Recently I had a friend finally read ‘The Hobbit’ by the wonderful Mr. Tolkien. And in her class they had to talk about the snarky yet lovable Over hill and Underhill, the great barrel rider and riddle maker himself Bilbo Baggins of the (now) somewhat respectable Baggins family. They of course used to be very respectable, but that’s what happens when a Baggins marries a Took I suppose.
Anyway, we talked and I told her that my favorite character is Smeagol -Gollum if you are not used to Smeagol. And she was a bit surprised -as most people are -when they hear that I like Smeagol, one of the most through the entire Middle Earth-verse.
Okay, before I start my very long reasoning (hopefully not too long) I must say that yes Gollum scares the sweet dreams out of me and if I ever did see him in person I would probably pee my pants. But I did say I only liked Smeagol. So keep in mind, yes he is creepy and disturbing but I think that’s what makes his character so interesting. Lets’s start shall we?
Smeagol was actually a type of Hobbit before, so yes he did not alway appear so majestically grotesque. He lived with a grandmother and had a cousin, he was a Stoorish hobbit and they lived in flat areas with water where they could boat and fish. Hobbits like Bilbo and the lovely Frodo were a different type of hobbit that we usually think of. Stoor hobbits were the most similar to men in their appearance, but still a bit shorter and hobbity. Smeagol finds the ring when he is fishing with Deagol (cousins can you tell?). Now hobbits are supposed to be friendly folk who don’t normally covet things like gold or riches which is why Bilbo and Frodo were pretty good ring-bearers and the effects of the ring took them carrying it for a long period of time to drive them cuckoo (for cocoa puffs). But Smeagol and Deagol were it seems almost instantly driven insane by their greed for the ring to the extent that Smeagol killed Deagol when he refused to give it to him. This happened in TA 2463 and this is very close to the time Sauron came back and established Dog Guldur so that might have something to do with the strong effects of the ring.
Usually I don’t root for the crazies-I take that back, I try not to root for the crazies (Sherlock is pretty insane himself, and BBC made Moriarty cool so let’s just…move on…) but after Smeagol becomes the fourth and later the longest-ringbearer, he is thrown out of his village. Can you imagine? He is still a hobbit, and when have you ever really heard of a hobbit going against their own? They are a scrappy bunch don’t think they won’t fight you if you try to steal their mushrooms. But they are known to be friendly and gentle, they’d rather share a good drink instead of a good throw down. Mr. Tolkien doesn’t really put much detail into Smeagol’s past but after he was thrown out of his village he had to live alone in the caves of the Misty Mountains.
That is where Bilbo found the ring, where the riddles took place and where Smeagol probably “found” Gollum. Gollum is Smeagol’s other personality. Living alone for so long being isolated, he developed a dissociative identity disorder. Probably from the ring in addition to the having been thrown out by his family and the constant dark and damp caves. (Do you feel for him yet? Yes he killed his cousin but give me a moment). Gollum is the choking noise that he’s known for, choking from the fishbones and other bones…that are stuck in his throat. Most people that I talk to ask me “Who’s Smeagol?” They only know the name “Gollum”. And that’s the name he was known as. He forgot “Smeagol”, Gollum was what people called him the name that derived from his disgusting and disturbing choking noise. During Lord of the Rings with Sam and Frodo he refers to himself as “Gollum” or just as usual “My Precious”. He even tells Frodo that Smeagol went away when his “precious went away.” Later though he is described more as Smeagol every now and then instead of Gollum.
When Bilbo meets Gollum in the caves, Gollum doesn’t know what he is. He doesn’t recognize the hobbit. He’s seen goblins and dwarves and elves, but not Hobbits for such a long time that he’s forgotten that he was even once one. And let’s be honest Gollum guessed all of Bilbo’s riddles (the real riddles not just his trick question), after being in isolation by himself he created his own riddles that almost got Bilbo if the little bunny didn’t get so lucky he would have lost. And Gollum actually remembers a lot of things, he lives in a dark cave with so many little tunnels but he knows which tunnels go where and all the little “secret doors”. He knew multiple ways to Mordor, ways and traps (same thing), he was imprisoned in Mirkwood and escaped. Yes, he escape the almighty Thranduil and Legolas. He followed the fellowship and later when he decided to betray the hobbits to Shelob, it’s hinted that he had some sort of alliance with the demonic spider. Mr. Tolkien never really said how he did, but he did. He also knew how to manipulate Sam and Frodo, turning them against each other.
So far all I’ve listed is a really brief and kind of general history for Smeagol, where he came from and how he became Gollum. A bit of his special skills and how he came into play with the Fellowship. Hang in there, refill that cup of water/coffee/wine
I used to fear Gollum, I watched ‘the Lord of the Rings’ series when I was younger. and that scene where Frodo and Sam meet him for the first time freaked me out. But when I rewatched it (over and over and over and over…) I kind of felt bad for him. He was so alone, consumed by the ring with his own thoughts in the dark. Because he was the ring-bearer it prolonged his life abnormally long and that’s why he became disfigured and why he seemed to lose all the hobbitty-goodness. I know that in reality, Smeagol was a murderer, he was somewhat of a cannibal, he was obsessive and honestly a bit insane. But the ring drove even the most honorable men to act selfishly, the ring has a life of it’s own and tries to make it’s way back to it’s master. It will control the bearer, consume their thoughts until they practically become a monster. When the great rings were first forged, they were connected to the One Ring. Of course we know this, if you follow Lord of the Rings and are a bit of a Middle Earth crazy weirdo (hello there…).
