from Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, by Brian Rosebury

Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003, pp. 52-53

As Gollum’s aversions include not only the Sun and the Moon, and oliphaunts, but scented plants—he coughs and retches amid the ‘sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs’ of Ithilien (TT, 258-9)—one is tempted to say that his corruption by the Ring has alienated him from ‘nature’; but this would only be a half-truth. What he is alienated from is, more precisely, the humane, creative and expressive delight in life, including the natural beauty and resources of Middle-earth, variously enjoyed by the benign peoples. He cannot, or refuses to, eat lembas, the ambrosial ‘waybread’ of the Elves which sustains the hobbits: he complains at the very smell of the leaves in which the cakes are wrapped. He refuses cooked rabbit and fried fish, as well as herbs and vegetables. (In contrast, Sam clings to his cooking gear until the very last phase of the journey—when he casts his pans into a fissure in the desert plain of Mordor their clatter is ‘like a death-knell to his heart’ (RK, 215).) What Gollum will eat is the diet of the uncivilised, even bestial, carnivore, that is, everything which to cultivated human taste (at least in Europe) is repellent: raw meat, raw fish, raw fowl, ‘worms or beetles or something slimy out of holes’ (TT, 232), and (if Sam’s conjectures and the rumours of the Woodmen (FR, 67) are well-founded) hobbits, the flesh and blood of children, and even long-dead bodies. In this respect Gollum’s degradation harmonises with that of the orcs of Sauron and Saruman, and with the Augustinian theology. It is not that these malign figures are contrary to, or outside, (benign) nature—they are themselves created beings, and therefore part of nature—but that they are perverted to hate the rest of nature, including not only living and growing things but the arts, artifacts and accomplishments (including the cuisines) of other created beings: like Shelob, perhaps like Wormtongue who, Saruman hints, eats the murdered Lotho Sackville-Baggins (RK, 299), they devour cannibalistically if they can because this mode of eating represents in ideal form the negation of others.

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