In The Two Towers, chapter Shelob's Lair, Tolkien writes that Gollum "bowed and worshipped" Shelob. Apparently this happened before he was captured and taken to Barad-Dur. I can't think of another place in LotR where one character worships another, and Gollum doesn't seem like the worshipping type. I understand Gollum promised to bring Her Ladyship food, but what do you make of this about "worship"?

  • I suppose you could argue he worshipped the One Ring, but I feel that's probably for very different reasons compared to why he "worships" another living creature.
    – Ongo
    Feb 17, 2019 at 0:57
  • 2
    I don't have any evidence for an answer but we know Shelob was the last child of Ungoliant, who was scary enough to make Morgoth nervous. Sauron was aware of her on his border and never tried to get rid of her, though he had practical reasons for that. Maybe she was just big and dark enough to impress Gollum into worship
    – sevvack
    Feb 17, 2019 at 5:20
  • Related question worth a read: What exactly was the understanding between Gollum and Shelob?
    – Voronwé
    Feb 17, 2019 at 7:48

1 Answer 1


Here is the exact quote from The Two Towers: Shelob's Lair:

Already, years before, Gollum had beheld her, Smeagol who pried into all dark holes, and in past days he had bowed and worshipped her, and the darkness of her evil will walked through all the ways of his weariness beside him, cutting him off from light and from regret. And he had promised to bring her food. But her lust was not his lust. Little she knew of or cared for towers, or rings, or anything devised by mind or hand, who only desired death for all others, mind and body, and for herself a glut of life, alone, swollen till the mountains could no longer hold her up and the darkness could not contain her.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

(Emphasis mine). We know that Shelob was last child of Ungoliant, and like her was noted to be an evil entity that took the shape of a spider.

There agelong (Shelob) had dwelt, an evil thing in spider-form, even such as once of old had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath, and so came to Luthien upon the green sward amid the hemlocks in the moonlight long ago.


But none could rival her, Shelob the Great, last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

In a ravine (Ungoliant) lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form, weaving her black webs in a cleft of the mountains. There she sucked up all light that she could find, and spun it forth again in dark nets of strangling gloom, until no light more could come to her abode; and she was famished.

The Silmarillion, Of the Darkening of Valinor

It's mentioned in my first quote that "the darkness of her evil will walked through all the ways of his weariness beside him, cutting him off from light and from regret", suggesting that her evil will was great enough to be perceived by Gollum, himself having an evil personality thanks to the influence of the Ring.

Neither was Gollum expecting to meet up with a huge evil spider on his way out of Mordor, and was probably intimidated enough to worship her to prevent his own death. Although, interestingly, Shagrat notes that "he's no good to eat", which brings up the question whether Shelob would have eaten him or not.

I would say that the reason Gollum worshipped Shelob was because her apparent evilness impressed and intimidated him, in addition to him not having a choice if he wanted to get out of her lair alive.1

The How is much harder to answer; we have no idea how Gollum communicated with Shelob. Gollum could have used hand gestures, or a simple begging posture may have been enough to convince Shelob. We don't know if Shelob can speak Westron, or any language at all, but her mother Ungoliant was able to communicate with Morgoth:

'Not so much,' said Ungoliant. 'But thou hast a great treasure from Formenos; I will have all that. Yea, with both hands thou shalt give it.'

1(Assuming a starved and tortured Hobbit was a tasty meal to her.)

  • 2
    "cutting him off ... from regret" could also be read as meaning that in her presence, he felt the loss of the Ring less.
    – chepner
    Feb 19, 2019 at 14:25

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