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Old 07-04-2013, 10:47 PM   #1
littlemanpoet
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Pipe Gollum and Pleasure

"Bless us and splash us, my precioussss! I guess it's a choice feast; at least a tasty morsel it'd make us, gollum!"

"Is it nice, my preciousss? It is juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?"

"Stew the rabbits!" squealed Gollum in dismay. "Spoil beautiful meat Smeagol saved for you, poor hungry Smeagol! What for? What for, silly hobbit? They are young, they are tender, they are nice. Eat them, eat them!"

Though the ring has brought great degradation on Gollum, one thing he has not lost is a very well developed sense of pleasure. It certainly makes Gollum fun to read.

Do you suppose Tolkien is saying something about this to his reader?
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Old 07-05-2013, 07:04 AM   #2
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Good question! Interestingly, the examples you quote are all related to food. Are there other areas in which he also experiences pleasure? I don't recall him admiring a beautiful landscape - admittedly, they didn't travel together in the nicest places, but Ithilien was described as lovely by Frodo and Sam.

Is the joy of eating the last pleasure to survive?
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Old 07-05-2013, 07:07 AM   #3
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Well, fundamentally Gollum was a Hobbit, after all. Food was a pretty consistent obsession across the board for them. And in Gollum's situation, perhaps food was the only pleasure left to him that he could disassociate from the Ring, a small reminder of a simpler life.

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Old 07-05-2013, 08:46 AM   #4
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A negative example: in the passage of the marshes, after seeing the faces in the pools:

"Poor Smeagol smells it, but good Smeagol bears it. Helps nce master. But that's no matter. The air's moving, change is coming. Smeagol wonders; he's not happy."

I am not referring to the sense of smell, but to the last sentence: he's not happy. If Smeagol is aware of being "not happy", this means that he still has within his capabilities, happiness, which is an emotional pleasure.

Mind you, the pleasure in food is twisted, perhaps by the Ring, perhaps by his isolation: he hates cooked food, must have it raw. He has become a cannibal at need, if one considers orcs and goblins some form of human(oid).

Also: "Smeagol always helps, if they asks - asks nicely." There is a self respect going on here, a felt pleasure at being dealt with in a 'nice' manner.

But a more malevolent pleasure must be acknowledged, if I remember aright - cannot seem to find the reference right now: in the self-debate between Smeagol and Gollum, there is the pleasure of relief, on Smeagol's part, that the time is not yet upon him to betray Frodo; but the pleasure Gollum feels in the 'tricksiness' of his plan to bring them to Shelob.

Then there is the saddest pleasure, what can only be called the spark of love Smeagol expresses just before Sam wakes up and accuses him of sneaking.

There is also the twisted pleasure of the absence of light.

Quite a range!

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Old 07-05-2013, 06:02 PM   #5
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Good question! Interestingly, the examples you quote are all related to food. Are there other areas in which he also experiences pleasure? I don't recall him admiring a beautiful landscape - admittedly, they didn't travel together in the nicest places, but Ithilien was described as lovely by Frodo and Sam.

Is the joy of eating the last pleasure to survive?
I think there may be a bit of Tolkien's Catholicism sneaking through too. All of the pleasures Gollum seems to retain are pleasures of the flesh (of which eating and drinking is probably the most fundamental). Tolkien was an old school Catholic and the Old school view was that, more or less, ALL the pleasures of the flesh were ultimately corrupting (the whole "The World, The Flesh and the Devil" thing) since they distracted you from spiritual manners (or why asceticism and mortification were generally regarded as such laudable acts). Gollum is corrupted by the ring, so it is only logical that his fleshy desires are enhanced. After all what the rings really feeds on is desire; if the victim has no pleasures he really has no desires to work on either. He or she doesn't even really have fear to work on since even fear carries a desire in it (the desire for what one fears not to occur, or to be able to prevent it)
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Old 07-05-2013, 07:05 PM   #6
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I think there may be a bit of Tolkien's Catholicism sneaking through too. All of the pleasures Gollum seems to retain are pleasures of the flesh (of which eating and drinking is probably the most fundamental). Tolkien was an old school Catholic and the Old school view was that, more or less, ALL the pleasures of the flesh were ultimately corrupting (the whole "The World, The Flesh and the Devil" thing) since they distracted you from spiritual manners (or why asceticism and mortification were generally regarded as such laudable acts). Gollum is corrupted by the ring, so it is only logical that his fleshy desires are enhanced. After all what the rings really feeds on is desire; if the victim has no pleasures he really has no desires to work on either. He or she doesn't even really have fear to work on since even fear carries a desire in it (the desire for what one fears not to occur, or to be able to prevent it)
But on the complete opposite side, he has half of ME wishing that more people would value good food and cheer like hobbits do.

