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And now for something completely different

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.)

Comments (35)

Without thinking about it much, my initial reaction would be that Gollum knew the Misty Mountains, its caves and tunnels and pathways, better than any other creature in Middle Earth. Having explored its depths for thousands of years while he still possessed the Ring--and being drawn to its power all the time--no escape route from Moria might have been too obscure for him. Even if he were delayed in wriggling his way out of some hole or crevasse, he certainly would know where they were likely to come out, and would make his way there as quickly as he could. Because a Company of eight, weary with grief and hunger and burdened by the short strides of the Shire-folk, would travel much slower over land than Gollum alone, it's not inconceivable that he could have picked up their trail within hours of their escape.

Or, as you say, it could just be a plot hole. LOTR is full of strange conveniences, such as the appearance and disappearance of whatever steeds were appropriate to the characters' situation at any given time.

What you suggest may be the only solution, Sage. If so, the exit Gollum knew of from Moria must have been quite close and quick to follow. Gollum wouldn't have sought that exit unless he knew that the company had escaped Moria. Otherwise, if they had gotten lost in Moria, he would want to seek them inside. So he would have had to follow the orcs quietly as they ran down to the lower levels. He would have had to witness from the shadows in the fire-lit hall the outcome of the fight at the bridge and would have gone to seek an alternative route after he saw from some distance the bridge broken and the rest of the company escape, being at that point pretty confident that they would get out at the main gates. So he would have had to go quickly at that point to his alternative route and traverse it pretty swiftly to follow them.

However, another difficulty arises: Gollum hated to travel by daylight almost as much as orcs did, and at this time he would have been lurking in Moria for some time and would have not been getting accustomed to doing so. The _Fellowship of the Ring_ records that the company escaped Moria one hour after noon and that the sun was shining. Frodo hears Gollum's footsteps right behind them in "deep night" of that same night on the edge of Lothlorien--presumably twelve hours later or less. Would Gollum have been able to catch up if he had waited until after nightfall to leave the tunnels of the mountains? Or would he have traveled in bright sunlight even to pursue the Ring?

As far as the steeds' showing up conveniently, by my memory Tolkien goes to some trouble to explain that. He attributes it (in essence) to a kind of ESP between Gandalf and Shadowfax. Gandalf says at the Council of Elrond that there is a bond between him and Shadowfax and that S. will come again if Gandalf needs him, and he explicitly says that he called to him in thought when he returns to Rohan and Shadowfax shows up. Apparently Gandalf's ESP message included the need for a couple of extra horses, which Shadowfax collects as he goes and brings with him. (If I recall correctly they happen to be the ones Aragorn had borrowed who ran away in Fangorn in the night.)

This ESP with Shadowfax is a bit contrived, I grant, but the fact that Tolkien _does_ bother to contrive it shows his intense aversion to plot holes of any kind. You probably remember the stories of his going back through the drafts to make sure all the statements about the moon are consistent with the dates he is assigning, so that the moon waxes and wanes accurately and realistically throughout their travels.

I recall letting this go along the same line of reasoning as Sage, i.e. Gollum had been around for so long, that he might have known some obscure path. Also the unpleasantness of knowing that somehow he managed to get behind them again so quickly seemed to me consistent with Gollum's tenacious pursuit and obsession with the Ring as well as the pervasive feeling of the story that nothing is ever quite entirely well. Gollum is as constant as the discomfort caused by the Ring; he is a reminder of its dark purpose and how it distorts body and soul unnaturally, even supernaturally. Could it be that Tolkien intended for us to feel distress over Gollum's inexplicably sudden reappearance to point us back to the Ring's evil influence?

Well, Frodo's uneasiness at Gollum's pursuit has been there all through Moria. He begins noticing him right away when they are going through the darkness following Gandalf, and when they spend the night in the open hall near the Chamber of Mazarbul, Frodo actually sees his eyes and then dreams about him. Frodo's hearing him following when they are in the woods is more of a continuation. They know that they are in danger from possibly pursuing orcs, and they are all grieving over the shocking death of Gandalf, so they certainly aren't feeling very relieved just then anyway. When I first read the books I didn't find Gollum's appearance at just that point surprising, because it had been hinted at throughout Moria. It is only really when you stop to think about the logistics of their escape--the bridge, the openness and drama--that you realize that he couldn't have followed them out in the ordinary sense, not even sneakily, in the same way that he has been following them _through_ Moria.

