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PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 10:56 pm 
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One thing that Tolkien slipped in was that hobbits gave presents on their birthdays, not received them. It enabled him to include some hobbity humour at the start but it was one more little factor to aid the passing of the Ring.
He makes several references to possessions and the need to discard them, the mithril coat set aside in the mathom house; Pippin discarding the Lórien brooch and Aragorn's comment that one who keeps a treasure despite need is in thrall to it. (I paraphrase); Sam's release of his cooking pots - how that hurts even me to read it - the clothes discarded outside Moria; even the little tussle over pipeweed and the pouch with Saruman on the journey back to the Shire. There may be more too.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 2:02 am 
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Before I attempt a refutation of Faramond's claim that redemption is possible for Gollum, I must mention the extraordinarily radical take Jn. has on Aragorn/Arwen. :shock: Stood me on my head, it did! and I must think. Think very, very hard before I dare say anything about it. It might take me a while to wrap my brain around a pole that is antithetical to my normal ........ only I sense that this is too important to let slip through the proverbial cracks ........ so, I plan to revisit at another time .... only not too much later, I hope.


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I think Gollum is redeemable. He has been alive a long time, and almost all that is left of him is twisted pettiness. But he has not wholly forgotten his life before the ring, and he still possesses free will. And I think Tolkien's description of Gollum's approach to the sleeping hobbits on the stairs of Cirith Ungol is as clear a statement as we could get that redemption is possible while still having the story remain true. 

I find that passage a definitive statement that redemption is possible, though I know that other interpretations are possible. The moment is described as fleeting, and that may be a wedge for the view that redemption is impossible. In one sense I sort of agree that redemption is impossible. I find the word "fleeting" necessary because it keeps the story true.<snip>. The moment when Gollum could see beyond the ring. This moment that speaks to me and says that even in darkness I could find a new path.

And then it was gone, and I do not blame Sam at all. <snip> He was only too happy to make it truth. It bothers me now when Sam is blamed for Gollum's failed redemption, because it was all Gollum's choices in the end.

But they were choices, and for that, Gollum's redemption has to be possible, in some way. And Gollum did not hate Frodo.


and then

Ax also gives me pause for thought:

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I believe Gollum could be redeemed--if the Ring did not exist. And of course, if the Ring is destroyed, he dies as well, probably in short order


but no, not even without the Ring, although then it is less absolute and more mere probability.


I do not think Gollum is redeemable: Let me count the Ways.

Before I speak of what Gollum is, I have to say that I completely agree that Sam is not responsible for any lack of redemption. I know I've addressed this before but I just want to re-iterate.

As vison already said, no sooner had he laid eyes on the Ring than some emotion very like lust sprang full-fledged into both heart and mind. There are a few cursory pleadings, first you'll notice is the demand of “give it to us" and then the reason: “it's our birthday.” finally the cause: “I want it.” and within the barest passing of time, all negotiation is ended because Sméagol will have the Ring ........he isn't going to waste a single second more in not having physical possession of that golden circle in his grubby hand. No. Not one second. Déagol must get out of Sméagol's way. If he wont, why then he must die, a simple a solution as that, hands to neck, is cold-bloodily strangled.

Murder in the first degree, premeditated, is the Ring's first gift to Gollum. The second gift is ostracism and all the misery that accompanies the casting off, and casting out, from one's family and from society. The third gift is a black heart and the fourth is eternal servitude.

No, no redemption for Gollum.

The passage that we all quote, the touchingly poignant one Faramond mentions, is still not enough to convince me. For one it is a fleeting moment, a bare brush across Gollum's consciousness that once upon a time there was peace and light in the world, but yet you see how soon the screen darkens, how quickly he returns to that old trope of mistrust and how rapidly he shuts down. The glimmer was barely there before it is gone.

Even when, in the Dead Marshes, Gollum holds to his promise, (or more likely the Ring holds him) besides there is always the fear of Sting. The hobbits are armed, there are two of them, they are not yet malnourished or brutalized by the journey and there is only one Gollum, old, thin, hungry and enslaved.

See, the final deciding factor, I believe, is the plain fact that the Ring is too powerful for Gollum to resist in any way. Bilbo and Frodo are remarkable hobbits, their resistance a testement to integrity. What intergrity has Gollum? Why, he has none. And Frodo will go on to prove more, that he may be beaten and spiritually bruised but not until the very last will he stop resisting. Gollum has never even thought of the possibility of fighting the Ring's influence. Never considered it. From the moment he saw its seductive shine he fell into a black embrace; if anything he has welcomed its claim upon him. Encouraged it, even. And maybe when ages had passed and Gollum realized that this barren life under the mountains was all that he had, by the time he experienced regret, it was too late. He could not change now; the Ring's hold on him could no longer be broken. Gollum had become his actions. He was evil.

Any remorse he might feel was a criminal's remorse. Selfish. The remorse of an uncomfortable, unwanted situation, not the remorse which has genuine, spiritual sorrow at its core.

No, no redemption for Gollum.