I must say, though, this is an excellent topic and something to think about - which I definitely will.
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Old 07-05-2013, 08:56 PM   #7
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But a more malevolent pleasure must be acknowledged, if I remember aright - cannot seem to find the reference right now: in the self-debate between Smeagol and Gollum, there is the pleasure of relief, on Smeagol's part, that the time is not yet upon him to betray Frodo; but the pleasure Gollum feels in the 'tricksiness' of his plan to bring them to Shelob.
I think you hit the nail in the head here by introducing the difference between Smeagol and Gollum.

For it seems to me clear (more or less) that there are two different persons or two sides of one person here - and two different ideas of pleasure at stake. And with those you could say "Tolkien is saying something about this to his reader".


But it wouldn't be Tolkien if it would be that simple.

Now the antagonism between Smeagol who wants to be loved and cared for and who likes to bind with others and Gollum who rejoices in vengeance, or the suffering of others if they advance his aims - or alternatively fill the void left by losing of the "drug" or help to get it back (one of the few strong interpretations of PJ and his team I kind of like; making Gollum like a heroin-addict is, I think, a good idea), but that kind of leaves your initial examples unanswered.


So how to fit the enjoyment of food?

First of all it is not sexual pleasure Gollun values. Tolkien's universe is very a-sexual of course, but with the kind of hedonism Gollum seems to represent it is worth noting it's not of sexual nature. Although physical pleasure - like being comfortable - isn't a strange idea to him either.

I could see both Smeagol and Gollum to enjoy good food. It's just that their "mutual" history has taught them to enjoy the raw meat instead of stewed rabbit with taters...


One way of seeing it is looking at Gollum as a child I think. The kind of instant gratification -problem all addicts have.

Another way of going at it would be looking at the "quality" of pleasures - going a bit biographical here then - and reading it as a mature person's view of the world where food is the pleasure number one when talking about physical pleasures.


A more profound (and possibly a bit far-reaching) interpretation would be that if you take Gollum as a symbol of (a fallen) humanity you find that beneath Good and Evil - the eating of the apple from the tree - you have only an animal state "beyond good and evil" (as Nietzsche said) which is just the limbo Gollum has slowly entered into- but with his two personalities is still fighting against, from both sides.

And there's a nice twist there: sometimes it feels Gollum is the happiest when just catching fish aka. not when he is doing his evil-plotting or trying to be a goodie.

The longing for paradise is a theme in Catholicism and has been interpreted in many ways... one of the enlightenment ways of looking at it was talking about the "noble savages" who were uncorrupted by "civilization".


Blah... this seems to be kind of associative ramble rather than well thought posting and I'll end here for the time being (and go to sleep).

But there should be ideas to agree and disagree with enough...
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Old 07-06-2013, 05:04 PM   #8
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And there's a nice twist there: sometimes it feels Gollum is the happiest when just catching fish aka. not when he is doing his evil-plotting or trying to be a goodie.
The contrasting thought that immediately comes to mind at reading this very good point is that the Smeagol side was essentially dormant for hundreds of years - until he starts spending time with Frodo and Sam.

Did Smeagol come "undormant" because of the oath of the Ring, or because of the human contact? Maygbe there's a mix here, I don't know.

Still, that dormancy of Smeagol speaks loudly to me that the higher pleasures - other than food - appear to be associated with Smeagol and not Gollum.
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Old 07-06-2013, 05:16 PM   #9
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Did Smeagol come "undormant" because of the oath of the Ring, or because of the human contact? Maygbe there's a mix here, I don't know.
I would say both were behind Sméagol's new-found friendliness.
On the one hand, the oath he had sworn by the Ring brought him into a very close psychological relationship with the Ring-bearer, which forced him to "open up" emotionally.

On the other, I think the fact that his new companions were of his own kind was significant. It's said different times in the books that Hobbits generally preferred the company of other Hobbits, and Gollum wasn't nearly as friendly, it seems, with those noble Mirkwood Elves with whom he was a guest.
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Old 07-07-2013, 02:08 PM   #10
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Eh, I always thought the films way overplayed the idea that Gollum and Sméagol were actually distinct personalities. That scene where Gollum and Sméagol argue and S tells G to "Leave, and never come back!" is a great bit of performance by Serkis and is pretty wonderfully executed, but I think it takes Gollum's debate in the Marshes a step too far. To me, Gollum's internal debate is the debate of an integrated character, and the scene that Sam overhears is really just an extension of his long habit of talking to himself, Sam's assessment of "two halves", Slinker and Stinker, notwithstanding.

