|"Gollum" by John Howe|
|Location||Vales of Anduin, Misty Mountains, Mordor, Woodland Realm, Desolation of the Morannon, North Ithilien, Shelob's Lair, Sammath Naur|
|Birth||c. T.A. 2430 |
Near Gladden Fields, Vales of Anduin
|Death||25 March T.A. 3019 (aged c. 589)|
Mount Doom, Plateau of Gorgoroth
|Hair color||Thin, lank|
|Gallery||Images of Gollum|
Gollum, also known as Sméagol, was a creature (originally a Stoorish Hobbit) who bore the One Ring. He lived in the Misty Mountains for most of his life. In T.A. 2941 he lost the Ring to Bilbo Baggins. For the rest of his life he sought to recover his "precious" "birthday present". In T.A. 3019 he followed the Fellowship of the Ring and met Frodo Baggins. After leading Frodo into Mordor and betraying him to Shelob he finally seized the Ring in Sammath Naur. In his euphoria he died and destroyed the Ring after falling into the fires of Mount Doom.
History[edit | edit source]
Early life[edit | edit source]
Sméagol was a Hobbit of riverland Stoor-kind who lived on the banks of the Anduin in the later Third Age. Sméagol belonged to the reputable family of the stern and wise Matriarch. He spent the early years of his life living with his extended family during the Watchful Peace, when Sauron was in the East.
He had some amount of education in lore, as during his youth he had learned of the events concerning the War of the Last Alliance against Sauron. He also knew the riddle-game, and riddles that were known to their cousins in the Shire.
Around the year T.A. 2463, on his birthday, his friend (and close relative) Déagol offered him a cheap present. Later that day they went boating in the Gladden Fields, and as Sméagol was nosing at the banks, Déagol was pulled into the water by a large fish, and found a gold ring. Sméagol demanded the ring as a birthday present and strangled Deágol when he refused, and hid his body. Sméagol became the fourth Ring-bearer after Sauron, Isildur, and Déagol.
After this event, he returned home and understood he was invisible. He kept his treasure a secret and used it in malicious ways, to see and hear secrets and hurtful things. and was corrupted further by the ring. Soon he became unpopular and his peers avoided him; they often cursed and kicked him, and he bit their feet. Becoming a loner, he muttered to himself and gurgled in his throat, for which they called him gollum, and he survived by stealing. Eventually even his grandmother, desiring peace, banished him from their family and hobbit-hole.
Exile[edit | edit source]
Sad for the hard world, he wandered in loneliness up the River, and followed a stream. He spent time by some deep pools, aided by the invisibility of the Ring, he caught fish which he ate raw. Some time later eventually forgotten by him, the Sun started to scorch his skin and eyes, and as he looked up he noticed the Misty Mountains from which the stream ran down. He decided to go there, in the desirable darkness, safe from the scorching sun, with more "roots" and secrets to discover there. Indeed, by night he climbed up the highlands, and wormed into the little cave out of which the stream flowed.
The Ring's malignant influence twisted his Hobbit body and mind and prolonged his life far beyond its natural limits. The murder of Déagol haunted him, and as a psychological defence he repeated to it (as he talked to it) that it turned up to him so as to be his "Birthday Present" and his "precious".
Gollum lived longer than any other Hobbit could, and for over four hundred years he managed to live on a small island surrounded by a subterranean lake. He preyed upon any raw fish that he caught from his small raft, though sometimes he manages to catch Goblins from the nearby Goblin-town. In later years he found Hobbit and Elven food repulsive. The Ring's corrupting influence as well as centuries of isolation in the Misty Mountains took a deep toll on him both physically and mentally. He became disfigured and grotesque in appearance, and by the time he met the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins he was afflicted with almost complete madness.
Departure of the Ring[edit | edit source]
In July T.A. 2941, during the Quest of Erebor, Bilbo stumbled upon Gollum's lake 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 said later, the Necromancer was becoming more powerful, and it was a good time for the Ring to change hands and get back to Sauron.
While he was unaware of his loss, he met Bilbo Baggins who was lost, and it's possible that Gollum's own part of his mind was pleased to hear again a kindly voice that reminded him of the outside world, but this also made his evil part angrier.
After the famous Riddle-game, 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 became furious. Bilbo inadvertently 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!"
Into the wild[edit | edit source]
He stayed two more years in the Mountains although he was disgusted by the empty night, nasty furtive eating and resentful remembering. He hated darkness, light and the Ring most of all, but his addiction to it was so great that he overcame his hatred and fear of the light and the Orcs. He left and pursued Bilbo, but the trail was cold.
