This might sound like a weird question, but here goes anyway.

In the LotR and the Hobbit movies, Gollum is always shown with a piece of cloth hiding his private area. It seems dull to me that he would actually have the decency of putting up with that. A better explanation to me is that P.J. added this Tarzan-style clothing as to not scare off the audience.

In other words, is Gollum only 'dressed' in the movie (for clear purposes - who wants to see Gollum's privates?), or is he as well in the book(s)?

  • Regarding Gollum's private parts ... this might be related
    – bitmask
    Mar 8, 2013 at 12:29
  • 2
    What has everyone got with Gollum privates? :D
    – MadTux
    Mar 10, 2013 at 6:54
  • 7
    I think we need to introduce a tag for Gollum's privates. Mar 11, 2013 at 19:14
  • 4
    "My-precious" might be the right rage for that? :)
    – Paul
    Feb 26, 2017 at 13:55

6 Answers 6


From Gollum - LOTR Wiki

In a manuscript written to guide illustrators to the appearance of his characters, Tolkien explained this by saying that Gollum had pale skin, but wore dark clothes and was often seen in poor light. The Hobbit states he has pockets, in which he keeps a tooth sharpening rock, goblin teeth, wet shells, and a scrap of bat wing. Despite these details, he is generally depicted wearing a loincloth or naked in illustrations and adaptations.

So from Tolkien's standpoint, he was clothed. No speculation as to why he's generally depicted wearing a loincloth or naked.

  • Did Tolkien's instructions for illustrators refer to The Lord of the Rings or only to The Hobbit? The author might have changed his mind between the two works, or Gollum might have lost his clothing in the meantime. See my comment to your comment to my answer :-) Despite this nitpicking, I upvoted your answer, because it is consistent with my perception of Tolkien.
    – user30564
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:40
  • The reference to the manuscript, by the way, appears to come from Hammond, Wayne; Scull, Christina (2005), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, London: HarperCollins, pg 447, ISBN 0-00-720907-X
    – user30564
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:49
  • 3
    @what The question addressed both the Hobbit and LOTR and I certainly consider Hobbit part of the Tolkien narrative. Don't know if JRR was addressing just the Hobbit and/or LOTR but it just doesn't seem reasonable that he would give Gollum clothing in the Hobbit and also provide additional manuscript guidance but then make him naked in LOTR without providing any indication that that was indeed the case. I have a logic problem with Flieger concluding he's naked because there's no mention of clothing. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. He gives no weight to prior narrative.
    – Stan
    Mar 8, 2013 at 16:35
  • I agree with that he would probably have mentioned it. But with the long time that JRRT took in writing the LotR, and all the world building that he undertook between the two books, it is more than reasonable that his image of Gollum was changed or refined. If the manuscript was created (long) before the completion of the LotR, it might not have any relevance to it. But I assume it was created later, because illustrators of his work became noticeably numerous after the publication of the LotR, and the quote was published in a guide to the LotR. So you are very likely right :-)
    – user30564
    Mar 8, 2013 at 16:51


In addition to pockets, as mentioned by Kyralessa, in The Two Towers he's explicitly described as wearing clothing (emphasis mine):

Not even an eagle poised against the sun would have marked the hobbits sitting there, under the weight of doom, silent, not moving, shrouded in their thin grey cloaks. For a moment he might have paused to consider Gollum, a tiny figure sprawling on the ground: there perhaps lay the famished skeleton of some child of Men, its ragged garment still clinging to it, its long arms and legs almost bone-white and bone-thin: no flesh worth a peck.

The Two Towers Book IV Chapter 3: "The Black Gate Opens"



In one of the unpublished Tolkien essays sitting around in the Bodleian library, Tolkien went into some depth about Gollum.

Gollum was according to Gandalf one of a riverside hobbit people – and therefore in origin a member of a small variety of the human race, although he had become deformed during his long inhabiting of the dark lake. His long hands are therefore more or less right. Not his feet. They are exaggerated. They are described as webby (Hobbit 88), like a swan’s (I. 398), but had prehensile toes (II 219). But he was very thin – in The L.R. emaciated, not plump and rubbery; he had for his size a large head and a long thin neck, very large eyes (protuberant), and thin lank hair . . . He is often said to be dark or black. At his first mention (Hob. 83) he was “dark as darkness”: that of course means no more than that he could not be seen with ordinary eyes in the black cavern – except for his own large luminous eyes; similarly “the dark shape” at night (I 399, 400). But that does not apply to the “black (crawling) shape” (II 219, 220), where he was in moonlight.

Gollum was never naked. He had a pocket in which he kept the Ring (Hob. 92). ... He evidently had black garments (II 219), and in the “eagle” passage (II 253),10 where it is said that from far above, as he lay on the ground, he would look like “the famished skeleton of some child of Men, its ragged garment still clinging to it, its long arms and legs almost bone-white and bone-thin”.

