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If Gollum had not died in Mount Doom, would he have been allowed to join the elves, Bilbo, and Frodo in the Undying Lands?

He was, after all, by far the longest-lasting bearer of the One Ring (not counting Sauron himself before it was taken from him), which is the reason given for Frodo, Bilbo, and Sam’s being allowed to go there.

And would his being or not being allowed to go to the Undying Lands be affected by whether or not the Gollum part of him would vanish after the destruction of the Ring, leaving only Sméagol behind?

Note: As Richard’s answer (with comments) points out, there are various logistical practicalities that would likely get in the way of Gollum ever getting anywhere. However, what I am asking here is whether whoever decides who is and isn’t allowed to go to the Undying Lands would consider Gollum, as a Ringbearer, qualified to go there.

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    Something which none of the answers have currently touched upon is that I might argue that Gollum wasn't a "ringbearer". The purpose of the ringbearer was to carry it to its destruction, not just to be in possession of it. – Matt Taylor Apr 23 '15 at 11:22
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    @MattTaylor I don't recall Bilbo going any length to destroy it… – o0'. Apr 23 '15 at 13:14
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    "He was, after all, by far the longest-lasting ringbearer […]" Not by a long shot. By the time of LOTR, Galadriel had had Nenya for millennia. Ditto for at least some of the bearers of the three rings. And Sauron carried the One Ring for almost 2000 years. Although he probably burned that whole "Go West" bridge some time ago. – l0b0 Apr 23 '15 at 13:46
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    @DVK Smeagol retrieved from a river, when it was believed lost, and untimately, when the time was ripe, handed it down to a worthy character. – o0'. Apr 23 '15 at 14:13
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    @reirab Nor did Bilbo, really. It took quite a bit of, shall we say, encouragement from Gandalf to get him to give it up. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 23 '15 at 23:05
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I would dispute the premise of the question. It is said that Legolas took Gimli too to the Undying Lands, and Gimli was never a ringbearer. Bilbo and Frodo (and later Sam) went because they were invited, for the healing of their pain. And they were invited because they had done great deeds and, basically, had earned it. If Gimli went, as it is rumoured, he did so for similar reasons, and also for the sake of his great friendship with Legolas.

The qualifying criterion, then, was not as simple as “being a ringbearer”, and there is no way that Sméagol would have been invited to sail the straight path.

  • Very good point! I had not thought about Gimli here at all. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 23 '15 at 9:12
  • I've heard it said that those with the title of "Elf-friend" were permitted to go, which was why Gimli was allowed to go. I don't remember if that's canon or not, and I don't have a copy of the Appendices handy to verify. – user44330 Apr 23 '15 at 15:21
  • I was going to comment on the other answer about Gimli being allowed, and not being a Ring Bearer, but you've got it here so +1. – user31178 Apr 23 '15 at 20:16
  • I think this answer’s pointing out the false premise underlying my question is ultimately the best possible answer there is, so I am going to accept this answer. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 25 '15 at 22:18
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I'm not aware of any canonical reasons why he would or wouldn't, so I'll draw on what we know about the Elves, Rings, and the Undying Lands. I seriously doubt they'd let Gollum join them for three main reasons.

The Hobbits were an exception
Until the end of ROTK, the Undying Lands were basically exclusively for Elves. But, as Gandalf hinted at, Bilbo was "meant" to have the Ring, which in turn meant that Frodo was "meant" to have it (and by extension, Sam, who bears it for quite a while in the book). But who intended for this to happen? Gandalf's hint seems to lead us to believe that some other force or power conspired to make it so. While not explicitly stated, it's within reason to say that Eru himself intervened and led Bilbo to find it. This is speculation, but I think it's within reason, seeing as how Gandalf has a knowledge of a great many things (and wasn't just trying to give a pep talk to Frodo). So, since the Hobbits were chosen by the Creator himself, they were granted admittance to the Undying Lands. Gollum wouldn't have been afforded that same benefit.

Gollum was already "stretched too thin"
After losing the Ring, Bilbo himself barely made it. Gollum was much, much older, and in much worse shape. Even if he made it to the Havens, and even if he made the journey, mortals still die in the Undying Lands (oddly enough). It just wouldn't be practical to fix up an express boat just to get him there before he kicked the bucket.

Gollum was inherently evil
I think this is the most important point. Notice how when Smeagol first laid eyes on the Ring, he instantly wanted it. Within moments, he succumbed to the Ring's influence and murdered Deagol. This isn't the work of an inherently "good" person. Frodo, Sam, and Bilbo all treated the Ring as a "precious" thing, but none of them killed over it. Frodo came close, but that was when the Ring was doing its utmost to dominate his will. For this reason above all others, I think the Elves would deny him asylum. You could even extend this logic to explain why the Nine, the Seven, or even Sauron himself would not be allowed to make the trip.

