Gollum, despite his murdering ways, perhaps is one of the more relatable characters in The Lord of the Rings. He does not have the patience or steadfastness of Aragorn. He is not a lofty-minded elf. He is not concerned with the affairs of others. He thinks of only two things: the Ring and himself.
It might seem strange to say that Gollum thinks of two things when his conversations – except for his songs about fishes – revolve around the Ring. The Ring, though, only brings his darker nature to the fore. It inflames it. It encourages it. Without the Ring, Gollum would have remained Smeagol, an unlikeable, self-centered character but perhaps one who could have controlled his lust for gold and “precious” things.
With the Ring, Gollum’s nature and physical features became ever more bent. Deformed. Almost unrecognizable except in those few instances when he would remember who he once was, when he was treated with kindness rather than with repugnance and kicks to his ribs. Under the influence of the Ring, Gollum became a creature of the dark. He embraced it. He found it more soothing than the light even though he once had been a creature who lived in the light.
Gollum isn’t the only bent and broken creature in The Lord of the Rings; Treebeard says, “But Trolls are only counterfeits, made by the Enemy in the Great Darkness, in mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves.” Bilbo, the usually good-natured hobbit, finds his nature corrupted by the Ring. He, too, has a desire for pretty things but, unlike Gollum, has the ability to control some of his darker intents.
And Frodo? It’s hard to know what would have happened to him if Gollum hadn’t bitten off Frodo’s finger and the Ring. Frodo could have become more bent. The wounds he had endured might have hurt more deeply. He could have turned on his dear friend, Sam. Perhaps he would have retreated to a cave similar to the one where Bilbo found Gollum. Maybe he would have been consumed with a desire for the Ring and for his own way.
Who’s to say? Frodo lost his finger and the Ring, which was to his benefit. Yes, the pain – both the emotional and the physical – must have been almost unbearable. Sometimes, though, momentary pain keeps one from going down a darker, much more painful and lonely path. Pain reminds one of who he or she is and is meant to be, not a bent creature who finds comfort in the dark, but a creature who lives in the light and enjoys living in that light with others.
Photo: Lilith Day (CC BY-NC 2.0)