“Yess, wretched we are, precious,” [Gollum] whined. “Misery misery! Hobbits won’t kill us, nice hobbits.”
“No, we won’t,” said Frodo. “But we won’t let you go, either. You’re full of wickedness and mischief. . . .”
This dialogue between Frodo and Gollum, when the hobbits first encounter the creature and tame him in Book IV, Chapter 1, gives us a clear picture of Frodo’s characteristic frankness. The hobbits do not owe Gollum any explanations about why they are forced to keep him captive. Other creatures, such as Orcs, kidnap the hobbits without giving them the slightest indication of why they are being captured or where they will be taken, as with Merry and Pippin’s capture in Book III. Frodo, however, is an honorable character, and he insists on being straightforward with Gollum about his impressions of the creature’s wickedness and mischief. Frodo is neither silent nor evasive, but upfront and honest. Moreover, he never creates the impression of being intoxicated with his own power. His casual way of saying “But we won’t let you go, either” displays none of the grandiose posturing that Saruman, for instance, would show if he had the opportunity to inform someone of his captivity. For Frodo, power is just a fact, not a justification for complacency or bullying.
This passage also showcases Gollum’s sneaky and deceptive personality, which distinguishes him from the other evil characters in the novel, who, for the most part, are just what they appear to be. Gollum’s self-abasing remarks, such as “wretched we are,” along with his incessant whining, are not imaginable in other evil characters, such as Saruman. Gollum whines and puts himself down in order to play on the hobbits’ sympathy—a tactic that works better on the trusting Frodo than on the skeptical Sam. Frodo’s goodwill is his weak point, as we find out later, when Gollum ultimately betrays the hobbits. Indeed, this tiny conversation between Frodo and Gollum is an ironic foreshadowing of the creature’s final treachery in Shelob’s lair. Here, Frodo tells Gollum that he is “full of wickedness,” and we realize later how tragically true this assertion is.