In Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings, two of his greatest heroes, Frodo and Sam, seem to be at odds over their relationship with the wicked creature, Gollum. While Sam finds Gollum naturally repulsive and seldom hesitates to let these feelings be known, Frodo offers Gollum kindness, even calling him by his name, Sméagol, which Gollum had cast aside long ago. In Peter Jackson’s film version, Frodo appears to treat Gollum so well from a sympathy that overlooks his evil, to the point of naively trusting the deceptive Gollum over his faithful friend, Sam. Yet, in Tolkien’s writings, we get an entirely different view of Frodo. Rather than being blind to Gollum’s evil, it is Frodo’s keen awareness that allows him the ability to choose mercy over repulsion, love over hatred, and trust over fear. It is this free choice of Frodo that makes him rise above those natural reactions of Sam to which we can so easily relate. In so doing, Frodo offers an abundance of kindness for the wretched creature out of an extraordinary, supernatural charity.
Gollum, in his driving lust for the Evil Ring of Power that Frodo bears with the hope to destroy It in the Fires of Mount Doom, is bound and determined to follow Frodo and Sam. He will. It’s as simple as that, and Frodo knows it. The only thing that could stop Gollum would be his death, which seems a just reward for the malicious life he has led. From theft to murder, Gollum has committed so many evils, testified in his sickly, empty appearance. Neither Frodo nor Sam is deceived by that appearance: they know full well what evil Gollum can still do, and they are not about to let that evil loose. When tying a cord of the silver rope they received from the Lady Galadriel about Gollum’s ankle makes the creature scream out in pain, Frodo and Sam have to make a decision about what to do with Gollum, and—since Frodo is the master of Bag End at home, and his gardener Sam is his servant—this decision is ultimately Frodo’s. Demanding a solemn oath from the cursed lips of Gollum, Frodo decides to let Gollum lead them on to Mordor where the Ring must be destroyed. Frodo chooses to trust Gollum.
While Sam is greatly displeased, Frodo is ready to accept Gollum’s word in spite of the very horror of who Gollum is. Hoping against hope that Gollum yet has a chance to change—for, as Sam’s gaffer says, “while there’s life, there’s hope!”—Frodo tries to step out of his own natural aversion to the slimy creature and touch Gollum’s heart in his misery. Frodo speaks to Gollum with gentle kindness; he offers Gollum genuine (though not total) trust; he calls the creature “Sméagol”, inviting Gollum back to the goodness of life he once possessed. All this Frodo chooses freely to give to Gollum, not because of any false impression or attraction to the wretched creature, or even as a “reward” for any signs of Gollum changing. Instead, without any restrictions or requirements from Gollum, Frodo gives of himself in a special way out of a deep hope that Gollum could still turn from his wickedness and choose a new life.
This does NOT mean, however, that Frodo condoned Gollum’s past life and choices in any sense of the word. Where Sam saw malicious wickedness in Gollum, Frodo understood the horror of this wickedness to its very roots. Sam realized Gollum’s lust for the Ring; Frodo recognized Gollum’s total addiction and free, willful submission to the Ring. That Gollum would make such a lust the focus of his life brought natural abhor and repulsion to both hobbits. Sam responds naturally, preferring anything to being around Gollum. But Frodo does not choose to act only according to his natural reactions. Digging deeper, he chooses to act towards Gollum with all the charity he could muster, not for the person Gollum chose to be, but for the person Gollum was still free to become.
In spite of Frodo’s genuine heroic charity, Sam, Gollum, and apparently the screenwriters of Jackson’s film production, all believed that Frodo treated Gollum as he did because he felt a sympathy that arose not from charity, but from submitting to a sort of “poor guy” mentality. “It had always been a notion of his [Sam’s] that the kindness of dear Mr. Frodo was of such a high degree that it must imply a fair measure of blindness. …Gollum in his own way, and with much more excuse as his acquaintance was much briefer, may have made a similar mistake, confusing kindness with blindness.” Tolkien makes it very clear that this confusion of Sam and Gollum did not point to the truth. It was Frodo’s deep understanding of the true reality of Gollum’s evil that allowed him the freedom to reach out to the wretched creature with sensitivity to the depths of his being without embracing his evil. Frodo bore the moral strength to reach down to Gollum without collapsing himself in a silly, naïve sentimentality about the creature he clearly understood to be evil.
Frodo and Sam both experienced the wicked reality of Gollum, and yet responded in different ways. Sam reacted with aversion. Since Gollum was living in wickedness—from his past choices to his undoubtedly shady intentions for the future—it was natural for the pure and innocent soul of Sam to turn away from that evil. Frodo, in his kindness towards Gollum, behaved not less, but more than Sam, as a master’s actions should rise above a servant’s. For “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master,” and Frodo did indeed rise above Sam in his charity. Frodo, searching beyond Gollum’s ugly exterior and the festering malice in his heart, took courage against his natural inclinations for the sake of the person Gollum could yet choose to be. Rising above the limits of nature, Frodo could desire to reach out to Gollum without accepting his evil, freely choosing to treat Gollum with simple kindness and open generosity, born of his extraordinary charity.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001), 626.
 The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, (Matthew 10:24), National Council of the Churches of Christ, 1971, accessed 8 December, 2015, https://www.biblegateway.com.