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When talking to himself or talking to other people, Gollum likes to address himself as "we," e.g.: "we likes you".

There is only one Gollum, so why does Gollum talk as if there are many Gollums? And his grammar is wrong as well. There should be no verbs ending in an "s" after "we."

Is there any given reason for Gollum's nonstandard grammar and pronoun usage?

It seems that there are two different explanations. Either the "we" refers to the ring and Gollum, or the "we" refers to Sméagol and Gollum?

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Have you seen the movie? It's pretty clear. –  user973810 Jun 22 '12 at 14:58
why don't you watch the movie? –  Soup Jun 22 '12 at 20:28
@user973810, it is not as clear as it first seemed. Check the answer below, there is no consensus, yet –  Graviton Jun 23 '12 at 0:47
30 upvotes on one answer sure looks like consensus. –  Gabe Willard Jun 23 '12 at 3:03
@GabeWillard, are you sure there is one consensus on this? Do you read the below answers? –  Graviton Jan 13 '14 at 8:15

4 Answers 4

up vote 33 down vote accepted

From the book The Two Towers, here's the Gollum/Sméagol dialogue. It's at the end of Book IV, Chapter 2, The Passage of the Marshes. I've modified it slightly to show just the speech, along with the name of the personality speaking, and I've emphasized the personal pronouns:

Sméagol: I don't know. I can't help it. Master's got it. Sméagol promised to help the master.
Gollum: Yes, yes, to help the master: the master of the Precious. But if we was master, then we could help ourselfs, yes, and still keep promises.
Sméagol: But Sméagol said he would be very very good. Nice hobbit! He took cruel rope off Sméagol's leg. He speaks nicely to me.
Gollum: Very very good, eh, my precious? Let's be good, good as fish, sweet one, but to ourselfs. Not hurt the nice hobbit, of course, no, no.
Sméagol: But the Precious holds the promise.
Gollum: Then take it, and let's hold it ourselfs! Then we shall be master, gollum. Make the other hobbit, the nasty suspicious hobbit, make him crawl, yes, gollum!

As you can see, "we" is used by the Gollum persona, and the Gollum persona is the one that constantly uses the "my precious" expression. The Sméagol persona uses I instead of we, and pretty decent grammar by comparison, and never uses the "my precious" affectation.

From the above dialogue, at first glance, it seems an open-and-shut case that the "we" refers to Gollum and Sméagol. But I don't think this is true.

The Gollum persona came about due to the influence of the ring, and constantly addresses the ring as "my precious", using "we" in conjunction with that. The above dialogue is a clear exception to the sort of thing we see in The Hobbit. Here's the longest extended monologue by Gollum from that book:

"It's no good going back there to search, no. We doesn't remember all the places we've visited. and it's no use. The Baggins has got it in its pocketses; the nassty noser has found it, we says."

"We guesses, precious, only guesses. We can't know till we find the nassty creature and squeezes it. But it doesn't know what the present can do, does it? It'll just keep it in its pocketses. It doesn't know, and it can't go far. It's lost itself, the nassty nosey thing. It doesn't know the way out. It said so."

"It said so, yes; but it's tricksy. It doesn't say what it means. It won't say what it's got in its pocketses. It knows. It knows a way in, it must know a way out, yes. It's off to the back-door. to the back-door, that's it."

"The goblins will catch it then. It can't get out that way, precious."

"Ssss, sss, gollum! Goblinses! Yes, but if it's got the present, our precious present, then goblinses will get it, gollum! They'll find it, they'll find out what it does. We shan't ever be safe again, never, gollum! One of the goblinses will put it on, and then no one will see him. He'll be there but not seen. Not even our clever eyeses will notice him; and he'll come creepsy and tricksy and catch us, gollum, gollum!"

"Then let's stop talking, precious, and make haste. If the Baggins has gone that way, we must go quick and see. Go! Not far now. Make haste!"

Notice that though we can posit two speakers, the grammar doesn't change. The term "precious" is used repeatedly by only one speaker, but the pronoun "we" is used by both. Other than the term "precious", there's no clear distinction between the two speakers as there is in the Gollum/Sméagol dialogue.

The Sméagol personality doesn't appear to have manifested itself for a long time, dozens or perhaps hundreds of years, until Frodo addressed Gollum by the name of Sméagol and briefly revived Gollum/Sméagol's memory of his old self.

Thus "we" refers to Gollum and the One Ring, and not to Gollum and Sméagol. The dialogue from The Two Towers is an exception to the rule.

