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Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum
, a small slimycreature. I don't know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum - as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in histhin face. He had a little boat, and he rowed about quite quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and deep and deadly cold. He paddled it with large feet dangling over the side, but never a ripple did he make. Not he. He was looking out of his pale lamp-like eyes for blind fish, which hegrabbed with his long fingers as quick as thinking. He liked meat too.Goblin he thought good, when he could get it; but he took care they never found him out. He just throttled them from behind, if they ever came down alone anywhere near the edge of the water, while he was prowling about.They very seldom did, for they had a feeling that something unpleasant was lurking down there, down at the very roots of the mountain. They had come on the lake, when they were tunnelling down long ago, and they found theycould go no further; so there their road ended in that direction, and therewas no reason to go that way - unless the Great Goblin sent them. Sometimeshe took a fancy for fish from the lake, and sometimes neither goblin norfish came back.
Actually Gollum lived on a slimy island of rock in the middle of thelake. He was watching Bilbo now from the distance with his pale eyes liketelescopes. Bilbo could not see him, but he was wondering a lot aboutBilbo, for he could see that he was no goblin at all.
Gollum got into his boat and shot off from the island, while Bilbo wassitting on the brink altogether flummoxed and at the end of his way and hiswits. Suddenly up came Gollum and whispered and hissed:
"Bless us and splash us, my precioussss! I guess it's a choice feast; atleast a tasty morsel it'd make us, gollum!" And when he said gollum he madea horrible swallowing noise in his throat. That is how he got his name,though he always called himself 'my precious.'
The hobbit jumped nearly out of his skin when the hiss came in his ears,and he suddenly saw the pale eyes sticking out at him.
"Who are you?" he said, thrusting his dagger in front of him.
"What iss he, my preciouss?" whispered Gollum (who always spoke tohimself through never having anyone else to speak to). This is what he hadcome to find out, for he was not really very hungry at the moment, onlycurious; otherwise he would have grabbed first and whispered afterwards.
"I am Mr. Bilbo Baggins. I have lost the dwarves and I have lost thewizard, and I don't know where I am; and I don't want to know, if only Ican get away."
"What's he got in his handses?" said Gollum, looking at the sword, whichhe did not quite like.
"A sword, a blade which came out of Gondolin!"
"Sssss," said Gollum, and became quite polite. "Praps ye sits here andchats with it a bitsy, my preciousss. It like riddles, praps it does, doesit?" He was anxious to appear friendly, at any rate for the moment, anduntil he found out more about the sword and the hobbit, whether he wasquite alone really, whether he was good to eat, and whether Gollum wasreally hungry. Riddles were all he could think of. Asking them, andsometimes guessing them, had been the only game he had ever played withother funny creatures sitting in their holes in the long, long ago, beforethe goblins came and he was cut off with his friends far into the mountains
he lost all his friends and was driven away, alone, and crept down, down,into the dark under the mountains.
"Very well," said Bilbo, who was anxious to agree, until he found outmore about the creature, whether he was quite alone, whether he was fierceor hungry, and whether he was a friend of the goblins.
"You ask first," he said, because he had not had time to think of ariddle.
So Gollum hissed:
What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?
"Easy!" said Bilbo. "Mountain, I suppose."
"Does it guess easy? It must have a competition with us, my preciouss!If precious asks, and it doesn't answer, we eats it, my preciousss. If itasks us, and we doesn't answer, then we does what it wants, eh? We shows itthe way out, yes!"
"All right!" said Bilbo, not daring to disagree, and nearly bursting hisbrain to think of riddles that could save him from being eaten.
Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.
That was all he could think of to ask - the idea of eating was rather onhis mind. It was rather an old one, too, and Gollum knew the answer as wellas you do.
"Chestnuts, chestnuts," he hissed. "Teeth! teeth! my preciousss; but wehas only six!" Then he asked his second:
Voiceless it cries,
"Half a moment!" cried Bilbo, who was still thinking uncomfortably abouteating. Fortunately he had once heard something rather like this before,and getting his wits back he thought of the answer. "Wind, wind of course,"he said, and he was so pleased that he made up one on the spot. "This'llpuzzle the nasty little underground creature," he thought:
An eye in a blue face
Saw an eye in a green face.
"That eye is like to this eye"
Said the first eye,
"But in the low place,
Not in the high place."
"Ss, ss, ss," said Gollum. He had been underground a long long time, andwas forgetting this sort of thing. But just as Bilbo was getting impatient
beginning to hope that the wretch would not be able to answer, Gollum brought up memories ofages and ages and ages before, when he lived with his grandmother in a holein a bank by a river, "Sss, sss, my preciouss," he said. "Sun on thedaisies it means, it does."