I'm going to just stick this in here, with apologies for its only vague connection to the thread, in part because I don't have anything to add to Lydia's puzzle, and in part because I found this essay fascinating and expect many readers will as well:


“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

Kung Fu Monkey -- Ephemera, blog post, March 19, 2009 ― John Rogers

Yawn. Do the anti-Tolkien trolls ever come up with any new material? And will they ever stop congratulating themselves?

Um, it was an anti-Rand quote. Which implies by negative comparison that Tolkien is a positive influence.

Okay, from my family I have the following additional possible solutions to the puzzle:

--Gollum escaped down the stair and over the bridge ahead of the company, before they got to the bridge and could see him.

Respondeo: Not so, for Gollum would not go significantly ahead of the Ring. He could not know that the ring-bearer would successfully follow him, and if the Ring-bearer or the ring were lost or captured by orcs inside Moria, Gollum would want to continue to follow the Ring. Moreover, Gollum had no reason to believe that the bridge would be destroyed, so there would have been no reason for him to go against his own nature just to try to get over the bridge before the company arrived.

--Gollum went just behind the company down the stair and then crawled along _under_ the bridge when they crossed it.

Respondeo: This does not answer the problem of how he went unnoticed in the small, lit Chamber of Mazarbul and got out and down the stair behind them when Gandalf was keeping their rearguard. It is also unlikely that he would have managed to be unseen in their flight across the firelit hall to the bridge.

--Gollum got out of Moria across the chasm previously spanned by the bridge by crawling on the wall of the cavern/hall. Later experiences in Mordor showed that Gollum had nearly suction-like fingers and toes and was able to crawl down and across surfaces that appeared sheer.

Respondeo: I admit that this is extremely clever, and I would not have thought of it. It allows Gollum to come down from the upper level following the orcs and keeping in the shadows, so the company would not have seen him on their narrow stair. It allows him to get out of Moria after the immediate clash of the battle with the Balrog is over and no one is looking. (The slabs of rock over the first, fiery chasm might have been left in place by the orcs and trolls.) And it allows him to be very close on the company's heels after leaving Moria without the need to postulate (entia non sunt multiplicandum praeter necessitatem) a convenient, swift, alternative way out known to Gollum. Its weakness is that I don't think Gollum's toes and fingers were _that_ suction-like. He is meant to be related to hobbits, and they don't have suction toes and fingers. The cliff down which he later climbs in Mordor is a natural rock formation and would have had at least slight irregularities to grip, whereas the walls in Moria would have been worked stone, dwarf-work, and hence much smoother.

Um, it was an anti-Rand quote. Which implies by negative comparison that Tolkien is a positive influence.

Yeah, I got that. I was reacting to Bill's comment above yours.

At this point Bill's contrarianism on LOTR has become endearing to me, especially since I'm in the small and intrepid minority of Tolkien fans who did like the Hobbit movies well enough to enjoy them.

I'm a troll now?

I've gotta say, Bill, to be fair to Sage, that I don't come into threads on posts you put up about things you love and tell you how much I hate them. Admittedly, I can't right off think of any case where I've been tempted to do so (maybe about beer?), but perhaps you see the point. For that matter, I don't even try to talk about Bob Dylan, since everybody else likes his voice and I don't.

I would contend that Gollum's path diverges from the Fellowship at the Chamber of Mazarbul.

Gollum was following at some safe distance through Moria. When the Fellowship began their fight in the Chamber, Gollum would have been overtaken by the orcs. He would have hid, as only Gollum could. After the Chamber was destroyed, and the presumed Balrog dug himself out of the debris, the skylight would certainly have opened up to the outside. Gollum had only to climb over the rubble and down the slopes, terrified that the orcs might get the Ring before he could. Yes, even hatred for sunlight was inconsequential to his obsession.

