An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Smeagol was a person of Hobbit-kind who committed murder to obtain the One Ring. The Ring consumed his mind and body and he became the creature known as Gollum, but a part of his former self survived. When the Ring was lost he set out to recover it, but in the end he was instrumental in the Ring's destruction.
Smeagol's people lived in the Vales of the Anduin near the Gladden Fields. They were descended from the Stoor branch of Hobbits who had migrated there from Eriador around 1356 of the Third Age. They remained more primitive than the Hobbits who settled in the Shire but they shared common customs and traits.
Smeagol was most likely born in the early to mid-2400's. He was a member of a large, prosperous and respected family. His grandmother was the family matriarch and Smeagol lived in her smial. Smeagol was curious and inquisitive and he liked to burrow under things to see what lay beneath.
On Smeagol's birthday in 2463, he went fishing in the Gladden Fields with his friend Deagol, who was most likely related to Smeagol in some way. Deagol was pulled into the water by a fish and he emerged with a gold ring that he had found on the riverbed. Unknown to Smeagol and Deagol, it was the One Ring belonging to the Dark Lord Sauron which had been lost when Isildur was slain in the Gladden Fields in the year 2.
When Smeagol saw the Ring he immediately desired it and he asked Deagol to give it to him as a birthday present. Deagol refused, so Smeagol strangled him and took the Ring for himself. He hid the body and no one ever knew what had become of Deagol.
Soon after he returned home, Smeagol discovered that the Ring turned him invisible. He used it for malicious purposes such as stealing and learning secrets. Smeagol was shunned and despised by his family and they started to call him Gollum because of the strange noises he began to make in his throat. Finally Smeagol's grandmother threw him out of her home.
Smeagol wandered north along the Anduin. He grew to hate the light of the Sun. One day he followed a stream up into the Misty Mountains and found a cave that led him to the roots of the mountains. Smeagol left the outside world behind and descended into the darkness.
For nearly 500 years, Gollum lived on an island in a subterranean lake in a cavern far below the surface. He used a small boat to catch fish and sometimes he used the Ring to sneak up on Orcs. He had discovered no great secrets under the mountains, only darkness and emptiness. He was wretched and lonely and the murder of Deagol haunted him.
Gollum's mind was consumed by the Ring, but it was not utterly destroyed. A small part of his former self survived. His body gradually changed so that he was nearly unrecognizable as Hobbit-kind. He became emaciated and he lost much of his hair and all but six of his teeth. In the dark his eyes became pale and luminous and his sight grew keen.
The Ring prolonged Gollum's life but it did not cause him to fade because he was of tough Hobbit stock and because he did not need to put it on very often in the gloom of his cave. He kept the Ring in his pocket for a time until he could bear it no longer, and then he hid it in a hole on his island. But the Ring constantly preyed on his mind and he kept taking it out to hold it and look at it. The Ring became a torment and a burden to Gollum, and yet he called it his Precious and he could not let it go.
"He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself. He could not get rid of it. He had no will left in the matter."The Ring had a will of its own. It sensed that Sauron was regaining strength and it sought a way to return to its Master. Gollum was of no further use to the Ring, so one day in the summer of 2941 while Gollum was hunting Orc meat, the Ring abandoned him.
The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Shadow of the Past," p. 64
But then something unexpected occurred. The Ring was found by Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit from the Shire who was lost in the Misty Mountains. Bilbo put the Ring in his pocket and then stumbled into the subterranean lake. Gollum spotted Bilbo from his island and became intensely curious. The part of Smeagol that remained wanted to speak to this creature who reminded him of his former life, but Gollum was mainly interested in how Bilbo would taste.
Gollum proposed a Riddle-game with the conditions that he if won he would eat Bilbo and if Bilbo won Gollum would show him the way out. Bilbo's riddles did indeed remind him of the outside world, but this began to make Gollum angry and he grew impatient with the game. He sat down next to Bilbo and the Hobbit became so flustered he could not think of another riddle.
At that moment Bilbo's hand touched the Ring and he asked, "What have I got in my pocket?" This was more of a question than a riddle but Gollum tried to answer it and failed and Bilbo demanded to be shown the way out. Gollum had no intention of keeping his promise even though the Rules of the Riddle-game were sacred. He went back to his island to get the Ring so he could kill Bilbo, but his Precious was gone.
