Originally published at Part Time Monster as “Gollum the Footpad.”
I’m doing a reading of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as a series of encounters between the One Ring and the other characters. I’ve given an overview of Gollum’s life, talked about the murder of Deagol, and discussed his loss of the Ring to Bilbo Baggins. We’ve arrived at his first appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring, nearly 80 years after his encounter with Bilbo in The Hobbit.
Gollum’s path intersects that of the Company of the Ring in Moria on January 13, TA 3019. He’d escaped the custody of the elves of the Woodland Realm the summer before and disappeared without a trace in August. Apparently, he found his way into Khazad-dum from the east and was lurking in the vicinity of the West-gate when the company entered Moria. (1)
Here’s the first hint that Gollum has arrived. This is on the night the Company enters Moria:
Yet Frodo began to hear, or to imagine that he heard, something else: like the faint fall of soft bare feet. It was never loud enough, or near enough, for him to feel certain that he heard it; but once it had started it never stopped, while the Company was moving. But it was not an echo, for when they halted it pattered on a little all by itself, and then grew still. (2)
I like this introduction. Even though we know, if we’ve been paying attention since chapter 2, that this must be Gollum, we don’t see him. And monsters are always at their most disturbing when they are present, but unseen. Then there’s the fact that Frodo hasn’t made the connection yet, and wonders at first if he’s just imagining things. This is very good for building suspense. It’s reinforced a few pages later:
As the road climbed upwards, Frodo’s spirits rose a little; he still felt oppressed, and still at times he heard, or thought he heard, away behind the Company and beyond the fall and patter of their feet, a following footstep that was not an echo. (3)
Now we’re sure that someone is following – there can be no doubt. This is the last we hear of Gollum until after the fateful encounter at the bridge and the escape from Moria. Somehow, though, Gollum exits Moria himself and picks up the trail of the Fellowship very quickly.
Frodo catches his first real glimpse of Gollum the night of the escape from Moria. The Company has covered so much ground, the Hobbits are exhausted, and they’ve had to stop and take a look at Frodo’s and Sam’s wounds. They’ve eaten, and are listening and watching for signs that the Orcs are pursuing them.
Frodo did not answer. He looked at Sting, and the blade was dull. Yet he had heard something, or thought he had. As soon as the shadows had fallen about them and the road behind was dim, he had heard again the quick patter of feet. Even now he heard it. He turned swiftly. There were two tiny gleams of light behind, or for a moment he thought he saw them, but at once they slipped aside and vanished. (4)