The Two Towers, Book IV: The Taming of Smeagol & The Passage of the Marshes (Week 7)
Every Monday, our Facebook group has been discussing one or two chapters from The Lord of the Rings, and so I'm happy to be sharing a little bit of our conversation and reflections as we go! If you'd like to read along with us, join our Facebook group! Otherwise, leave your comments below and we can continue the discussion! We're currently reading through The Two Towers, the second part of The Lord of the Rings. Want to journal through The Two Towers with us? Grab your journal here!
“’It’s my doom, I think, to go to that Shadow yonder, so that a way will be found. But will good or evil show it to me? … Is it the will of the Dark Tower that steers us? All my choices have proved ill.” - Frodo
After leaving the broken Fellowship, Frodo and Sam scramble towards Mordor, where the come face-to-face with Gollum for the first time. Instead of attacking or hiding, they approach him and take him as their guide. Gollum leads them through the Dead Marshes, toward the Black Gate of Mordor.
Book Club Musings
It is in this chapter that we finally encounter Gollum face-to-face in all of his misery and brokenness. Gollum’s thoughts are constantly fixed on what he calls ‘the Precious’ , which he both loves and hates. He regards the hobbits as thieves and spies. Gollum is described as miserable, lonely, a poor wretch, full of wickedness and mischief. Things which are meant to be good, such as the Elven rope, cause him harm. Perhaps he deserves death, Frodo reflects, and yet he is pitiable.
Frodo understands him in a way that Sam cannot, for they are bound together by the Ring. Frodo has a great pity for Gollum because it was the Ring that has driven Sméagol to become Gollum. Not by any power of his own has he become so wretched, but by the power of the Ring—the manifestation of all evil and sin.
The heart of Sméagol shines through this week's second chapter as he earnestly guides Frodo and Sam though the Dead Marshes. He appears to be genuinely concerned about their well-being, especially when Frodo lags behind and is enchanted by the lights of the marshes. Even as he struggles internally against his desire for the Ring, plotting and arguing with himself aloud, there is a part of his heart that still desires to be good.
They seem to be developing an unlikely sort of companionship, however strained. They care for and depend on one another in their own ways — the hobbits by offering to share their food with Sméagol, and Sméagol by vigilantly guiding them through the dangerous marshes. It’s further illustrated as all three of the companions rest peacefully at the same time in this chapter.
While their quest is weighing all the more heavily on Frodo’s heart, he is comforted, at least in a small way, by the guidance of Sméagol and the dutiful care of his “friend of friends” Samwise.