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Gollum is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's universe of Middle-earth. Originally known as Sméagol he was later named Gollum after the curious noise he made in his throat.

Once a Stoorish[?] Hobbit, Sméagol was the fourth Master of the One Ring, after Sauron, Isildur, and Déagol. Déagol was his cousin, and on Sméagol's birthday they went diving in the Gladden Fields north of Lothlórien. It was there that Déagol found a gold ring. Sméagol demanded the ring as a birthday present and strangled Deágol when he refused. Sméagol was quickly corrupted further by the ring and, banished by his people, was forced to find a home in a cave in the Misty Mountains. The Ring's malignant influence twisted his Hobbit body and mind and prolonged his life far beyond its natural limits, but he nevertheless loved it dearly and called it his "Precious". He lived in the Misty Mountains for over four hundred years, living on raw fish (Gollum was an excellent swimmer.) and juvenile Orcs, and in later years he found cooked food repulsive.

During the Quest of Erebor, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins stumbled upon the subterranean lake on which he lived. Gollum had lost the Ring in the network of caves leading to the lake, though in fact it is more proper to say that the Ring abandoned Gollum, for it is known to have a will of its own. As Gandalf says later, it looks after itself, trying to get back to Sauron. After the famous Riddle Game, during which Gollum was unaware of his loss, Gollum refuses to show Bilbo the promised way out and plotted to murder him. Fleeing the enraged Gollum, Bilbo (who had found the Ring) stumbled across the Ring's power of invisibility, allowomg him to escape both Gollum and the Orcs. Gollum was heard to cry out, "Thief! Baggins! We hates it forever!"

(In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum does not appear quite as wretched or as bound to the Ring. Tolkien revised this characterization to fit the concept of the Ruling Ring developed during the writing of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien then explained the version given in the first edition as a lie that Bilbo made up to tell the Dwarves and Gandalf.)

Gollum left the Mountains and pursued Bilbo a few years later, but the trail was cold. He made his way into Mordor, where he was forced to reveal what he knew about the Ring. Gollum was then freed, but caught by the Silvan[?] Elves living in Thranduil's kingdom in Mirkwood. He escaped into Moria.

In The Lord of the Rings, Gollum started following the Fellowship in Moria, though at that time the Fellowship was unaware of him. It is unknown how he crossed the Bridge of Khazad-dûm[?], but he came with them to Lórien without their knowing. Gollum followed their boats down Anduin to Rauros[?] and pursued Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee across the Emyn Muil[?] when they struck out on their own towards Mordor. Gollum followed them, but they eventually captured him. Frodo tied an Elven rope around Gollum's head for a leash, but it rejected the evil little creature and pained him greatly, so Frodo was persuaded to take it off. He then forced Gollum to swear that he will not hurt Frodo, but rather will guide him across the Dead Marshes and the Morannon to Mordor. Agreeing to the oath, Gollum found nothing better to swear on than the "Precious" itself. The unlikely threesome made their way to Mordor.

When the Black Gate was found to be impassable, Gollum led them through Ithilien to Cirith Ungol and in the border-mountains of the Ephel Dúath, Gollum betrayed his companions to the great spider Shelob, child of Ungoliant. Just as Frodo warned him, Gollum's betrayal of his oath on the Ring ultimately led to his undoing, for Frodo and Sam escaped from Shelob's lair and came against all odds to the volcano of Orodruin. Gollum followed them all the way, seeking again for a chance to surprise them and take the Ring, but the chance did not come until Frodo was standing on the edge of the Crack of Doom.

Here, ironically, Frodo's kindness in sparing Gollum's life was rewarded, for Frodo's will crumbled at the last critical moment, and, claiming the Ring for himself, he slipped it on his finger. A maddened Gollum leapt upon him and bit off the finger with the Ring. Gollum then teetered on the edge of the great pit, lost his balance and fell in, taking the Ring and finger with him. Had Gollum not lived to play this final part, Frodo would have been captured by the Nazgûl—they were on his trail as soon as he put the Ring on—and the Ring would have returned to Sauron.

In both Ralph Bakshi's animated film of The Lord of the Rings (1978) and the BBC's 1981 radio serialization, the voice of Gollum is supplied by Peter Woodthorpe.

In Peter Jackson's 2002 film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the characterization of Gollum is achieved via a CGI creature built around the voice, movements and expressions of actor Andy Serkis[?]. It is believed that in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Serkis himself will appear as Sméagol before his degradation into Gollum.

In both the 1981 BBC radio adaptation and in the Peter Jackson movies Sméagol is pronounced as "SMEE-gol", although the placement of the acute accent suggests that the correct pronunciation is "SMAY-uh-gol".

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