J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings". Gollum versus Sméagol. The inner conflict between the good, the bad and the precious

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2018

15 Pages, Grade: 1.3




1. The Transformation of Gollum
1.1. The Transformation from Sméagol to Gollum
1.2. The Taming of Sméagol
1.3. Style of Speech and Motives of Gollum and Sméagol

2. The Inner conflict between the good and bad
2.1. The heavily addiction to the ring and its powers
2.2. Moral and philosophical perspective of Gollum

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography


“T hree Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, one for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness, bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.” 1

The Lord of The Rings marks a huge recess in the beginning of the 21th century of Hollywood and movie making. J.R.R. Tolkien´s tale has been a publishing and literary phenomenon for half a century. Since its publication in 1954-55, Tolkien´s fantasy epic has sold more than fifty million copies and has been voted the greatest book of the twentieth century in several recent readers´ polls.2 Not only did the book explode on the market of literary consume, it was the film trilogy by Peter Jackson that re-catapulted this tale back to the sky of Hollywood. With Peter Jackson´s blockbuster film version of the great Quest, Tolkien´s magical tale of cheerful hobbits, snarling orcs, and short-tempered wizards garnered millions of new fans.3 The main theme of this research paper however deals with one of the main characters in Tolkien’s tale, on the curse of Gollum and his dysfunctional personality of Gollum and Sméagol. Moreover, the focus on this paper is to analyze the inner conflict between the good in Sméagol during the whole Quest, the bad in Gollum and his addiction to the ring and the precious, which he obviously calls it every chance he thinks about it or has it in his very own hands. In addition, in the Lord of the Rings, moral language and the contrast between good and evil in many places can be seen on several occasions colliding against each other.

Gollum, who is known as a forgotten creature of destructive behavior in Middle-earth, is acknowledged by many of the characters in Tolkien’s The Hobbit4 and especially, The Lord of the Rings, and even more are also aware of his presence, but he creeps across Middle-earth in secret, perpetually hunting in the darkness for his precious, the ring5, which he is searching desperately for, for ages. One of the most astonishing aspects of Gollum’s character is that he does not go through a lot of changes in Saga, but only shifts from one version of himself to another throughout the whole Quest throughout Middle-earth. His character shifts from a selfish and lazy creature to a selfish and active creature, which allows him to attain manipulative abilities no one expected him to develop throughout this whole Quest. Fiction and popular culture in general, can serve as an effective medium for pointing out and presenting philosophical ideas to people and readers, to give them the chance to think on certain topics and questions about life and circumstances. This appeal to popular culture goes back at least to Socrates, the first great philosopher in Western civilization. To encourage people to think about their lives and beliefs, Socrates often used examples from art, sports, music – whatever his interlocutors knew about and were interested in.6 In a comparable way, one can believe that today´s popular culture can help to get people excited about the great question of philosophy and its distress. Therefore, Fiction is marked as a huge representative for the illusion of people’s mind, where a reader can get lost in his own stories and imaginations like the world that Tolkien build. Therefore, this research paper will analyze the Transformation of Sméagol to Gollum and his personality throughout the series, his rehabilitation and taming but also the spirit of good and evil. There will also be a pointing out on his style of speech and his conversations with himself throughout the tale.

To sum it up, the main goal of the illustration by Gollum, is to highlight the morality and philosophical significance of The Lord of the Rings, but moreover the inner conflict between this creature of Gollum and his own fight against his desire for the ring.

1 . The Transformation of Gollum

1.1. The Transformation from Sméagol to Gollum

Gollum is a contradictive character in Tolkien´s Lord of the Rings. Tolkien has a pattern of creating matched, parallel or double individuals, a pattern that allows him not only to emphasize certain personality traits but also to suggest internal splits or negative potentiality within his characters.7 One can assume that every character has its own shadow in his body or within his spirit. Gollum and Frodo are closely and purposefully linked. The implication is clear: Gollum is the Ring-destroyed soul that Frodo could become. Moreover, Gollum has his own duality. Gollum´s internal division is suggested by double names: Sméagol and Gollum.8 In contrast to the other Hobbits, who live of fields and gardens, Gollum detests herbal nourishment: “Sméagol […] doesn´t eat grass or roots, no precious, not till, he´s starving or very sick […].”9 This clearly shows that there is a difference in his nutrition after his diversification of Sméagol to Gollum. Contradictive to his hate for nature, he kind of has a slight closeness to it. He is good at climbing trees and a good swimmer too. He catches fish with his hands. But his relation to nature is like his personality very schizophrenic. On the one hand, he hates the sun and the moon, but on the other hand he is striving for them:

“T here was a little corner in his mind that was still his own, and light came through it, as through a chink in the dark: light out of the past. It was actually pleasant […] to hear a kindly voice again, bringing up memories of wind, and trees, and sun on the grass, and such forgotten things.” 10

