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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 2:52 pm 
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Interesting and perceptive at the end there, Faramond (the rest of the post is good stuff too, of course). Gollum could have gone in any number of directions when his clan drove him off...but he headed down and in, away from life and light and what had become a destructive relationship with them.

One could read this as the Ring biding its time until the call of its master was fully realized, or (as Sméagol himself thought of it) as looking for secrets, but I like the notion of some shrinking part of him, self-loathing, retreating from all that reminded him of what he'd thrown away. That's a very human thing to do, and thus a very hobbit thing as well. I'm not sure it's escaping the Ring's evil so much as escaping the pain of that evil, but the difference may well be academic.

Addiction is like a tumor of the psyche. It absorbs what it needs of the self ans pushes aside the rest, turning normal drives to its own purpose, which is self-preservation--of the addiction, not the person with it. In this context, the "cure" Gandalf speaks of is redemptive, but the process would be slow and doubtful. Gollum would, one suspects, decay rapidly if the Ring were destroyed. It would be a race against entropy.

I'm starting to think of his reclaiming of the Ring in the Sammath Naur as a semi-deliberate OD. The naked desire to get the Ring back overwhelms him there, as it must, but at some level, must he not still know he's dooming himself by having it, that he cannot possibly leave the Cracks alive?

Thus the dance on the precipice, of pure self-destructive glee, and the wail of "Precious" as the issue is resolved. I'm pretty sure he's incapable of considering his situation consciously at that point, but if there is a shred of the self-loathing Sméagol left, it doesn't take much subconscious effort to cavort just a little more than would normally be advisable in an active volcano...

Or it could simply be an ironic plot point. :) But that's not nearly so much fun to discuss.

edit to pull superfluous tag


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:23 am 
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In which the attempt is made to respond to three, no, four! posts. :D

Help.

Post One: Jnyusa.

Quote:
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?

Jn. wrote:
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.

<snip>

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.



Okay. One last attempt. I deleted the last one because it was a total mess.

I was not clear. I did not mean ownership at all. What I did mean is more abstract. Goes something like this: Once the author has completed the work of writing the story and it is published, a different dynamic ensues. The meaning contained within the book has left the writer and is now the responsibility of the audience (reader).
The impressions are no longer guided by the author, they have been transferred to us, the receiver, as readers. What we think, how we receive the words, our interpretation of the book is now the only thing that is important. Responsibility of impression, of interpretation, of conceptualization has passed from the author to the audience, that is, to us.

The question I asked was me wondering if , firstly, that supposition is valid and secondly, assuming it is, does Tolkien continue with the moral authority to assign meaning now that “The End' has been written and his book has gone out into the world?

I suppose, on reflection, my question belongs in another realm entirely .... I just wanted to know if anyone thought it philosophically possible that the book now belongs to us and Tolkien is no longer responsible for interpretation. I was specifically considering the redemption of Gollum ..... but the question is a theoretical one, maybe a little silly and not terribly relevant. Consider it retracted. :D It's just me amusing myself with a somewhat tenuous philosophical theory.

Post Two: Voronwë.

Voronwë wrote:
Quote:
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've wondered about this myself a fair bit. I'm curious what revisions there were (other than the remark T. made in Letters (?) that he went through the manuscript and assiduously removed all noticeable references to religion. I wonder if you dig through HoMe, CT ever notes which bits were later revised?

Post Three: Faramond.

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

Sass wrote:
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. 

Faramond answered:
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


No fair introducing e-mail material! (I'm teasing) :)

Ah, okay, integrity. I disagree. No surprise there. I take it as applicable to the hobbits, that there is a certain degree of incorruptibility. Now, 'tis my opinion (as indeed all of this is) Gollum is corrupted from the very second he laid eyes on the Ring.

“he used it to to find out secrets and he put his knowledge to crooked and malicious uses. He became sharp-eyed and keen-eared for all that was hurtful.”

He did not casually fall into evil precipitated by discovering the advantage invisibility conferred upon him: he deliberately and methodically sought out ways in which to inflict hurt! It was intentional.

Is Gollum is the bad seed?

Faramond wrote:
Quote:
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

Sass said:
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. 

Faramond wrote:
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. 


Hoom. Well now, no sane person would risk an argument against Gandalf, would they? He certainly is amongst the wise, maybe the wisest in all in M-e save Elrond, but if you are using Gandalf's wisdom against me then I must return the favour, “even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

You ask it yourself ….. could Gandalf be mistaken about Gollum? He could, you know. Not probable although it is possible.

Anyway: leaving aside the inequality of a debate between a mortal woman (moi) and a demi-angel maia (Gandalf): I want to address your contention of reasons for Gollum leaving the surface world of light and normalcy and delving deep for the safety under the mountain. I'm afraid the speculation that he chose to go underground being tantamount to fighting the Ring's influence because he would not need to always keep the Ring by him and could/would therefore be physically separated from it ......is just...... well...... not plausible.

Faramond said:
Quote:
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. 


Exactly so!

