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Cross-Franchise Character Analysis: Gollum, Frodo, Jon Snow, and Daenerys Targeayon

Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

Frodo and Gollum, John Snow and Daenerys Targeayon

Gollum. Frodo Baggins. Jon Snow. Daenerys Targeayon. They are four different characters across two franchises ("Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones") appearing to have very little in common. Yet, the one common denominator that they do share is the undertaking of a great mission that will affect their worlds forever, but at a great cost. Here are the areas where it shows up for all these characters in their respective franchises.

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Gollum and Frodo Baggins

Gollum is a Hobbit who was corrupted by the lost One Ring of Sauron while fishing with his cousin, Deagol. Gollum kills Deagol, who was also corrupted, but is cast out of his society because of what he’s done. Over the next few centuries, he hides in the Misty Mountains with the Ring, the corruption now manifesting physically as a skinny and bent being. Eventually, it is stolen by another hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, while fleeing from Goblins.

Distressed and obsessed, Gollum leaves the Misty Mountains while desperately searching for the location of his precious. Over the course of many decades, he is eventually captured and tortured by Sauron, now looking for his jewel. Gollum somehow escapes and manages to follow the current holder of the ring, Frodo Baggins, Bilbo’s nephew.

Frodo volunteers to undertake a secret mission to destroy the One Ring. The journey is arduous as the fellowship he is a part of breaks up and the Ring’s increasing influence bears down harder and harder upon him, trying to corrupt the Hobbit. Finally, he reaches Mt. Doom where the evil jewel can be destroyed but is at last consumed by its evil. The mission only succeeds when Gollum, who had been leading Frodo to Mt. Doom while unaware of the bearer’s purpose, falls over the edge while fighting over it with Frodo. Gollum falls all the way down into Doom’s fire.

Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow

Daenerys Targaryen is the last of a royal line of rulers from Westeros that were overthrown. All of her family are dead except for her older brother, Viserys, who marries her off as part of the dream of retaking Westeros with a new army. However, Viscerys is killed and Danerys eventually takes control of her husband’s army, the Dothraki, as well as three dragons. She decides to continue her family’s dream of retaking the Iron Throne, but at the same time as liberating the world from slavery and corruption. After years of betrayals, tribulations, and victories in Essos, Daenerys eventually manages to return to Westeros.

As she gets closer to her goal, she becomes more driven and focused on regaining the Iron Throne, yet is antagonized by losses from the forces of the ruling Queen Cersei, a side war with the Night King, a less than friendly welcome from the Westerosi, and most importantly, the revelation that one of the rulers who does actually submit to her, Jon Snow, is also an heir to the Iron Throne but with a stronger claim than her own.

Jon himself thought he was the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark and chose to go to the wall in the north to join the Night's Watch: protectors of Westeros against the legendary evil that resided in the deep north. During his tour of duty, he becomes increasingly hardened by the weather and battles with the local population, the Wildlings, and traitors amongst his comrades. All these challenges paled in comparison to his encounters with the White Walkers, the great evil that everyone thought were just legends and fairy tales. Jon soon makes the defeat of the White Walkers his mission in life, trying to organize the rest of Westeros against the growing threat.

He gets sidetracked with other adventures and battles, which ultimately put him as the King of the North. As he now tries to recruit allies to his cause, he meets Daenyrs, who by this time was at war with Cersei. They are at odds with each other at first because of their conflicting life missions: Jon wants an ally against the White Walkers or at the very least, the resources of Dragon Stone for his army. Daenrys wants John to submit to her and aide her in defeating Cersei, not believing in the northern threat. Over time, they come to respect each other and become lovers. Together, they then focus on the northern war. Yet during the conflict, Jon is revealed to be the last surviving male Targaryen heir, outranking his lover’s by right of tradition. Putting this aside because of being disinterested in ruling, his love for Daenyrs, and because of the loyalty he swore, Jon follows through on his word to aide in Daenrys’ war.

Despite this, Daenrys increasingly grows paranoid. Her losses continue to mount and nothing she does seems to win over the Westerosi. Even Jon’s loyalty is suspect because others will push for him to claim the Iron Throne over her. This culminates in the battle and massacre at King’s Landing where Daenerys is at last victorious, breaking the cycle of regicide that followed the Iron Throne. However, this act horrifies Jon enough that he is finally convinced to kill Daenerys because she has become a threat equal to the Night King, expanding her mission to one of conquest rather than just regaining her family’s place.

"... this isn't about the nobility of one pair over another because all four people are complex and flawed."

Whatever It Takes

What we have here is two pairs of people that are driven by missions in life they believe to be larger than themselves. For Frodo and Gollum, their missions revolve around the Ring: one to destroy it and save Middle-Earth, and the other to regain it and quell his decades-long obsession.

Likewise, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen also dedicate themselves, but to two different missions. Jon wants to destroy the White Walkers and save the world. Daenyrs wants to save the people and rule the world. Their life mission is what makes these characters similar.

All of them are willing to commit and sacrifice to achieve these ends, and be assured they all do. All of them have difficulties both within and without that they try to overcome that threaten their missions. And all of their missions revolve driven by an external or looming presence: the One Ring, the Iron Throne, and the White Walkers.

Turning the Coin

The interesting thing about this is how the pairs switch off and at the same time differ. For Frodo and Jon Snow, their worlds are saved, but the personal cost was so severe that they were left drastically altered. Frodo is weighed down by the after effects of the now-destroyed Ring. The corruption, along with the spiritual and physical wounds that he suffers from the Witch-King never healed and leave him a haunted individual, even more so than the rest of the fellowship.

Something similar happens with Jon. His mission has cost him two lovers, his family, his trust in some of his family, the trust of the northern people, and the burden that he is the rightful ruler of Westeros: a responsibility he doesn't even want. In fact, part of Jon’s internal struggle has been that he has never wanted leadership or titles like everyone else in the Game of Thrones world. Despite that, all of these things are thrust upon him anyway and Jon’s morality compels him to rise up to those expectations, no matter the cost. By the end of the show, he is weary and tired of everything, almost happily accepting exile back north.

For both characters, the only real solution was to leave the worlds they saved: Frodo sailing for Valinor and Jon leaving his post on the wall to live in the far north with the Wildlings, the only people who truly accepted him without wanting something from him.

Contrast this with Gollum and Daenrys. Both their missions were motivated to some degree by personal gain or ego. Gollum to regain his ring/addiction and Daenerys to become the savior of all the world because of who she is. Both characters pursue the physical manifestations of their goals, the One Ring and the Iron Throne, and are willing to do anything to get it when closer to their goals. Perhaps most tragically though is that both missions cost them their lives once the goal is achieved.

Everyone Pays in the End

At the end of the day, this isn't about the nobility of one pair over another because all four people are complex and flawed. Even Gollum, who was originally Smeagol, was not initially a murderer until the Ring corrupted him, turning the hobbit into Gollum. Except for Jon Snow, the objects in these characters’ missions seem to bring out their worst aspects.

The missions were so large, so grand, so weighted with expectations and constantly pushing personal limits, that to come out unscathed was impossible. While all characters achieve what they wanted, but are never able to enjoy that victory.

© 2019 Jamal Smith