Again, this is just the best explanation I could come up with based on the established lore.

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Had Gollum not died at the Crack of Doom, it's reasonably likely that he would have died shortly afterwards. Note that Bilbo's age caught up with him after the One Ring's destruction;

...Bilbo was sitting in a chair before a small bright fire. He looked very old, but peaceful, and sleepy. He opened his eyes and looked up as they came in. 'Hullo, hullo!' he said. 'So you've come back? And tomorrow's my birthday, too. How clever of you! Do you know, I shall be one hundred and twenty-nine? And in one year more, if I am spared, I shall equal the Old Took. I should like to beat him; but we shall see.'

Since Smeagol was hundreds of years old, had he not committed suicide or dived into the fire in the hopes of rescuing the One Ring or been instantly destroyed by its destruction (as was Sauron), he would simply have just died of old age.

That being the case, a trip to the Undying Lands would have been out of the question.

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    I don’t know how immediate it was, exactly … as far as I can recall, there’s no mention (at least not in LotR) of Bilbo’s ageing process during the seventeen or so years between his disappearance from the Shire and Frodo’s seeing him in Rivendell. It could just as well have happened gradually, could it not? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 22 '15 at 21:05
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    Or perhaps I am misremembering, getting the movie mixed up with the books. In the movie, if I’m not mistaken, Bilbo is already significantly aged when Frodo first reaches Rivendell. But I’ve just scanned that bit in the book, and apart from Bilbo saying “I am getting old” (which is natural: his ageing would at the very least resume at a natural pace without the Ring on him), there is no mention of him being older. So perhaps he doesn’t age before the Ring is destroyed after all. Even so, as @Rhettorical says, there should be enough time for Gollum to get to the Havens if he’d survived. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 22 '15 at 21:14
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    @JanusBahsJacquet I suppose that is what we're trying to figure out... My best reasoning (knowing what I know about Elves and whatnot) is that they wouldn't let him any more than they'd let any of the Nine or the Seven. I think the primary reasons would be (a) the Hobbits were a large exception, and they were (as Gandalf said/hinted at) chosen by Eru himself, (b) Gollum was already "stretched too thin", so he probably wouldn't have survived long or at all, and (c) Gollum was inherently evil from the start, seeing as how he killed to get the Ring immediately after first laying eyes on it. – user44330 Apr 22 '15 at 21:30
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    @Richard Don't—it's still a good, useful answer, even if it's a bit orthogonal to the intention of the question. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 23 '15 at 7:16
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    I thought that in the book, when Frodo met Bilbo at Rivendell, there was some mention that Bilbo still seemed to be unusually youthful for his age. I will try to find it later. – Nate Eldredge Apr 23 '15 at 21:36
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LOTR is all about redemption, as has been said oft-times in answers to other questions on this SE. Gollum had the opportunity to act righteously, to assist the Fellowship to destroy the Ring (or at least not interfere), but instead, he chose to act in his own interest. Smeagol's struggle versus Gollum in the Marshes is a part of that drama. The reader gains hope that Smeagol may win out, and his soul be redeemed. The two are not separate beings, but one and the same, and so must ultimately be accountable for his choices.

I think Gollum/Smeagol is perhaps the greatest tragedy in LOTR. He succumbs and acts in self-interest, so he can never attain that which would have brought him peace. If he had made the better choice, to defeat absolute evil, I would say he would definitely be eligible for the Grey Havens -- maybe in a more agreeable physical form. He might die beforehand, but not because he's old. He was already ancient, many times the normal lifespan of a hobbit, so old age alone wouldn't be enough to kill him. He had already been without the Ring for decades, so another few years would be ok. What might do him in is that perhaps his soul was too tightly connected to the Ring. Once it was destroyed, he might not be able to maintain his corporeal self any longer.

  • The ability to control one's own destiny is actually a pretty common theme across a lot of beliefs. It's by no means a "very Christian" concept. Also, I think Tolkien wouldn't appreciate trying to attribute his work to any religion, even his own. I don't think that information is pertinent to your answer, anyway. – user44330 Apr 24 '15 at 17:35
  • Tolkien attributed his work to his religion. – Joshua Feb 24 '16 at 17:36
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I think that Gollum and Smeagol were two separate persons. The "character" the ring was capable of evoking in such creatures as Galadriel (instead of a dark lord you would have a dark queen) and Gandalf (through me it would wield too great a power) indicate that even they (Elflord and Maia wielder of Narya) would exhibit profound darkness if the ring were given the chance to do so.

If Gandalf and Galadriel are as susceptible to become dark rulers, then it is likely the person of Gollum is a manifestation of the ring itself through the being and person of Smeagol. I think that the degree of cunning and malice exhibited in Gollum shows the character of Sauron.

The construction shows that "into the ring was poured malice" and "will to dominate". Those are attributes of intentionality, and were done with purpose in aiding the ring of rings to achieve for Sauron what he intended.

