Who was Gollum?

Gollum was an old, lonely creature that lived on an island in the middle of a lake deep inside the Misty Mountains.  Small and thin, he was still very strong and dangerous.  He ate the fish from the lake, and an unwary Goblin or two that came too close.  A small, golden, magic ring was his chief possession, which he used to become invisible.  This magic ring was more powerful than he suspected, and ate away at his mind until he was almost consumed by it.  Because of the ring's influence he could not stand the light of Sun and Moon, or anything Elven. 

Where did Gollum come from?

Gollum was not always a little slimy creature.   Long ago he was a Hobbit much like Bilbo.  He lived in a hole with his family as a member of a group of Hobbits called Stoors.  At that time he was called Smeagol, which means 'burrowing in'.  He fished in the Great River for food with his friend Deagol, and it was Deagol who saw the ring in the mud.  Smeagol murdered Deagol so he could claim it for himself.  He used the magic ring to spy on his family and find out secrets about them.  He became more and more secretive and mean, developing a nasty habit of making noises in his throat, until he was banished.  He wandered for seven years until he finally fled to the Misty mountains and found the cave where he lived.  But the ring had more magic than just invisibility, and Smeagol lived almost five hundred years in the dark all alone, growing thinner and slimier and more miserable with each passing year.   Other people called him Gollum, because of the terrible noise he made in his throat.

What happened to Gollum after Bilbo left?

Gollum was miserable after he lost 'his precious', as he called his ring, and furious with Bilbo for "stealing" it.  Eventually he left his cave to look for it, searching everywhere for "Mr. Bilbo Baggins", but never found him.  Sauron, the Dark Lord whom Gandalf left the company to fight, used Gollum's lust for the ring nearly to the destruction of Middle Earth in the sequel to The Hobbit called The Lord of the Rings.

What Did Gollum look like?

These are pictures of what some artists thought Gollum looked like.

Gollum Photo Gallery

Did Tolkien change the end of the riddle game with Gollum?

Yes, the original 1937 version is quite different in describing Gollum and relating how Bilbo gained possession of the ring.   The ring was a reward for winning the riddle game, as a "present" to Bilbo.  Gollum was upset when he could not give the ring to Bilbo because he could not find it, and showed him out in return.  As Tolkien wrote the sequel to The Hobbit, he realized that the ring had to be very special to Gollum and needed to have an evil power over its owner.  At first he tried to create elaborate explanations to explain why Gollum would give the ring away, but it was not very believable.  He eventually decided to re-write the riddle chapter into the version that is read today.  To explain the change, he said that The Hobbit was written from Bilbo's diary, and Tolkien had only just then found out that Bilbo had lied, and had 'fixed' the newer additions.   So in the story, Bilbo at first makes no mention of the ring when telling the Dwarves and Gandalf what happened.  Then, after the Dwarves have seen him disappear, he tells them the second lie, about 'winning' the ring in the contest, that was in the earlier editions of The Hobbit.  It is only in the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings that the "real" story is told for the first time.

Did Bilbo Steal the Ring?

The 'authorities' agree that after Gollum accepted the question and tried to guess the answer he should have kept his part of the bargain and given Bilbo his reward.  In the old version, this was the ring, but in the new version, the reward was being led out.  Bilbo had no real claim to the ring in the new version, except as a way to save his life.  Some people may agree though, that after Gollum failed to keep his part of the bargain and tried to kill him, Bilbo had the right to another form of compensation in the form of the ring.

If you would like to learn more about the other characters in The Hobbit, and Tolkien's other works, these are two great places to start.  Much of the material in these Gollum pages came from these sources.

The Gray Havens  (Information on all things Tolkien)

The Lidless Eye  (An archive of Tolkien artwork)

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