My friend Kenny Chumbley from time to time writes pieces under the title: The Prairie Papers, (KLChumbley@aol.com). He invited me to write the narrative of the Children’s book The Green Children and he ramrodded the production of the book and the stage-play that was watched in several cities (one in Ireland). He also made me aware of something Tolkien said that I think you’d find interesting and moving.
You’ll remember in the screen adaptation of The Fellowship of the Rings the scenes that show Gollum in a wrestle with the other side of Gollum—something I experienced a while back when I was out for a walk and found myself literally shouting at myself in savage rebuke.
A fear-filled Sam didn’t trust Gollum and had no sympathy for him. As Kenny pointed out to me, Gollum and Frodo were both ring-bearers and both had suffered greatly as a result of it so Frodo saw Gollum from a different perspective than Sam did—Sam who was fiercely loyal to Frodo.
Frodo had compassion on the ring-tormented Smeagol who had been seduced into evil that led him to murder and the worship of the evil power of the ring and became the dangerous and wicked Gollum who now had a rope around his neck to control him; a rope that tormented him. Speaking in defense of Smeagol (now Gollum) Frodo says to Sam:
F. Why do you put him down all the time?.
S. There’s nothing left in him but lies and deceit.
F. You have no idea what it [the ring] did to him; what it’s still doing to him. I want to help him, Sam.
F. Because I have to believe he can come back.
S. You can’t save him Mr. Frodo.
Frodo takes the rope off his neck and Gollum is softened toward Frodo. When Gollum now warns of danger Sam, in savage distrust wants him driven off but Frodo says, “He has been true to his word.”
Gollum is thrilled with the trust expressed in him and begins to see Frodo (“the master”) in a different light.
Later Frodo speaks gently to Gollum, “Who are you?” and back comes the answer:G. Gollum, Gollum.
F. Gandalf told me that you were one of the River Folk. You are not so far from a Hobbit, once, were you?! Gandalf told me your life was a sad story.
(Gollum is sad, as if reminiscing; like a traveler far from home.)
F. Your name was Smeagol.” (Gollum slowly raises his head, eyes widening)
G. What did you call me?
F. That was your name once, wasn’t it? A long time ago!
G. My name! [as if remembering with awe] My name…(hesitating, and then with a faint smile), “Smeagol.”
Compassion, confessed brotherhood and a gentle reminder of a happy life before the complete loss of innocence, was working a marvelous change in him and he begins to act that way.
Later there are the scenes when the evil side (Gollum) begins to dialogue with the newly awakened Smeagol side that now seeks to believe in and serve “the master”.
Gollum. Wicked hobbits,
Smeagol. Not the master
G. They will cheat you, hurt you, lies…
S. The master’s my friend.
G. You don’t have any friends. No one likes you
S. (holding is ears) “Not listening, Not listening,” he shouts.
G. You’re a liar, a thief…a murderer.
S. (greatly distressed) No, go away!
G. (Scoffing) Go away?
S. I hate you; I hate you, (holds his head, anguished)
G. Where would you be without me? Gollum, Gollum; It was me, I saved us. We survived because of me..”
S. Not anymore!
G. What did you say?
S. Master looks after us now. We don’t need you.
S. Leave now and never come back.
S. Leave now and never come back. (again, but stronger): Leave now and never come back!
G. vanishes and Smeagol is startled and then to his better self he says,
S. We told him to go away and way he goes. (He begins to whirl and dance) shouting
SMEAGOL IS FREE!
Then as Tolkien told it, Sam misinterprets Smeagol and drives him off, back into the world of evil and torment and ultimate loss. When Tolkien finished writing that section, he confessed that he wept!
(Holy Father, somewhere down in so many of us is Gollum and Smeagol. Sometimes just by compassion and long patience Smeagol longs to emerge and be free. Many of us are able to look back on those who in the image of your Holy Son took the rope off our necks and credited us with an honest attempt at keeping ours words and called us by another name, a name we would have forgotten if they hadn’t told us of our past before our loss of innocence. Some of those we know and consciously thank you for them and there are many who treated us that way when we weren’t able to recognize it and we thank you for them too. Give us a sense of brother and sisterhood, grant us a compassionate spirit and the awareness that we are all ring-bearers. Give us Sam’s love for and loyalty to the Frodos in life and their commission but deliver us we pray from an excess of zeal for the divine purpose that would blind us to the truth that that purpose includes compassion on the ‘Smeagols’ that sometime sit alone in the darkness fighting the darker side of themselves. We so need your help here that we might be genuinely compassionate and patient as well as wise. This prayer in Jesus Christ.)