Originally known as Sméagol, he was later named Gollum after the disgusting gurgling noise he made in his throat. His birth can be estimated to have happened c. the year 2430 of the Third Age. His death date is given as March 25, 3019 of the Third Age. His life was extended far beyond its natural limits by the effects of possessing the One Ring. At the time of his death, Gollum was about 589 years old, a remarkable age for a creature who was once a Hobbit, but he had been deformed and twisted in both body and mind by the corruption of the Ring. One of his chief desires was to possess the Ring which had enslaved him, and he pursued it for many years after he lost it.
Also see: Timeline.
Once a Stoorish Hobbit, Sméagol spent the early years of his life living with his extended family under a Matriarch, his grandmother. Around the year 2463 T.A. Sméagol became the fourth Bearer of the One Ring, after Sauron, Isildur, and Déagol. Déagol was his cousin, and on Sméagol's birthday they went fishing in the Gladden Fields north of Lothlórien. It was there that Déagol found a gold ring, after being pulled into the water by a large fish. Sméagol demanded the ring as a birthday present and strangled Deágol when he refused. Sméagol was quickly corrupted further by the ring and, banished by his people, was forced to find a home in a cave in the Misty Mountains. The Ring's malignant influence twisted his Hobbit body and mind and prolonged his life far beyond its natural limits. He called it his "Precious" or his "Birthday Present," the latter as a justification for killing Déagol.
During his centuries under the Ring's influence, he developed a sort of multiple personality disorder: Sméagol, his "good" personality, still vaguely remembered things like friendship and love, while Gollum, his "bad" personality, was a slave to the Ring and would kill anyone who tried to take it. Years later, Samwise Gamgee would name the good personality "Slinker" (for his fawning, eager-to-please demeanour), and the bad personality "Stinker". The two personalities often quarrelled when he talked to himself (as Tolkien put it, "through not having anyone else to speak to") and had a love/hate relationship, mirroring Gollum's love and hatred for the Ring and for himself.
Departure of the Ring
In July, 2941 T.A, during the Quest of Erebor, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins stumbled upon the subterranean lake on which he lived and found the Ring. Gollum had lost the Ring in the network of caves leading to the lake, though in fact it is more proper to say that the Ring abandoned Gollum, for it was known to have a will of its own. As Gandalf says later, it looks after itself, trying to get back to Sauron. After the famous Riddle Game, during which Gollum was unaware of his loss, Gollum refused to show Bilbo the promised way out and plotted to murder him. When he went to get his "birthday present," however, he found that it was gone. He suddenly realised the answer to Bilbo's last riddle—"What have I got in my pocket?"— and flew into a rage. Bilbo inadvertantly stumbled across the Ring's power of invisibility as he ran, allowing him to follow Gollum to the entrance of the cave. There, Bilbo at first thought to kill Gollum, but was overcome with pity, so he jumped over him to escape. As Bilbo ran, Gollum cried out, "Thief! Thief, Baggins! We hates it forever!"
(In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum did not appear quite as wretched or as bound to the Ring. Tolkien revised this characterisation to fit the concept of the Ruling Ring developed during the writing of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien then explained the version given in the first edition as a lie that Bilbo made up to tell the Dwarves and Gandalf.)
Gollum left the Mountains and pursued Bilbo a few years later, but the trail was cold. He made his way into Mordor, where he was captured and forced to reveal what he knew about the Ring. Gollum was then freed, but caught by Aragorn who placed him in the care of the Silvan Elves living in Thranduil's kingdom in Mirkwood. He escaped into Moria.
Doings in the War of the Ring
In The Lord of the Rings, Gollum met and started following the Fellowship of the Ring in Moria, and was spotted and heard by Frodo on several occasions. On January 15, 3019 T.A. the Fellowship was divided when Gandalf disappeared while fighting a Balrog (though he later returned). Gollum continued trailing the remaining members. It is unknown how he crossed the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, but he came with them to Lórien without their knowing. Gollum followed their boats down Anduin (floating on a log) to Rauros and pursued Frodo and Sam across the Emyn Muil when they struck out on their own towards Mordor. Gollum followed them, but after a confrontation (in which he bit and nearly strangled Sam) Frodo subdued him. Frodo tied an Elvish rope around Gollum's ankle for a leash, but the mere touch of the rope pained him. Taking pity on the wretched creature, Frodo made Gollum swear to help them. Agreeing to the oath, Gollum swore by the "Precious" itself, and Frodo released him. The unlikely company, guided by Gollum, made their way to the Black Gate, the entrance to Mordor.
Frodo's kindness brought out the "Sméagol" personality, and he made at least some effort to keep his promise. The two had a strange sort of bond from both having been Ringbearers; in Gollum, Frodo saw his possible future, and so wanted to save him so he could save himself.
When the Black Gate was reached and found to be well guarded, Gollum convinced them not to go that way, saying that they would be caught and Sauron would regain the Ring. Gollum said he would lead them south, where he knew of another entrance into Mordor.
Frodo and Sam were caught by Faramir, and Gollum followed them. When Frodo allowed Faramir to briefly take him prisoner, however, he felt betrayed, allowing the "Gollum" personality to take control. Faramir found out that the place Gollum was taking them was called Cirith Ungol. He then warned Frodo and Sam of the evil of that place.
