Readers are familiar with the anti-capital punishment sentiment of The Lord of the Rings, most memorably stated in Gandalf’s iconic and programmatic statement to Frodo, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” (Though it is worth noting that, in contrast to “sanctity of life” arguments, Gandalf doesn’t question the possibility of a person deserving capital punishment, only whether there is anyone really qualified to execute such a punishment.) And Gandalf almost certainly would have been opposed to the use of torture. Yet in his account to Frodo of his encounter with Gollum in the chapter “Shadows of the Past,” Gandalf confesses to having resorted in his impatience to the threat of torture: “I endured him as long as I could, but the truth was desperately important, and in the end I had to be harsh. I put the fear of fire on him, and wrung the true story out of him, bit by bit, together with much snivelling and snarling.” How Gandalf was able to use the mere “fear of fire” to “wring the true story” out of Gollum, we are not told, and it is possible that what is involved here is a unique, fictional ability possessed by Gandalf and which does not exist in and is therefore not repeatable in the real world. Even so, Gandalf appears to regret his having to make recourse to such measures (compare Augustine’s discussion in City of God 19.6 of the “miserable necessity” with which a magistrate may, Augustine seems to allow, be compelled in some instances to use torture), and it is a remarkable thing that Gandalf should be found availing himself in the end to such methods-of-last-resort in a story that is ultimately about the renunciation of all such pragmatic compromises (viz., under no circumstances is the Ring to be used, even to defeat Sauron himself). Are we to see this, then, as a momentary moral lapse on Gandalf’s part (it wouldn’t be the only instance), or are we perhaps to see Gandalf’s threat of torture as somehow, in some way, morally distinct from the act of torture itself? If the latter, what would the basis of such a distinction be?