From The Blog

Riddles in the Dark: Episode 11

We take a detour through interracial romance on the way to Gollum on Riddles in the Dark!

In Episode 11 of the Mythgard Institute’s Riddles in the Dark podcast, Prof. Corey Olsen and Dave Kale  talk Gollum in the second of their three-part series on Bilbo, Gollum, and their Riddles contest.  This week, Prof. Olsen goes very Tolkien Professor on us and talks in detail about Gollum’s evolution from dangerous but rule-abiding adversary to integral tragic anti-hero through multiple editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  He educates Dave about pre-LOTR Gollum (from the earliest editions of the Hobbit) and explains how Peter Jackson’s task – adapting the character of Gollum to be consistent with both The Hobbit novel as well as his own pre-existing LOTR films – is not so very different from that faced by Tolkien himself after the publication of The Lord of the Rings.

But before they even get to that, they first take a detour into the hottest news of the week: the purported interracial romance between “hot dwarf” Kili (played by Aiden Turner) and elven femme fatale Tauriel (played by Evangeline Lilly).  Prof. Olsen and Dave agree that most likely a stray comment has been blown out of proportion but speculate nonetheless about how romantic elements might fit into the film’s narrative and share their hope that Peter Jackson will handle it with taste (for more insightful commentary, see the most recent episode of SQPN’s Secrets of the Hobbit from Fr. Roderick and Dave).

The team also tries a new experiment this week: in addition to broadcasting live on Middle-earth Network Radio, they also use Mythgard’s “Netmoot” format to enable listeners to interact with them and ask questions during the broadcast.  Eventually, listeners may be able to contribute their voices to future RITD episodes!

Prediction: How will Gollum in The Hobbit compare to his portrayal in The Lord of the Rings?

A. He will be portrayed as more sympathetic, perhaps by showing flashbacks or emphasizing his kinder “Smeagol” side.
B. He will be pretty much the same.
C. He will be seem less sympathetic and more wicked and threatening, consistent with his long possession of the Ring.

D. None of the above. Corey and Dave just lack sufficient imagination when it comes to brainstorming answers.

Download: .mp3 (right click and choose “Save As…” to download)



  1. Andang June 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Tolkien Prof. opened it up to include all sorts of crazy ideas and so here is a crazy one.

    I am going to go with “D” and here is why…
    Andy Serkis forgot which impression he was suppost to do and so he did a seagol voice instead of Gollum. He actually just gives the ring to Bilbo without any riddles or anything. Since he is also a director, everyone thought it was correct and did not mention it to him. They do not notice the mistake until after they already sent the theatrical release tapes to theatres. This will be corrected by the DVD release but could confuse auiences in theatures, and rightfully so.
    Hope you enjoyed it,
    Writer on A Casual Stroll to Mordor

  2. Brent Sprinkle (elswifto) June 17, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    One thing that came to mind while I was pondering all things Gollum was that in the Hobbit he apparently has an appetite for sweet Hobbit meat as he threatens to eat Bilbo. In the LOTR films (or the books for that matter) we never get any indication that he wants to eat Frodo or Sam. Even in the Dead Marshes when Gollum declares he is famished all he seems to be thinking about are worms and birds. Not once does it cross his mind to throttle Sam or Frodo, put them on a spit, and roast them over the little candles that are lit there. Why is that? Maybe that was an effect of the ring on Gollum so when he saw Bilbo (and goblins) the ring increased his appetite and compelled him to murder? Or at that point and time in the Marshes Slinker was in control instead of Stinker? It seems to me that if PJ were to portray Gollum as wanting to eat Bilbo in the Hobbit, it would be inconsistent with the LOTR films. Dave and Corey, any thoughts on this?

  3. Greg Gray June 17, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    I realise it’s many years too early but .. .. having Gollum captured by the agents of the Necromancer at the end of the movie would be a clever way for PJ to foreshadow the LOTR movie and to make the danger of “Bilbo’s magic ring” more obvious.