I thought of Gollum using the underside of the bridge, too. But I rejected it as implausible. Like Recusant, I would suggest that Gollum - having an excess of caution at this point, would NOT have been caught in the Chamber of Mazarbul. He would have been following with enough distance to hide when the ors and trolls came up.

I also agree that he would have had the best chance of anyone of knowing secret passages and almost completely blocked caves, pathways that everyone else would have thought "didn't exist", so one might well say 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.", and been near enough right as makes almost no difference. Almost. He certainly could have found one of the other passages. And his connection to the ring would give him enough guidance as to their general direction even while he wasn't following directly.

especially since I'm in the small and intrepid minority of Tolkien fans who did like the Hobbit movies well enough to enjoy them.

Paul, I can't say did not enjoy the movies. Initially I did not go see the Hobbit movie because I wanted to see what the general reaction was. After I heard what intelligent people had to say about it, I refused to go. I won't pay good money to a Peter Jackson who has such pride and vanity as to take the children's light-hearted tale and turn it into a 3-movie dark epic 'in "the Hobbit" tradition' (i.e. "based on" the book), instead of just making the book into a fun movie like any human being with a soul would have done. And the sheer effrontery of doing such nonsense as adding completely fictional characters as Tauriel and completely made-up sub-plots is as disgusting as it is story-wrecking. Jackson is not getting my money, not for wrecking things. Would that there were some country that would have appropriate laws for murder of the written word, that could try and convict him.

Bill, you're not a troll. No, the Trolls' names were Bert, and William....Oh, gee. Oops. Sorry.
Slightly more seriously, I can see not reading LOTR - it is, after all, fantasy. And that's just not a gravely important pursuit. But please, please, please don't pretend that the defects in the MOVIES are any any way, shape, manner, or form even a HINT at defects in the books. The books may well have defects, but the movies can't be your source for them. Simply can't.

Nor can the fact that the movies were more accessible to those who have read the books than those who have not be laid even as a defect of the movies. OF COURSE that's going to be true. OF COURSE complex plot lines with many characters are going to be harder to follow if you haven't spent the time over the written word savoring the epic-urian language of Tolkien. Just so will a movie about Jesus or Mary be easier to follow to a Christian than to a Buddhist. That's not a defect.

For that matter, I don't even try to talk about Bob Dylan, since everybody else likes his voice and I don't.

Lydia, I think Dylan is a musical genius, but every time I hear him I wish he would have someone else do his vocals. Can't he TEACH someone who has a voice to sing the songs the way he wants them vocalized, someone whose voice isn't full of ground glass?

I'm not inclined to Recusant's skylight theory, because again I think it assumes that Gollum's desire for the ring would lead him to *go outside of Moria* as quickly as possible so as to get ahead of the company. I think rather that his desire for the ring would lead him to *stay in Moria* as long as the company had not definitely gotten out, lest he leave the ring behind. Moria was incredibly complicated, the orcs were after them, and he could not be sure that he would be pursuing the ring *at all* by shinnying out of a skylight and into the open air while the company went running down a dark staircase into the bowels of the earth and the orcs pursued them via an alternative route to the lower level. *We* know that the company was going to get out of Moria with the ring, but *he* couldn't have known that at that point. I think he would have tried to catch up with the company *in Moria* again once the chamber collapsed as long as they were inside. That would presumably mean skulking along behind the orcs, trolls, and Balrog (without being seen), since they they all had (to some degree) the same goal--getting down to the lower level and finding the company.

At that point, he might have witnessed their escape from somewhere in the shadows behind the orcs in the large, firelit hall, and the question becomes, "What did he do next?" Did he hie him to some other crack or crevasse that would take him around the large pits in the floor and out at somewhere in the vicinity of the gates? Or did he somehow climb out on the walls? Or are we just not supposed to ask?

I've gotta say, Bill, to be fair to Sage

Well, I was poking fun, not hating, but let's be fair to Sage when he hurls insults (more frequently than he posts). I've ribbed Paul about his Dylan enthusiasm without being called a troll. But LOTR appears to be sacred ground populated by characterless rational creatures called orcs, characterless rational creatures called people, a mutated homunculus, elves, winged dragons, little people with Thumper feet, and talking-walking trees. I can understand the depth of devotion. [Language edited, LM] I won't be back and you won't miss me.

