“My Precious”: Gollum vs. the Pearl Jeweler

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In desperation, Gollum leaves the safety of his cave after a year or two to track Bilbo down and reclaim the Ring. He wanders through many dark and dangerous places, including Mordor, before becoming trapped in Moria until the Fellowship arrives (LOTR 53-58, 247-49, 304, 1065-67). Like the Jeweler, Gollum has found his Precious again—in the possession of another, in this case Frodo Baggins. Consumed with lust for the Ring and hatred of “Baggins,” Gollum follows Frodo until he finally catches up with him in the Emyn Muil (304, 306, 310, 336, 373-75, 598-600). Yet he, too, cannot reclaim his Precious; Sam and Sting both stand in his way. Nor can he rejoice that the Ring is where it needs to be; although he acknowledges Frodo as “the master of the Precious,” he often bemoans his own misfortunes and laments the loss of the Ring (601-604).

The paths traveled by Gollum and the Jeweler converge at this point, but their attitudes and actions have been the same all along. Thus, the Pearl Maiden’s first remark applies equally to both of them: “Sir, e haf your tale mysentente” (Pearl 257). Malcolm Andrew and Ronald Waldron gloss “mysentente” as both “misunderstood” and “distorted” (p. 335), and both definitions fit. Neither the Jeweler nor Gollum truly understands his situation, and both have framed their stories so as to strengthen their perceived claims to the Precious. Yet those claims are illegitimate; the Jeweler never had sole ownership of his daughter, and Gollum would have had no right to the Ring even had he not murdered Déagol for it. Nor does either character understand how idolatrous his affection for the Precious has become. Although Gollum does not have the revelation of Eru, the One True God of Tolkien’s world, that the Jeweler has of Yahweh, he should still know that his love for others and for all things good should outweigh his love for the Ring. That balance is evident in Frodo, who is usually able to keep his loves ordered properly despite the constant temptation of the Ring. The Jeweler also has a reminder of the ordo amoris in the Pearl Maiden, who rebukes him sharply after he complains of his sorrow that he cannot be reunited with her (Tolkien, Pearl 325-36):

‘’Twere better with cross yourself to bless,
Ever praising God in weal and woe….
Cease then to wrangle, to speak in spite,
And swiftly seek Him as your friend.
To your languor He may comfort lend,
And swiftly your griefs removed may seem;
For lament or rave, to submit pretend,
’Tis His to ordain what He right may deem.’ (341-42, 353-54, 357-60)

Nor are the Jeweler and Gollum merely in error because of their misplaced affections; they are also in grave danger and can save themselves only by giving up the one thing around which they have built their entire worlds. The Pearl Maiden tells the Jeweler plainly that he cannot simply cross the river to join her. The only path across the river is through death, but unless he repents and submits to God’s lordship once more, he will never be allowed to enter into glory (Tolkien, Pearl 313-24). Gollum, too, is in danger of eternal judgment. His obsession with the Ring is as idolatrous as the worship of Morgoth into which the earliest Men fell, and as one of the Second-born, he is under the Doom Eru pronounces in “The Tale of Adanel”: “Ye have abjured Me, but ye remain Mine. I gave you life. Now it shall be shortened, and each of you in a little while shall come to Me, to learn who is your Lord: the one ye worship, or I who made him” (MR 347). Gollum’s danger is also immediately physical, since Sauron has ordered him to find the Ring and bring it back to Mordor; were he to claim the Ring for himself once more, Sauron would know at once and have him hunted down and killed—if Sam did not kill him first (LOTR 601-602).

Both Gollum and the Jeweler begin to have a change of heart once the peril becomes obvious. Yet the extent of that change differs between the two. The Jeweler admits that he had earlier based his happiness on his daughter but now states that “Christ’s mercy, Mary and John: I dare / Only on these to found my bliss” (Tolkien, Pearl 383-84). Delighted, the Pearl Maiden welcomes him to stay and talk with her (397-400). Gollum’s equally sudden change, the partial recovery of Sméagol’s personality, does not reach the same level of reform; although he is eager to prove himself trustworthy, he still cannot conceive of anything higher than the Ring by which to swear his oath of fealty to Frodo, and Frodo’s stern warning against doing so makes no difference to him (LOTR 603-604). Sam begrudges Gollum’s presence, but Frodo becomes more tolerant of him (604).