Hiding from the Sun and Moon, quickly and silently he moved by night, hunting small creatures. As the Ring was no longer devouring him, he was a bit revived, and new food and air made him stronger. He followed Bilbo's trail through Mirkwood and even reached Esgaroth and Dale. Spying on the Men of Dale he learned more about the thief and where he was from. Then apparently he decided to turn back and go West to find the thief, again through Mirkwood. The Elves of Mirkwood, apparently cooperating with Gandalf, tracked him. His presence terrified the beasts and birds, as he ate eggs and the young animals from nests and holes, even broke into houses and approached cradles of the babies of the Woodmen, who spoke about a blood-drinking ghost, until he reached again the Great River; then for some reason, as the Wood-elves say, he turned southwards and his traces were lost. And then Gandalf neglected the matter because he had much else to think at that time, which was a great mistake because it was the year when Sauron declared himself openly, and Gollum turned towards Mordor.
Thirty years later he reached the confines of Mordor, and met Shelob, who would help him take his revenge. As he ventured into Mordor he was captured by Sauron and for the next years he was forced to reveal what he knew about the Ring. Thus Sauron's spies learned from him that the One Ring was found, and the names "Shire" and "hobbits". Meanwhile (3001) Gandalf suspected that Bilbo's Ring was one of the Rings of Power and changed his plans to resume his search for Gollum, but that was in vain as his tracks had been too old now, and Gollum was in Mordor. By T.A. 3017 Gollum was set free, only to be caught at last by Aragorn at the skirts of the Dead Marshes. After many perils Aragorn led and turned him over to Gandalf. Gollum whined and cringed and licked his wounded hands and fingers.
The Wizard attempted to interrogate him and among Gollum's growling, snorting, curses and lies (he talked about his "birthday present", which his grandmother gave him among her magic rings) Gandalf endured many weary days. He had to threaten him with fire, and managed to learn of the story he didn't know bit by bit, but Gollum didn't say much after the departure of Bilbo as he feared Mordor more. Gollum felt misunderstood and ill-treated, exiled into a hole and then "robbed"; and spoke about revenge, thanks to his new friends. Gandalf placed him in the care of the Silvan Elves living in Thranduil's Woodland Realm of Mirkwood.
War of the Ring[edit | edit source]
In June of T.A. 3018, Orcs raided the Elves of Mirkwood (in an obviously coordinated attack) allowing Gollum to escape. He resumed his search of the Ring and presumably, he decided to hide into Moria in August, in order to lose his pursuers, the Elves and the servants of Sauron. However he could not open the Doors of Durin from the inside so didn't exit into Eriador to reach the Shire.
Presumably he stayed there for months, until the Fellowship of the Ring entered Moria from the Door on 13 January of the next year, and Gollum picked up the trail of the new Ring-bearer, Frodo Baggins, as they travelled through Moria. Two days later Gandalf was lost while fighting a Balrog and breaking the Bridge of Khazad-dûm; it is unknown how he crossed the chasm or the Bridge, but he came with them to Lothlórien without their knowing. Hiding somewhere around the shores of Anduin, Gollum spied their departure, and floating on a log, followed their boats down Anduin to Rauros.
He 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. Gollum also feared Frodo, and also thought that helping him would deprive Sauron of the Ring.
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, getting caught in the Forbidden Pool beneath Henneth Annûn. When Frodo allowed Faramir to briefly take Sméagol 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. On 11 March Gollum visited the great spider Shelob, 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. For this service to Shelob, the Orcs of Cirith Ungol knew Gollum as "Her Sneak".
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 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 creature.
Moments later, Frodo was standing on the edge of the Cracks 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.
Characteristics[edit | edit source]
Appearance[edit | edit source]
Sméagol was a Hobbit, but he spent long centuries (thanks to the Ring) in darkness and damp, influenced by its evil power. It is possible that thanks to his hardy Hobbitish nature that he was not reduced to a wraith. However, he was reduced to a small, extremely thin and wiry person, with scrawny neck, pale skin, flat feet, long thin hands with clammy fingers, and large pale eyes that seemed to glow. His sense of sight, as well as his hearing and smelling, were very good, due to the time he spent underground.
He could move and climb silently like a spider, and although he had only six teeth left, he could give deep bites, even able to bite off Frodo's finger.
