It's so rare for a literary character that dates back to 1937 to still have an impact today, but J.R.R. Tolkien created such a character in Gollum. This is thanks to the sheer amount of complexity that Tolkien a character that really could have been a throwaway monster. Of course, it didn't hurt that Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis brought the character to life in a ground-breaking way for The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The skulking creature may have had a smaller role in The Hobbit, but he was an absolutely essential antagonist in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. There are a ton of characters who we love from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. After all, this is the series that gave us Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel, Sam, Legolas, and Arwen-- but Gollum truly stands out amongst them.
He has invaded our hearts, minds, and even our souls thanks to his tragic story and complex sense of self. Not only did he have a vital role to play in the story, but Gollum also impacted audiences greatly due to his unique attributes. Some of these special characteristics have to do with his iconic way of speaking. Others have to do with his personality. And then there's his unique anatomy, which has eluded even the most dedicated Tolkien fans. This article will delve into some of Gollum's most fascinating and downright surprising physical and psychological elements, giving readers an even deeper appreciation for this wonderful character.
Here are 20 Strange Things About Gollum's Anatomy.
20 The Ring Prolonged His Life, but Transformed him
One thing that fans forget about Gollum, originally known as Smeagol, is that he was actually far older than most of the other characters in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The character was born in TA 2430 and didn't pass until TA 3019 when he fell into the fiery pit of Mount Doom. The reason he lasted so long was because of his time with the Ring of Power. It actually prolonged his life. However, it also did something far more troublesome.
While Smeagol had the Ring, it poisoned his mind. It twisted his soul and his body into the creature we've come to know as "Gollum." Almost everything about Smeagol was lost due to the unnerving influence of the Ring.
19 Serkis Based His Voice On His Cat
In an interview with AFI, as well as in the behind-the-scenes content for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Andy Serkis explained how he created Gollum's voice. Initially, Serkis was only brought in to audition to voice the character of Gollum, who was going to be completely added in via visual effects in post-production.
Serkis did a bit of research to find out how he could make the character's voice interesting. "Gollum" is called that because of the sound he makes, so Serkis attempted to organically find a way to work that into his performance. It wasn't until he watched his cat coughing up a hairball that he truly figured it out. By mimicking this, he was able to come up with a memorable voice that was true to Tolkien's work.
18 He Had Excellent EyeSight
After Gollum came across the Ring of Power, he became sick and twisted. This forced members of his community to force him into the caves. This is where he stayed for much of his life until he met Bilbo. During his time, Gollum was exposed to very little light, which meant that his eyes had to adapt to the darkness.
Luckily for him, the changes in his body allowed him to develop eye-sight far beyond most characters in Tolkien's series. He could see things moving in the shadows and easily hide from harm's way before the danger came close. Gollum could also see fish moving far under the water, which helped him to catch them. This skill also aided Gollum in his tracking of Frodo and the Ring.
17 Serkis Was Completely In Control Of The Character's Movements
Although Andy Serkis was originally brought in just to audition for Gollum's voice, Peter Jackson and the casting team adored his work so much that they actually hired him to perform the character out on set. This was the starting point for an evolution in CGI and motion capture technology that we'd never seen before.
Serkis was completely in control of the Gollum's movements. This included all of Gollum's facial expressions since the team loved what Serkis was doing so much. Serkis was then brought in during post-production to recapture the movements he had filmed. Very few times were things changed after it was shot. This was a major shift since Jackson was originally planning to create Gollum from scratch in post.
16 His inconsistent skin-tone
Thanks to Peter Jackson, we all have a very specific vision of how Gollum looks. However, the original text varied in its description of him. When Tolkien describes him in The Lord of the Rings and in The Hobbit, he uses language that states that Gollum is both very pale and very dark-skinned. In fact, in the novels, Gorbag and Shagrat describe Gollum as a "dark fellow."
Later on, Tolkien explained his supposed mess-up by claiming that sometimes Gollum wore dark clothing in order to hide amongst the shadows. Additionally, it made sense that Gollum was pale. After all, he spent most of his life living in caves where there was a lack of sunlight. This means that his skin would have become pasty and sickly.
15 His Stomach Became Used To Raw Food
Life changed for Smeagol when he was driven from his home. Not only did he adopt the persona of Gollum, but he also completely changed his eating habits because the Ring took up most of his time. He didn't care about cooking and preparing fine meals as most Hobbits do. He simply needed to eat to survive.