But these ordinary aboveground everyday sort of riddles were tiring forhim. Also they reminded him of days when he had been less lonely and sneakyand nasty, and that put him out of temper. What is more they made himhungry; so this time he tried something a bit more difficult and moreunpleasant:
It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.
Unfortunately for Gollum Bilbo had heard that sort of thing before; andthe answer was all round him anyway. "Dark!" he said without evenscratching his head or putting on his thinking cap.
A box without hinges, key, or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid,
he asked to gain time, until he could think of a really hard one. Thishe thought a dreadfully easy chestnut, though he had not asked it in theusual words. But it proved a nasty poser for Gollum. He hissed to himself,and still he did not answer; he whispered and spluttered.
After some while Bilbo became impatient. "Well, what is it?" he said."The answer's not a kettle boiling over, as you seem to think from thenoise you are making."
"Give us a chance; let it give us a chance, my preciouss-ss-ss."
"Well," said Bilbo, after giving him a long chance, "what is it
about your guess?"
But suddenly Gollum remembered thieving from nests long ago, and sittingunder the river bank teaching his grandmother, teaching his grandmother tosuck - "Eggses!" he hissed. "Eggses it is!" Then he asked:
Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.
He also in his turn thought this was a dreadfully easy one, because hewas always thinking of the answer. But he could not remember anythingbetter at the moment, he was so flustered by the egg-question. All the sameit was a poser for poor Bilbo, who never had anything to do with the waterif he could help it. I imagine you know the answer, of course, or can guessit as easy as winking, since you are sitting comfortably at home and havenot the danger of being eaten to disturb your thinking. Bilbo sat andcleared his throat once or twice, but no answer came.
After a while Gollum began to hiss with pleasure to himself: "Is itnice, my preciousss? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?" He beganto peer at Bilbo out of the darkness.
"Half a moment," said the hobbit shivering. "I gave you a good longchance just now."
"It must make haste, haste, haste!" said Gollum, beginning to climb out of hisboat on to the shore to get at Bilbo. But when he put his long webby footin the water, a fish jumped out in a fright and fell on Bilbo's toes.
"Ugh!" he said, "it is cold and clammy!" - and so he guessed. "Fish!Fish!" he cried. "It is fish!"
Gollum was dreadfully disappointed; but Bilbo asked another riddle asquick as ever be could, so that Gollum had to get back into his boat andthink.
No-legs lay on one-leg, two-legs sat near on three-legs, four-legs gotsome.
It was not really the right time for this riddle, but Bilbo was in ahurry. Gollum might have had some trouble guessing it, if he had asked itat another time. As it was, talking of fish, "no-legs" was not so verydifficult, and after that the rest was easy. "Fish on a little table, manat table sitting on a stool, the cat has the bones" - that of course is theanswer, and Gollum soon gave it. Then he thought the time had come to asksomething hard and horrible. This is what he said:
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
Poor Bilbo sat in the dark thinking of all the horrible names of all thegiants and ogres he had ever heard told of in tales, but not one of themhad done all these things. He had a feeling that the answer was quitedifferent and that he ought to know it, but he could not think of it. Hebegan to get frightened, and that is bad for thinking. Gollum began to getout of his boat. He flapped into the water and paddled to the bank; Bilbocould see his eyes coming towards him. His tongue seemed to stick in hismouth; he wanted to shout out: "Give me more time! Give me time!" But allthat came out with a sudden squeal was:
Bilbo was saved by pure luck. For that of course was the answer.
Gollum was disappointed once more; and now he was getting angry, andalso tired of the game. It had made him very hungry indeed. This time hedid not go back to the boat. He sat down in the dark by Bilbo. That madethe hobbit most dreadfully uncomfortable and scattered his wits.
"It's got to ask uss a quesstion, my preciouss, yes, yess, yesss. Jusstone more quesstion to guess, yes, yess," said Gollum.
But Bilbo simply could not think of any question with that nasty wetcold thing sitting next to him, and pawing and poking him. He scratchedhimself, he pinched himself; still he could not think of anything.
"Ask us! ask us!" said Gollum.
Bilbo pinched himself and slapped himself; he gripped on his littlesword; he even felt in his pocket with his other hand. There he found thering he had picked up in the passage and forgotten about.
"What have I got in my pocket?" he said aloud. He was talking tohimself, but Gollum thought it was a riddle, and he was frightfully upset.