The seeds were already planted. All the Ring did was nurture those seeds into fullness. But it doesn't really matter how Gollum became evil, does it? I mean however the method by which he lost his humanity is, ultimately, of no consequence. The Ring does not make anybody do anything. Its genius lies in the ability to amplify the shards of blackness which live, to greater or lesser degree, in every soul. Gollum's soul was fertile ground for the Ring of Sauron; a veritable feast of malice. In direct contrast to the barren soil of Bilbo, Frodo and Sam; the Ring found no such welcome there and it proved a mighty struggle as we know.


First of all, even before the Ring gave its first gift , “ he was interested in roots <snip> he ceased to look up <snip> his head and his eyes were downward.” His focus was directed toward dark things under the ground. Now, he had the Ring, had killed to possess it; used it to wreck havoc and malice upon his society and his kin ...... and he delighted in the act of harming, hurting. Now he is ready to receive the second gift that the Ring has to give: he is ostracized, cast out, cast off, banished. Poor misbegotten Gollum, weeping for the hardness of a world which has shunned him, misunderstood, choked on tears of self-pity he worms his way down under the mountain so he may escape the light of the sun and revel in self-inflicted misery. I find no evidence of resistance. What I do find is a wretched, hateful, cruel little monster who has embraced evil and applied his wrinkled little brain into devising new harms and apparently (weeping a little for the hardness of the world) does not really understand the reason he is shunned. Add delusional thinking to (innate?)paranoia you end up with Gollum personalizing the Sun, he shakes his fist at her as though she deliberately shines upon HIM, and thinks to rectify his loneliness in the roots of the mountain. What Gollum really does is this: he goes to earth like an animal going in to hiding to escape an enemy.

An integral aspect of the Ring, I believe, is its facility for what we call addiction. I don't know who here has any awareness of it but it is, finally, so compelling to mind, body and soul, that there is no space for anything else. Addiction is circular, (the worm ourboros) consuming everything that is not itself. Eventually it will consume even itself and the result is death. Of spirit and then of body. It is more powerful than love. Admittedly, this is not the appropriate setting for true confessions and I confess solely to give substance to my assertions but I must tell you that I understand addiction. I should. I lived it for over twenty years. If it's true that the compulsion the Ring exerts is addictive in any way then Gollum is never able to put it aside for any measurable time, not even for convenience of safe-keeping. Not physically, not psychically. The mountain can not excuse him the burden of the Ring, nor permit escape, nor substitute one lesser power for the stronger other. The Ring does not let go and besides, "He had no will left in the matter." Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide .................

Not using the Ring while underground is hardly a convincing argument, Faramond. It is dark. There are no human enemies and most likely few of any species. What factual knowledge does Gollum have of the Ring? Invisibility, yes, very useful for sneaking up on unsuspecting hobbits and taking them unawares. It belongs to him, it is his precious, this he knows. That he belongs to the Ring is beyond his intellectual abilities. What I wonder is if the Ring needs a place to hide while Sauron re-invigorates and gathers new strength to himself? (But that's a matter for a different post)

The third gift is a black heart and the fourth is eternal servitude. 

All the long aeons that Gollum spends crawling beneath the mountains of Middle-earth give him years to fester and to cement blackness into his heart. What integrity? How resist? He lays it to one side in a safe hiding place and perhaps one of the reasons is because with centuries passing he no longer has clothes with stable pockets! He has no chain on which to thread the Ring, no little bag to put it in, perhaps the most secure place of all is a niche in the rock or a ledge in the wall. I don't know but there are a myriad causes for not carrying the Ring with him constantly ….. an unspoken, unthoughtful resistance need not be one of them. Although I do not think he is ever parted from his precious for very long.

Actually, your final point is compelling: Had he not resisted he would have been a wraith, completely faded.
I don't know. Hobbits are habitually long-lived. One hundred years is quite common. Gollum had the Ring for five centuries. We know that it gave a stretched life “spread too thin” Bilbo said. You attribute his not-wraithness to lack of physical proximity to the Ring. I don't. Mostly because I honestly doubt, as I said, that he and the Ring were apart for more than small amounts of time.

“He could not get rid of it. He had no will left in the matter.” said Gandalf.

Faramond wrote:
Quote:
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? 


You know my answer: I find no redemption there. Nor can I make myself believe that the mountain ( symbolic of Gollum's past, his legacy) ever really disappeared from his psyche. No, not even on the stairs of Cirith Ungol in spite of the almost unbearable poignancy of that transitory glimmer which oh so briefly washed into and over and out of Gollum's heart. It was not enough. And oddly, it makes me sad to know that he really was doomed. :(

Faramond wrote:
Quote:
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.


Perhaps. One would like to think so. But I do not think Gollum was capable of truth. Especially not truth which requires rigorous self examination. Think on it, if he deluded himself about the murder of Déagol, how less likely is it that he would delude himself about what he truly was? How could he live with the stealing babies from cradles? I will admit I find it next to impossible to separate the sin from sinner.

Post Four: axordil.

Ax wrote:
Quote:
I'm starting to think of his reclaiming of the Ring in the Sammath Naur as a semi-deliberate OD. The naked desire to get the Ring back overwhelms him there, as it must, but at some level, must he not still know he's dooming himself by having it, that he cannot possibly leave the Cracks alive?


Is there enough 'hobbit' left of him to know anything besides the Ring in his hand?

