While the Dwarves fear for their lives on a higher level of this enormous cavernous space, on the ground floor, Bilbo is facing the same. After having been attacked by a stray Goblin and falling into the chasm, he now finds himself amidst unknown vegetation that saved him from fatal injury whilst falling. He, along with his assailant are lying on the ground incapacitated.
Gollum: “Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes! Gollum, Gollum! Aah! Nasty Goblinses. Better than old bones precious. Better than nothing.”
And here we have it, one of the most important creatures of the two trilogies. He crawls on all fours and hisses as he approaches the lying Goblin on the path. Bilbo is safely hidden behind what look like giant mushrooms, allowing him to see what is going on in front of him. The Goblin was still alive after his direct fall to the ground. However, with a rock to his head Gollum managed to knock him out again, enough to take him by his feet to his own little cave.
While in his vicious rage, a golden ring falls out of the little cloth around his hips. Gollum doesn’t notice it, but the camera focuses primarily on the ring as it hits the ground. As it falls to the ground, the sound effect provides us with the sense of the importance of the ring. Gollum leaves with the Goblin and Bilbo comes out of hiding.
Bilbo is still rattled by what transpired in front of him, looking in front of him to see where the creature had taken the Goblin and if there could be a way out in that direction. Before moving forward his eyes, as if pulled by a force, spot the ring on the ground. He wasn’t searching for it, it would appear that the ring had called for his attention.
Bilbo picks up the ring, noticing immediately that it is not just another simple gold band. He can sense there is more to it than meets the eye. However, his priority does not change, and his curiosity of finding the creature and a way out of this cavernous space moves his feet forward. He comes to a cave with a lake.
Singing for supper
Gollum: “Too many boneses, precious. Not enough flesh! Shut up! Cut its skin off. Start with its head.”
The cold hard lands They bites our hands They gnaws our feet The rocks and stones They’re like old bones All bare of meat Cold as death Without no breath It’s good to eat Text by J.R.R. Tolkien
On the single protruding rock in the middle of the lake, he sees the creature squatting above the Goblin it knocked out moments ago. Bilbo’s sword glows blue, proving that the Goblin in question is still alive. While he tortures the Goblin in question, Gollum sings a song to himself.
The song he sings also describes his world, his feelings, and himself essentially. He is happy to have found a Goblin to eat. He sees it as meat, nothing more.
There wouldn’t be anything strange about it, considering people sing to themselves often, particularly while preparing food, as Gollum is doing now, if he weren’t singing about cannibalism, essentially.
Now, in our society, cannibalism is thought to be a monstrosity, the most gruesome thing one could do to another human being. In this fictional world, it appears to be a common sight. We had the Trolls who eat other races, we had the Orcs and the Uruk-hai who ate each other, so why would a single troubled creature like Gollum be any different? Well, for one thing he is a Stoor Hobbit, one of the three races of Hobbits that lived in swampy areas.
As a race they nourished themselves as the Hobbits of the Shire did, fish, meat, vegetables, everything humans would eat basically. For him to turn to cannibalism, therefore, did not come from his own nature, but rather from necessity. As we already know from the Lord of the Ring trilogy, he was banished and sought the comfort of the Misty Mountains for shelter.
What he did for food is to find whatever he could, bats, fish, and well, Goblins. He could not live in the sunlight since the darkness took him so he made do with what he could.
Fear in hiding
Suddenly, after a loud thud of a rock against a head the sword stops to glow blue. Now, there are only two of them, Gollum and Bilbo.
What could Bilbo possibly think about this creature? No one ever mentioned him, and there’s no resemblance between him and the Goblins he saw earlier. So who is he, or more importantly what is he? He is obviously capable of murder, as Bilbo witnessed himself. Does that mean he would do the same to him? Bilbo hides behind a tall enough rock for the creature not to spot him, but will that save him?
As he turns to look at what the creature is doing, Gollum is nowhere to be found. The rock he crouched upon a moment ago is now empty. Bilbo can’t hear anything. He can only wait for the creature to find him. And before long Gollum creeps up above Bilbo, jumping right in front of him.