Personality[edit | edit source]
Sméagol was quick and strong, the most inquisitive and curious-minded of his community. He was interested in roots and beginnings. He owed his name to his interest in roots and deep pools; he dove, burrowed and tunnelled under trees, plants, and mounds. He tended to neglect anything that was higher, like the flowers, the trees and looking at the hills.
During his centuries of loneliness and under the Ring's influence, he seems to have developed something similar to a personality disorder: his "Gollum" personality was a slave to the Ring and would kill for it, overwhelming his former self, who still vaguely remembered things like friendship and love. Not having anyone else to speak to, he often quarreled with himself. Gollum both loved and hated the Ring and himself. He often referred both to the Ring and himself as "my Precious", perhaps confusing the two entities.
Other aspects of the Ring's corruption was the aversion to all living creatures, especially the Elves and all things Elven. The Elven rope burnt his skin, and lembas tasted like dust to him and choked him.
Sméagol, as a Hobbit, was perhaps good at heart, but he was relatively greedy and mean. 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.
Etymology[edit | edit source]
Sméagol's name (pron. [ˈsmæ͡ɑːɣoɫ]), deriving from Old English sméah, is an adjective meaning "creeping in, penetrating". It is etymologically related to the word smial. 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.[source?]
Sméagol is the translation of an actual Westron name Trahald, the meaning of which was "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 Trāgu, and the Trah- stem in Trahald and Trâgu is thus an analogue of the Germanic stem present in both Sméagol and Smaug.
Smials. A word peculiar to hobbits (not Common Speech), meaning 'burrow'; leave unchanged. It is a form that the Old English word smygel 'burrow' might have had, if it had survived. The same element appears in Gollum's real name, Sméagol.
Pronunciation[edit | edit source]
In both the 1981 BBC radio adaptation and in Peter Jackson's films 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.
Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]
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.
In The Silmarillion, it is mentioned that the One Ring was found "ere the Kings failed in Gondor". This can mean that originally, Gollum's age was intended to be considerably more than six hundred years (further reinforced by certain places in The Lord of the Rings like Gollum referring to tales about an uncorrupted Minas Ithil or Gandalf comparing his people to "fathers of the fathers of the Stoors"). In fact it seems likely that Sauron leaving the Mirkwood in 2063 T.A. and some Hobbits settling there after that are details added for the purpose of making the smaller age possible; perhaps in order to make it possible for Gollum and the other characters to have the same language.
Inspiration[edit | edit source]
Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]
|Gollum in adaptations|
Films[edit | edit source]
1977: The Hobbit (1977 film):
- Gollum is a frog-like green creature, voiced by Brother Theodore. Here, his "Gollum" noise sounds like muttering instead of swallowing.
- Gollum is depicted as a skinny, dark grey creature, voiced by Peter Woodthorpe.
- Brother Theodore reprised his role from the earlier Rankin/Bass production. Some footage from The Hobbit was reused to introduce the viewer to the story.
2001-03: The Lord of the Rings (film series):
- Gollum is a CGI-motion capture creature voiced by actor Andy Serkis. He is barely glimpsed in The Fellowship of the Ring, where he is voiced by Dominic Monaghan in absence of Serkis. Gollum becomes a central character in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. The ground-breaking 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 Sméagol 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 Sméagol 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'.
Television[edit | edit source]
- Gollum is depicted as an old, white creature, portrayed by Kari Väänänen,the same actor who played Aragorn in the series.
Radio series[edit | edit source]
- The narrator refers to Gollum (voiced by Wolfe Morris) as "Galloom", even though Gollum himself manages to pronounce his name correctly. Gollum's role is based on that of the second edition of The Hobbit.
- Gail Chugg provided the voice of Gollum.
- Gollum is played by Jürgen von Manger.
- Gollum, again performed by Peter Woodthorpe, has the first lines of the play (save the narrator). He is described as "slimy and as dark than darkness".
- The voice of Gollum is provided by Karol Čálik.
- Gollum is played by Dietmar Mues.
2002-2003: Pán prsteňov (2001-2003 Slovak radio series):
- The voice of Gollum is provided by Ibrahim Maiga.
Games[edit | edit source]
- Gollum appears in the tunnels of the Misty Mountains. He will persistently speak riddles to Bilbo, and strangle him to death if he fails to answer them in time. However, if Bilbo puts the Ring on, then Gollum will not be able to see him. He can also be killed by Bilbo or his companions, even though doing so would seriously conflict with established canon.
