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The Riddle of Gollum: Was Tolkien Inspired by Old Norse Gold, the Jewish Golem, and the Christian Gospel?
A Collection of Essays Presented at the Sixth FRANCES WHITE EWBANK COLLOQUIUM on C.S. LEWIS & FRIENDS
Taylor University, Upland, Indiana (2008)
Tolkien’s sources for Gollum were most likely the same as his sources for ents–his love of word origins (philology), literature (poetry and prose), and life (personal experience). Gollum’s precursor in Tolkien’s writings was a creature named “Glip.” Gollum got his name from the sound he made when he spoke, “the horrible swallowing sound in his throat.” The hypothesis of Douglas Anderson, who annotated The Annotated Hobbit, is that Tolkien got the name Gollum from gull or goll, the Old Norse word for gold. One inflected form would be gollum (gold, treasure, something precious). Another hypothesis is that Tolkien got the name Gollum from the Jewish Golem. The word golem occurs once in the Bible (Psalm 139:16) and is the origin of the Golem in Jewish folklore. The Gospel entered the story when Tolkien revised The Hobbit in 1951; Gollum becomes a fallen Hobbit in need of pity and mercy.