Originally published June 4, 2014 at Part Time Monster as “The Murder of Deagol.” The entire series to date is archived here.
Last week I provided an overview of Gollum’s life. This week I’ll discuss just one event – Smeagol’s acquisition of the Ring and his murder of Deagol. The only account we have in the text of LOTR is from Gandalf, so we don’t get the story straight from Gollum himself. However, it’s told from start to finish in Gandalf’s own words. Gandalf is the most trustworthy character when it comes to truth and facts, but this story is brief . It’s only about a page-and-a-half long. (1)
Smeagol (Gollum) and his friend Deagol, two hobbits, take a boat down to the Gladden Fields, where Isildur lost the ring almost 2,500 years earlier. Deagol fishes in the boat, Smeagol noses around on the bank. Deagol hooks a fish so large it pulls him into the river. He spies the Ring and retrieves it. Smeagol sees him “gloating over it,” demands it, and an argument ensues. Smeagol strangles Deagol, hides the body, and returns home with the Ring. (2)
Once home, Gollum discovers the power of the ring, and uses the invisibility to learn peoples’ secrets and use them in all kinds of malicious ways. This, of course, causes his family to shun him. “He took to thieving, and going about muttering to himself, and gurgling in his throat.” His grandmother, apparently a wealthy and powerful matriarch, banishes him from the community to restore the peace. (3)
From there he wanders in the wild until the ring corrupts him to the point that he can’t stand the sun, so he retreats into roots of the Misty Mountains. He lives there in the dark, eating raw fish and who knows what else, until Bilbo encounters him almost 500 years after the murder.
Last week I said Gollum isn’t absolutely evil, and that’s true, but this passage suggests that he was something of a bad seed before he ever encountered the ring. This is the most interesting part of the entire passage to me: