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Would LOTR have ended better had Gollum gotten redemption?

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Truthfully, this is probably, that I can think of, my BIGGEST disappointment with how LOTR turned out was that Gollum won out over Smeagol in the end. I mean, isn't Smeagol supposed to be a Hobbit and aren't Hobbits, minus perhaps Lotho, supposed to be good? (Technically, Lotho, Sandyman, and Gollum seem to be the only bad or villainish Hobbits that I can think of in all of Tolkien's works. Maybe the Sackville-Bagginses were too, but at least Lobelia got thrown in jail for standing up to Saruman so she had good in her and Otho seemed to have resigned to losing Bag End in the end.)

Anyway, suppose that Smeagol hadn't been as angry about the Forbidden Pool incident and Sam hadn't been as much of a jerk near Cirith Ungol? Suppose that Smegaol was just too conflicted to tell them about Shelob (maybe there was no way around her, at least not without running across orcs) and that the fight with Shelob and Frodo's capture had gone on as before and all of that and eventually Smeagol, Frodo, and Sam end up at Mount Doom.

However, in this one, Smeagol would turn up, partially still loyal to Frodo and partially hooked on the Ring. In this one, though, Frodo would grow weak as he approached near the Cracks of Doom and would involuntarily set it down. Sam, not wanting to see his Master suffer, would pick it up and try and finish the quest. However, as he stood right near the Crack of Doom, Frodo, angry, would attack him and take the Ring from him and claim it. And, to ensure that, in his paranoid state of thinking, that Sam never stole it from him, would try and strangle Sam. Smeagol, remember how the lure of the Ring caused him to murder his friend Deagol, would decide to stop Frodo from ending up like him and so bites Frodo's finger off. This stops Frodo from killing Sam.

By this point, the Nazgul arrive on Mount Doom and begin to move inside. Smeagol, not wanting Sauron to get the Ring, but unwilling to part with it as well, does the only thing he can to try and save Frodo and Sam and jumps into the Cracks of Doom, thus beating the lure of the Ring (which never imagined that someone would sacrifice themselves to destroy it and so would have no power over that, even at the Cracks of Doom.) Then the Nazgul would disappear (either sent permanently to the Wraith World or to the Void or to the Halls of Mandos.) Then Frodo would say that he'd have given a whole hand to save Gollum but that he had died and couldn't be brought back. Then both would remark that Smeagol was a Hobbit after all (In FOTR, Frodo had considered the idea that Smeagol could be a Hobbit to be sickening and this would be the final point, in ROTK, of his total reversal of view on the matter. And it would be further augmented by how he'd nearly committed murder himself while under the influence of the Ring and so would finally get why Smeagol was the way he was.)


Gollum was the biggest victim of the Ring and, though he in the end gets somewhat revenge on the Ring by being the one to destroy it, the Ring succeeds in ruining his soul. I just wish that, at the end, he could have beaten the Ring.
 

Merroe

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It’s quite personal, obviously, whether Gollum’s end comes as a disappointment or not. However, may I encourage you also to think of the author’s main messages: pity, mercy, hope and forgiveness, as well as their moral reward, which you can also find in this final sequence of events. It is by the pity of Sam and Frodo (and before them, Bilbo) for the wrecked creature of Gollum that the mission succeeded.

There is a very relevant text from JRRT himself about the events on Mount Doom, which I’d like to quote you here:

Surely it is a more significant and real event than a mere 'fairy-story' ending in which the hero is indomitable? It is possible for the good, even the saintly, to be subjected to a power of evil which is too great for them to overcome – in themselves. In this case the cause (not the 'hero') was triumphant, because by the exercise of pity, mercy, and forgiveness of injury, a situation was produced in which all was redressed and disaster averted. Gandalf certainly foresaw this. See Vol. I p. 68-9. Of course, he did not mean to say that one must be merciful, for it may prove useful later –it would not then be mercy or pity, which are only truly present when contrary to prudence. Not ours to plan! But we are assured that we must be ourselves extravagantly generous, if we are to hope for the extravagant generosity which the slightest easing of, or escape from, the consequences of our own follies and errors represents. And that mercy does sometimes occur in this life.

Frodo deserved all honour because he spent every drop of his power of will and body, and that was just sufficient to bring him to the destined point, and no further. Few others, possibly no others of his time, would have got so far. The Other Power then took over: the Writer of the Story (by which I do not mean myself), 'that one ever-present Person who is never absent and never named'.

These themes recur on many different pages in LotR, don’t they? Remember how Frodo forgave Saruman after he tried to murder him? Saruman perished anyway ‑ was that “disappointing”? I wouldn’t say so.

I also admired a very beautiful plea for pity, mercy and hope in the FotR, which I just add here to close my answer because I like that gorgeous text so much:

'What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’

‘Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.’

[…] ‘He deserves death.’

‘Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it.'
 

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