Gollum follows the Fellowship from a distance in a desperate hope to get the Ring back. I don't know when or where he actually started following them, so that's my question.

In the first movie (FOTR), Gandalf says that the journey through Moria lasts four days, and then, at some point, he says to Frodo that Gollum has been following them for three days. So, according to the movie, Gollum started following the Fellowship either inside Moria or just before their passing through the gates.

How did he enter the caves, when the members of the Fellowship had to get in in a hurry, and after their entrance the gates could not be open? Or was he inside the caves and just happened to find 9 wanderers and recognize Bilbo Baggins' heir by his looks? He certainly knew Aragorn and Gandalf, but if he followed the Fellowship only because of their presence, was he guessing that Gandalf might have had the Ring with him?

4 Answers 4


In Appendix B to The Return of the King, the August 3018 entry briefly mentions how Gollum hid in Moria to evade both the Elves and the servants of Sauron who hunted him, and how he was unable to leave through the West-Gate (the gate through which the Fellowship entered) when he finally found it.

The background material published as "The Hunt for the Ring" in Unfinished Tales goes into a bit more detail. Gollum entered Moria not only to hide from his enemies — particularly from the Ringwraiths, who were searching for the Shire along the Great River — but also in hope of crossing the Misty Mountains westward in order to find the Shire and the Ring himself.

What then happened to Gollum cannot of course be known for certain. He was peculiarly fitted to survive in such straits, though at the cost of great misery; but he was in great peril of discovery by the servant of Sauron that lurked in Moria, especially since such bare necessity of food as he must have he could only get by thieving dangerously. [...] he became lost, and it was a very long time before he found his way about. It thus seems probable that he had not long made his way toward the West-Gate when the Nine Walkers arrived. He knew nothing, of course, about the action of the doors. To him they would seem huge and immovable; and though they had no lock or bar and opened outwards to a thrust, he did not discover that. In any case, he was now far away from any source of food, for the Orcs were mostly in the East End of Moria, and was become weak and desperate, so that even if he had known all about the doors he still could not have thrust them open. It was thus a piece of singular good fortune for Gollum that the Nine Walkers arrived when they did.

Still in the vicinity of the gate, Gollum quickly picked up the Company's trail; Frodo already hears his footsteps before they make their first stop for sleep several hours after entering the Mines (as confirmed by the entry for January 13, 3019 in "The Tale of the Years": "Attack by Wolves in the early hours. The Company reaches the West-Gate at nightfall. Gollum begins to trail the Ringbearer"). The passage quoted above suggests that Gollum, by then desperate to get out, would have followed anybody. But it didn't take him long to feel or guess that his Precious was with the party: he somehow found his way out of Moria despite the attack on the Fellowship and later that same day dared to enter the (to him) terrible Elvish land of Lothlórien. The idea of escape had quickly given way to pursuit of the Ring.

How did he know the Ring was with the Company? I discount the idea that he could sense it as the Ringwraiths could: during the Riddle Game Bilbo stood right in front of him with the Ring in his pocket, yet at its end Gollum failed to guess it was in there in 4 tries. But the sight of Gandalf, who had quizzed him extensively about the Precious, leading a party that included no less than 4 hobbits might have been a good hint.

In the end, though, I think Gollum must have perceived a resemblance between Frodo and Bilbo. He wasn't in any doubt as to which hobbit had the Ring: he tried to climb the tree Frodo is in the first night in Lórien, and later he unerringly followed Frodo when the Fellowship broke above Rauros Falls. Gollum's ability to track them seems to have been based mainly on scent (in the Emyn Muil, Frodo says "In this dry bleak land we can't leave many footprints, nor much scent, even for his snuffling nose"). However much or little Bilbo and Frodo looked alike, it could well be that they smelt enough alike to Gollum. I would also note that, besides the Ring, Frodo carried 2 of Bilbo's other belongings. Bilbo had never worn the mithril coat all that much and had left it in a museum for decades, so I don't see how it could have carried much of his scent by the time of Frodo's journey to Mordor. But Bilbo carried Sting and its shabby leather scabbard hidden inside his trousers from the time he got it in the trolls' lair early in The Hobbit until he returned to Bag End at the end of the story; and it never left his possession until he gave it to Frodo less than 3 weeks before the Company entered Moria.