"Poor Sméagol" is how he thinks of himself; Gollum is the name that the world has given him.

But whether a split or a single personality, I'm not sure why we should be surprised that Gollum would have his pleasures, mean as they are. Among the Ringbearers, we don't see a loss of pleasure as an effect of the Ring, do we?
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Old 07-07-2013, 03:11 PM   #11
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But whether a split or a single personality, I'm not sure why we should be surprised that Gollum would have his pleasures, mean as they are. Among the Ringbearers, we don't see a loss of pleasure as an effect of the Ring, do we?
But we do see the de-valuing of life. Most of the Fellowship members haven't held the Ring close enough or long enough to really feel the long-term effect. But you see Bilbo feeling all stretched and unsatisfied with living (but he doesn't attribute it to the Ring, of course). And Frodo starts forgetting both physical and emotional pleasures:

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...I know that such things have happened, but I cannot see them. No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. ~Frodo, Mount Doom, ROTR
Then there are the Ringwraiths, and, while we know neither their thoughts nor their exact relationship with nature / the physical world, I think it's safe to say that pleasure is not something they experience.
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Old 07-07-2013, 03:40 PM   #12
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Among the Ringbearers, we don't see a loss of pleasure as an effect of the Ring, do we?
Actually, we do. As Frodo sinks deeper into the Rings power in Mordor he seems to lose his capacity for pleasure. In particular there is that part when Sam asks if Frodo remembers the rabbits Gollum caught and Frodo says no, that while he knows such things do happen, he no longer has any memory of them. Something along the lines of "No taste of Food, no cool of water, no warmth of sun, no blue of sky) (or am I just remembering a bit from the radio version). In any case Gandalf says when describing the effects of the ring that the ring extends life until all ones days are weariness (or something like that) which seems to indicate a loss of pleasure in living.
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Old 07-07-2013, 03:54 PM   #13
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True, but that's the extreme potency of the Ring as it reaches its point of maximum power, very near the fire where it was made.

Gollum's "bless us and splash us, my precious!" pleasure in fish and the prospect of raw goblin/Baggins is possible because the Ring is so far from Mordor.

Also Frodo is still resisting the Ring, and that is why it is torturing him to the degree it is at the point of the "wheel of fire" speech.

Whether Frodo's ability to experience emotional and physical pleasure is permanently damaged is an interesting point. Like Celebrian, he loses delight in Middle-earth, and exposure to the Ring (and the things this led to, such as his inability to renounce it in the end) is a huge part of this. The wounds he received along the way were more due to the fact of his being the Bearer, and his mission throwing him constantly into the line of fire, and they contributed too.

But I wonder how far the sensory and emotional pleasures returned once the Ring was destroyed. I would think that he was able to sense them again, but maybe some kind of detachment remained. For one thing, he deputised as Mayor once because Will Whitfoot "needed a lot of feeding up" before he could go back to presiding at banquets. Could just refer to the fact that Will was in a pretty bad way and Frodo had recovered from his physical privations, but he'd hardly be psychologically capable of attending a banquet if no sense of such pleasures had returned.
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Old 07-07-2013, 04:17 PM   #14
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True, but that's the extreme potency of the Ring as it reaches its point of maximum power, very near the fire where it was made.
A good point. Look at Bilbo, having the Ring a much longer time than Frodo, but apparently losing none of his ability to find pleasure in food, drink, song, and poetry, even while feeling "thin and stretched".

