of the Rings : Book 4, Chapter 1
The Taming of Smeagol
A Discussion Led by Kyriel
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Whose will - if any - do you think is directing Frodo and Sam at this point in the story? Is the Dark Tower really causing these delays (as evidenced by the storm and strange darkness they see)? And when a way IS found out of the Emyn Muil, but it comes through Gollum. Is HE being steered by good or evil (or both) forces? Do you think the Valar are at work in any of this, and if you do, how do you reconcile this with their decision in The Sil to remove themselves from direct involvement with Middle-earth? How about Eru - is he involved? Or are Frodo and Sam entirely responsible for their own fates?
...but I'm such a Frodo and Sam fan. (yes, I love them both. I tend to defend Frodo against the claim that Sam is more heroical etc. than Frodo, but I love Sam, too -- I just see less reason to 'come to his rescue' all the time, since there is such a big Sam lobby already! ;-))
But now for the questions.
>Whose will - if any - do you think is directing Frodo and Sam at this point in the story? Is the Dark Tower really causing these delays (as evidenced by the storm and strange darkness they see)?
I don't think any will is *leading* them in the Emyn Muil. The darkness and the storm *are* probably caused by Sauron, but they do not directly influence Frodo's and Sam's choices where to turn. The geographical conditions at the Emyn Muil just *are* kind of unfavourable for two hobbits without a map. ;-) The way Tolkien is describing it, it doesn't sound as if there would be any way down, except for the 'way' they finally take...
>And when a way IS found out of the Emyn Muil, but it comes through Gollum.
Does it? I always thought the Emyn Muil was just the mountainrange around Nen Hithoel, and the way they finally found was climbing down to the plain with the Elven rope?
>Is HE being steered by good or evil (or both) forces?
Gollum might be steered by both forces, I think. On the surface, he's under the influence of Sauron, of course, but then, if Gollum wouldn't have done exactly what he did, the quest would never have been achieved, so maybe there's some other influence there. And maybe not, at least not directly. Maybe it's just part of Eru's 'plan' for the world that evil is always helping its own downfall involuntarily.
>Do you think the Valar are at work in any of this, and if you do, how do you reconcile this with their decision in The Sil to remove themselves from direct involvement with Middle-earth?
I don't think the Valar are involved.
>How about Eru - is he involved? Or are Frodo and Sam entirely responsible for their own fates?
Eru may or may not be involved, it's hard to tell - and it's even harder to determine in which *way* he would be involved. Gandalf occasionally hints at another power being at work, and I feel it's more likely that this power would be Eru than one of the Valar, but, as I already stated above, it may be that Eru's involvement is very indirect - that part of the events, or at least the principles *behind* those events, were already determined since the creation of Arda...
Discussion, 2. "The Taming of Smeagol": brains and brawn - Kyriel
When Sam and Frodo decide to climb down a cliff, Sam immediately starts over the edge, but Frodo pulls him back and takes his place. He is the first to go down, but slips and nearly kills himself when the Nazgul shrieks overhead.
As far as I can recall, this is one of very few passages in LotR where Frodo takes the lead in a physical challenge. I don't think it's much of a stretch to see Frodo as the brains of the pair, and Sam as the brawn (Feel free to disagree with me). But if this is so, why do you think Tolkien wrote them this way – and more interestingly, IMO, why give Frodo the chance to outdo Sam HERE? Or would Sam, perhaps, have outdone Frodo if Frodo hadn’t pulled him back? Notice than even when Frodo sends Sam over first the next time down, it’s so that Frodo can help him from above by playing out the rope and steadying him.
Discussion, 3. "The Taming of Smeagol": A Gollum in Full - Kyriel
The first time LotR readers "see" Gollum in full is in this chapter, as he's climbing down the rock face toward Frodo and Sam. Tolkien describes him as spider-like, a "black crawling shape" with "soft clinging hands and toes" and eyes like "two small pale gleaming lights." And that's just about all the physical description we EVER get for Gollum, except for his few sharp teeth and heavy eyelids.
1) If you were PJ, how would you "flesh out" this description into a real character? Would your Gollum be naked or wearing rags? Would he have hair on his head (or on his feet - after all, he is a hobbit)? What color is his skin? What else would you include?
2) Although this chapter marks Gollum's real debut in LotR, it may or may not mark his debut in the movies. Do you think we'll see something of him before this scene, and if so, how much? If YOU were directing LotR, would you show anything of him before this scene or not? If you'd choose not to show him in full before now, how would you direct the flashbacks where Aragorn captures him and he escapes from the Wood Elves?
I'd prefer he wasn't shown clearly till the Emyn Muil. Glimpses and hints in Moria and on Anduin, as in the book.
As for flashbacks of Bilbo and Gollum: it was dark, and I don't think we'd need a very clear look at Gollum. If the scene of his interrogation in the Dark Tower is included, we'd see more of Gollum, but still perhaps just glimpses; not enough to get a full picture. And I hope only enough visual hints of Sauron to make him truly terrifying.