Gollum: “Bless us and splash us precious. That’s a meaty mouthful. Gollum, Gollum. Aah!”
Bilbo: “Back. Stay back. I’m warning you, don’t come any closer.”
Gollum: “It’s got an Elfish blade. But it’s not an Elfs. Not an Elfs, no. What is it, precious? What is it?”
Bilbo: “My name is Bilbo Baggins.”
As soon as Gollum sees Bilbo the only thought on his mind is to eat him. He sees him only as food, nothing more. However, as Bilbo threatens him with his sword, Gollum becomes confused. He cannot place him. The sword in his hand and his overall stature are in discrepancy. Bilbo is nothing Gollum had ever seen before, much as Bilbo never encountered a creature like Gollum.
Gollum: “Bagginses? What is a Bagginses, precious?”
Bilbo: “I’m a Hobbit from the Shire.”
Gollum: “Oh. We like Goblinses, bates and fishes. But we hasn’t tried Hobbitses before. Is it soft? Is it juicy?”
Bilbo: “Now, now. Keep your distance! I’ll use this if I have to.”
It is an interesting fact that Gollum could not tell by the looks of Bilbo that he was a Hobbit, given that Gollum himself was one. The ring’s influence on his mind and perception is graver than presumed. Even when Bilbo categorizes himself as a Hobbit, Gollum doesn’t seem to find any similarities between himself and Bilbo. A mind so far gone, he cannot remember being anything else than this creature created by the ring.
Bilbo on the other hand has taken to defending himself well. He knows he is in danger of this creature devouring him, so his fight instinct kicks in, and for whatever it’s worth he swings that sword in front of him. His hands are shaking and his eyes show fear, but there is nothing else he can do. He can’t flee because he doesn’t know where to flee and he doesn’t want to get in any harm’s way. So the best he can do is defend himself before Gollum.
Bilbo: “I don’t want any trouble. Do you understand? Just show me the way to get out of here and I’ll be on my way.”
Gollum: “Why? Is it lost?”
Bilbo: “Yes, yes. And I want to get unlost as soon as possible.”
Gollum: “Ooh, we knows! We knows safe paths for Hobbitses. Safe paths in the dark. Shut up!”
Bilbo: “I didn’t say anything.”
Gollum: “We wasn’t talking to you. Oh, yes we was, precious. We was.”
And now there’s three. Without Bilbo knowing anything about this creature’s past, Gollum must come across as a complete lunatic, a schizophrenic at least. What Bilbo doesn’t know is that Gollum developed a friend to talk to, or rather Sméagol did, depends on which perspective you take.
Sméagol, this rather helpful and fun-loving part of the creature is happy to be of service to Bilbo and tell him about the path he could take to exit the cave. But his other persona, Gollum, corrects him immediately. Gollum is more concerned about having Bilbo for dinner than him finding a way out. They, of course, argue with each other in front of Bilbo, leaving him completely confused.
What is more perceptive in the Hobbit than in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is Gollum/Smeagol’s transformations, not in behavior but in subtle pupil dilations. In the Lord of the Rings, Gollum does not change his attitude that quickly and that sharply as he does here, so his pupils change more perceptibly than they did in the Lord of the Rings.
Given the technological and CGI improvements that have been developed between the two trilogies, it is no wonder that the animators took Gollum to a completely new level.
In this trilogy the animators as well as the creature designers of Weta have worked even more closely with Andy Serkis, making Gollum appear “more Andy than Andy” according to Gino Acevedo, Senior Prosthetics supervisor and visual creature special effects art director at Weta.
Bilbo: “Look, I don’t know what your game is but I…”
Gollum: “Games? Oh, we love games, doesn’t we, precious? Does it like games? Does it, does it? Does it like to play?”
The expression on Gollum’s face as Bilbo mentions a game resembles that of an innocent excitable child. After so long a time living alone in this cave, Sméagol is excited to have someone to play with.
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Photo credit to Der Hobbit Broschur XL 2020 from Athesia Kalenderverlag GmbH