  4. Dedric Handlesman June 18, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    I think for the greater eventual fall, he must be portrayed as a pitiable character, to remain consistent in the world PJ has created. I vote A, because we must remember that Bilbo, Gandalf, Frodo and Sam all discuss at one point or another why he is so pathetically pitiful. He is to be pitied, according to all but Sam who it turns out correctly realizes that he is already lost. Gollum is never saved. He LITERALLY falls…into lava…stealing the ring back. He may struggle at times to free himself of the ring’s power, but it’s precisely that which Frodo and Gollum share (Frodo fails his test, too!). In order for Frodo to understand why he’s to be pitied, he must carry the ring for a time. He clearly HEARS that he’s to be pitied from some source (presumably his uncle), but doesn’t truly know why until he carries the ring. So, Frodo must have heard how pitiful and sympathetic a character Gollum is in the SECOND story, one that explains so clearly why Bilbo alters the story later. Once FREE of the ring in Rivendell, he then “gives up” the true story, which makes me think all the more that these movies MUST be told in Rivendell. Frodo hears this change and wonders why now? Bilbo explains that he only now sees how the ring alters a person and feels that Gollum, carrying the ring for ages, must truly be a sorry character.

    He must be built up to fall later, which we already know he does.

  5. Andang June 18, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    That is scary how probable this is…

  6. Trish June 18, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Good points, Dedric. I think you make a good case for A. I, however, am going with C. First, because Tolkien himself describes Gollum as “devoted to evil” and ending in “persistent wickedness” (Letters of JRRT #181). Second, a more commercial reason–Gollum has proven to be a very popular character in the minds of the movie’s primary market, and the reason for his popularity is his wickedness. For commerical reasons, he needs to be at least as bad as Darth Vader, worse if possible.

    As far as the story as it fits into PJ’s version of it, The Hobbit predates Gollum’s torture by Sauron (which we see in flashback in The Fellowship of the Ring movie), and I see the Smeagol/Gollum split happening during that torture. Before that, during his years in the Misty Mountains, he had no outside stimulus to bring his more sympathetic side to the foreground. He had the Ring working on him, and was surrounded by goblins and other dark things, so his devotion to evil became deeply rooted. Therefore, it makes sense (to me) that he would be worse, not the same or better, than he is in The Lord of the Rings movies.

  7. Jeremy M June 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I see Smeagol/Gollum as being on a personality pendulum, swinging from Smeagol to Gollum, with the Smeagol/Gollum creature we see in the RotK movie being in the middle.

    In the scene with Deagol he starts at the Smeagol far end, gets the Ring and begins his swing toward Gollum. By the time Bilbo encounters him the Ring has taken him almost completely, thus he’d be at the far end of Gollum.

    The Ring having forsaken Gollum, its influence on him wavers, and the pendulum begins its swing back, but not completely, as his lust for the Ring remains. His treatment in Mordor could have had any number of effect on the swing, but his kindly treatment by Frodo, while Sam treats him harshly (and the later treatment from Faramir’s men) causes the pendulum to swing back and forth somewhat wildly. Finally, at the source of the Ring itself, Mount Doom, the pendulum swings strongly to the Gollum side as his lust for and in the presence of the Ring overwhelms Smeagol.

    I don’t think Jackson can do A or B without being inconsistent. While the Ring is in the process of forsaking him, it is still very much present, and thus he is still very much Gollum. However, the riddle game will bring memories of his old life to the fore, thus there may be some bit of Smeagol present, but I can’t see that swinging him very far, not yet.

    They’ve painted this pendulum effect very consistently in the movies, and that consistency requires a dark Gollum in my opinion. I could also see some of A mixed in, namely as the aforementioned memories of his old life, but as far as the depiction of Gollum in the movie in current-time scenes, my prediction is C.

  8. Dedric H. June 19, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Interesting, Trish. Bringing up Darth Vader seems to indicate that he does have some good in him and at the end would be redeemed.

    It should be mentioned that not even Gollum wore the ring at all times. Only occasionally. Though he doesn’t know it to be lost, once the ring “left” him, there’s no telling what the effects of the ring and withdrawl from it might be. His anger stems from his discovery that it’s gone, not necessarily from the ring itself. I don’t think it’s a devotion to evil, though surely that sustained him while in possession of it and in the place he chose to dwell. Presumably, he predated the goblin encampment under the mountain, though no dates are given. Had he been looking for a “home” he surely would have looked elsewhere, not somewhere that being discovered would have possibly deprived him of the ring.

    I think it’s reasonable to assume that PJ’s portrayal of the creature in the LotR movies is one that, whether or not outwardly evil, is seen by those who know him as pitiable. In order for even, say, Harry Potter to pity Lord Voldemort, he has to understand that he is lacking something important. Maybe Gollum is outright evil, but to Bilbo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Sam, Faramir…it’s a wretched sight and pitiful creature. I can’t pity pure evil. I don’t pity Sauron, but a creature that must have had some evil in him (Smeagol) had it amplified through greed.

