Gollum had his life largely extended because he possessed the One Ring. He appeared to be an old, deformed, and twisted creature.

According to this list, he had the Ring for 478 years. His loss of the Ring and the events of The Lord of the Rings are separated by around 77 years.

Did the Ring continue to extend his life after he lost it?

7 Answers 7


Yes, the Ring continued to extend Bilbo and Gollum's lives after they stopped bearing it up until the destruction of the Ring.

Gandalf himself alludes to this when talking about Bilbo:

it might take a long while for the influence to wear off. ... he might live on for years, quite happily: just stop as he was when he parted with it.

Since neither Gollum nor Bilbo appear to age significantly after losing the Ring, despite their already extended ages, that's a reasonable assumption.

Bilbo had deteriorated significantly by the time he left Middle Earth, which concurs with this conclusion. The Ring had been destroyed by then so any legacy effect it had on him would have ended. Arwen would have only left Rivendell a few weeks after the Ring was destroyed to travel to Minas Tirith, but when she got there she commented

Do you wonder at that, Ring-bearer? For you know the power of that thing which is now destroyed; and all that was done by that power is now passing away. But your kinsman ... is ancient in years now, according to his kind; and ... he will not again make any long journey save one.

Obviously the destruction of the Ring was already having the effect that Gollum also alluded to when he said

when Precious goes we’ll die, yes, die into the dust.

We never got to witness this because of his encounter with the interior of Mount Doom instead.

  • 13
    Bilbo had aged significantly when he met Frodo at rivendell after being stabbed in the misty mountains
    – howler
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 15:30
  • 1
    just stop as he was when he parted with it - this sounds like a typo. Is it supposed to be "just stopped as he was...", or am I reading it wrong?
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 23:53
  • 3
    @howler He clearly had in the movie, I cannot however recall that being mentioned in the book, other than the fact he liked to (pretend-)sleep by the fire, but certainly no significant physical changes.
    – BMWurm
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 20:48
  • 2
    @Izkata the sentence is "he might (...) just stop as he was"
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 20:50
  • 2
    @howler Is there book evidence of Bilbo aging?
    – Colin
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 18:03


More than likely his life simply picked up where it left off before he was exposed to the One Ring. Hobbits are known for a longer lifespan than Humans, so likely after he lost the Ring, his normal lifespan continued until he died at Mount Doom.

To use Occam's Razor: The simplest answer is best. If the Ring were sustaining Gollum, literally providing him with life-force, as soon as it left his possession, he would die. Why? He had served his purpose to move the Ring. Once he started staying still and just sitting with the Ring, it found a way to bring others to it and eventually to get away using Bilbo. If the Ring were sustaining Gollum, that would be both a use of energy that could be better served controlling its new carrier, Bilbo.

There are several instances in the story, the Ring would have been better off severing its link to Gollum, particularly before it fell into Mount Doom. Since it didn't, it's safe to assume, Gollum's activity was purely his own, working from the remnants of his mortal life.

  • 2
    Then why Bilbo was old and dying when he quit Middle-Earth?
    – DavRob60
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 16:58
  • 3
    @DavRob60 The book opens with Bilbo celebrating his eleventy-first birthday, which is already fairly old in hobbit terms. Since (IIRC) he's described as being surprisingly hale and hearty for his age, the Ring probably did extend his lifespan somewhat; however, since he used it less frequently than Gollum, the effect might have been subtler.
    – Tacroy
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 17:11
  • 5
    According to this, Gollum is born in 2430 and got the ring in 2463 (33 year old). If he was separated form the ring for 77 year, it give him around 100 years without the ring. If 111 is "fairly old in hobbit terms" and you consider his unhealthy lifestyle, what about Gollum?
    – DavRob60
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 17:25
  • 6
    He would have been nearly the same age as Bilbo. Without all of the cushy living that Bilbo enjoyed. Perhaps the best way to think about it was Gollum was driven by his madness to get the Ring. This would have made him more determined, more focused and more willing do do whatever was necessary to get it back. He could still BE old without being directly sustained by the power of the One Ring. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 17:35

Gollum possessed the ring for nearly 500 years and never let it go so its power was complete over him, Bilbo had it a mere 60 years and life in the Shire meant he didn't spend all his time obsessing over it so the rings power over him was less strong.

As long as the ring existed Gollum was a slave to it so yes the ring continued to exert its influence over him, Bilbo on the other hand was very much a Hobbit whos life had been drawn out long by the ring but without it age caught up with him.

It was very apt that Gollum died with the ring as he probably wouldn't have survived its destruction.