- Gollum, voiced by Quinton Flynn, is seen thrice: first, in the introduction scene, he is stooping over his precious, dashing away from the camera. He is a creature in colour and clothing much like Jackson's version. He is briefly glimpsed again in Moria, but not more than a dark shape with a green outline can be seen. His most important role is in the final stages of the game: he can be seen atop several ridges, and can even be visited on a rock on the shores of Nen Hithoel. He throws a fish, the "Xiphiidae", at "Ranger". This will become the most deadly weapon in the game, and replaces Andúril in the weapon slots.
- Gollum is accompanying Sam and Frodo during Osgiliath mission and the is the final boss of the game at the Crack of Doom. Unlike all other enemies of the game, he takes no damage from any attacks - instead the players must perform combinations to push him into lava below.
2003: Sierra's The Hobbit:
- Gollum appears in a cut scene after the level "Riddles in the Dark". Only Bilbo's last riddle - "What have I got in my pocket?" - is shown, after which Gollum spouts out all possible answers in one sentence rather than in three turns. Gollum is a dark grey, hobbit-like creature with seven spiky teeth, who walks on all fours like an ape would, and like his Rankin/Bass counterpart, his "Gollum" noise is a muttering instead of a swallowing. He is voiced by Daran Norris.
- Gollum is a "Hero" unit for the Servants of the Enemy, used primarily for scout missions.
- Gollum is a "Hero" for the Mordor factions. His health is extremely low and his attacks extremely weak, but has value for the scout missions.
- In non-storyline battles, stealthed Gollum is roaming the map. If detected and killed, he drops The One Ring, which can give huge advantage to the side that gets it.
2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:
- Gollum is encountered thrice, though the player has yet to know his name. The first time he is met in southern Trollshaws, where the player prevents him from attacking the baby of two Fishermen; the second time he is seen in southern Mirkwood, where the player must defeat the Orcs who attempts to capture him, the third time is on the Shores of Anduin, where the player has to make sure he does not fall prey to the spiders.
2012: Guardians of Middle-earth:
- Gollum is a striker-type "guardian" with four abilities: Throttle, My Precious, Coward and We are starved.
- Gollum is featured in the game as a supporting character. In the game, set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Gollum is searching for the One Ring and encounters Talion, the protagonist of the game and helps him in his Quest.
2017: Middle-earth: Shadow of War:
- Gollum is featured in the game as a supporting character.
- Gollum will appear in the game as the player character.
[edit | edit source]
- Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, p. 167, entry "Gollum"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Taming of Sméagol"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Passage of the Marshes"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 214, (undated, written late 1958 or early 1959)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"
- Stan Brown, "Why hadn’t Gollum turned into a wraith long ago?", FAQ of the Rings (accessed 29 November 2023)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 31, (dated 24 July 1938)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "J.R.R. Tolkien reads from 'The Lord of the Rings' #1", J.R.R. Tolkien reads from 'The Lord of the Rings' #1 (accessed 29 November 2023)
- Bonniejean Christensen, Jared Lobdell (ed.), "Gollum's Character Transformation in The Hobbit", published in A Tolkien Compass, pages 7-26
- John Garth, "J R R Tolkien's Beowulf: one man's passion for the threshold between myth and reality" dated 29 May 2014, newstatesman.com (accessed 29 May 2014)
- Peter Jackson, "Production begins in New Zealand on The Hobbit" dated 20 March 2011, Facebook (accessed 21 December 2011)
- Radio Times, Volume 133, No. 1723, November 16, 1956
- The Hobbit (1968 radio series), "Riddles in the Dark"
- The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series), "The Long Awaited Party"
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), "3 Passages"
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), "Amon Hen"
- The Hobbit (2003 video game), "Riddles in the Dark"
- "Guardians of Middle-earth: Gollum", Guardians of Middle-earth official website (accessed 16 July 2012)
c. T.A. 2463 - 2941
briefly, 25 March, T.A. 3019
|Ring-bearers of the One Ring|
|Sauron (S.A. 1600 - 3441) · Isildur (S.A. 3441 - 25 September, T.A. 2) · Déagol (c. 2463) · Sméagol (c. 2463 - 2941) · Bilbo Baggins (2941 - 22 September, 3001) · Frodo Baggins (22 September, 3001 - 13 March, 3019) · Samwise Gamgee (13 March, 3019 - 14 March, 3019) · Frodo Baggins (14 March, 3019 - 25 March, 3019) · Gollum (25 March, T.A. 3019)|
|Also briefly held the Ring: Gandalf (13 April, T.A. 3018) · Tom Bombadil (27 September, T.A. 3018)|