If you are familiar with Peter Jackson’s TheLord of the Rings film trilogy, you will know that for each of the three instalments in the franchise an accompanying theme song was written, to be played during the credits of each film. These songs include Enya’s “May It Be”for The Fellowship of the Ring and “Into the West” by Annie Lennox, which plays at the end of The Return of the King. A song that appears to be largely overlooked, however, is “Gollum’s Song”, performed by the Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini for The Two Towers. Unlike the aforementioned two, this song has a rawness and a darkness to it, owing to the subject matter with which it deals. As you can probably tell by its name, Gollum’s Song is a manifestation of Gollum’s inner mind process, detailing the ever-present conflict between the two sides of his psyche: the ‘good’ side (which is to say, the little that remains of his old self) and the ‘bad’ side (the side created by the Ring). Now, I personally consider this song as a bit of a masterpiece in its own right, which is why I will be sharing some of my thoughts on what I think makes this song so great. However, seeing that I am not from a musical background, I just want to put it out there that I will be focusing on this song mostly from a lyrical point of view, as opposed to going into any of the composition, which is beyond my area of expertise.
Where once was light
Now darkness falls
Where once was love
Love is no more
So, the song begins by showing Gollum’s transition over time. In other words, highlighting the contrast between the then and the now. Through the word choice employed here, we can infer that this has been a negative transition.
Don’t say goodbye
Don’t say I didn’t try
This second stanza, I think, serves to demonstrate Gollum’s helplessness. It is almost as if he is pleading with us. In many ways we cannot be expected to blame him for not being able to withstand the power of the Ring, which nearly all of its bearers have succumbed to before the end.
These tears we cry
Are falling rain
For all the lies
You told us
The hurt, the blame!
The third stanza is essentially a summary of the torment that has been inflicted upon Gollum by the Ring over time. Notice the repetition of negative word choice, which suggests this idea of continuous agony. Additionally, I’m assuming that by “You”, the ‘good’ side of Gollum is addressing his ‘bad’ side (the side created by the Ring) upon which he naturally blames all his pain. Or perhaps he may even be addressing the Ring itself.
And we will weep
To be so alone
We are lost!
We can never go home
In the fourth stanza, there is a continuation of this idea of torment, again, realised through the choice of negative words. More than that, however, it also introduces the idea that Gollum cannot undo what the Ring has done to him over all this time. He is, once again, quite helpless in this matter.
So in the end
I will be, what I will be
No loyal friend
Was ever there for me
The fifth stanza sees us heading in a slightly different direction. Here is where there begin to be rumblings of this idea of gradual acceptance. Perhaps Gollum believes himself to be so far-gone by this point that he may as well continue to wade in. He no longer sees the point in resisting the evil that has troubled him for so long. As such, he starts to give in to the ‘bad’ side.
Now we say, goodbye
We say, you didn’t try
The sixth stanza sees a continuation of this idea of newfound acceptance. This very much contrasts with the earlier “Don’t say goodbye/Don’t say I didn’t try”.Indeed, there has been a reversal of roles, with the evil gradually taking charge once more.
These tears you cry
Have come too late
Take back the lies
The hurt, the blame!
By the seventh stanza it becomes apparent that the ‘evil’ side of Gollum has reassumed its control over him. Additionally, this idea of resentment has also started to kick in by this point, which will ultimately lead him to renounce the ‘good’ side entirely.
Any you will weep
When you face the end alone
You are lost!
You can never go home
You are lost!
You can never go home
The last stanza is perhaps the most eerie within the entire song, as it gives way to utter despair, reinforcing this idea that most likely there may be no hope for Gollum. What I am especially interested in, however, is the repetitionof those last two lines at the end. Indeed, you can’t help but feel that they are perhaps meant tauntingly, thus serving as a final reminder of the abusive relationship that exists between the two sides of Gollum’s psyche. Aside from this, there also doesn’t seem to be any hint of a potential recovery or consolation for Gollum, forcing us to conclude that he is indeed “lost”.
