Personally, my favorite character in the Lord of the Rings series is Gollum.  For those of you who’ve never read the books or seen the movies, (please look into it, it’s well worth it) Gollum was born as a hobbit named Sméagol who was corrupted by the One Ring (a magical ring who makes the wearer invisible) that was created by Sauron the Dark Lord as part of his plot to rule over Middle-earth.  He was later renamed Gollum after he developed a habit of making a horrible swallowing/coughing noise in his throat.

I wanted to use Gollum as an example of Kristeva’s Abjection because throughout the series, Gollum undergoes a continuous transformation in becoming a conflicted monster who is always struggling between good and evil, and with him there is no definite distinction between the “self” and the “other”.  He became a slave to the Ring, which changed him almost entirely.  His sense of self (Sméagol) is separated from the other (Gollum) by his physical appearance, his communication abilities, his morals, and his way of thinking.  The Ring extended his life beyond natural limits, which made his physical appearance seem grotesque because of certain contrasts.  He is described as “dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes”.  He’s extremely pale and horribly thin but also strong and limber; he has only a few teeth which are sharpened into points, and is referred to as a “small slimy creature”.  His isolation has caused him to speak in the third person, and he uses a deformed type of grammar, adding -es to the end of a plural (ex. hobbitses, Bagginses, birdses).  These changes all occurred because of Gollum’s obsession with the Ring, and his sense of self is transformed along with him.  He had “come to love and hate the ring, just as he loved and hated himself”, an important piece in abjection.

Peter Jackson, the director of the films said that “Sméagol is a joyful, sweet, character. Sméagol does not lie, deceive, or attempt to manipulate others. He is not evil, conniving, or malicious – these personality traits belong to Gollum, who should never be confused with Sméagol”.  The clip below shows Sméagol and Gollum arguing over what they should do about Frodo (he calls him Master) and the Ring (his “precious”).  The different camera angles, the dilation of the pupils, and of course the changes in behavior distinguish which character is speaking, Gollum or Sméagol.

As you can see, the inner struggle between Sméagol and Gollum is very complex, partly because his transformation from Sméagol to Gollum and then back to Sméagol again (and his loss of “self”) is constant, and can never be truly finished.

 


Kristeva, J., translated by Roudiez L.S. (1982). Approaching Abjection. In "Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection" pp. 1-19. New York: Columbia University Press. Tolkien, J. R.R. (1991). Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. London: HarperCollinsPublishing. http://m.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=11555792