On May 25th, 2023, years since it was announced alongside the next-gen consoles, Lord of the Rings: Gollum will finally be released to the public on all popular platforms. The game will follow its titular character, Gollum, through the events between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

There is a basic framework for what Gollum did in this time period provided in the books, specifically Chapter II of Book One of Fellowship, A Shadow of the Past. In that chapter, Gandalf divulges what he can to Frodo about Gollum’s doings after Bilbo takes the ring. He describes hunting Gollum alongside Aragorn, capturing Gollum, and interrogating him in the dungeons of Mirkwood. But all of that happened in the twenty years after Frodo obtained the Ring.

All Gandalf says of Gollum in the time period of the game is that he knows he went to Mordor and that he was a terror in the countryside for a period. However, we also know from later events that at some point in that trip to Mordor, Gollum discovers the Path of Cirith Ungol and allies himself with Shelob. So, if you haven’t read or seen Lord of the Rings, you are massively confused. But that’s ok. All you need to know is that the source material doesn’t give us too much to work with outside of the suspicions of a wizard and the ramblings of a clinically insane 500-year-old hobbit.

So, in all likelihood, this game will have to take creative liberties with the story of Gollum, which was left extremely vague by Tolkien on purpose. The question is: is that alright?

First Thing’s First

Tolkien would never, in a million years, approve of this game. Get that out of your head immediately. His writings suggested nothing but disdain for the systems of capitalism, and his actions reflected an outright hatred for the concept of a cinematic remake of his books. In the 1960s, the Beatles approached Stanley Kubrick and Tolkien with the prospect of a Lord of the Rings movie. It would star the Beatles and be directed by Kubrick. Both Kubrick and Tolkien said no, flat out.

In the famous compilation of his writings published after Tolkien’s death by his son, The Silmarillion, was debatably never meant to see the light of day. It was clearly still a work in progress at the time of Tolkien’s death, and certain inconsistencies need to be filled in. So, it can be argued that literally any adaptation of any work that JRR Tolkien didn’t specifically publish isn’t something he would have wanted: the movies, the Amazon show, the past video games, all of it.

That won’t be our focus because it’s a non-starter. Would Tolkien approve? Definitely not. 0% chance.

Is it Harmful to the Source Material?

Yeah. Definitely. The original trilogy contains a description and characterization of Gollum that’s somewhat supernatural, and often his actions themselves intentionally defy logic.

How did he escape the Mines of Moria? With a literal army of Orcs behind the Fellowship, two gods battling on a bridge that was the only way in or out of the mines, and that bridge breaking from the battle in question, how did he get out of there? It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t supposed to make sense. If it made sense, if there were an explanation, it would take away from the strange, supernatural characterization of Gollum.

Tolkien intentionally left it blank to bewilder the audience and to further the idea of Gollum as a sort of supernatural force of lust towards his Precious. However, with a character that contains so much aura and mystery, filling in the blanks can take away the magic that the character holds in the first place.

That Being Said…

Would Tolkien like it? No, he’d hate it. Does it benefit and hold up the standards of the source material? Probably not. Should you care? Nope. Am I going to play it? You bet, and I’ll probably love it, too.

All you have to do to enjoy this game as a Lord of the Rings fan who cares for the original trilogy deeply is treat this like what it is: fan fiction. You might be angry and say, “Well, Tolkien didn’t even write it,” and you’d be right. He didn’t write it. It’s an interpretation of a character that we love that’s supposed to be a fun exploration into the world of “what if?” and that’s all it has to be.

Now, this isn’t always the case. Star Wars fans who felt let down by the sequel trilogy have a legitimate gripe. If you attached yourself to the existing canon pre-sequel and found yourself unsatisfied with the new canon, that makes sense. Your canon was wiped from the history books.

But if this game is consistent with the character of Gollum and elevates and gives us a deeper perception and idea of Gollum as an individual, that could be absolutely fascinating. Maybe the people writing the script have an insight or interpretation of the character you never considered. Or perhaps they have the same interpretations as you. That’s awesome in its own way.

Whether you love it or hate it, you can always look to the books and say, “I’m only acknowledging this.”