This meant that he caught and ate anything he could get his hands on. While living in a cave, there were only rodents and fish to eat, so he began to eat them raw. Because of this, his stomach became used to this making him dislike cooked foods later on. When Sam presented him with a stew in The Two Towers, he couldn't keep it down.
14 The Voice Caused Serkis To Spit Constantly
Creating Gollum's voice took its toll on Andy Serkis. Not only did the voice beat up Serkis' body, which always reacted to it, but it also caused his throat to get sore. To counteract this, a special drink was made for him between every take. The drink was basically honey and lemon with a bunch of other healthy ingredients, but drinking it contributed to Serkis constantly spitting while doing the voice.
Between the drink and the voice itself, Serkis was constantly throwing spittle on other actors when creating Gollum's signature grow. This ended up working for the character, so some of it was kept in the film and wasn't even manipulated via CGI.
13 He Developed Dissociative Identity Disorder
It's very challenging to accurately determine what psychological issues any literary characters have. Even if they were real-life beings and sitting in front of us, only a trained professional (such as a psychologist or psychiatrist) could make an informed decision. Still, it's pretty much agreed upon that Smeagol developed Dissociative Identity Disorder.
This disorder truly came to be when Smeagol was alone with the Ring in the caves. He still felt the push and pull of his better side, so he maintained his "good personality," as well as developed a darker side which was called "Gollum." This trait became one of the defining characteristics for the character in the books and the movies.
12 He Was imprisoned and hurt in Barad-dur
Up until the arrival of Bilbo Baggins, Gollum spent most of his time in a cave. Once Bilbo stole the Ring, Gollum was forced out into the wilderness to search for it. He then made his way South to Mordor, where all dark things were being drawn at the time. This is when he discovered Minas Morgul, the secret stair, and Shelob's lair.
Unfortunately, Gollum was caught by orcs and taken to Barad-dur, where he was beaten because Sauron wanted to know the location of the Ring. Gollum simply revealed the words "Shire" and "Baggins." The Black Riders were then sent there to retrieve the Ring, and Gollum was freed.
11 The Filmmakers Perfected His Muscle Movement For The Hobbit
Although Peter Jackson and his team had a challenging time creating Gollum for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, they found Gollum far easier for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Technology had improved in such a way that allowed Andy Serkis to wear his motion capture suit while filming, which simplified things greatly. Additionally, the filmmakers were able to improve upon Gollum's muscle movement.
Technology had progressed in such a way that the filmmakers could develop proper skeletal and muscle systems to use when building the digital character. A program called Tissue was created to help filmmakers mimic real-life muscles moving on an animal. This made it easier for them to show more detail in Gollum's body, especially when he moved.
10 He Was Caught By Aragorn
After Gollum was freed from Barad-dur in Mordor, he made his way toward The Shire, in search of the Ring, but was captured by the ranger Aragorn, who was known as "Strider" at the time. The two got to know each other decently well while Aragorn took Gollum to meet Gandalf. Aragorn even came to understand how Gollum became physically strong. He said that "his malice gives him strength hardly to be imagined."
Aragorn then met up with Gandalf, who interrogated Gollum in order to find out what he told Sauron. Gandalf then placed him in the care of the Silvan Elves in Thranduil's Kingdom in Mirkwood. Unfortunately, he escaped and retraced Aragorn and Gandalf's steps, eventually finding Frodo and the Ring.
9 He Was Quick With His Hands
It's possible that Gollum's skills with his hands originate to his time as a fisherman when he was simply known as Smeagol, but these skills really were developed when Gollum's entire body changed due to the malice of the Ring of Power. Gollum's arms elongated, as did his fingers. This allowed him to properly adapt to his dingy cave environment, which was filled with rocks to climb and animals to eat.
His long fingers allowed him to grab a hold of fish, and his speed made it far easier to capture them. This ability made Gollum far more dangerous to his enemies. On first glance, they wouldn't have been intimidated by Gollum, but upon seeing his body move like a flash of lightning, their opinion changed swiftly.
8 He Only Had Six Teeth
When Gollum's body drastically changed, so did his health. His sense of hygiene went completely out the window. Because he wasn't taking care of himself, he lost most of his teeth. The fact that he was chomping through the bones of raw animals also contributed to him losing all but six teeth; four on the top and two on the bottom.
