In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers (1954), Sméagol has a transient "green glint" in his eye when his Gollum alter ego surfaces in his consciousness.

At the word hungry a greenish light was kindled in Gollum's pale eyes, and they seemed to protrude further than ever from his thin sickly face. For a moment he relapsed into his old Gollum-manner.

Gollum was talking to himself. 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.

His natural eye color seems to be grey.

Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired.

But there's always that green flash.

Gollum withdrew himself, and a green glint flickered under his heavy lids.

Changing eye color is a trope in science fiction and horror films, but when did it start? Did the trope not enter into film until Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, or did it already exist in film or literature before Tolkien wrote? Who was the first to use this method to indicate that a character was not quite reliable?

  • This doesn't appear to be a question about science fiction, but rather about writing in general. Note that a cursory search on Google Books has the expression going back into the 1800s
    – Valorum
    Oct 7, 2020 at 22:43
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    But not about scifi. Eyes have been green with envy and malice since before Shakespeare.
    – Valorum
    Oct 7, 2020 at 23:11
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    Just based on the quotes it may be a version of reverting to an animal state - with the animal eye glow caused by the Tapetum lucidum reflective tissue in the eye of nocturnal animals. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapetum_lucidum Oct 8, 2020 at 0:18
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    The question is, Where did this science fiction/fantasy/horror trope come from? You answered that it came from previous literature of other genres. That's a good answer for an SF question. Oct 8, 2020 at 1:01
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    @InvisibleTrihedron Oh, I definitely agree. I'm mostly trying to convince the people who want this question closed. (But it also affects the potential answer, since various mythological beings had eyes of unusual colour but a changing colour may be more recent.)
    – DavidW
    Oct 8, 2020 at 20:49


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