Gollum realized that Bilbo had the Ring in his pocket. Desperate to get his Precious back, he returned to shore intending to kill Bilbo. But the Ring slipped onto Bilbo's finger and Gollum passed the Hobbit without seeing him. Gollum thought Bilbo was escaping so he ran to the Back-door leading out of the mountains and Bilbo was able to follow him.
Gollum crouched near the exit waiting. Bilbo considered killing Gollum, but he felt pity for the creature's wretched existence and spared him. Gollum felt Bilbo leaping over him and tried to grab him but the Hobbit escaped. Gollum uttered a bloodcurdling shriek and cried:
"Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!"Gollum could not follow Bilbo because of the Orcs guarding the exit and the light of the Sun outside. He returned to his cave defeated. But his need for the Ring gnawed at him and he became obsessed with getting it back and seeking revenge on the one who had taken it. It took three years for Gollum to work up the nerve, but at last in 2944 he left the darkness under the mountains. In this the absence of the Ring helped somewhat, for physically he felt a bit stronger free of his burden.
The Hobbit: "Riddles in the Dark," p. 98
Traveling in the dark of night, avoiding even moonlight, Gollum slowly followed Bilbo's trail. He passed through Mirkwood and made his way to Lake-town and on to Dale. There he overheard stories of Bilbo's role in the quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the Dragon. He also learned that Bilbo came from a land west of the Misty Mountains called the Shire.
Gollum made his way back through Mirkwood intending to continue west to the Shire, but he found his path turning gradually southward. He was being drawn toward Mordor. Long years of bearing the Ring made him susceptible to the call of Sauron, who was gathering all evil to him.
The journey took many years. Gollum ate what animals he could catch, and the Woodmen of Mirkwood said that he even stole infants from their cradles. When at last he reached Mordor, Gollum skulked around the borders exploring secret places and paths. He hoped to find allies who would help him regain the Precious. In the pass called Cirith Ungol in the Mountains of Shadow, Gollum found a tunnel leading into Torech Ungol, the lair of the Great Spider Shelob. Gollum groveled before Shelob. He feared her yet he was drawn to her evil will.
Gollum was eventually captured and brought to Barad-dur where he was questioned and tortured. Sauron wanted to extract information from him about what had become of the Ring. But Gollum was tougher than Sauron expected, both because of his Hobbit roots and because Gollum's own need for the Ring was so strong that he did not want Sauron to find it. Eventually under extreme duress, Gollum revealed the names Baggins and Shire, but he led his captors to believe that the Shire was in the Vales of the Anduin where he had once lived rather than across the Misty Mountains in Eriador. Sauron allowed Gollum to escape because he wanted Gollum to lead him to the one who bore the Ring.
On February 1, 3018, Gollum was captured by Aragorn on the outskirts of the Dead Marshes. Aragorn seized Gollum and put a rope around his neck. Gollum struggled and bit Aragorn but to no avail. Gollum was led through the northern Emyn Muil to the Anduin above Sarn Gebir. Aragorn tied him to a log and swam across the river with him. They went north through the eaves of Lothlorien and over the Gladden Fields to the Carrock. Aragorn then brought Gollum back across the Anduin and led him to the Woodland Realm of Mirkwood. The Elvenking Thranduil agreed to hold Gollum captive.
On March 23, Gandalf arrived and began to question Gollum. Gollum cursed and muttered and wept, but at length Gandalf learned of the finding of the Ring and the murder of Deagol and of Gollum's pursuit of Bilbo and capture by Sauron. After a week, Gandalf departed leaving Gollum in the care of the Elves.
Sauron's servants in Dol Guldur on the western edge of Mirkwood became aware that Gollum was being held prisoner in the northern part of the forest. On June 20, Gollum was at the top of a tall tree that stood alone in a clearing which the Elves allowed him to climb. He refused to come down and suddenly the Elves were attacked by Orcs and Gollum escaped. The Orcs were supposed to bring Gollum back to Sauron but he managed to elude them as well.