But LOTR appears to be sacred ground populated by characterless rational creatures called orcs,

Not: Tolkien gives them character. Grishnákh is different from Uglúk, and both different from Radbug.

characterless rational creatures called people,


a mutated homunculus,

Not mutated. Deformed by circumstances and choices. There's a difference.

elves, winged dragons,


I can understand the depth of devotion.

Not. As the above errors show, it is implausible that one could "understand" the story even superficially without reading it. To think one might understand the "depth of devotion" without breaking open the cover and even beginning to listen to the author's choreography of sounds and words and ideas, well that's goofy.

Nobody was demanding that those who don't enjoy Tolkien to participate in a love-fest in his work.

C'mon, Bill. It was definitely a trollish comment, for a number of reasons. The single link to a decade-old post on the movie, which commences immediately to elide the differences between book and film in a snide way, and everywhere exhibits a certain contrarian pride in ignorance of the actual text itself. That's trolling. I mean, just imagine some nitwit Hollywood biopic on Victorian England that focused on John Henry Newman exclusively to speculate about imputed homosexuality, repressed by decayed Catholicism, blah, blah, blah. Now imagine an otherwise reliable Catholic, who for whatever reason dislikes Newman's writings, using that film to as a pointy stick to poke Newman fans.

See? Trolling.

Bill, I certainly won't miss your comments if you are going to behave in such a way that I actually have to edit your comments. Wow. Please. And as for trolling, well, yes, and the latest comment is even worse. There is really no excuse for gratuitously making fun of everybody who enjoys and appreciates the books in the way that you do. So I'm glad to hear that you are going to stop, even if that means not commenting at all. And taking the degree of offense you took at my mild remonstrance is not only trollish but also childishly prickly. Apparently you believe that you should be able to be unnecessarily unpleasant and not have anybody so much as say "boo" about it. I'm afraid I'm not willing to take that approach on a public thread.

I'm extremely sorry that Bill's behavior has been allowed to derail things. It was meant to be a relief from writing about sad things. Now, as it happens I probably ought to go and write another post about what is, in fact, wrong with the world.


All I can say is that the depth of your woundedness is surprising to me. I take you at your word that you were only poking fun, but I also think you're massively overreacting to what's been said here. For the record, I don't disagree that I have contributed more spleen than substance to the blog, but whatever the case, it's just not that big a deal to be accused of trolling somebody.


You write:

I thought of Gollum using the underside of the bridge, too. But I rejected it as implausible. Like Recusant, I would suggest that Gollum - having an excess of caution at this point, would NOT have been caught in the Chamber of Mazarbul. He would have been following with enough distance to hide when the orcs and trolls came up.

He also would have panicked whenever the Balrog asserted his power, so it becomes harder to see how he would have tracked the Company to the Bridge. He would have to know just where the company was heading, which even the Company themselves did not know, since they were fleeing an ambush. This makes my previous notion that he would have to know approximately where they were coming out a little less plausible, unless there was only one gate near to the Chamber, and I don't believe the text says that (though I'm not sure).

It's all enough to make you think it didn't really happen the way Tolkien wrote it...

Tony, fair enough on your criticism of Jackson. I don't begrudge anyone who holds against him his excesses of interpretation and exaggerations. I never actually saw the first installment in the theater, but speaking for myself, the Shire scenes, from Gandalf's arrival ("I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!") to the dwarves showing up at Bag End to Bilbo's surprise, astonishment, and chagrin, all the way through the "merry gathering" and the dish-washing escapades, on through the discussion of the quest and the presentation of the contract, was worth purchase price of the BluRay all by itself.

He would certainly have known that they were heading for the _main_ gates. I think it's more radical than just that there was only one gate near the chamber. I think there was only one set of official gates on that side of the mountains at all! Anyone getting out not by the main gates would have to be using some hole or other. At least, that's how I see the set-up. So if he could be confident they would get out he would have tried to find a way out near the main gates. But I still doubt he would do that. I think he would be terrified of the Balrog but would skulk behind the Balrog and orcs in the hope that they would lead him to the company.

