Whenever Gollum references anyone, he always calls them by something other than their proper name. Off the top of my head, we have precious, my love, fat hobbit, master, "him" (Sauron), "her" (Shelob).

Why is this?

  • tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThirdPersonPerson
    – Möoz
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 4:53
  • 6
    @Mooz Give a warning first! That place is dangerous.
    – ibid
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 5:08
  • 2
    Not always. “Bagginses! We hates it forever!” (that’s in the books too, right?), and in the movies also “Baggiiiiiins! Shiiiireeee”, though I admit torture is stretching the definition of ‘referencing’ someone a bit. Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 5:44
  • Perhaps there is also something of early 20th century British culture there, where people are seldom addressed by their proper names unless you are very intimate with them. If memory serves, that's fairly common with everyone in the book: when speaking to a person, they seldom use that person's name.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 18:16

2 Answers 2


This isn't entirely accurate, but it is true that Sméagol/Gollum tends to use descriptors over proper names. The reasons why are varied, and depend largely on context; many of them, however, are related to Gollum's extreme mental unbalance:

  • "My love" is used to refer to his cousin Déagol, and Sméagol is clearly buttering him up:

    '"Give us that, Déagol, my love," said Sméagol, over his friend’s shoulder.

    '"Why?" said Déagol.

    '"Because it's my birthday, my love, and I wants it," said Sméagol.

    '"I don’t care," said Déagol. "I have given you a present already, more than I could afford. I found this, and I'm going to keep it."

    '"Oh, are you indeed, my love," said Sméagol

    Fellowship of the Ring Book I Chapter 2: "The Shadow of the Past"

    Well, buttering him up until the end, at which point it's more of an ironic statement.

  • "Precious" obviously refers to the Ring, which Gollum has personified to a slightly alarming degree. I'm inclined to chalk this up to mental illness and leave it at that; I suppose he could have named it "Wilson", but "Precious" is just as good.

    It is, however, worth noting that Gollum was not the first to refer to the Ring as being precious, so it may also be part of the allure of the Ring.

  • "Master" refers to Frodo, and is a sign of deference. It also hearkens back to Gollum's original promise:

    'We promises, yes I promise!' said Gollum. 'I will serve the master of the Precious.

    Two Towers Book IV Chapter 1: "The Taming of Sméagol"

    It's worth noting that Sam also frequently refers to Frodo as "master"; for example:

    'Well, master, we're in a fix and no mistake,' said Sam Gamgee.

    Two Towers Book IV Chapter 1: "The Taming of Sméagol"

    Gollum's preference for this honorific (over Sam's other mainstay, "Mister Frodo") may be a personal quirk, or it may be a reflection of the fact that Frodo isn't his master; the Precious is.

  • "Fat/nasty hobbit" is Sam, obviously, though Gollum does occasionally use his name:

    'Yes, yes, and Sam stinks!' answered Gollum. `Poor Sméagol smells it, but good Sméagol bears it.

    Two Towers Book IV Chapter 2: "The Passage of the Marshes"

    Gollum doesn't actually use the phrase "fat hobbit" in the book, though he does use "nasty hobbit"; to take an example (emphasis Tolkien's):

    'Then take it,' said the other [voice], '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!'

    Two Towers Book IV Chapter 2: "The Passage of the Marshes"

    In general, Gollum is dehumanizing someone he perceives as an abuser. In this particular case, he's contrasting Sam with Frodo (the "nice hobbit") in an effort to convince the Sméagol personality to go along with the plan to kill them both. He's being deliberately manipulative, while also dehumanizing a threat he can't do anything else about. Speaking as someone who was bullied in school, I can relate to that motivation on a personal level.

  • "She/Her" is Shelob, of course, and it's worth pointing out that Gollum does know and use her name:

    'Got him!' hissed Gollum in [Sam's] ear. 'At last, my precious, we've got him, yes, the nassty hobbit. We takes this one. She'll get the other. O yes, Shelob will get [Frodo], not Sméagol

    Two Towers Book IV Chapter 9: "Shelob's Lair"

    In other situations, where he uses a pronoun, he's talking to himself; for instance:

    'We'll see, we'll see,' [Gollum] said often to himself, when the evil mood was on him, as he walked the dangerous road from Emyn Muil to Morgul Vale, 'we'll see. It may well be, O yes, it may well be that when She throws away the bones and the empty garments, we shall find it, we shall get it, the Precious, a reward for poor Sméagol who brings nice food. And we'll save the Precious, as we promised. O yes. And when we've got it safe, then She'll know it, O yes, then we'll pay Her back, my precious. Then we'll pay everyone back!'