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Whether Frodo's ability to experience emotional and physical pleasure is permanently damaged is an interesting point. Like Celebrian, he loses delight in Middle-earth, and exposure to the Ring (and the things this led to, such as his inability to renounce it in the end) is a huge part of this. The wounds he received along the way were more due to the fact of his being the Bearer, and his mission throwing him constantly into the line of fire, and they contributed too. But I wonder how far the sensory and emotional pleasures returned once the Ring was destroyed. I would think that he was able to sense them again, but some kind of detachment remained.
Frodo was able to laugh again certainly, and find some measure of relief with the Ring gone, but as Tolkien noted in Letters #246

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[Frodo's] real desire was hobbitlike (and humanlike) just 'to be himself' again and get back to the old familiar life that had been interrupted. Already on the journey back from Rivendell he suddenly saw that was not for him possible.
Since he felt he could not continue with life in Middle-earth, naturally the pleasures available there would have lost much of their luster.
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Old 07-07-2013, 06:14 PM   #15
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Gollum's "bless us and splash us, my precious!" pleasure in fish and the prospect of raw goblin/Baggins is possible because the Ring is so far from Mordor.
That's the thing, though - raw fish and goblin meat are the few things Gollum still feels pleasure in. He hates everything else. Not sun/moon, not flowers, not music, not even good-tasting elvish food. Perhaps food is just such a basic necessity that not even the Ring can undo the pleasure of a full belly.
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Old 07-07-2013, 09:12 PM   #16
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I'd echo Pervinca (Hi! Don't think our paths have crossed yet.) and Inzila that Frodo in Mordor is a bit of an exceptional case, though as Pervinca points out, the question of whether the Ring is somehow complicit in the "darkening" of Frodo is an interesting one. Is it a direct effect of the Ring? Or is it simply a very human reaction to his overall experience? I usually come down on the side of an interpretation which favors humanity and complex human reactions over characters being the victims of magical effects. It's one of the things, I think, that sets Middle-earth apart from other fantasy creations, where one can often detect a whiff of roleplaying and videogame influence in the treatment of magic. Tolkien's magic is, by and large, more subtle, more ethereal, less direct. It nudges rather than bludgeons.

As an example, I really didn't like the way Jackson interpreted Théoden as being literally under Saruman's spell, rather than having been manipulated and cozened by Wormtongue acting as Saruman's agent. I recognize that there's a continuum here though.
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Old 07-08-2013, 03:05 AM   #17
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I'd echo Pervinca (Hi! Don't think our paths have crossed yet.) and Inzila that Frodo in Mordor is a bit of an exceptional case, though as Pervinca points out, the question of whether the Ring is somehow complicit in the "darkening" of Frodo is an interesting one. Is it a direct effect of the Ring? Or is it simply a very human reaction to his overall experience? I usually come down on the side of an interpretation which favors humanity and complex human reactions over characters being the victims of magical effects. It's one of the things, I think, that sets Middle-earth apart from other fantasy creations, where one can often detect a whiff of roleplaying and videogame influence in the treatment of magic. Tolkien's magic is, by and large, more subtle, more ethereal, less direct. It nudges rather than bludgeons.

As an example, I really didn't like the way Jackson interpreted Théoden as being literally under Saruman's spell, rather than having been manipulated and cozened by Wormtongue acting as Saruman's agent. I recognize that there's a continuum here though.
Hi Mr Underhill! The "darkening" of Frodo in Mordor, I think, is the deliberate effect of the Ring trying to save itself from destruction - somehow or in some way sensing its increasing proximity to the place where that might happen. As if that were part of the "design" that Sauron put into it, as a safeguard.

Potter haters - don't jump on me for this - but I always felt the way the locket horcrux (protected from being taken, let alone destroyed) was hidden under a potion that was terrible torture to drink (and could only be removed by one forcing another to drink it, so that one alone could not remove it) was similar, in a sense, to the impossibility of the Ring being cast away (except, as Tolkien said, by one of the Wise) by act of will at its point of maximum power. There is definitely powerful magic here, but much less obvious. However, Sauron was called the "Necromancer" in "The Hobbit," and seems to have used magic of a very dark kind to safeguard his precious Ring.

It's interesting that you use the word "darkening" - since it acts both by moral corruption and by cruelty (darkening pleasure, tainting peace of mind, becoming painfully heavy) - trying to break down the bearer's resistance by both physical and mental cruelty - and using that cruelty to help break down the purity of the bearer.

The after-effects that Frodo felt from this experience were probably just by-products of being exposed to all this for so long. How much is attributable to permanent damage done by the Ring at and near its point of maximum power is difficult to gauge. A huge part of the damage is the fact that he claimed it at the end, of course. But the things that trigger specific periods of illness don't refer to the time of maximum exposure in Mordor. One of the triggers is the memory of being parted from it, since he falls ill on the anniversary of Shelob's bite, when the Ring is taken from him, and when awakens in Cirith Ungol, believing all lost. The other is from the Morgul-knife ... which would probably have continued to give him trouble even if he hadn't gone any further than Rivendell (I think only one other survivor of a Morgul splinter (not a hobbit, but still), is actually recorded, and he died within about 12 years).