Frodo, Sam, and Gollum left Faramir and began crossing the pass of Cirith Ungol in the border-mountains of the Ephel Dúath. Gollum visited the great spider Shelob, child of Ungoliant, because he was planning to betray the Hobbits to her and then get the Ring for himself. When he returned the Hobbits were asleep. The sight of Frodo sleeping nearly moved Gollum to repent. However, Sam woke up and spoke harshly to Gollum, and all hope of redemption was lost. Gollum followed through with his plan and led Frodo and Sam into Shelob's lair.
Just as Frodo warned him, Gollum's betrayal of his oath ultimately led to his undoing, for Frodo and Sam escaped from Shelob's lair and came against all odds to the volcano Orodruin, or Mount Doom. Gollum followed them all the way, seeking a chance to surprise them and take the Ring. When Frodo and Sam had almost reached their destination, he attacked, but failed to get the Ring. Sam, who had hated Gollum on sight, tried to bring himself to kill him, but relented out of sheer pity and disgust, turning his back on the beaten (but still wily) creature.
Moments later, Frodo was standing on the edge of the Crack of Doom, but, unwilling to destroy the Ring, claimed it for himself and put it on. Then Gollum attacked again. The two fought whilst Frodo was invisible and finally Gollum bit off Frodo's finger.
Here Frodo's kindness in sparing Gollum's life was rewarded, for Gollum then teetered on the edge of the great pit, lost his balance and fell in, taking the Ring and finger with him with a last cry of "Preciouss!". Had Gollum not lived to play this final part, there would have been a good chance that Sauron would have regained the Ring, as he knew where Frodo was as soon as he put the Ring on.
He is described as being small, with large eyes that seemed to glow, as well as a scrawny neck and soft clammy fingers. He moved like a spider, and several references suggest that he was black in color, though it could be said that it only looked like he was black, as most if not all of the descriptions were in the dark. In the Hobbit it is mentioned that he has six teeth, but this statement probably changed in the the Lord of the Rings as he had the ability to give deep bites, and was able to bite off Frodo’s finger.
There is some debate about the nature of his impulse to kill Déagol. Some maintain that Sméagol, as a Hobbit, was good at heart, and it was entirely the Ring's doing. But the more popular and perhaps more likely opinion is that Sméagol was harboring dark thoughts to begin with. Their argument bases on several points, including (1) The sight of the Ring at the council or at many points in the journey of the Fellowship did not cause anyone to suddenly murdur someone else. (2) It is possible for Hobbits to be evil; for instance, Ted Sandyman and Lotho Sackville-Baggins. (3) In the chapter The Shadow of the Past, Gandalf mentions that Bilbo was corrupted far more slowly by the Ring because his adventures with it began with an act of mercy, while Gollum began his with murder.
Film and radio appearances
In the Peter Jackson film trilogy, Gollum is a CGI creature voiced by actor Andy Serkis, who also provided the voices of some of the Nazgûl and Orcs. Barely glimpsed in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), he becomes a central character in The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). The groundbreaking CGI character was built around Serkis's voice, movements and expressions, sometimes by using a motion capture suit which recorded his movements and applied them to the digital character, and sometimes by the more laborious process of digitally "painting out" Serkis's image and replacing it with Gollum's. In one such shot in The Two Towers, Serkis' real spittle can be seen emerging from Gollum's mouth.
In The Return of the King Serkis himself appears in a flashback scene as Smeagol before his degeneration into Gollum. This scene was originally earmarked for The Two Towers but held back because it was felt that audiences would relate better to the original Smeagol once they were more familiar with who he became. The decision to include this scene meant that Gollum's face had to be redesigned for the second and third movies so that it would more closely resemble Serkis'. (The brief glimpses in The Fellowship of the Ring are of an older portrayal of Gollum.)
Name & Pronunciation
Sméagol's name is actually another Old English one, from sméah, and adjective meaning "creeping in, penetrating". This title was also applied by the Anglo-Saxons to the Biblical Cain, from the story of Cain's murder of his brother Abel in Genesis. This draws a clear connection between the two.
In both the 1981 BBC radio adaptation and in the Peter Jackson movies Sméagol is pronounced as "SMEE-gol", although the placement of the acute accent suggests that the correct pronunciation is "SMAY-uh-gol". On the other hand, in Tolkien's recordings of The Lord of the Rings he also pronounced it "SMEE-gol" or "SMEE-AH-GOL", suggesting that éa should either be pronounced as a long "i"-sound or as a diphthong ea, and not as two distinct vowels "e" and "a". Tolkien had a habit in his writing to put diacritics in varying places, as can also be seen in the name Eärendil, which also occurs spelt Ëarendil. It should also be noted that "Sméagol" bears strong resemblance to Old English smēaġan, a verb meaning "to ponder". If this was Tolkien's intention, then the acute may have been meant to substitute for the macron. In any case, when trying to pronounce Sméagol, it should be kept in mind that the pronunciation rules given in the Appendices for The Lord of the Rings are for the Elvish, and not for (old) English representing Westron and related languages.
Sméagol's "real" Westron name was Trahald, of the meaning "burrowing, worming in" or "apt to creep into a hole". In both Westron and Old English, Sméagol's name is related to Smaug's: Smaug's name in "true Dalish" was Trâgu, and the Trah- stem in Trahald and Trâgu is thus a cognate of the Germanic stem present in both Sméagol and Smaug (with a meaning of squeezing through a hole.)