A related question is where the orcs came from who pursued them to the borders of Lothlorien. But there I think the answer is a little simpler: I think there were tunnels close to the surface of the mountains on the gate side of the bridge and that orcs were housed therein. We know that there was a company of orcs guarding the gate. (Aragorn killed the leader and the others temporarily ran away.) That supports the idea of orcs on both sides of the bridge. One can conjecture that even with the bridge broken a horn signal or other signal could be sent across the abyss--or even just calling across--and the orc companies stationed gate-side could be called up and sent out after the company. They could exit by the gates.


Good catch -- although I'm inclined to just accept Sage's reasoning. Meanwhile, as probably one of the only other fans of the Hobbit movies (warts and all) I want to echo Paul's wise comments about the first movie (which is probably the best.) This is just a great scene/song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pyy_FIYE7EE

Jeff, thank you. And thank you for not calling me out on my miserable grammar mistake on that last comment.


ut I still doubt he would do that. I think he would be terrified of the Balrog but would skulk behind the Balrog and orcs in the hope that they would lead him to the company.

Fair enough. But when the bridge was broken, he would be stuck behind the orcs AND behind an impassible chasm. I feel sure that the solution is all the twisty little passages that nobody knew all of (in part because they pre-dated the dwarves), which weren't proper roads and passages at all - caves are full of nearly impossible slithery slidey holes that you can't be sure come out anywhere much less somewhere worthwhile. He knew one or two almost anywhere, because he had spent centuries avoiding the orcs already. He just moved back far enough to pick up an alternate way over and around the chasm and the orcs in his way, a nearly invisible hole that nobody used because it was too close / narrow / small for anyone else. And he wouldn't resort to that until the fellowship had already escaped Khazad-dum, but once they were gone he would be frantic to catch up, even at the expense of leaving during the afternoon. He spent the time they were mourning at the lake making his way around the obstacles.

This is one of the reason I love your blog (this and all your C.S. Lewis quotes)! I’m a hardcore Tolkien fan and I always assumed that Gollum found another way out of Moria ‘because there has got to be more that one exit—although it might be interesting to see if Michael Martinez (http://middle-earth.xenite.org/) has anything to say about it. Now I go back to writing my LOTR fanfiction…

Well, here is another possibility:

How did Gollum get into Moria? He came in from the eastern side, and it would be hard to believe someone like Gollum would have strode in through the heavily guarded front door. There was a hidden entrance to be sure, and therefore a hidden exit.

That's a very interesting point. I'm not sure I accept that Gollum couldn't have snuck past the guards at the gate. He was a master of sneakery, it was evidently a big gate, he was small, and it would sometimes be fairly dark. But even if one accepts the inference to a hidden entrance/exit, it doesn't follow that such a hidden entrance/exit allowed one to avoid using the bridge of Khazad-dum. The bridge was inside a cavern and may well not even have been lit at all times. I see no reason to think that it was usually lit or even specially guarded, beyond the guard out at the gate. If Gollum got in around the guard at the gate or by some other entrance, in the dark when no one was particularly watching what was going on he could have crossed the bridge. The problem after the company leaves is the destruction of the bridge.

Another question might be: why did Gollum go into Moria to begin with? The 9 Walkers hadn't known they were going in until just a few days before the disaster with the Balrog at the bridge. I think that we have to assume that a combination of motive forces were working: Gollum's preference for being underground, and especially for THAT nice, complex, well-known underground, together with the fact that these mountains were the general area in which the ring was present.

How did he get in? While it is indeed possible that he could have escaped notice of the orc guards to get in using the main entrance, it seems less plausible that he would have been willing to risk the attempt without definite knowledge that the ring was actually in Moria - but he was already inside when the fellowship entered. Another alternative, though, was that he was getting help on Sauron's business from the orcs themselves. This sort of thing had happened in the past, when he had a decoy force of orcs attack the Wood Elves to enable him to escape from them. So, possibly he had some sort of "free pass" token from Sauron that no orc could fail to observe. Sort of a "I am commissioned separately by your ultimate master, bother me at your peril." Or at least a sort of general willingness to 'turn a (professional) blind eye' where Gollum was concerned. Which seems consistent with the orcs commentary in and around Shelob's lair.