I have a strong suspicion PJ will do something similar. In which case we will not only see Gollum at the beginning of Film 1, but also Sauron in BOTH their full, respective glories.
It seems the 'cinematic thing to do'.
PJ should stick to limited CGI, good models, and, yes, a guy in a suit.
More to your question. I think he should look like a ruined Hobbit more than a spidery thing. Emaciated, angry, frightened, and very unstable. A very stringy person, in short.
Like Annael, I would show glimpses of him in Moria, Lothlorien, and on
the river. It would add some mystery and suspense to the Fellowship's
I've hit a few low points in my life, and it's amazing the kind of physical and spiritual degradation you can learn to treat as normal. To me Gollum is the ultimate expression of this. When he alludes ruefully, but unashamedly, to the various nasty things he's encountered in his hunt for food, I totally feel for him. To be so wretched as to distinguish the nastiness between eating orcs and snakes is truly hitting rock bottom. And you can sense how trapped he is because the sun and moon hurt him, the elf rope hurts him, and lembas hurts him. The Ring has corrupted him to the point where he can't physically endure wholesomeness. And somehow he's found the strength to dig in the mud and hunt in filthy water to eat fish and snakes and bugs just to go on another day in his hunt for his precious. And maybe he figured out the hard way when he had the Ring that even if he didn't eat, the Ring would preserve him, only in terrible hunger. Who had who? Ugh.
A good point about Gollum's constantly-visible misery.
Chapter 1 Discussion, 4. "The
Taming of Smeagol": How much does Gollum know? - Kyriel
When Gollum asks Frodo where he and Sam are going, Frodo says, "You know that, or you guess well enough, Smeagol....We are going to Mordor, of course." Gollum then admits that he'd guessed as much - but he never asks WHY they're going there, and of course Frodo never tells him.
Why doesn't Gollum ask their reason for going to Mordor? Do you think he's already figured it out, and is afraid to have his hunch confirmed? But if he has, then why does he agree to lead them (and what makes him smarter than Sauron, who DIDN'T figure it out)? And if he doesn't guess, what DOES he think they're going there to do?
But I think he might have some notion that Sauron is "calling" the Ring to him, and that Frodo is being drawn to Mordor almost despite himself. I don't think that Gollum suspects Frodo intends to destroy the Ring. He is near-insane with anger when he finally does realise that, on the slopes of Mount Doom.
I don't think Gollum has a complicated plan. He wants to stay close to the Ring, and hopes to get his hands on it somehow. He's too focussed on himself and his Precious, IMHO, to try to figure out what Frodo's intentions are.
Anyway, I think I agree with Annael: Gollum is a wretched creature, cunning but quite primitive in his way of thinking. He doesn't really need to know why the hobbits are going to Mordor, as long as he can fit his plans with whatever moves they are making -- his plans of getting his precious back. One thing, however, is still unclear: why is Frodo so sure Gollum can "guess well enough"? Does he say that simply because it should be clear to *anyone* meeting the hobbits in those parts, where they are heading, or does he imply deeper understanding on the part of Gollum?
Back to insane workload...
It also seems apparent that Sauron was entirely unable to imagine any scenario that would involve The Ring being destroyed. At no point was Sauron ever anything but evil. Gollum, on the other hand, was, at one time, good (or at least not consumed by evil). Therefore, he, unlike Sauron, could have conceived of a desire to destroy the ring and may have imagined just that.
As for Shelob, Gollum decides to betray Frodo to her while they're on their way to the Black Gate. But he had known her before, he was permitted to escape from Mordor via Cirith Ungol; the orcs there remembered him. I think he decided to lead Frodo to Shelob when he saw that Frodo and Sam were headeded to the Black Gate; it was not something he had plotted for years.
Chapter 1 Discussion, 5.
"The Taming of Smeagol": "It bites" - Kyriel
I'm afraid Gorel's already taken a crack at this one with his answer to "A Gollum in Full." But now you all get a shot at it:
Gollum screams when the elf rope is put on him, saying “it freezes and bites.” Why is this? Do you think it really hurt him physically (or maybe spiritually)? If you were to look at him after they'd taken the rope off, would you see actual marks on his skin? Note: The same thing happens with the lembas a little later; it tastes like ash to him.
But it hurts him physically, IMHO, because it hurts him spiritually. He has become so alienated from things good and wholesome; this is symbolised by his inability to tolerate the light. The tiny core of him that is still Sméagol would not be hurt by the elven rope, and would gain nourishment, both physical and spiritual, from the lembas.
Frodo tells Gollum that he thinks the lembas would do him good, and Frodo by this point is very wise.
I'm reminded of the scene in Bram Stoker's Dracula where a holy wafer is placed on Mina's forehead. It pains her greatly, and leaves a scar, which she bears until she is released from the evil influence of Dracula. Tolkien noted in one of the Letters that lembas can be compared to the Eucharist; specifically to the viaticum, which is the Eucharist as given to those thought to be close to death.