Say that the incident at the Forbidden Pool had gone otherwise. Or speculate that Sam did not call Gollum a sneak when he awoke to find him 'pawing' his master, say no suspicion had been thrown at him ......... does anyone seriously believe that Gollum's redemption would have lasted more than an hour?, or maybe less before the dominant Gollum emerged again? Surely he was so in the habit of hateful paranoia and so entrenched in misanthropy, there was no longer separation between what he thought and what he was! He was the very embodiment of black misery, a lesser evil, but not an inconsequential one and by the time he met Frodo and Sam it was too late him. Too many babies stolen from cradles, too much skulking and too much pain for anything more than an ephemeral flash of memory which barely registered before disappearing into the aether.

No redemption possible for Gollum.



Edit: To add. Insightful Tosh. Makes sense. :) Something else I had never considered before.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 2:34 am 
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Great post, Sassafras!

I had never come right up to Jnyusa's way of thinking about Arwen and Aragorn, but I skirted it. The way Elrond was portrayed in the movies offended me so much that I spent a lot of time thinking about the Arwen/Aragorn romance.

I wrote something once, a sort of fan/fic wherein Elrond mused about his brother Elros, the founder of Aragorn's line. In my thinking, he sees Aragorn as being like Elros, somehow a kind of "true" Halfelven, a throwback maybe, equal in birth and status to Arwen, in other words. Noble enough, of lineage enough, to be King. And Elrond KNEW Sauron personally, did he not? He kindly reminds Frodo that his memory reaches back even to Elder Days. Having known Aragorn all his life, having been his foster-father and mentor, he would know better than anyone else in Middle Earth if Aragorn was up to the job.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 3:12 am 
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I must disagree, my dear Sass (and no, I won't apologize for doing so ;)). I think that Faramond is correct that the scene on the stairs of Cirith Ungol is proof-positive that there was the possibility that Gollum could be redeemed. For one thing, Tolkien explicitly states that it was so. Now I know that many people are not willing to put much credence to Tolkien's after-the-fact statements about his work, and I think they are right to not consider those statements definitive. But neither should they be ignored. Tolkien had great insight into his own work, and I freely and gladly admit that reading his statements about his own work has greatly influenced my own opinions about it. So let us look again at what he said on this subject, not as the be-all-and-end-all on the subject but rather as another -- but I hope, compelling -- voice in the ongoing melody.

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He plainly did not fully understand Frodo's motives or his distress in the incident of the Forbidden Pool. If he had understood better what was going on between Frodo and Gollum, things might have turned out differently in the end. For me perhaps the most tragic moment in the Tale comes in II 323 ff. when Sam fails to note the complete change in Gollum's tone and aspect. 'Nothing, nothing', said Gollum softly. 'Nice master!'. His repentance is blighted and all Frodo's pity is (in a sense ) wasted. Shelob's lair became inevitable.


There really are only two ways that that scene can be viewed. Either Gollum was truly on the verge of redemption, only to be interrupted by Sam (though, as Tolkien adds, "This is due of course to the 'logic of the story'. Sam could hardly have acted differently"), or Gollum only gave the appearance of being on the verge of redemption, though the possibility does not really exist. I would argue that the latter way of looking at the scene simply does not make sense with the context of the "logic of the story." There simply is no reason why Tolkien would have included a scene in which Gollum appeared to be on the verge of redemption but was not really. Moreover, Gollum having no true chance at redemption arguably negates some of the moral underpinnings of the story. Tolkien takes great pains to emphasize the importance of Bilbo, Frodo and ultimately Sam showing mercy and pity to Gollum, and that Frodo should not be quick judge that Gollum deserves death. None of that makes much sense if Gollum is completely irredeemable. The key word there is completely. Clearly, the window of redeemability is very small. In another letter, Tolkien states:

Quote:
Gollum was pitiable, but he ended in persistent wickedness, and the fact that this worked good was no credit to him. His marvellous courage and endurance, as great as Frodo and Sam's or greater, being devoted to evil was portentous, but not honourable. I am afraid, whatever our beliefs, we have to face the fact that there are persons who yield to temptation, reject their chances of nobility or salvation, and appear to be 'damnable'. Their 'damnability' is not measurable in the terms of the macrocosm (where it may work good). But we who are all 'in the same boat' must not usurp the Judge. The domination of the Ring was much too strong for the mean soul of Sméagol. But he would have never had to endure it if he had not become a mean son of thief before it crossed his path.


Gollum started out as "a mean son of thief" before he ever was corrupted by the Ring. Whatever good there was in him was almost completely drained out of him by those hundreds of years of corruption by the Ring. But not completely. It is that tiny window of redeemability left that makes the story work. As Jnyusa said earlier in the thread, "we are rarely able to reconcile our native repulsion to our logical knowledge that an evildoer may not be a wholly evil person." Gollum truly does take that axiom to an extreme. His redeemability is not logical, yet it is necessary to the moral fabric of the Tale.

For similar reasons, I also must disagree with the contention that Aragorn would have been able to resist the temptation of the Ring (though I otherwise agree with most of Jynusa's take on Aragorn and Arwen). Again, my opinion is influenced by Tolkien's own statement:

Quote:
I do not think that Frodo's was a moral failure. At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum – impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted.