    I also had a thought about Smaug. Is it possible that the connection with Sauron was one where the dragon was enlisted to gather wealth,,,like any gold rings that he might have found? Dragon fire might have melted some of the dwarven rings, but perhaps if the dragon knew what it was he was looking for, he would have been more careful in his hoarding. Sauron capturing a dwarf he knew might have had a ring might have been an indicator of his attempts to gather his power again. Smaug’s defeat might have signaled to him an end to his attempts at gathering dwarven rings in the north through those means.

    As for the Kili romance, I heard an awful (in my opinion) rumor that Kili will not be killed defending Thorin. Fili may or may not, but I heard that someone mentioned how sweet it was that Tolkien depicted a dwarf dying for an elf (which he didn’t in the book, of course). I immediately thought of this angle. Haldir fell in Helm’s Deep in the second movie. Perhaps this is a “dwarf death” for racial harmony that was missing in favor of an elven sacrifice. Haldir, of course, did not officially die at Helm’s Deep in the books. Kili died at the body of Thorin, but I could see PJ reasoning that one dwarf dying at Thorin’s guard would be enough and dying to protect his love might serve Kili’s movie story (as told by PJ) better in that sense.

  9. Dan J June 20, 2012 at 4:41 am #

    I think that given how strongly they emphasised the “Bilbo took pity on Gollum” interpretation of these events in the previous film, I think that the answer is going to be C. They’re going to present Gollum as really nasty and slimy and unsympathetic for the most part, to make sure that Bilbo taking pity on him is a signifigant loving gesture.

  10. Harry J June 25, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    I’m going out on a limb here. I think we’ll see A -and- C. All of JRRT’s info shows that Gollum at the time of the Hobbit was unreformed. He had the Ring. Nobody was hunting him. He was strong, reckless, alone. He was thoroughly wicked. He was C.

    But here’s the thing: IMHO Dave hit the nail on the head. You do that on film, you get a -very- one-dimensional and disappointing character. Gollum is the tie that binds the two films. Of course the Ring ties the stories, but Gollum will tie the films. He needs to have depth.

    So my theory on A is… remember early in the Fellowship movie, when Gandalf is alone in Bag End with the Ring. He peers over it. He touches it, and a split-second, very shocking image of the Ring goes full-screen? IMHO, during the Riddle Game, Gollum’s memories of his childhood could be flashed back exactly like that. Instead of a poignant, soft memory — they come as a jolt, a shock. Gollum has lived in the mountains for centuries now, forgetting all of that past. Whatever torment he went through as Smeagol faded into Gollum, that was over. Being reminded of the sweetness of youth could hit him like a sledgehammer. It would hit us in the movie theatre the same way too. And in the end, we could find a twinge of pity ourselves for an otherwise thoroughly hateful little monster.

    So. For me: Gollum is portrayed as C, with harsh flashbacks of a softer past that give us a glimpse of A.

  11. Jon M. June 26, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    I also agree that the answer will be C. However, as I was listening, a scary thought occurred to me. What if Gollum immediately follows Bilbo and the Dwarves and becomes a continuing worry for the travelers, even going so far as to wind up participating in the Battle of Five Armies. This could even then connect with what Greg said above, where Gollum is captured at the end of the second movie. I dont know how probable that is, other than the end, which I feel is extremely likely, but it would overcome the issue of devoting screen time to a character which only shows up in one small part of the story. Am I jumping as shadows or do you think this is a real possibility?

  12. Stephen Johnson July 3, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    I think that you are right on the mark Dan. Pity plays an important role in Tolkien and this is one of the most important times it was used. I also think option C will be in the film because the act of pity is that much greater, the more that Gollum does not deserve it. I suspect they will draw out this scene as long as they can without slowing the pace. I could even see them cutting away to another thread after the riddle part and then depicting a chase scene through the mountains. Gollumd lake is after all at the roots of the mountain so it should take some time to get out.

  13. Dave July 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Haha, love it!

  14. Dedric H. July 6, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    It’s summer and I’ve gone through all the RitD episodes…twice. I’ve caught up on all the podcasts I’ve been meaning to listen to and some that I have found just because I’ve gone through all the others already. When can we expect more episodes? There are plenty of topics you could discuss that would be at least as interesting as some of the ones you have already posted. Please get us some new ones soon!

    …and iTunes still does not show two of the episodes you’ve got here on the site.


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