Gollum skulking

The Power of Pity

The thieves. The thieves. The filthy little thieves. Where is it? Where is it? They stole it from us. My precious. Curse them, we hates them. It`s ours it is, and we wants it



Frodo and Sam prepared themselves for the company while sleeping among the sharp rocks of Emyn Muil. However, they couldn`t have predicted the vehement passion with which Gollum was prepared to defend himself and strike back. I would say they were somewhat taken aback by what this creature is actually capable of.

The strength that hides in this gangly creature`s whipped body is able to take on whoever stands in his way. He is after only one thing. His eyes bulge and his determination grows.

The rage that produces such strength can only come from a terrible need, a want that preoccupies his whole being, that moves his legs forward and drives his lungs to draw breath. Only one craving remains when all else has lost all meaning. Without it, living is meaningless, monotone.

For Gollum that craving comes in the shape of a golden Ring.

This is sting, you`ve seen it before, haven`t you Gollum?

Frodo Baggins


As Frodo threatens Gollum with the Sting, Frodo`s facial expression conveys anger and disgust towards this uncontrollable creature. Gollum cannot run and he cannot hide, the only thing he can do is surrender. This he does by whimpering and screaming in agony. The Elvish rope around Gollum`s neck gives him sensations of burning and freezing.

Now, it may as well be that he is pretending in front of the two Hobbits so they would set him free. However, as well as Elvish food, Gollum is incredibly sensitive to anything Elfmade. Since he had been drawn into darkness by the power of the Ring, it may be that the light that the Elves represent might be the reason the rope is so unbearable for him.

It could be that this rope, or any kind of Elvish product for that matter, would leave those on the side of the enemy, with excruciating pain.

Emotional roller coaster

Maybe he does deserve to die. But now that I see him, I do pity him.

Frodo Baggins

What does this tell us? Both Frodo and Bilbo had the same emotional reaction seeing and being around Gollum. Before seeing Gollum, Frodo was angry that Bilbo did not kill him when he had the chance.

However, by the time they meet in Emyn Muil, the Ring had begun to take an even stronger hold of Frodo, and he starts to grasp why Gollum is, the way he is. Although at first, he attacked Gollum as he was choking Sam, the emotional roller coaster that Gollum went on, faking or not, gave Frodo an insight into Gollum`s inner workings.

You can hide many things about yourself, and even if you`re faking some of them, the reactions you have to certain situations are a telltale sign of your own inner world. Gollum may fake even his reactions, only to be set free. However, the discrepancy of the emotions tangled up within those reactions is as real as it gets. It may be the only true expression that Gollum has.

These mood swings are a very difficult thing for anyone even when you`re aware of them. But when you`re totally oblivious to it or use it to manipulate others, well then you really have a problem. Gollum`s mood swings tell a tale of torture, guilt, self-doubt and ultimately self-loss. These come to light in interaction with others. When alone, Gollum operates within his Gollum self.

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The sting of compassion

The interesting thing is, as soon as Frodo declares pity for him, Gollum changes his tune and promises to behave. Frodo, being the kind and gentle soul he is, hates to see anyone suffering, especially if that someone is a product of the power of a jewel around his neck that is also starting to weigh on him. Pity for someone has two interpretations: 

  • As a consequence of someone`s sad life story, expressing compassion over their misfortune or
  • Regret and disappointment

The pity that Gollum brings out in Frodo is one of compassion, of a creature in need. Frodo`s eyes convey this compassion in a sad and sympathetic manner.

It must be a heartbreaking feeling seeing anyone beg for mercy to stop suffering you have inflicted on someone. If they exaggerate like Gollum, there is no limit to what they can achieve by overacting, as soon as they find a weak spot in the offenses` defense. 

Emotional leverage

Gollum, as soon as he feels pity emanating from Frodo, attaches himself to it, like a leech. He turns into an all pleasing and submissive creature. Gollum pleads to be released from the rope, knowing that Frodo would cave and be able to convince Sam that it is the right thing to do, just as long Gollum keeps his word. He swears to do what Frodo wants. He would have followed anyone who was in possession of the Ring so that being Frodo does not really matter to him.

The expressions on Gollum`s face as he is swearing to do no harm, are contradictory, to say the least. He knows he can con Frodo into believing he would behave if he lets him free. Gollum uses the pity Frodo showed as leverage. His facial expressions are a mix of sweetness and cunning. His eyes convey a deeply rooted manipulative behavior.

He is sweet and angry at the same time. His sweet side is willing to oblige, but his angry side is looking to avenge itself for Frodo taking the Ring in the first place. Since Frodo has already revealed that he cannot trust him, Gollum has the opportunity to play ever nicer to achieve his goal.

A promise of deception?

The Ring is treacherous.

Frodo Baggins

Now, this is interesting. Frodo holds Gollum to his word because he swore on the Ring to do no harm, but the Ring itself is harmful and unpredictable. And as the Ring changes and shifts its power from one person to the next, it betrays the one before, which is exactly what Gollum does.

To swear to do good on something that evil is an oxymoron. Frodo takes his word for it because he knows how important the Ring is to him and he wouldn`t hurt it for anything in the world, that might extend to the person carrying it, or it may not. Frodo believes it does.

This is a complicated notion and a very intriguing one. Frodo cannot have Gollum swear on anything else in this world, because the Ring is the only thing he cares about, so Frodo doesn`t have a choice. But to swear anything to something as treacherous as the Ring of Power is a silly thing to do because the promise is then void, it doesn`t have any meaning at all.

The surprise of freedom

Sam has the right idea not trusting Gollum,  but Frodo has already picked a side to defend. He chooses to defend Gollum to Sam and stop Sam hurting Gollum. The feeling of pity has overwhelmed Frodo and, although mistrusting, he is willing to overlook Gollum`s treacherous nature in order to save him.

As innocently as Frodo looks into Gollum`s eyes while asking him of Mordor, Gollum is surprised as Frodo takes the rope from his neck. Two things might have been going through his mind in that particular moment:

  • he might have been surprised because if he had met himself somewhere knowing how he was, Gollum might have never released himself and starts plotting his escape from the two Hobbits, or
  • he might have been genuine in his expression with a pure thought of gratitude for Frodo

As soon as Gollum is able to escape his captors, he starts a dialogue between himself…and himself – the two indivisible but far too different personas.

This might have been triggered by Frodo`s simple gesture of releasing him, seeing as how kindness trumps even the most malicious of actions. It activates the goodness of Gollum himself because after all, he used to be not that much different from his captors. However, mutual interest may have also played a part in his mind turning against him.

When there was only the search for the Ring, there may have only been the evil side of Gollum, but this simple act of kindness out of compassion has stirred something other than simple evil. He has made a commitment to Frodo and that is still something he wants to hold true. He wants to be a creature of its word.

The token of his promise might be treacherous, but he still has a right to choose a kinder outcome – and he does. In this short dialogue, his decision falls with a more preferable choice, showing the Hobbits the way to Mordor. 

But what became of our three hunters? Read on in my next post.

Featured image by Ana Segota.

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