That is why Gollum faces good and evil spirits in himself, which on several occasions occur to him like a reflection of the past throughout the Quest. He derives his uncanny effect exactly from his unidentified origin. He desires the ring but by meeting the Hobbits he has an inner fight between his old and nearly forgotten name, Sméagol and his now,

In the Fellowship of the Ring (Book 1), chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past”, the reader learns that Gollum originally had been a hobbit and lived with his community near the fields before the hobbit migrations to the Shire11. The possession of the Ring separated him from the community and drove him underground into the caves of the Misty Mountains12, where he is found by Bilbo centuries later.13 The reader also finds out that Gollum, after losing the ring to Bilbo Baggins14 centuries later, in search of it and drawn by the power of it, he finally found a way to Mordor, to receive a mission to find the Ring from Sauron and from that point on he always seems to lurk around the Fellowship of the Ring and later Frodo and Sam.15 One can assume that Gollum as a creature has had his exhausting battle with the good and the bad over the centuries, just because he has this obsession in finding his precious, his ring back. Through Frodo and Sam´s journey through Mordor16 to Mount Doom, Gollum is following them, and finally on the slopes of the volcano confronts them again. Sam is left to deal with him, but seeing the prostrate form, lets him go; Gollum eventually disposes Sam, and fights Frodo, who has just claimed the ring and refused to destroy it. Biting off Frodo´s finger with the ring, he accidentally falls to the fire, completing the mission.17 Finally, one has learned that Gollum was once a good person and kind in his own body but was betrayed by the power of the ring and his soul sickened with the shadows of the dark. Therefore, the idea of a creature degenerated and corrupted by time that has a complete lack of honor and morality, fixated on his body and with characteristic speech patterns is one of Tolkien´s most interesting and memorable figures of this tale of the Lord of the Rings.

1.2. The Taming of Sméagol

The study of Gollum and Sméagol marks a very interesting study. Not only does the Lord of The Rings contains passages on what might be called a salvation of Gollum, but the Salvation of his personality is never really achieved. For instance, Gollum can be cured by Frodo and Sam on their way to Mordor, but only on rare occasions does Sméagol really appear to help these Hobbits. It is the wizard Gandalf who speaks out on Gollum’s salvation and personality:

“ But that, of course, would only make the evil part of him [Gollum] angrier in the end – unless it could be conquered. Unless it could be cured. Alas! There is little hope of that for him. Yet not no hope. No, not though he possessed the Ring so long, almost as far back as he can remember. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it…In any case we did not kill him: He is very old and very wretched.” (I/ii). 18

Clearly, Gandalf is expressing his empathy with Gollum but is also saying that he leaves this creature with less hope than he expects because he is and was obsessed to that ring, that bound for so long. It changed is personality, it cut his personality in pieces and there is just a little chance for him to be cured before he dies. Not because he doesn’t believe it could not be done, but because he knows that this creature is just too wretched to be fixed. One must underline that curing is a different word than saving, of course, but usually it refers to a physical illness rather than a spiritual condition.19 One can assume that there is existing an evil or the evil part of him, that needs this kind of cure obviously.20 This sickness, or illness needs a special treatment, like Gandalf pointed out in the quotation above, and that this illness is a spiritual thing. This is basically the center of the taming of Sméagol in the story of Lord of the Rings. Frodo is administrating this kindness by trusting Gollum throughout the quest to Mordor and to try to fix his dignity with a simple act of calling him by his given name, which is of course, Sméagol. “How do we shape our course now, Sméagol? Asked Frodo. “Must we cross these evil-smelling fens?” – “No need, no need at all, “said Gollum. “ 21 Not many characters in the story feel empathy for Gollum, it is safe to say that it is just Frodo who has great kindness in his heart for Gollum. “Good Master”, “nice Mater”, “Kind Master” – that leads to the whole inner debate between Sméagol-side and his Gollum side, and to the change that takes place in him.22 In Frodo being good to Sméagol, the inner personality in Gollum evokes and takes his place versus the place of Sméagol in this creature. It is a change that is being illustrated by Tolkien in several ways, and of which Frodo and Sam are obviously aware.

“ […] Presently out of the darkness Gollum came crawling on all fours, like an erring dog called to heel. He had a half-eaten fish in his mouth and another in his hand. He came close to Frodo, almost nose to nose, and sniffed at him. His pale eyes were shining. Then he took the fish out of his mouth and stood up. ´Nice Master! ´ he whispered. ´Nice hobbit, come back to poor Sméagol. Good Sméagol comes. Now let´s go, go quickly, yes. Through the trees, while the Faces are dark. Yes, come, let´s go! ´ ” 23