Ax continued:
Quote:
Thus the dance on the precipice, of pure self-destructive glee, and the wail of "Precious" as the issue is resolved. I'm pretty sure he's incapable of considering his situation consciously at that point, but if there is a shred of the self-loathing Sméagol left, it doesn't take much subconscious effort to cavort just a little more than would normally be advisable in an active volcano... 


No. Sadly, I don't think so. It would be poetic, in a way, if self-loathing was still a factor in his plunge into the fire. 'Though All my eyes can see, is Gollum (not Sméagol), transmogrified by the Ring. Nothing else.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:57 am 
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What we think, how we receive the words, our interpretation of the book is now the only thing that is important. Responsibility of impression, of interpretation, of conceptualization has passed from the author to the audience, that is, to us.


The only problem with reader response criticism, of which this is the heart, is that some responses are, um, less useful to others. That's a euphemism for "not meaningful for anyone else on the planet ever." :D For Betty Sue in Freshman Comp, Moby Dick may well be her grandfather, but no one else is going to get much out of that reading....

That's NOT saying anyone here is engaging in idiosyncratic readings. Far from it! But that's the constant danger with throwing the text over the fence to the readers and abandoning it. The dynamic shifts mightily upon publication, I believe, but not entirely--else why would we even bother with asking an author about their works after the fact?

It's just that authors can't be entirely trustworthy narrators when it comes to their own narratives ex post facto...even if they try. Our brains fill in too many gaps in the best of cases, and in a case such as JRRT, where he really did feel the pull of orthodoxy (from the outside at least), opportunity for memory mischief is too high to ignore.

Is that the Chamber of the Stars? :D

It may well be there's nothing left at the end but the lust for the Ring, Sass; that it's finally consumed whatever else was once Sméagol, and there's no "self" there left to act one way or another. My read of that scene varies with my mood, really, and any evidence we point to is suspect anyway, since addicts are past masters at deceiving those around them. That includes us. :D

Yet...could there not be, as he plummets, satisfaction of a twisted sort for him knowing he's the last being to possess the Ring? That he and his Precious are together at the End?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:22 am 
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axordil wrote:
But that's the constant danger with throwing the text over the fence to the readers and abandoning it. The dynamic shifts mightily upon publication, I believe, but not entirely--else why would we even bother with asking an author about their works after the fact?


Laziness? :D We (not you, not me, not most here) like to be told what we should think?

Quote:
It's just that authors can't be entirely trustworthy narrators when it comes to their own narratives ex post facto...even if they try. Our brains fill in too many gaps in the best of cases, and in a case such as JRRT, where he really did feel the pull of orthodoxy (from the outside at least), opportunity for memory mischief is too high to ignore.


Well said.

Anyway, I do agree, I was trying on a theory for size and ... um .... it doesn't quite measure up :blackeye:

Quote:
Yet...could there not be, as he plummets, satisfaction of a twisted sort for him knowing he's the last being to possess the Ring? That he and his Precious are together at the End?


Well since my theory and I have decided that LotR is now within exclusive purview, :D the answer is Yes, yes it could be so. In fact, IT shall be so!

Besides, there is a certain poetic synergy to it.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:29 am 
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Got to be quick tonight ... apologies if this is terse.
Sass wrote:
I was not clear. I did not mean ownership at all.


You were clear! I was the one who was unclear.

Quote:
I just wanted to know if anyone thought it philosophically possible that the book now belongs to us and Tolkien is no longer responsible for interpretation.


Yes, I understood that this was your question, Sass. And my answer would be the same, only I'll try to put it differently so that it doesn't seem to be about property.

It's not either-or in my mind. I don't think Tolkien's own words about his meaning are ever irrelevant or superseded by our interpretations. But neither is our interpretation irrelevant or superseded by his statements of intention. It think the relationship between writer and reader is more complex, more symbiotic than that, even after the writer is dead. But I have a lot of vague ideas about that relationship that I haven't fully articulated to myself, so it will have to wait until I have a little more time.

Ax wrote:
I'm starting to think of his reclaiming of the Ring in the Sammath Naur as a semi-deliberate OD.


It's interesting that we've turned to addiction for our analogy, because that's pretty much the only thing in human experience that comes close to the power of the Ring to usurp free will.

It's an apt analogy.

And yet .... and yet ... I feel indefensibly confident that this is not the sort of usurpation of free will that Tolkien wished to convey.

Again, I need more time to articulate this to myself before posting it.

Faramond wrote:
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.


I think that's a very good light to shine on redemption, Faramond. I think you are right that 'truth' is the universal to be found in all notions of 'redemption.'

Paradoxically, though, you have convinced me that Tolkien was wrong about Gollum! And even why he was wrong about Gollum (I think).

But first, I need a minor clarification ... something along the lines of the questions that Ath was asking earlier:

Are we talking about redemption in principle or redemption in practice?

If redemption in principle, then I have to agree that all the characters who possess free will are also capable of redemption. I think this must include even the orcs, for they show themselves capable of disobedience and that is an expression of free will.

If there is in the book a recurring test of one's belief in this kind of redemption, and I think there is, then my opinion is that both Frodo and Sam pass this test. They do not kill an unarmed, groveling Gollum. They do not terminate his ability to choose. In my opinion, the one character who clearly does not pass this test is Gollum himself. He may be the only one who does not - I have to think on it.

