That thief, lust

"Smeagol" | Art by OtisFrampton. Used with permission.

In The Lord of the Rings, there are two characters who lose their names. Their names are stolen from them, really. Stolen by that thief, lust.

That poor, little dude Smeagol is the first of lust’s victims. Smeagol is the embodiment of lust. The way the power of the Ring works on him is so clear, so apparent, he should be under the definition of lust in the dictionary. It’s downright obvious.

And sometimes lust is downright obvious. Smeagol becomes Gollum almost instantly. His lust is so transformative, he kills his best friend within minutes of finding the Ring. His lust is so revolting that it serves as an immediate warning for anyone who meets him.

More often, however, I think lust is subtle, more deviously sneaky—and that’s when it is the most dangerous.

Both Gollum and Wormtongue lose themselves so completely to lust that they become someone else.

Take our second character, Grima, for instance. He’s slimy, he’s creepy, and he makes no bones about what he wants. Like Gollum, by the time we meet him, it’s clear what he’s about and nobody likes or trusts him… except for King Theoden.

Theoden has thrown off every good advisor in his kingdom, including beloved members of his family. He used to be a wise, loving person, so we can conclude that something very powerful must have been working on him. But it’s also apparent that what’s happened to Theoden has been a gradual change.

If Gollum showed up in the court of Rohan, he would have been imprisoned or killed on the spot.  Grima, on the other hand, better known as Wormtongue, is not only allowed access to the King, but is a trusted advisor. His lust, because of how it is disguised, transforms not only him, but the individual he has latched himself onto.

Wormtongue leagues himself with the evil of Saruman believing that he will eventually get what he wants: power, control, and, of course, Eowyn. In his pursuit, he transforms from a heroic man of Rohan into a dark, slimy mole. Wormtongue most likely didn’t succumb to lust instantaneously; it must have taken its time to groom, desensitize and engender apathy in him. Little by little, it consumed him.

Let’s face it… sometimes it’s so much easier to let someone else be in charge; while I don’t condone Wormtongue’s actions, I can understand why he’d give up the reigns of his life. Little by little, Wormtongue loses who he is and this spreads to Theoden, almost like a virus.

I’m always grossed out when I watch Wormtongue leering at Eowyn. And everyone saw that he was making Theoden ineffective. Why didn’t anyone do anything about it sooner?

More often, however, I think lust is subtle, more deviously sneaky.

I think there’s just something about lust that protects itself from interference. Maybe it’s the gross factor, but it can have the power to make others move away and not get involved.

Both Gollum and Wormtongue lose themselves so completely to lust that they become someone else—people even stop referring to them by their proper names.

I have found lust to bring nothing but illusion, delusion, frustration and isolation. And I have found that it doesn’t usually happen overnight. When I notice myself getting into something that isn’t good for me, I make a point to change. But lust can be tricky—like faerie glamour—it presents itself as something that it’s not. For Gollum, it was a precious companion that he would do anything—and I mean anything—to keep. For Wormtongue, it was a means to power.

I don’t like being tricked. I have been in the past, both by my own lust and the lusts of others. But the more I focus on what’s real and what’s in front of me, the more satisfied I am in life. I don’t want to be a Gollum and I don’t want to be a Wormtongue.  I want to be the person God made me to be—with my eyes wide open.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" is available from Paulist Press.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

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