Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gollum: Hero or Villain? NOVA this week (December 12, 2015)

Observations from my weekly wanderings, usually in Northern Virginia (NOVA).

A Turkish court is weighing evidence to determine if Gollum, the gangly creature with the ill-favored look, from The Lord of the Rings is a good guy or a bad guy.

First let me stress, I’m not interested in debating the merits or the Turkish law that makes insulting the head-of-state a crime. It’s Turkey’s law and they’re welcome to it.

I’m more interested, amused really, with the debate about Gollum’s redeeming qualities.

As a child, when I’d read only The Hobbit, there was no question – Gollum was a sinister creature who terrified me. (see post on Scariest Read)

But things get a bit more complicated in LOTR. The reader learns Gollum’s full tale, and some readers begin to pity him a bit. Me, not so much. I was pretty much on Sam’s side whenever Gollum’s trustworthiness came up – He’s a villain!

I can see things from Frodo’s point of view though, and I’m fairly certain this was Tolkien’s intent. The Ring – pure evil – had corrupted Gollum. He was once a fairly decent chap, but the evil beckon of the ring seduced him, and ruined him.

Or did it? There is a hint of something decent left in him. Frodo, by his own admission needed to believe that Gollum could “come back.” The book and the film portray the inner turmoil that Gollum faces, as well as the growing division between Sam and Frodo on the redeemable possibility for Gollum.

But that doesn’t really address the question, is Gollum a hero or a villain?

To me it’s pretty simple – he’s a villain. His actions end up saving Middle Earth, but there was no virtue in his actions, only treachery.

But then, all you fans of literature over film, Peter Jackson did something that Tolkien did not intend. (subtle allusion there – did you get it?)

And I can’t say for absolute certain that Tolkien did not intend this, and I can’t even say for certain that Jackson did it intentionally, but the film portrays something so magnificently, I will have difficulty describing it.

Frodo, as I already implied, was feeling the growing power of the Ring upon himself. He needed, or wanted, to believe he could be free from its power, but he was clearly doubting if he ever would.

So, Gollum bites Frodo’s finger off, falls into the molten rock and perishes, leaving Frodo dangling precariously, and the Ring floating on the lava, not yet destroyed. Frodo still has a trancelike look on his face, is still apparently under the power of the Ring and Sam rushes to his rescue. But Sam cannot rescue Frodo, if Frodo will not try to be rescued and that seems clearly in doubt.

And the sequence to this is ALL IMPORTANT. Frodo, comes to himself reaches out to Sam and is rescued, and THEN – a short second later – the Ring is destroyed.

Frodo conquered the Ring. He was not set free once it was destroyed – he conquered it, and THEN it was destroyed. Gollum was no hero. Frodo was.

And I’m a geek. It’s just a stupid bit of fantasy, but Oh how I love that scene.

However, I hope the Turkish courts do not read this post. Even though I think Gollum is a villain, I don’t think the guy should go to jail for comparing the PM to Gollum.


  1. Wonderful post--it's been 40 years since I read LOTR and have only watched the first movie, but this post made me want to reread the trilogy and finally watch all the movies.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Jane. Yes, you really MUST reread and for goodness sack finish watching the movies. (You can skip the Hobbit movies IMO).


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