). In these circumstances, there is not doubt in my mind that Tolkien intended us to believe that Gollum snatched and ate babies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
And we simply cannot say that because he killed Deagol he was already corrupt. If we do so we are omitting to consider that most powerful of all the dangers in Middle Earth. What's that? The Ring of course.
I agree that the influence of the Ring was pivotal in Smeagol’s murder of Deagol. That said, Smeagol was the only Ringbearer to murder an “innocent” in order to gain possession of it. And he did so on the mere sight of it, without even having touched it. With the exception of Boromir, there is not one character not in the service of Sauron who comes close to murdering for it on the mere sight of it. And Boromir was exposed to it for many months.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I'm afraid that this is one of those examples whereby seeking to impose simplistic Real World moral mores onto Tolkien's complex creation just results in stripping away all the subtlety.
For me, the fascination of Gollum, as a character, comes from the fact that he committed all kinds of heinous deeds (let’s not forget that he intended to get Frodo and Sam eaten by a horrific giant spider being), and yet Tolkien is still able to make us feel sympathy for him.

Edit: Crossed with Folwren, who makes much the same point about Gollum's murder of Deagol.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:14 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Thinlómien
Foley, a few points.

First, Sméagol didn't attack or kill Déagol because he had some random pretty gold ring. He attcaked because he was overtaken by the lust and the lure of the ring. He maybe had some natural inclination to greed since he acted this quickly, but I daresay he didn't do this because he was a bad/evil person. Greed was his weak point and it proved fatal here. (Also, one must consider that it is possible that the Ring put more "luring power" to Sméagol than to Boromir, but I'm not sure why would it so so or can it control itself that much..)
Bilbo didn't even attack Frodo (much less kill him) when he knew that Frodo had the Ring in Rivendel. And Bilbo had already born the Ring. Don't you suppose the lure was strong on him, too?

And I dearly wish I had the books here with me today...fact is...the library is open now, I'll see if I can hop over there and look some stuff up.

Quote:
Second, I wouldn't call his actions towards Bilbo murderous. He was hungry. He didn't want to kill Bilbo because he (Gollum) is an evil person, but because he was hungry. A lion doesn't kill an antilope because it's evil. It kills to satisfy its hunger. (And I'd rather not start arguing is it a worse crime to eat people than to eat animals, it's a horrible debate...)
Gollum was not a lion or a wild animal. He wasn't even an orc, and yet an orc would be considered disgusting if it ate another orc or a person (they did, though, didn't they?). Gollum was an intelligent creature, cunning and evil.

And a lion, if it came to a village of people and started slaughtering the inhabitents, whether or not the lion deserved to be hungry and deserved to eat, the people would kill it.

AND Gollum WASN'T hungry at the beginning of the riddle game, but he STILL said, "If I win, I get to eat you."

Pointless? My dear chaps, any discussion on these books are pointless in the long run. "All is vanity and grasping for the wind."

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Old 03-22-2007, 09:23 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by me
Tolkien chose to convey this information in a very important conversation between Gandalf and Frodo in which key background information to the tale was imparted, some of which Gandalf himself has no personal experience of (but which we are clearly intended to believe). In these circumstances, there is not doubt in my mind that Tolkien intended us to believe that Gollum snatched and ate babies.
I meant also to note here that this information is relayed by Gandalf who, while not necessarily always right, is a trusted and reliable character and most definately not a gossip-monger, at least with regard to such grave matters.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:25 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Folwren
No good person in the books ever killed someone who already had the ring of power. No one ever looked at it and said, "Wow, I really like that Ring, let's kill him for it." The only person who almost did was Boromir, and that was after a long time of struggling with it, and that was also with the knowledge of what it was. Smeagol killed Deagol because Deagol had a pretty gold ring, not because Deagol held a powerful weapon that could defeat Sauron. (Tell me if I'm wrong about there not being anyone else but Boromir, it's really bad practice of me to be in an argument now...I haven't read the books in nearly two years.)