I have to accept Tolkien's statement that it would have been impossible for any to have resisted the pressure of the Ring at the last moment, including Aragorn. To believe otherwise would (or at least could) lead to the conclusion that Frodo's failure was a moral failure, and that I cannot accept. However, I do think that that the Ring's path to ultimately corrupting Aragorn would have somehow been through corrupting his love for Arwen. How that would have worked, I cannot say.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 5:28 pm 
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V-man, I do think those excerpts contain salient points, as they are firmly consistent with the text.

To say that Gollum is by nature or experience irredeemable is simply not within the moral universe JRRT lived in, one suffused with Grace. On the other hand, I have no doubt Gollum is practically irredeemable. Even had things gone differently--no capture at the pool, no upbraiding by Sam--Gollum was in no position to resist the pull of the Ring as it closed in on Oroduin. He could become a well-meaning junkie, but he's still on the junk, and he can't even get away from it: it's always just a few feet away.

So: Gollum could be redeemed in the same sense my car could go 200 MPH...if it fell off a very tall cliff. ;)


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 6:08 pm 
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I never ever saw Frodo's "failure" as a "moral failure". I saw it as exhaustion, as being overpowered by something too strong to resist - among other things.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 7:00 pm 
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To say that Gollum is by nature or experience irredeemable is simply not within the moral universe JRRT lived in, one suffused with Grace.


Exactly. Which is why the problem of orcs is such a problem for him.

I am trying to catch up on the thread. Work ate my life for a while.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 7:04 pm 
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Primula Baggins wrote:

Exactly. Which is why the problem of orcs is such a problem for him.


Yes. Oh, those awful orcs. ;)

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 7:20 pm 
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Well, we all know my peculiar solution to the problem of the irredeemable orcs, so I won't belabor that point again. But truly, the Orcs are not really characters in the Tale, merely expedients. Gollum is a true character, and -- I would argue -- one of the most important ones.

Responding to Ax's comments, I agree that Gollum is not "practically redeemable". More to the point, is redemption is not really possible within the logic of the story; it would, of course, be a different story if he were to be redeemed. It is his having the potential -- no matter how small -- to be redeemed that is important to the story, not his practical redeemablility. Quoting Tolkien yet again:

Quote:
At any point any prudent person would have told Frodo that Gollum would certainly* betray him, and could rob him in the end. To 'pity' him, to forbear to kill him, was a piece of folly, or a mystical belief in the ultimate value-in-itself of pity and generosity even if disastrous in the world of time.

* 'Not quite 'certainly'. The clumsiness in fidelity of Sam was what finally pushed Gollum over the brink, when about to repent.


Frodo's actions towards Gollum were "folly" because the potential for Gollum's redemption was so remote, yet that "mystical belief in the ultimate value-in-itself of pity and generosity even if disastrous in the world of time" would be meaningless if there truly was no potential for redemption at all.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 7:35 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Responding to Ax's comments, I agree that Gollum is not "practically redeemable". More to the point, is redemption is not really possible within the logic of the story; it would, of course, be a different story if he were to be redeemed. It is his having the potential -- no matter how small -- to be redeemed that is important to the story, not his practical redeemablility.
[


Oh well, if you're going to take that tone, I suppose there's nothing more to be said. :D

Except that there is. I shall be saying some of it later on today after the chores are finished.

:horse:

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 8:20 pm 
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Okay, I have another post in the works, but it's going to have to wait while I try to clear something up for myself.

Questions.....questions that need answering.

What does Gollum's "redemption" mean in the context of Middle-earth? What are we really talking about here?

Does it mean the "rehabilitation" of Gollum, or does it mean the saving of his soul, or does it mean merely that he'd tell the hobbits of his deal with Shelob? Can redemption be temporary, or once attained, is it permanently set?

I told my son the other day that he had redeemed himself by doing the recycling/composting (without any nagging) after leaving a bag of garbage by the back door to be ripped to shreds by raccoons. One action ("good") cancelling out another action ("bad"). Could that simply be how redemption on the stairs of Cirith Ungol would work for Gollum? For me, this feels true.

Could Gollum be rehabilitated? Could he be changed, fundamentally, in the deepest moral sense, for the rest of his days? Could he have trudged through Mordor with Sam and Frodo without malice or duplicity? Could he have resisted the effects of hundreds of years of thralldom to the Ring? For me, this doesn't feel true.

Does Gollum's redemption mean the saving of his soul? I'm quite sure that this idea would be bound to Tolkien's own belief structure....but what does that mean in Middle-earth, or more expansively, within Arda, where there are no constructs for heaven or hell? What would Gollum gain through redemption? Salvation? The wiping clean of a slate stained with so much murder and betrayal? What does Gollum lose if he cannot be redeemed? For Saruman, there's at least something of an answer to that question (and you don't have to read anything beyond LOTR to pick up on it). But Gollum? After old Gollum hits the lava, does the fate of his "soul" even matter?

Voronwë wrote:
Tolkien takes great pains to emphasize the importance of Bilbo, Frodo and ultimately Sam showing mercy and pity to Gollum, and that Frodo should not be quick judge that Gollum deserves death. None of that makes much sense if Gollum is completely irredeemable


IMO, Bilbo, Frodo and Sam show mercy and pity to Gollum because they have a moral centre in themselves that will not allow them to kill a unarmed, defenseless creature, no matter how repulsive and untrustworthy he may be. Each one of them makes their choice to spare Gollum when he is literally "at their mercy", prostrate before them, weeping or begging. I couldn't do it either. Let's say that.......Osama bin Laden himself was before me, pulling a Gollum. Could I plunge a dagger into him? Nope. Not under those circumstances. Thoughts of forgiveness, redemption, rehabilitation, whatever, would have nothing to do with my decision. I simply couldn't do it - my "mercy" would not be rooted in the belief of his repentance.

