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Old 04-21-2004, 01:56 PM   #1
Lord of Angmar
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White Tree Losing Gollum's Soul

The following is an excerp from an article I found on the web:

Losing Gollum's soul
Jackson has completely undone the scene that Tolkien describes as the most tragic in the book. The fact that the director has moved it forward from The Two Towers to The Return of the King is not the problem. In the book, Gollum comes upon Sam and Frodo asleep in the Pass of Cirith Ungol. Frodo's head is in Sam's lap, the servant protectively shielding him with his hands. "Peace was in both their faces." Something in this sight of loving companionship touches the remnant of humanity that remains in Gollum's soul. This is the moment when Gollum and Sméagol are having an "interior debate" about whether or not to deliver up the hobbits to the dreadful Thing lurking ahead in the tunnel. Gollum reaches out, hesitantly, with a trembling hand, to stroke Frodo's knee, saying, "Nice master!"

But Sam is instantly awake. Vehemently and mercilessly he rejects Gollum, calling him "villain." Sam means to be protecting Frodo, but his lack of insight and his roughness have the opposite effect. Tolkien writes, "The fleeting moment had passed, beyond recall." This is the point, more than any other, when the reader will cry silently or aloud, "No!" One could hardly miss the significance of the opportunity and Sam's utter failure to seize it, yet Jackson seems to have missed it.

The loss of this scene is incalculable. In its place Jackson's writers have invented a bit of business where Gollum steals the lembas and arranges to have Frodo blame Sam for the theft. This shifts our attention to Sam's hurt feelings, rather than the true center, which is the tragic implosion of Sméagol's nascent love for Frodo. We are robbed of an opportunity to understand that Gollum is still recognizably human and capable of love. More important still, the crucial tension between mercy shown toward Gollum—such a central theme in the book—and what Gollum actually "deserves" is altogether lost. Since the center of the Christian gospel is God's mercy toward the undeserving, those who value Tolkien's implicit Christian message will feel bereft.


I posted it because I sort of felt the same way as this writer about this particular scene. The rest of the article, if you should choose to read it, could also provide some insight for discussion in the Good vs. evil: Downplayed, or overplayed? thread.

Thats all for now.

-Angmar

Edit: When I say I "sort of felt the same way" as the writer of this article, I do not mean from a purely Christian viewpoint; I simply feel that the film would have been better served had it stuck to the book with regards to this scene.
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Old 04-21-2004, 02:53 PM   #2
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Ring The quality of mercy is not strained ... or is it?

Interesting article, Angmar.

It seems to me that Jackson took the moment forward to the Smeagol/Gollum debate in TTT, when Smeagol banishes Gollum only to be "betrayed" (as he sees it) by Frodo at Henneth Annun.

Throughout most of TTT, there were aspects of Smeagol's character which evoked sympathy, but they are swept aside at the end. When we come to RotK, Smeagol and Gollum are in league (as the debate mirrored in the pool suggests) and there is preciousss little reason for the audience to have any sympathy for him. I think that this was intentional on Jackson's part, to minimise the sadness which might otherwise be felt on his passing.

I agree that this does somewhat detract from the value of Frodo's mercy, since it is effectively Frodo's mercy which gives rise to Smeagol's feeling of betrayal and the return of Gollum. But I think that it is still fair to say that, but for Frodo's mercy, they would most likely not have got into Mordor. And Gollum would not have been there at the end to seize the Ring and fall into the fire with it (and no, I do not believe that Frodo pushed him). It is for this reason that I was glad to see Frodo effectively forgive Gollum when he encountered him on emerging from Shelob's lair.
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Old 04-21-2004, 03:03 PM   #3
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When we come to RotK, Smeagol and Gollum are in league (as the debate mirrored in the pool suggests) and there is preciousss little reason for the audience to have any sympathy for him. I think that this was intentional on Jackson's part, to minimise the sadness which might otherwise be felt on his passing.
Well, let's look at it slightly differently - what if Gollum's last pool-mirrored debate had been about whether to repent or to continue with the Shelob plan (if my memory serves me correctly, the debate in the movie went more like "can we or can we not get away with it, preciousss?")? Then the "nice master" scene could have been inserted in place of the lembas scene. Sam could have gone off at Gollum as he does in the books, and thus the audience would be left with some doubt in their mind as to whether Gollum's intentions towards Frodo had turned good or bad. When the audience realized that Frodo had been betrayed, their sympathy for Gollum would be vanquished for good. It would maintain the audience's intrigue in the subtlety of Smeagol/Gollum's character a little longer, only to evoke an even more angry reaction with Gollum's betrayal of his master to Shelob.
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Old 04-21-2004, 03:16 PM   #4
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Yes, it could have been done like that. But then Sam would have been perceived as being to blame for the "loss of Gollum's soul". It is much easier for this to be portrayed as the misunderstanding which it is in the book than it would have been on film. I think that Sam would have come off badly from it from the audience's perspective, and that is the last thing that Jackson (or indeed Tolkien) would have wanted.