Evidently Frodo may only be using Gollum as an important guide for leading him and Sam into Mordor out of necessity. One can also assume that Gollum is the major asset to get into the land of the shadows of the dark. By the time it is evident that Frodo and Gollum have grown considerably together in each other’s understanding but there is a huge empathy for Gollum by Frodo for this poor creature and he truly desires his salvation. One can assume that there is a flicker of something that only begins to approach friendship between Frodo and Gollum, for there is affinity between the two characters. This is partly because they are both hobbits, and partly because they both possessed the ring for a time. Nevertheless, Frodo has compassion for Gollum because Frodo is a compassionate person to begin with, especially once he sees Gollum and how wretched he is.24 This could be the outcome of the interaction between hobbits, which they, at the end of the day, are. Unfortunately, the fleeting moment of near-salvation slips clearly away. For Sam, who does not take part in administering the treatment of kindness, also does not see the promising results of that treatment. Mistaking this moment of sorrow, compassion and near-repentance on the part of Gollum for mere “pawing at his master”, Sam continues with his unkind and untrusting treatment.25 As a result, Gollum withdrew himself and flees away to leave the Hobbits alone. Once can assume that this move by Gollum is almost sneaky and spider-like as he might have looked at that moment. J.R.R. Tolkien also illustrates this in a letter he wrote in the year of 1963 describing this scene, particularly Sam´s lack of understanding of Gollum and his possible lack of mercy:


1 Tolkien, J.R.R., The Fellowship of the Ring – The Lord of the Rings Part 1, London 1954, p. v

2 Bassham, Gregory, Bronson, Eric. The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All (Popular Culture and Philosophy, Band 5), Peru, Illinois 2003, p. 1.

3 Ibid. p. 1.

4 Definition: The Hobbit: A tale that follows Bilbo Baggins from his home, through peril to the lair of the dragon Samaug, and back again. The Hobbit was Tolkien´s first published work of fiction. (Drout, Michael D.C., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia – Scholarship and Critical Assessment, New York, 2007, p. 277.)

5 Definition: The One Ring, also known as the Ruling Ring, was created by Sauron during the Second Age of Middle-earth, about 1600. Feigning friendship with the Noldor in craftsmen of Eregion, Sauron aided them in their creation of Rings Power, all the while planning to betray them by creating in secret a Ruling Ring forged in the fires of Orodruin, or Mount Doom, and pouring into it much of his own power and will. (Drout, Michael D.C., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia – Scholarship and Critical Assessment, New York, 2007, p. 483)

6 Ibid. p. 2. the present, in Gollum.

7 Ibid., p. 127 f.

8 Ibid. p. 128.

9 Tolkien, J.R.R., The Two Towers – The Lord of the Rings Part 2, London 1954, p. 262.

10 Tolkien, J.R.R., The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954, p. 64.

11 Definition: A small district in west-central Middle-earth, is the home of the hobbits. (Drout, Michael D.C., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia – Scholarship and Critical Assessment, New York, 2007, p.607.)

12 Definition: A range of mountains some nine hundred miles in length curving eastward then west again on a north-south axis from the Northern Waste of the Gap of Rohan. Drout, Michael D.C., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia – Scholarship and Critical Assessment, New York, 2007, p. 431.

13 Drout, Michael D.C., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia – Scholarship and Critical Assessment, New York, 2007, p. 246.

14 Definition: A traveler, writer, and the first hobbit to become famous in the world at large. Main protagonist in The Hobbit. (Drout, Michael D.C., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia – Scholarship and Critical Assessment, New York, 2007, p.64.)

15 Ibid. p. 246.

16 Definition: Most of its land area was characterized by wide lifeless plains of volcanic waste and barrenness. Mordor is Sauron´s stronghold at the end of the Third Age, the Black Lands in the East of Middle-earth. (Drout, Michael D.C., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia – Scholarship and Critical Assessment, New York, 2007, p.607.)

17 Ibid. p.246.

18 Dickerson, Matthew, A Hobbit Journey – Discovering the Enchantment of J.R.R. Tolkien´s Middle-Earth, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003, p.155.

19 Ibid. p.155.

20 Ibid. S.156.

21 Tolkien, J.R.R., The Two Towers, 1954, p. 817.

22 Dickerson, Mathew, 2003, p. 156.

23 Tolkien, J.R.R., The Two Towers, 1954, p. 899.

24 Nicolay, Freda Theresa, Tolkien and the Modernists – Literary Responses to the Dark New Days of the 20th Century, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2014, p. 160.

25 c.f. Dickerson, Matthew, 2003, p. 157.

Excerpt out of 15 pages


J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings". Gollum versus Sméagol. The inner conflict between the good, the bad and the precious
University of Cologne  (Englisches Seminar 2)
Frankenstein to Dracula
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Herr der Ringe, Gollum, Smeagol, Lord of the Rings, Hausarbeit, Böse, Gut, Literaturwissenschaft, Good, Evil, Bad, Tolkien, Mittelerde
Quote paper
Manar-Marc Soukar (Author), 2018, J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings". Gollum versus Sméagol. The inner conflict between the good, the bad and the precious, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/457551


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