The best example of Tolkien’s views on ‘evil’ in Middle Earth is found in the fourth book, being the second part of The Two Towers. Here, Sam and Frodo meet up with Gollum. This is the true heart of the story; its emotional and moral center. From the Taming of Smeagol onward, the reader follows Gollum’s internal struggle: between the good Smeagol and bad Gollum.
Gollum is a justifiably detestable character, fearsome, disgusting at times and conniving. Yet miraculously, he is changed. In some manner, he is redeemed, if only temporarily. Nothing is evil from the beginning. Nothing is ever wholly evil either. Gollum gives us this knowledge. We find hope for the futures of Frodo and Sam; the Ring is not as indomitable to the spirit as it seems. Somewhere deep in Gollum, Smeagol reawakens in response to the kindness and friendship of Frodo. He is shown to be a weak, wretched and ancient creature. He is a creature worthy of great pity.
Tortured spirit that he is, who can blame him for falling back into the Ring’s power? He is afraid, greatly afraid. The Ring seems to be going closer and closer to Sauron. As well, Gollum is approaching Mordor once more, the sight of his captivity and great torture. His own self-interest battles with his affection for Frodo. In the end he looks out for his own skin and betrays the hobbits to Shelob. And yet, even then, some part of Smeagol remains in his refusal to harm Frodo himself.
The Ring can be thought of the one thing that gave some modicum of happiness, satisfaction or pleasure to Gollum. He yearns for it and hates it. It is comparable to an addiction or a bad habit. After so long a life that his own existence seems meaningless, the Ring gives Gollum meaning. In some ways it has become who he is, which would explain his own moniker: ‘My Precious.’ He is an empty shell. That void is filled through the mercy and care of Frodo. This is the heroism of Frodo, no more, no less. It may be this alone which ensures the destruction of the Ring.