All Lord of the Rings fans know that being awarded a place aboard the ships sailing west to the Undying Lands is an extreme honor for a mortal. Valinor, the sacred, heaven equivalent to Middle Earth is reserved solely for those few elves who still posses the gift of the Valar, and they are becoming less and less frequent themselves as the Age of Elves ends and the dominion of Men begins at the start of the Fourth Age.
However, for the very select few, a rare exception is made, and the gift of the valar is bestowed upon heroes of the War of the Ring, allowing them to depart to the Grey Havens and spend the rest of their days in peace away from the pain and suffering of wounds from batle. These lucky few include Gimli the Dwarf, the first dwarf to ever be allowed aboard the ships, Gandalf the Grey, who, as a maiar, is basically just returning home after his mission to shape the realm is complete, and of course the hobbits Frodo and Sam, who are reunited in the Undying Lands once Sam has lived a happy life with Rosie Cotton and their many children. And then there’s also old Bilbo, who has lived a long and exciting life full of adventures, but is quite ready to retire from all those mountains and trolls and dragons.
These mortals were awarded such a rare opportunity because they were part of the fellowship who got the ring of power all the way to Mordor to be destroyed within its fires. They all had difficult tasks and heavy burdens to bear, none more so than Frodo, the ultimate ring bearer, who wore the cursed objects always around his neck for over a year, and Samwise, who also bore the ring in order to help and protect his master Frodo.
But lots have fans have begun to wonder if Gollum, who was exposed to the malice and the torment of the ring for nearly 500 years, should also have been offered a place aboard the ships sailing into the west. In many senses, Gollum was just as essential in destroying the ring as Sam and Frodo, if not even more so, because he was the one who got them into Mordor undetected, and he was also technically the one who destroyed the ring, because if he hadn’t wrestled it from Frodo and bitten off his finger, it might never have ended up in the flames.
This question then, becomes a complex moral quandary surrounding what it is that makes you worthy of receiving the gift of the Valar and being allowed into the havens. Of course, it is difficult to say what would have happened, had Gollum survived. But in many instances throughout the journey, the creature did show that he was capable of repenting, and that it might have been possible to reverse the severe effects that the ring had had on him.
There were times when Smeagol, the more innocent and trusting of the two counterparts, genuinely wanted to befriend Frodo, and genuinely sought comfort with his new-found master in the feeling that Frodo finally understood him, and could relate to some of the pain and trauma he had been through at the hands of the ring. In this sense, is repenting and redemption enough, or do the evil deeds Gollum had already committed at that point outweigh his possibility for change and revival?
This also begs the question then, would Boromir have been allowed to go to the Undying Lands? For he too betrayed and deceived under the corrupting influence of the ring. Of course, his trespasses were less severe than Gollum’s, for he didn’t murder anyone like Gollum murdered Deagol, he simply tried to take the ring from Frodo, for the good of Gondor and its people, but also for his own greed and power. If he had survived, would he have been offered such an honorable place despite some of his poorer decisions?
There is of course, no one true answer, as this was a subject that Tolkien never addressed within any of his writing, but many fell that if Gollum had been able to heal and recover from his trauma, return to the Smeagol he was of old, and be a true friend to Frodo and Sam rather than plotting their murder so that he could reclaim the ring, then perhaps he should be, and possibly even would be, allowed to rest in peace in Valinor alongside the others, after his long and difficult life. For Gollum too, was a ring bearer, and played one of the most pivotal roles in winning the War of the Ring, for good or for ill.