The Gollum/Smeagol Complex

Carole Ann Penney '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

decorated initial 'T' he One Ring has great power over all who come in contact with it. Gandalf reveals at the very beginning of the trilogy how the ring greatly affected Smeagol, driving him to become the monster Gollum, and along his journey Frodo sees Smeagol's dual personality firsthand. The ring affects Frodo in the same way, and as his journey progresses, Frodo's two sides are more and more distinct.

A wild light came into Frodo's eyes. "Stand away! Don't touch me!" he cried. "It is mine, I say. Be off!" His hand strayed to his sword-hilt. But then quickly his voice changed. "No, no, Sam," he said sadly. "But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it. It is too late now, Sam dear. You can't help me in that way again. I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad. [The Return of the King 916]

Sam, too, is under the power of the ring, and later undergoes his own struggles with a split personality.

He could not sleep and he held a debate with himself. "Well, come now, we've done better than you hoped," he said sturdily. "Began well anyway. I reckon we crossed half the distance before we stopped. One more day will do it." And then he paused.

"Don't be a fool, Sam Gamgee," came an answer in his own voice. "He won't go another day like that, if he moves at all. And you can't go on much longer giving him all the water and most of the food."

"I can go on a good way though, and I will."

"Where to?"

"To the mountain, of course."

"But what then, Sam Gamgee, what then? When you get there, what are you going to do? He won't be able to do anything for himself. . . . It's all quite useless. He said so himself. You are the fool, going on hoping and toiling. You could have lain down now and gone to sleep together days ago, if you hadn't been so dogged. But you'll die just the same, or worse. You might just as well lie down now and give it up. You'll never get to the top anyway."

"I'll get there, if I leave everything but my bones behind," said Sam. "And I'll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and heart. So stop arguing!" [The Return of the King 918]


1. Which of these characters is most similar to Gollum's split personality? Take into account both the motivations for the characters' dual natures and the techniques Tolkien uses to convey them.

2. The two sides of Frodo's personality are seen increasingly throughout the trilogy, but Sam's debate comes suddenly, as a surprise to the reader. Why does Tolkien choose to reveal this new aspect of Sam's character at this point in the journey? Why does Tolkien choose this path for Sam at all?

3. Tolkien contains Frodo's two personalities in the same paragraph, almost back to back, but later breaks Sam's up into a dialogue form. What does this add to the passage? How does it make it different from Frodo's?

4. Is there significance in the fact that Sam's second personality refers to him by name?


Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.

Victorian Web Overview J. R. R. Tolkien Victorian courses

Last modified 29 February 2004