“Stupid Haphazard Important Things I Think About.” #1 “In the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair, and Gollum, the evil one, crept up and slipped away with her.”

Yeah, I know. “Ramble On,” is older than dirt. I heard it first when I was fifteen, which was back in the late Pleistocene Era. It was the day I took the PSAT, had a fever of 103, and went on my first blind date. Ot was one of the worst days I had in my teen years. But, strangely enough, I love that song, though this lyric began to bug me since 1973, years after I heard it first on that dark day.
I did not have a problem with it at all until I read The Lord of the Rings and began a life-long fascination with that work and author. M.J. Downing is a bonafide Tolkien geek and resigned to it. But before I read about Mordor and Gollum, I was always thinking about meeting “a girl so fair” somewhere, anywhere, and imagining such a thing in the days “when magic filled the air,” was too cool for me to contemplate. “Ramble On” always has a strong autumnal vibe for me, since I heard it first in the Fall and was swept away on the tide of wandering which Jimmy Page’s guitar work created in me that day. I have struggled to learn it on guitar and have failed each time. Not a problem, though, for I fail at much on the guitar. Still, that song is moody, dreamy, otherworldly.
So, then I read LOTR. Pretty quickly, I caught on to the idea that Gollum is anything but “the evil one.” This, I caught onto because of many hours on conversations with H. Michael Brewer. He’s a good bit smarter than I am, and he helped me catch on to the fact that if it wasn’t for Gollum, Sauron would have won. Old Smeagol put the Ring in the fire and Baradur crashed. Frodo failed, which was the burden/blessing that took him off to Valinor. Having many failures, I still rejoice in wearing my “Frodo Lives” cap. Sinner/saints, we’re all gonna fall short, etc.
None of that makes Gollum a hero, but there are far worse villains in the story. He’s just the sort of kid that my Dad didn’t want me to play with. He’s the one who will sucker punch you just because he can. He likes to hurt weaker things. He cheats at everything. He may well be a victim, and he isn’t past redemption, but he is far above my pay grade to help. He’s gonna need a whole team of skull-jockies just to get to his first layer of crazy. But pure evil, nope. Deeply flawed. Very human. Also, very dangerous, he is to be pitied, understood, if possible, from a distance.
But here’s the real issue I have with that song: if you meet a girl in Mordor, I don’t care how fair she looks, she ain’t! Run away from her! It isn’t like she could have grown up there, gone to school at Mordor prep, was on the cheer squad. No. She’s bad news. She’s the worst news a young fellow could get. If she’s in Mordor, she probably came with Gollum or some other unsavory type and is looking to inflict some damage on somebody, anybody, before she goes off with Gollum again. Sometimes, it’s impossible to tell how far “the bad boy” image works on a girl.
See? That line is just nuts. Sure, it makes plenty sense as a lyric, but if you let yourself think like that, you’re in deeply Stupid Hazardous Important Things. And it’s like Rob Gordon (John Cusack’s character) says in High Fidelity, Am I messed up because I listened to pop music or do I listen to pop music because I’m messed up? Given my history with”Ramble On,” and the many mistakes I’ve made it’s hard to say.
Pax,
M.J.

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