In Tolkien's The Hobbit, Gollum is asked what he keeps in his pockets; one of Gollum's answers is a "teeth sharpening rock." This means that he carved his remaining teeth so that he could better chow down on tough raw meats, as well as use his mouth as a tool, much as a cat or dog do.
7 He was An Incredible Climber
Climbers usually have an easier time when they aren't so concerned about their bodies being all banged up. Gollum was just like that-- he had no care for his physical health. This meant that he happily subjected his body to cuts and bruises if it allowed him to climb where he need to go. Gollum's elongated arms and fingers also helped him to propel himself up impossible surfaces-- like the caves of Moria, where he started to follow Frodo and the Ring, and Mount Doom.
In fact, Gollum's scaling of Mount Doom is particularly impressive given that Frodo and Sam had a head start due to the altercation between Frodo and Gollum at Shelob's Lair. Even still, Gollum quickly maneuvered his way up to meet them before they disposed of the Ring.
6 Serkis Recaptured His Movements Multiple Times
Peter Jackson and his team of artists had their work cut out for them when it came to creating Gollum for The Lord of the Rings. Since this was before the days of advanced motion capture, Serkis was brought into a studio where he recreated all of his movements from the set. This time, he wore a motion capture suit that caught every minor detail.
Serkis' work on set was then painted out and replaced with the motion capture version, which was then replaced with a CGI version that mimicked all of his movements. Things were a lot easier when shooting The Hobbit as the technology had caught up to their work.
5 Light Bothered Him
Gollum had truly excellent sight since his eyes physically adapted to his cave environment. This meant that he could let in the right amount of light in order to see in the dark. However, once he left the Misty Mountain caves in pursuit of Bilbo and the Ring, he quickly found out that sunlight bothered his eyes. This makes sense because he hadn't seen sunlight (or any other form of light) for so long.
Throughout The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gollum showed that he was still deeply uncomfortable with light, even after being out in it for a while. This means that his eyes adapted to the darkness so well that they've permanently stayed that way.
4 Elvish Materials Burned Him
Many forget that Gollum actually spent time with the Silvan Elves in Thranduil's kingdom in the Mirkwood forest. This was after he was taken there by Gandalf and Aragorn. During his time there, the Elves subjected him to treatment similar to what he received while locked-up in Barad-dur. This caused him to dislike Elves and the materials they used to harm him, and could also be the reason why he stated that an Elvish rope burned his skin.
However, this could also be because Gollum's body had adapted to rougher materials while living in a cave. He's unlikely to have come across a delicately-made rope or any other Elvish materials before. It makes sense that his body would be irritated by it. It's kind of like when we change laundry detergent.
3 He was A River-Hobbit
Before Gollum was known by that name, he was called "Smeagol" or "Trahald." He was a predecessor of the Stoorish Hobbits, who lived in the swamps close to the river. This is how they got the name "River Hobbit." Most of these Hobbits were fishers. It was in their genetics; it was how they made a living and how they passed the time. This is precisely why Smeagol was good at it, as we saw at the beginning of The Return of the King.
Before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Smeagol lived with his extended family, who were led by their grandmother. However, they drove him away once his mind became poisoned by the Ring.
2 Serkis Strained His Back playing Gollum
Everyone from Sean Astin to Viggo Mortensen received some sort of injury while shooting The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Andy Serkis' role was particularly physical, as it required him to crawl around on the floor all day long. This was especially challenging when he wasn't in a studio where all the rocks were made of styrofoam. Aside from a bunch of scrapes and bruises, Serkis didn't get notably harmed while shooting in the wilds of New Zealand.
However, he did strain his back when he was brought back to the studio for the motion capture work for The Two Towers. It seems like all of the crawling finally caught up with him.
1 There Were 964 Control Points On His Face
A very complex animation system was developed in order to bring the character of Gollum to life for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The process to develop and execute this took about four whole years, but the end result was fantastic. It focused on 964 control points that were placed on a model of Gollum's face. These control points allowed animators to have the ability to move every minor detail in his face, making it easier to match the motion capture work that Andy Serkis was doing.
This incredibly convoluted and time-consuming animation system was one of the main reasons why the character of Gollum has stayed with all of us for so long, and, in all likelihood, will stay with us for all of time.
What do you think is the strangest things about Gollum's anatomy in The Lord of the Rings? Let us know in the comments below!