And, as I said, I think Jackson wanted Gollum as a villain throughout RotK.
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Old 04-21-2004, 04:34 PM   #5
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Well, PJ could have toned down Sam's reaction to make him seem less culpable for Gollum's betrayal, and Gollum's saying, "Nice master," could even be made somewhat ambiguous in it's motives. I agree that "Jackson wanted Gollum as a villain throughout RotK," but do you personally see this as the best possible way for Jackson to achieve the desired response in the audience? {Do you think it does justice to Tolkien that Mr. Jackson would leave out the scene he described as the most tragic in the book? (I do not mean to aim these questions at you in particular Saucepan, just any who happens to stumble upon this thread besides us... just so you don't think I'm trying to push your buttons.) }

{Text added in edit}
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Old 04-22-2004, 06:09 AM   #6
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Sam is untouchable

I don't think Samwise really needed any protection from Jackson. Gollum, on the other hand, could really have used a booster (I mean, just look at the guy!). If they had done the scene as it was in the book, I don't think the audience would have turned on Sam. I think they would just realise the hopelessness of the situation and feel sad for everyone concerned.
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Old 04-22-2004, 09:35 AM   #7
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If they had done the scene as it was in the book, I don't think the audience would have turned on Sam.
Actually, I find it quite easy to imagine people coming out of the cinema saying "I don't like how that Sam turned the cute Gollum dude against them". And that would have provided yet another bone of contention for Tolkien (book) fans, many of whom would no doubt be ranting about how Jackson "messed up" the scene (although, as I said, I think that it would have been very difficult to portray properly on screen).


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I think they would just realise the hopelessness of the situation and feel sad for everyone concerned.
But that's the point. Jackson didn't want people feeling sad for Gollum in RotK. As director, that's how he chose to play it.

I think that it's always important to bear in mind in these discussions that the story told in the films is a different one from that told in the books, albeit based on it. Omitting this scene and adding in the lembas scene didn't make the films internally inconsistent (Frodo's mercy still has an important role to play) and it certainly didn't detract from them as far as I am concerned.
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Old 04-22-2004, 05:32 PM   #8
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Actually, I find it quite easy to imagine people coming out of the cinema saying "I don't like how that Sam turned the cute Gollum dude against them".
He's chosen rather to send people coming out of the cinema saying "I don't like/ I hate how Frodo turned on Sam". His movie decision may have channeled a lot of hatred towards Gollum for the Frodo/Sam mess, but Frodo also got some un-deserved hate, or at least some avoidable hate. Have Sam try to apologize to Gollum after losing the fleeting shot at Gollum's conversion, surely he could've found something to get a different scene & not get Sam hated.
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Old 04-22-2004, 06:42 PM   #9
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He's chosen rather to send people coming out of the cinema saying "I don't like/ I hate how Frodo turned on Sam".
I think people (at least those who have not read the book) will be more prepared to accept Frodo's reaction, resulting as it does from a combination of Gollum's machinations and the increasing hold which the Ring has over him.


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Have Sam try to apologize to Gollum after losing the fleeting shot at Gollum's conversion
The you lose the tragedy, and the point of the scene.
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Old 04-23-2004, 07:24 AM   #10
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But didn't Sam try a meek apology in the book? Only to be given the equivalent of a 'death stare' from Gollum? (That could be completely wrong, sorry.)
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Old 04-23-2004, 12:45 PM   #11
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Saucepan Man: I was going to post what Eomer just said. Didn't what he said happen in the book?
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Old 04-23-2004, 08:05 PM   #12
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Yes, you're right. Sam does apologise. In which case, the tragedy is not in the fact that Gollum's possible redemption is lost by Sam's reaction. Gollum could have accepted Sam's apology and the fact that he does not reflects more on him than it does on Sam. Rather, the tragedy is in the fact that we see that Smeagol/Gollum might have been capable of redemption. And, in the films, we see that in the debate scene in TTT. As I said at the outset, Jackson moved the moment forward.
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Old 04-24-2004, 07:52 AM   #13
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This is why I am glad PJ opened ROTK with the finding of the ring by Smeagol and Deagol. It is kind of a reminder to the audience that gollum was still human at one point. Although, the clips in that scene make the viewer more scared of him -rather than pity him more...
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Old 04-24-2004, 02:50 PM   #14
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But Sauce, the debate scene was before Frodo's betrayal of Smeagol to Faramir. The point of the Cirith Ungol scene in the book was that it was Smeagol's last chance.
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Old 04-25-2004, 02:49 PM   #15
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Being that there are numerous small details that were left out and altered (and some of them not quite so small), some of those things tend to slip my mind, but I agree with the basic intent of that segment of the article. This scene is a tragic loss as far as conveying the emotional turmoil that Gollum is going through.

