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~ Gollum's most famous quote (about his doomed obsession with the One Ring) and also one of the most famous quotes in cinema history.
Gollum, originally known as Sméagol or Trahald, is a creature of Hobbit origin and a major antagonist in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. Gollum is one of the two secondary antagonists in the novel The Lord of the Rings (alongside Saruman), and a supporting antagonist in the novel, The Hobbit.
He is a minor antagonist in both The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, a major anti-hero in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and the secondary antagonist of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. He is set to return in the 2022 videogame The Lord of the Rings: Gollum as the titular main protagonist.
He is a former Hobbit who is corrupted and transformed into a slimy, monstrous creature by the One Ring, which he calls "my precious". After losing the Ring to Bilbo Baggins, he hunts it for decades, eventually becoming part of the quest to destroy it when he is tamed by Bilbo's nephew Frodo. His all-consuming need for the Ring eventually leads him to betray Frodo and unintentionally destroy the Ring and himself.
In Sir Peter Jackson's adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, he was portrayed in motion-capture by Andy Serkis, who also played Mr. Grin in Stormbreaker, Spike in Flushed Away, Kertasnikir in Netflix's Hilda, Capricorn in Inkheart, Ulysses Klaue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Supreme Leader Snoke in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. In Rankin/Bass' animated adaptations of The Hobbit and Return of the King, he was voiced by the late "Brother" Theodore Gottlieb. In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated adaptation of Lord of the Rings, he was voiced by the late Peter Woodthorpe. In the 2003 Sierra Entertainment video game, he was voiced by Daran Norris.
Sméagol's life is a sad story. Yes, Sméagol he was once called… before the Ring found him — before it drove him mad.
~ Gandalf explaining Gollum's tragedy to Frodo
Originally a Stoor Hobbit, Sméagol spends the early years of his life with his extended family under a Matriarch, his grandmother. He was born circa the year 2430 of the Third Age.
In the year TA 2463, on his 33rd birthday, Sméagol becomes the fourth Bearer of the One Ring, after Sauron, Isildur, and Déagol. The latter is his cousin, and on Sméagol's birthday, they go fishing in the Gladden Fields north of the mountains. After being pulled into the water by a large fish, Déagol finds the Ring underwater and emerges from the river with his prize. Sméagol is immediately ensnared by the Ring and demands it as his "birthday present", but Déagol refuses. Sméagol strangles Déagol and claims the Ring as his own, his "precious".
Sméagol uses the Ring for thieving and antagonizing his relatives. The Ring corrupts his body and mind, forcing him to make a disgusting swallowing noise in his throat, for which his relatives nickname him "Gollum". Finally, his grandmother disowns him and throws him out of her home. He wanders for a few years, degenerating further as the Ring's hold on him grows until he makes a new home in a cave in the Misty Mountains. The Ring's malignant influence twists his Hobbit body and mind and prolongs his life far beyond its natural limits; he lives in his cave for 500 years while the Ring bides its time, waiting for Sauron to return. Gollum calls the Ring his "Precious" or his "Birthday Present", the latter as a justification for killing Déagol.
Living in the Misty Mountains
Gollum lived under the Misty Mountains for nearly 500 years, eating raw blind fish (which he catches in his small rowboat) and Goblins when he can get them. In later years, he finds Hobbit and Elven food repulsive.
During his centuries under the Ring's influence, he develops a sort of dissociative identity disorder: Sméagol, his "good" personality, still vaguely remembers things like friendship and love, while Gollum, his "bad" personality, is a slave to the Ring willing to kill anyone who tries to take it. Years later, Samwise Gamgee names the good personality "Slinker" (for his fawning, eager-to-please demeanor), and the bad personality "Stinker" (for obvious reasons). The two personalities often quarrel when he talks to himself (as Tolkien put it, "through not having anyone else to speak to") and have a love/hate relationship, mirroring Gollum's love and hatred of the Ring and of himself.
In July, TA 2941, during the Quest of Erebor, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins stumbles upon the subterranean lake in which Gollum lives and finds the Ring, which Gollum had lost while hunting an imp goblin in the network of caves leading to the lake. However, 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 infamous Riddle Game, during which Gollum is unaware of his loss, Gollum refuses to show Bilbo the promised way out and plots to murder him.
When he goes to get his "birthday present", however, he finds that it is gone. He suddenly realizes the answer to Bilbo's last riddle — "What have I got in my pocket?"— and flies into a rage. Bilbo inadvertently discovers the Ring's power of invisibility as he runs, allowing him to follow Gollum to the back entrance of the cave. There, Bilbo at first prepares to kill Gollum but is overcome with pity, so he jumps over him to escape. As Bilbo runs, Gollum cries out, "Thief! Thief, Baggins! We hates it forever!"; he does not immediately follow Bilbo out of fear of being caught by the Goblins.
