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Narrative Structure

Only one scene in the trilogy appears out of chronological order: the opening scene of The Return of the King. In this scene, the hobbit Sméagol kills his friend to acquire the ring of power and eventually becomes the withered creature Gollum, whose singular obsession is the ring. As a freestanding scene, this episode is unique in the trilogy. In a way, the scene reveals nothing new, since Gollum’s internal debates in The Two Towers reveal enough information for us to speculate about his history. Other background information may have been equally or more useful, such as the history of Saruman and Gandalf’s relationship or the story of Aragorn’s being raised by elves.

The Sméagol scene, however, has two important effects on The Return of the King and on the trilogy itself. Though the power of the ring has been evident from the very beginning, Sméagol’s transformation shows exactly how dangerous that power is. In a way, the story of Sméagol serves as a cautionary tale or a dire prediction of what could happen to Frodo if he gives in to the power of the ring. The scene also gives new edges and layers to the character of Gollum. Gollum is a complex combination of good and evil, and this ambiguity sets him apart from other characters in the trilogy, who are usually completely good or wholly evil. Gollum’s history provides a window into his psyche, and, with him more than with any other character, we can see what motivates both his actions and his anxiety. Gollum’s utter helplessness in the presence of the ring renders him, to some extent, an object of sympathy.

More symbols and themes

by KeeganTheAwesome, August 08, 2012

Another theme that appears several times in The Lord of the Rings is the conflict between nature and industry. Tolkien had been raised in the countryside and was very attached to nature, so you could understand his disappointment with his fellow humans when industry and machines began taking over. Because of his childhood home, he made a noticeable connection between evil and metal by making the Shire a rural place and filling Mordor and Isengard (the antagonists) with machines, forges, fire, wheels, and other objects associated with manufac... Read more

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Slight Error

by Wholock903, May 26, 2014

Smeagol was not a Hobbit, he was one of the Fisher Folk, a race that are close to the Hobbits, and they lived in the Shire still, beside the river.

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A minor correction

by nayomayo, April 04, 2015

While, yes, it is correct to say Aragorn rules over two kingdoms of men (namely Gondor and Arnor), he does not and never does rule over Rohan. The land on which Rohan is located did previously belong to Gondor centuries ago but was gifted to the Rohirrim to claim as their own. Rohan is its own kingdom and no longer is subject to the rule of Gondor's King. Rohan and Gondor are still linked through their strong alliance or the Oath of Ceorl.

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