Frodo won't let Gollum swear "on" the precious

Discussion in 'Main Forum' started by Milthaliel, Sep 26, 2017.

  1. Milthaliel

    Milthaliel Member

    I'm re-reading LOTR this year, and I have reached The Taming of Sméagol. Frodo has just insisted that Sméagol not swear "on" the Ring. He can swear "by" it, but not "on" it. It's clearly an important distinction for Frodo, but the difference is lost on me. Is it because Sméagol would have to touch it to swear "on" it, and Frodo is avoiding what might be a ploy from Sméagol to get the Ring? Or is there a different meaning? Can anyone clarify?

    Thank you!
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2017
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  2. NotACat

    NotACat Active Member

    That was always my understanding, so I look forward to finding out what everybody else thinks.
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  3. Tilion

    Tilion New Member

    Considering the fates of individuals that bind themselves to oaths in the world of Tolkien, I tried to consider the viewpoint that Frodo doesn’t want Sméagol tying himself so tightly to an object known for deception and betrayal. That “by” is somehow a softer version of “on.” However, I can’t pull anything out of the text to back that up; it actually seems to be the opposite. Frodo warns him about committing a promise to the Ring, but allows him to do so.

    “All you wish is to see it and touch it...For you know where it is. Yes, you know, Sméagol. It is before you.”

    That’s enough for me to agree with you guys.
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  4. Milthaliel

    Milthaliel Member

    This is the first time I paid as close attention to the words - a side effect of "Exploring the LOTR" class I think. But I think you're right, it's a matter of keeping the ring out of Gollum's hands.
  5. Milthaliel

    Milthaliel Member

    No, I agree, I don't think it's a matter of Frodo trying to protect Gollum from making his oath - I think it's something that he knows it's a promise that Sméagol will actually keep. It's a way for Sam and Frodo to be able to sleep around Sméagol without worrying about being strangled in the night, because it's an oath he will keep. But I think Frodo's warning is in part a caution about the Ring's treachery (as you say), but also a warning that he WILL be bound to that oath, so (basically) don't try anything.

    But yes, I think the distinction between "on" and "by" is more about keeping it out of Sméagol's sight. Not sure what would have happened if he'd ever gotten a look at the Ring during that part of the journey, but I can't imagine it would have been good.
  6. Jim Hobbs

    Jim Hobbs New Member

    An interesting take on the distinction is here; that opinion doesn't illuminate the present discussion, but it is interesting to imagine Gollum doing a product endorsement.
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  7. Milthaliel

    Milthaliel Member

    That is an interesting one! I found that little thread too while looking around for clues, but I like your take on it. I'm sure Gollum would have lots to say about the benefits of the One Ring if he could get it back. ;p
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  8. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    I agree with what has been said here. You swear on the Bible by placing your hand on it, and Frodo certainly isn't going to allow Gollum to do that with the Ring. Of course, you also swear on your mother's grave from a distance, but that is what is meant by 'by' here. Like swearing by all that is holy - you name what you are swearing by without seeing or touching it.
    Milthaliel likes this.

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