So, difficult to say, but I think the Ring's power in Mordor was its own survival mechanism. It pulls out all the stops not to get destroyed and will use any amount of cruelty to do it (it was made by Sauron, after all), but I don't think it "intended" (as far as Sauron could give it "intention") or thought of damage beyond that. I wonder if Sauron ever thought of another even wielding it, and how much of his thought and power he put into the Ring being able to create trouble to another who possessed it? Frodo does not desire power, but he has a natural fatalism. This is what the Ring latches on to in him, turning it to despair. (In Sam, it would have latched on to his positive side, his desire to do things, and put things right, corrupting good deeds to bad).

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As an example, I really didn't like the way Jackson interpreted Théoden as being literally under Saruman's spell, rather than having been manipulated and cozened by Wormtongue acting as Saruman's agent. I recognize that there's a continuum here though.
I think Jackson probably favours the bludgeon over the nudge.
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Old 07-10-2013, 07:28 PM   #18
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Gollum still finds pleasure in matters other than food, at least in Gandalf’s thought. In the chapter “The Shadow of the Past” in The Fellowship of the Ring Gandalf says:
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. It was actually pleasant, I think, to hear a kindly voice again, bringing up memories of wind, and trees, and sun on the grass, and such forgotten things.
Gandalf’s suspicions are borne out by the pleasure Gollum takes in serving Frodo, until Sam ruins it through his suspicions of Gollum’s behaviour.

Then there is the passage from the beginning of “The Passage of the Marshes” in The Two Towers:
Gollum turned to the right, southward more or less, and splashed along with his feet in the shallow stony stream. He seemed greatly delighted to feel the water; and chuckled to himself, sometimes even croaking in a sort of song.
The cold hard lands
they bites our hands,
               they gnaws our feet.
The rocks and stones
are like old bones
               all bare of meat.
But stream and pool
is wet and cool:
               so nice for feet!
And now we wish
—
—
—
‘Ha! ha! What does we wish?’ he said, looking sidelong at the hobbits. ‘We’ll tell you,’ he croaked. ‘He guessed it long ago, Baggins guessed it.’ A glint came into his eyes, and Sam catching the gleam in the darkness thought it far from pleasant.
Alive without breath;
as cold as death;
never thirsting, ever drinking;
clad in mail, never clinking.
Drowns on dry land,
thinks an island
is a mountain;
thinks a fountain
is a puff of air.
So sleek, so fair!
               What a joy to meet!
We only wish
to catch a fish
               so juicy-sweet!
Gollum turns his experiences of wandering and guiding the hobbits into excellent poetry. He recalls his riddle to Bilbo and playfully adds lines about the fish meeting an island and what the fish might think of a fountain. Eating is part of this verse but only part of it. There is surely also joy in the making and reciting of the verse for its own sake.

Here Gollum has just accepted Frodo as his master and we see him at his best.
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Old 08-25-2013, 07:53 PM   #19
Juicy-Sweet
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I see more sources of pleasure in Gollum

1: The pleasure of satisfying one's curiosity. He travelled for 76 years. A lot of it evidently spent in places not related to "Baggins Shire". For instance, he hardly expected to find the Shire in Shelob's cave which he mush have visited in this period.

I can only make sense of this by picturing him as a fellow thinking "whoa there's a vave, I wonder what's down there?" and then go look. Peddling around in Shelob's lair for no particular reason, it's only something vevy curious (and courageous) explorer-types would do.

2: He seems also to take pleasure in PRIDE, in thinking about how good he or smart he was in handling difficult situations plus how good his skills are at sneaking and escaping and such.

To me he also seems to take pride in knowing secrets no one else knows - it makes him special you know

"Swamp. Yes, yes. Come master, we will take you on safe paths through the mist. Come hobbits come. Real quickly. I found it, I did. The way through the marshes. Orcs don’t use it, orcs don’t know it. They go round for miles and miles, come quickly, swift and quick as shadows we must be."

"Orcs don't know it" instead of "there's no orcs there" seems to me to mean "orcs are stupid and gollum is smart, GOD am i clever!"

I think there are two similar quotes about Cirith Ungol but I don't have a LOTR copy with me. Once he mentions is'a VERY secret stais but hey guys, guess who knows about it? ME, gollum!

(as for the connection between Gollum and sex mentioned in this thread: YEECH! lol)
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