Sam is always putting Gollum down and he never trusts him with anything unless Frodo says it's okay, even then he is still usually unhappy with the situation. Frodo on the other hand trusts Gollum with many tasks throughout the story, even believing him over Sam.

Why does Frodo have so much trust in a slimy, smelly creature like Gollum and why does Sam not?

  • 5
    Because Frodo is a sap, and Sam is not. Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 15:59
  • 2
    Are you referring to how this was depicted in the books or in Peter Jackson's movie? Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 20:19

6 Answers 6


When Gandalf tells the story of Sméagol to Frodo and reveals that Sméagol became Gollum (I.2), Gandalf say that

“there was something else in it, I think, which you don't see yet. Even Gollum was not wholly ruined. (…) There was a little corner of his mind that was still his own, and light came through it, as through a chink in the dark: light out of the past. It was actually pleasant, I think, to hear a kindly voice again, bringing up memories of wind, and trees, and sun on the grass, and such forgotten things.
“But that, of course, would only make the evil part of him angrier in the end — unless it could be conquered. Unless it could be cured.” Gandalf sighed. “Alas! there is little hope of that for him. Yet not no hope. (…)
He was altogether wretched. He hated the dark, and he hated light more: he hated everything, and the Ring most of all.”

Frodo, at first, doesn't understand how a hobbit may have become Gollum. He isn't even comfortable with Sméagol's murder of Deagol for the ring — “hobbits don't cheat. Gollum meant to cheat all the time”. Frodo regrets that Bilbo didn't kill Gollum, but Gandalf disagrees:

“What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!”
“Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. (…)”
“I am sorry,” said Frodo. “But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.”
“You have not seen him,” Gandalf broke in.
“No, and I don't want to,” said Frodo. (…) He deserves death.”
“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many — yours not least.”

Gandalf expands on that later as he hears Faramir's news of having met Frodo, Sam and Gollum trying to enter Mordor (V.4).

“Yet my heart guessed that Frodo and Gollum would meet before the end. For good, or for evil. But of Cirith Ungol I will not speak tonight. Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature. But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend. It can be so, sometimes.”

In addition to Gandalf's talk, Frodo's world-view may have changed as he realizes that Bilbo, whom he holds in great regard, also lied about the ring — though such an inner journey is speculation on my part, not explicit in the text.

When Frodo and Sam meet Gollum (IV.1), Gollum attacks Sam, and Frodo intervenes with his sword:

“Let go! Gollum,” he said. “This is Sting. You have seen it before once upon a time. Let go, or you'll feel it this time! I'll cut your throat.”

And yet, after Gollum backs down:

“No,” said Frodo. “If we kill him, we must kill him outright. But we can't do that, not as things are. Poor wretch! He has done us no harm.”

And at this point Frodo remembers the conversation with Gandalf, when Frodo said he had no pity for Gollum, and says that “For now that I see him, I do pity him”.

Gollum promises to serve Frodo, and swears by the Ring. The three journey to the Gate of Mordor, which they find closed (IV.3). Gollum mentions the existence of another way into Mordor.

“Sméagol,” [Frodo] said, “I will trust you once more. Indeed it seems that I must do so, and that it is my fate to receive help from you. where I least looked for it, and your fate to help me whom you long pursued with evil purpose. So far you have deserved well of me and have kept your promise truly. Truly, I say and mean,” he added with a glance at Sam, “for twice now we have been in your power, and you have done no harm to us. Nor have you tried to take from me what you once sought. May the third time prove the best! But I warn you, Sméagol, you are in danger.” (…)
“You swore a promise by what you call the Precious. Remember that! It will hold you to it; but it will seek a way to twist it to your own undoing. Already you are being twisted. You revealed yourself to me just now, foolishly. Give it back to Sméagol you said. (…) You will never get it back. But the desire of it may betray you to a bitter end. (…) If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command. So have a care, Sméagol!”
Sam looked at his master with approval, but also with surprise: there was a look in his face and a tone in his voice that he had not known before. It had always been a notion of his that the kindness of dear Mr. Frodo was of such a high degree that it must imply a fair measure of blindness.

In making Gollum his servant, Frodo feels that he has an obligation to him. (IV.6)

Only one true shot, and Frodo would be rid of the miserable voice for ever. But no, Gollum had a claim on him now. The servant has a claim on the master for service, even service in fear. They would have foundered in the Dead Marshes but for Gollum. Frodo knew, too, somehow, quite clearly that Gandalf would not have wished it.

Faramir's companions capture Gollum, and would kill him, but Frodo guarantees Gollum's life by his own.

When Frodo and Sam confront Shelob (IV.9), Gollum attacks Sam. Frodo doesn't witness the attack, as he is busy trying to evade Shelob. Frodo only learns the attack second-hand (VI.2) and doesn't comment on it. Frodo and Sam next encounter Gollum on the slope of Mount Doom (VI.3), as Frodo already has trouble fighting the Ring's influence. At this point, Sam has carried the Ring — briefly, but in Mordor, where the Ring is more potent. After Gollum's attempt to steal the Ring from Frodo, Sam is in a position to kill him, but demurs.

It would be just to slay this treacherous, murderous creature, just and many times deserved; and also it seemed the only safe thing to do. But deep in his heart there was something that restrained him: he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched. He himself, though only for a little while, had borne the Ring, and now dimly he guessed the agony of Gollum's shrivelled mind and body, enslaved to that Ring, unable to find peace or relief ever in life again.

So both Sam and Frodo changed their opinion of Gollum after they'd borne the Ring. Gandalf's words were instrumental in Frodo's decision to trust Gollum, but only he met him, and that was after he had been carrying the Ring. Frodo only has very limited trust in Gollum, and that is mostly a trust in how he reveres the Ring rather than a trust on what good remains in him. What both Frodo and Sam come to feel for Gollum is pity.

  • 14
    +1 for this answer, which describes an evolution in the characters all-too-often denied in Tolkien (often "accused" of depicting the world in black and white without doubts or realism).
    – Francesco
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 11:38
  • +1000 if I could! Excellent, detailed answer. Honestly, I dislike questions like the OP, that require interpretations of the text. "Where is it explained in the book that (...)" seems such an autistic thing to ask -- just read the book and form your own opinion! And yet, this answer is great :)
    – Andres F.
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 15:06
  • Impressive. This is a very detailed answer and worthy of publication somewhere! :) Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 22:27
  • Wow, tell me just one thing sir. How many minutes or hours did it take to write this answer.
    – Secko
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 2:28
  • 1
    @Secko I don't remember. Less than scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/3492/…
    – user56
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 6:14

Common experiences.

Only three living mortals (Gollum, Bilbo, Frodo; at that point Sam hadn't worn it) knew what it was like to wear and bear The One Ring, a burden heavier than any could imagine, and no matter how hostile and dissimilar they were, they were bound to be brought emotionally closer by that bond.

  • 3
    Interesting. It's been years since I read the books, but I don't recall anything that gave me this impression. Are there any specific scenes where Frodo says something along these lines?
    – Joe White
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 1:07
  • @JoeWhite It's been a very, very long time since I last read the books. I do recall this being evident in the movies, though. Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 9:28
  • 3
    @JoeWhite It's pretty clear in the book if you follow Frodo and Sam's interactions with Gollum (see my answer). Though I wouldn't say that Frodo comes to trust Gollum all that much, but he definitely pities him, and in the end so does Sam.
    – user56
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 11:25

The premise of the question is incorrect. Frodo does not trust Gollum, and he chooses not to kill him despite his mistrust, mostly out of pity. Gollum is in all respects a pitiful wreck of a creature, even in his worst actions, and Tolkien is careful to keep his fallen nature front and center whenever he is on-stage.

