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Gollum in Lord of the Rings explained

Here is our guide explaining one of the best Lord of the Rings characters, Gollum. Below we go through his backstory, time with Frodo, and his death.

Gollum in Lord of the Rings explained: the early life and full journey of Gollum in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies

Who is Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies? Sulking through dark caves, eating raw fish, and muttering to himself, one of the most Iconic figures in Tolkien’s work isn’t a hero, or even a powerful Wizard. No, instead, for years, fantasy fans have been intrigued by the wretched creature of Middle-earth, Gollum.

If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you’d know that JRR Tolkien’s epic has made for some of the best movies of all time. And that is partly due to the best Lord of the Rings characters keeping us hooked as we watch Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom to destroy The One Ring under the watchful eye of Sauron. However, in a world filled with Wizards, Hobbits, and Elves, there is one mysterious villain who hides in the dark. That’s right; we’re talking about Gollum.

Gollum is a bit of an enigma in this franchise, especially if you haven’t read any of Tolkien’s work and are going purely on film knowledge. Many fans don’t know all the details of his backstory, his run-in with Aragorn, or his connection to Hobbits. So here is our guide fully breaking down the villain’s life and death, giving you all the information you need to become a Gollum expert before your next Lord of the Rings movie marathon.

Who is Gollum?

Gollum is the fourth Bearer of the One Ring and the saddest character in The Lord of the Rings, period. He is a wretched creature who is obsessed with reclaiming The Ring, which essentially enslaves him and destroys both his body and his mind.

He is also one of the biggest players in Tolkien’s epic saga, having appeared both in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Originally Gollum was a typical Stoorish Hobbit called Sméagol, but he came to be known as the villain we all quote and love today after he stumbled upon Sauron’s Ring.

After committing murder and being corrupted by The One Ring, Sméagol lost his identity and became obsessed with ‘his precious.’

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Gollum’s early life and backstory explained

Gollum was originally born during the Third Age in the year TA2430 as Sméagol, a Stoorish Hobbit of the River-folk. Sméagol came from a wealthy family of ‘high repute” that was ruled by his grandmother and was said to be the most curious-minded of his relatives.

He often used to dive into deep pools, burrow under trees, and make tunnels underground. This knack for the world away from the sun would serve him well in the future, but we’ll get to that later. Besides his hobbies, Sméagol kept himself entertained with his friend and cousin Déagol – who would go on to change the course of Sméagol’s life forever.

Gollum in Lord of the Rings explained: Andy Serkis as Smeagol in Lord of the Rings

During Sméagol’s birthday, he and Déagol went fishing in the Gladden Fields, where Déagol found a gold ring after being pulled into the water while reeling in a large fish. The Ring was none other than Sauron’s Ring, which had been there since the death of Isildur. Upon seeing the Ring, Sméagol felt its power and pull almost immediately and tried to convince his cousin to hand over the treasure.

But when Déagol refused, violence broke out, leading to Sméagol strangling his friend and taking the Ring for himself. Although no one knew what truly happened to Déagol, since his body was hidden far away from their settlement, Sméagol soon became an outsider as the Ring made him cruel.

Using the Ring’s power of invisibility, he learned secrets and eventually took to thieving as he became unpopular and hated among his peers. Disgruntled and obsessed with his treasure, he would often spend his days alone, muttering and gurgling in his throat, leading to the community calling him Gollum (named after his disgusting sounds) and cursing his name.

Gollum in Lord of the Rings explained: Smeagol turning into Gollum

Eventually, ‘Gollum’ was banished from the place he once called home. With no family or place to go to, he headed for the Misty Mountains. He spent his days in the dark eating raw fish, admiring the Ring, and whimpering at the unfairness that is the world. However, as he vanished into the dark, not even the Ring’s true master could locate him as his power grew.

The Ring was relatively safe in Gollum’s hands for a time, 400 years to be exact, as he lived in the Misty Mountains away from the agents of Mordor’s eyes. However, his time as a Ring bearer came at a cost. Over the years, The Ring continued to destroy him, pushing his body past its natural limit and eating at his mind.

He eventually developed a dual personality, with Gollum being the part of himself that was fully and wholly enslaved to the Ring, while Sméagol was the last thread of his humanity.

