Originally, Gollum Was Actually Kinda Nice

Gollum is undeniably one of the greatest fantasy villains of all time, with his place in the history of fiction cemented even further after the incredible appearances, half CGI, half acting by Andy Serkis. What people tend to forget or simply never knew, that originally, Tolkien didn’t originally plan on Gollum being so evil.

Art by VegasMike

We first encounter the character in the most famous and memorable chapters from ‘The Hobbit’, Riddles in the dark. Bilbo finds Gollum’s ring and they play a riddle-game, in which Gollum loses because he couldn’t guess what Bilbo had in his pocket, Gollum’s ring, which Gollum thought was safely hidden somewhere else.

In the second and more famous edition, Gollum accepts defeat but actually plans to kill and eat the Hobbit instead of showing him the way out of the cave, as promised. When he went to get his “birthday present”, he found it was gone. He suddenly realized the answer to Bilbo’s last riddle — “What have I got in my pocket?” — and flew into a rage. Bilbo inadvertently discovered the Ring’s power of invisibility as he fled, allowing him to follow Gollum undetected to a back entrance of the cave system. Bilbo at first thought to kill Gollum, but was overcome with pity, and so merely leapt over him. As Bilbo escaped, Gollum cried out, “Thief! Thief, Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!”

The original Gollum wasn’t as bad. He is still eager to eat Bilbo should he lose the riddle game – but abides fairly by the result. Not only does Gollum willingly offer his magic ring as Bilbo’s prize for winning the bet, but begs his pardon and even offers him fresh fish to eat. Gollum then apologizes for having lost the ring, and Bilbo demands to be shown the way out as an alternative prize.

As Tolkien wrote – Bilbo need not have been frightened. For one thing Gollum had learned long ago was never to cheat at the riddle-game. What made him change him mind? He needed a different kind of Gollum as the epic story became much greater, turning into Lord of the Rings. He needed to show the ring’s corrupting influence, turning Gollum into the lovable vicious, unstable creature we know now.

The Hobbit will be arriving in cinemas on December 14, with the first part of what now will be another trilogy, called An Unexpected Journey. The second part will be released 355 days later (December 13, 2013), called There and Back Again. A yet unnamed third chapter will come out during the 2014 summer.