But if we are talking about redemption in practice: treating the other from moment to moment as if redemption might in the next moment occur, granting them license to choose, leaving the larger judgment (as it were) to some higher power, and holding one another accountable for failure to do this, then I think we fall into a real moral chasm, a real moral failure of perspective, a brutality that turns evil and good on their heads.

I will try to address this more coherently on Tuesday morning ... right now I've got another stack of exams to attack before tomorrow's grading.

p.s. Griffy's edition sounds delicious. Different colored inks? Is Gandalf really written in blue, or is that your translation of the motif?

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:35 pm 
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I do not agree with the Ring "as addiction". No time to post more, but had to poke my nose in!

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Sass, I don't know what else to say in this argument. At this point I will just be repeating myself. You find my arguments unpersuasive. I have no new ones to offer. What else can I say? I am sorry.

Jnyusa wrote:
Are we talking about redemption in principle or redemption in practice?


I really don't understand your question, Jn, and your subsequent explanation of it. And when I do try to understand it seems like you're more or less asking me if I'm a psychopath or an idiot! :P Yes to both! Or I don't understand what you're getting at.

I don't believe that redemption can happen in an instant. A moment of clarity can happen in an instant, in which a path to redemption is visible that was not before, but that path still has to be traveled, and it will be long, and hard, and the most likely result is still failure. And even if that path is found and taken the sin is never simply erased, not without some sort of metaphysical intervention but we aren't talking about that kind of redemption here.

I will answer redemption in practice, even though you identify that with brutality. To me "redemption in principle" is a fancy way of saying no redemption at all. Redemption in practice to me means that there is a path ahead that could lead to redemption.

Gandalf speaks for me. And remember, his primary reaction to hearing that Gollum was with Frodo was to worry about treachery. It was right and sensible that Gollum was held imprisoned, even if his imprisonment meant that redemption was impossible. The first priority cannot be redemption for the "sinner". The first thought has to be safety of those the sinner would likely harm if let free. The second thought should probably be justice. Then third, the possibility of redemption. Redemption should be a consideration, but not at the cost of evil upon the innocent.

If the hobbits had encountered Gollum in civilized parts, the proper course would have been to hand him over to the authorities. He shouldn't just be let loose! He has committed crimes in the past and his most likely course, to the point of near certainty, is that he will commit more. It is, really, only under very specialized circumstances that I think redemption is possible for him. It's not going to happen while he's imprisoned under the earth, in an environment much like the one he spent so much time with the ring. He will have to be in an environment in which could recall to him his life before the ring, in which he was up in the air and the light and could speak to people. That is why Gandalf bade the elves not to hold him always underground. I will say that I almost disagree with Gandalf here, because I don't think these small measures would have been enough, and as it turned out there was an element of risk that he would escape.

When the hobbits caught Gollum stalking them they were faced with a choice. They could set him free, but this would be foolish, and expose themselves and possibly others to his evil. ( They were in wilderness, and he was only going to keep following them, so danger to others was probably small, but still something to consider. ) They could imprison him, which would normally be the preferred course, and yet given the unusual circumstances they could not properly imprison him, but only tie him up, and that would be a death sentence, and a torture ( because of the elven rope ) and on the whole a rather cowardly act. They could kill him outright. Certainly he does deserve it, though technically he had yet committed no crime against Frodo and Sam that I can think of. Killing him would keep a predator away from the ring, so it would be good for the quest, as far as they knew at that time. Killing him would prevent him from any future murders. I don't think the practical possibility of redemption, by itself, is enough to argue against killing him, if other considerations weigh heavier. More important I think is the reality that killing him after he had surrendered to them would be too much like outright murder. But if you do kill him I think you should be very clear that you are cutting off a possibility of redemption, however small it was.

And then there is the option the hobbits took. They did need a guide. It would have been impossible without the ring to bind him to a promise, but of course without the ring he would not have been following them. Does the possibility of Gollum's redemption make it necessary that they spare his life? I don't think so. Rather, I think the possibility of Gollum's redemption makes it possible for them to spare his life and take him as a guide. I would not like to think of Gollum's possible redemption in binary terms, that either he found it or not. The cure was ever only likely to be partial and temporary, and it turned out to be so. If he was completely beyond redemption, beyond curing, then they simply couldn't have taken him as a guide. I think he would have attacked Frodo to take the ring the first time both hobbits were asleep, or he would have set a trap for them in the Dead Marshes. Of course his promise made by the ring was a part of it too. Gollum had fallen so far and was so wretched that the first positive steps he might take would be hard to see, hard to separate out from the other pressures on him, and so it is easy to disagree with me. ;) But Tolkien clearly intends with his description of Gollum's behavior to show him taking these very small positive steps of being able to relate to the hobbits on a more human level ( relative comparisons are important here, because it is on nothing like a healthy human level ) than what he was capable previously. And when Gollum's behavior becomes more outwardly servile but also more self-serving and deceitful Tolkien clearly describes that too. The first few small steps of a cure begin, and then there are setbacks. To me Tolkien's descriptions of Gollum's behavior don't make sense if his ONLY motive all along was just to stay near the ring. If that was the case then he would have been insincerely servile the whole time. Yes, the desire to have the ring again is ALWAYS there. Always. Again, I will say that this makes the path to redemption harder, but not impossible.

