The Dead Marshes

The Dead Marshes Understandings

When misery surrounds you, where do you turn? To your companions, of course. The monotony of the Dead Marshes introduces Frodo, Sam, and Gollum to a new co-existing relationship. The three characters couldn`t be more different from one another at this point. Sam ever on his guard because of Gollum, who is struggling with hunger, and Frodo – innocent and merciful. However, in this forsaken place, the relationship between Gollum and Frodo starts to shift. 

Gollum turns helpful and shows Frodo and Sam the quickest way to Mordor through the Dead Marshes. Sam still exercises a reproachful look at Gollum, and Gollum, in turn, is trying to get into his good graces, failing terribly. When he says “nice hobbit” it may mean it sarcastically, the way he looks at Sam. Definitely a hard bonding experience for the both of them. 

Bereft of life

I hate this place. It`s too quiet. There`s been no sight nor sound of a bird in two days.

Samwise Gamgee

The Dead Marshes are, as the name says, dead. Apart from dead people in the water and their apparitions, there is no life on land either. Nothing moves, nothing flies, bogs and methane gas and stink. Even the sky is an all-encompassing mist that hovers above the entire place.

Poor famished creature

No, no birdses to eat. No crunchable birdses. And we are famished! Yes! Famished we are precious.

Gollum

The poor creature doesn`t have anything to eat and is genuinely starving. As he sees something wiggling in the water he might have been thinking that it might nourish him, but alas, a lonely and unpleasant worm, leaving him frustrated.

The prospect of a single worm gives him relief before he actually sees it up close, and his facial expression changes into dissatisfaction. Seeing Gollum eat the worm puts Sam off of his piece of lembas bread. Suddenly, his appetite vanishes.

Frodo, on the other hand, is a little more empathetic to Gollum`s plight and therefore offers him a piece of his lembas bread. Gollum rejoices over this tiny piece of food, which makes him immediately wonder if it is tasty. However, as he puts it in his mouth the joy leaves his face and he starts choking.

Elven food does not agree with someone who has only been eating raw meat of birds and fish. As he starts his childish whining about starvation, Sam shows his angry streak again, looking forward to Gollum starving. He can`t take the whining and the constant nagging. 

Sam`s tantalizing

Oh, cruel Hobbit. It does not care if we be hungry. It does not care if we should die. 

Gollum

Sam takes a bite of his piece of food right in front of Gollum to make him feel even worse about the starvation he is feeling. That really is cruel. Sam really doesn`t care what happens to Gollum. Although rationally aware that they need Gollum to guide them, he also suspects the cunningness of Gollum.

In order to try and protect Frodo as much as he can, he is pushing Gollum ever farther away, bullying him, so that not even a thought of hurting Frodo would come to his mind. 

Understanding Frodo

Gollum: “Not like master. Master cares. Master knows. Yes. Precious. Once it takes hold of us it never lets go. “

Frodo: “Don`t touch me.” 

It is an interesting thing that this wretched creature, almost not worthy of anyone`s attention, has understood Frodo much sooner than Frodo himself became aware of the similarities between the two of them. Gollum finds Frodo`s gesture a sign of understanding and cares for his well-being.

Gollum, of course, exploits it to come closer to Frodo and maybe find a sympathetic ear in him. He doesn`t go into any unnecessary explanations about their mutual state of mind. Gollum says it as he sees it, plain and simple. He knows Frodo can understand him better than anyone else.

Gollum`s expression is one of compassion for what Frodo is feeling, although not even Frodo may be aware of it. As much as it might be his need to connect with the only person who could understand him, he also tries to obtain Frodo on his side and come ever closer to the Ring itself. 

The path of the Precious

As he holds out his hand to touch the Ring, Frodo changes from understanding to possession angst. They are two of a kind, Gollum is however much more advanced in his role. However, Frodo is starting to notice the side of Gollum that understands itself perfectly.

Gollum has spent hundreds of years alone and I do believe that he, like any other beings, wants companionship, especially now that the Ring is out of his reach. Everybody wants to feel accepted and feel the comfort of someone`s company, so why not Gollum, after all, he was a Hobbit a long time ago, so natural human feelings are there, albeit mixed and covered with greed and malice. 

Frodo tries to ignore him, with all his might, but as soon as Gollum exclaims that Frodo knows what this feeling of inner torture must feel like, he is hooked and turns his attention on Gollum. Gollum uses this bait to lure him closer to himself. The Precious is luring him back into his fixation on the Ring, and everything said until then, vanishes. Only seeing the Ring is of importance all of a sudden. This might all be an exercise in manipulation, or he can`t help himself. There are always two options with Gollum. As much as Gollum is fixated on the Ring, his eyes actually show sadness, not greed. 

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Rejection

This connection that had been established between Gollum and Frodo is abruptly broken as Frodo smacks Gollum`s hand away. Gollum keeps staring at Frodo because of the shock of the reaction, and Frodo starts panting and avoiding glancing at Gollum, avoiding thinking of what Gollum had stated.

Frodo is at the point where he doesn`t want to admit to sharing any kind of thoughts or feelings connected to the Ring with this wretched creature. Frodo knows there is something there in what Gollum had said, he just doesn`t want to accept the truth yet. 

Gollum, on the other hand, seems hurt by Frodo`s rejection. He is sad, wallowing in self-pity. A rejection of the one person who would understand, a feeling of being unwanted, unimportant. Frodo`s hand gesture, although necessary in his mind, resonates with Gollum on a deeper level than Frodo probably meant it.

Gollum might have felt like the lowest of the low, a discard, unworthy of living. His pain and sorrow are palpable. He might have wanted to form a basic human connection with the one being who had already shown him compassion, thereby opening the door to something more perhaps. However, at this point, this seems rather impossible, leaving poor Gollum raw and vulnerable. 

The faces in the water

The fascination with the faces in the water is something that drives Frodo to come ever closer to them. It might be something akin to not being able to look away from an accident.

There is always the question of them opening their eyes and coming alive, at least I would think of them that way if I were there. It might be my worst nightmare. If he only but looks at the dead in the water, he will be drawn to join them. Even though Gollum warned him, his attention was on the dead already.

The darkness seems to appeal to Frodo in a strange kind of way. Although he looks at the apparitions in the water in fear with his eyes widening in terror, he is unable to claw his way to the surface so easily. He looks at the faces fascinated, terrified, almost under a spell. But before they could get a grip on him and pull him to their underworld, Gollum rescues him, angry that he had to do it, somehow.

Altruism?

I would say he was angry at Frodo for being so careless with the Ring, not wanting to protect it as much as he would have, and letting himself be drawn to the darkness so easily.

Gollum may also have done it because he found someone who understands and feels for him, and you don`t want to lose the one person who is capable of feeling that way. 

The fact that Gollum rescued him, instead of Sam is something that Frodo interprets as a noble and decent trait, quite a surprise to find in a creature like Gollum. He may have thought of him as deceiving, but this one gesture of goodwill has changed Frodo`s view of this complex creature. Frodo might also be feeling guilty about his earlier reaction towards Gollum.

However, as Gollum says “don`t follow the lights” his eyes are sad and concerned for this Hobbit. How would Gollum know about the lights luring one into darkness, if he himself had not experienced it himself first?

I believe, this is the point where everything changed, where Frodo started believing in the good in Gollum. The tables have turned.  The interaction between Gollum and Frodo continues in my next post. Follow me…

Featured photo by Andrew Coates on Unsplash.

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