Forest with river

The Forests of Ithilien

All types of relationships go through the ebb and flow. There is a constant stream of energy between two people. Depending on the phases of life that two people find themselves in at any point in time, the energy will always reflect on the relationship. Sometimes it will be rewarding, supportive and kind, and other times it may only be a strain on both participants.

When it becomes difficult for any reason, people tend to forfeit, not willing to try and sustain it. The easiest way to deal with any kind of unpleasant situation is to simply extrapolate oneself from it. 

However, if only one side persists in its want to sustain a relationship, then all is not lost. The other side might change in an unexpected way, demeaning the other participant for no apparent reason. The hurt suffered may be a catalyst for one to walk away. It could also, however, be an even bigger motivation for rectifying the situation. Either way, in trouble, is when the truth of a relationship shines through. 

Sam`s relationship with Gollum

Hey, stinker, don`t go getting too far ahead.


Sam is staying true to the type of relationship he wants to have with Sméagol. Keeping an eye on him, always at arm`s length and with a touch of the evil eye. Protecting Frodo is Sam`s mission. And since he sees Gollum as a threat to Frodo`s safety, he is being extra watchful.

But how can he protect Frodo from Gollum when Frodo himself is developing an ever-closer relationship with Gollum?

Frodo: “Why do you do that?”

Sam: “What?”

Frodo: “Call him names, run him down all the time?”

Why does he do that? It is one thing to distrust Sméagol, but why must Sam`s behavior be derogatory towards him? Sam can be as protective of Frodo as he wishes without being offensive towards Sméagol. He, however, opts for a different tactic. Why? He might think that this kind of behavior is discouraging Sméagol from doing anything wretched. But it may also backfire on him.

There is a limited amount of time that Sméagol can act the way he does. He may also decide to turn on Sam. However, he is there only to show Frodo the way into Mordor, Sam doesn`t concern him and it would be much easier for him if Sam weren`t there. Which is why Sméagol practically ignores Sam`s rude comments. But he can also ignore so much, at some point, tables will have to turn. 

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Lies and deceit

Frodo seems offended and angry as Sam calls Sméagol names. He isn`t pleased with the way he is behaving towards Sméagol and therefore stands to defend him. It stands to reason that he might feel inclined to do so because of his intimate knowledge of Sméagol`s struggle with the Ring. He understands Sméagol better than anyone. But that is not the only reason he defends this creature.

Because. Because that’s what he is. There`s naught left in him but lies and deceit. It`s the Ring he wants. It`s all he cares about.


Sam doesn`t believe there is any good to be found in Sméagol. Moreover, he only sees lies and deceit and his ultimate purpose in life, possession of the Ring. He is right on those accounts. But Sam is overlooking Sméagol`s human side.

He believes his human side had been corrupted by the Ring to the point of no return, thereby leaving him only an evil wretched creature. When that is his belief, then Sam`s behavior towards Sméagol is not surprising. 

The problem arises as Sam tries to convince Frodo of his opinion of Sméagol. Frodo had already started changing sides, so trying to convince him otherwise is a failed exercise. 

An undefeatable argument

Fire and water
Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay

You have no idea what it did to him, what it`s still doing to him.


The argument continues with Frodo fiercely defending Sméagol. He knows that Sam could not possibly understand what Sméagol went through or what he himself feels. However, using this fact as an argument in a disagreement is a bit underhanded. It touches on Sam`s ignorance about the power of the Ring, which he cannot be aware of. It also isolates and separates Sam from Frodo`s struggle with it. He cannot know, therefore, his opinion is invalid. 

It is a low blow using an undefeatable argument, knowing full well that some things may never be understood by other people. Depending on our own context and the way in which we were brought up, an argument like this can cause a massive row.

Sam might be feeling stupid, helpless or superfluous to the company. It doesn`t fit Frodo`s profile, to use this argument. He is much too innocent and good-natured to be purposefully mean to his good friend Sam. The only conclusion is, it must be the Ring`s influence on his inner world.

The truth

Frodo: “I want to help him Sam.”

Sam: “Why?”

Frodo: “Because I have to believe he can come back.”

And there we have it – the reason behind all of Frodo`s arguments and tensions – fear. It all comes down to Frodo`s own fears of the Ring`s influence. I do believe, this is the first honest moment he had with himself and with Sam since the Ring took hold. He knew the Ring started to affect him. He also knew how the outside world reacted to its power.

