"Did you lie to get me here? Answer my question."1
Raging words from a man who feels he has been betrayed, toward someone who is trying to intervene in his life and save him.
No, these are not the words of Gollum at the Forbidden Pool, but the words of a drug addict whose parents, with the help of Dr. Phil, have planned an "intervention" to save him before the drugs completely destroy him. I happened to tune into Dr. Phil last November when this show aired. The dialogue between Brandon and his parents immediately reminded me of a scene in Peter Jackson's The Two Towers. The parallel between Brandon and Gollum was striking. This is not surprising, given how the actor portrayed Sméagol.
"I tried to play Gollum like a 60-year-old heroin addict," Serkis said. "He's a ring junkie. I wanted him to have human qualities. Smoegal [sic.] is more like a child."2
Gollum is in many ways a picture of what addictive behavior does to a person. The addict gradually withdraws within himself, suspicious and angry at those around him. He just wants to be left alone with his "Precious." Brandon believed that everyone was against him and considered him just a "worthless drug addict." Immersed in their own world, addicts do not want any help; they do not want to be saved. From their point of view, the addiction is their salvation. The extended version of The Two Towers adds a scene in which Sam trys to explain such "intervention" to Gollum:
Sam: Come on. Keep up! Mr. Frodo didn't mean for them Rangers to hurt you. You know that, don't you? He was tryin' to save you, see?
Gollum: Save me?
Gollum's tone of voice implies that he does not need to be saved. But, as addicts often do, he goes along with what Sam is saying and pretends he has a change of heart, from being bitter to being forgiving.
Sam: So there's no hard feelings. Forgive and forget.
Gollum: No, no. No hard feelings.
Sam: Very decent of you. Very decent indeed, Gollum.
But we all know Gollum's true thoughts. He plans to avenge "treachery" with some treachery of his own. In the book, Frodo is aware of Gollum's bitterness and guile even before Faramir's men capture the pitiful creature at the Pool. Frodo has heard Gollum's conversation with himself:
Now we can eat fish in peace. No, not in peace, Precious. For Precious is lost; yes, lost. Dirty hobbit, nasty hobbits. Gone and left us, gollum; and Precious is gone. Only poor Smeagol all alone. No Precious. Nasty Men, they'll take it, steal my Precious. Thieves. We hates them. Fissh, nice fissh. Makes us strong. Makes eyes bright, fingers tight, yes. Throttle them, precious. Throttle them all, yes, if we gets chances. Nice fissh. Nice fissh!3
At this point, Frodo is actually tempted to let the Men shoot Gollum.
He could creep back and ask him to get the huntsmen to shoot. .. One true shot, and Frodo would be rid of the miserable voice for ever. But no, Gollum had a claim on him now. The servant has a claim on the master for service, even service in fear. They would have foundered in the Dead Marshes but for Gollum. Frodo knew, too, somehow, quite clearly that Gandalf would not have wished it.4
Unlike Jackson's Frodo, Tolkien's Ringbearer never has any real hope that Gollum would be "rehabilitated." But his sense of duty toward his "servant," and the realization that "justice" was not for him to mete out, stayed his hand again. (The first time was when they first encountered Gollum, and Frodo could have killed him with Sting.) There is a lesson in this for all of us. It would often be so much easier to just give up on the addicted and let them face the consequences of their actions. It is much harder to reach out in love and try to help someone who does not want to be helped.
How did Sméagol/Gollum get into this mess? Was it just Fate that caused him to be addicted to the Ring, as it seems to be portrayed in the films, and to some degree in the book? What lessons can we learn from the Ring and how it affected Sméagol (and others) that could help us avoid being addicted ourselves?
First of all, let's look at the nature of addiction itself. People do not go about looking to be addicted. We look for things that make us feel better. And not all things that can be addictive are necessarily wrong in themselves. Drugs, in the proper context, can greatly improve, or even save, one's life. Beer and wine have been shown to have physical benefits when used in moderation. Sex is wonderful when it is part of a proper relationship. Surfing the Internet can enhance one's life and knowledge. All of these things can be used in very positive ways.
However, abuse of drugs can also destroy one's body and social relationships. The same is true of alcohol. Sexual obsession can cause severe problems to a marriage, and at times even destroy a person physically. The Internet, or any other hobby, can become so consuming that the "hobbyist" becomes estranged from those around him.
In addition, there are ways that we try to make ourselves feel better which are always detrimental, such as "huffing" paint. People may start the process of addiction with these items without knowing (or acknowledging) the risks—or are so desperate to "feel better" that they are willing to try anything and risk everything.
In any case, once a person has begun to abuse a thing, there are negative "secondary effects" along with the "positive," pleasurable ones. The body does not function the way it used to. Relationships with others become strained. This can lead to a cycle of addiction.
"Addiction occurs from the repeated effort to suppress the secondary effects, which become more severe from repeated exposure to the chemical substance. This cycle creates addiction, a disease characterized as chronic, progressive, toxic and ultimately fatal."5
This description of chemical addiction applies to everything to which we might be addicted. A person who is "nagged" about spending too much time on the Internet, for example, may use the Internet more and more to get away from "the pressures of the family." The addiction contributes to the stress, and the stress contributes to the addiction.
What about the Ring itself? Why is it so addictive? The answer has much to do with the nature of the person affected by the Ring.
First of all, there is a pernicious quality to the Ring which seeks to draw people into its evil. This was felt by Sméagol when he first encountered the Ring in the possession of his companion Déagol—so much so, that he killed to have the Ring, even though the only reason to want it (at that point) was "because the gold looked so bright and beautiful."6 Unlike the Hobbits who would possess the Ring after him, Sméagol used the Ring to spy on others, and "put his knowledge to crooked and malicious uses."7 This malevolence on Sméagol's part gets him kicked out of his community, and the cycle of self-pity and bitterness toward all around him begins.
While recounting Sméagol's tale, Gandalf makes an interesting comment which is essential in understanding the nature of the Ring and how it effects those who come near it: "The Ring had given him power according to his stature." The Ring in the hand of a Hobbit is much different than the Ring in the hands of a Wizard. But for both it means having the ability to enhance the powers one already possesses. Its draw is not only its pernicious nature, but also the positive, pleasurable things it can allow a person to do.
Bilbo escapes Gollum and the Orcs—and the Sackville-Bagginses on occasion! Sméagol delights in using the Ring to make a Stinker out of himself. For others, the attraction is more subtle and seemingly altruistic—the desire to "do good," as Gandalf puts it. Which is usually where we get into trouble—trying to "play God" with "gifts" that were not meant for us to use. It is often hard to play the role that God has written for us and let Him direct the details:
Behind [Bilbo finding the Ring] there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you were also meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.8
For many, the temptation of possessing the Ring is to be avoided. But for Bilbo, and especially for Frodo, the presence of what could addict and destroy them is essential! For some, it is their lot in life to live among temptations that would destroy others. But with much responsibility is always given the grace to endure. Frodo fails momentarily at the end, but even then he is rewarded for his faithfulness in a very real way by the Temptation being taken away from him forever. God rewards the faith and faithfulness of His children in much the same way.
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV)
"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:53 NKJV)
- Transcript from "The Dr. Phil Show," November 5, 2003, p. 1.
- Dan Gross, "Andy Serkis is Slithering Perfection as Gollum," Miami Herald online.
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994, p.673.
- Tolkien, p. 674.
- Drug-Free Workplace: Back on Track, Coastal Training Technologies Corp., 1998, p. 4.
- Tolkien, p.52.
- Tolkien, p.54-55.