Under the Mallorn Tree with Elbren – Preciousss and Smeagolisms

by Nov 26, 2003Lord of the Rings (Movies)

Precioussss. Is it tasty? Is it scrumptiousss?

Ah, the language of Gollum and Smeagol. There’s a very strange sort of comfort and familiarity shared amongst Tolkien fans with the particular dialect of Master Smeagol and Mister Gollum. In short, we use it to convey unspoken messages delivered ala Gollum or Smeagol phrasing.

For instance, calling someone “precious” is most often an endearing Smeagolism. It means that the object, is indeed, much loved. However, if delivered with a gutteral accompaniment and/or a showing of the teeth, things could get ugly. It is a brilliant example of a word that can mean the exact opposite of itself. All thanks to JRR Tolkien and his anti-hero, Gollum.

I have heard Smeagol/Gollum quoted more often by both movie and book fans than any other Middle Earth character. Lots of reasons for this, mainly because it’s funny and thus easily catalogued for rapid recall, but it’s also because Gollum does, like Tolkien’s other wonderful characters, have amazing dialogue within the tale. We loathe and pity him; and, after our first completion of Return of the King, we then begin to realise the wisdom in Gandalf’s powerful statement about dealing out life and death:

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”
**Note for those who have not read the books, this is actually said in Bag End when Gandalf and Frodo are discussing Gollum, not in Moria.

I’ve been acquainted with Gollum long enough to know that he has a role to play within the Fortunes of Middle Earth. He plays that role faithfully each time that his tale is read, never erring from his eventual sacrifice.

So, I have to admit that I’m a wee bit aghast at my mother’s recent infatuation with Gollum. It is, in fact, almost frightening. Just a few days ago my mother was introduced to Gollum ala Peter Jackson’s TTT EE DVD. She has never read Tolkien’s books, (nor will she; it’s just not her type of literature), and she has only seen the movies because of her children and grandchildren. She was none too impressed with Fellowship of the Ring; she even, to this day, confuses Frodo with Harry Potter. But TTT EE, now, it did something to my mother. She now calls me Precious, echoing Andy Serkis quite well, whenever she calls me on the phone. EVERY single time that she has called me, since viewing TTT EE, she has said, unerringly, “Hello, Preciousss…” and then she laughs.

EVERY time.

The danger is that Mother is not yet fully aware of what the Precious can do to you. She is ignorant to the treachery that is the lifeblood of the Precious and all who pledge themselves to it.

She thinks it’s “cute” to say it. She thinks that Smeagol is so ugly that he is “cute”. His addiction to the Ring, she admits, is strange, but “..isn’t that little ugly thing cute?!” Then she laughs.

Now, I have a plan. Mother did not see the second disc of the TTT EE DVD; not yet, anyhow. She is coming to my house for the holiday this week, though, and we will be watching the conclusion of TTT EE. I can only hope that when Gollum shrieks, “PRECIOUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS” with that horrible, guttural hatred in response to Filmamir’s goaded questions, she will realise the full implications of using this word when speaking to a Tolkien fan. One must learn how and when using “preciousss” is appropriate; otherwise, you are risking being both rude and offensive.

Unfortunately, what’s probably going to happen is that she’s going to have even more pity for Smeagol when she sees how badly he is beaten by the Gondorian Rangers. Sigh.

Sam, I’m with you on this one, this is hopeless.



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