His skin was white, no doubt with a pallor increased by dwelling long in the dark, and later by hunger. He remained a human being, not an animal or a mere bogey, even if deformed in mind and body: an object of disgust, but also of pity – to the deep-sighted, such as Frodo had become. There is no need to wonder how he came by clothes or replaced them: any consideration of the tale will show that he had plenty of opportunities by theft, or charity (as of the Wood-elves), throughout his life.

(Bodleian, Department of Western Manuscripts, Tolkien Papers, A61 fols 1–31.)

This 30-page essay is mostly unpublished (and is considered a "restricted" text, which one can not gain access to without permission from the Tolkien Estate.) The preceding excerpt was combines what is printed in The History of the Hobbit with what is printed in The Nature of Middle-earth.


I wonder whether the difficulty in answering this question comes from the fact that two very different Gollums have been depicted in The Hobbit.

The Gollum of the original version of the Hobbit was a bit more obsequious, at least at the end of the riddle game. But more importantly, a good deal of the original text was changed in preparation for The Lord of the Rings, such as this:

"Must we give it the thing, preciouss? Yess, we must! We must fetch it, preciouss, and give it the present we promised." So Gollum paddled back to his boat, and Bilbo thought he had heard the last of him. But he had not. The hobbit was just thinking of going back up the passage—having had quite enough of Gollum and the dark water's edge—when he heard him wailing and squeaking away in the gloom. He was on his island (of which, of course, Bilbo knew nothing), scrabbling here and there, searching and seeking in vain, and turning out his pockets. [emphasis added]

Perhaps the Gollum of the original tale was more inclined to wear some sort of clothing; whereas the re-conceived Gollum of the revised version of The Hobbit was more animalistic and less sartorial, but the inconsistency in this relatively unimportant matter was simply not noticed.

But on the other hand, both versions have Gollum trying to think of what he keeps in his own pockets, so on balance it's harder to make a case against the clothing than for it.

  • 1
    Here's a 17th century example of pockets tied directly to the waist rather than being part of another piece of clothing: vam.ac.uk/__data/assets/image/0006/192489/10562-large.jpg Jun 22, 2013 at 17:59
  • There’s no difficulty; Gollum is described in the text of The Two Towers as being clothed. Oct 1, 2021 at 17:38
  • @SillybutTrue [citation needed]
    – Kyralessa
    Oct 1, 2021 at 18:05
  • 1
    @Kyralessa James Baker’s answer (currently above) sources the in-text confirmation of clothing within “The Black Gate Opens.” Oct 1, 2021 at 18:24

Have we forgotten that in the interim between The Hobbit and LOTR, Gollum was taken to Mordor. Where he was most likely stripped of his belongings similar to when Frodo was captured. I have always imagined Gollum wearing at least pants (however tattered they may be) in the Hobbit, and not much more than what we see in the movies in LOTR.


You'd have to carefully go through the books to answer this question, but it seems that someone already did. Verlyn Flieger believes that Gollum ...

... is naked. Nowhere in the narrative is there any mention of clothing, as if, like a real animal, he does not need to be provided with covering.

Quote from: Verlyn Flieger, Tolien's Wild Men, in Jane Chance (ed.), Tolkien the Medievalist, London: Routledge, p. 103 (page available through Google Books)

  • 13
    With due respect to V. Flieger, The Hobbit has explicit narrative that Gollum has clothing of some type. From 'Riddles in the Dark' - S-s-s-s-s, said Gollum more upset than ever. He thought of all the things he kept in his own pockets: fish-bones, goblins' teeth, wet shells, a bit of bat-wing, a sharp stone to sharpen his fangs on, and other nasty things. He tried to think what other people kept in their pockets.
    – Stan
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:10
  • Nice one, @Stan. Now we need to consider, wether or not things might have changed between the Hobbit and LotR.
    – user30564
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:37
  • 4
    you can't conclude Gollum had no clothes because none were mentioned explicitly :) but he'd likely not have a lot, just whatever he could scrounge or steal from the orcs living in the cave (and those hadn't always been there, so quite likely there were periods he'd have no clothes, the old having worn away and nowhere to get new).
    – jwenting
    Mar 9, 2013 at 4:56
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    @Stari: It's worth noting that a "pocket" doesn't necessarily need to be attached to clothing. Any small sack or bag could be referred to as a pocket. So even if he did wear only a loincloth, he could still have pockets to carry things in. For example, in the 17th century, women's dresses had no pockets attached, so their pockets were tied to their waist separately (outside of the under-petticoat, but under the petticoat, which had holes for accessing the pockets). Jun 22, 2013 at 17:57
  • 3
    @Lèse majesté Yes, that's true. However, in the manuscript Tolkien provided to assist illustrators (see the answer I provided to this question), he explicitly stated that Gollum wore dark clothes. Difficult for me to reconcile that with just a loincloth.
    – Stan
    Jul 4, 2013 at 18:50

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