In this article, we are going to talk about one aspect of Gollum’s “relationship” with the One Ring. You’re going to find out why Gollum lived for so many years, why he didn’t die from losing the Ring, and why he ultimately died. We’re also going to briefly compare his story to Bilbo’s since they are quite similar in one aspect. We have much in store for you, so be ready.
What are the One Ring’s powers?
The One Ring was created as the most powerful of the Great Rings, as the Ring to rule all other Rings. It was basically an emanation of Sauron, who wanted to use it to gain complete control over Middle-earth. Seeing how powerful Sauron was, the One Ring was also exceptionally powerful and had a lot of effects on its bearer(s), most of which are negative.
Since the topic of this article is not the One Ring, we’re not going to dwell into all of the powers of this magical artefact. The only relevant power for this article is the ability to prolong the life of the one who possesses it. This is a very specific power the Ring has as it enables the holder to live for centuries, if not forever.
The exact mechanism behind this is not completely clear, but it seems that the Ring “stops time”, i.e., that it stops the aging process of the bearer. The interesting thing here is that the bearer doesn’t really have to use the Ring; he just has to be near it.
Bilbo hardly ever put on the Ring himself, but he still lived much longer than an average Hobbit and aged much slower. As for Gollum, he lived for centuries, even after his transformation into the wretched creature we met in the main story.
How old was Gollum in The Lord of the Rings?
Gollum is a wretched creature Bilbo meets during his adventure and the fourth bearer of the One Ring. Before becoming Gollum, he was actually a Stoorish Hobbit called Sméagol and was born around TA 2430. Around TA 2463, he killed his cousin Déagol and stole the One Ring from him; Déagol was the third bearer of the Ring.
Sméagol was enchanted with the Ring’s powers and his greed grew so much that he wanted the Ring just for himself, describing it as his “Precious”. Sméagol didn’t really have any precise plans with the Ring, he just wanted it for himself to admire it, to make it the only focus of his life. And that he did. For centuries.
Sméagol was probably not aware of the Ring’s powers and he kept keeping it while benefiting from its powers. As he turned into the wretched Gollum, he also ages much slower and seemed to live forever. He did, of course, not live forever, but he lived for around 589 years, which is remarkable for a creature that was once a Hobbit.
How did Gollum die?
We’ve established that Gollum did die. The Ring prolonged his life for centuries, but he did eventually die and it was not of old age or any other natural cause. Gollum died on March 25, 2019 in the fires of Mount Doom, along with this precious Ring. What exactly happened?
After he and Sam finally arrived at Mount Doom, Frodo was standing on the edge of the Crack of Doom, when suddenly, unwilling to destroy the Ring, he claimed it for himself and put it on. Then Gollum, who had been following the Hobbits to reclaim his “Precious”, attacked them again. Gollum knocked out Sam with a rock whilst Frodo became invisible thanks to the Ring. Gollum was able to track his footprints and jumped on Frodo. The two fought, and finally, Gollum bit off Frodo’s finger with the Ring on it.
After regaining his “Precious”, Gollum then teetered on the edge of the great pit, lost his balance and fell in, taking the Ring and finger with him along with a final cry of “Precious!” (in the movie, Frodo attacked Gollum and they both fell). The ring was burned in the molten lava with Gollum consumed with it as well. This is how Gollum perished.
Why didn’t Gollum die when he lost the One Ring?
So, we know that Gollum died, but he did not die of old age – he was consumed by the flames of Mount Doom. Yet, this happened sometime after he had lost the Ring to Bilbo in a game of chance. Since the Ring prolonged his life so much that, when he lost it, he was so old that there was no way he could reach that age naturally, it’s only natural to ask oneself – why did the Gollum not die immediately after the Ring’s magic disappeared from him? Even he himself said that “when Precious goes we’ll die, yes, die into the dust.”
The same thing happened to Bilbo Baggins when he gave up the ring to Gandalf and Frodo. So, what happened? As Gandalf once said, when talking about Bilbo, “it might take a long while for the influence to wear off. (…) he might live on for years, quite happily: just stop as he was when he parted with it.”
The Ring was a powerful object and the magic he was imbued with was likewise extremely powerful, which means that it could linger on with the bearer even after he lost possession of it. At that moment, time continued to pass normally for the bearer and they would not actually feel the weight of the time already passed, but just the time passing at that moment.
This is why Gollum didn’t die, despite being more than 500 years old and this is why Bilbo did not die – they did not age rapidly; they just started aging normally while the effects of the Ring still lingered on.