Which isn't the same thing as commanding active cooperation for his business (an attempt to obtain the ring), and he certainly would not assume something as ancient an evil as a Balrog would observe it. So even if this enabled him to enter Moria, he would still have been forced to operate in secrecy as to his real business.

Or we can fall back on the idea of "unofficial" secret holes in and out of Moria, and within the cavern complex. As he demonstrates in Shelob's lair (and, indeed, with "The Hobbit"), he had methods of getting around underground that the orcs would not readily follow. And he was willing to get filthy and squeeze into disgusting close places (alone), that maybe orcs (who were used to operating in groups and got pretty cowardly in singles) would not.

Taking all things together, I would say that he would prefer to operate in secret by using unobserved unofficial entrance holes, and if noticed rely on that "free pass" approach to let him go be about Sauron's business.

Which also provides the answer to how he got out after the bridge was broken. The dwarves expanded and made straight existing tunnels in the mountain, but they by no means created the cavern system and there is no way to guarantee that there would be "no other way" past any given point in the system.

I think Gollum definitely wandered into Moria without following the company or the ring. The speakers frequently make it clear that they "picked him up" in Moria, and the fact that Frodo first hears him following in Moria is treated as highly significant, as indicating that he was hanging around there and that he found them by chance (insofar as anything happens by chance). Of course the ring would draw him once they were in his vicinity, but as you say, Tony, he just seems to have hung out under those mountains by nature when he couldn't think of anywhere else to go. Given the vastness of Moria and of even the non-Moria caves and tunnels under the Misty Mountains, their running into Gollum in this way at all has always seemed to me rather too much of a coincidence, but he definitely isn't supposed to have followed them in.

That does to some degree support the idea of his knowing various narrow tunnels or cracks that go in and out, probably on the east side. (By my recollection, he was aided to escape from the elves in Mirkwood, which was on the east side.) That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that the bridge of Khazad-dum played no role in those unknown ways in and out. If the main gate was well-guarded they may not have guarded the interior bridge separately.

There's one other possibility, though: Orcs actively aided him to escape from the elves. It was clearly planned out. This comes out in Legolas's tale at the Council of Elrond. So he was actually with orcs at that time, carried off by them as a prisoner freed from the elves. Perhaps he was then taken into Moria from the eastern side as a prisoner or an ally and then either escaped from the orcs or was allowed to wander away into the depths of Moria.

Lydia, I believe Gollum was hiding out in the Misty Mountains because, following his escape (which at least appeared to have been aided by the orc-raid) he feared being pressed again into Sauron's service.

I say "again" because when Aragorn first captured him, he had recently been set free from the Dark Tower "on some errand" of evil, by Gandalf's conjecture. Whether he was actually hauled as a captive to the Misty Mountains--which is doubtful, given the chaotic circumstances of his night-time escape, and his native cunning--it seems wholly reasonable that he would have fled there as a place of refuge, and would have been there when the Company arrived. Considering there was a massive tunnel collapse at the Gate, it isn't so hard to imagine that his keen senses, as well as the power of the Ring, would have brought the Company to his attention.

The history of the Ring is rife with such "coincidences"--Bilbo's finding the ring in the dark is certainly no more contrived than Gollum's convergence with the Fellowship in Moria. This is part of what Tolkien himself was describing when he said that the religious sensibility of the book permeated the entire work, rather than being focused on any individual characters or any explicit mention of religion in the text. Anyway, in his later years, JRRT was working out an idea that already had been suggested in the mythology, which was that the world turned slowly and inexorably in response to the will of Morgoth, even in his imprisonment beyond the world--but of course that even in this, the God was at work redeeming the world, as the evil powers' designs slowly devoured themselves. This work of the Ring in drawing Gollum to the party was a proximate cause of its undoing at the Cracks of Doom.

I had a comment responding to WL, but life is too short.

On the subject, I always just figured Gollum found a secret way into and out of Morder. Given that he's, you know, Gollum, I never found it too unbelievable.

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