Search for the Ring
Gollum eventually leaves the Misty Mountains and pursues Bilbo a few years later, but the trail is cold. He makes his way south into Mordor, discovering the secret stair located near Minas Morgul and surviving an encounter with Shelob. He is captured on his return and taken to Sauron's stronghold, where he is tortured by the Dark Lord himself until he reveals what he knows about the Ring; he reveals that "Baggins" of the Shire had taken it, alerting Sauron to the existence of Hobbits and the Baggins family. Sauron lets him go, but he is captured soon afterward by Aragorn, then interrogated by Gandalf, who places him in the care of the Silvan Elves living in Thranduil's kingdom in Mirkwood. Assisted by Orcs, he escapes them and sets off looking for the Shire. He passes through Moria, but cannot make it out of the East gate. He sees the Fellowship of the Ring there and begins following them.
The War of the Ring
On January 15, 3019 the Fellowship is divided when Gandalf disappears while fighting a Balrog (though he later returns). Gollum continues trailing the remaining members. Gollum follows their boats down Anduin (floating on a log) to Rauros and pursued Frodo Baggins - nephew and heir of the hated Bilbo, and the new Ringbearer - and his friend Samwise Gamgee across the Emyn Muil when they struck out on their own towards Mordor. Gollum follows them, but after a confrontation (in which he bites and nearly strangles Sam) Frodo subdues him. Frodo ties an Elven Rope around Gollum's ankle for a leash, but the mere touch of the rope pains him.
Taking pity on the wretched creature, Frodo makes Gollum swear to help them. Agreeing to the oath, Gollum swears by the "Precious" itself and Frodo releases him. The unlikely company, guided by Gollum, makes its way to the Black Gate, the entrance to Mordor.
Frodo's kindness brought out the "Sméagol" personality, and he makes at least some effort to keep his promise. The two have a strange sort of bond from both having been Ringbearers; in Gollum, Frodo sees his possible future, and so wants to save him so he can save himself.
When they reach the Black Gate and find it well guarded, Gollum convinces them not to go that way, saying that they would be caught and Sauron would regain the Ring. Gollum says he will lead them south, where he knows of another entrance into Mordor.
Frodo and Sam are caught by Faramir, and Gollum follows them. When Frodo allows Faramir to briefly take Gollum prisoner, however, he feels betrayed, allowing the "Gollum" personality to take total control. Faramir finds out that the place Gollum is taking them is called Cirith Ungol. He then warns Frodo and Sam of the evil of that place, and of Gollum's treachery.
Frodo, Sam, and Gollum leave Faramir and begin crossing the pass of Cirith Ungol in the border-mountains of the Ephel Dúath (Mountains of Shadow). Gollum visits the great spider Shelob, child of Ungoliant because he is planning to betray the Hobbits to her and then get the Ring for himself. When he returns, he finds the Hobbits sleeping, and the sight of Frodo asleep nearly moves Gollum to repent. However, Sam wakes up and speaks harshly to Gollum, and all hope of redemption is lost. Gollum follows through with his plan and leads Frodo and Sam into Shelob's Lair.
Frodo and Sam escape from her lair and come against all odds to the fiery volcano Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed. Gollum follows them all the way, seeking a chance to surprise them and take the Ring. When Frodo and Sam have almost reached their destination, he attacks them, but Frodo casts him down and threatens to throw him in the fire if he ever touches him again. Sam, who had hated Gollum on sight, tries to bring himself to kill him, but relents out of sheer pity and disgust, turning his back on the beaten (but still wily) creature.
Moments later, Frodo is standing on the edge of the Crack of Doom, but, unwilling to destroy the Ring, claims it for himself and puts it on, becoming invisible. Then Gollum attacks the hobbits again. Gollum knocks Sam out and jumps on Frodo. The two fight until, finally, Gollum bites off Frodo's finger and seizes the Ring. Gollum then teeters on the edge of the great pit, loses his balance, and falls in, taking the Ring with him along with a final, joyous cry of "Precious!" He perishes in the lava, and the Ring is destroyed with him. Had Gollum not lived to play this final part, there was a good chance that Sauron would have regained his Ring, as he knew where Frodo was as soon as he put it on.
According to J.R.R. Tolkien's notes, Eru Ilúvatar, the Middle-earth legendarium's version of God, intervened to destroy the Ring by causing Gollum to fall into the Crack of Doom.
Gollum was an extremely corruptible Hobbit who fell into the Ring's control as soon as he laid eyes on it. While other Hobbits such as Frodo or Bilbo met with the ring, they were able to at least fend off its full effect whereas Gollum completely succumbed to it, remorselessly murdering his cousin Deàgol when he discovered it during Sméagol's birthday. Gollum surrendered nearly immediately to Sauron's torture after being captured, although in his defense, Sauron was very capable of and willing to use extreme brutality.
