by Margaret Collier

In the rich mythological world of Tolkien ‘s Lord of the Rings, the ancient race of Hobbits plays a central role, a little people, shy of us humans, but a very ancient people and a merry one, hospitable and fond of laughter.

But, living carefree in their Shire, they find themselves prey to a stealthily advancing menace…

The story ‘s central character is Frodo, one of the Shire hobbits, who finds he has come into the possession of a magic Ring of great beauty, which has the power to render invisible one who puts it on his finger. But Gandalf, the great magician, one of the Wise and Frodo’s friend and guide, warns of the danger which the Ring represents. It had been fashioned long ago by the Dark Lord , as an instrument for his evil purposes. He had then lost it, and was now seeking to recover it, sending his emissaries far and wide to come on its track. Gandalf warns Frodo that if he makes much use of the Ring to become invisible, he will gradually ‘fade’ and come under the Dark Lord’s power.

After much deliberation, it is decided by the chief hobbits, in counsel with Gandalf, that the only safe course is to destroy the Ring; but such is its strength that its total destruction can only be assured by its being hurled into the Fires of Doom far in the Dark Lord’s fearful land of Mordor. Frodo declares that it is for him to assume this mission, and his devoted servant, Sam, refuses to let his master go into these dangers alone, and will accompany him.

Before they set out, Gandalf warns them about one known as Gollum, who began as one of good hobbit-stock, but whose friend had once come across this same Ring in a river-bed and Gollum had murdered him in order to possess it for himself. He comes more and more under its influence, committing many further evil deeds. Then he too had lost it, and now spends his life trying at any cost to recover his ’Precious’. He will surely come stealthily after Frodo and Sam, attracted by the Ring which Frodo will wear on a chain round his neck, hidden under his clothes. But Gandalf warns the Ring-bearer and his companion not to yield to the temptation to do away with Gollum, for with all his evil-doing in thrall to the Dark Lord,” he is very old and very wretched.”

Frodo protests at this: “He deserves death.”

To this Gandalf replies: “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?... I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it.” Gandalf‘s heart tells him that Gollum may yet have a part to play in the great and fateful enterprise they are embarking on.

Frodo and the faithful Sam do indeed have many arduous and perilous adventures on their journey to the dreadful land of Mordor, and as Gandalf had foreseen, the repulsive figure of Gollum several times turns up craftily as they go on their way. Frodo finds that the Ring he is carrying grows heavier and heavier and increases his exhaustion. Gollum encounters them on their way and they are locked in combat as he tries but unsuccessfully to wrest the Ring from Frodo. As the final lap of the terrible journey begins, Frodo must advance alone to the Fires of Doom, and Sam finds Gollum yet again behind him. Strongly tempted to slay the treacherous creature, and it seems the only safe thing to do, Sam nevertheless stays his hand: “…deep in his heart there was something that restrained him; he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched.” Sam, having briefly worn the Ring himself in trying to lighten Frodo’s burden, could dimly guess the agony of Gollum’s shriveled mind and body, enslaved to that Ring, ”unable to find peace or relief ever in life again”.

Revulsion mingled with his pity, Sam lets the unhappy creature go. Then he turns to follow Frodo who has gone ahead, climbing up, in his last reserves of strength, to the Fires of Doom, into which he is to hurl the Ring. But to his intense horror, Sam sees Frodo now put on the Ring and declare in a clear voice: ” I have come, but I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!”

Then Sam is struck violently in the back. Gollum, untouched by the mercy lately shown to him, has returned in stealth, and attacked him. When Sam recovers, he gets up and sees a strange and terrible thing:

“Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe. To and fro he swayed, now so near the brink that almost he tumbled in, now dragging back, falling to the ground, rising, and falling again. And all the while he hissed but spoke no words.

“....Suddenly Sam saw Gollum’s long hands draw upwards to his mouth; his white fangs gleamed and then snapped as he bit. Frodo gave a cry, and there he was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm’s edge. But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the Ring, a finger still thrust within its circle…

“‘My Precious!’ Gollum cried, and with that, even as his eyes were filled up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail ‘Precious!’ And he was gone.”

Frodo, in utter exhaustion and with a bleeding hand from Gollum’s wrenching off of his finger, is nevertheless his sane self again, freed from the domination that had claimed him as, at the end of his long-tested resources of body and spirit, he had yielded to the Ring’s power. He now reminds Sam:

“Do you remember Gandalf’s words? ‘ Even Gollum may have yet something still to do.’ But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him!”

(Extracts from J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, edition of 1971)







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