Despite his sly and sallow appearance, Gollum is one of the most important characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Arguably, he is also one of the most unique. No other character in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy series looks or behaves the way Gollum does.
To hardcore LOTR fans, Gollum makes for an interesting study. He is simultaneously a sympathetic and an unsympathetic character. On the one hand, none of the flaws he exhibits are entirely his fault, since he was corrupted by the One Ring. On the other, he appears to be such a suspect creature, we can't help but dislike him. Read on if you want to know more about LOTR's most intriguing character, Gollum.
The LOTR films show us a brief glimpse of Gollum's history. Before he was Gollum, he was Smeagol, a hobbit-like person who had a family and a home. Gollum's people were actually known specifically as Stoors.
There were three early Hobbit types: Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides. Stoors were the heaviest of the three Hobbit types, which is a far cry from the gangling, skulking Gollum we see in the future. They preferred to dwell near rivers and enjoyed fishing and swimming. Stoors could also grow facial hair, a trait absent from most Hobbits.
It is, quite honestly, astonishing that Gollum possessed the ability to hold on to the One Ring for so long. The Ring is a force of absolute evil. While it did end up corrupting poor Smeagol, he was able to keep it for quite a while. Gollum was only the fourth being to bear the Ring of Power.
The first was Sauron, the Ring's maker. Isildur, one of the High Kings of Gondor, was the second. Deagol was the third, albeit brief, bearer of the Ring. He found it in the Gladden River, but he was choked out by his cousin Smeagol shortly after. Smeagol, aka Gollum, then became the fourth bearer of the One Ring.
After stealing the Ring and betraying his cousin, Smeagol was forced into exile. He made a new home beneath the Misty Mountains. While living in this cave system, he rarely stepped outside. He forgot what it was like to live under the open sky.
Eventually, he came up with short nicknames for things he no longer saw as much. He called the sun "Yellow Face," and he felt great distaste for its light. Gollum called the moon "White Face." He much preferred to travel by the moon's light than the sun's, but darkness was always the best atmosphere for Gollum.
Only the most unobservant watcher of The Lord of the Rings could miss the fact that Gollum was named after his cough. The manner in which he coughs is supremely distinct. Gollum's original name, Smeagol, became forgotten over time. In its place, people referred to him as "Gollum."
If you've read the LOTR books, or even just The Hobbit, you should understand how Gollum earned this name. They outright state the backstory. However, if you're only a casual fan of the movies, you might not have realized that's where his name comes from.
Gollum is often depicted as a skeletal creature who only wears a loincloth. That is how the movies portray him, and that is how artists render him. However, the books describe Gollum as wearing some clothes. It is clear he prefers dark tones to his wardrobe, but he does actually have a wardrobe.
As a matter of fact, whatever Gollum wears includes pockets. The contents of Gollum's pockets are described in detail in The Lord of the Rings. That small loincloth he wears in the films does not look like it would have even a single pocket.
Gollum's cave beneath the Misty Mountains did not contain a plethora of options for food. The films show in gross detail how Gollum needed to eat raw fish in order to survive, but fish was not the only item on Gollum's menu. The interior of the Misty Mountains was riddled with goblins. The first Hobbit film showcased that fact.
Occasionally, a goblin would get lost near Gollum's cave. If that happened, Gollum would leap upon the unsuspecting goblin and take it back home as a midnight snack. If you thought Gollum eating raw fish was disgusting, at least it was better than goblin.
Sauron is the second-worst villain in the world of Middle-Earth. The only being worse than Sauron was his mentor, Melkor. Gollum, a low creature who previously used to be a Stoor, had to endure aggressive interrogation tactics at the hands of Sauron. It is said that Sauron, in whatever form he possessed, took personal charge of Gollum's interrogation.
After Bilbo Baggins "stole" the One Ring from Gollum, Gollum went searching for it. During his quest, Gollum was waylaid by agents of Mordor. It was from him that Sauron learned of the Ring's continued existence and its possible location.
Shelob is a massive spider-like creature, offspring of the equally massive Ungoliant. She does not allow living beings to pass through her domain and live. The one exception to this is Gollum. While traveling through Mordor, he stumbled into Shelob's lair. She caught Gollum, but she unexpectedly did not outright end him.
Instead, Gollum was able to make a deal with Shelob. In exchange for letting him go, Gollum would bring her tastier treats than his skinny self. And Gollum followed through with that bargain, as we later find out. However, casual fans might not recognize how astounding it is that Gollum survived being captured by Shelob in the first place.
Seeing how sprightly Gollum is, it's hard to imagine him as an elderly person. However, if you look at the age he was born and the age he was when he perished in Mount Doom, you will find that he was a roughly 589-year-old guy. No doubt the One Ring helped increase his longevity.
Nevertheless, it is surprising to consider Gollum's age when looking back on his actions. He was jumping and clambering over gosh-darned mountains. To put it in perspective, Hobbits have an average lifespan of 100 years. Gollum definitely exceeded that.
Despite the heroics of every member of the Fellowship, Gollum is the actual hero of the story. Think about it. The main objective of The Lord of the Rings is to destroy the evil of Sauron by casting the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. Gollum is the one who does that.
Frodo became corrupted by the Ring just as he was about to destroy it. It was only thanks to Gollum snatching the Ring from Frodo and tripping into the lava of Mount Doom that the Ring got destroyed. He is the true hero, despite all his flaws and bad eating habits.