In the LoTR movies (not sure if the books are the same) but when Gollum lost the ring to Bilbo decades ago in The Hobbit, he appeared to look the same and even move the same in The Fellowship of the Ring. Bilbo on the other hand, seemed to have aged very rapidly when he passed the ring to Frodo. When Frodo met up with Bilbo in Rivendell shortly after his quest began, Bilbo appeared much older and even more much slower.

I realize that Gollum had the ring for much longer than Bilbo, but wouldn't him losing the ring have the same effect as it had on Bilbo?

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    bilbos use of the ring was infrequent, and breif. gollom on the other hand had 100s of years of constant use of the ring, we see gollam twisted into something that is no longer... hobbitish. he became something new, something corrupt, he no longer follows the usual path, he may have tied himself into the ring(similar to sauron) and his life/death may hinge on the ring as well now. – Himarm Nov 13 '14 at 14:37
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    I doubt that you'll find an in movie answer other than Jackson, simply, got it wrong. – TGnat Nov 13 '14 at 14:54
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    "Gollum is more machine than man now. Twisted and evil." Sorry. Wrong movie. – phantom42 Nov 13 '14 at 15:05
  • @Himarm, actually, it's Smeagol the one that becomes less hobbitish and more Gollum. Gollum is the name of the character when he is possessed by the power of the ring. – Arturo Torres Sánchez Nov 13 '14 at 15:52
  • Possible additions for clarity of what you are asking. Bilbo takes the ring from Smeagol/Gollum in the Hobbit (3A 2941) to the time Gollum starts to follow the ring-bearer (3A 3019) vs the drastic change in Bilbo from the time he gives the ring to Frodo (3A 3001) to when they meet again at Rivendell (3A 3018). Gollum does not age in ~80 years while Bilbo ages significantly in less than 20 years. – Red_Shadow Nov 13 '14 at 18:27
up vote 19 down vote accepted

If I understand your question, you're asking not about the change from Smeagol to Gollum, but the change from "Ian Holm" Bilbo to "Ian Holm in old-person makeup" Bilbo after he gave up the ring, while Gollum didn't rapidly age after losing it.

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As far as I know, there is no officially stated reason within the canon. However, there are several things that Bilbo did that Gollum did not, which might account for the difference:

Bilbo didn't use it as much

It's possible that the Ring's preservative powers build up over time, or affect you on a deeper level the more you use it. Gollum used it a lot for centuries, Bilbo used it a little for decades. This especially makes sense because the Ring's other effects, such as its addictive nature, are definitely shown to increase with repeated use.

If this is the case, Gollum was simply still "warm" from the Ring, while Bilbo "cooled off" faster. If given enough time, Gollum may have experienced rapid aging as well.

Bilbo gave it up willingly

Unlike Gollum, Bilbo gave up the Ring (mostly) of his own free will. This may have contributed to a greater "detaching" from the Ring's influence, while Gollum, who was still obsessed and seeking the Ring with every thought and action, may have stayed more under its influence. Put another way: greater control by the Ring could mean greater effect by the Ring.

Bilbo went to Rivendell

If there's anywhere in Middle Earth that will help wash away the influence of Evil, it's Rivendell. Similar to the first possibility, it's possible that whatever "residual charge" from the Ring is preventing Gollum from aging would normally have the same effect on Bilbo, but the ambient magic of Rivendell helped wash it away, returning Bilbo to his non-Ring state. Normally the Elves try to slow down time, but in this particular instance, their power may have sped it back up to where it was supposed to be.


There's really no way to know which, or which combination, of these possibilities is actually in play. (And yes, out-of-universe you wouldn't be wrong to say it's just a casting/filmmaking issue). But all three are based on extrapolations from things we see in the canon, so they're probably as close as we'll come to an "official" answer.

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    Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity. – user8719 Nov 13 '14 at 20:43
  • That's a little bit counter-intuitive..."he has been well rewarded" with aging extremely fast... – user32390 Nov 14 '14 at 5:45
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    @MathiasFoster - you're forgetting that he was almost 130 years old at the time Gandalf said this. You're forgetting that one of the effects of the Ring was to make long life unbearable. His reward was to be free of the influence of the Ring and return to the state he should have been in. – user8719 Nov 14 '14 at 10:44
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    Very sensible answer. Also, the effect of possession (and disposesssion) of magical rings is not necessarily going to be repeatable, predictable, or linear. – EleventhDoctor Mar 11 '15 at 16:57
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    If I remember rightly, Smeagol acquired the Ring at a younger age than Bilbo did. That might also be a factor. – Harry Johnston Aug 30 '17 at 3:31

Bilbo aged rapidly when the One Ring was destroyed, not when he gave it to Frodo. When the One Ring was destroyed, Bilbo aged rapidly to the appearance he would've had, if he had never found the ring.

If Gollum hadn't been roasted, when the Ring went into the fire, he would have rapidly aged 500 years, in other words, a dead hobbit.

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    I see the other answer has been accepted, but this was my immediate thought. Is there any evidence from the books to suggest Bilbo aged rapidly before the ring was destroyed? – John Rennie Nov 14 '14 at 9:35
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    The scene in the book where Bilbo gets angry when he can't see the ring is probably the closest. Bilbo is certainly acting forgetful, nodding off in council there. – Oldcat Nov 14 '14 at 23:38

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