Frodo at the Forbidden Pool has a far, far more difficult choice. We had an interesting discussion about this back at TORC - about whether Frodo's choice reflected true mercy or the obligation of a master to someone who has sworn service to him. Well, I opted for true mercy. This is a scenario where I'm not quite so sure that Frodo's choice would be my own - ah, that temptation of expediency!

Although Gandalf does say that perhaps Gollum can be "cured" before he dies, that doesn't seem to be central to his words about death and judgement. I've always read them more to be about Gollum's purpose in the unfolding tale of the Ring. Redeemable or not, Gollum "is bound to the fate of the Ring."

ax wrote:
To say that Gollum is by nature or experience irredeemable is simply not within the moral universe JRRT lived in, one suffused with Grace. On the other hand, I have no doubt Gollum is practically irredeemable. Even had things gone differently--no capture at the pool, no upbraiding by Sam--Gollum was in no position to resist the pull of the Ring as it closed in on Oroduin. He could become a well-meaning junkie, but he's still on the junk, and he can't even get away from it: it's always just a few feet away.

So: Gollum could be redeemed in the same sense my car could go 200 MPH...if it fell off a very tall cliff.


I just read this. 8)

Yes! Thanks, ax, for finding the words (and an analogy) that I've been searching for.

Voronwë wrote:
Frodo's actions towards Gollum were "folly" because the potential for Gollum's redemption was so remote, yet that "mystical belief in the ultimate value-in-itself of pity and generosity even if disastrous in the world of time" would be meaningless if there truly was no potential for redemption at all.


Why?

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:18 pm 
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Athrabeth wrote:
Okay, I have another post in the works, but it's going to have to wait while I try to clear something up for myself.

Questions.....questions that need answering.

What does Gollum's "redemption" mean in the context of Middle-earth? What are we really talking about here?

Does it mean the "rehabilitation" of Gollum, or does it mean the saving of his soul, or does it mean merely that he'd tell the hobbits of his deal with Shelob? Can redemption be temporary, or once attained, is it permanently set?


I think that, for me, the answer to the question of what "redemption" means in the context of Gollum, is simply that he turn towards the side of good in the balance between good and evil that lives between all of us. More precisely, that his growing love for Frodo would come to outweigh his greedy love of the ring and his jealousy of Sam. Because, of course, it was not Sam himself that caused his failure to be redeemed, but rather his jealous reaction to Sam's wholly understandable (though less noble than Frodo) conduct. To again quote Tolkien:

Quote:
A kind of answer cd. be found in trying to imagine Gollum overcoming temptation. The story would have been quite different! By temporizing, not fixing the still not wholly corrupt Smeagol-will towards good in the debate in the slag hole, he weakened himself for the final chance when dawning love of Frodo was too easily withered by the jealousy of Sam before Shelob's lair. After that he was lost.


In the other letter that I have been quoting from (246), Tolkien describes in more detail what would have likely happen had Gollum's change on the stairs of Cirith Ungol been allowed to develop:

Quote:
The course of the entry into Mordor and the struggle to reach Mount Doom would have been different, and so would the ending. The interest would have shifted to Gollum, I think, and the battle that would have gone on between his repentance and his new love on one side and the Ring. Though the love would have been strengthened daily it could not have wrested the mastery from the Ring. I think that in some queer twisted and pitiable way Gollum would have tried (not maybe with conscious design) to satisfy both. Certainly at some point not long before the end he would have stolen the Ring or taken it by violence (as he does in the actual Tale). But 'possession' satisfied, I think he would then have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery abyss.

I think that an effect of his partial regeneration by love would have been a clearer vision when he claimed the Ring. He would have perceived the evil of Sauron, and suddenly realized that he could not use the Ring and had not the strength or stature to keep it in Sauron's despite: the only way to keep it and hurt Sauron was to destroy it and himself together – and in a flash he may have seen that this would also be the greatest service to Frodo.


I think that "partial regeneration by love" is the most that could have been expected in a redemption of Gollum. I don't really think of it terms of his soul, mostly because I don't tend to think in terms of souls.

(I'm going to have to give more thought to your other question directed to me, Ath, so I'm going to hit "submit" with the promise of coming back later with an answer, if I can.)

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 10:36 pm 
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Right. Athrabeth's post just made mine irrelevant. But that's all right because the questions that she raises are of far more importance than the silly argument I was about to flog to death.

This:

Ath wrote:
Quote:
Does it mean the "rehabilitation" of Gollum, or does it mean the saving of his soul, or does it mean merely that he'd tell the hobbits of his deal with Shelob? Can redemption be temporary, or once attained, is it permanently set?


Maybe even more pertinent is this:

She also said:
Quote:
Could Gollum be rehabilitated? Could he be changed, fundamentally, in the deepest moral sense, for the rest of his days? Could he have trudged through Mordor with Sam and Frodo without malice or duplicity? Could he have resisted the effects of hundreds of years of thralldom to the Ring? For me, this doesn't feel true.