Okay, so if you wish to disregard his cradle stealing, then consider the fact that when he met Bilbo, his soul intention of the riddle game was so that in the end, he could throttle him and eat him. You don't think that's good evidence? And during the riddle game, Gollum is getting hungrier and hungrier and all the while of the riddles, wishes only to kill poor Bilbo. When Bilbo gives him an unanswerable question (unfair, yes, I'm aware of that), Gollum admits defeat, but plans to go, get his precious, and return and kill Bilbo in secret. You don't call that murderous?
Firstly, we don't know that Gollum was not already 'good'. The whole point of the Ring is that it is such a powerfully evil thing that it could drive even the best people into extremes such as murder. And what could be more humble than a Hobbit? Maybe we could even say that it is Gollum's very innocence (in terms of him not having the faintest clue what this Ring is, unlike most others who come into contact with it) that drives him to the extreme of murdering for it. I'm sure there's a good discussion been had already on just how the Ring works, and it's worth looking for as that is the crucial matter - the 'criminal' here is not Gollum but The Ring and how it works. But really, Lommy puts it very well here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thinlomien
First, Sméagol didn't attack or kill Déagol because he had some random pretty gold ring. He attcaked because he was overtaken by the lust and the lure of the ring. He maybe had some natural inclination to greed since he acted this quickly, but I daresay he didn't do this because he was a bad/evil person. Greed was his weak point and it proved fatal here. (Also, one must consider that it is possible that the Ring put more "luring power" to Sméagol than to Boromir, but I'm not sure why would it so so or can it control itself that much..)
Anyway, both the alleged cradle stealing and his thoughts of eating Bilbo have to be disregarded in a very ethical sense. The former is hearsay (and adds some mighty fine chills to the tale!) and the latter is only 'intention', it is not 'deed'. Had Gollum come to court then only his deeds would be judged, and there is no evidence he ate babies apart from folk tales and no evidence he did eat Bilbo because as we know, Bilbo got away! And even if there was then we would have to stop and think that all of this is down to The Ring. It exerts a truly horrible effect on anyone it touches and Gollum has it for an incredible amount of time.

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Originally Posted by Folwren
I strongly disagree with you on the Bible subject, but I won't get into it here. The Might's right, and I don't want to lead this anymore off track in such a blatant matter.
I agree, this isn't the place! But as you know, if things like that are brought up, people will get their nasty pointy sticks out and prod at them.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:35 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Lal
Again, there is not enough evidence that he committed much more crime than to kill Deagol.
You also are not taking into consideration that he hunted and ate orcs
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riddles in the dark, The Hobbit
He liked meat too. Goblin he thought good, when he could get it; but he took care they never found him out. He just throttled them from behind, if they ever came down alone anywhere near the edge of the water, while he was prowling about. They very seldom did, for they had a feeling that something unpleasant was lurking down there, down at the very roots of the mountain.
Frankly, I fail to see what you don't like about the account of the woodmen concerning his deeds. It all falls into the same pattern.
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Originally Posted by Lal
And we simply cannot say that because he killed Deagol he was already corrupt.
He was already evil at the time he took the ring
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter #181
The domination of the Ring was much too strong for the mean soul of Sm eagol. But he would have never had to endure it if he had not become a mean son of thief before it crossed his path.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Folwren
Gollum was an intelligent creature, cunning and evil.
I agree; unlike (most) Middle Earth animals, Gollum has the option to choose between right and wrong. Cunning and versatile as he is, he would have had no problem surviving on anything else than this.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:38 AM   #29
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You are right that the reference to Gollum stealing from cradles is, legally defined, hearsay. In fact, it is (to Frodo), second hand hearsay as Gandalf did not personally witness Gollum doing this, but was presumably told of it by another. To add a further level of complication, it is third hand hearsay to the reader, who is being told of the conversation between Gandalf and Frodo by the author.

However, a work of fiction is not a court of law, and the rules of evidence applicable to a court of law are irrelevant, or, at best, marginally relevant, since they may be used as a technique by an author to convey the extent to which an aspect of the tale may be considered reliable. The principal question here is whether Tolkien intended the reader to believe that Gollum fed on babies or whether he intended the reader to dismiss it as rumour. Tolkien chose to convey this information in a very important conversation between Gandalf and Frodo in which key background information to the tale was imparted, some of which Gandalf himself has no personal experience of (but which we are clearly intended to believe). In these circumstances, there is not doubt in my mind that Tolkien intended us to believe that Gollum snatched and ate babies.
But again remember the need to read it subtly. This is a work of 'myth' and it includes layers of myth, legend, folklore, story within itself. What Gandalf tells Frodo are "dreadful tales" - not 'truths' but "tales' and it is up to us to decide. Entirely subjective.