Gollum swam across the Anduin. Hunted by Elves, Orcs, and Nazgul, he entered Moria through the East-gate. He still wanted to find the Shire so he made his way westward, though he became lost in the tunnels. When he found the West-gate he could not figure out how to open the doors and he was too weak to push them outward regardless.
Gollum had not been at the West-gate long when on January 13, 3019, the doors opened and nine people entered including Frodo Baggins. Frodo now bore the One Ring and Gollum could sense it. He followed the Fellowship through Moria back toward the East-gate. It is not known how he managed to escape from Moria after the Bridge of Khazad-dum was destroyed. He may have preceded the Fellowship across the bridge or he may have found another way out.
On January 15, Gollum followed the Fellowship into the eaves of Lothlorien despite his fear and hatred of Elves. He began to climb the tree where Frodo was resting in a flet, but Haldir scared him away. On January 24, Gollum was captured by Ugluk, an Uruk-hai from Isengard whose master Saruman was also seeking the Ring. Under torture, Gollum revealed some of what he knew of the Fellowship's journey but managed to escape.
Gollum bided his time. He was lurking on the western bank of the river when the Fellowship left Lothlorien on February 16. He followed them down the Anduin by clinging to a log. One night he approached the Fellowship's boats as they camped, but Frodo saw him and drew Bilbo's old sword Sting and Gollum fled. Gollum did not reveal himself again, but he continued to follow the Fellowship at a distance.
The Fellowship was attacked by Orcs on February 23 and Gollum fled into the Emyn Muil on the east bank of the Anduin. On February 26, the Fellowship was broken and Frodo and Sam Gamgee set out on their own. They entered the eastern Emyn Muil and Gollum picked up their trail. He was driven by his need to regain the Ring.
"Where iss it, where iss it: my Precious, my Precious? It's ours, it is, and we wants it. The thieves, the thieves, the filthy little thieves. Where are they with my Precious? Curse them! We hates them."Gollum was crawling down a cliff at the edge of the Emyn Muil when he was seized by Sam. Gollum struggled and got Sam into a stranglehold. Frodo held Sting at Gollum's throat and demanded that he release Sam. Gollum begged for mercy and Frodo was moved by pity and spared the creature's life.
The Two Towers: "The Taming of Smeagol," p. 220
Gollum guessed that the Hobbits were going to Mordor and Frodo confirmed his fears. Gollum felt himself being drawn to the Black Land by Sauron's will but he was terrified at the thought of returning there. As soon as the Hobbits closed their eyes to rest Gollum tried to escape, but Frodo and Sam were expecting this and caught him. They tried tying him but the rope made by the Elves hurt him.
Gollum then offered to swear on the Precious. Frodo warned him that such a promise would bind him. The Ring-bearer appeared stern and lordly as Gollum groveled at his feet and swore to serve the Master of the Precious, yet the Ring formed a connection between them.
The rope was taken off and a change came over Gollum. It seemed as if the Smeagol part of him had come forward. He spoke directly to the Hobbits and he seemed eager to please. He led them by a secret way he knew through the Dead Marshes.
One night a Nazgul mounted on a Fell Beast flew overhead. Smeagol was terrified and afterwards although he was outwardly friendly, the Gollum part of him had come forth once more. He could sense the Eye of Sauron growing stronger as they approached the Desolation of the Morannon.
When the Hobbits were apparently sleeping, the Smeagol and Gollum halves debated. Smeagol felt bound to his promise to serve the Master of the Precious. Gollum argued that if they took the Ring then they would be Master and would need to serve no one. They could even keep the Ring from Sauron and become mighty themselves. Smeagol was reluctant to harm Frodo, but Gollum said that all Bagginses were their enemies, and he began to form a plan to lead the Hobbits to Shelob.
The next day, the Black Gate proved guarded and impassable but Frodo was determined to try. Their guide begged them not to go and then said he knew a secret way into Mordor. Sam had overheard the nocturnal debate and was suspicious. He could not tell whether Gollum or Smeagol was dominant, but he knew that both wanted to keep the Ring away from Sauron.
Frodo recognized that the creature's fate was tied to the Ring and to his quest. But he warned Gollum that the Ring was treacherous and would try to twist his promise and could betray him in the end. Frodo said that if necessary he would put on the Ring and Gollum would be unable to resist any command he gave.
