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before the events of The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins had an opportunity to kill Gollum, and if he had, the subsequent plot surrounding Frodo and the One Ring would have looked very different. As a secondary antagonist, it seems that the way forward for the protagonists would have been easier if Gollum hadn’t been there to cause so much trouble. However, as Gandalf said in The Lord of the RingsGollum had a critical part to play in the War of the Ring.

Bilbo met Gollum in The Hobbits, and their iconic battle of wits left the little burglar with a useful new trinket and a clear way of escaping. He considered killing Gollum and came very close. However, in the moments before he made the final blow, he felt sorry for the creature and scurried off unseen. later, in Lord of the Rings, Frodo wished that Bilbo had just killed Gollum all those years ago and saved them the trouble caused by his desire for the One Ring. Of course, had he gotten his wish, Frodo’s entire journey would have looked very different.

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Bilbo Would Have Been Corrupted By The Ring If He Killed Gollum

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

It becomes clear to Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings that Hobbits have a unique resistance to Sauron’s One Ring. However, it will still corrupt them over time. The wizard suspected that the Hobbits’ pure and innocent nature kept the Ring from getting a firm grip on their souls. In the case of other beings influenced by the Ring, the golden band would use the guilt of past crimes to torment the bearer into madness – just as it did with Gollum.

Back when he had been named Smeagol, Gollum murdered his best friend to gain ownership of the Ring, and his “precious” tormented him with the guilt of this action. Bilbo still obtained the Ring through a crime, and the shame burned in him for decades (he even left the trickery with Gollum out of his first draft of “There and Back Again”). Still, this was nothing to what he would have experienced had he murdered Gollum. It would have given the Ring a foothold in Bilbo’s heart, entirely disrupting his life going forward.

Gandalf Would Have To Force Bilbo To Relinquish the Ring

Gandalf smoking in Bilbo's house in The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey (1)

in Lord of the Rings, Bilbo was the first Ring-bearer to voluntarily give up the One Ring. It took a little convincing from Gandalf the Grey, but in the end, the hobbit walked free and it was clear on his own. This allowed Frodo to break the tradition of acquiring the Ring through a crime, which granted him even further resistance to its temptations and power. However, had Bilbo killed Gollum and become corrupted, it’s unlikely that his passing would have gone the same way.

It’s possible that Bilbo still would have been able to resist the Ring’s corruption long enough to raise Frodo as he did in The Lord of the Rings, but handing the precious weapon to his nephew would have been out of the question. in The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf had to intimidate Bilbo to make him let go, but it would have taken a far more dangerous display if Gollum had been murdered. The wizard might even have had to seriously harm his old friend—something that theoretically could have corrupted even him as well.

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Frodo’s Empathy For Gollum Saved Him

Sam, Frodo and Gollum in The Two Towers

in The Lord of the Ringsafter Frodo and Sam separate from the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring, Gollum became their guide to Mordor. During this time, Frodo began to gain compassion for the former Ring-bearer. By then, the hobbit understood how the Ring influenced the heart and mind and recognized that he was heading in the same direction. In a sense, the idea that Gollum could be redeemed might have made Frodo feel that the same could happen to him once he had destroyed the One Ring. It was a small amount of hope on the bleach quest.

Additionally, Gollum’s piteous existence was a cautionary tale for Frodo. So long as the creature was around, the new Ring-bearer could see what would become of him if he gave into Sauron’s power. If Gollum had been killed during his interaction with Bilbo in The Hobbits, this example would have never been demonstrated to Frodo. The journey would have just been him and Sam, and the Ring’s pull might have proved too much.

Frodo & Sam Wouldn’t Have Made It To Mount Doom Without Gollum

Sam fights against Shelob in Lord of the Rings

Traveling across Middle-earth to a place they had never seen was no easy task. Frodo and Sam lost their guides and protectors at the end of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and the way was unclear and dangerous. So, it was ultimately good that Gollum was there to lead them. Gollum had been taken to Mordor and Mount Doom before, and his skulking allowed him to know the secrets of the dark country. If he hadn’t been there, it’s impossible to know how long Frodo and Sam would have wandered before they found their way—or if they would have at all.

Of course, Gollum didn’t take the two hobbits to Mordor out of the goodness of his heart. He hoped to lead them into the lair of Shelob, the ancient and dangerous spider, and to their deaths. Still, Frodo and Sam ended up stronger than he had thought, and they survived. At first, Gollum effectively playing the guide to the Ring-bearer seemed to satisfy the vital role Gandalf had predicted for him, but by the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kingit was clear that his part was far darker.

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Without Gollum, Frodo Would Have Had To Die At Mount Doom

Gollum admires the One Ring just before he falls into Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings

The most significant thing that Gollum did was at the volcanic fires of Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Frodo had been more resistant to the Ring than anyone who had borne it in history, but when he finally stood where it could be destroyed, he couldn’t do it. This proved that there could never be anyone strong enough to willingly throw Sauron’s great weapon into the flames from which it had been born. The only way to destroy the Ring would be to fall in with it— which is precisely what Gollum did.

If Gollum had been killed all those years before, he wouldn’t have been there to wrestle the One Ring away from Frodo and fall to his death. This would have meant that Frodo and Sam would have had to fight over the Ring until one of them fell into the fire. Gollum’s crimes could never have been redeemed, and his death was the only way he could have found peace from the Ring’s torment—certainly not the case for Frodo. Gollum’s purpose in The Lord of the Rings had been to destroy the Ring, which he could never have done if Bilbo had killed him.

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