This sense of pity for Gollum is driven partly by Gandalf's wonderful speech in the Fellowship ("Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?") but is basically innate to the hobbits. Hobbits serve as a stand-in for Tolkien's conception of the rustic Englishman, and throughout the books a certain basic decency is their main ethical rule. As long as they treat others decently and politely, things go well for them - this means, in Gollum's case, giving him the benefit of much doubt.

The disparity between Frodo's and Sam's behavior is indicative of their different resolutions of the conflict between the hobbit's basic decency and their innate caution. Sam is less willing to risk death and/or failure of the mission, while Frodo is less willing to kill a person who he has at his mercy, even when he knows it might be the wiser course.

Not that the Rings are an allegory or a moral tale or anything. ;)


This is made clearer in the movies, but needs a few re-readings of the books to realise what's going on.

The reason why is because both Bilbo and Frodo were Ring-bearers too, but Sam hadn't yet been at the time. Frodo has seen what the Ring did to Gollum, and so Frodo must believe that Gollum can be saved because that would mean that himself and Bilbo can also be saved.

Here's the movie dialog (from the Two Towers) for reference:

FRODO [Glaring at Sam] You have no idea what it did to him. What it’s still doing to him. [He walks past Sam and stops.] I want to help him, Sam...

SAM Why?

FRODO Because I have to believe he can come back.

SAM You can’t save him, Mr. Frodo.

FRODO [Snapping at Sam] What do you know about it? Nothing!

Unfortunately there's no direct quote from the books to support this; as I said, it takes a few re-readings to understand, but Letter 181 touches on it:

But, of course, if you wish for more reflection, I should say that within the mode of the story the 'catastrophe' exemplifies (an aspect of) the familiar words: 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'

The key part of this quote so far as this question is concerned is: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us". By Frodo trusting Gollum and being "nice Master" to him (i.e "as we forgive them that trespass against us") he hopes that Gollum will be able to be saved from the Ring, and therefore that the same salvation can come to himself and Bilbo (i.e "Forgive us our trespasses").

Of course, by the time Sam does come to be a Ring-bearer, Gollum has already passed over his Moral Event Horizon (obligatory warning ahoy!) and Frodo's fatalism takes over:

'Look here, Sam dear lad,' said Frodo, 'I am tired, weary, I haven't a hope left. But I have to go on trying to get to the Mountain, as long as I can move.'


'Well, I suppose we must be going on again,' he said. 'I wonder how long it will be before we really are caught and all the toiling and the slinking will be over, and in vain.'

In the end of course, neither Bilbo nor Frodo are saved in Middle-earth, and as Ring-bearers must pass into the West for healing:

'But,' said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, 'I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too. For years and years, after all you have done.'

'So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.

(Quotes from Return of the King)


Some of these responses are missing the fact that good triumphs over evil throughout these books; thus the pity for Gollum. G is the ultimate culmination of the dark angel on one shoulder and the white angel on the other. If we try most human beings can relate. Look at Borimer. He also suffers from the same affliction as does Frodo after wearing the ring for so long. In the end, through all th struggles with selfishness coupled with the desire to do good we see why Frodo sympathizes with Gollum... Without friends to love, guide and advise Frodo would become Gollum.. Stuck in the endless cycle of loving and hating himself thus feeding off his own heart and soul.


Frodo trusts Gollum because

  1. he is their guide. He saved them while walking through the Dead Marshes.
  2. Gollum was an honorable and trustworthy hobbit before he became the wretched ring thief he is now...
  • 2
    Sam is aware of both of those facts as well.
    – Blackwood
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 23:26
  • 1
    Is there any evidence that "Gollum was an honorable and trustworthy hobbit"? I thought he became his best friend's murderer within seconds of coming in range of the one ring, and never looked back. It never even slightly affected Bilbo or Frodo in that way.
    – SusanW
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 10:40

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