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While a wide variety of creepy nonhuman creatures populate
the world of The Lord of the Rings—ranging from
the dark Nazgûl to the revolting Shelob—Gollum
stands out from the rest as psychologically intriguing. Capable
of speech, he is quite forthcoming in sharing his inner thoughts
with anyone who cares to hear them, even talking out loud when no
one is there to hear. As such, Gollum is something more than a mere
monster. By the same token, he is not quite a villain either, as
he lacks the grand stature of Sauron or Saruman, or even of Wormtongue.
We cannot imagine any of these other wicked figures splashing around
in the water in search of fish or whining about how bread burns
his throat. Moreover, though Gollum acts like a servant, it is hard
for us to believe that he kowtows to Frodo only in order to win
the hobbit’s trust. Rather, this wretched subservience seems to
be Gollum’s natural state—at least, his natural state after years
of the deleterious effects of possessing the Ring. On the whole,
Gollum’s morality is almost completely impossible to guess for most
of the novel. While other characters are clearly evil or clearly
good, Gollum acts as if he is on the side of good, but he may perhaps
be treacherous. Until the end of The Two Towers, we
are never quite sure.
Gollum’s fondness for Frodo is one of the mysteries of
the creature’s personality. Of course, Gollum willingly leads Frodo
to a probable death at the end, and he is no true friend to the
hobbit. But still there is a striking and surprising display of
real affection for the one whom Gollum calls master, even beneath
the false flattery he issues to Frodo in order to gain trust. When
Sam catches Gollum fondly caressing the sleeping Frodo, there is
no other explanation for what the creature is doing than showing
that he loves his master. Sam may suspiciously describe Gollum’s
activity as “sneaking” around Frodo, but we feel that, strangely
enough, Frodo’s betrayer loves and respects him in his own odd way.
We may be inclined to think that at these moments, Gollum’s original
nature—his lost identity as Sméagol—shows through, perhaps in response
to seeing his earlier self in Frodo.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Two Towers!