These are also tales from a mysterious woodland, one which has suffered from the Shadow, and where the Bogeyman will live large for many, many years gathered around the fireside on a long, cold, wintry evening. What Gandalf tells Frodo is framed in the language of the bedtime story. It drips with poetry and metaphor. Do we really think all the birds and beasts spoke? That Gollum was an actual 'ghost'? No, this is a bedtime story of fabulous power:

Quote:
The wood was full of the rumour of him, dreadful tales even among beasts and birds. The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood. It climbed trees to find nests; it crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find cradles.
It isn't 'fact' at all, here Tolkien is yet again layering story upon story until nobody knows what really happened, and that makes the 'myth' of Gollum even more frightening than the reality. Marvellous writing.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:46 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Lal
The whole point of the Ring is that it is such a powerfully evil thing that it could drive even the best people into extremes such as murder. And what could be more humble than a Hobbit?
Quite the reverse argument can be made, that the most resilient beings to evil are hobbits.
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Originally Posted by Letter #109
I think that there is no horror conceivable that such creatures cannot surmount, by grace (here appearing in mythological forms) combined with a refusal of their nature and reason at the last pinch to compromise or submit.
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The former is hearsay
Without any evidence to counter this, and with plenty of evidence to support this, then your argument is a fallacy of converse accident; the exception you are arguing is uncalled for.
Quote:
the latter is only 'intention', it is not 'deed'.
The fact that it couldn't get performed to its end doesn't absolve the immorality of Gollum for wanting to do such a thing. Intention is the first thing that defines the morality of one's actions.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:57 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
the latter is only 'intention', it is not 'deed'.
To add to what Raynor said, attempted murder, if proved, is a crime. One might describe the riddle game as an attempted murder on Gollum's part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
But again remember the need to read it subtly. This is a work of 'myth' and it includes layers of myth, legend, folklore, story within itself.
I agree that there is great subtlety in the way that Tolkien has Gandalf relay this information. Clearly, Gollum's deeds gave rise to wild rumours among the Woodsmen. But, without the deeds, there would be no rumours.

(And it is open to debate whether the birds and the beasts spoke, but quite possible given the fox's musings on the Hobbits' journey through the Shire. )

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
What Gandalf tells Frodo are "dreadful tales" - not 'truths' but "tales' and it is up to us to decide. Entirely subjective.
I of course do not dispute that it is up to the reader to decide. I choose to believe that Gollum snatched infants from theior cradles. And I believe that Tolkien intended me to.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:00 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by SpM
And it is open to debate whether the birds and the beasts spoke, but quite possible given the fox's musings on the Hobbits' journey through the Shire.
Tolkien actually complained about the presence of the talking animals
Quote:
Originally Posted by orcs, Myths Transformed, HoME X
What of talking beasts and birds with reasoning and speech? These have been rather lightly adopted from less 'serious' mythologies, but play a part which cannot now be excised. They are certainly 'exceptions' and not much used, but sufficiently to show they are a recognized feature of the world. All other creatures accept them as natural if not common.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:05 AM   #33
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There is no doubt that as Raynor has shown, Gollum wasn't a 'good little hobbit' and he did have this 'evil' side to him even before coming across the Ring. But let's not forget the power and the influence of the Ring in this situation. Yes, Gollum is described as 'damnable' and a 'mean son of a thief' before coming into contact with the Ring, but the Ring is also an integral part of the whole situation and let's not forget that.

Gollum went into what some might say a 'fit of rage.' And when emotions are high and you get into these fits of rage, you can not control what you are doing. You could say you black out and have no control over your actions. Boromir gets into one of these fits of rage:
Quote:
'Miserable trickster!' he shouted. 'Let me get my hands on you! Now I see your mind. You will take the Ring to Sauron and sell us all. You have only waited your chance to leave us in the lurch. Curse you and all halflings to death and darkness!' Then, catching his foot on a stone, he fell sprawling and lay upon his face. For a while he was as still as if his own curse had struck him down; then suddenly he wept.

He rose and passed his hands over his eyes, dashing away the tears. 'What have I said?' he cried. 'What have I done? Frodo, Frodo!' he called. 'Come back! A madness took me, but it has passed. Come back!'~The Breaking of the Fellowship
Yes, Boromir had this idea of using the Ring as a weapon and win him his own glory, but let's not forget the Ring caused Boromir to act in a way we know Boromir never would act. Boromir desired the Ring, and he struggles with this, but when the Ring gets control...it certainly causes Boromir to act in a way he never would. And try to do something he never would. In this moment of Boromir trying to take the Ring, it always seemed like one of those fits of rage/blackout situations; Boromir lost control over himself and the Ring filled him with a maddening rage.