"Not fair! not fair!" he hissed. "It isn't fair, my precious, is it,not fair, is it? toask us what it's got in its nassty little pocketses?"
Bilbo seeing what had happened and having nothing better to ask stuck tohis question. "What have I got in my pocket?" he said louder.
"S-s-s-s-s," hissed Gollum. "It must give us three guesseses, mypreciouss, three guesseses."
"Very well! Guess away!" said Bilbo.
"Handses!" said Gollum.
"Wrong," said Bilbo, who had luckily just taken his hand out again."Guess again!"
"S-s-s-s-s," said Gollum more upset than ever. He thought of all thethings he kept in his own pockets: fishbones, goblins' teeth, wet shells, abit of bat-wing, a sharp stone to sharpen his fangs on, and other nastythings. He tried to think what other people kept in their pockets.
"Knife!" he said at last.
"Wrong!" said Bilbo, who had lost his some time ago. "Last guess!"
Now Gollum was in a much worse state than when Bilbo had asked him theegg-question. He hissed and spluttered and rocked himself backwards andforwards, and slapped his feet on the floor, and wriggled and squirmed; butstill he did not dare to waste his last guess.
"Come on!" said Bilbo. "I am waiting!" He tried to sound bold andcheerful, but he did not feel at all sure how the game was going to end,whether Gollum guessed right or not.
"Time's up!" he said.
"String, or nothing!" shrieked Gollum, which was not quite fair - workingin two guesses at once.
"Both wrong," cried Bilbo very much relieved; and he jumped at once tohis feet, put his back to the nearest wall, and held out his little sword.He knew, of course, that the riddle-game was sacred and of immenseantiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they playedat it. But he felt he could not trust this slimy thing to keep any promiseat a pinch. Any excuse would do for him to slide out of it. And after allthat last question had not been a genuine riddle according to the ancientlaws.
But at any rate Gollum did not at once attack him. He could see thesword in Bilbo's hand. He sat still, shivering and whispering. At lastBilbo could wait no longer.
"Well?" he said. "What about your promise? I want to go. You must showme the way."
"Did we say so, precious? Show the nassty little Baggins the way out,yes, yes. But what has it got in its pocketses, eh? Not string, precious,but not nothing. Oh no! gollum!"
"Never you mind," said Bilbo. "A promise is a promise."
"Cross it is, impatient, precious," hissed Gollum. "But it must wait,yes it must. We can't go up the tunnels so hasty. We must go and get somethings first, yes, things to help us."
"Well, hurry up!" said Bilbo, relieved to think of Gollum going away. Hethought he was just making an excuse and did not mean to come back. Whatwas Gollum talking about? What useful thing could he keep out on the darklake? But he was wrong. Gollum did mean to come back. He was angry now andhungry. And he was a miserable wicked creature, and already he had a plan.
Not far away was his island, of which Bilbo knew nothing, and there inhis hiding-place he kept a few wretched oddments, and one very beautifulthing, very beautiful, very wonderful. He had a ring, a golden ring, aprecious ring.
"My birthday-present!" he whispered to himself, as he had often done inthe endless dark days. "That's what we wants now, yes; we wants it!"
He wanted it because it was a ring of power, and if you slipped thatring on your finger, you were invisible; only in the full sunlight couldyou be seen, and then only by your shadow, and that would be shaky andfaint.
"My birthday-present! It came to me on my birthday, my precious." So hehad always said to himself. But who knows how Gollum came by that present,ages ago in the old days when such rings were still at large in the world?Perhaps even the Master who ruled them could not have said. Gollum used towear it at first, till it tired him; and then he kept it in a pouch nexthis skin, till it galled him; and now usually he hid it in a hole in therock on his island, and was always going back to look at it. And stillsometimes he put it on, when he could not bear to be parted from it anylonger, or when he was very, very, hungry, and tired of fish. Then he wouldcreep along dark passages looking for stray goblins. He might even ventureinto places where the torches were lit and made his eyes blink and smart;for he would be safe. Oh yes, quite safe. No one would see him, no onewould notice him, till he had his fingers on their throat. Only a few hoursago he had worn it, and caught a small goblin-imp. How it squeaked! Hestill had a bone or two left to gnaw, but he wanted something softer.
"Quite safe, yes," he whispered to himself. "It won't see us, will it,my precious? No. It won't see us, and its nassty little sword will beuseless, yes quite."
That is what was in his wicked little mind, as he slipped suddenly fromBilbo's side, and flapped back to his boat, and went off into the dark.Bilbo thought he had heard the last of him. Still he waited a while; for hehad no idea how to find his way out alone.