Does Gollum's redemption mean the saving of his soul? I'm quite sure that this idea would be bound to Tolkien's own belief structure....but what does that mean in Middle-earth, or more expansively, within Arda, where there are no constructs for heaven or hell? What would Gollum gain through redemption? Salvation? The wiping clean of a slate stained with so much murder and betrayal? What does Gollum lose if he cannot be redeemed? For Saruman, there's at least something of an answer to that question (and you don't have to read anything beyond LOTR to pick up on it). But Gollum? After old Gollum hits the lava, does the fate of his "soul" even matter?



I think that the operative words here are 'Arda, where there are no constructs for heaven or hell'. Cogent and penetrating, Ath! An observation which changes everything. Every thing! I don't know the answer, shall need to think more, but already it decidedly alters the way I view the redemptive opportunity Tolkien says Gollum had. The fact that I don't believe that there was any opportunity is moot. Must I suppose that simply because T. said that LotR was fundamentally a Catholic work that there is an unspoken hint of an afterlife? Well, there is, I suppose, if you stop to consider 'beyond the circles of the world' and the vagaries implicit in that phrase ....... that some form of life continues after a mannish death ....... it's a stretch though. So, I surmise that, if pressed, T. might have said that the state of Gollum's soul matters very much and/or that redemption includes a hereafter. Still, as I say, one needs to stretch in order to incorporate that belief solely from the text. One could, as easily, look in the opposite direction and say that, in LotR,* death is the end of all life in which case, saved or unsaved, Gollum's soul does not matter one jot.......... as long as his part in the story is concluded and both he and the Ring are consumed by fire.

* There is Théoden's speech of: " I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company, I shall not now be ashamed." So there is that to consider. It does imply that Théoden (all Rohirrim?) believed in the possibility of an afterlife. Sigh. I begin to think that perhaps the book does include a hint of continuance beyond the grave. A thought which does not immediately bring happiness since Ath's ideas definitely solved the mystery and the problem for me. Oh well.

Quote:
IMO, Bilbo, Frodo and Sam show mercy and pity to Gollum because they have a moral centre in themselves that will not allow them to kill a unarmed, defenseless creature, no matter how repulsive and untrustworthy he may be.


Yes indeed. I used 'integrity' to describe the hobbits but 'moral centre' is the same conclusion.


I have another burning question as well. We've read Letters and read the often confusing statements T. made about his characters. Confusing because adjectives like 'mentally myopic' and 'smug' applied to Sam directly conflict with my own feelings and additionally confusing because it very much appears to me that he, T, was attempting to force the matrix of his story into the confines of Catholic parameters. Square peg/Round hole anyone? And while I will agree with the indisputable fact that the author best knows his own work, given what can (occasionally) be perceived as the torturous effort to make all of the ducks line up in neat little rows (Orcs refuse to get in line! :D) I have to wonder if he is still best qualified to comment upon it? To critique the morality of it
Once a literary work of art is completed and published and goes out into the wide, wide world, does it cease to wholly belong to the author or does it now enter the domain of its recipients, its readers? Put another way, once no longer in process of creation, once finished, are those creations (without authorial constraints) now free to alight where they will in the hearts and minds of the receivers? Even if they are perceived other than as their creator intended?

I say that Sam belongs to me now.

Oh dear. What a muddle I have made of that. I hope some one among you can glean my meaning. :scratch:

Edit: cross-posted with Voronwë.

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Sassafras wrote:
. . . . very much appears to me that he, T, was attempting to force the matrix of his story into the confines of Catholic parameters.


It seems that way to me, too. It seems as though the story, as we have it, sprang fully formed and complete from his head, and then, when he read it and realized what he'd written, his "conscience" (for lack of a better word) spoke up and he began the labour of altering the universe in which Middle Earth existed.

Now, first, I know that's not how the book was written. Although I haven't read all the letters, and various versions of various events, etc., I know that he revised and revised and revised for years before putting his pen down and saying, "It's done." But for the purpose of my argument, my version of the writing is sufficient and, moreover, it is still true.

Second, we can look at Middle Earth as a complete Universe, not merely a "world" as in, "Planet". Within itself it contains everything: Heaven, Hell, Angels, and fallen Angels and even demons. The unfallen Elves can remove themselves from sight and take no part in the events, what happens in Middle Earth won't shake the foundations of The Blessed Isle. Not unless the Creator decides to remake it all again. Can a fallen Elf go there?

Third, Gollum's "redemptability". Well, you can (and some do) believe that it is never too late to repent until the soul has actually left the body. Had Gollum managed to get the Ring, I think he would have jumped into the Fire because of the feelings posted above: the realization that it was too powerful for him, and the terrified understanding of what it would mean for Frodo if Sauron got it back. I do think that Gollum had come to love Frodo in some way, maybe he saw Frodo as he, Gollum, SHOULD have been. Not "could have been", though, because one of the things Gollum would have seen, at that instant, was that he would NEVER have been like Frodo.

He wasn't made that way.