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This scene in the book seems to be less than common knowledge. A recent New York Times story peculiarly suggests that Fran Walsh thought up the scene herself: "Ms. Walsh...had a 'eureka moment...while working on 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' and suggested at the last minute that Gollum...should have a conversation with himself. The idea was to crystallize how different parts of his mind battle each other and the pain it causes him." –  Kyralessa Dec 16 '12 at 6:32
Luckily the article can be also read to mean her eureka was that such a scene would be dramatically very fitting to the film - the quite non-obvious decision to include it from the book. But yes, the article's author could've been more clear. –  Ilari Kajaste Mar 16 '13 at 8:25
Well, one could entertain that thought about any scene. But the scene takes place out loud in the book too. Sam overhears it. There's nothing amazing about her thinking it should be an audible dialogue; that's what it is in the book. –  Kyralessa Mar 17 '13 at 13:48
Book to film adaptation isn't one-to-one thing, you know. A lot of thought and creativity goes into what parts to include, how to do them, and where to place them. It might seem like a trivial choice, but that's only because you look at it after seeing the end result. It could've been done in a trillion different ways. –  Ilari Kajaste Mar 18 '13 at 11:55
A circumstantial piece of evidence (only briefly touched upon) is that while the Gollum persona fairly consistently uses we, us, and our as pronouns referring to the persona as a whole, it equally consistently uses my precious (never *our precious) to refer to the Ring. This makes sense, since the Ring is not its own precious: it is the precious of Gollum (the person) who makes up half of Gollum (the persona). So when Gollum the persona speaks, it does so through Gollum the person, but for both him and the Ring. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 22 at 17:49

He has a split personality - Gollum and Sméagol.

The ring warped the original nice hobbit Sméagol into the evil Gollum. The two different personalties are in conflict for control.

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This is also why he argues with himself. –  Gorchestopher H Jun 22 '12 at 13:43
+1 also, keep in mind that he doesn't talk to other people very much, thus his grammar has deteriorated notably. –  Michael Edenfield Jun 22 '12 at 14:23
Also see Pureferret's answer: "we" also refers to the Ring. Gollum has problems telling himself and his "precious" apart. –  Andres F. Jun 22 '12 at 14:36
Is this supported in book canon? (I know they actually showed the talking to himself in the movies) –  DVK Jun 22 '12 at 17:08
@DVK If I recall correctly, yes it is supported in book canon. –  jrg Jun 22 '12 at 19:38

It is because he has spent so long with the ring, and has listened to its dark whispers to the point that he has embodied it with personality and individuality. We refers the the ring and gollum.

I've just looked over some of the script, it appears Nim is right. Smeagol refers to himself and Gollum as 'we' for the most part, except near the end of this excerpt, where he slips and says me.

       We must get the Precious. We must get it

       Patience, patience, my love. First we must
       lead them to her.

       We lead them to the windy stairs.

       Yes, the stairs ... and then?

       Up, up, up, up the stairs we go . . . until
       we come to . . .
             (naughty excitement)
       ... the Tunnel!

       And when they go in, there's no coming out.
       She's always hungry, she always needs to
       feed. She must eat, all She gets is filthy

       And they doesn't taste very nice, does
       they, Precious?               .

       No . . . not very nice at all, my love. She
       hungers for sweeter meats . . .

CLOSE ON: SAM . . . his EYES flicker OPEN . . .

                     GOLLUM (cont'd)
       "Hobbit meat." And when She throws away the
       bones and the empty clothes, then we will
       find it . . .

       And take it for Me!

                                Final Revision - October, 2003 13

      For us . . .

      Yes, we, we meant for us . . .
           (choking cough)
      Go Hum! Go Hum!

      The Precious will be ours once the
      Hobbitses are dead!

Gollum on the other hand refers to the pair as 'us' throughout.


SMEAGOL (cont'd)
         Smeagol promised. You must believe us. It
         was the Precious - the Precious made us to
         do it.

Clearly if the Precious belonged to 'us', the sentence structure is wrong, even for Gollum/Smeagol.

However, one final thought. Even before touching the ring he calls out to Deagol:

       Give us that, Deagol, my love!

So perhaps it was just his manner of speech to begin with!

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Source? I've always assumed it was between Gollum and Smeagol. –  user606723 Jun 22 '12 at 15:06
the ring symbolizes the evil side of his personality, one in the same to me. –  NimChimpsky Jun 22 '12 at 15:19
@user606723 I don't have a searchable version of either The Hobbit or LOTR with me, but I'm pretty sure Gollum talks to the Ring as if his "precious" was an interlocutor, and with him at all times. Will try to look for a source :) –  Andres F. Jun 22 '12 at 18:41
I seem to recall a line something along the lines of "we hates hobbitses, doesn't we, precious?" –  Christi Jun 22 '12 at 20:51
@Christi that's what I'm recalling too. –  Pureferret Jun 22 '12 at 22:11

It's a combination of
- the fact that Gollum is a split personality, and in some respects sees himself as more than one person.
- the fact that he views the Ring as an entity that is also part of himself, so can be referring to Gollum/the Ring.
- the "Royal We"; as the Keeper of the Ring, Gollum sees himself as special, almost regal, so in some ways speaks as Royalty would.

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