Suddenly he heard a screech. It sent a shiver down his back. Gollum wascursing and wailing away in the gloom, not very far off by the sound of it.He was on his island, scrabbling here and there, searching and seeking invain.
"Where is it? Where iss it?" Bilbo heard him crying. "Losst it is, myprecious, lost, lost! Curse us and crush us, my precious is lost!"
"What's the matter?" Bilbo called. "What have you lost?"
"It mustn't ask us," shrieked Gollum. "Not its business, no, gollum!It's losst, gollum, gollum, gollum."
"Well, so am I," cried Bilbo, "and I want to get unlost. And I won thegame, and you promised. So come along! Come and let me out, and then go onwith your looking!"
Utterly miserable as Gollum sounded, Bilbo could not find much pity inhis heart, and he had a feeling that anything Gollum wanted so much couldhardly be something good.
"Come along!" he shouted.
"No, not yet, precious!" Gollum answered. "We must search for it, it'slost, gollum."
"But you never guessed my last question, and you promised," said Bilbo.
"Never guessed!" said Gollum. Then suddenly out of the gloom came asharp hiss. "What has it got in its pocketses? Tell us that. It must tellfirst."
As far as Bilbo knew, there was no particular reason why he should nottell. Gollum's mind had jumped to a guess quicker than his; naturally, forGollum had brooded for ages on this one thing, and he was always afraid ofits being stolen. But Bilbo was annoyed at the delay. After all, he had wonthe game, pretty fairly, at a horrible risk. "Answers were to be guessednot given," he said.
"But it wasn't a fair question," said Gollum. "Not a riddle, precious,no."
"Oh well, if it's a matter of ordinary questions," Bilbo said
replied, "thenI asked one first. What have you lost? Tell me that!"
"What has it got in its pocketses?" The sound came hissing louder andsharper, and as he looked towards it, to his alarm Bilbo now saw two smallpoints of light peering at him. As suspicion grew in Gollum's mind, thelight of his eyes burned like
with a pale flame.
"What have you lost?" Bilbo persisted. But now the light in Gollum'seyes had become a green fire, and it was coming swiftly nearer. Gollum wasin his boat again, paddling wildly back to the dark shore; and such a rageof loss and suspicion was in his heart that no sword had any more terrorfor him.
Bilbo could not guess what had maddened the wretched creature, but hesaw that all was up, and that Gollum meant to murder him at any rate. Justin time he turned and ran blindly back up the dark passage down which hehad come, keeping close to the wall and feeling it with his left hand.
"What has it got in its pocketses?" he heard the hiss loud behind him,and the splash as Gollum leapt from his boat.
"What have I, I wonder?" he said to himself, as he panted and stumbledalong. He put his left hand in his pocket. The ring felt very cold as itquietly slipped on to his groping forefinger.
The hiss was close behind him. He turned now and saw Gollum's eyes likesmall green lamps coming up the slope. Terrified he tried to run faster,but suddenly he struck his toes on a snag in the floor, and fell flat withhis little sword under him.
In a moment Gollum was on him. But before Bilbo could do anything,recover his breath, pick himself up, or wave his sword, Gollum passed by,taking no notice of him, cursing and whispering as he ran.
What could it mean? Gollum could see in the dark. Bilbo could see thelight of his pale eyes
palely shining even from behind. Painfully he got up, and sheathed his sword, which was now glowing faintly again, then verycautiously he followed. There seemed nothing else to do. It was no goodcrawling back down to Gollum's water. Perhaps if he followed him, Gollummight lead him to some way of escape without meaning to.
"Curse it! curse it! curse it!" hissed Gollum. "Curse the Baggins! It'sgone! What has it got in its pocketses? Oh we guess, we guess, my precious.He's found it,
yes he must, yes have. My birthday-present."
Bilbo pricked up his ears. He was at last beginning to guess himself. Hehurried a little, getting as close as he dared behind Gollum, who was stillgoing quickly, not looking back, but turning his head from side to side, asBilbo could see from the faint glimmer on the walls.
"My birthday-present! Curse it! How did we lose it, my precious? Yes,that's it. When we came this way last, when we twisted that nassty youngsqueaker. That's it. Curse it! It slipped from us, after all these ages andages! It's gone, gollum."
Suddenly Gollum sat down and began to weep, a whistling and gurglingsound horrible to listen to. Bilbo halted and flattened himself against thetunnel-wall. After a while Gollum stopped weeping and began to talk. Heseemed to be having an argument with himself.
