i was introduced to Gollum while working on a farm in virginia. there were two dozen other farmhands but, when a task was very easy, we were sometimes assigned to work alone. one morning, i was asked to tidy up the watermelon fields by myself. (watermelon vines grow in all directions. now and then, we had to arrange them into rows so the tractor could drive through the field without crushing anything.) at lunch time, a truck arrived to bring me home.

"weren't you bored," my friend, casey, asked, "working out here by yourself?" oh no, i smiled, i was remembering Star Wars movies, word for word. "really?!" she asked, "how far did you get?" i answered in my best C-3PO voice, oh my goodness gracious me!

the next morning when we were working together in the strawberry fields, casey asked me to entertain everyone by remembering the movies outloud.

it only took me a few days to finish all three stories but my coworkers wanted to hear more. so, my friend coren volunteered his favorite story, the Lord of the Rings. the stopping points were governed by our tasks but coren managed, somehow, to end every session with a cliffhanger. gandalf's plummet into moria left me breathless. i begged him over dinner to tell me what happened next. he refused.

i'd tried to read The Lord of the Rings several times when i was younger but it never captured my interest the way coren's version did. scenes that might have been boring were made interesting by the meaning he projected upon them. his interpretations mesmerized me. i told him this over lunch one day. "i know what you mean," he said, "i felt the same way about your version of Star Wars."

the Weekly Alibi commissioned this portrait of Gollum for the cover of their holiday movie issue. (to see how it appeared in print, click here.)

© 2003 rama hughes