Gollum was terrified and could not speak coherently for some time. At last he told the Hobbits of the road leading south to the Crossroads and the eastern branch to the Morgul Vale. There he said there was a Straight Stair and a Winding Stair and a tunnel that led into Mordor. He admitted that the way was guarded but said that it might be less guarded than other ways.
After much thought, Frodo accepted Gollum's guidance and they went south into Ithilien. Gollum was famished and hoped to find food there since he could not eat lembas. He caught two rabbits but was dismayed when Sam ruined them by making a stew.
Gollum slunk off into the underbrush. When Faramir and his Rangers discovered the Hobbits and led them to his refuge at Henneth Annun, Gollum followed them. Gollum found the Forbidden Pool and dove in to catch fish. Frodo called to him, and Gollum was reluctant to come until Frodo invoked the name of the Precious. As Gollum approached Frodo, he was seized by Anborn and he was bound and hooded and brought before Faramir for questioning. Gollum did not understand that Frodo was trying to save him; he believed that Frodo had betrayed him.
After they parted company with Faramir, Gollum led the Hobbits to the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. The Hobbits stopped to rest at the top of the Stairs, and Gollum went on ahead to Shelob's Lair. He bowed before Shelob and said he was bringing her sweet meat. Gollum thought he would be able to find the Ring among Frodo's clothes and bones when Shelob was finished with him, and then he would be able to take his revenge on Shelob and on everyone else.
When Gollum returned to the Hobbits, he found they were sleeping peacefully in each other's arms.
Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo's knee -- but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.For one moment, Smeagol was on the verge of repentance. Then Sam awoke and misinterpreted Smeagol's behavior and accused him of sneaking. The moment passed, and Gollum led the Hobbits straight into Shelob's Lair and abandoned them to her devices.
The Two Towers: "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol," p. 324
The Hobbits nearly managed to escape, but Shelob came after them. Sam was trying to warn Frodo when Gollum came up behind Sam and grabbed him. By Gollum's twisted reasoning, he was keeping his promise not to harm his Master by allowing Shelob to do the dirty work, but Sam was fair game. Gollum underestimated Sam's determination, however. Sam hit Gollum's arm and back with his lebethron walking stick and Gollum fled.
Gollum tracked the Hobbits after they escaped from the Tower of Cirith Ungol. He found the Orc-mail that Frodo had discarded and put it on just in time to avoid being killed by an arrow fired by an Orc tracking the Hobbits. Gollum had unwittingly covered up the Hobbits' trail. He himself became hunted when word came to the Orcs that he was wanted for questioning immediately.
On Mount Doom on March 25, Gollum found Sam carrying Frodo up the mountainside. Knowing that Frodo intended to destroy the Ring, Gollum attacked him. Frodo fought back with surprising fury and he cast Gollum down. Sam threatened Gollum with Sting while Frodo continued up the mountain, but Gollum begged for mercy and Sam let him go.
But Gollum did not intend to let his Precious go. He followed Sam into Sammath Naur and struck him on the head from behind. Frodo had claimed the Ring and put it on, but Gollum found him and the two struggled desperately on the edge of the Cracks of Doom. Then Gollum bit off Frodo's finger and he had the Ring in his possession at last. Distracted in his joy, Gollum lost his balance and fell over the edge into the fiery chasm below. The Ring was destroyed and Gollum was killed. His last word as he fell was, "Precious!"
Frodo recalled Gandalf's words that "Even Gollum may have something yet to do" (RotK, p. 225) and he forgave Gollum for his treachery, for without Gollum's intervention, the Quest to destroy the Ring would have failed.
Unfinished Tales: "The Hunt for the Ring," discusses the period between Gollum's captivity in Mordor and his discovery of the Fellowship in Moria.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letter #214 discusses Smeagol and Deagol's Stoor ancestry. Letter #96 and Letter #246 discuss Gollum's chance to repent on the Stair of Cirith Ungol.
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull: "The Departure of Boromir," p. 360 includes excerpts of Tolkien's Scheme which mentions Gollum's capture by Ugluk. Further details of Gollum's journey down the Anduin are on p. 344-45.
Smeagol murders Deagol and takes the One Ring.
