"In Defence Of Sméagol"

By Kate Ward (aka Vorciriel)

Age 20

Using "artistic license" – and your own imaginations – picture the scene: Sméagol is standing trial for his numerous crimes, including the murder of Déagol; the attempted murders of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee; conspiracy to commit murder (with Shelob); theft and attempted theft; and the wilful destruction of another’s property (i.e. Sauron’s Ring). Defence lawyer Vorcíriel of Imladris and prosecutor Reginard Brandybuck of Gamwich in the Shire have been arguing back and forth across the courtroom for weeks, the press have been reprinting the arguments every day since the trial began, and now everyone is awaiting the outcome with baited breath.

What follows here is the concrete proof, put together by Vorcíriel and her team that backs up their plea: Sméagol is not guilty of any of these crimes on the grounds of diminished responsibility…

It is blatantly obvious that Sméagol has a number of severe psychological conditions and ‘manias’ that have an extremely tight grip on him; therefore he is not and was not in full control of himself at the time these offences were committed, and so cannot be held responsible for them.

First and foremost, you only have to look at him to see that Sméagol is physically incapable of committing these dreadful crimes. "The descriptions of him vary somewhat, but he seems by the time of Bilbo and Frodo to have been extremely thin and wiry, with black skin, flat feet, long thin hands, and large pale eyes" (Foster, R; 1993; p168). This is not the look of someone who could have the strength to commit a murder.

That is not to say that these dreadful offences didn’t happen. Déagol was killed on the banks of the river, and I have no doubt that Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee were genuinely in fear for their lives. I don’t want to call the prosecution liars…But it wasn’t Sméagol who committed these crimes, but the result of one of his psychological disorders: the creature Gollum.

The main condition that Sméagol suffers from is a severe form of paranoid schizophrenia, which has manifested itself in a type of split personality disorder. Sméagol is the real person; Gollum the manifestation in his mind that occasionally takes over, resulting in Sméagol being unaware of what both his body and mind are doing.

This split personality is becoming harder and harder for Sméagol to control alone, resulting in Gollum appearing more and more often, and staying for longer. One of the key witnesses for the prosecution, Samwise Gamgee, was himself in fact a witness to the struggle that Sméagol has to battle on a regular basis:

"Sméagol was holding a debate with some other thought that used the same voice but made it squeak and hiss. A pale light and a green light alternated in his eyes as he spoke.

‘Sméagol promised,’ said the first thought.

‘Yes, yes, my precious,’ came the answer, ‘we promised: to save our Precious, not to let Him have it – never. But it’s going to Him, yes, nearer every step. What’s the Hobbit going to do with it, we wonders, yes, we wonders.’

‘I don’t know. I can’t help it. Master’s got it. Sméagol promised to help the master.’…Each time that the second thought spoke, Gollum’s long hand crept out slowly, pawing towards Frodo, and then was drawn back with a jerk as Sméagol spoke again…" (Tolkien, 1995, p618-619).

This evidence, taken from Master Gamgee’s own statements, shows the extent of Sméagol’s psychological struggles, which also becomes physical. It’s as though a malign spirit possess Sméagol, temporarily taking over all of his physical and mental actions and controls.

The roots of Sméagol’s manias can be traced back to his youth. He grew up in an extended family, all living in one Hobbit hole by the river, and with so many relatives milling about he received less attention and care than is essential to ensure that a child develops healthily. His natural curiosity in roots and beginnings, in plants and so on, was seen to be strange, and this led to him being even more ostracized by his family. As a result, his tendency towards these psychological problems was not discovered in his youth, when it could have been carefully controlled and monitored. Instead, Sméagol was cut off and expelled from his family, which not only adds up to what could legally be considered an abusive and neglectful childhood; but also added to his already troubled mind.

It is believed that Sméagol already had symptoms of these psychological problems from his youth, and when he first saw and was ensnared by the evil of the One Ring, this personality split was enhanced. The Ring spoke to the Gollum aspect of his personality, making it stronger and more maleovant than before.

Such was the Ring’s influence on this Gollum that it became a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; simultaneously strengthening Gollum whilst weakening Sméagol. But as the following evidence from Gandalf the Grey’s statement shows, the Ring did not have full control, and Gollum was not able to things his own way all the time, despite being the stronger personality:

"There was a little corner of his mind that was still his own, and light came through it, as through a chink in the dark: light out of the past" (Tolkien, 1995, p53).

"The murder of Déagol haunted Gollum, and he had made up a defence…" (Tolkien, 1995, p55).

In this, Gandalf misinterpreted Sméagol’s words. Gollum did not care one way or the other about Déagol, but Sméagol did. He was horrified by what he had done, not realising just what a strong hold the Ring had on him. He tormented himself about the death of his friend until he was almost as crazed as Gollum.

The evidence of Sméagol’s struggle to overcome his illness and rid himself of Gollum forever is well documented in The Lord of the Rings (Exhibit A). And Sméagol was starting to win through – "’A present from Sméagol,’ said Sam: ‘a brace o’ young coney’s; though I fancy Gollum’s regretting them now’" (Tolkien, 1995, p641).

This, and later comments by Samwise Gamgee, show that he was well aware of the dual aspect of Sméagol’s personality, and of his struggle to control it; and it is my personal belief that Sméagol would have eventually beaten Gollum and returned to some semblance of normality; but his betrayal by Frodo Baggins at the hands of the Rangers of Gondor bit deeper than any at the time realised. It was Frodo’s betrayal that made Gollum strong again, and Frodo’s betrayal that made Sméagol – hurt, frightened Sméagol – prey to Gollum’s evil. He had no strength of will left to fight Gollum off anymore, and so had no resistance to go along with the plan earlier hatched by Gollum to lead the two Hobbits to Shelob.

In fact, from this point on, Sméagol has almost totally disappeared and it is Gollum who becomes the dominant personality again. There is a brief glimpse of Sméagol on the stairs of Cirith Ungol – when he caresses Frodo’s knee – but the interior war is waged again and once more Gollum emerges as the winner, leaving Sméagol almost totally destroyed. And it was Gollum who destroyed the Ring of Power, not Sméagol.

It is, therefore, clearly evident from the case of the defence that Sméagol is guilty of nothing except being psychologically ill, and that it is Gollum who was responsible for these crimes. But Gollum cannot be held entirely to blame either. The numerous conditions that afflict Sméagol – including his pathological fears of all things Elven, the Sun and so on – leave him clearly vulnerable to other influences. The real perpetrator of these crimes is the Ring itself and, indirectly, its master Sauron; consequently I have no doubt that Sméagol will be acquitted to receive the psychological treatments that he so desperately needs. Defence rests…




Tolkien, JRR, (1995) The Lord of the Rings, London, HarperCollins Publishers.