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'Did you pity Gollum?
Yes. He was a tragic figure ruined by the Ring. 362 
Somewhat. He was not innocent, but the Ring was responsible for most of his actions.
No. He was wicked from the start.
This Poll is Closed!

Gollum, one of the most important characters in The Lord of the Rings, was the first and last person to wear the re-found Ruling Ring.

Originally, Gollum was a hobbit of the tribe of the Stoors, who lived near the Gladden Fields in his time. There his actual name was Sméagol, a translation of his Westron name Trahald, 'burrow-deep'. He got his nickname from a clicking sound he made with his throat at many occasions which sounded like 'gollum'. One day his cousin Déagol fished the One Ring out of the Anduin, which was washed there from the field where Isildur fell. Gollum, lusting for it, claimed it was righteously his, as it was his birthday. He then strangled his cousin in order to get the Ring.
Gollum was already as an outsider of Stoor society before that, but the Ring soon corrupted him so heavily that we was cast out, and, hating the sun and its warmth ever more, took refuge in a cave under the Misty Mountains, where he hoped to find nice wet places and interesting secrets at the roots of the earth. Over the centuries of extended life the Ring granted him he was only able to maintain his ability of speech by talking to himself, calling the Ring his 'precious' (often adding a good many an 's' to the end), and long viewing it as a part of himself.

When {32}Bilbo Baggins^ accidently met Gollum in his cave, none of the two could recognize each other as a hobbit - for Gollum it has been too long, and he himself looked black, with big palely shimmering eyes and big paddling feet. He still remembered enough riddles to give Bilbo a good match, but eventually he lost the contest. When Bilbo was able to escape him, he knew that this Baggins possessed now his Ring.

The lack of his precious gave Gollum a new purpose: to find the thief, and regain it. He roamed the lands for quite a while, to Dale and Esgaroth, where he learned more about the hated thief, and westwards through Mirkwood. But eventually, the dark power in Mordor attracted him, and after wandering for some time along its borders, he was caught and brought to the Dark Tower. Sauron's methods of interrogation provided a hard aftermath for Gollum ever afterwards. What he learned from Gollum was the name of Baggins and the Shire, but he was led into the wrong direction and searched the Gladden Fields instead. In 3017, Gollum was released, but of what he did in the whole of his 76 years of wandering we know few, and Gandalf remained tight-lipped on it.
Aragorn was able to catch Gollum shortly after, and brought him to Gandalf. From the realm of the elves of Mirkwood, into whose guard they gave him, Gollum was able to escape, and from them, and from the orcs of Mordor who were after him, he hid in the mines of Moria.

By pure coincidence, he came across the company of the Ring as they went through the mines; and Gollum eaves-dropped and followed them all the way down the Anduin to Parth Galen, clinging to a floating log. Still following the Ring-bearer into the Emyn Muil, Sam and Frodo were able to trap him and make him promise on his precious Ring to serve Frodo and not to let the Ring fall into the Enemy's hands.
With Gollum's help, they found a way out of Emyn Muil, through the Dead Marshes and to the Morannon. From there they turned south again, into Ithilien, were Frodo and Sam stayed with the rangers of Faramir, who, at Frodo's bidding, spared Gollum's life, although he had transgressed the rangers' laws. All the while when he was with Frodo, his 'nice master', Gollum's old side of Sméagol (called 'Slinker' by Sam in contrary to 'Stinker', his mean side) which was not as utterly blackened by the Ring as his other self, came out more. When he was close to changing his ways, it was a combined effect of Sam's harsh treatment and the craving for the Ring, which finally surpressed whatever was left unstained by evil in Gollum. He led the hobbits into Shelob's lair in the pass of Cirith Ungol, hoping that she might eat them both and leave the Ring for Gollum.

Nevertheless, the hobbits finally reached Mount Doom even after the treason of their guide Gollum. There he was able to redeem in a way, although unwillingly: When Frodo could not muster the will to throw the Ring into the fire, Gollum attacked him, bit off his finger along with the Ring, and fell into the fire as he was celebrating the regaining of his precious.

(References: Hobbit, 5; LOTR, IV, passim; VI, 3; UT, III, iv, 1,2)

See also Bilbo, Frodo, One Ring, Mount Doom, Stoors, Sméagol, Déagol, Slinker, Stinker
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