The one ring is meant to be a ruling ring of rings. The rings were meant to cause leaders of a race to be able to evoke the most characteristic excellences of the races. The "center of elvendom on earth", Lothloriedorinian, came into being as it was in part by the use of the Elven rings. The great dwarven kingdoms likely have similar correlation. The ring was meant to make rings of rulership more rings of rulership - more capable.

The rings that were not hidden were poisoned by the one ring. The darkness poured into the one ring, leaked out through the others and into their bearers. Greed to the dwarves. I think that humans succumb more quickly to both the greatness and the darkness of the rings. Yeah - a fair bit of supposition. Gandalfs attribution of resistance to the ring by the Hobbits was due their race, not their character. They seem to be children of a different Valar - and as such not under the ring. I think Tolkien may have envisioned them as the "wee folk" of the Irish.

In the end, when Frodo fell to the ring, and claimed it for his own, it was the action of Smeagol that resulted in the destruction of the ring. It is a proof that evil, especially the character of Sauron could not live in a world with a copy of itself. It is a demonstration of the self-annihilation of evil. I think that, in a Tolkien world, while there is redemption, it is never cheap. Often, like the case of Grimma, it is accomplished at the cost of ones life. The destructiveness of even a little darkness is very great and it takes a lot of good blood spilled to quench it.

While I agree that the unnatural long life granted by the one ring evaporated as the ring did, I think in principle that Smeagol would have been welcome on distant shores. In an ironic way the thing that cost Smeagol his life, would have counted as sufficient for redemption.

EDIT: If being ringbearer alone was a qualification to go to undying lands would it not thus qualify both Isildur and Sauron to go there? I think there must be some additional or alternative criteria there.

  • To the reviewer who rejected my changes - what is the proper way to include exact quotes as references, and what they are? I was surprised at the rejection of the edit, and equally surprised that there exists no linked feedback mechanism to ask questions or improve my interactions. Pass/Fail is much less informative than some limited direction in how to achieve my goal. – EngrStudent May 1 '15 at 18:33
  • Let's not forget the forgiving nature of the Valar. It's stated that they could not comprehend evil, and therefore had no way to punish it. It's only when Tulkas is sent to Arda, that justice is served to Morgoth, and even then he is redeemed of his actions for a short while through his deceptions. Sauron, despite his actions through the servitude of Morgoth is still invited for redemption. It wouldn't be completely out of the question to assume that this invitation would be extended to a lesser, more naturally innocent being, as his actions do indirectly cause the destruction of the ring. – John Bell Jul 21 '15 at 9:45
  • Gandalf learned compassion in the company of the valar. – EngrStudent Jul 21 '15 at 10:54
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    It's stated in books that he learned this from the house of Nienna. – John Bell Jul 21 '15 at 10:57
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In Tolkein's retelling of the Judo/Christian creation, the fall, and the reconciliation of the angels, the Havens represent Heaven and the Elves the fallen angels. The fallen angels are allowed to return to Heaven because they have reconciled themselves with God. Given a concept of divine forgiveness, Gollum would be accepted into Heaven if he repented his evil ways.

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    Lord of the Rings is not an allegory, though. Tolkien flatly denied any such association and labelled any such associations as pure speculation. – user44330 Apr 23 '15 at 19:23
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    If any allegory or symbolism is to be found, it's pure speculation, and according to Tolkien, completely not intentional. He was often very critical of allegory, going so far as to criticize his friend C.S. Lewis, who often wrote overtly allegorical stories. As he said: "I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence." – user44330 Apr 23 '15 at 20:53
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    Let us disagree in a friendly way. If one believes in the Bible, as I do not, then it is allegory. If the Bible is a story that provides guidance to the faithful, then it is not allegory or symbolism. Shakespeare's King Lear is based on a story by Raphael Holinshed. We would call King Lear a retelling not an allegory. In as much as Tolkien was devout, The Silmarillion would, indeed, be an allegory in his mind. However, I believe Tolkien was referring the the ring story as not being an allegory, not to The Silmarillion. The congruence with the Creation etc. is too compelling in mind. – Carl Carlson Apr 23 '15 at 21:29
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    @Rhettorical I'd say Silmarillion was probably more heavily influenced by the Bible than perhaps even Tolkien cared to admit, but I agree that it's still not an allegory and does contain rather significant differences. – reirab Apr 23 '15 at 23:18
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    Why in the world would you think it is a retelling of Judeo-Christian cosmogony? It has very little in common with it. The themes Tolkien plays with are present in many religions, notably the Norse and even Greek mythologies. The Elves are not fallen angels, they were created by the Ainur (who you might consider orthologs of angels). Even if the Silmarillion were an allegory (which I very much doubt), I see no reason to assume it was a Judeo-Christian one. No messiah, for one thing. – terdon Apr 24 '15 at 15:48

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