I would agree with one sense of redemption being impossible for Gollum: there was not enough time for Gollum to travel the full path of redemption. It would take years, I think, with so many missteps possible along the way. Gollum didn't have years. I think it is right that Gollum would die shortly after the ring was destroyed. Gollum would have to understand what he had allowed the ring to do to him. He would have to know that truth. And the gateway for that would be seeing what the ring was doing to Frodo, whom he loved, as much as Gollum could love. Even when Gollum betrayed the hobbits he did not attack Frodo, and I do not think that is only because of the promise he made by the ring. Yes, Sass, I know you will be able to tear this statement to shreds. :) But this is again the same argument I have tried, futilely, no doubt, to make elsewhere, that there are layers to Gollum's motivation, that the reasons he gave were only part of the story, because he was so deceitful and lied to himself constantly. We often have separate and even somewhat conflicting motives for the things we do. It is often the case that you must look to the effect of an action to get to the truth. Gollum was willing to betray Frodo, but not directly. It is, of course, abominable behavior, and the moment he makes this betrayal I think Gollum has pretty much punted away his last slim chance at redemption, but still the tiny bit of good in him does alter the method of his betrayal. Anyway, this is an aside, so long because of all the qualifications I need to put in for fear of the response to it I will get. ;)

The point is that Gollum could understand what the ring was doing to Frodo because Gollum had borne it so long and had not resisted it. I do believe that Gollum's choice to go under the mountain with the ring was in part a subconscious desire to resist needing to use the ring very much, but it is clear that compared with Frodo Gollum did not resist the ring at all. Gollum could have understood that the ring would never let go of a bearer. He had lived that life. He was living it. But Frodo was still in denial, in a way. Frodo was too good! Frodo walked up to Mount Doom, resisting the evil of the ring all the way, resisting his claim on the ring all the way, and then failed at the end, inevitably. But Gollum could understand in a way that Frodo could not that he had never had any choice in the matter of claiming the ring, after his murder of Déagol. Gollum could know that the ring owned him, and know that this ownership was evil, and prevent it from owning anyone else. All that time Gollum had lied to himself, calling the ring his precious, telling himself that he loved it. More lies. He hated it. He hated it because it took his life away. He hated himself because he let it take his life away. He only kept it because he had to. He only pursued it because he had to. If Gollum loved Frodo, and was finally able to stop lying to himself ( a tall order, I agree ) then he would want to destroy the ring so that it would not steal all of Frodo's life away as well. And he could only bear to destroy the ring if he destroyed himself as well. Why would Gollum stop lying? Only because he wouldn't want to be an outcast anymore. His only path to truth would have been through a desire for genuine human relationships again.

How would Gollum of gotten the ring from Frodo? I think Frodo would have to have been convinced that Gollum was telling the truth, at the very least. They shared a lot of the same experience as ringbearers, though of course Gollum's time bearing it was far different from Frodo's. But they did have this level of connection. If Gollum, in his effort to no longer be an outcast, had confessed to Frodo, confessed what he had done, confessed to murder of a hobbit to get the ring, confessed that the ring still owned him body and soul, confessed that he would never be free of it --- then what? I think Frodo could have begun to trust him in a way he could not before. I do not think it is impossible that Gollum could have told the truth, once his defenses were torn away ( as they nearly were ) because telling the truth is such a relief. There would have to be more, but I will stop here.

Well, my explanation is not nearly as good as it should be. But this will have to do.


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I think it is darn good. You keep saying what I want to say, but can't find the words for.

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One quick comment on Gollum’s redeemability - Gandalf’s statement that Gollum no longer has any will in the matter of the ring sounds like he has no hope of redemption, but it is also, I think, a particularly Christian take on the matter of redemption: Christians believe that they cannot bring about their salvation through their own actions, but only through the grace of God. In the case of Gollum I suppose one could speculate that Eru could intervene to redeem him, but there is nothing in the text of LOTR to suggest that Middle Earth works that way. Short of that I think we are left to conclude that the only one who can bring about Gollum’s redemption is Gollum himself, and since he no longer has any will in the matter it is, as Ax said, practically, if not conceptually, impossible.

The point being that Frodo and Sam are decidedly not accountable for his redemption. The events at the Forbidden Pool and on the stairs of Cirith Ungul may have been obstacles, or even hindered his redemption, buy ultimately the only one who could redeem Gollum is Gollum himself, and he had no will left in the matter. To say that Sam’s treatment somehow stopped it is quite unfair to Sam, in my opinion, regardless of what Tolkien might have said about it.

I think the important thing here is that Gollum was treated as if the possibility existed for his redemption, at every turn where it mattered. What mattered the most was that he live long enough to take the ring from Frodo and fall into the fire, but it also mattered for how it effected those involved, starting with Bilbo who “took so little hurt” from the ring because he started his ownership of it with pity. If Frodo had let the archers at the Forbidden Pool shoot, then not only would they have lost their guide, but Frodo would have been changed too, and not for the better. The ring would have taken him long before he reached the Sammath Naur, imo.

Ultimately, I think we do have to assume that everyone is redeemable - even the Valar believed Melkor was redeemable at one point. About the only ones I can think of that have no redeemable characteristics whatsoever are the Nazgûl. Even the orcs, as Jny said, have characteristics of free will.