It was that, more than anything other, that disheartened me about LOTR: that whatever Creator created Gollum (aside from JRRT), he created this pathetic, twisted, wrinkled thing to be . . . what? A lesson for Frodo? Is that what he was? We discussed this over on TORC once, and I believe I saved the posts and I think I might just go reread what I said then.

Yes. I thought so: just that.

To be practical: Frodo couldn't kill Gollum because it turned out that Gollum was the means by which the Ring was going to be destroyed. A plot device, in other words. How else would it have happened? Other possibilities exist, don't they?

No. Because the Tale of the Ring is the history of what happened. We can speculate and imagine but in the end, it happened that way because that's the way it played out.

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Not so much arguing with as responding and expanding:

It is perilous to untangle the web of device and character, perhaps especially for an author looking at his own work. :) The whole problem of evil issue with Orcs is something that illustrates the pitfalls of this thing...but again, I think unlike that example, what JRRT says about Gollum is consonant with what one reads in the text.

That said, I don't think Gollum was destined to go bad. He just did. It happens. There are likely many hobbits of the Shire who would have proven as venal as he did: Ted Sandyman? Lotho S-B? Sméagol wasn't unique, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and ultimately, for all the right reasons.

I do think it's essential to understand Frodo and Gollum saw in each other "what ifs." I also think the desire to reward overwhelming charity with hatefulness is an extremely human one...the chapters with Frodo, Sam and Gollum are as acute a portrait of personalities interacting as any "psychological" novel of the 20th century you care to name. They remind me very much (as I have said before and will say again) of Graham Greene's work from the same time period.


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Perceptive questions, Ath!

Quote:
More precisely, that his growing love for Frodo would come to outweigh his greedy love of the ring


But Frodo himself could not attain this level of mastery over the Ring.

Letters wrote:
Though the love would have been strengthened daily it could not have wrested the mastery from the Ring.


This seems more in keeping with the most consistent of Tolkien's views ... whereas ...

Letters wrote:
I think that in some queer twisted and pitiable way Gollum would have tried (not maybe with conscious design) to satisfy both. Certainly at some point not long before the end he would have stolen the Ring or taken it by violence (as he does in the actual Tale). But 'possession' satisfied, I think he would then have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery abyss.


... this does not.

If asked, I don't think Tolkien would have said that Frodo himself would have thrown himself into the fire for the sake of Sam and the Shire ... there is no indication that Frodo was about to do that when Gollum bit his finger off ... and it seems far-fetched to suggest that Gollum loved Frodo more than Frodo loved Sam and the Shire (or more than Aragorn loved Arwen). It is only within the most abstruse discussion of possibilities, I think, that we would consider this possibility to be a realistic one. Even if Gollum had wanted to kill himself and the Ring to save Frodo, the Ring would not have let him do it.

Tolkien has created something very odd here, now that I think about it.

To say that Aragorn would have succeeded as well as Frodo did, as I asserted earlier, seems merely to say he would have failed at the end just as Frodo did. At the end, by design of the author, no one can overcome the Ring. It is a test that no one can pass. Perhaps the very concept of such a test arises from Tolkien's belief in original sin, because there is really no challenge like that confronting us in real life. Even death can be approached nobly, with grace, with acceptance, with bestoyal of wisdom. We do not "fail" by dying any more than we are "sick because we cannot fly" (Carse's example.) We do not fail when we fulfill the conditions of our existence. In a sense one might say that Frodo does not fail, for he fulfills the conditions for his existence created by the author ... but then we have an even more serious moral question to ask of the author!

It is an odd thing that Tolkien has created with this Ring because I do not think he intended to portray a trial that no one ever suffers. I think he intended to portray those trials that all of us suffer, differing from one another only by degree or by context.

Sass wrote:
Well, there is, I suppose, if you stop to consider 'beyond the circles of the world' and the vagaries implicit in that phrase ....... that some form of life continues after a mannish death ....... it's a stretch though.


It is a stretch. Tolkien does not say whether the rules that apply to men apply to Hobbits and their near kin as well.

Anecdote: Some of my students took their final exam this morning. These are really big, Freshmen-Sophomore classes so I use machine-graded exams ... the laws of time and space require it, even though it is far from optimal. Anyway, the answers are multiple choice, and the biggest annoyance is to come up with the wrong answers. So there will always be a few students who ask this question during the test: "for this answer here, I don't remember us ever talking about stuff like that." And I tell them that if they have no recollection of that being part of the course coverage, then it is probably not the right answer! Their concern is that we did cover it and they missed it somehow, but everything on a final exam has been covered more than once; if we'd talked about it, they'd remember it.

There are many things that Tolkien just doesn't talk about, and I think we can safely conclude that if he doesn't talk about it he probably did not consider it crucial to the message he was trying to convey. Hobbit afterlife is one of those things that did not make it into any of the seventeen, now eighteen, volumes. Can it be crucial to the kinds of choices he does convey? - or should we conclude that those choices would be the same in Tolkien's mind no matter what the conditions after death?

Sass wrote:
... and additionally confusing because it very much appears to me that he, T, was attempting to force the matrix of his story into the confines of Catholic parameters. Square peg/Round hole anyone?


I am re-thinking the extent to which this mattered to Tolkien while he was writing the book, as opposed to the extent to which this mattered to him when forced to answer questions about it afterwards.