Now what's this have to do with Gollum? Yes, Smeagol wasn't all that good before coming across the Ring, but would it be fair to say that the Ring caused Smeagol to be filled with the same madness as Boromir? The Ring twists, warps, and manipulates people into doing things they never would, and definitely changes them. As Gandalf says to Denethor about Boromir 'He would have kept it for his own, and when he returned you would not have known your son.' (The Siege of Gondor).

Before coming across the Ring could you imagine Smeagol getting into a fit of rage and killing his friend? Before coming across the Ring could you imagine Boromir going in a fit of rage trying to kill Frodo for the Ring? No. Both had their weaknesses, but both were manipulated and controlled by the Ring; and the Ring caused both to do things they never would have done. So before one so easily condemns Smeagol as a murderous, down-right evil, spiteful, deserving of death wretch...let's not forget the part the Ring played in turning Smeagol into a murderous, down-right evil, spiteful deserving of death wretch. I don't think the Ring should be cast so easily out of the equation (and I don't see why it has barely been mentioned in the effect it had in changing Smeagol into a miserable murderer).
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:12 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Boromir88
So before one so easily condemns Smeagol as a murderous, down-right evil, spiteful, deserving of death wretch...let's not forget the part the Ring played in turning Smeagol into a murderous, down-right evil, spiteful deserving of death wretch.
Then again, as I quoted from letter #181, he was already tainted.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:19 AM   #35
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I know the ring had a great deal to do with Gollum's behavior later on in life. But when he first saw the Ring and when he first had the ring, if he had been a good fellow, like Bilbo and Frodo both were, he wouldn't have 1. killed Deagol for it, 2. wouldn't have used it to steal things from his Grandmother as soon as he got it, and 3. wouldn't have been kicked out of society because of it.

I think the Ring's power over people was directly connected with the people's tendency towards evil before they had or saw the Ring. Just look at how different people handled it!

Bilbo - before he had the Ring, he was a common hobbit, who wished nobody ill. He was childish and sweet and badly frightened, by the time he came across the Ring. When he found it, I don't believe he felt a great pull towards it. He put it in his pocket, which was somewhat strange, I will admit, but he didn't put it on, and he forgot about it until the riddle game. There was no lure, no temptation, no nothing. And when he finally gave the Ring up, he stuck it on the mantel piece, his hand jerked back and it fell, and Gandalf picked it up. Bilbo had a flash of anger pass through him, but he didn't attack Gandalf, he didn't have a 'blackout' of rage. Bilbo's character was one that leaned towards good, rather than evil.

Frodo - was even more pure than Bilbo. He owned the Ring for a long time before the quest. It did affect him some in different places of the books...but never to the point of evil, until he claimed it for himself. When Sam took it from him after he was wounded by Shelob, he didn't attack Sam when Sam admitted having it. He asked for it back, saw Sam as an orc, and snatched it from him, but he didn't attack him.

Sam - purest of all the hobbits. He took the ring off of what he thought was Frodo's dead body, and when Frodo asked for it back, he handed it over.

Tom Bombadil - Ring had no affect on him whatsoever, but that was due to his power in his land as well as to his perfectness.

Others I don't have time for. Sorry. But I believe you see what I'm doing. My point is, Smeagol's character was bent towards evil, and therefore, the evil power of the Ring had an easier time of consuming him.

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Old 03-22-2007, 10:21 AM   #36
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Then again, as I quoted from letter #181, he was already tainted.
I think the question we should all ask though is could we imagine Smeagol killing his friend (or anyone for that matter) before coming across the Ring? I think not.

I'm going to use Boromir as an example again...here's Pippin's impression of him:
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'and Pippin gazing at him saw how closely he resembled his brother Boromir - whom Pippin had liked from the first, admiring the great man's lordly but kindly manner.'
Pippin admires Boromir for his lordliness, yet kind qualities. Boromir trying to kill Frodo for the Ring doesn't make him seem like a kind man...but in truth he was. Could we imagine Boromir trying to kill Frodo if he had never come across the ring? I think not.

