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Descended from the same stock as the Stoors2
Raised in a settlement by the Gladden River, Gollum later concealed himself beneath Goblin-town for centuries before emerging to seek his lost 'Precious'
Said to derive from the guttural swallowing noises this creature habitually made
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 21 February 2023
  • Updates planned: 1


Wretched slave to the One Ring

Map of the journeys of Gollum

(White) (1) After coming into possession of the Ring, Gollum travels into the Misty Mountains, where he remains from about III 2470 until his encounter with Bilbo Baggins. (2) He follows Bilbo's trail to Dale. (3) Having lost the trail he returns to the Vales of Anduin and wanders for about thirty years, finding himself drawn southwards. (4) On the borders of Mordor, he is captured by Sauron.

(Yellow) (5) Released from Mordor, he is captured by Aragorn, who takes him north to the Woodland Realm (6). He escapes and flees southward through the Forest; hiding in Moria, he is unable to escape through the West-gate.

(Green) (7) The Company of the Ring enter Moria and Gollum follows them. Passing southward around Lórien he follows them down the Great River until challenged above Sarn Gebir (8). Frodo and Sam later encounter him in the Emyn Muil, and he leads them to Cirith Ungol (9) where he betrays them. (10) He appears at Mount Doom and falls to his death with the Ring.

(White) (1) After coming into possession of the Ring, Gollum travels into the Misty Mountains, where he remains from about III 2470 until his encounter with Bilbo Baggins. (2) He follows Bilbo's trail to Dale. (3) Having lost the trail he returns to the Vales of Anduin and wanders for about thirty years, finding himself drawn southwards. (4) On the borders of Mordor, he is captured by Sauron.

(Yellow) (5) Released from Mordor, he is captured by Aragorn, who takes him north to the Woodland Realm (6). He escapes and flees southward through the Forest; hiding in Moria, he is unable to escape through the West-gate.

(Green) (7) The Company of the Ring enter Moria and Gollum follows them. Passing southward around Lórien he follows them down the Great River until challenged above Sarn Gebir (8). Frodo and Sam later encounter him in the Emyn Muil, and he leads them to Cirith Ungol (9) where he betrays them. (10) He appears at Mount Doom and falls to his death with the Ring.

The later name for the creature originally known as Sméagol, who acquired the name 'Gollum' due to a characteristic swallowing sound he made in his throat when he was angry or frightened. He came from a people of Hobbit-kind, but he lingered for centuries beneath the Misty Mountains, and this changed him utterly, leaving him with pallid skin, webbed feet, and a large head on a long neck. His eyes shone like green lamps in the dark, and his sense of smell became acute, but he had only six teeth remaining (which he had sharpened into fangs) and a thin remnant of hair on his head. He wore nothing but rags.

Gollum's long life in the tunnels beneath the Mountains gave him a peculiar gait, and he ran with his back bent over and his hands near the ground. He was sly and devious by nature, and long years spent alone had given him a strange mode of speech: he would speak in a hissing voice to himself, often calling himself 'Precious' under the influence of the Ring.

Early Life

We are not told exactly when Sméagol was born, and we have little detail about his early life. He appears to have been an orphan, and lived in a smial by the Great River with the matriarch of his clan (whom he described as his 'grandmother', though this may not be literally true). He spent this time listening to tales of distant lands, fishing and stealing eggs, and also playing the Riddle-game with his fellow Hobbits (a fact that, long afterwards, would play a crucial part in his story).

In about the year III 2463, Sméagol and his companion Déagol went fishing together among the Gladden Fields. There Déagol was pulled into the river by a great fish, and when he made his way to the bank he had in his hand a golden Ring. Sméagol demanded the Ring, claiming it as a birthday present, and when Déagol refused, Sméagol killed his friend and took the Ring for himself.

Hiding Déagol's body, Sméagol returned to his people and soon discovered the power of his new Ring: it made him invisible. He used his new power to thieve and to discover secrets, and soon became despised by the others of his kind. It was at this time that he took to making a gurgling, swallowing noise that first earned him the name Gollum. At last the Hobbits of the riverbank tired of Gollum's secretive and devious ways, and he found himself expelled from his community.

Gollum wandered away northwards up the Vales of Anduin, until in about the year III 2470 (some seven years after he acquired the Ring) he came upon a stream flowing down from the Misty Mountains. Following the stream to its source, he found a way into the lightless depths beneath the mountains, and so began a long and miserable existence in solitary darkness.