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As promised, I am returning to the question that Ath asked me earlier.

Athrabeth wrote:
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?


After following the discussion and thinking about it more, I'm going to respond by quoting one of my wiser brethren with a statement that doesn't directly respond to your question, but I think better captures my opinion on the matter after thinking about it more and reading carefully what everyone has had to say.

[quote=tinwë]I think the important thing here is that Gollum was treated as if the possibility existed for his redemption, at every turn where it mattered[/quote]

In other words (as relevant to the question that you asked me) what is important is not so much whether the possibility of redemption (whatever that term really does mean) existed for Gollum, however slight, but rather that Frodo (and Bilbo, and ultimately Sam) genuinely believed that the possibility existed, however unlikely.

I'm still not explaining myself very well, but I hope this at least helps. You have always been excellent at helping me focus my views on these issues, and I hope that you (and the rest of the wise folk) can continue to help me find clarity.

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Jnyusa wrote:
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But I have a lot of vague ideas about that relationship that I haven't fully articulated to myself, so it will have to wait until I have a little more time.
 

I still think it's a knotty question and one worth pursuing although I'm not at all sure that there is a resolution. :)

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It's interesting that we've turned to addiction for our analogy, because that's pretty much the only thing in human experience that comes close to the power of the Ring to usurp free will. 

It's an apt analogy. 

And yet .... and yet ... I feel indefensibly confident that this is not the sort of usurpation of free will that Tolkien wished to convey.
 

I think that too.
We, I, use addiction as an analogy because it approximates utter hateful servitude. No, of course it isn't accurate and maybe not even close to what Tolkien meant, but since he was not specific all that we have is our own individual frame of reference. Addiction is a kind of shorthand for a state we can only try to imagine.

Anyway, presumably what T. wished to illustrate was a spiritual usurpation. It does more than eat away at the soul, it parasitically invades and corrupts the spirit: Like alchemy, it attempts to transmute; turns one thing into the other and always, at least partially, succeeds. *Once a Ring-bearer, the scars never leave and the soul is permanently changed.

*Sam, too? Bilbo and Frodo certainly, but Sam?


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Sass, I don't know what else to say in this argument. At this point I will just be repeating myself. You find my arguments unpersuasive. I have no new ones to offer. What else can I say? I am sorry.



No need for apologies, Faramond. :) You were never going to change the way I think about redemption and Gollum. Just as I was never going to persuade you that my 'take' is the correct one. We've both flogged our conclusions to death and no doubt bored a lot of people in the process. (or at least I have) :D
I shan't make any attempt to 'tear your argument to shreds' at all any more since it's obvious that I'm only repeating myself ad nauseum ...... although I will say this ........
An enormous problem is that, by *using text alone, a strong case can be made for either view. Ultimately, any interpretation is reduced to whichever subjective window we prefer to 'get' the story. I honestly don't think that there is a 'right' or 'wrong' way and that, partly, is the wonder and the glory of Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion too, I would guess.

* Lately I'm trying to rely solely on the actual text because whenever I stop to consider Tolkien's later perspectives, I tend to get thoroughly confused: what he says about motives and the character of his heroes often conflicts with the opinions I formed from reading the book.

Besides, aren't we all pretty much in agreement that Sam should not be held accountable for Gollum's lack of redemption? Even if T. does imply (Letter 246) that myopic Sam bears responsibility. :x


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Christians believe that they cannot bring about their salvation through their own actions, but only through the grace of God.
Which would mean,as you say, that somehow Eru would need to have a hand in it.
I suppose one could speculate that Eru could intervene to redeem him, but there is nothing in the text of LOTR to suggest that Middle Earth works that way.


I wrote about 'the hand of Eru' fairly extensively a few pages ago, so I tend to think that he is willing to intercede in some fairly minor ways (nudging Sam in the right direction) but conferring redemption upon a thoroughly unlikable Gollum would be a major intercession and that sort of life-changing intervention is not permitted.

Quote:
Ultimately, I think we do have to assume that everyone is redeemable - even the Valar believed Melkor was redeemable at one point. About the only ones I can think of that have no redeemable characteristics whatsoever are the Nazgûl. Even the orcs, as Jny said, have characteristics of free wil.


Me, I lean toward the belief that free will (heavily modified by the workings of fate) is consistent for all inhabitants of Arda. Or should be consistent. I don't think you can have two distinct classes of living breathing beings: one class with souls, the other without. But that is precisely how it appears Tolkien wrote LotR. Elves, Hobbits, Ents, Dwarves, Men and Wizards, all are in possession of souls, whereas Orcs, Balrogs, Trolls, Giant sentient Spiders are not. :scratch:

And what about the Mouth of Sauron, eh? Where does he fit in? =:)

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tinwë spoke my thoughts about this as well! Much more succinctly and 'safely' than I could have.

tinwë wrote:
]The point being that Frodo and Sam are decidedly not accountable for his redemption. The events at the Forbidden Pool and on the stairs of Cirith Ungul may have been obstacles, or even hindered his redemption, buy ultimately the only one who could redeem Gollum is Gollum himself, and he had no will left in the matter. To say that Sam’s treatment somehow stopped it is quite unfair to Sam, in my opinion, regardless of what Tolkien might have said about it.