Both Smeagol and Boromir were corrupted by the Ring because both were easy prey for the Ring. Gollum's pre-disposition to 'meanness' and Boromir's mindset that the Ring is a weapon both made them easy targets. But, let's not take the Ring out as an important part in the changing of these two characters...causing both to do things I don't think they would ever have done. Afterall a 'mean son of a thief' is a far away from a 'friend murderer' and 'baby eater.'
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:31 AM   #37
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Gollum's pre-disposition to 'meanness'
I would prefix pre-disposition with "strong". After all, he killed a friend perhaps in mere minutes, if not seconds, after seeing the ring; the only parallel I can think of is the orcs being stirred by the ring in attacking Isildur. Frodo abstained from killing him even after decades of having the ring, even when Gollum was a threat to his quest and most likely his life too. Folwren makes a better case about this.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:32 AM   #38
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Ring I don't think that Gollum deserved to die

I think that the ring to Gollum was sort of an addiction like drugs he hated it and loved it at the same time. He i think wanted to be freed from his addiction and become a good person. Just like any addict wants to be free from his addiction.
So i think that he deserved life yet his death saved the world from certain doom.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:51 AM   #39
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But let's not forget the power and the influence of the Ring in this situation.
I don't think that anyone is forgetting the important part that the Ring plays in Gollum's murder of Deagol, which in itself leads to the later heinous acts he commits.

What Folwren has shown, and what I have attempted to show, is that it did not affect any other character (outside those in the service of Sauron) in anything like the same way. The reference to Boromir is a fair one but, as has been noted, Boromir struggled for weeks, if not months, to resist the lure of the Ring. Gollum succumbed in a matter of seconds. Moreover, with Boromir's death in attempting to save Merry and Pippin and in his final words to Aragron, he is essentially portrayed as being required to atone for what he has done. Regardless of the part the Ring played, he is adjudged wrong for having attempted to seize it by force from Frodo.

In any event, to continue Lal's courtroom analogy, the Ring might have been regarded as a mitigating factor when sentencing Gollum for the murder of Deagol, but it would not have absolved him from liability.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:56 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
One might describe the riddle game as an attempted murder on Gollum's part.
Tut tut Mr Sauce. Now, would that really hold up in court? I think not. :P

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I of course do not dispute that it is up to the reader to decide. I choose to believe that Gollum snatched infants from theior cradles. And I believe that Tolkien intended me to.
I think that is the whole point of what Gandalf says, which is "Think for yourself, I'm not going to do it for you!" So with something half-hinted-at, merely 'suggested', the poetic language describing the mysterious events in the woods has been put there for no other 'purpose' than to allow you to come to your own conclusions. Those are Tolkien;s only intentions - as a great artist might merely 'suggest' something with paint he does it with words and it's up to you how you see things like that.

I like that there is no definitive answer. It's much more scary!

I don't say he definitely did NOT do it, just that we don't know for sure, which is far more satisfying.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Folwren
Frodo - was even more pure than Bilbo. He owned the Ring for a long time before the quest. It did affect him some in different places of the books...but never to the point of evil, until he claimed it for himself. When Sam took it from him after he was wounded by Shelob, he didn't attack Sam when Sam admitted having it. He asked for it back, saw Sam as an orc, and snatched it from him, but he didn't attack him.

Sam - purest of all the hobbits. He took the ring off of what he thought was Frodo's dead body, and when Frodo asked for it back, he handed it over.
Remember how long Gollum had the ring though, much longer than Frodo or Bilbo. And we can see the disturbing effects of it as soon as Sam puts it on and he has his mad delusions of power. That should tell us just how bad the effects would have been on Gollum - i.e. beyond comprehension. And Frodo seeing his own friend as an Orc? That's prety disturbing, seeing as we know Gollum ended up eating Orc flesh. Yet another subtlety about this is that we must also remember Sam saw the effects of the Ring on Frodo 24-7 - he was under no illusions, unlike everyone else.

How come nobody has considered what this Ring did to a certain Numenorean?

And speaking of later Numenoreans...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boro
Both Smeagol and Boromir were corrupted by the Ring because both were easy prey for the Ring. Gollum's pre-disposition to 'meanness' and Boromir's mindset that the Ring is a weapon both made them easy targets. But, let's not take the Ring out as an important part in the changing of these two characters...causing both to do things I don't think they would ever have done. Afterall a 'mean son of a thief' is a far away from a 'friend murderer' and 'baby eater.'
That's it. We're side-stepping away from the most important factor in the story, The Ring and what it does. It serves no purpose to blame the victims of Sauron's work for the evil that this work does - all it serves to do is to cause fighting over trivial matters, both in Middle-earth and outside of it! Whether Gollum was a naughty Hobbit is quite irrelevant - it's The Ring and what it does that matters.

Most of all, we're not heeding Gandalf's warning not to be too hasty to come to judgements that are beyond our ken.
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