BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

LotR: Gollum — Everything to Know About Middle-Earth’s Saltiest Tour Guide

5 Minute Read
May 16 2024

They’re talking about Gollum today, my precious. They’re talking about Gollum and we hates them! We hates them forever!

You don’t have to be a massive fan of Lord of the Rings to know exactly who Gollum is. In fact, you don’t have to be a fan at all. The vaguest possible awareness of the internet in the last two decades will probably have you picturing that weird little guy, talking about his precious and biting live fish. And that’s all that most of us really need. But if you’d like a slightly deeper dive into who Gollum is, how he came to be such a drama queen, and why he’s so obsessed with his precious, we’re here for you!

Gollum in The Hobbit

Gollum is introduced in The Hobbit as a “small, slimy creature” living on an island of a subterainian lake at the foot roots of the Misty Mountains. Bilbo Baggins, after wandering through the series of caves that led to Gollum’s lair, found The Ring by chance before stumbling upon Gollum and his home.

And at first, Gollum seems pleasant enough, though definitely a little off. Bilbo agreed to play a game of riddles with Gollum, if Gollum would show Bilbo to the exit should he won.

It’s revealed to the reader throughout the game that Gollum doesn’t intend to bring Bilbo to the exit at all. Instead, he plans to use the power of The One Ring to make himself invisible in order to kill and eat Bilbo. Because he will eat just about anything.

But when the hobbit wonders aloud what’s in his pocket—referring to the ring he picked up and promptly forgot about—Gollum realizes that he’s missing the ring and flies into a tantrum.

“Thief, thief thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!”

– Gollum, The Hobbit.

Bilbo learns of the Ring’s invisibility granting powers on the fly, and follows Gollum—who himself thinks that he’s chasing down Bilbo—to the exit. Bilbo considers killing Gollum, but feels pity for him and ends up running away while still invisible.

READ MORE: Ring-a-Ding-Dillo! All About Tom Bombadil

Gollum in Lord of the Rings

After the events of the Hobbit, Gollum left his cave to follow Bilbo, eventually making it to Dale by the Lonely Mountain and learning that he’s returned to the Shire. From there, Gollum was drawn to Mordor and eventually captured by Sauron‘s forces. He was tortured and gave up the names “Baggins” and “The Shire”—though I bet he would have sold them out regardless.


After being freed by Sauron, Aaragorn caught Gollum and put him in custody of the Wood Elves of Mirkwood where he was once again interrogated about the Ring, this time by Gandalf. When he escaped this time, he descended into Moria, and living there by the time Fellowship of the Ring began, sixty year after the events of The Hobbit.

Gollum began tracking and following after the fellowship. And despite being known to Frodo, Gandalf, and Aaragorn, little was done about Gollum following after them. Once Frodo and Sam broke off from the rest of the group, Gollum made himself known and attempted to make a deal with them to show a secret entrance to Mordor. Once again, this was a trap meant to kill the hobbits, and once again his trap failed.

In the end, Gollum was destroyed with the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom when it was thrown into the volcano and Gollum dutifully chased after it.

The Tragic Backstory of Gollum / Smeagol

Gollum was at one point a hobbit named Smeagol. He took ownership of the Ring after murdering his relative, Deagol, who had found the Ring in a river. And the Ring quickly corrupted Smeagol. It extended his life far beyond its natural limits, and eroded his mind.

Smeagol moved into a cave far away from other people and hobbits, and as a result of living alone in a dark cave, he became pale and gaunt, looking like the unrecognizable and almost monstrous figure we meet in The Hobbit.


Are Smeagol and Gollum the Same Person?

Yes, in the same way that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are the same person. Whatever humanity Smeagol had is long gone by the time we first meet Gollum, so it may be fair to say that Smeagol is dead. But physically, they are one in the same.

via New Line

Is Gollum Good or Bad?

Honestly, neither. It could be argued that he’s always been bad since he was very quickly willing to kill Deagol for the Ring. But realistically, Smeagol was likely once a relatively normal hobbit who fell to the corrupting power of The Ring.

Within the stories though, he is certainly there to act as an antagonist and foil. Gollum is never presented as a ‘good guy’ and he does attempt to kill the main protagonists on multiple occasions. But it’s hard to say whether he’s truly evil or just been radiating in the magic of The Ring for too long.

via Daedalic Entertainment

How Old is Gollum and How Did He Live So Long Without the Ring?

By the time Gollum dies, he’s 589 year old. An average hobbit will live for 100 to 130 years, but the power of the Ring allowed him to stay alive well past that.

Even after losing possession of the ring, Gollum continued to live because the effects of the Ring lingered on him for as long as the Ring existed in the world. If Gollum hadn’t died in Mount Doom, like Bilbo, he likely wouldn’t have aged rapidly and likely wouldn’t have lived long past the conclusion of the Lord of the Rings.

Why Didn’t the Ring Effect Other Hobbits the Same Way It Did Smeagol?

It did, but Gollum had more direct exposure to the Ring, and for a much longer period of time. Bilbo had possession of it for about sixty years, but he kept the Ring locked away in his house and rarely put it on. Frodo only had possession of it at all for a very short period of time.

And even then, both Bilbo and Frodo were being changed by the Ring. We see both of them either showing difficulty giving the Ring up or being tempted by its call as time went on.


It may also be a factor that Bilbo and Frodo are genuinely kind-hearted people, while Smeagol may not have been and would have given in to its darkness faster.

Happy adventuring!

  • LoTR: Númenor — The Land of Kings That Sunk Into the Sea