Smeagol/Gollum from Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Trahald, as he is called by his Westron name, or Smeagol in English, as well as Gollum as his other half is known as is a tortured hobbit from the LOTR, whose prologned usage to the Master Ring has warped him bodily and mentally into the shape of a ghoulish troglodyte, whose personality has been split into the benign Smeagol – his former Hobbit self – and Gollum, his malign – his Ring self. Linguistically this results in him usually referring to himself as We/us and only rarely I/me whenever he is ‘healed’ of his affliction. He also has a habit of using third person pronouns to other people due to his extreme solitude and as a consequence adds -s, the third person singular present indicative ending, to all of his verbs – only when he speaks normally does he drop this feature, i.e. when he is ‘healed’. He also refers to himself and the Ring as “My precious”, another trait of his personality split – overall Gollum represents a unique case of where translators must be deft in reflecting his unique line individualism.

Note that I will be referring to him as Trahald throughout the essay as means of referring to the joint entity of Gollum and Smeagol and then by the two last names as means of his different personalities.

I will be looking at the game and film dubs and translations of these.

First and foremost let us look at the original dialogue from the Hobbit and LOTR to better ascertain how Smeagol himself speaks.

Part I:

The Original:

Trahald uses in the earliest draughts of The Hobbit, a diction closer to English dialects than his trademark sibilant idiolect. Thanks to the incredible scholarship of John D. Ratecliff, whose The History of the Hobbit, takes a similar chartering approach towards piecing together the creation of Tolkien’s works as that of Tolkien’s late son, Christopher Tolkien, whose breathtaking The History of Middle Earth, goes into depth from the very genesis of his father’s fantasy epic to its branching out into a myriad of side projects and then becoming the franchise that we know today.

We see in the chapters covering Gollum’s debut in the Hobbit, that he was not too different from his later Middle Earth self, but there were notable differences:

He was described as appertaining to a race of unknown cthonic creatures, rather than a corrupted, distant kinsman of the Hobbits. His appearance is much more reptilian and his eyes are describes as large and ghoulish – having developed to a life beneath earth, away from the light of day.

Secondly – as mentioned before – his speech is much closer to rural West English than his current manner of talking, as seen when Gollum proposes to have a game of sorts with Bilbo:

‘Praps ye sits here and chats with it a bitsy’ said Gollum looking at the sword, which he didn’t quite like. (Ratecliff 155).

Ye as in the second person plural pronoun has long since passed into archaic or dialectal usage, but its usage as a singular pronoun is still present if rural – as such his habit of referring to the his interlocutors and other people as in the third person due to Gollum himself constantly being within his own personal mental sphere has yet to show, he does however use the third person conjugation for all his verbs.

Other words of note are praps as a colloquial shortening of “perhaps,” and “bitsy” which lends his speech a childish tone to it, a tinge of peculiar hospitality. This hospitality is very much in contrast to the deeply duplicitous and erratic Trahald of the final version, who schemes to put a rather unceremonious end to anyone who as much as stares at him, yet alone wanting to take his Precious away from him.  The Gollum of the early Hobbit, however, not only is friendlier, but is willing to part with the Ring as a prize to Bilbo for besting him in a game of riddles – completely in contrast to Trahald’s enslavement-like addiction to the Ring renders him abjectly at its will, hence his warped affection for his Precious – a manner of supernatural fail-safe placed by Sauron since its magic is too powerful to be used by anyone but by its one true master.

His childish mannerisms, eccentric speech patterns only increase as his character becomes more demented over the draughts and it was not until much, much later with the advent of The Lord of the Rings, that Tolkien went back and retroactively changed Gollum’s exchange with Bilbo to lessen his willingness to part with the Ring and furthermore explicate the later significance of the Ring in the later stories.

Flash forward to the literary Trahald that we know:

'Yess, yes indeed,' said Gollum sitting up. 'Nice hobbits! We will come with them. Find them safe paths in the dark, yes we will. And where are they going in these cold hard lands, we wonders, yes we wonders? ' He looked up at them, and a faint light of cunning and eagerness flickered for a second in his pale blinking eyes.  (Two Towers 219)

In place is the habitual first person plural that speaks of his splintered mind, the third person endings abound and even though he is directly speaking to Frodo and Sam, he nevertheless refers to them in the third person since that is merely part of his distorted head, having spent several hundreds of years in isolation with eyes ever alert at dangers or people who would rob him of his Ring. His sibilants are also present with “yess”. His manner of speaking is very much a projection of what is going on his brain, a mode thinking aloud thus mixing his inner world with the exterior world in an inextricable fashion: Thereis only him and his Precious, thus the “we”, and whenever he is “I”, it is the original Stoor Hobbit Smeagol that surfaces unshackled from his mental manacles – as amiable as his prototypical self from the early versions of the Hobbit, if still maniacally unstable in terms of keeping a guard.

Part II:

In Translation:

From Middle-earth: Shadow of War by Monolith Productions and Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment:

彼は思い出すよ いとしいしと…思い出させてあがよう
(He remembers, yes, Precious… We makes him remember!)
He will remember, Precious... we will make him!
そうそう そうだ! 取り戻すんだ…必ず
(Yes, yes… Of course! We must have it back! Must!)
Of course, of course, we must have it back! We must have it!
シッ 静かに いとしいしと
(Grr! Shut up, Precious)
Grr! Quiet... quiet, Precious....

Bracketed is my own translation of the Japanese dialogue and beneath that is the actual official American English dialogue in the game.

Evident is his reference to “Precious” in the translation as itoshiishito (いとしいしと), a slurred form of the word itoshiihito (愛しい人, “beloved person”), thus presenting how the translators have rendered Gollum’s lisp and love of sibilants in addition to his universal application of the third person conjugations. This is eerily not present in the official dub, as seen above.

Not focusing on the English translation, we return later when Trahald is vouchsafing to the protagonist and his ghostly friend, do note that I have not included the official English version’s dialogue due to being unable to find it:

ご主人様も覚えてるはず! そう きっと覚えてる
わしら… もっと宝を掘って…
そう そう そう そうすれば連れて行ってくれる

Goshujinsama mo oboeteru hazu! Sou kittooboeteteru!
Washira… motto takara o hotte …
Sou sou sou sousureba tsureteittekureru

“We does it so Master remembers! So, surely Master remembers!
We digs for the treasure a bit more…
Yes, yes, yes… If Master follows us, please!”

Trahald uses washira represented as わしら and ワシら in mixed katakana and hiragana scripts, presumably hinting at the Gollum and Smeagol personalities being at work, the pronoun in question is the plural form of washi, a pronoun primarily associated with old folks, ancient beings and historically the Hiroshima dialect. Within the bounds of Fantasy and RPGs, the pronoun is used by wizards, dragons and supernatural spirits thus Trahald due to being several hundreds of years old fits the role of the Fantasy language. In his youth he used ore (俺), the regular informal pronoun used by males, as is evidenced by the Japanese dub of the films – in the times dating hundreds of years back when he first found the ring near the river of the Stoor’s village, and subsequently leading to his slaying his brother Deagol and thus Trahald becoming the ghoulish troglodyte due to the magical ring. Deagol himself uses boku (僕), a benign male informal pronoun that contrasts it against the rougher ore of Smeagol himself.

He uses the regular existential verb iru (いる, “to be”) rather than the older oru (おる) as would be expected for someone who uses washi and is an ancient being.

The dialogue of the games are in direct relation to the official Japanese dubs in terms of speech patterns and voice actors.

In regards to the books, I have unfortunately not been able to find a copy, but it seems that his speech patterns are essentially the same there as they are in the games and films.