Gollum Beneath the Mountains

Worming his way into the caverns under the Misty Mountains, Gollum discovered a lake in the darkness, and in the middle of that lake was an island on which he made his home. He survived for the most part on the blind fish that lived in the lake, but the place he had chosen was beneath a settlement of Goblins, and from time to time an Orc would descend to the lake, but not return.

Years passed in the lonely darkness, and years turned to decades, and decades to centuries, but the power of his Ring worked not only to make him invisble, but also to prolong his life. While he lurked on his island, the Halfling folk that he had left behind by the river eventually died out, leaving him the only one of his kind. Dwelling in permanent darkness, he came to hate and fear fire or light of any kind, especially that from the Sun or Moon (which he called the Yellow Face and the White Face).

As the long years passed beneath the Misty Mountains, Gollum fell entirely under the Ring's power. At first he wore it all the time, but it began to tire him. For a while he carried it in a pouch, but eventually he left it on his secret island except when he needed it (though he would often go back to look at his Precious). He would use its power of invisibility at times to hunt the Goblins who lived in the caves above his lake, and it was during one of these hunts that he unknowingly lost the Ring: it slipped from his finger and lay in the Goblin tunnels waiting to be found by some other hand.

Gollum had lived beneath the mountains for nearly five hundred years3 when he lost the Ring. At this time he had a strange encounter: a creature not unlike he himself had been, long ago, stumbled into his dark lair. Still believing his Ring to be safe on its island, Gollum worked to stall his visitor with a Riddle-game while planning to collect the Ring from its hiding place and use it to help him murder the stranger.

His plans failed. The stranger was Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit of the Shire who had, unknown to Gollum, chanced upon the Ring in the darkness of the Goblin-tunnels. When Gollum discovered his loss, and realised that Bilbo had his Ring, he let out a shriek of horror and pain. Bilbo fled with Gollum in pursuit, and discovered - by accident - the Ring's secret of invisibility. Unable to see his quarry, the desperate Gollum set off to watch the way to the Goblins' back door, but in doing so he led the lost Hobbit towards freedom. The invisible Bilbo leapt past him and out of Goblin-town, leaving Gollum shouting impotently after him:

'Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!'
The Hobbit 5, Riddles in the Dark

Gollum's Precious, the Magic Ring that had driven him into exile five centuries before, and consumed him in the darkness ever since, had been taken beyond his reach.

Gollum's Quest for the Ring

After the loss of his Ring - or its theft, from his point of view - Gollum continued to lurk in the darkness beneath the Mountains for some time, but after three years, his desperation to recover his Precious drove him out from his cavern. Escaping watchers set by Gandalf, who had anticipated his eventual emergence from the dark,4 Gollum set out to follow the long-cold trail of Bilbo and his companions.

There followed a journey of seven years. Gollum first wandered across the Great River and into Mirkwood, and passing through the deep forest he found his way to the Long Lake and thus to Dale. There the name of Bilbo Baggins was still well known, and it was while wandering the streets of Dale that Gollum discovered the Hobbit's origins in the distant land known as the Shire. Gollum's knowledge of that name would later become crucial to Sauron's own hunt for the Ring.

Gollum now knew that the thief of his Ring had come from the far west of Middle-earth, and so he turned his course and set out in that direction. After wandering for years, he made his way back as far as the Great River, but he was also being drawn out of his way southwards. The long influence of the Ring, and the power of Sauron to draw creatures given to evil, brought Gollum slowly, year by year, towards the Dark Land of Mordor.

In about the year III 2980 - some forty years after he set out from the Misty Mountains - Gollum came to the borders of Mordor. He prowled its western fringes, apparently for several years, and seems to have developed an understanding with Shelob in Cirith Ungol during this time. It was while he was exploring the ways of the Dead Marshes that he was captured by the servants of Sauron and taken to Barad-dûr for questioning.

We do not know how long Gollum was held in Barad-dûr, but he was there for at least eight years, and possibly rather longer. He had little information to give up, but he had learned the names of 'Baggins' and 'Shire' on the streets of Dale, and so Sauron was able to learn at least the region in which the Ring could be found. By III 3017, the Dark Lord had decided that there was nothing more to be learned from his prisoner. Gollum was allowed to escape Mordor through the pass of Cirith Ungol, visiting Shelob as he left. The guards in the Tower of Cirith Ungol saw him, they were under orders to allow him to pass (it was Sauron's hope that Gollum's wanderings would reveal the whereabouts of the Ring-bearer).

