In the Lord of the Rings in the chapter "The Shadow of the Past", Gandalf explains to Frodo that Gollum was captured and interrogated by the enemy in Mordor. He then explains that later Aragorn captures Gollum after he was captured and held in Mordor. Later in the book it is suggested that Gollum was actually allowed to leave Mordor, but if that is the case, what is the motivation behind Sauron allowing him to leave? How does Sauron benefit from this?

  • Conversely, how does Sauron benefit from keeping him in Mordor? – James McLeod Aug 15 '12 at 23:15
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    A convenient snack for the fell beasts? – dlanod Aug 16 '12 at 6:27
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    Nobody wants to hold onto Gollum for too long. He'll eat all your fish and after a week or two he starts to stink up the place. – Zibbobz Mar 13 '15 at 15:19
  • @dlanod Gollum would probably fit the description of "fell meat" with which to nurse such beasts. – Integration Feb 13 '17 at 21:07

There's not a great deal of information on this in the books. Orcs rescued Gollum from the Elves of Mirkwood, and the Orcs at Cirith Ungol admitted being told to let him go:

'[Gollum]'s been here before. Came out of Lugburz the first time, years ago, and we had word from High Up to let him pass.'

So Sauron presumably did have some plan for him.

We know that Aragorn believes Gollum remains fearful of Sauron:

'There is no doubt that he was tormented, and the fear of Sauron lies black on his heart.'

My personal suspicion was that Sauron knew Gollum's sole aim was to try to obtain the Ring, and Sauron was happy with that. After all, Gollum ventured into Mordor itself for precisely that reason. Sauron probably believed that Gollum was a better option than an Aragorn, Boromir, Elrond or Galadriel taking up the Ring and using it against him - that was always his assumption as to how the Ring would be used.

Gollum would obtain the Ring, hold it, and not use it to overthrow Sauron. Now that Sauron knew the Ring was still in Middle Earth, he could easily use his forces to hunt for Gollum in the types of places Gollum would hide. After all, those are also the places where Sauron's forces tended to reside.

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  • In addition, the ring wanted to return to its master. Gollum would have been compelled by it to seek Sauron out. As an additional bonus, Gollum would have been a thorn in whoever possessed the ring as Gollum was good at sneaking and stealing things. And if said whoever killed Gollum for the ring, they would have fallen deeper into its clutches. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Aug 16 '12 at 9:30
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    All good points, except "Gollum would have been compelled by it to seek Sauron out." Gollum held the Ring for centuries without being compelled to seek out Sauron. – dlanod Aug 16 '12 at 9:39
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    The ring was in hiding during the time it was in Gollum's possession. So was Sauron. Remember that no one knew that the Necromancer was in fact Sauron -- they all thought it was Khamul. Once Sauron was found out and driven from Dol Guldur, then he was no longer in hiding but by this time the ring had moved away from Gollum's reach -- probably trying to be found by an orc and not a Hobbit... – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Aug 16 '12 at 10:05

Sauron knew that Gollum would pursue the ring relentlessly, and that this would effectively function as a free service for Sauron. Once Gollum had the Ring it would only be a matter of time until Sauron got it off him as he did not have the strength to bend the ring to his will.

Here Sauron was just playing the long game.

Also, anyone attempting to use the ring to oppose Sauron would also have the loose cannon of Gollum to contend with which would, hopefully, make their job more difficult. Although this does kind of backfire, but only because of special items gifted by the elves otherwise Frodo would have been eaten by a spider.

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You are all wrong. I'd have to find the exact reference but in fact Sauron as a wise Maia forsaw his doom when he hurt his hand torturing Golum specifically himself since Gollum had such important information on the whereabouts of the One Ring. That is why he released Gollum out of fear of his doom. Sure Gollum fears Sauron, but more importantly Sauron knows his doom is forever trapped in Gollum's fate. Additonally all the wise (Gandolf, Elrond) all know absolutely Frodo will fail. That is why Gollum is him them and Gandolf cannot forsee Gollum's purpose but has an inkling of it.

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    Tell you what, why don't you come back when you have found "the exact reference", and actually include it in your answer? – AakashM Mar 13 '15 at 15:13
  • I have in honesty not yet found this. Maybe I've remembered it wrong. Maybe in an obscure Tolkein book. But I'm pretty sure Sauron injures his hand torturing Gollum but can't find it! Nowhere on internet. So may be quite some time before I post the reference. But have you ever noticed the similarity between the creation of the One Ring and the creation of the drawves? – user42956 Mar 15 '15 at 16:19
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    Sauron never injuries his hand torturing gollum, if you're refering to gollum talking about Sauron having 4 fingers on the black hand then you are confused. Sauron has a finger missing thanks to isildur. – user31546 Mar 19 '15 at 12:57
  • That's even in the movie. Everyone knows Sauron and Frodo are missing a ring finger. Until I can provide a reference no one will believe me that I've read somewhere Sauron in fact injures his hand and foresees his doom--that's why we releases Golum. Surely you know that the One Ring is the only beautiful thing evil ever makes. There are many versions of the Silmarillion by the way. The Book of Lost Tales I and II, not to mention the poetry such as the Lays of Beleriand (sic). So foresees his doom, which as everyone knows Golum destroys the One Ring and dooms Sauron. – user42956 Mar 23 '15 at 15:34

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