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Abstract

Uses the characters Sméagol and Déagol as jumping-off points to explore issues of secrecy, surveillance, propaganda, and censorship that were increasingly coming to the fore during World War I and the inter-war years. Although significant issues in their own right, these trends also point to a growing individual privileging of self-concealment and discretion over openness and intimacy, a process that dehumanized and eroded the social fabric. The Ring crystallizes these concerns into a single object, and Gollum’s relationship to it especially creates a tangle of themes of revealing and concealing. Also discusses Tolkien’s peculiar talent for “creation from philology” building on dēagan and smēagan, Old English word-elements invoking hiding, concealing, investigation, secrecy, interrogation, and private thought.

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