Intended for healthcare professionals

Taking A Leaf Out Of An Old Book

A precious case from Middle Earth

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 16 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1435
  1. Nadia Bashir, medical student1,
  2. Nadia Ahmed, medical student1,
  3. Anushka Singh, medical student1,
  4. Yen Zhi Tang, medical student1,
  5. Maria Young, medical student1,
  6. Amina Abba, medical student1,
  7. Elizabeth L Sampson, lecturer in old age psychiatry (
  1. 1 Department of Mental Health Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London NW3 2PF
  1. Correspondence to: E L Sampson

    Tolkien's character Gollum is certainly disturbed, but is he physically or mentally ill? Gandalf the Wizard provides the history

    Sméagol (Gollum) is a single, 587 year old, hobbit-like male of no fixed abode. He has presented with antisocial behaviour, increasing aggression, and preoccupation with the “one ring.”

    Sméagol comes from a wealthy and influential family, his grandmother being a wise woman in the river folk community. Nothing is known about Sméagol's birth or schooling. He was spiteful to others and had only one friend, Deagol, whom he later murdered after stealing the ring from him. For Sméagol this was an important life event; the ring enabled him to disappear and listen secretly to conversations. His family and community, appalled by his actions and believing he was a thief and murderer, banished him to a solitary life in the misty mountains. He lived for many years with the ring as his only friend and began to detest the outside world—loathing the sun, moon, and wind. He ate only live animals or raw fish. Eventually Sméagol created Gollum, the outsider, who had a more violent personality. When Gollum was 25, the ring was stolen by Bilbo Baggins.1 Since then Gollum has had obsessional thoughts and has dedicated his life to reacquiring it, sometimes …

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