Gollum seemed quite resolute on his plan, however, to the extent of leading them to the endless stair, and then “sneaking” off to see Shelob. So it was quite an accomplishment in and of itself for Gollum nearly to repent at that stage. But here’s an interesting idea, perhaps already discussed, and if not, perhaps it merits a new topic. What if Gollum had repented then and there? I know it’s been asked before what would have happened if Gollum had repented before, but would Sam and Frodo have made it through to Mordor after all?

Quote:
But then Sam would have been perceived as being to blame for the "loss of Gollum's soul".
While it’s not portrayed in the movies, at least not explicitly, Sam’s mistreatment of Gollum/Sméagol is shown an awful lot in the movie. His utter disgust for what Gollum became choked out any feelings of sympathy that he might have had.

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And, as I said, I think Jackson wanted Gollum as a villain throughout RotK.
I disagree. If PJ hadn’t wanted to show Gollum’s good side, then he wouldn’t have inserted the debate between Sméagol and Gollum, or Gollum’s recognition of his own name when spoken by Frodo, or even the prologue for RotK which highlighted Gollum’s once decent past.
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Old 04-25-2004, 06:42 PM   #16
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But Sauce, the debate scene was before Frodo's betrayal of Smeagol to Faramir. The point of the Cirith Ungol scene in the book was that it was Smeagol's last chance. (Eomer)
Fine. All I am saying is that the debate scene in TTT suggests that Smeagol might have been able to repent. But then he sees himself as having been betrayed by Frodo at Henneth Annun, and the chance is lost. In the films, that is Smeagol's last chance.


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While it’s not portrayed in the movies, at least not explicitly, Sam’s mistreatment of Gollum/Sméagol is shown an awful lot in the movie. (Knight)
Yes, but I think that Sam's attitude towards Gollum in the films is something which the audience can understand and relate to. Certainly, it is not sufficient to turn the audience against him. It is not Sam's attitude that turns Smeagol away from repentance. Smeagol's repentance, in the films, is lost by Frodo's (understandable) actions at the Forbidden Pool. Ironically, this is because Frodo is showing him mercy, in that he is trying to save Smeagol from death. Does this weaken the value of Frodo's mercy? I don't think so because, if Frodo had not shown him mercy at Henneth Annun, Gollum would not have been present at Sammath Naur and the Ring would not have been destroyed. And there is a certain tragedy in that. Frodo's mercy loses Smeagol his last chance at repentance (in the films), but nevertheless preserves the circumstances necessary for the destruction of the Ring.


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If PJ hadn’t wanted to show Gollum’s good side, then he wouldn’t have inserted the debate between Sméagol and Gollum, or Gollum’s recognition of his own name when spoken by Frodo, or even the prologue for RotK which highlighted Gollum’s once decent past. (Knight)
The debate and Gollum's recognition of his name were both in TTT. As I said, I think that Jackson did want him to be a sympathetic character in that film. The prologue to RotK is interesting. I think that it was a good addition. We see Smeagol in his pre-Ring state, and so can feel appreciate the tragedy of his fall (as a result of coming into contact with the Ring). But, at the same time, we can see that, having not even touched the Ring, he was driven to murder his best friend for it. I think that this sets up nicely his role as an out and out villain in RotK. It also heightens our appreciation of Frodo, since the contrast with the Ring's effect on Smeagol (and also Boromir) puts Frodo's torment, and his strength in resisiting its influence for so long, into context.


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What if Gollum had repented then and there? I know it’s been asked before what would have happened if Gollum had repented before, but would Sam and Frodo have made it through to Mordor after all? (Knight)
Tolkien does speculate on this in one of his Letters (No 246). He says:


Quote:
Sam could hardly have acted differently ... If he had, what could then have happened? The course of the entry into Mordor and the struggle to reach Mount Doom would have been different, and so would the ending. The interest would have shifted to Gollum, I think, and the battle that would have gone on between his repentance and his new love on one side and the Ring. Though the love would have been strengthened daily it could not have wrested mastery from the Ring. I think that in some queer twisted pitiable way Gollum would have tried (not maybe with conscious design) to satisfy both. Certainly at some point not long before the end he would have stolen the Ring or taken it by violence (as he does in the actual Tale). But 'possession' satisfied, I think he would then have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery abyss.
I have to admit that I have a problem with the final sentence, because if (as Tolkien also tells us) no one could voluntarily have destroyed the Ring, then I have difficulty understanding how Gollum would have been able to throw himself into the fire, since that would inevitably have involved the detruction of the Ring. For me, it seems more likely that Gollum would have accompanied them to Mount Doom and then, driven by the irresistable call of the Ring, attacked Frodo for it. The ending would then have been much the same, save that we may not have witnessed Frodo's final 'failure'.