Other than Bilbo, Smeagol held the ring for the longest time of all the Ring-Bearers (Other than Sauron). When the ring was taken by Isildur, it escaped him soon after when he was killed, Deagol was an exception to this but only because of Smeagol who was there when he found it. The ring tried to escape all the others but Smeagol the scrappy little bat that he is kept it for over 500 years and even when it was “stolen” from him, he tracked it down and did actually take it back from Frodo even though it did lead to his death…but with him dying, he destroyed the ring which would have made it back to Sauron if he hadn’t been so incredibly stubborn and scrappy. (Stubborn Scrappy Smeagol, see what I did?)
I think that a lot of the characters in the book felt pity for Smeagol. Bilbo did and so he spared him, Frodo also had the chance to kill Smeagol but remembered that Bilbo spared him the poor “pitiful creature” and in the movies they show Frodo sympathizing with Smeagol. He felt the pull of the ring, he was holding it and the closer they got too Mount. Doom, the stronger the effect of the ring. He knew what Smeagol must have gone through to some extent at least mentally. Though not entirely because Frodo is angel.
And it’s true Frodo is pretty angelic, mischievous yes but he is the one who takes the ring and he is shown to be clever as well and loyal. I love all of the hobbits (except the Sackville-Bagginses…), and to think that Gollum came from those carefree and almost child-like creatures you can’t really see him in that setting. He’s a monster, that’s how the entire middle-earth saw him and his grandmother and his village. He was a poor pitiful creature. But he survived on his own, tortured by his own mind and driving insane literally by the all consuming ring of evil. I loved how Peter Jackson portrayed both Frodo and Gollum in the movies, opposites yet Frodo was always gentle with Gollum. Just when Gollum thought he was betrayed did he turn against Frodo. In the books he seemed more clever, in my own opinion. He was very similar to the movies, in the way that he knew all the secret passages and he knew all the places leading to Mordor and in the caves. Moving silently through middle earth while also he somehow managed to stay safe from all the attacks that the fellowship went through.
I know this seems like just more facts, and hey it is. “Character study” or whatever. And now that I think you know a pretty good amount about Smeagol, I can explain (finallly) why he is probably my favorite. Get ready…after the break.
Okay, Smeagol is a pitiful character, let’s be real and honest his life was messed up by the ring. Even more than it might already have been. I think he might have always had a sad life since it says he lived with his Grandma, not his parents. There is no mention of his parents at all, he has no genealogy except cousin and grandmother and then he kills his cousin and is thrown out and shunned by his grandmother the woman who raised him and was most likely more a mother figure than an grandmother figure. He remembers her too later, even after he had been under the effects of the ring for so long. The memory of her helps him win a riddle by the way, why a grandmother teaches her grandson to suck eggs I don’t know don’t ask me that. But it always struck me that he remembers her.
He is incredibly clever, I said that a lot in this entire…essay or whatever it should be called -but he is. And I think it’s just unfair, escaped an Elvish prison, was able to seem harmless and he was a little people player! Sam was always wary of him, but when came a chance for him to get rid of Smeagol, the little egg sucker fell to his knees and begged for his life. And Sam, bless his golden heart, let him go. Of course all this mercy for Smeagol worked out extremely well. Poor Smeagol had to go in order for the ring to be destroyed.
Reading through the entire series from ‘The Hobbit’ to ‘The Return of the King’, I think that you go through ups and downs with this character. You are creeped out by him, then you pity him and his lost soul, then you realize “maybe he has no soul”, and move on to “save what might be left of his soul!”, and end with “poor unfortunate soul”. (I quote Disney, deal with it)
Smeagol is a character who has a very vague background as stated in previous paragraphs, that you don’t even know his family besides a dead cousin and estranged Grandmother. I think that Mr. Tolkien redeemed Smeagol’s character with the fact that the reader can sympathize with Frodo and Bilbo and even Sam when they are faced with the opportunity to end the poor creature’s existence. But in the end if Smeagol was not around, if he hadn’t been so clever as to survive so long on his own then the Ring would have found it’s way back to Sauron because Frodo (Dumb lil’ angel bean that he is) put the stupid ring back on his stinkin’ finger in Sauron’s domain! Even at “The end of everything” Frodo forgives him.
I think that when people watch the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ series, they see the effects the ring had on mainly Frodo (and very minutely Bilbo…lucky duck) because that’s what the book kind of focuses on since Frodo is the main ring-bearer at the time of the ‘Fellowship’ but Smeagol has had the ring for so long that he couldn’t even touch it for long periods of time. He had to bury the thing after it started to burn him. But he still put it on because he “couldn’t bear to be apart from it” for too long.
All in all, Smeagol is my favorite character because he is crazy and insane as all great characters are, as well as very complex and has a long, long background. But he’s also clever and has a lot of interesting qualities that make him pretty darn incredible if you ask me. There you go he’s not just a creepy cave dweller (sorry to all the Dwarrow…) he’s a poor Stoor Hobbit who was caught up in the evil call and allure of the ring which lead him to do a lot of dreadful things, but as Frodo said in the end; We do forgive him.