The reason Gollum continued to live despite the Ring being absent from his possession for so many years was because after nearly 500 years of having it, the One Ring had transformed him entirely into something else. He was utterly corrupted.

Consider this: Gollum was in possession of the One Ring far, far, FAR longer than any other being (excluding Sauron). A strong possibility would be that just as the Dark Lord had imbued the Ring with a significant portion of his own life force, that same life-giving force became imbued within Gollum. His split personality was not a mere quirk of the mind, he actually was forced to contend with a living entity that had incorporated itself into his body and mind.

  • 1
    What supporting evidence can you provide for Gollum having the ring longer than Sauron ?
    – Stan
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 15:01
  • Purely deductive reasoning. From the time Frodo acquired The One Ring to when it was destroyed, approximately one year had passed. The devastation Sauron was able to inflict (even when he did not possess the Ring) was massive. It is hard to fathom any realistic timescale that would explain how Sauron could have been in possession of The One Ring longer than 500 years after giving the rings as gifts, yet was unable to defeat the remaining kingdoms of men in such a long period of time, so much so that there were still enough of them left to mount any type of campaign after centuries of war. Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 20:34
  • 1
    The ring was forged circa 1600 in the Second Age. The battle in which Isildur cut it from Sauron's hand was S.A. 3441. That's 1841 years and it's reasonable to assume Sauron had it in his possession from the time it was forged until 3441. Even if it was temporarily out of his possession (in which case, where was it) between the fall of Numenor (S.A. 3319) where his body was killed and his return (spirit) to Mordor in 3320, that only accounts for about a year.
    – Stan
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 21:50
  • 1
    I read the original four books written by Tolkien and walked away with an entirely different impression made regarding the timeline of events. I had no idea that the timescale created later in the stories written by Christopher Tolkien involved such a long period of time. I've corrected my error, with my apologies to anyone who was influenced by my supposition. Thank you, Stan. Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 13:10
  • 1
    Christopher compiled, edited and emended the stories released posthumously, but his father wrote them. In LoTR, it was about a year from when Frodo set out from the Shire until the ring's destruction, but Bilbo's party was 17 years prior to this.
    – horatio
    Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 20:10

Another point to consider: a number of times, some speak of the 'ring wanting to return to its master; purposefully abandoning Ilsidor; having a will of its own'. Then, it did not expect to be possessed by a hobbit (Bilbo). Maybe Gollum had continued with long life because the ring knew the path back to its master would not occur by the hobbit, meaning, 'IT NEEDED GOLLUM TO ASSIST IN ITS RETURN TO SAURON'. The use of magic is quite strange in many places in LOTR. Needing Gollum seems like a plausible reason for extending magic to his life.

  • 2
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This seems extremely speculative; the most obvious route for the Ring to get back to Sauron is via the Nazgûl. Do you have any evidence for this theory at all? Answers shouldn't be total speculation, they should have some basis in the books.
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 4:16
  • 1
    Gandalf said 'it wants to get back to its master'; it abandoned Ilsildor, falling off in the water; Gollum Said it wants to return to Sauron. It had a 'will of its own', from Sauron, to reunite, to permit Sauron to return in physical form. (Elrond referred to this too). The ring allowed Gollum to possess the ring, for a very long time, (really, possessing him). Gandalf said, when Bilbo found the ring, that it was 'Unexpected'. Speculation? Yes, of course. But well documented that Sauron's will was alive in it & needed it to return in physical form. Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 4:43
  • The name is Isildur. Gollum/Sméagol is (or was when he found the ring) also a hobbit btw.
    – Wingfoot
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 7:31
  • If the One Ring was truly planning things, I'm sure it wouldn't have wanted to lie in a river from TA 2 to TA 2463, only to be picked up by some random Hobbit.
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 13:08

Another thing we all may want to consider is that each character may have had other forces in play sustaining their lives as they had "roles" to play in the scheme of things (like Gandalf being returned to Middle Earth after his fight with the Balrog). Eru Ilúvatar's music works in mysterious ways.

  • It is possible, I suppose. Did Tolkien ever indicate that this could be the case?
    – Adamant
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 15:37

As the ring was in fact sentient and an object of pure evil. Perhaps Gollum was the One Ring's back-up plan; the Ring chose not to age Gollum knowing he would seek it out if it fell into the hands of those seeking to destroy it.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Do you have any evidence for this as opposed to just a personal theory? The One Ring originally hid itself from Gollum because he was happy to keep it underground with him, and he had no impulse to take it to Sauron; why would Gollum suddenly be willing to take the One Ring to Sauron now, instead of scurrying back beneath the Misty Mountains for a few hundred years more?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 22:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.