The transformation of Sméagol into Gollum is one of the most intriguing facets of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth saga. While many remember Gollum for his raspy voice and eerie catchphrase, few delve into how the innocent Sméagol became this creature. In this article, we’ll journey through the dark chapters of Sméagol’s life and unravel the enigma behind the One Ring’s curse.
The One Ring: An introduction to its power
In the heart of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Sauron forged the One Ring, a jewelry with unparalleled might. It wasn’t just a ring; it was an embodiment of Sauron’s power, will, and desire to dominate all of Middle-earth.
This wasn’t any ordinary artifact. Its power was so immense that even the strongest of beings couldn’t resist its allure. The Ring granted invisibility to its wearer, but it came at a heavy price. Over time, the Ring would corrupt, consume, and alter the very soul of its possessor.
It had a mind of its own, whispering dark thoughts and creating obsessions in the heart of the one who bore it. The Ring’s seductive nature made it a symbol of power and a curse. And it was this curse that would set Sméagol on a path to becoming the creature known as Gollum.
The fateful encounter: Déagol and the Ring
On an ordinary day, two Hobbits, Sméagol and Déagol, were out fishing. It was during this excursion that fate played its cruel hand. Déagol was dragged into the water by a strong fish, and as he emerged, he stumbled upon a shiny gold ring resting on the riverbed.
This was no ordinary ring. It was the One Ring, lost by its previous owner, Isildur, during a battle many years prior. As Déagol held it up, the Ring’s allure began to work instantly. Sméagol, drawn by its charm, demanded it as a birthday gift.
When Déagol refused, a dark rage overtook Sméagol. Consumed by desire for the Ring, he strangled his friend to death. The Ring’s corrupting influence on Sméagol began with this violent act, setting him on a path of isolation, paranoia, and transformation.
From Sméagol to Gollum: A transformation tale
The acquisition of the Ring marked the beginning of a downward spiral for Sméagol. Its overwhelming influence began reshaping his physical and mental state. No longer the hobbit-like creature of his past, he soon became an outcast, shunned by his kin and community.
He sought refuge in the Misty Mountains, where the darkness and solitude harmonized with the Ring’s essence. Here, he lived for centuries, away from the world’s prying eyes. The Ring granted him a long life, but it wasn’t a gift but a prolonged curse.
As years turned into decades and decades into centuries, Sméagol’s appearance underwent a grotesque transformation. His skin turned pale and clammy, his eyes grew large and luminescent, and his body became gaunt. The once clear-minded individual was now plagued by a dual personality, often conversing with himself.
But perhaps the most distinguishing change was a sound he’d frequently make—a guttural, throat-clearing noise, “Gollum.” It wasn’t long before this sound became an epithet, turning Sméagol, once a name filled with identity, into Gollum, a symbol of his tormented existence.
The sound of Gollum: Unveiling the name’s origin
Within the cavernous depths of the Misty Mountains, a distinctive sound echoed—a throaty, rasping noise: “Gollum.” This wasn’t a mere word or a call but rather an inadvertent sound, a reflex that Sméagol often made, much like someone might cough or hiccup.
As an onomatopoeic reflection of the noise Sméagol frequently produced, this sound quickly became more than just noise; it became an identity. Those few who happened upon this creature, without knowledge of his original name or past life, began identifying him by this sound.
In “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again,” the roots of the name Gollum are further illuminated. When the creature speaks, particularly in moments of excitement or distress, the sound slips out, punctuating his sentences.
As he says, “Bless us and splash us, my precioussss!” the unmistakable “Gollum” noise follows, hinting at the origin of his moniker. Over time, the name stuck, transforming the once hobbit-like Sméagol into the unforgettable Gollum.
How characters in the Trilogy addressed him
In Tolkien’s legendary trilogy, ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the creature once known as Sméagol is variously addressed by different characters. These names and terms of address reflect not just the creature’s dual nature but also the perceptions and emotions of those interacting with him.
- Sméagol: This is his original name, a reminder of his hobbit-like past. Characters like Frodo often use this name when they try to appeal to his better nature, highlighting his previous life before the corruption of the Ring.
- Gollum: Stemming from the throaty noise he frequently makes, this name becomes more prevalent, especially among those who don’t know his original identity. It symbolizes the dark, corrupted side of his personality.
- My Precious: This term is not used by others to address him, but rather, it’s how Gollum often refers to the Ring and sometimes even to himself. It underscores his obsession with the Ring and how it has become integral to his identity.
- Slinker and Stinker: Sam, Frodo’s loyal companion, comes up with these nicknames. “Slinker” represents the more cunning, sneaky side of Gollum, while “Stinker” is more disdainful, highlighting the creature’s malodorous presence and treacherous nature.
By examining how various characters address and refer to him, readers get a multidimensional view of Gollum, one that underscores the internal and external conflicts surrounding this iconic character.
Why did Sméagol transform into Gollum, while Bilbo didn’t?
Sméagol’s transformation into Gollum was rapid and severe, largely due to his immediate obsession and act of violence — murdering his cousin Déagol — to obtain the One Ring. This early, intense connection to the Ring, coupled with his prolonged isolation in the dark depths of the Misty Mountains, allowed the Ring’s corruption to deeply permeate his being.
On the other hand, Bilbo acquired the Ring without violence and lived in the Shire, surrounded by the steady, grounding influence of fellow hobbits. Though the Ring did affect him, the more nurturing environment and shorter duration of possession meant its corruptive power was slower and less pronounced on him.
Anyone who has witnessed the pull of a potent temptation can empathize with how varied surroundings and experiences can shape one’s resilience to it.
How long did it take for Sméagol to transform into Gollum?
Sméagol’s descent into the creature known as Gollum was a gradual process that spanned over several centuries. Driven by the Ring’s corrupting influence and his initial violent acquisition of it, his transformation was further deepened by years of isolation in the dark caverns of the Misty Mountains, away from the moderating influences of society and sunlight.
The exact duration is a bit ambiguous, but it’s clear that the One Ring granted Sméagol an extended lifespan, allowing his transformation to unfold over a much longer period than a typical hobbit’s life. Just as a cherished yet harmful habit can shape and change a person over the years, so did the Ring insidiously change Sméagol, day by day, year by year.