But that is perhaps an issue for discussion elsewhere (and there are topics on this already).
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Old 04-25-2004, 08:02 PM   #17
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I don't think so because, if Frodo had not shown him mercy at Henneth Annun, Gollum would not have been present at Sammath Naur and the Ring would not have been destroyed. And there is a certain tragedy in that.(The Saucepan Man)
I daresay there is.

For my personal enjoyment, I would have liked to have seen the scene the way it was described in the books. Heck, I would have liked every seen the way it was described in the books. But, as always, you make a good argument Saucepan, and I can see what Jackson was thinking in changing the structure, particularly in regards to audience understanding and appeal. While I was not a big fan of the lembas scene, I would not say I was tremendously discouraged by it.
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For me, it seems more likely that Gollum would have accompanied them to Mount Doom and then, driven by the irresistable call of the Ring, attacked Frodo for it.(Saucepan Man)
Are you telling me you disagree with something Tolkien stated in letters? That is a pretty powerful canonball to fire into the conversation. I do agree, though-- I can't see anyone voluntarily destroying the Ring, let alone Gollum, however bound he was to his Master. The Ring's sway over Smeagol would reach its zenith at the Sammath Naur.
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Old 04-26-2004, 11:15 AM   #18
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Good day all! I've been rather too busy to spend much time here, but I couldn't resist adding my thoughts to this most excellent thread!
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But 'possession' satisfied, I think he would then have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery abyss.
I suppose I see this part of the Letter in a different way than Saucepan Man does. Surely Gollum would have known neither he nor Frodo would be strong enough to wrest the Ring from its ultimate master Sauron. I don't think Gollum is dim enough to believe that he could hold on to the Ring if Sauron found him. But, the part of Tolkien's sentence "but 'possession' satisfied" I take to mean that Gollum could satisfy both his love for Frodo (by saving him from the Ring and Sauron) and also he could win final possession in the only way he could--by being the last living being to hold it. Somewhere in his heart and mind, Smeagol/Gollum knows this is the only way to have the Ring for good. Thus, he doesn't (and can't) resist the Ring's call, but on another level he understands that he is doing Frodo a service. It might have been a point in favor of his redemption if it had gone that way, although the way it played out might be nearly the same in appearance. In other words, the difference is in the intent towards Frodo, and this might have tipped the balance in some unfathomable judgement on his soul. He might not see it as destroying the Ring, but more as solidifying his ultimate possession of it.

Cheers!
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Old 04-26-2004, 03:52 PM   #19
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For me, it seems more likely that Gollum would have accompanied them to Mount Doom and then, driven by the irresistable call of the Ring, attacked Frodo for it.
I guess I'm going to go by what the Professor said, but since he also said that no one had the strength to cast the Ring into the Fire voluntarily, I don't think Gollum would've had to sit by & watch Frodo destroy the Ring...he wouldn't have destroyed it anyway.
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Old 04-27-2004, 07:03 AM   #20
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But, the part of Tolkien's sentence "but 'possession' satisfied" I take to mean that Gollum could satisfy both his love for Frodo (by saving him from the Ring and Sauron) and also he could win final possession in the only way he could--by being the last living being to hold it. Somewhere in his heart and mind, Smeagol/Gollum knows this is the only way to have the Ring for good.
I agree that Gollum's craving for the Ring might be satisfied by his possession of it. And if that were the only force at work, then I would agree with you (and the Professor ). But there is also the Power of the Ring to consider. The way I see it, the main reason why no one could willingly destroy the Ring was because it did not want to be destroyed. And, however strong his burgeoning love for Frodo might have been, I just don't see Gollum being able to resist the Ring's will in this regard.
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Old 04-27-2004, 07:47 AM   #21
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This is the point, more than any other, when the reader will cry silently or aloud, "No!
Actually, for me the point in the book where I felt like this was the Forbidden pool scene, and Gollum coming to Frodo with trust, only to be captured. I felt that the sense of betrayal was not actually underlined enough in the film - it could have been made a lot more poignant.
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