Smeagol goes to live in the tunnels of the Misty Mountains.
Summer: Bilbo Baggins stumbles into Gollum's cave and finds the One Ring.
Gollum leaves his cave in the Misty Mountains and begins searching for the Ring.
Gollum begins to turn toward Mordor.
Gollum reaches the outskirts of Mordor and meets Shelob.
Gollum is captured by Sauron. He is tortured and questioned about the Ring and then is allowed to escape.
February 1: Gollum is captured by Aragorn.
Gollum is brought to Mirkwood.
March 23: Gandalf arrives and begins to question Gollum.
March 29: Gandalf leaves Mirkwood.
June 20: Orcs attack the Elves of Mirkwood and Gollum escapes captivity.
August: Gollum enters Moria through the East-gate.
January 13: The Fellowship enters Moria through the West-gate and Gollum begins to follow the Ring-bearer.
January 15-16: Gollum follows the Fellowship into Lothlorien and begins to approach Frodo but is scared away by Haldir.
January 17: Gollum lurks near Lothlorien, heading towards its southern borders.
January 24: Gollum is captured by Ugluk but escapes.
February 16: Gollum observes
the Fellowship's departure from Lothlorien and follows them.
February 18: Gollum follows the Fellowship downriver on a log.
February 19: Sam spots Gollum's log.
February 20: Gollum approaches the Fellowship's camp in the early hours but is scared off by Frodo.
February 23: The Fellowship is attacked by Orcs. Gollum heads for the Emyn Muil on the east bank.
February 26: The Breaking of the Fellowship. Gollum picks up Frodo and Sam's trail in the Emyn Muil.
February 29: Gollum is caught by Frodo and Sam. He swears to serve the Master of the Precious.
March 1-2: Gollum leads the
Hobbits through the Dead Marshes.
March 4: Smeagol and Gollum debate about what action to take. Gollum begins to form a plan to lead the Hobbits to Shelob.
March 5: The Hobbits reach the Black Gate and see that it's impassable. Gollum proposes to lead them by a secret way.
March 7: The Hobbits meet Faramir. Gollum evades capture and follows them to Henneth Annun.
March 8: Gollum fishes in the Forbidden Pool. He is captured by Faramir's men and believes Frodo betrayed him.
March 10: Gollum leads the Hobbits to the foot of the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.
March 11: Gollum visits Shelob.
March 12: Gollum returns to find Frodo sleeping and nearly repents but changes his mind when Sam accuses him of sneaking. He leads the Hobbits into Shelob's Lair.
March 13: Gollum attacks Sam while Shelob stings Frodo. Sam fights back and Gollum flees.
March 16: Gollum finds Frodo's discarded Orc-mail and narrowly avoids being killed by an Orc.
March 18: Sam spots Gollum near a water-hole, but Gollum slips away.
March 25: Gollum attacks Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom but Frodo fights him off. Sam spares Gollum's life. Gollum follows the Hobbits to the Cracks of Doom and attacks Frodo again and bites the Ring from his hand. Gollum falls into the Cracks of Doom and is destroyed along with the Ring.
The name Sméagol is derived from the Old English smygel meaning "retreat, burrow." Note that the word smial is derived from the same word.
Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings: "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age - On Translation," p. 414-15; Old English
The name Trahald is the equivalent of Smeagol. This is the name by which he was called in the language of his people. Like Smeagol, Trahald means "burrowing, worming in."
Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings: "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age - On Translation," p. 414-15
Smeagol came to be called Gollum by his people because of the strange noises he began to make in his throat after he acquired the One Ring.
The Hobbit: "Riddles in the Dark," p. 83; The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Shadow of the Past," p. 63
Gollum called the Ring "my Precious," but because his will was inextricably bound to the Ring he also referred to himself this way.
The Hobbit: "Riddles in the Dark," p. 83
Sam referred to the two aspects of their guide's personality as Slinker and Stinker. Slinker was the Smeagol part and Stinker was the Gollum part.
The Two Towers: "The Black Gate Is Closed," p. 246-47
Gollum the Great, The Gollum, Most Precious Gollum:
Gollum imagined these titles for himself once he claimed the Ring.
The Two Towers: "The Passage of the Marshes," p. 241
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