I think the important thing here is that Gollum was treated as if the possibility existed for his redemption, at every turn where it mattered. ... If Frodo had let the archers at the Forbidden Pool shoot, then not only would they have lost their guide, but Frodo would have been changed too, and not for the better. The ring would have taken him long before he reached the Sammath Naur, imo.


(my colors)

Blaming Sam for Gollum's fall, or even holding him mildly accountable for it, seems to me to turn good and evil on their heads. And it was what you said about truth, Faramond, that made me think Tolkien must be wrong about this ... he is temporizing to some extent, to avoid any hint that he has denied the possibility of redemption for Gollum ... but that is redemption in the abstract, redemption in principle. When carried to extremes of practical action it becomes profoundly immoral, even brutally evil.

When Sam calls Gollum a sneak, he is speaking the truth about Gollum. The truth that Gollum has to accept about himself is that he has earned this title. One who was truly remorseful would understand that restitution is required before the title can be changed, because remorse requires first of all that we understand that harm has been done and actually care about this and acknowledge it. But, like so many evildoers, Gollum wants each day to be the start of a new story wherein his past deeds are as if they did not happen. This is not redemption; it is the worse kind of fakery.

Gollum may feel subservience to Frodo as bearer of the Ring but he does not feel remorse or love. Fawning is not caring. And at the first opportunity to do so and get away with it, Gollum conspires to kill Frodo. He proves his nature by his deed.

I agree with you, Faramond, that redemption cannot be instantaneous, but in his letter Tolkien suggests strongly that he believes in instantaneous damnation ...

"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 ...His [gollum's] repentance is blighted and all Frodo's pity is (in a sense ) wasted."

... and I don't think you can believe in one without believing in the other. That is, I think that Tolkien sees this moment as a unique turning point for the worse because he does believe in instantaneous redemption. He is required by his religion to believe that we can be made instantaneously clean by the grace of God.

But to say that it is Sam who makes Shelob's Lair inevitable is to say that each moment of Gollum's precarious hovering between good and evil has greater moral portent than Sam's lifetime of loyalty. That it is more important that Gollum's fawning be sustained than that Sam's genuine protectiveness be sustained. That Gollum's redemption is more important in some absolute sense than Frodo's very life is important. And this is not a moral position; this is an anti-moral position. It mocks the sacredness of life.

As a practical matter, Gollum is not redeemable. At no point in the story does he supply evidence of a redemption. Tolkien is ... carried away ... on this topic. He does not in fact portray Gollum as truly remorseful, in the way that Boromir, for instance, is truly remorseful, giving his life to repair the damage he has done. Gollum is expedient. (Forgive me for underlining it!) We may be morally required to treat the fallen as redeemable, but we have no obligation to treat them as already redeemed when they are not.

Quote:
But we who are all 'in the same boat' must not usurp the Judge.


And yet this book is about nothing if not about the constant need for us to perform judgments, practical judgments, plainly in the absent of guarantees.

Why not look at it from the other direction. Every character is tested. Sam is Gollum's test. Gollum failed.

If Sam had run home after looking in the mirror of Galadriel, would we have blamed Galadriel? Would we have said, oh, if only she had showed him something less painful, he would have been redeemed. Shame on Galadriel!

Nonsense. The failure would have been Sam's. His alone. So it is with Gollum. He is a sneak and a thief who wants to be treated as if he were a philanthropist; a murderer who wants to be treated as if he were a saint, and if he wish is not granted he will murder you. What perversion of morality would it be to grant him his wish?

p.s. I didn't completely understand your failure to understand my earlier post, Faramond. I was agreeing with you and disagreeing with Tolkien. Though I don't think Tolkien was either a psychopath or an idiot ... just a little carried away.

p.p.s cross-posted with Sass! Got to read your post now, Sass.

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Sass wrote:
Anyway, presumably what T. wished to illustrate was a spiritual usurpation. It does more than eat away at the soul, it parasitically invades and corrupts the spirit: Like alchemy, it attempts to transmute; turns one thing into the other and always, at least partially, succeeds.


Alchemy is an even better analogy!

I still think it an odd thing that Tolkien has created here - a test that cannot be passed. Got to think on this some more.

Sass wrote:
I wrote:
But I have a lot of vague ideas about that relationship that I haven't fully articulated to myself, so it will have to wait until I have a little more time.

 
I still think it's a knotty question and one worth pursuing although I'm not at all sure that there is a resolution.


Yes, I'm not sure it is resolvable ... what I was thinking was that a writer works from within his culture, and there is a kind of dialogue going on between the writer and his potential readers even before the first word is put to the page. The writer is moved to write because some larger concern has touched him.

When we read him, we are transformed by his words, but his meaning is also transformed by the fact that we are transformed ... lots of ripples, you know, turtles all the way down. :)

And this continues even after the writer has died, even after the culture in which he wrote has changed ... because we are always overlapping, always emerging from the world that gave him his meaning and the world we create as a result of reading him.

It's like one of those science fiction time paradox thingies ...

hmm ... I'm really tired now and should probably stop talking.

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And what about the Mouth of Sauron, eh? Where does he fit in?


Is that the greatest visual, or what? Wonderfully Orwellian.

