Mallorn: Gandalf as Torturer

Discussions of papers inspired by Tolkien's writings.
Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Postby Lindariel » Tue Jan 02, 2007 12:21 am

I realize I am over a year late in joining this discussion, but I would like to add one little thought.

The author of this paper makes much over the fact that Gandalf "put the fear of fire" into Gollum during his interrogation without giving any kind of creative thought to what this might mean. Gandalf has demonstrated mastery over fire in many different forms both in The Hobbit and in LOTR. But the author seems to forget that the true fire that Gandalf both serves and manipulates is not literal fire but the fire of the spirit. The power of the Elf Ring Narya is to inspire courage and rekindle hope in the hearts of those who are despairing. The Fire Gandalf serves is the Flame Imperishable -- the creative fire of Eru, the One. Is it not more likely that Gandalf opened Gollum's eyes to the fire of the spirit in order to obtain the truth from him? I do not for one minute believe that Gandalf had to resort to physical torture with so mean and small and pitiful a creature as Gollum. That would be completely beneath him.

The author of this paper also overlooks another very important "interrogation" of Smeagol/Gollum -- the questioning by Faramir in Henneth Annun:

Slowly Gollum raised his eyes and looked unwillingly into Faramir's. All light went out of them, and they stared bleak and pale for a moment into the clear unwavering eyes of the man of Gondor. There was a still silence. Then Gollum dropped his head and shrank down, until he was squatting on the floor, shivering. "We doesn't know and we doesn't want to know," he whimpered. "Never came here; never come again."

"There are locked doors and closed windows in your mind, and dark rooms behind them," said Faramir. "But in this I judge that you speak the truth. It is well for you . . . ."


In this passage, Gollum appears to be cowed by Faramir's "unwavering" glance that will not be tricked or fooled by falsehood. I think this interrogation gives us a clue as to the true nature of Gandalf's session with Gollum as well. Both Faramir and Gandalf had to endure Gollum's nattering, slavering prevarications, but in the end, he could not prevail under the light (the fire) of a true spirit. Physical torture was competely unnecessary.

The author does have a point about the hypocrisy of our modern Western culture in condemning the use of torture on the part of our "enemies," but having no problem resorting to it ourselves when "democracy" is being "threatened." However, he runs completely off the tracks by trying to use Gandalf to make his point.
Last edited by Lindariel on Tue Jan 02, 2007 6:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
0 x
Lindariel Image

“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Postby Merry » Tue Jan 02, 2007 3:59 pm

Isn't it great to belong to a Tolkien community, where one person's Christmas gift becomes a gift for us all? Thanks, Lindariel and Mr. L.!

I think your insights are good ones. It is almost impossible to think of Gandalf threatening to burn Gollum physically. But to shine a light into the dark corners of his mind? This would not harm Gollum, but would actually help him, although Gollum doesn't know this.
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Beren
Posts: 150
Joined: Sat Nov 25, 2006 12:51 pm
Location: Belgium
Contact:

Postby Beren » Thu Jan 04, 2007 8:19 pm

I actually think it is rather useless to discuss whether Gandalf did use fire in a physical way and actually burned Gollum or whether it was putting him the sunlight or whether it was wielding the imperishable flame to make Gollum speak... whatever it was he 'did' torture Gollum;
Gandalf is overal good and shows mercy, but are we not forgetting that Gandalf has a mission, namely to protect all (animals and children of Illuvatar alike) from the evil of Sauron? Does that not also mean he needs to take decisions for all and not just for this one creature called Gollum? What is the importance of true story he needed to hear from Gollum... it overrules all... he needed to know to be able to fullfill his mission. But as we know, Gandalf did not kill Gollum. That would have been out of line and out of his mission. Whatever Gandalf did i can only classify it under the category of torture. Do we also forget that the creature had been tortured before and that is was difficult to get the real story out of him. We do know that Aragorn and Gandalf had long, wearying talks with Gollum and that while Gollum feared Gandalf, there were some things he wouldn't talk about even so due to fear of Sauron. So if we say Gandalf did torture Gollum, Sauron was better at it.
0 x

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Postby Merry » Thu Jan 04, 2007 9:39 pm

Define 'torture', please! :twisted:
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Beren
Posts: 150
Joined: Sat Nov 25, 2006 12:51 pm
Location: Belgium
Contact:

Postby Beren » Thu Jan 04, 2007 9:49 pm

to make someone do something he is not intented to do by any means possible...
0 x

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Postby Merry » Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:42 pm

My students would probably say I tortured them this afternoon!
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
Uinen
Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea

Postby Iolanthe » Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:50 am

:lol: :lol: Oh Merry!!!!!