There's already been some disagreement about Gollum's intentions at this point. Certainly he already KNEW about Shelob, but did he intend to betray Frodo from the beginning, or did he really mean to serve him well? What do you think?
1) Evidence for sincerity: saying "I promise." Tolkien makes it clear
later on that Gollum's use of the singular pronoun is a sign of sincerity.
2) Evidence for duplicity: the vagueness of swearing to serve "the master of the Precious." Did he know even then that this oath could be twisted?
And the Ring itself is a force here, as Frodo clearly recognizes. It's working on Gollum to get him to betray Frodo.
Sméagol, on the other hand, still has a tiny spark of (for want of a better word) humanity. He's drawn to the hobbits, and makes his promise with at least an attempt at sincerity.
But the promise is twisted even as he utters it, as Frodo warns him it might be: the Master of the Precious is, at least from Sméagol/Gollum's perspective, whoever wields it. If he can get his hands on the Ring, he will be the Master, and need serve no one.
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"...Not on it. Swear by it, if you will. For you know where it is. Yes, you know, Smeagol. It is before you."
For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another's minds.
"Down! down!" said Frodo. "Now speak your promise!"
Aaaaaah, what a great little passage! I could probably pull fifteen different questions out of it if I tried, but why don't I just choose a handful and let you answer those or create your own?
1) What significance do you attach to the fact that Frodo says "It is
before you," rather than "It is very near you," or "It is with me," or
something similar? After all, what is technically "before" Gollum is
2) Is this new "mighty lord" quality of Frodo's a good or a bad thing? After all, it seems to have to something to do with the Ring, but "hiding his brightness in grey cloud" reminds me of Gandalf.
3) In what ways are Frodo and Gollum "akin and not alien"?
4) In what way can Frodo and Gollum "reach one another's minds"? Is it telepathy or empathy or something else?
That's all for the moment. I'm sure other people will have more comments and questions.
Chapter 1 Discussion,
8. "The Taming of Smeagol": summary - Kyriel
First, thanks to all who participated in the discussion of the chapter. We had some really excellent commentary this week, didn't we? :-) A summary of topics discussions and opinions given:
Now that they're on the east side of the river, Frodo is becoming
impatient to reach Mordor. He wants to finish the quest as quickly as
possible, and the Ring is beginning to eat at him. He may even be
feeling some of what Gollum feels: drawn by Sauron toward the land of
shadow. However, we can't say that it's Sauron's will governing him at
this point, although
Eru might be involved.
In any case, Frodo's impatience actually brings him to take the lead in going over a cliff. This is unusual for him, since he's usually the brains of the operation and Sam is the brawn. On the other hand, we know he was wilder in his younger days and may have had some climbing experience as a young hobbit, so it may have been natural for him to take over here.
This chapter marks our first view of Gollum in full, and the board is in agreement that this should be our first full view of him in the movies - although most are not averse to seeing glimpses of him (shadows, hints, etc.) before this scene. It probably can't be avoided. We agree that in looking at Gollum, we should feel pity and horror. He should clearly be a ruined hobbit, not some alien creature. He is a constant visual reminder of what Frodo could become if he fails in his quest. Gollum should be pale and supernaturally wasted, perhaps with bruised and/or mottled skin. He should look "magically preserved" and so thoroughly corrupted by the Ring that he can't bear anything good or wholesome.
This is why he hates the sunlight and is burned by the Elven rope. Anything good hurts him spiritually because his very soul has been twisted. However, if he would at least try to eat the lembas, we feel that it really might offer him some spiritual healing.
How much does Gollum suspect of Frodo's REAL intent toward the Ring? Most likely, the dominant thought in his mind is just to get his Precious back; he may not be thinking any farther than that when he agrees to go with Frodo. Of course, the Ring is also constraining him to obey. On the other hand, he and Frodo can to some extent look into one another's minds; and unlike Sauron, Gollum has at least enough memory of goodness that he can contemplate the destruction of the Ring. However, if he does suspect Frodo's true intent, he's in denial.
How sincere is Gollum when he swears on the Precious to serve its master? Smeagol IS sincere; he's drawn to the hobbits and the good memories they represent. However, he has a split personality, and Gollum is the dominant personality. Smeagol may be sincere, but Gollum is already looking for a loophole and probably suggested the wording of the oath.
Frodo's forcing Gollum to swear marks the first time that he uses the Ring to command. This is a major turning point for his character. If he had been cruel to Gollum or killed him, he might have fallen to the evil of the Ring right then and there. But because he was merciful, he earned some breathing room. Still, this is where the Ring really begins to work on him. Sam sees him suddenly as a powerful lord whose strength is hidden in a cloud. This strength is probably innate to Frodo; Gandalf and Bilbo and others have always seen something special in him. But until he brought that quality to the surface, the Ring didn't have much to work with. Now it does. It may even be magnifying his positive leadership qualities in order to corrupt them.