Gollum did not stay free for long. He fled northwards, seeking the relative safety of the trackless Dead Marshes, but on the edges of those Marshes he was captured once again, this time by Aragorn. There followed a long journey into the far North, back once again into Mirkwood, where Aragorn delivered his prisoner to the Wood-elves. Held in Thranduil's dungeons, he was visited by Gandalf, who was seeking his own answers about the Ring and Gollum's part in its history.

When Sauron learned of these events, he became concerned that his enemies might discover some crucial clue to lead them to the Ring, and so he sent a force of Orcs to kill or recapture Gollum. On 20 June III 3018, these Orcs staged a raid on the woods of Thranduil, and Gollum was able to make his escape, eluding both the Wood-elves and the Orcs. He fled southwards, and for months he was trailed by both Elves and Orcs. Eventually he found his way to the East-gate of Moria and stole inside. He wandered in the darkness beneath the Mountains of Moria as summer turned to winter outside, finding his way eventually to the West-gate, but he lacked the strength to make his escape.5

Gollum and the Fate of the Ring

In the event, Gollum had no need to open the West-gate; it was instead opened from the outside by a Wizard and his followers, who entered Moria themselves. Now Gollum abandoned his plans to escape into the western lands, because among the Wizard's followers was the Ring-bearer himself: after long decades of searching, Gollum was close to his Precious once again. The Company of the Ring passed on eastward through old Khazad-dûm, heading back the way Gollum had originally come, and Gollum began to trail them through the darkness.

Gollum followed the Ring back through Moria, out through the East-gate,6 and on towards Lórien. On the borders of that country he made an attempt to reach the Ring-bearer in a high tree, but was driven off. Unable to follow the Company as they entered Lórien itself, Gollum skirted its borders southward and then eastward. It was during this journey that he encountered a band of Orcs led by Uglúk, and revealed that there were several Hobbits within the Company before escaping his captors (it was this discovery by the Orcs that would lead to the later capture of Merry and Pippin at Parth Galen).

Making his way to Anduin, Gollum witnessed the departure of the Company by boat, and was able to follow them down the Great River by crouching aboard a floating log. He was marked several times by the Company during this journey, and as they slept on a river island he made another attempt to retake the Ring. Frodo Baggins the Ring-bearer was awake and aware of him, and challenged him with his sword, Sting, but Gollum crept away into hiding as the Company passed on southwards. Unable to follow the Ring on his log through the Rapids of Sarn Gebir, he instead passed into the hills of the eastern Emyn Muil that bordered the Great River in that region.

Passing through the hills, Gollum came upon a trail, and began to follow it: the Ring-bearer had also entered the Emyn Muil in his attempt to reach Mordor. For three days Gollum tracked his quarry, until he came to the top of a sheer cliff-face. He tried to climb down the cliff but fell, and at the bottom he found Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee waiting for him. After a struggle he was taken captive, and swore by his Precious - the One Ring on its chain around Frodo's neck - to serve its master. Frodo demanded that Gollum lead them to Mordor, and Gollum agreed.

Gollum's earlier exploration of the Dead Marshes served him now to guide the two Hobbits to the very Gates of Mordor, but it was impossible to pass the Morannon. During this approach to Mordor, a division began to show in Gollum's personality, with one side faithful to his new master, and the other desperate to recover the Ring at any cost. These two sides would be labelled by Sam as 'Slinker' and 'Stinker', and now the 'Stinker' side of Gollum began to conceive a plan to betray the Ring-bearer. He suggested another way of entering Mordor, over the high pass of Cirith Ungol, where he knew Shelob lurked in her Lair. So the company set off southwards through Ithilien to reach and attempt the high pass.

During the southward journey, Frodo and Sam were discovered and captured by Faramir's Rangers. Gollum was left behind, and imagined that he had been abandoned, with the Ring finally taken beyond his grasp. Soon, however, Gollum himself was captured by the Rangers of Ithilien, but Faramir was persuaded to release all three of the companions and allow them to continue their journey.

Gollum led the Hobbits on southward through Ithilien until they reached the Cross-roads, where the travellers turned eastward toward the Morgul Vale and Cirith Ungol. Climbing the dangerous Stairs that led up into the heights of the mountains, Gollum brought the Hobbits to the mouth of a dark tunnel. Having passed this way years beforehand, he knew that this was an entrance to Shelob's Lair, and he trusted that the giant spider would take Frodo and Sam, and leave the Ring for him to reclaim. While the Hobbits slept, he crept off to summon the monstrous spider, and though a moment of conscience brought him close to abandoning his scheme at one point, ultimately Gollum slipped away and left his companions for Shelob.