Though he rarely acknowledges himself by his true name, Sméagol, Gollum does possess fragments of his old personality which occasionally surface. An obvious trait would be his love for riddles, and when meeting with Bilbo underneath Goblin Town, engages in a game with him which would either end with Gollum showing him the exit or him eating the Hobbit. Gollum appeared to enjoy fishing with his cousin Deàgol, and after his transformation, he was seen singing while grabbing a fish. However, this could be coincidental. He has shown to be an adept survivor, able to escape an encounter with Shelob (which very few people are able to do) and even strike a deal with her to bring the spider food, earning his nickname "Shelob's Sneak." He has no qualms against cannibalism, presumably due to forgetting or rejecting his Hobbit ethnicity, so he was perfectly comfortable with eating Bilbo Baggins if he lost their games of riddles
Despite his dissociative nature, Gollum was also capable of being intelligent and cunning, especially in regards of using trickery and lies. He was able to deduce that Bilbo had stolen the One Ring when he gave the riddle, "what have I got in my pocket?' during their game and had knowledge of Middle-earth such as knowing a passageway into Mordor and being able to live undetected underneath Goblin Town, surviving off whatever weary goblin would fall to him.
A prime example was when he tricked Frodo and Sam into thinking that Shelob's lair would grant them safe passing into Mordor when they would simply be dead and allow him to steal the Ring from their corpses. He considered reform at one point during the trip to Shelob, whereupon he was described as looking merely like a very old, lonely hobbit indeed. Sadly, Sam yelled at him just as he was on the verge of choosing to reform and distracted him completely.
However, Gollum does possess a human side to him. Years of obsession over the Ring caused him genuine sadness when he discovered he had lost it, something which allowed him to be spared at the hands of Bilbo. He was easily able to make others pity him, a factor of how he was able to survive for so long. When being sworn to serve the "master of the Precious", Frodo allows him to be free, and even at the mercy of Samwise, a person who loathed Gollum to the very beginning atop Mount Doom, he allows him to live because he pitied him.
Baggins! Thief!! Curse it and crush it! We'll hate it FOREVER!!!
~ Gollum cursing Bilbo Baggins after the latter stole the One Ring from the former.
They cursed us. ‘Murderer’, they called us. They cursed us and drove us away. And we wept, precious. We wept to be so alone. And we forgot the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name… My precious.
~ Sméagol, recounting his transformation into Gollum.
What's this…? Crumbs on his jacketses — he took it! He took it! I seen him; he's always stuffing his face when Master's not looking!
~ Gollum, movie, accusing Samwise Gamgee of stealing the rest of the lembas bread (when he had in fact taken it).
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.
~ Book narration describing Smeagol's moment of near-repentance.
Gollum: (points at Shelob's lair) In there. Frodo: What is this place? Gollum: Master must go inside the tunnel. Frodo: Now that I'm here, I don't think I want to. Gollum: (smirks) It's the only way! Go in, or go back. Frodo: I can't go back. (walks into Shelob's lair, with Gollum grinning and following him) Ugh! What's that smell? Gollum: Orcses filth. Orcses come in here sometimes. (passes Frodo as the latter goes further and further into Shelob's lair, then goes completely out of Frodo's sight) Hurry! This way! Frodo: Sméagol? (voice echoes) Gollum: Over here! Frodo: (notices a huge spider web and touches it, then shakes it off his hand) It's sticky! What is it?!? Gollum: You will see. Oh, yes. You will see. Frodo: (shudders) Sméagol? (eyes widen in fear) SMÉAGOL!!! (looks around, even more, scared than before) SMÉAGOL!!!!!
~ Gollum, movie, leading Frodo straight into Shelob's lair and leaving him to be eaten by her so Gollum himself can get the One Ring back.
My Precious, my ring. Soon it will be mine… all mine! Precious, my Precious. Precious.
~ Gollum in the Return of the King of 1980.
Frodo: But you swore… you swore on the precious! Sméagol promised! Gollum: Sméagol lied.
~ Gollum ambushing Sam and Frodo on top of Mount Doom where he admits he lied to them (Extended edition only).
Let us live, yes, live just a little longer. Lost lost! We're lost. And when Precious goes we'll die, yes, die into the dust. Dusst!
~ Book Gollum on the slopes of Mt. Doom.
The name "Gollum" is derived from the disgusting gurgling, choking cough he made.
Despite being the archenemy of Frodo, Sam, and Bilbo, Gollum is the least evil antagonist and has no affiliation with Sauron. This is because Gollum only wanted to manipulate them and take the ring for himself so he could keep it in solitude forever, and he had no interest in giving it to Sauron and helping him rule Middle-earth.
His death date is given as March 25, 3019.
At the time of his death, Sméagol was about 589 years old, a remarkable age for a creature that was once a Hobbit, but he had been deformed and twisted in both body and mind by the corruption of the Ring.
Bilbo sparing Gollum's life is a very important part of the story. Had Bilbo killed Gollum, the latter wouldn't have been there to bite Frodo's finger off. Therefore, Frodo would've likely kept the Ring until the Nazgûl killed him. The Nazgûl would then have given the ring to Sauron, and Sauron would have eventually conquered all of Middle-earth.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf learns that Gollum had been following the Fellowship, he stated that he believed that Gollum had some unforeseen role to play in their tale, and that "the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many". Ultimately, he was right.
Andy Serkis' voice for Gollum was inspired by noises made by his pet cat.