We interrupt our usual programming of talking about what's wrong with the world to bring readers and colleagues a momentary opportunity to engage in J.R.R. Tolkien geekery. I have recently been re-reading portions of LOTR, and last night I was struck by the following question:
How does Gollum follow the company of the ring out of Moria?
Here's the problem:
When the company fights orcs and a cave troll in the Chamber of Mazarbul, they are apparently in a fairly small room, lit by skylights from above. It seems impossible that Gollum could have been in the chamber in the midst of the fight without the knowledge of the company.
After that, they momentarily beat back the orcs and escape by a door down an endless, dark stair. They shut the door behind them, and Gandalf stays behind to guard it and prevent the orcs from following. A powerful being (probably the Balrog, whom they meet again in the lower part of Moria) tries to break the door out of Gandalf's hold, but Gandalf puts forth all his powers, and there is an explosion. Gandalf runs after the company down the stair, stating that the Chamber of Mazarbul has collapsed into rubble behind them. Hence, if Gollum was not with them in the Chamber earlier, he could not follow them down the stair by that way now.
When they reach the lower levels they find that one of the great halls they have to cross to get out has a fiery chasm cracked across it. Fortunately they happen to be on the right side of this, and the orcs are on the other side. They reflect that, if they had come down by any route other than the narrow staircase they have just used, they would have been cut off from the gate by fire. Eventually the cave trolls who are pursuing them bring slabs of rock and throw them down over the chasm, and this is how the Balrog crosses.
Meanwhile, there is another chasm (this one included intentionally by the dwarves when building Moria) spanned by a narrow bridge which they must cross to reach the gate. The company crosses this bridge single file, watching behind them both for pursuit and to see the Balrog when he shows up. There is no way Gollum could have been with them at this point without their knowledge. It is at this point that they all look back and watch Gandalf's confrontation on the bridge with the Balrog, where the bridge is broken and both Gandalf and the Balrog fall into the depths.
If Gollum were back somewhere in Moria avoiding the fight in the Chamber of Mazarbul, he must have come down to the gates by the same way that the orcs and cave trolls came. But if he came while the company was there, he would have been seen by them either somehow running across the fiery chasm on the rock slabs just before the Balrog crossed (most implausible) and/or crossing the narrow bridge with the company over the second chasm. And if he came after they were gone, the bridge would have been broken, and he would have had no way to get over the dwarf-built chasm and out to the gates.
Yet Gollum shows up almost immediately after the Company has escaped from Moria. He is dogging their steps when they first enter Lothlorien. The elves notice him in the woods on the first night that the Company spends on the fringes of their land. There isn't even enough time given for him to have wandered through holes and tunnels in Moria and to have found some obscure, other way out and picked up their trail.
How is this possible?
(Full disclosure: This is not a quiz, because I have no answer. I think it may be a plot hole.)