Our Little Footpad – Tracing Gollum from Moria to the Anduin

By the time the Fellowship left Lothlórien, Gollum had already been noticed by the them a few times. Somehow or another, Gollum had started following them when they were in Moria, and even managed to get into Lórien.

But just why Gollum went to Moria isn’t clear. Tolkien stated once that he hid there from the Nazgul, possibly since the end of July 3018 (it’s now February 20, 3019). Moria probably suited Gollum well enough, seeing as he spent so much time in a similar living arrangement prior to The Hobbit. In another version, Gollum was pursued by Elves and Orcs, so he swam across the Anduin, avoiding Lothlórien, and hid in Moria in the Autumn of 3018.

However he got himself into Moria, Tolkien allowed that Gollum was suited to living there, but had to be careful as Sauron had sent the Nazgul out to search for him. In Moria there were some servants of Sauron whom Gollum had to avoid, but in order to eat, he probably had to steal their food (or kill a few Orcs).

It’s also written that Gollum used Moria as a passage west so that he could go to the Shire to find Baggins. He became lost, but eventually made it to the West-gate, where the Fellowship would soon arrive. Tolkien refers to this as a “piece of singular good fortune for Gollum,” though, in the grand scheme of the story, it was good fortune for everyone.

The Fellowship entered Moria on January 13th, and according to Tolkien’s notes, Gollum picked up their trail two days later, around the time of the Orc attack. Just how and when he went east over the Bridge of Khazad-dûm is never said. It’s possible that he scrambled away after the Orcs crossed it going west into Moria, but before it was destroyed as the Fellowship crossed it while leaving, where they lost Gandalf.

The night after the escape from Moria, the Elves saw Gollum in one of the flets, but he escaped. For the next week or so, while the Fellowship was lounging about Lothlórien, Gollum was creeping around the southern borders. The power of Galadriel and her Ring seem to have kept him from entering.

This would go on until January 24th, when Gollum was captured by Uglúk, the Orc-captain under Saruman. We now enter into a part of the story that’s taking place while the Fellowship was in Lothlórien. I won’t get into it now, but might when the Orcs attack them.

Anyway, Uglúk captured Gollum and learned from him (through torture) of the hobbits, Gandalf and the Ring. Gollum escapes and on February 16th, ends up at the Tongue, where the Silverlode flows into the Anduin. There, he saw the Fellowship disembarking down the river. This seems to be yet another “piece of singular good fortune.”

Moving mostly by water, Gollum floated after the Fellowship, and was even seen by Sam on a log on the 19th. When Sam saw him, he thought for a moment that it was a dream. “I saw a log with eyes!” Gollum must have been crouched so low upon his log that he blended in with it. Being dark, all Sam could make out was the log and the eyes.

Sam was in the front boat, and he watched this peeping log float behind the rear boat. While watching it, he noticed that it was actually moving faster than the Fellowship’s boats, which were drifting along with the current.

As he told Frodo what he saw, the memory became clearer: “What’s more, it wasn’t a log, for it had paddle-feet, like a swan’s almost, only they seemed bigger, and kept dipping in and out of the water.” When Sam had rubbed his eyes and sat up, whatever it was disappeared into the river bank. Of course, Frodo didn’t just brush it off. He had seen those eyes as well, but before they came into Lothlórien.

Neither Frodo nor Sam had ever seen Gollum prior to the journey, but they had heard all about him from Bilbo’s stories. Sam quickly deduced that it was the same Gollum, and Frodo figured out the rest.

That night, when they camped on a small island, Gollum didn’t go away, but grew bolder. He climbed into one of the boats tied to the shore and peered at Frodo, only a yard or two away. Gollum was sent swimming downstream when Frodo took notice and drew Sting.

While Frodo and Sam had not seen Gollum before, Aragorn had, and knew he was following them since Moria. Aragorn had captured Gollum in the Dead Marshes near Moria two years previous. He took him to Mirkwood and handed him over to Thranduil. But in June of 3018, Gollum escaped.

Since leaving Lothlórien, Aragorn had tried to catch Gollum a few times as they made their way down the Anduin, but he wasn’t quick enough. Aragorn was worried that Gollum would draw the enemy to them or murder them in their sleep.

According to Tolkien’s notes, Gollum left the water and traveled along the east bank, winding up at the Emyn Muil on the 23rd. Frodo and Sam will meet him there three days later. But there are still many miles to go before that story will begin.

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: Konica VX100 (x - 4/2001)

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: Konica VX100 (x – 4/2001)

A Few Notes

  • Some of Tolkien’s notes about Gollum were written during the draft process, while a longer narrative was penned in 1953, right when Fellowship of the Ring was about to go to press.
  • A bit of this story is told in the “Hunt for the Ring” chapter in Unfinished Tales, while the rest (especially the dates) is given in bits throughout Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Companion.
  • The first couple of drafts of this chapter didn’t include Gollum. Tolkien wrote a brief sketch on a separate piece of paper quickly jotting down about Sam seeing him, telling Frodo, and Aragorn’s revelation. “So you know about our little footpad, do you?”

About the Photo
This shady little photo is of a riverbank in (I think) Zion National Park. It was along such riverbanks that Gollum would hide.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1124 (210 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 179 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 649 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 20, 3019 TA. (map)

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12 thoughts on “Our Little Footpad – Tracing Gollum from Moria to the Anduin

  1. Wow. I didn’t know that Uglúk kidnapped and tortured Gollum. Poor thing couldn’t catch a break.

    And I never thought about how he got across the bridge in Moria. That has the potential to be a pretty big plot hole.

      • It definitely fits his character; he’s way tricksier than any Baggins. But yeah, is he that smart/brave/foolish, because his bridge-crossing had to be mighty quick. Oh I know: the Ring pulled him across. That’s JRR’s answer to everything. 😉

        • Haha! Maybe it did. But yeah, he was pretty clingy, too. So he might have been able to escape by hanging off the underside of the bridge, even after it was behind orc lines.

  2. This is great – I have an interest in the events between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, and however much this little footpad is not looked on favourably, he is a part of the milieu.

    And I really should stop showing myself, instead of commenting when I’ve yet to start my own re-read. But didn’t Gandalf also mentioned, (in A Shadow From The Past, probably?), Gollum swung south because he was drawn by the evil emanating from Mordor? Like attracts like, though I don’t think Sauron appreciates having this little footnote being thought of on his level. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say Gollum was probably drawn by the Ring-ish vibe from Mordor.

    • Same here. The years in between are fascinating, but I can never keep track of them. I’ll read them in passing and then mentally wander off.

      I plan on tackling Gollum’s story after we meet him. I’m going to try to pull together as much of it as I can.

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