Despite primarily being an antagonist, Gollum is personally responsible for the hobbits’ happy ending in The Lord of the Rings. The iconic and epic fantasy trilogy follows a young hobbit and his friends as they set out to destroy an artifact of great evil in an attempt to save Middle Earth. Peter Jackson’s movies are beautifully rich adaptations of Tolkien’s novels, and, generally speaking, they tell the story exceptionally well.

The movies take a few creative liberties with the narrative, though. Various small adjustments in the adaptations eventually add up to a slightly different conclusion to the overall story. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King rounds the trilogy off with an unforgettable ending – even if the film sort of ends… and then keeps going.

These changes also have an interesting side effect: they alter Gollum’s role very slightly. In the film, Gollum appears at the critical moment when Sam is encouraging a struggling Frodo to destroy the ring. Gollum engages the pair of hobbits in a scuffle that ends with the creature falling into the volcano, destroying the ring in the process. However, this makes Gollum quietly responsible for the two hobbits’ happy ending.

Without Gollum, The Hobbits’ Ending Wouldn’t Have Been Happy At All

Lord of the Rings hobbits happy ending

Gollum’s final intervention comes at the perfect time. Frodo had refused to destroy the ring, seemingly giving in to its corruption. Sam was faced with failure and stood weighing his options: should he fight Frodo? Should he let him go?

Had he decided on either of these choices, The Lord of the Rings‘ ending would have much darker. It’s likely that either Sam would have killed Frodo to destroy the ring, or it would have found its way back to Sauron. However you look at it, both of those eventualities are pretty sad and bleak endings for the trilogy.

It’s lucky, then, that Gollum arrived in time to claim the ring. Attacking Frodo and taking it only to fall and accidentally destroy it was actually the best possible outcome: the heroes survive and the ring still gets destroyed. Ultimately, it’s a win-win. (For everyone except Gollum and Sauron, that is, but who cares about them?)

Why Gollum’s Movie Ending Perfectly Concludes The Lord Of The Rings

Gollum's ending in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Gollum giving the hobbits a happy ending (no, not like that) is the perfect way to end The Lord of the Rings. There’s a brilliant subtext to it: unable to overcome his obsession, it destroys him. But, because he had allowed evil to dictate his choices, his death is ultimately a good thing. Frodo, on the other hand, is saved by friendship (quite literally, as Sam saves his life several times). Evil almost consumed him, but in the end, the obsession that gave the ring its power was its own undoing.

Following this scene with those of healing and friendship is also key to the trilogy’s conclusion. It shows that without the ring, Frodo is free to live a normal, happy life, surrounded by people who care about him. The bond that the Fellowship built while working to destroy evil never falters, even after their quest is complete. In this, Gollum’s death does more than gift the hobbits a happy ending: his cautionary tale is the perfect counterpoint to their more satisfying fate.