"It's no good going back there to search, no. We doesn't remember allthe places we've visited. And it's no use. The Baggins has got it in itspocketses; the nassty noser has found it, we says."
"We guesses, precious, only guesses. We can't know till we find thenassty creature and squeezes it. But it doesn't know what the present cando, does it? It'll just keep it in its pocketses. It doesn't know, and itcan't go far. It's lost itself, the nassty nosey thing. It doesn't know theway out. It said so."
"It said so, yes; but it's tricksy. It doesn't say what it means. Itwon't say what it's got in its pocketses. It knows. It knows a way in, itmust know a way out, yes. It's off to the back-door. To the back-door,that's it."
"The goblinses will catch it then. It can't get out that way, precious."
"Ssss, sss, gollum! Goblinses! Yes, but if it's got the present, ourprecious present, then goblinses will get it, gollum! They'll find it,they'll find out what it does. We shan't ever be safe again, never, gollum!One of the goblinses will put it on, and then no one will see him. He'll bethere but not seen. Not even our clever eyeses will notice him; and he'llcome creepsy and tricksy and catch us, gollum, gollum!"
"Then let's stop talking, precious, and make haste. If the Baggins hasgone that way, we must go quick and see. Go! Not far now. Make haste!"
With a spring Gollum got up and started shambling off at a great pace.Bilbo hurried after him, still cautiously, though his chief fear now was oftripping on another snag and falling with a noise. His head was in a whirlof hope and wonder. It seemed that the ring he had was a magic ring: itmade you invisible! He had heard of such things, of course, in old
old tales; but it was hard to believe that he really had found one, byaccident. Still there it was: Gollum with his bright eyes had passed himby, only a yard to one side.
On they went, Gollum flip-flapping ahead, hissing and cursing; Bilbobehind going as softly as a hobbit can. Soon they came to places where, asBilbo had noticed on the way down, side-passages opened, this way and that.Gollum began at once to count them.
"One left, yes. One right, yes. Two right, yes, yes. Two left, yes,yes." And so on and on.
As the count grew he slowed down, and he began to get shaky and weepy;for he was leaving the water further and further behind, and he was gettingafraid. Goblins might be about, and he had lost his ring. At last hestopped by a low opening, on their left as they went up.
"Seven right, yes. Six left, yes!" he whispered. "This is it. This isthe way to the back-door, yes. Here's the passage!"
He peered in, and shrank back. "But we durstn't go in, precious, no wedurstn't. Goblinses down there. Lots of goblinses. We smells them. Ssss!"
"What shall we do? Curse them and crush them! We must wait here,precious, wait a bit and see."
So they came to a dead stop. Gollum had brought Bilbo to the way outafter all, but Bilbo could not get in! There was Gollum sitting humped upright in the opening, and his eyes gleamed cold in his head, as he swayedit from side to side between his knees.
Bilbo crept away from the wall more quietly than a mouse; but Gollumstiffened at once, and sniffed, and his eyes went green. He hissed softlybut menacingly. He could not see the hobbit, but now he was on the alert,and he had other senses that the darkness had sharpened: hearing and smell.He seemed to be crouched right down with his flat hands splayed on thefloor, and his head thrust out, nose almost to the stone. Though he wasonly a black shadow in the gleam of his own eyes, Bilbo could see or feelthat he was tense as a bowstring, gathered for a spring.
Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He wasdesperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he hadany strength left. He must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyesout, kill it. It meant to kill him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisiblenow. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him,or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding,a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo's heart: a glimpse of endlessunmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish,sneaking and whispering. All these thoughts passed in a flash of a second.He trembled. And then quite suddenly in another flash, as if lifted by anew strength and resolve, he leaped.
No great leap for a man, but a leap in the dark. Straight over Gollum'shead he jumped, seven feet forward and three in the air; indeed, had heknown it, he only just missed cracking his skull on the low arch of thepassage.
Gollum threw himself backwards, and grabbed as the hobbit flew over him,but too late: his hands snapped on thin air, and Bilbo, falling fair on hissturdy feet, sped off down the new tunnel. He did not turn to see whatGollum was doing. There was a hissing and cursing almost at his heels atfirst, then it stopped. All at once there came a bloodcurdling shriek,filled with hatred and despair. Gollum was defeated. He dared go nofurther. He had lost: lost his prey, and lost, too, the only thing he hadever cared for, his precious. The cry brought Bilbo's heart to his mouth,but still he held on. Now faint as an echo, but menacing, the voice camebehind:
"Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!"
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