  • 1
    I was about to post this same question myself just now. This answer is amazingly detailed. Thank you so much for it.
    – Plutor
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 19:27
  • If I remember correctly, Gollum also would have seen Sting itself unsheathed around the time of the riddle game, and might have recognized it when Frodo had it out in Moria. Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 18:23
  • +1 Lovely answer! I guess I would say that it is not inconceivable to me that Gollum could have developed a sensitivity towards the ring the longer he was sundered from it.
    – Lexible
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 17:06
  • He heard the Fellowship talking among itself and recognized Aragorn and Gandalf who had captured him and interrogated him? There's no need for Ring magic -- don't look for exotic explanations when a simple one will do!
    – Mark Olson
    Commented May 10, 2022 at 12:22
  • Gollum was meant to encounter the Fellowship there in Moria, and not by either Sauron or Gollum...
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 2:23

In Book II chapter 9 (The Great River), Frodo says:

‘I suppose he was lurking in Moria, and picked up our trail then; but I hoped that our stay in Lórien would throw him off the scent again. The miserable creature must have been hiding in the woods by the Silverlode, watching us start off!’

He most likely didn't enter Moria through the same gate that the Fellowship did. He escaped from the elves of Mirkwood shortly before the Council of Elrond. Mirkwood is east of the Misty Mountains, so presumably he entered Moria from the Lórien side. Remember that he'd been living underground for a long time, and he'd come to prefer it. He probably wasn't waiting there in the hopes that the ring would come by. He was just looking for a good place to hide.

I don't think it says how he knew the ring was present, but it's plausible that as a long-time ring-bearer he was sensitive to its presence.

  • You say he didn't necessarily enter Moria through the same gate that the Fellowship did, but I think I remember Gandalf or Gimli saying there was no other entrance, unless it was the one from the other side. Am I correct?
    – Janoma
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 2:50
  • @Janoma, updated to mention that Gollum probably entered from the east of Moria, not the west like the Fellowship did.
    – cjm
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 3:11

In Moria. He was already there when the Fellowship arrived. He started following them the same day they arrived.

Yet Frodo began to hear, or to imagine that he heard, something else: like the faint fall of soft bare feet. [...] It was after nightfall when they had entered the Mines.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, A Journey in the Dark

Unfinished Tales confirms that Gollum was already in Moria.

It seems clear that pursued both by Elves and Orcs Gollum crossed the Anduin, probably by swimming, and so eluded the hunt of Sauron; but being still hunted by Elves, and not yet daring to pass near Lórien (only the lure of the Ring itself made him dare to do this afterwards), he hid himself In Moria.

Unfinished Tales: The Hunt for the Ring

So he did enter by the East-Gate...

No doubt he had intended to use Moria simply as a secret passage westward, his purpose being to find "Shire" himself as quickly as he could; but he became lost, and it was a very long time before he found his way about. It thus seems probable that he had not long made his way towards the West-gate when the Nine Walkers arrived.

...and apparently ended up at the West-Gate before the Fellowship arrived -- which confirms that he only started following them in Moria.

  • Oh, it seems my last 2 quotes have already been used. My first quote is relevant, at least.
    – Voronwé
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 11:59

We must take a look at the whole story of Gollum

  1. He lost the Ring and began to search for it
  2. He only knew "Baggins and Shire"
  3. His path ended at Shelob's lair, where he was caught by Sauron
  4. He lied to Sauron about where the Shire is (he never wanted to give the Ring to Sauron)
  5. Sauron sent 4 Nazgûl to ask Saruman where the Shire is
  6. The Nazgûl went to Isengard to ask Saruman where the Shire is, but he answered that he didn't know. Later they learned from Wormtongue that Saruman knew where the Shire is. His betrayal was known by the Nazgûl and that's why Sauron moved faster than he planned to get the Ring
  7. Gollum said he knows where the Shire is; Sauron prepared a group of Orcs to accompany him and set him free to lead them to the Shire
  8. He escaped at the Dead Marshes but was caught by Aragorn and delivered to Lórien
  9. The follower orc group attacked Lórien to take Gollum back, but they were defeated
  10. Gollum escaped during the battle and ran towards the opposite way from where he came
  11. His road ended at the entrance of Moria
  12. He kept running till he arrived at the gate where the Fellowship entered
  13. And while he was waiting there, the Fellowship entered

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