Frodo, however, never faced the truth about his similarities with Sméagol. He dismissed him in the Dead Marshes but then turned interested as he told Gollum his own name. This changed everything. Since then, he sees Sméagol as an unfortunate individual. An individual in need of help. 

Frodo looks at Sméagol frolicking in the river with pain in his eyes. He now knows, this is what awaits him. This is the fate he will endure if the Ring stays in his possession. He is afraid. 

Frodo`s ultimate belief

Alone in the woods
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

To help someone is a noble deed. However, not everyone can be helped, especially if that help is unwelcome. Helping someone is a balancing act. If it is done altruistically it can be fulfilling. However, if it is done because of personal fear, then it can only be frustrating and disappointing. 

Although being an all-around nice Hobbit, willing to sacrifice himself to help save Middle-Earth, Frodo is doing this for himself. He believes Gollum still has something good left inside him, and he has made it his mission within a mission to help this creature return to what it once was, a respectable Hobbit ancestor. 

Frodo has to believe in Gollum`s recovery. It is the only positive thing he can look forward to once the Ring has been destroyed. He is aware of the influence the Ring has and knows where it might lead him. Denying it would make this mission unbearable. Therefore, in order to help himself along and stay positive, he needs to believe in something. 

In a mission this perilous it is important to have a goal beyond the one set by others. He is effectively alone on this journey. Sam is his helping hand in everything, but without a true understanding of what he is going through. Gollum could be that understanding part of the company if he were able to control himself.

However, Gollum has a limited attention span, to say the least. Therefore, Frodo cannot help but feel alone. He has to foster a belief that he might yet come back from this, and keep as much of himself as possible. 

Sam: “You can`t save him, Mr. Frodo.”

Frodo: “What do you know about it? Nothing!”

Again, Frodo uses an insurmountable argument against Sam. His attitude changes so drastically in an instant. Doesn`t it remind us of someone? He switches from self-pity to anger in a second, yelling at his dear friend Sam.

Quick, mad impulses

I`m sorry Sam. I don`t know why I said that.


As opposed to Gollum, he apologizes for his outburst, not quite knowing the reason behind it. Although he has seen his fate and believes he may come out the other side unscathed, he has lost the ability to control his emotions. He is acting on impulse, a bad impulse.

If a statement from Sam is interpreted in a negative way, he will react in the same negative way on the spot, not giving it a second thought. All filters of niceness have evaporated. Now there is only him, his body and spirit slowly weakening from the power of the Ring. Integrity and innocence he left Bag End with are eroding.

I do. It`s the Ring. You can`t take your eyes off it. I`ve seen you. You`re not eating. You barely sleep. It`s taken hold of you, Mr. Frodo. You have to fight it.


Sam has an objective eye on Frodo. He can clearly state what is physically happening to Frodo. Which points to a somatic indication of Frodo`s crumbling inner world.

Everything our mind thinks about, and everything we are feeling, is in some way manifested on our bodies. Many times we are not aware of them until other people point it out to us. Being trapped inside our own heads makes our physical reality as insignificant as anything else outside of our negative little bubble of existence. 

A suggestion overthrown

Sam is convinced that by sheer will power, the influence of the Ring can be fought against. Sadly that isn`t the case. However, he is only telling Frodo what he thinks might help. His suggestion, though, is met with a strong refusal.

Frodo: “I know what I have to do Sam. The Ring was entrusted to me. It`s my task. Mine! My own!”

Sam: “Can`t you hear yourself? Don`t you know who you sound like?”

The fact that the Ring was entrusted to Frodo to accomplish this mission, certainly doesn`t leave him immune to its influence. Frodo comes off as all-knowing because the Ring was given to him and not to anyone else.

The reasons behind everyone trusting him, especially Gandalf and Elrond, came from an obvious resilience Frodo had at that point in time. Both Gandalf and Elrond probably thought that his innocence, strength of character and calm inner world would be enough to bring the Ring securely to destruction.

In the meantime, however, things have changed for the worse. If they saw him now, they might have rethought their initial decision. Unfortunately, they are not in any capacity to see him change and help him accordingly, there is only Sam. And he is slowly becoming ostracized by the rest of his company.

Frodo isn`t able to clearly see himself anymore and is therefore angered when Sam points it out. He is turning into Gollum without meaning to, but also without acknowledging it. 

Now, Gollum/Sméagol`s inner struggle is as painfully emotional as anyone’s inner battle. However, his struggle is specific. Read on in my next post. 

Featured photo by Beng Wang on Unsplash.

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