I think it was very important to Tolkien not to be publicly renegade. I don't think that would have fit him at all. And I think that his dilemma over the orcs was genuine. He had given them names and personalities, and even at one point depicted them as poor slobs not unlike the rest of us, who just wanted a break to go to the pub. To kill them off in such numbers, to have them running amok and deprived of any will of their own when Sauron is destroyed, these two depictions do not in retrospect travel well together in Tolkien's real world.

BUT ... I think that he was subtly renegade in many ways where religion was concerned. The character of Saruman is deeply instructive in this respect, imo. When religion displays hubris, Saruman is quite representative of the hubris it displays.

Sass wrote:
And while I will agree with the indisputable fact that the author best knows his own work, given what can (occasionally) be perceived as the torturous effort to make all of the ducks line up in neat little rows (Orcs refuse to get in line! ) I have to wonder if he is still best qualified to comment upon it? To critique the morality of it . Once a literary work of art is completed and published and goes out into the wide, wide world, does it cease to wholly belong to the author or does it now enter the domain of its recipients, its readers?


I don't know that it's a matter of ownership. In the cases of very good authors (and I believe Tolkien is one), it is more a matter of dialogue between writer and reader. With these books Tolkien opened a conversation with all of us, and I don't think he would himself discount the importance of readers telling back to him what he has said.

There is also a sense in which a writer works from instinct and may feel pushed to the wall when queried about his meaning afterwards. Tolkien seems to have felt it necessary to give orthodox answers to questions about morality and redemption and so on. Whether his written answers are what his heart felt at the time of writing, we can't really know.

Far more significant to me than Tolkien's orthodox responses is the fact that non-Catholics and even non-Christians understand him perfectly well. We understand that there is a question of the nature of Frodo's failure, and we don't need to know more about Hobbit afterlife to understand Tolkien when he says it was not a moral failure. We understand that there is a question of redemption where Gollum is concerned, and the question exists whether or not Gollum has a soul as Catholics conceive of it.

ETA: Ax, I like very much your down-to-earth take on these things. It rings true.

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Quote:
I am re-thinking the extent to which this mattered to Tolkien while he was writing the book, as opposed to the extent to which this mattered to him when forced to answer questions about it afterwards.

I think it was very important to Tolkien not to be publicly renegade. I don't think that would have fit him at all. And I think that his dilemma over the orcs was genuine. He had given them names and personalities, and even at one point depicted them as poor slobs not unlike the rest of us, who just wanted a break to go to the pub. To kill them off in such numbers, to have them running amok and deprived of any will of their own when Sauron is destroyed, these two depictions do not in retrospect travel well together in Tolkien's real world.

BUT ... I think that he was subtly renegade in many ways where religion was concerned. The character of Saruman is deeply instructive in this respect, imo. When religion displays hubris, Saruman is quite representative of the hubris it displays.


I largely agree with this, particularly the idea that Tolkie was more of renegade where religion was concerned than is generally credited (perhaps even by himself). I think that is why what he considered to be a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work" still resonates so strongly with people who are decidedly not Catholic, or Christian, or even religious in any way.

It is, of course, difficult to know how much credence to give Tolkien's after-the-fact comments about his work. He stated "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." I have often wondered what he meant by that bolded portion and I've never come up with or read from others a satisfying answer. In comparing the drafts of LOTR with the final version (which I have done some of, though obviously not nearly as much as with The Silmarillion), there doesn't seem to be many obvious revisions that seemed to make it a more fundamentally Catholic work. It would be an interesting question to look at in more detail.

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When you do, :), find out what he was up to chucking Gandalf off the bridge.

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vison wrote:
When you do, :), find out what he was up to chucking Gandalf off the bridge.


I think it was intended as a Monty Python reference.

BrianIs :) AtYou

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Does anyone remember, earlier in the thread, when Griff mentioned all the copies of LOTR she has, including one with different colors of ink inside? I remember wondering "what is she talking about?" when I read about that particular edition. Well, I found it, I am pulling quotes from it now, and what a beautiful edition it is!

Thusly inspired, I shall now play my trump card ( the wizard of hearts ), with multiple colors of ink. My honored challenger, Sassafras, is in green, and my appointed champion, Gandalf, is in blue.

But --- Sass, I do not hope to convince you of anything, only to make you think. :)

See, the final deciding factor, I believe, is the plain fact that the Ring is too powerful for Gollum to resist in any way. Bilbo and Frodo are remarkable hobbits, their resistance a testament to integrity. What integrity has Gollum? Why, he has none.

Does Gollum really have no integrity? If we are talking of the virtue of integrity, then it is hard to argue that he does have any. But what if we look to a different meaning of integrity? The sense of being whole, integral, a person with will unfettered by compulsion. This meaning of integrity too speaks to Gollum's ability to resist the ring. Of course, he is bound tight by his compulsion to possess the ring, and he is nothing like whole, but I do not think his disintegration is total.

Even Gollum was not wholly ruined. He had proved tougher than even one of the Wise would have guessed--as a hobbit might. There was a little corner of his mind that was still his own, and light came through it, as through a chink in the dark: light out of the past.

Unless he 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.

