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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Why does Smeagol talk the way he does?


May 31 2012, 3:14am

Post #1 of 17 (1864 views)
Why does Smeagol talk the way he does? Can't Post

I'm referring to how he speaks to Deagol...calling him "My love," and referring to himself as "us." I think we would all expect anyone that bore the ring for so long to be rather peculiar, but this was before he possessed it. I don't recall any other character in Tolkien's works speaking in this manner.

One thing, it sure is creepy and always made Gollum even scarier to me.

Anyone know/care to speculate on why he spoke in this manner?

In the movies Elrond, Denethor, Haldir, Galadriel, and Celeborn stink.


May 31 2012, 3:56am

Post #2 of 17 (1300 views)
possibly regional dialect [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe just the way of speaking that his people have among themselves. Had it been Deagol who wanted to take it from Smeagol he may have said it in a similar manner.

Plant Trees


May 31 2012, 8:48am

Post #3 of 17 (1261 views)
squire once wrote a fine essay about it [In reply to] Can't Post

I couldn't find the link with a short search - but I did find quite a few good old discussions to revisit!
So I've wasted far too much time already, and came up with no result for you. Sorry. Blush


May 31 2012, 8:54am

Post #4 of 17 (1228 views)
The only thing I could find was this? [In reply to] Can't Post


I couldn't find it either!


May 31 2012, 9:15am

Post #5 of 17 (1244 views)
Smeagol doesn't refer to himself as 'us', I don't think... [In reply to] Can't Post

... when he speaks to Deagol, in the scene reported by Gandalf in 'The Shadow of the Past' chapter, though he does call Deagol 'my love' - even when he's about to strangle him. I could be wrong, but I think the 'us' comes later in his timeline and refers to himself and the Ring - or to Smeagol/Gollum, if you prefer it.

I'd say that when Tolkien wrote the Smeagol/Deagol scene in Fellowship of the Ring he gave Smeagol the speech pattern and rhythm he had already given to Gollum when he wrote The Hobbit, because that was the character he'd already created. The 'my love' could be regional - around the UK lots of people use 'love' just in a friendly way, talking to complete strangers. But it does feel really creepy having him say that to someone he's about to kill for a ring.


May 31 2012, 10:43am

Post #6 of 17 (1270 views)
That was the original post; then the next year I rewrote it for the home page [In reply to] Can't Post

Which has been archived (I guess) here.

Then that was linked back to the Reading Room for discussion here. Curious responded with a reminder of his great 2004 essay on Bilbo and Gollum, which has a different angle on the origins of Gollum's character.

I would still like to do more research on regional and generational English speech patterns from the nursery to pursue this thesis, but I've no idea how to proceed without more academic resources than I have.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


May 31 2012, 10:45am

Post #7 of 17 (1220 views)
Thanks squire [In reply to] Can't Post

I will have a read of this Smile


May 31 2012, 3:26pm

Post #8 of 17 (1186 views)
That's very interesting, squire [In reply to] Can't Post

And I think you're onto something with the nursery language.

But there's something else about Gollum's speech which has just struck me, reading it - which is, for me at least, so obvious that I never realised it consciously before. Gollum is Welsh. Just as the Hobbit trolls are Cockney, when I read Gollum, his speech pattern falls naturally into something like a Welsh accent and it always has - the sibilant 's's and 'p'raps it does, does it' - also 'a bitsy' which, when you read it or hear it read sounds just like 'a bit, see' which is a very Welsh idiom.

Just a thought!

Tol Eressea

May 31 2012, 4:34pm

Post #9 of 17 (1183 views)
Yup! [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien made a recording of the riddle game. it's available on cds nowadays; I have those, and also cassettes and LPs. It's called 'The JRR Tolkien Collection'.

And Tolkien speaks the Gollum part with a Welsh accent.


Tol Eressea

May 31 2012, 4:39pm

Post #10 of 17 (1214 views)
Yup. [In reply to] Can't Post

Where I come from, we say 'us'. As in 'Give us that spanner'. That sort of thing. We don't call each other 'precious', though. But in some parts of the UK folk will use various terms of endearment - the young man who played Pippin in the BBC radio version of LotR recalled how he once asked Robert Stephens where he'd got his terrific Bristol accent, to which Stephens replied, (in his best Bristolian) 'Well, my babby, that's because I'm from Bristol'. (paraphrase from memory).


Jun 2 2012, 9:26pm

Post #11 of 17 (1164 views)
Precious [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll agree 100 % on the accent and dialogue corresponding to Welsh for Gollum, but as to the Precious bit, that's different.

Isuldur wasn't Welsh (I don't think) and he referred to the Ring as "Precious" and so did Bilbo after a time just like Gollum.

I would postulate that even Sauron called it that from the get go, and the Ring itself, as it took hold of its bearers after Sauron lost it, impressed this upon each ones psyche.

Take this Brother may it serve you well!!!


Jun 3 2012, 1:03am

Post #12 of 17 (1168 views)
IT's...a...Riddle as Only JRRT could... [In reply to] Can't Post


(TommyDearest has a Situation W/ the Barrow-wights)


Jun 3 2012, 6:42am

Post #13 of 17 (1196 views)
But when Gollum first called the Ring 'precious' [In reply to] Can't Post

Isuldur wasn't even thought of yet.

Gollum might have been modelled on a region dialect, but as often with Tolkien - idioms take a life of their own.


Jun 10 2012, 10:14pm

Post #14 of 17 (1165 views)
Somehow... [In reply to] Can't Post

Gollums dialogue always reminded me a little of the character Fagin in Oliver Twist:

"You'd like to make pocket handkerchiefs as easily as the Artful Dodger, wouldn't you my dear?"

"We will, my dear, we will."

"Only think," said Fagin, shrugging his shoulders, and stretching out his hands; "only consider. You've done what's a very pretty thing, and what I love you for doing; but what at the same time would put the cravat round your throat, that's so very easily tied and so very difficult to unloose- in plain English, the halter!"

A bit too literate p'raps, but add the sinuous lisps-s-s-s and you've got a fair approximation of the sinister Smeagol in a more real-world sense.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Jun 10 2012, 10:15pm)


Jun 11 2012, 5:16pm

Post #15 of 17 (1087 views)
A few reasons that I see [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Gollum's speech is a reflection of his psychological decay that the ring has caused. He's confused where his personality ends and where the ring's begins, so he uses the plural for himself but the singular for the ring (mostly, it seems). Gandalf says at one point that the Precious was originally the ring, but later became Gollum + the ring since he lost so much of his mind that the ring took over.

2. Gollum has devolved from hobbit to near-animal, moving about like a wild predator and eating his food raw. He is like a snake--able to sneak up and strike his prey by surprise, and evade capture through slippery tricks. To me, that's why he has all the hissing "s's."

3. Gollum's grammar deteriorates because he hasn't had anyone to talk to for centuries besides himself. Hence "We hates it forever!" with "hates" misconjugated and using "it" for a person, not "him" or "you." When I lived in a non-English-speaking country for a couple years, though I didn't spend time alone in a cave speaking to myself and eating raw fish, I didn't use English a whole lot, and one time I was speaking to some Americans and said "I isn't" and didn't realize my mistake until they laughed and pointed it out.


Jun 11 2012, 8:43pm

Post #16 of 17 (1075 views)
Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

Very suggestive; and it never occured to me before.


Jun 16 2012, 8:42pm

Post #17 of 17 (1101 views)
Perhaps Gollum was somewhat insane even before he had the Ring? [In reply to] Can't Post

Just a thought.

"It was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and go before it." ~FotR


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