To Gollum's disappointment, Frodo and Sam unexpectedly survived their journey through Shelob's dark Lair, but as Shelob emerged to set upon Frodo, Gollum took his opportunity to attack Sam. The Hobbit, however, was able to drive him off, and he skulked for a time within Shelob's Lair before setting out to recover the trail of the Hobbits. Climbing down the inner slopes of Ephel Dúath, he caught up with his quarry to find Frodo asleep and at his mercy, but Sam returned, and Gollum was forced to scurry away.

Now forced to pursue the Hobbits across Gorgoroth to Mount Doom, Gollum disguised himself as an Orc by stealing a cast-off mail shirt. The Orcs themselves attempted to stop him with arrows (not realising that he was wanted alive by the Dark Tower) but their shots missed or were turned by Gollum's stolen mail. The desperate crossing of many miles of the desert to Mount Doom left him withered and close to death, but nonetheless Gollum reached the slopes of the volcano before Frodo and Sam. There he prepared to ambush the Hobbits when they reached the mountain.

Gollum's ambush failed. The Hobbits fought him off, and Frodo daunted him with the power of the Ring, so that he feigned retreat. Once out of sight, however, he turned and stealthily followed the Hobbits into the depths of Mount Doom. Within the Chambers of Fire, he witnessed Frodo succumb to the lure of the Ring and claim it for his own, and seeing this, Gollum rushed past Sam Gamgee to grapple with the now invisible Frodo. He bit away Frodo's finger and at last reclaimed the Ring for himself, after nearly eighty years of searching.

Gollum's delight in reclaiming the Ring would be brief indeed. Transfixed by his prize on the very edge of the Cracks of Doom, he lost his footing and toppled into the depths. So Gollum's long and miserable life came to an end, and the Ring was returned to the Fire in which it had been forged. With the unmaking of the One Ring, the Dark Lord's power was undone and his Dark Tower fell. So Gollum unwittingly accomplished the Quest that Frodo had failed to achieve, bringing about the Fall of Sauron and the end of the War of the Ring.



Gollum first appears in the Tale of Years in 'about' III 2463, when he murders his friend Déagol and steals the Ring. The birthdate of III 2440 given here is an estimate based on the assumption that Sméagol/Gollum would have been about twenty-five years old at this date. His long lifespan of almost 600 years is of course far longer than a Hobbit would normally live, and is due to the effects of the Ring.


Gollum's descent from the same stock as the Stoors is based on Gandalf's words in The Lord of the Rings I 2 The Shadow of the Past, 'I guess they were of hobbit-kind, akin to the fathers of the fathers of the Stoors'. Gollum's people split from the other Stoors in the fifteenth century of the Third Age, when troubled times in Eriador led them to migrate back eastwards across the Misty Mountains, and settle on the banks of the Gladden River.


Gollum went underground in about the year III 2470, and his fateful encounter with Bilbo Baggins was in III 2941, so (allowing some minor uncertainty over the earlier date) he had lived beneath the Misty Mountains for 471 years at the time of the Riddle-game.


Gandalf's guess that Gollum would emerge from beneath the mountains (and the failed attempt to capture him at that time) is only briefly alluded to, and we have little detail about it. Gandalf only says that a watch was set for Gollum, and that '...he escaped and was not found' (The Fellowship of the Ring II 2, The Council of Elrond). The wording here implies that Gollum actively evaded the watchers, or perhaps was even briefly captured by them before making his escape into the Wild. We're not told who Gandalf's watchers were: they may have been Dúnedain, but given the location of the watch on the eastern slopes of the Misty Mountains, they may possibly have been Beornings.


We know from other sources that the West-gate could be opened from the inside by a simple push, so at first glance Gollum's inability to find his way out may seem strange. Tolkien addresses this in the essay The Hunt for the Ring (Unfinished Tales Part Three IV): 'To him [the Doors] would seem huge and immovable; and though they had no lock or bar and opened outwards to a thrust, he did not discover that.' We're also told in the same source that Gollum was desperate and starving after months lost in Moria, and would have been unable to open the Doors even if he had discovered their secret.


It is unclear how Gollum was able to follow the Company out of Moria when the Bridge of Khazad-dûm was destroyed immediately after their passage. Perhaps there was enough left of the Bridge for him to leap the gap, or perhaps (given that there was only one possible exit from the Mines) he set out ahead of the Company and awaited them at or near the East-gate.


About this entry:

  • Updated 21 February 2023
  • Updates planned: 1

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