As a last remark, I would also like to mention Emilíana Torrini’s unique voice, which, I think, suits Gollum extremely well. Together, her high-pitched voice and her gravelly, drawn-out kind of singing almost sound like a form of wailing, thus giving life to Gollum’s pain and torment. Indeed, the whole song manifests itself as a kind of cry, or plea for help, even if there is no one there to hear it. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this kind of thing is what keeps Gollum up at night, all alone in the dark, with nothing but his conflicted inner dialogue for company.
At first glance, it may indeed be very easy for us, the audience, to dismiss Gollum as a mere villain altogether, even though, in reality, he is so much more than that. I would even go as far as to say that he is easily the most interesting character within the entire story of The Lord of the Rings. Even after what has been nearly 500 years of torment, the little that remains of Gollum’s old light is still fighting the darkness inside of him, continuing to resist it. As most of it has been quenched by the Ring’s influence, there may not be much goodness left in him, and yet what fascinates me is that the little of it that remains still continues to put up a fight, even if it knows it’ll never win. It is a little something that Tolkien liked to refer to as “The Long Defeat”, and it is a notion that pervades much of his work. This idea of fighting even if you know that you will lose in the end. This makes Gollum a rather tragic figure really, and I think “Gollum’s Song” really embodies that. A piteous lament for one of Middle-earth’s unsung heros, for lack of a better word.
The Art of The Lord of the Ringsby Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
This book collects numerous maps and sketches that served as visual aids to Tolkien as he wrote his famous masterpiece. The book also comes in a beautiful slipcase, and is decorated with some of Tolkien’s original artwork.
I had always known about The Lord of the Rings through my father, but it wasn’t until I was in my early teens that I started to show a real interest in Tolkien. I had seen all the films and soon decided that I wanted to give the books a try, starting with The Hobbit, of course. My initial concern was that perhaps I wouldn’t enjoy the books as much as I already knew the general sequence of events from seeing the films, but this wasn’t the case at all. I was quickly surprised by the amount of material which had been omitted by the filmmakers, particularly in regards to The Lord of the Rings. So from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings to The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien soon became one of my favourite authors and I’ve been reading his works ever since.
What is your favourite Middle-earth book?
As much as I love The Hobbit, I personally consider The Lord of the Rings to be Tolkien’s real magnum opus. It is storytelling at its finest.
What is your favourite movie?
The Fellowship of the Ring, though The Return of the King comes in at a close second. I love the exposition, and the prologue sequence is among my favourite scenes in the franchise.
Movies or books?
I like them both in their own right. I love the books for Tolkien’s beautiful prose and masterful storytelling, while at the same time the films will always have a special place in my heart for being my introduction to that world. As far as book-to-movie adaptions go, The Lord of the Rings films are definitely among the best out there. I love the amount of passion that was poured into them by the filmmakers.
Who are your favourite characters?
Frodo and Faramir. There is a kind of innocence to Frodo that draws me to him as a character. Even after all his torment, Frodo still holds on to the belief that Gollum may be cured. Faramir, on the other hand, is someone who inspires me. He’s not a warmonger nor does he seek glory in battle. He only strives to defend that which he loves.
What Middle-earth race would you be?
Can I say Half-elven like Elrond and his kin? Though I like the prospect of being an elf, the immortality aspect intimidates me. Being forced to walk the earth for as long as it remains … It would be a comfort to have a say in the matter.
Best actor/character casting match?
The Lord of the Rings film franchise is notorious for its top-notch casting, so it’s difficult to say … Ian McKellen as Gandalf is perhaps one that stands out to me, though Hugo Weaving as Elrond is pretty spot on as well.
What is your favourite place in Middle-earth?
Lothlórien, and not just in Middle-earth. It is probably among my favourite places in all of fantasy. When reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, I was so captivated by Tolkien’s descriptions of this place. A calm and quiet sanctuary, full of light and beauty, where neither time nor toil exists.
What is your favourite quote from the books or movies?
“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”