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Greenbooks guest post: how old is PJ’s Gollum?

August 11, 2012 at 3:43 am by Demosthenes  - 

During the San Diego Comic-con Andy Serkis spoke extensively about his portrayal of the character Gollum. In doing so, he made some startlingly specific comments about the character’s age.

Here, TORn guest writer Elpidha Lirgalad examines the implications, and reaches some very interesting conclusions about what it could mean for the Hobbit trilogy. These views are her own, and do not necessarily represent those of or its staff.

WARNING: Spoilers and speculation!

How old is PJ’s Gollum? And what could that mean?

A guest post by Elpidha Lirgalad

Ever since the release of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, some eagle-eyed fans have been asking why it appears that no time passes at all between Bilbo’s 111th birthday party and Frodo’s departure from the Shire.

What does Tolkienlore say?

According to the dates that Tolkien gives in Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings, 17 years pass between Bilbo’s party in TA (Third Age) 3001 to Frodo’s departure in TA 3018. In between, Gandalf and Aragorn hunt Gollum, and Gandalf reads the scroll of Isildur in Minas Tirith in TA 3017 just before returning to the Shire to warn Frodo about the Ring.

In the film, however, none of the hobbits have aged a day since Bilbo’s party. Even Pippin, who, using Tolkien’s dates, would have been 11 years old at the time of the long-expected party.

Peter Jackson’s alternate timeline…

Now, new evidence appears to confirm that Jackson always intended to remove this seventeen-year gap. Instead, he seems to have shortened it to merely the time it would take Gandalf to race to Minas Tirith and back to the Shire.

This places the events of The Hobbit 60 years, not 77, before Frodo’s departure.

In two interviews, Andy Serkis, who masterfully portrays Gollum through performance capture, referenced a 60-year gap between Gollum’s appearances in The Hobbit and LOTR:

  • Spike TV. “Gollum as we know him…he’s a little bit hotter, and looks a bit cooler… he’s 600 years old; but in this he’s 540 years old.”
  • Empire magazine. “He has lived on his own in this cave in the Misty Mountains for about 400 years. Four hundred and forty years, to be precise — 60 years before Lord Of The Rings.”

Gollum’s first appearance in the events of LOTR is, by Tolkien’s timeline, in the year 3019. If his encounter with Bilbo was sixty years earlier, it would have taken place in TA 2959, not the Appendix B date of TA 2941.

A ripple effect through the timeline…

This change could have a ripple effect for other characters and events, most notably Aragorn.

According to Appendix B, Aragorn was born in TA 2931 and grew up in Rivendell. In TA 2956, “Aragorn meets Gandalf and their friendship begins,” and he leaves Rivendell one year later to begin “his great journeys and errantries.” To Tolkien, then, at the time of The Hobbit, Aragorn was 10 years old and living in Rivendell as Estel, without yet having any idea of his heritage.

In The Two Towers Extended Edition, film-Aragorn tells Éowyn that he is 87 years old; since this scene takes place in TA 3018, film-Aragorn’s birth year matches book-Aragorn’s in Tolkien’s timeline.

With the shift in dates referenced by Serkis, however, film-Aragorn could be 28 at the time of The Hobbit and could even have met Gandalf three years earlier and have already left Rivendell.

Although there has been no indication of an Aragorn or Estel casting in The Hobbit, it is possible that he could be referenced in some way. If Jackson stays consistent with his own timeline, at the very least, we should not expect to see a ten-year-old Estel in Rivendell.

Aragorn would be 28 and might even have already left Rivendell to begin his adventures.

Elpidha Lirgalad is a Barliman’s regular and long-time Tolkien and Peter Jackson fan. She is fascinated by languages and is currently working on an advanced degree in second language acquisition.

Posted in Andy Serkis, Green Books, Hobbit Movie, J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, The Hobbit, Tolkien on August 11, 2012 by

Key to Erebor

10 responses to “Greenbooks guest post: how old is PJ’s Gollum?”

  1. AJaye says:

    Speaking of Estel, two articles down is the list of the Games Workshop miniatures, where an Arwen & Estel miniature is mentioned in the Rivendell list. Interesting

  2. alientraveller says:

    Keep in mind there was no seven year siege of Barad-dur in PJ’s universe, hence the year 3434 date on Isildur’s document regarding the One Ring in FOTR.

  3. “Almost as old as I am!”
    …Seriously, though. xD

  4. Fred London says:

    See appendixes, Gollum was about 500 years… (due to the life-extending ring)

  5. Otaku-sempai says:

    In Tolkien’s continuity, Aragorn was already 87 years old when he first met Frodo in Bree. By the time he met Éowyn, his birthday had passed and he would have been 88.

    In the film continuity, the date of Bilbo’s party is given as September 22, 1400 (S.R.; or in the year T.A. 3000). At least one year must have passed before Frodo left the Shire. There is no possible way that Gandalf could have gone and returned from Minas Tirith in the same year with Frodo still having time to reach Rivendell before the end of October of the same year (when Frodo awakens in Elrond’s house, Gandalf provides the date: October 24). So, Peter Jackson’s War of the Ring should occur in the years 3001 and 3002. This should also have the consequence of placing the main events of THE HOBBIT in the year 2940 instead of 2941.

    If Aragorn gives his age correctly to Éowyn in the film (87), and if it is past March 1 (as in the book) then that changes Aragorn’s birth year to 2915 and makes him 25 years old at the time that Thorin and Company visited Rivendell.

  6. Kaylin says:

    Ahhh Numbers! Maths! Counting!

  7. I would dearly love to see viggo reprise his role for the hobbit with some Arwen/Aragorn back story but he could be the one who is sent by Gandalf to look for Bilbo on the the battlefield after the battle of five armies???!It could work!

  8. Come on Jackson, get your years right its all in the Appendices of Return of the King

  9. Michael W. Perry says:

    You’ll find these dates and more in Untangling Tolkien, a book-length chronology of The Lord of the Rings available from almost any book source. When the year is known from some Tolkien source, it gives that. And for the main narrative of the tale, it gives what each major character is doing on each day, all drawn from the narrative itself and checked with Tolkien’s on timeline when possible.

  10. JOE says:


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