Return to The Two Towers


By J.R.R. Tolkien:

Lord of The Rings, especially Book IV, but to include Chapter II of The Fellowship of the Ring

The Hobbit, Chapter V

Unfinished Tales (The Hunt for the Ring)

The Return of the Shadow (Of Gollum and the Ring)

By Thomas DeQuincy:

Confessions of An English Opium Eater

Questions for the study of Gollum as a split personality (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and /or an addictive personality...

1. An addiction may be defined as repeated behaviour encouraged by a person who knows that behaviour is harmful. Apply this definition to Gollum and his precioussss.

2. The addictive personality often suffers from anhedonia, a condition that denies the subject the ability to relate to people in an emotionally positive way. Does Gollum have this disease, and does Tolkien offer a cure?

3. The following is a first person account of someone addicted to a drug. Apply its specifics to Gollum. The text of the addict (DeQuincy) is in italics, the questions follow in regular type:

It was not for the purpose of creating pleasure but of mitigating pain in the severest degree that I first began go use opium as an article of daily diet. In the twenty-eights year of my age, a most painful affliction of the stomach which I had first experienced about ten years before, attacked me in great strength. How does Gollum’s possession of the ring compare? What pain may he have been suffering? The Hobbit and back story might help here.

I took it in an hour--oh heavens, what a revulsion. What an upheaving, form its lowest depths of the inner spirit! What an apocalypse of the world within me. That my pains had vanished was not a trifle in my eyes. This negative effect was swallowed up in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me in the abyss of divine enjoyment, thus suddenly revealed. Here was a panacea, a utopia for all human woes. He was the secret of happiness about which philosophers have disputed for so many ages at once discovered; happiness might now be bought for a penny, are carried in the pocket; portable ecstasies might be had, corked up in a pint bottle and peace of mind...Is Gollum’s eventual enslavement to the ring come only after a period of comparable enjoyment?

4. Addicts soon discover that the happiness becomes a curse, and nothing is more important than the next ‘fix’ or ‘hit’ which never approximates the first time, so it has been argued that one takes the drug to get rid of the pain that the drug is causing in the first place...apply to Gollum:

Farewell to hope and to tranquil dreams and to the blessed consolations of sleep. For more than three years and a half, I am summoned away from these, and I am now arrived at an Iliad of woes, for I now have to record: BUT FOR MISERY AND SUFFERING, I might indeed be said to have existed in a dormant state. I seldom could prevail on my self to write a answer of a few words to any that I received was the utmost I could accomplish and often that not until the letter had lain weeks or even months on my desk. The opium- taker loses none of his moral sensibilities or aspirations; he wishes and longs as earnestly as ever to realize what he believes possible and feels to be exacted by duty, but his intellectual apprehension of what is possible in- finitely outruns his power, not of execution only, but even of power to attempt. He lies under the weight of...nightmare, he lies in sight of all he would hope to perform. Just as a man forcibly confined to his bed by the mortal languor of a relaxing disease, who is compelled to witness injury or outrage offered to some object of his tenderest love, he curses the spells which chain him down from motion; he would lay down his life he might but get up and walk, but he is as powerless as an infant...

5. Gollum frequently talks to Smeagol, as if both aspects of his personality, the addict and the non-addict are at constant war...apply the following to such events:

That, as the creative state of the eye increased, a sympathy seemed to arise between the waking and the dreaming states of the brain in one point- -that whatsoever I happened to call up and to trace by a voluntary act upon the darkness was very apt to transfer itself to my dreams, so that I feared to exercise this faculty... as Midas turned all things to gold.

6. The addict can descend into a nightmare world of darkness and despair, often suicidal in nature as he confronts his shadow. Does Gollum? Apply the following:

For this, and all other changes in my dreams, were accompanied by deep- seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy, such as are wholly incommunicable by words. I seemed every night to descend--not metaphorically, but literally to 1 descend-into chasms and sunless abysses, depths below depths, from which it seemed hopeless that I could ever reascend. Nor did I, by waking, feel that I had reascended. This I do not dwell upon, because the state of gloom which attended these gorgeous spectacles, amounting at least to utter darkness, as of some suicidal despondency, cannot be approached by words.

The following questions apply to Dissociative Identity Disorder

1. What causes alienation from family, culture, society? "Difference" often matters, and alienation results from estrangement. How alienated is Gollum? In Frankenstein, for example, the creature is born good but driven to criminal acts by the way it is treated, and thus becomes a monster. Is that true for Gollum? You might check Tolkien’s letters here. Is there anyone whose behaviour drives Gollum further and further into alienation?

2. How does Tolkien dramatize Gollum's consciousness? Pay special attention to the use of pronouns. Apply Gollum’s diction to how his personality develops as he interacts with Sam and Frodo. Of special note for Dissociative Identity Disorder is Gollum's debates with Smeagol.

3. Is there anyone in whom Gollum can confide and trust? Frodo's interaction is most important. Note what Tolkien italicizes in flashback as a reminder to how even the most alienated should be treated. Of special importance is a regret Tolkien had regarding what he wanted to write vs. what he had to do. (See his letters.). Discuss in this context whether Gollum is a static or dynamic character.

4. Does Book IV have a happy ending from the Coleridge perspective of reconciliation of opposites Does what happen constitute a betrayal? If so, why does it occur, and who really is responsible. Keep the Frankenstein premise noted above in mind How might Gollum be seen morally and psychologically as the company approaches Mt. Doom. Does what happens to Frodo and Sam result from what Gollum does, and the way he is by nature, or by the way he has been treated?

5. The "Gollum" side of Smeagol might well be his shadow. Jung (as noted in my Gothic web page) argues that its repression accounts for any evil that occurs when it explodes into consciousness. Does that happen to Smeagol? Is he 'evil' a result of repression? Ironically, do the characters who most hate Gollum do so because they fear facing their own shadows? How does Gollum feel about Smeagol, and he about Gollum?

6. If one examines the back story, Unfinished Tales and The Return of the Shadow (discussed on other pages of this site) an interesting portrait of Gollum. D.I.D., often develops as a result of trauma suffered as child which the subject seeks to repress. Does such happen to Gollum? In literary terms, what kind of 'tragic predisposition' makes susceptibility to adverse environmental circumstances likely? As a corollary, would Aristotle see Gollum-Smeagol as tragic?