I can accept that showing Gollum 'the fire of the spirit' would have been torture to him - not in a physical sense, but torture to his soul. Gollum who was so wretched and lost he couldn't endure the light of the sun. Indeed, could no longer endure the light of the full moon without cringing and hiding. But it's not quite like trying to pull his toenails out or anything....
0 x
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Postby Merry » Fri Jan 05, 2007 4:27 pm

I think a good definition of 'torture' would have to include having done real harm to a person. To show someone reasons why s/he should do a good thing s/he originally hadn't intended to do wouldn't fit the category.
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Postby Lindariel » Fri Jan 05, 2007 8:15 pm

I agree with your definition, Merry, that torture implies the use of real harm -- either physical or psychological -- to obtain information. Gollum had come to hate/fear the light of the Sun and Moon as a result of his wretched mode of existence over the past several hundred years. But does light actually harm him? No.

"I put the fear of fire on him . . ." The FEAR of fire/light, not ACTUAL fire/light. Clearly, Gandalf never harms Gollum physically. And shining a spiritual light into the closed corners of Gollum's mind, much has he might have resisted or feared it, would ultimately only serve to further Gandalf's ultimate desire for Gollum -- that he find a way, almost beyond all hope, to be cured.

"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."

"But that, of course, would only make the evil part of him angrier in the end -- unless it could be conquered. Unless it could be cured . . . Alas! there is little hope of that for him. Yet not no hope . . ."


This does not sound like a torturer to me! It sounds more like a physician applying an unpalatable or temporarily painful, but ultimately beneficial remedy. That it also served Gandalf's purpose to obtain information was a side benefit.

Also, Riv, I found the passage about Gollum's nefarious activities in Gandalf's account to Frodo of Gollum's activities after he finally leaves his hole under the mountains to search for "Baggins" and his "Precious" in "The Shadow of the Past":

"The Wood-elves tracked him first, an easy task for them, for his trail was still fresh then. Through Mirkwood and back again it led them, though they never caught him. The wood was full of the rumour of him, dreadful tales even among beasts and birds. The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood. It climbed trees to find nests; it crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find cradles."


This is BEFORE Gandalf turns to Aragorn for help in finding Gollum much later. So when Aragorn finally does apprehend him, he clearly knows that Gollum is far from an "innocent" creature. He is a murderer and a baby-eater.
0 x
Lindariel Image



“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Iolanthe
Uinen
Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea

Postby Iolanthe » Fri Jan 05, 2007 8:29 pm

I don't think I was quite clear by 'would have been torture to him'. Gollum might feel tortured by fear and the uncomfortable light of truth inflicted by Gandalf (whatever Gandalf's intent) but that doesn't mean he was being tortured, if you know what I mean.

This is a torturous argument :dizzy: :lol: .
0 x
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Postby Merry » Fri Jan 05, 2007 9:40 pm

:lol:

No, I understood what you meant, Iolanthe. To be deprived of cigarettes might feel like torture to a smoker, but it would not be.

Your use of text is persuasive, as always, Lindariel!
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Postby Lindariel » Fri Jan 05, 2007 9:56 pm

Thanks, Merry! My husband calls me "The Interminable Quoter," perhaps because I am so scrupulous about acknowledging original sources in my academic work. However, when it comes to the Professor, I like to establish my points as much as possible with his own words -- especially since they are so much more eloquent than my own!
0 x
Lindariel Image



“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”


Return to “Tolkien Scholastics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest