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Two Gollum questions/observations


Jun 9 2013, 9:42pm

Post #1 of 9 (297 views)
Two Gollum questions/observations Can't Post

Hey gang, here are a few things I've been thinking about lately concerning Gollum. I always found him to be the scariest character in the series when I was a kid, and now I find him one of the most pitiable. One reason I was so scared of him is it felt like a Balrog or Nazgul would just annihilate you instantaneously, whereas the threat with Gollum would be more calculable and less remote (a la Faramir vs. Aragorn (from when Pippin first saw Faramir)).

Anyhoo, there are two points I want to bring up:

1.) Tolkien describes Gollum at different times as being both pale and dark. I believe this represents an error on Tolkien's part, but he covered himself nicely later on by explaining that Gollum was pale but wore dark clothes. It's Tolkien's world, I guess, and he can do whatever he wants.

Now, I don't know about you all, but the idea of Gollum wearing actual clothes, rather than the simple loin cloth/speedo thing he is usually depicted as wearing, makes him even scarier to me. Again, this might be because it would make him seem more like a really crazy, demented hobbit than a monster (a la that frog-like depiction from Rankin Bass).

On a related note:

2.) Did anyone else ever think it funny that everyone ended up calling him Gollum? I mean what were the odds? We're talkin' several people, all thinking independently of one another.

I guess Gandalf/Aragorn and all the good guys got the name from Bilbo, but what were the odds that Bilbo dubbed him the same name that his people gave him so many years ago? I understand it was the noise he made in his throat, but it still would be an amazing coincidence. I only remember ever hearing Gollum refer to himself as "Gollum" once, when he was thinking about what it would be like when he had the Ring, and would be known as "Lord Sméagol," and "The Gollum" (and eat fish three times a day!). Anyway, not like this impacts the story, and is probably something that Tolkien (thankfully) allowed to have happen to keep things easy to follow for us, the readers, but that just occurred to me the other day while listening to the Council of Elrond on Audio Book.

Thanks for reading...Thoughts?

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

(This post was edited by aruman on Jun 9 2013, 9:45pm)


Jun 9 2013, 10:20pm

Post #2 of 9 (167 views)
Does it have fishes for us if we answers its post, Precious? [In reply to] Can't Post

I share your sentiments. Gollum scared me when I was a kid because he was like a creepy ghost stalking Frodo (the way the Black Riders in the Shire scared me). Moria was creepy enough; adding Gollum to it made it worse. When he came up to the flet in Lorien I was really scared what would happen. Going down the Anduin, that sense of peril and dread that had lifted in Lorien came back.

Though I think Aragorn was rather casual about Gollum following them, more like a nuisance than a threat, and when Frodo makes a servant/captive/whatever of Gollum, he loses the scary aspect for me. Still dangerous, and I sided with Sam in my suspicions on first read, but after many more reads and meeting more pathetic people in life, I understand Frodo's pity better and lose my patience with Sam. In my mind Gollum went from simple monster to "this is what could happen to Frodo."

Dark and pale: I'm trying to think where he's called "dark" other than in his character. I'll do some looking. I think of him as pale from avoiding the light forever. Maybe Faramir's men call him dark when they first see him in Ithilien? If so, I interpret that as his demeanor, but am not sure.

Clothing: I've never been able to resolve this myself. Gollum has pockets in The Hobbit in a scene that Tolkien rewrote to fit LOTR, but where do his clothes come from? Maybe from orcses that he's killed. Otherwise, he should be naked after centuries underground. Given how secretive and animal-like he's become, why would he care about clothes when he re-emerges in the world? It's not like they can make a new man out of him and make him fit in. Wearing that speedo thing in the movie seems more in keeping with how I picture him (I don't want to picture him naked).

Name of Gollum: isn't there a sequence to follow on that one? Bilbo calls him that and describes him to Gandalf, who hunts him with Aragorn, and Frodo also learns his name from Bilbo. I think Bilbo passed the name along to everyone. True, Gollum mostly called himself Precious and didn't tell Bilbo his name was Gollum, but maybe making that trademark noise left Bilbo with no other impression. Bilbo probably wouldn't describe him to others as "a creature who calls himself Precious." Or maybe Bilbo thought that Gollum was using the gollum noise as his name when speaking to himself? You raised a good question; it's not clear how Bilbo could definitively call him that.


Jun 9 2013, 10:34pm

Post #3 of 9 (149 views)
Thanks [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey I'm going to write a much more thorough response, tomorrow...in the meantime I agree with all of your points on why Gollum is so scary...and yes, I do believe it was Mablung or one of Faramir's men who described Gollum as being of a dark complexion, even going so far as to theorize that he may a black squirrel from Mirkwood.

The point I was trying to make regarding Bilbo's naming of Gollum was that it was very coincidental that Bilbo happened to give him the same nickname that his people did long ago (after he found the Ring and started acting bananas!)

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


Jun 9 2013, 10:48pm

Post #4 of 9 (147 views)
Blackness [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah, yes, I found that black squirrel comment.Also, when Gollum is by the forbidden pool, Faramir makes a half-joke that he's a black kingfisher. In "The Taming of Smeagol," Gollum is first described climbing down the rocks as "a small black shape," which is at night with some pale moonlight. Granted, these scenes happen at dusk/night, but not everything at night looks like it's black during the daylight.

His eyes are almost always described as pale, with or without a green light in them.


Jun 10 2013, 7:43am

Post #5 of 9 (134 views)
Good questions, Aruman! [In reply to] Can't Post

I must admit that when I was a child, it was the orcs that frightened me more than Gollum (I'm speaking of TH, as I only read LotR as an adult). He was dangerous and creepy, but he was written in a way that seemed a bit funny to me as well.

Now on to your questions-

paleness-darkness - true, I recall those descriptions that the two of you mentioned, and also the orcs of Mordor speaking of Gollum as dark, and his description in TH. I am not familiar with the quote about clothes that you provided (interesting!). With me, the movie Gollum very much became my head-canon image for him, supporting the 'pale' descriptions in LotR (Black Gate, and Emyn Muil, I believe?). So I took to imagining that Gollum was just so incredibly filthy at times that he seemed dark to observers. Tongue

Concerning the name Gollum, I second Curious G. I too believe that the later accounts given by Gandalf and others, are based on the name that Bilbo gave the creature. Or perhaps 'gollum' was a universal Middle-earth interjection for a gulping/gurgling sound, and hence the identity of expression used by Gollum's kin and Bilbo and others? ^ ^

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


Jun 10 2013, 7:27pm

Post #6 of 9 (117 views)
Scary vs pitiable Gollum [In reply to] Can't Post

I really like your opening comment that Gollum, after starting out seeming so scary before we get to know him, ends up also very pitiable when we know him better. I like the way Tolkien often forces us to reconsider earlier impressions by giving us new information later, and Gollum must be one of the most complex examples of that.

I'd say that in Gollum's case it doesn't have to be either/or, though - I think Gollum can be both pitiable and dangerous at the same time. Unlike in the movie, where Frodo identifies with Gollum and starts to trust him, in the book I don't think Frodo ever trusts Gollum and so he knows all the time that his life is in danger from him. Yet he pities him anyway, and treats him kindly despite being afraid. I think that's a very noble kind of pity, when you risk your life to do it - and it's what Bilbo's pity consisted of too I suppose, in The Hobbit, when he chose to spare Gollum despite that making his own escape much more difficult.

Bilbo's action was a noble (and far-reaching) impulse, but unlike Bilbo, Frodo has to live with the danger of his decision to spare Gollum over a long period. He's even tempted at times to save himself at Gollum's expense - both Sam and Faramir offer to kill Gollum, and all Frodo would have had to do would be to say nothing and let it happen - but each time he makes the conscious decision to save the life of a creature who he knows wants to kill him. I guess I can understand Sam's frustration because, unlike Frodo, he hates the idea of balancing Frodo's own life against the life this fallen creature. Yet Frodo is determined to treat Gollum with pity and kindness, and unlike movie-Frodo, he does it with his eyes wide open to the danger that puts him in. I think it's easier to pity movie-Gollum whole-heartedly, because for a while we see him as Frodo does, and think he can be trusted. But in the book, he's never really to be trusted, except maybe for that one brief moment on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol when he has his tragic moment of almost-repentance.

Actually I'm wondering if there may also be a movie influence in your question about Gollum's colour? I always picture him as dark in the book, and I don't recall him being described as pale, although I may have forgotten something. As others have mentioned, his eyes are always pale, but he seems to be mostly described as dark or black as far as I remember. He's never described by the word "pale" anyway - I did a word search on my ebook LotR and it didn't come up.

As for the question of Gollum's name, I think you've got Tolkien bang to rights there! The only possible get-out I can think of is that Gandalf may have embroidered on the story a bit when he told it to Frodo in The Shadow of the Past. He does admit that "what I have told you is what Gollum was willing to tell – though not, of course, in the way I have reported it. Gollum is a liar, and you have to sift his words." So just possibly Gandalf added in the bit about Gollum's name just because he knew Frodo would recognise it from Bilbo's story. (Again, it's different in the movie, where the name Smeagol a big deal - in the book, Gollum hasn't forgotten his name, and it's what he calls himself right from the start.)

Thanks for bringing this up, aruman - Gollum's one of those characters who's always interesting to think about some more!


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


Jun 13 2013, 1:37am

Post #7 of 9 (103 views)
PJ/Serkis' Gollum [In reply to] Can't Post

I have mixed feelings regarding Gollum from the recent movies. I'm sure this is one of the major challenges with bringing a story like LOTR to the silver screen, so I'm not trying to be too hard on PJ or Andy, It just wasn't really how I envisioned him. I didn't find movie Gollum scary. I felt like Serkis was trying really hard and going over the top with the raspy cartoonish voice.

Speaking of cartoons, I found Gollum from Ralph Bakshi's film (voiced by Peter Woodthorpe) to be very similar to how I envisioned him.

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


Jun 13 2013, 8:16am

Post #8 of 9 (89 views)
I hear you. [In reply to] Can't Post

And I see where you're coming from. Myself, I liked both Jackson's and Bakshi's Gollum: PJ's was more pitiable for me (mostly - I don't forget the crucial 'moment of regret' scene is missing), and Bakshi's more creepy.

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


Jun 13 2013, 8:38am

Post #9 of 9 (109 views)
Liked both [In reply to] Can't Post

Bakshi's was good, but I like Serkis and the split personality of his Gollum a lot ... thought he was spot on. Especially those parts like in the Books where Gollum was actually kind of cheerfuul or obsequious and wanted to help Frodo. There were parts when he was even Jar Jar Binks-like and cute/funny without being too OTT or annoying as he did it.

Take this Brother May it Serve you Well
Vote for Pedro!


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