    The Two Towers Book IV Chapter 9: "Shelob's Lair"

    In this case, why would he use her name? The function of a name is to disambiguate references in conversation, but Gollum is conversing with himself; he already knows who he's talking about.

    There may also be an element of fear/reverence, which I'll talk about more in the next bullet.

  • "Him" is Sauron, and it's pretty clear that Gollum is simply terrified of Sauron:

    'No, no, master!' wailed Gollum; pawing at him, and seeming in great distress. `No use that way! No use! Don't take the Precious to Him! He'll eat us all, if He gets it, eat all the world. Keep it, nice master, and be kind to Sméagol. Don't let Him have it.

    Two Towers Book IV Chapter 3: "The Black Gate is Closed"

    Although I'm not at the moment sure of more definite textual evidence, I'm inclined to argue that Gollum's refusal to use Sauron's name is a product of that fear and awe.

  • "White/Yellow Face" These are two of the more curious examples of this phenomenon; rather than "Sun" and "Moon", Gollum uses the terms "Yellow Face" and "White Face." I don't know why he does this, and I'm not aware of any writings by Tolkien on the subject; either fear or dehumanization (insofar as that's a concept that makes sense in this context) both seem plausible, but it's all speculation.

  • 7
    Don't you mean "dehobbitizing"?
    – iMerchant
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 8:32
  • For Sauron, compare people who consistently refer to God as simply “He/Him”, avoiding when possible to use the actual word ‘God/the Lord/etc.’; or Jews who tend to write ‘G-d’ to avoid spelling out the word. There's a kind of deistic tabuisation of deferentiality to it. Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 14:38
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    @Janus Bahs Jacquet: One could take the "God" thing quite a bit further, since there are (notionally, anyway) a great many gods. So referring to this one as "God" rather than Yahweh/Jehovah would be like calling your neighbor "Man" instead of "Bob".
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 18:12
  • I always connected the White/Yellow Face to the daisies riddle from the Hobbit (although, there the sun is just "an eye in a blue face"). Combining that with Gollum likely not having seen the sun and moon for 500 years, I can see him using these metaphors to degrade them in the same way he attempted to degrade Sam. Commented May 9, 2017 at 19:44

We can speculate that this is to do with how his psychology is portrayed.

He is entirely self centred.

Because Smeagol sees the world entirely from his own perspective and has little or no empathy with other people or creatures he simply sees them as objects and so tend not to dignify them with proper names but prefers descriptions which relate to how he perceives them. Even when he uses the name 'Baggins' it is not 'Mr Baggins' or 'Bilbo/Frodo' as hobbits would refer to each other.

He often frames his own problem is terms of them being other people's fault and apart from a very ambivalent empathy with Frodo at some points most of his relationships with other characters are outright hostile.

He is evasive

There are many instances where Gollum is shown to be cunning, dishonest and evasive shown directly in the riddle sequence in the hobbit and even Gandalf states that it was very difficult to extract the truth from him when he was captured by the elves before that start of LOTR.

This is probably a consequence of his own reluctance to face up to his own actions, for example in murdering Deagol to acquire the Ring, and his paranoia in the face of his need to survive entirely on his own for several lifetimes.

As a result he defaults to the most ambiguous possible way of speaking so as to be able to deceive people without either giving anything away or being caught in a direct lie.

From a literary perspective Smeagol/Gollum's reluctance to use proper names emphasises the fact that he is almost completely isolated from other characters in terms of personal relationships. He doesn't even have any particular hatred of them except in terms of how their actions affect him and act as obstacles in is pursuit of the ring. In many ways he doesn't even really have any personality of his own left beyond his instinct to survive and desire to acquire the ring and in the end the latter ends up overriding the former.

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