Saturday, February 23, 2013

Seeing Gollum: Adventures Beyond the Shire


The girls and I have been reading the Hobbit lately and we've traced Bilbo and the dwarf company from the Shire all the way to the den of Smaug.Upon request from Big Girl to see pictures from the story, I brought up a few images of characters from the movie. She wanted to see Bilbo (who was not as round and hairy as she had imagined) and Smaug (who did not in the pictures live up to the ferocity of the dragon in her mind) and the dwarves. And she wanted to see Gollum. I found an image gallery. She wanted to see what he looked like when he was sad.

And then she didn't want to see any more.

It makes me feel uncomfortable in my tummy, she said. He's icky.

Yes, he is icky. I told her. We talked about greed, and how it was an terrible thing to be so consumed by desire for something that it made you ugly and miserable. We talked about how Tolkein made Gollum look icky to show that truth. That our hearts, without God, were just as horrid as Gollum.

I still wish I hadn't seen him. She said. He might give me bad dreams. I'm scared of him.

Uh-oh. Cue the Mama Guilt moment.

It's okay to be scared, I said. When you are scared of something you just have to put it in the proper place in your mind. Remember that Gollum was just something Tolkein imagined. He's not real.

Maybe I'll imagine Gollum's head on Smaug's body, she said, and started laughing. (How that is less scary I'm not sure but apparently it worked.)

But the Mama Guilt stuck. Maybe I'd gotten too excited at her newfound love of "adventurous stories" as she called them. Maybe I should have figured out that Gollum would be creepy in a way Smaug wasn't.....because Smaug, in all his scale and flame is completely /other/. When you look at Gollum, there is something that makes you squirm. He's vaguely familiar. He's the inversion of the hobbits we love and with whom we identify-- as if we're looking at our own darker and more wretched parts laid bare. Perhaps something in my little girl's heart picked up on an echo of that.

I thought. Then thought some more. She's halfway to seven. She's moving out of the safe, beautiful stories in which evil is toothless and good rarely
threatened. She's out of the Shire now. She wants adventure stories and she is going to sooner or later-- in the stories and in her life-- confront
uncomfortable characters. The more we read together, and the more she grows up, she'll learn the sad truth of what such characters can do to make trouble
and ruin. She'll learn what trouble and ruin lies in her own heart. I would, truth be told, rather her first encounter with "icky" to be the things we find
in a book. While I take seriously my job as her mother to guard her young heart and tender mind, I would rather her learn now how to put uncomfortable things in their proper place. Now, when I can shut the bad guy away and put him up on a shelf then cuddle her.

I don't want to see the movie, she said.

You don't have to.

Maybe when I'm seven. I'll be big then.

Oh baby girl, your Mama knows that. Your mama knows.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I love this post. You should get it published.