Gollum vs. Smeagol: Sneaky Villain vs. Helping Hand
Gollum and Smeagol are pivotal characters in both the LOTR book saga and the film adaptations of the LOTR trilogy. Although, the differences between the representations of the characters in both mediums are not abundant. The reason for a lack of difference between the two mediums is the inability to change the core behaviors of both characters without losing who they are. In the film adaptations, Gollum and Smeagol share the same body but are easily recognized as two separate characters. However, in the books, the strong distinction between the two characters is much less apparent. In both depictions, Gollum is portrayed as a sneaky villain while Smeagol is portrayed as a helpful character. In both the films and the books, Gollum shows his villainy through his deceitfulness and desperate attempts to get the one ring back into his possession after it is taken from him in The Hobbit. Smeagol, on the other hand, shows his helpfulness by leading Frodo and Sam to Mordor to help them with their goal of destroying the ring. In both versions of the story, Gollum tries to frame Sam Gamgee as the villain instead of himself throughout their journey to Mordor. Throughout the films, Gollum and Smeagol are used as moral compasses. While Gollum is present, Frodo is much more skeptical and less morally sound, whereas the opposite occurs when Smeagol is present. Smeagol’s willingness to defend Frodo and Sam and lead them to Mordor clearly presents him as a helping figure. At one point in The Two Towers film, Gollum and Smeagol argue with one another over the idea of betraying Frodo and taking back the ring. The scene very clearly illustrates the differences in the moral choice between the two with Gollum telling Smeagol he is a murderer and to take the ring back while Smeagol argues that it is all Gollum’s fault and that they should trust Frodo and Sam. Although this scene is absent from the books, it is still a good representation of the two characters. Gollum and Smeagol are presented as opposites in their actions throughout both the films and the books, one evil, one helpful.
Firstly, Gollum is generally a deceitful and desperate character. He is exceedingly good at lying and portraying himself as the good guy. This happens at many points throughout the LOTR tale when he attempts to frame Sam Gamgee for various things to get Frodo to leave him behind. His ability to influence Frodo to distrust Sam shows his ability to persuade and lie efficiently. Gollum is presented as a villain. He is presented in this way because everything he does is for the ring and in his ideal world one can see that he just wants to go back into hiding with the ring. At many points, he creates plans to betray Frodo and Sam and take the One Ring, which he refers to as his “precious”, back from them. For example, Gollum plans to take Frodo and Sam to Shelob’s Lair, a giant spider’s nest. Gollum plans for this to be the end of both Frodo and Sam and is his clear path to get the ring back from them. In the film adaptation of this, however, Gollum frames Sam for stealing bread just before this, allowing Gollum to take Frodo to Shelob’s lair alone. Gollum never shows much change and always has his main goal of getting the ring back. While other characters change, for example, Frodo becoming weaker and weaker, Gollum himself is steadfast with his goal of retrieving the One Ring. Gollum (and Smeagol) is referred to as a creature and is depicted as such, very creepy and monster-like. Smeagol, the hobbit, who eventually becomes Gollum, is presented as a helpful figure.
Smeagol is not heroic in the average sense and, albeit helpful, can be a villain at times. He is received as helpful mostly because Gollum is so villainous when in fact, Smeagol is a murderer. In a flashback during the films, Smeagol, and his Hobbit friend is canoeing on a river when Smeagol’s friend finds the One Ring. In the end, Smeagol kills his friend because he wants the ring for himself. Although both Gollum and Smeagol ultimately lead Frodo and Sam to Mordor, Smeagol is looked at as more of a helping hand because he does it truthfully with real intent to help his master Frodo complete his mission. Smeagol is depicted in the same way as Gollum physically, but he is shown as a much more trustworthy character than his evil counterpart. Smeagols change is subtle, building strength to fight Gollum out and become himself again. It is implied that Smeagol had been repressed for years until Frodo said his name to Gollum. This sets Smeagol on a path to overthrow Gollum and become himself again, without the influence of the One Ring. In one powerful scene, Gollum and Smeagol speak directly back and forth with one another about who they are and what they should do.
The argument between Gollum and Smeagol is a pivotal moment in The Two Towers film. The scene takes place while Frodo and Sam are sleeping and shows the differences between Gollum and Smeagol. Gollum advocates for taking the ring back and going back into hiding while Smeagol says they should trust Frodo and destroy the ring. Throughout the argument, Gollum is very desperate and insults Smeagol over and over telling him he has no friends and calling him a murderer. Smeagol denies these claims and instead blames Gollum for them. Gollum makes the case to Smeagol that without him they would be nowhere and they survived because of him. The scene ends with Smeagol telling Gollum to “Leave now, and never come back” over and over. The scene is powerful and shows the parity between the two characters morally. The scene illustrates the biggest change in both Gollum and Smeagol. Smeagol rids himself of Gollum and the influence of the ring, showing a huge change in both characters. The argument scene does not take place in the books, but a similar change occurs.
In the Two Towers book, at the same time point as the previously mentioned argument, Gollum sees Frodo sleeping and this sight pushes him to almost become Smeagol again. Instead of completing this transformation, however, Sam wakes up to find Gollum creepily close to Frodo. Sam begins to yell at Gollum and this prompts Gollum to continue his plan of taking Frodo and Sam to Shelob’s Lair. This difference in the depiction of the events leading up to Shelob’s Lair reveals one major difference between the two depictions of Gollum and Smeagol. This difference being that in the books, Gollum’s villainy seems to stem from not only the One Ring but also himself. On the other hand, throughout the films, Gollum seems to struggle deeply with his villainous actions and the idea of being Smeagol. The difference in Gollum’s struggle shows a much more devious Gollum in the books rather than in the films. The biggest similarity in both mediums comes from Gollum’s ultimate fate.
In both the books and the films, at the end of Return of the King, Frodo and Sam finally make it to the cracks of doom, completing their journey that began in Fellowship of The Ring. Just as Frodo is about to destroy the One Ring, he has a change of heart and gives in to the power of the One Ring. Frodo proceeds to put the ring on, only to get ambushed by Gollum. The struggle between Frodo and Gollum eventually leads to Gollum’s death and with it, the destruction of the One Ring. Gollum had returned to Smeagol after feeling betrayed by Frodo and Sam. This act of villainy by Gollum unintentionally saves Middle-Earth as Sauron knew where Frodo was as soon as he began to wear the ring, and would have likely regained control of it had it not been for Gollum. The similarity in Gollum’s ultimate fate in both mediums shows that the One Ring caused Gollum to become inherently evil and crave it no matter what has happened to him.
In the films, although they share physical appearance, Gollum and Smeagol are far from similar when it comes to personality, leadership, and morality. In the books, Gollum and Smeagol are not as noticeably different as characters, and Gollum doesn’t show a continuous internal struggle with Smeagol as discernible as he does in the films. One can see this as, in the books, Smeagol never truly directly references himself, instead Gollum very sparingly refers to himself as “we”. The ending of the LOTR story also shows Smeagols weakness to the influence of the ring as Gollum easily overpowers him at many points. In the films Gollum is presented as a villain, Smeagol is presented as a helping hand, and both of their biggest changes stem from each other’s actions. While in the books, Gollum and Smeagol are much closer to two personalities rather than separate characters and Gollum seems to only fluctuate between the two. In conclusion, there are many similarities between the representations of Gollum and Smeagol in the films versus the books, with differences coming few and far between.