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Sassafras wrote:
I wrote about 'the hand of Eru' fairly extensively a few pages ago, so I tend to think that he is willing to intercede in some fairly minor ways (nudging Sam in the right direction) but conferring redemption upon a thoroughly unlikable Gollum would be a major intercession and that sort of life-changing intervention is not permitted.


I agree that the hand of Eru is present in the ways that you mention, but all of those things are merely the hand pointing in the right direction. The action of the characters is still up to them. Since Gollum no longer has any will in the matter of the ring, it would take Eru intervening in place of Gollum’s will to redeem him. That is what does not happen in M.E., at least there is no evidence of it in the text (that I can think of).

Sassafras wrote:
And what about the Mouth of Sauron, eh? Where does he fit in? =:)


The same as Gollum, imo. The possibility for his redemption lies in his own free will, so it depends on the extent to which his will is dominated by his master. Since his motivation is personal gain through subservience to Sauron I think it is safe to assume that he has freely given up his free will. But we have to assume the possibility exists for him to take it back. Which is why, in the book, Aragorn does not lop off his head during the parley, and why so many of us were appalled by the scene in the EE where he did.

The more pertinent question for me is the Nazgûl. They too were once men, with free will, and so presumably still able to repent. And we know without question that it isn’t so with them - they ceased to be men long ago, ceased to have any sort will at all, other than that of Sauron. So Tolkien has given us an example of a being with a soul who is beyond redemption. I don’t think anyone would argue with Aragorn lopping off the Wiki’s head.

Jnyusa wrote:
That Gollum's redemption is more important in some absolute sense than Frodo's very life is important.


I think this is also a uniquely Christian viewpoint though, the idea that there is nothing more important than the redemption of lost souls. After all, Frodo’s mortal soul is not (yet) is danger; in a Christian world he would already be saved. Jesus didn’t worry about those who were already saved, he specifically directed his ministry to the damned: outcasts, lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and the like.

This doesn’t make it right for Gollum’s redemption to be more important than Frodo’s life, but it does, I think, help to explain some of Tolkien’s thoughts on the matter.


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:bow: :bow: I have to say this thread is still one of the best I've read on any board anywhere in a long time. Simply amazing. :love:

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As always when discussing this aspect of LOTR, I have to back away.

The thing is, the reason I back out, is, I find myself (inevitably) wondering what on earth Sauron and the Mouth of Sauron and the Orcs and Saruman and all the rest were going to do with Middle Earth once they had it.

If they were ordinary villains, they'd be after women and land and jewels. But they aren't. Some of them are even already dead. What's in it for them? What do they want?

I mean, in the ordinary, every day meaning of "want".

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Are they perhaps so evil that the existence of free, happy individuals is unbearable to them? I have heard that characterization applied to Satan.

(I'm really asking what people think, not trying to make a rhetorical or certainly a religious point here.)

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vison wrote:
If they were ordinary villains, they'd be after women and land and jewels. But they aren't. Some of them are even already dead. What's in it for them? What do they want?

I mean, in the ordinary, every day meaning of "want".

Power. They want power. They want to rule. They want to conquer all things...including death itself.

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River wrote:
vison wrote:
If they were ordinary villains, they'd be after women and land and jewels. But they aren't. Some of them are even already dead. What's in it for them? What do they want?

I mean, in the ordinary, every day meaning of "want".

Power. They want power. They want to rule. They want to conquer all things...including death itself.


Power to do what?

I'm serious. Rule what?

Even the undead have to fill their days.

This is the opposite/same as the Elves.

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I think Sauron would eventually play at being good. There would be great works. Create a beautiful city with "new elves". I don't know where the new elves would come from. But he would have the one ring, and the three elven rings. He could do much with these. I think Sauron would make a new capital, bright and without pollution, maybe even with gardens, but it would be surrounded by pollution, and the inhabitants would be spiritually dead. There would be no freedom or love in this city. It would be a corrupted gem. I think Sauron would do everything he could to give himself a new body. I see a succession of experiments, and pits full of discarded corpses. <Shudder>

I think Sauron would have given to Saruman one of the elven rings, and made him into the witch-istar, a very powerful wraith-wizard second only to Sauron himself, but ultimately in Sauron's thrall. Saruman would also have a palantír fused into his skull so that Sauron could also see through his eyes. Whatever was left of Saruman's soul would be gone. A fate worse than the one he suffered in the Shire, really.

Sauron would make sport with the Mouth of Sauron, and encourage rivals to challenge the Mouth for supremacy of --- what was he to be given? Isengard? I think Sauron would enjoy seeing his minions fight for power in a controlled way. It would be like his version of March Madness. The Mouth of Sauron, by the way, was irredeemable. That he has forgotten his own name shows this symbolically.

Sauron, too, would have sought revenge, on anyone he could think of even remotely connected to the recent "rebellion" against him. The Shire ... any unhappy elf remaining ... it is too horrible.

Ultimately Sauron was like Shelob, seeking to devour everything and leaving only himself alive and sentient, symbolically blotting out all else.

And eventually, Sauron would have tried invasion of the West. And failed, of course, but he has not the humility to know this. And maybe this would have been his downfall, finally. But even if that came, so much evil would have been done before.


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