Gollum in Lord of the Rings explained: Gollum with wide eyes playing a game of riddles in The Hobbit

Gollum in The Hobbit explained

Played by Lord of the Rings cast member Andy Serkis, Gollum appears in The Hobbit, meeting Bilbo Baggins in TA 2941 while the halfling is on the Quest of Erebor. Bilbo stumbled across the dark lake where the creature lived and found the Ring, taking it for himself.

Now you may be wondering how our obsessed creature parted from his precious. Well, Gollum technically lost the Ring while fighting a Goblin prior to Bilbo’s arrival. However, as we all know, Bilbo finding The Ring wasn’t an accident. The Ring has a will of its own and decides to abandon Gollum, putting itself in Bilbo’s path.

Gollum, at the time, was unaware that Bilbo had his Ring but still originally planned to kill the Hobbit. The two engaged in a game of riddles, Bilbo won, and Gollum promised to guide him out of the caves while silently plotting his murder. However, as Gollum went to retrieve his ‘birthday present’ (aka the Ring), he broke out in a rage and accused Bilbo of theft, chasing him.

Thinking that the Hobbit had managed to completely lose his trail, Gollum headed to the cave’s entrance, unaware that Bilbo had used the Ring’s power of invisibility to escape. Gollum was then left alone, cursing Bilbo as a thief. However, despite his desire to immediately leave his home in search of his precious, Gollum had to wait in his cave for some time before searching for Bilbo due to the danger posed by the Goblins.

Gollum in Lord of the Rings explained: Gollum, Sam and Frodo traveling in Middle-earth

Gollum in The Lord of the Rings explained

After Bilbo’s trail went cold after years of searching, Gollum headed South of Mordor. But he was ultimately found by Sauron’s forces and is tortured until he discloses everything he knows about the Ring. Gollum was then freed once Sauron had learned that the treasure was in the Shire under the possession of a Hobbit named ‘Baggins.’

However, Gollum wasn’t free for long as he was caught again, this time by Aragorn. After being interrogated by Gandalf, he was then trapped in Mirkwood. However, with the help of some Orcs, Gollum escaped once again, and while on the way to the Shire, he struck luck in Moria as he stumbled across The Fellowship of the Ring, with Frodo (Bilbo’s heir) as the new Ring Bearer.

Gollum would go on to stalk the party throughout their adventure. And once Frodo and Sam broke away from the rest of the Fellowship, Gollum decided to strike. One night Gollum tried to kill Frodo, which resulted in the Hobbit subduing him with his blade Sting, and Sam tying an Elven rope around his neck.

Gollum in Lord of the Rings explained: Gollum trapped with elven rope in Lord of the Rings

Gollum, in massive pain due to the Elven rope, made an oath to lead them to the Black Gate of Mordor, thus becoming the unlikely guide of Frodo on his quest to destroy the One Ring. Frodo was the kindest of all of Gollum’s captors. However, this, too, was short-lived due to a misunderstanding.

Due to a run-in with Faramir, Gollum believed that Frodo had betrayed him – when in reality he had saved his life from the man – and went back to his original plan: kill the nasty Hobbits and take the precious back for himself.

Gollum leads Frodo to the giant spider Shelob’s lair to be eaten, breaking his oath. However, Frodo survives. Gollum is forsaken but is anything but a quitter. He follows Frodo and Sam once again and tries to kill them, leading to Sam beating the creature senselessly as the Hobbits continue to Mount Doom.

Gollum in Lord of the Rings explained: Gollum holding the One Ring in Mount Doom

Gollum’s death explained

Gollum died during Lord of the Rings, thrown into the fires of Mount Doom with his precious. After Frodo failed to cast The Ring into the volcano himself, he was ambushed by Gollum, who ultimately bit off the Hobbit’s finger in order to reclaim the Ring. He was around 589 years old when he died.

Once Gollum retrieved The Ring, he lost his balance and fell into the lava. It is a tragic end, but in some ways, Gollum is a wretched hero. Without him, there is a massive chance that Sauron would have reclaimed the Ring. The creature saved not only Frodo’s life, but also Middle-earth.

So rest in peace, Gollum. For more Lord of the Rings content, here are our guides explaining Galadriel, Elrond, and the Valinor in Middle-earth. We also have guides on how to watch all the Lord of the Rings movies in order, and everything we know about the Rings of Power season 2 release date.

For more new movies, you can read our guides on the War of Rohirrim release date and everything we know about the new Lord of the Rings movies in the works at Warner Bros.

And if you are still after content, just check out our lists of the best fantasy movies and the best fantasy series of all time.