Yet not no hope. Not no hope of what? A cure! Is a "cure" redemption? I think it is. Of course, Gandalf may be wrong. He is, I should think, wise concerning the characters in the story, but he may be safely disagreed with. Still, in arguing a matter such as this, I would rather have him on my side than not. ;)

Gollum has never even thought of the possibility of fighting the Ring's influence. Never considered it. From the moment he saw its seductive shine he fell into a black embrace; if anything he has welcomed its claim upon him. Encouraged it, even.

He welcomed its claim upon him at the beginning, that is sure, and with murder, as you demonstrated elsewhere in your post. He welcomed its claim on him while he possessed it for so long as well. But that is not the whole story. I agree that Gollum never considered the possibility of fighting the Ring's influence, and yet he clearly did fight its influence! He did not always carry it. He went to a place where he would rarely need it. I do not believe that is "the reason" he went under the mountain, but I think it was mixed into the reasons why he left the world of light. He could never be rid of the ring, but he could have moments when he was apart from it. Finally, if Gollum had never resisted he would already have been a wraith, completely faded.

Certainly he had never "faded". He is thin and tough still. But the thing was eating up his mind, of course, and the torment had become almost unbearable.

He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself. He could not get rid of it. He had no will left in the matter.

Athrabeth asks what we mean by redemption for Gollum. I think the clearly the answer is not overtly religious, because LOTR is not overtly religious. I would say that one component of redemption is setting yourself on the moral path. "Go forth and sin no more." This requires free will. But Gandalf said he has no will left, so --- perhaps Gandalf works against me now? Does Gollum's lack of free will regarding the ring mean redemption for Gollum is impossible?

This is very difficult. I finally answer that it does not make redemption impossible, because I believe redemption must be defined by the parameters of what is possible. If Gollum had no will left in the matter of getting rid of the ring, then his redemption cannot be tied to getting rid of the ring. That is not a requirement that can be made of him. It cannot be a condition of redemption.

It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it.

This was true of Frodo as well as Gollum. But not Sam! I wonder if Sam could really be called a keeper of the ring.

And maybe when ages had passed and Gollum realized that this barren life under the mountains was all that he had, by the time he experienced regret, it was too late. He could not change now; the Ring's hold on him could no longer be broken. Gollum had become his actions. He was evil.

Evil? Well, yes, but also no. Certainly Gollum had done many evil things. Yet under the mountain I think he was more wretched than evil. What was he doing there? Eating fish and goblins. Brooding. Being miserable. That's about it. He was not tormenting his family anymore. He was not making any evil on hobbits or any other free peoples. Isn't it interesting that Gollum didn't kill his Grandma when she kicked him out? ( I think this would have come out when Gandalf questioned him, if he had. Gandalf could see through lies. ) Couldn't he have? I sure think he would have if he had been completely evil.

Any remorse he might feel was a criminal's remorse. Selfish. The remorse of an uncomfortable, unwanted situation, not the remorse which has genuine, spiritual sorrow at its core.

The murder of Déagol haunted Gollum, and he had made up a defence, repeating it to his "precious" over and over again, as he gnawed bones in the dark, until he almost believed it.

Gollum's remorse was not genuine, and I think it would have had to have been before he could be redeemed. That is another requirement, I think.

Yet his remorse, such as it is, is not wholly evil in nature. If he is haunted, he knows it was wrong. His remorse does not simply come from being "caught". Gollum is not amoral. If he was amoral then I think redemption would not be possible. He is, to be sure, very very far from redemption. Redemption does not come when you lie to yourself about your crime, make up alternative versions to make yourself feel better.

I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it.

I think this is exactly right.

Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

Even while thinking Gollum redeemable, Gandalf had no illusions about what he was likely to do.

"But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure, and we had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his old black thoughts."

I have become fascinated with Gollum's choice to go under the mountain while holding the ring. I have come to think of it as Gollum's way of escaping some of the evil of the ring. He clearly did not consciously think of it in that way, but that was the effect it had. He rarely wore it, and did nothing worse than eat goblins ( which is, I suppose wrong ) until he met Bilbo, and intended in his heart to kill him. But if the mountain kept the ring at bay ( even as Gollum could never be rid of it ) the mountain also numbed him, removed him from light and sound and companionship and any hope of redemption. The ring made Gollum evil, but the mountain made him wretched. Of course, the ring did not make Gollum evil, it invited him to be evil, and he accepted.

I do not think Gollum's association with Frodo could ever have freed him of the ring. But I do think it was by degrees freeing him of the mountain, freeing him of his wretchedness, freeing him of the lightless eons of loneliness he spent in the dark. For a moment, on the stairs of Cirith Ungol, the montain was gone, completely gone. That is why that moment is so beautiful. All that weight, gone. Yes, the ring is still there. It would always be there. And he would have to find a way to live with it. And yet he could not live with it. This is a riddle that is hard to answer. Where do you find redemption there?

I think the answer is that you tell the truth. About everything. Including the ring. And this is my answer to the question of redemption --- that it is a kind of truth. The hardest kind of all to speak, the truth about yourself. And I think that if Gollum truly understood the truth about the ring and what he had allowed it to do to him he would have thrown himself in with it. And I think such a thing was possible ( not likely ) if he was free of the mountain. I think Tolkien's answer is exactly right.


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