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  #1  
Old 03-07-2011, 12:52 PM
Wakinyan Wakinyan is offline
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How did Bilbo get the ring from Gollum?

In The Hobbit we are told that Bilbo found the ring in the caves of the Misty Mountains. Gollum had lost it and Bilbo found it. Without knowing that it was Gollum's ring on the one hand, and without Gollum even knowing he'd lost it on the other, they have their game of riddles, and the rather unfair question Gollum could not answer was, "What is it in my pocket?" To late Gollum found out that it was his ring, Bilbo put it on and ran away with it.

Or not? In The Fellowship of the Ring Gandalf and Frodo are discussing this story in the first chapter, A Long-expected Party:

Quote:
"What do you know already [about the ring]?"
"Only what Bilbo told me. I have heard his story: how he found it, and how he used it: on his journey, I mean."
"Which story, I wonder", said Gandalf.
"Oh, not what he told the dwarves and put in his book," said Frodo. "He told me the true story ..."
In the second chapter, The Shadow of the Past, Gandalf returns to this issue:

Quote:
"... Then I heard Bilbo's strange story of how he had 'won' it, and I could not believe it. When I at last got the truth out of him, I saw at once that he had been trying to put his claim to the ring beyond doubt."
I find that I'm not sure which one is Bilbo's "official" story, the one we read about in The Hobbit or another one (which we are not told)? I seem to recall that Tolkien meant that The Hobbit is what Bilbo wrote -- his official story -- which conveniently explain the differences between the works, between The Hobbit on the one hand and The Lord of the Rings on the other.

That'll make sense when taken into account the first quotation above, which frowns upon the version he "put in his book", which to me seems like a hint to the reader of The Lord of the Rings,who already read The Hobbit: What you read is not what really happened. -- But if that's the author's intent, surely he would let the reader in on the true story?

On the other hand, if the story in The Hobbit is the true story which Bilbo never told to anyone expect Gandalf (when more or less forced, as I read it), and because of that, Frodo too -- what's so reprehensible with that version? Of course, Bilbo wasn't as chivalresque as can be, but I wouldn't say he stole the ring like a simple thief, either?

What happened in the Misty Mountains back in the day, really, "when magic filled the air"?
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  #2  
Old 03-07-2011, 12:57 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is online now
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Some characters may have been uncertain, but readers should not be, given that the author narrates the event itself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wakinyan View Post
I seem to recall that Tolkien meant that The Hobbit is what Bilbo wrote -- his official story -- which conveniently explain the differences between the works, between The Hobbit on the one hand and The Lord of the Rings on the other.
No. The volume you hold is Tolkien's narration, not Bilbo's.

Last edited by Peremensoe; 03-07-2011 at 12:59 PM..
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  #3  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:01 PM
Alka Seltzer Alka Seltzer is offline
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In the original version of the Hobbit, Gollum gave the ring to Bilbo as a reward for winning the riddle game. When Tolkein came to write LOTR, he realised he had a problem here. Gollum would have never given away the one ring, which had such a hold on his mind. Tolkein actually did a pretty elegant job of ret-conning this. A new edition of the Hobbit was written and issued, where Bilbo finds the ring in the dark, and Gollum plans treachery after losing the game. However, Bilbo told the original version to Gandalf, and this is what he wrote in the Red Book of Westmarch. This was his attempt to "put his claim for the ring beyond doubt". Only later did Gandalf get the later "true" story out of him.
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  #4  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:03 PM
Gagundathar Gagundathar is offline
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I can't imagine that fat Hobbit physically snatching the ring from the grasp of Smeagol/Gollum.

I understood that the Ring 'wanted' to leave that dank hole to return to the affairs of Elves, Dwarfs, Hobbits and (oh yeah, Men) and it contrived to be found by Bilbo.
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  #5  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:04 PM
Gagundathar Gagundathar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
In the original version of the Hobbit, Gollum gave the ring to Bilbo as a reward for winning the riddle game. When Tolkein came to write LOTR, he realised he had a problem here. Gollum would have never given away the one ring, which had such a hold on his mind. Tolkein actually did a pretty elegant job of ret-conning this. A new edition of the Hobbit was written and issued, where Bilbo finds the ring in the dark, and Gollum plans treachery after losing the game. However, Bilbo told the original version to Gandalf, and this is what he wrote in the Red Book of Westmarch. This was his attempt to "put his claim for the ring beyond doubt". Only later did Gandalf get the later "true" story out of him.
WOW!

I stand corrected and enlightened!

This place rocks.

Really.
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  #6  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:05 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
In the original version of the Hobbit, Gollum gave the ring to Bilbo as a reward for winning the riddle game. When Tolkein came to write LOTR, he realised he had a problem here. Gollum would have never given away the one ring, which had such a hold on his mind. Tolkein actually did a pretty elegant job of ret-conning this. A new edition of the Hobbit was written and issued, where Bilbo finds the ring in the dark, and Gollum plans treachery after losing the game. However, Bilbo told the original version to Gandalf, and this is what he wrote in the Red Book of Westmarch. This was his attempt to "put his claim for the ring beyond doubt". Only later did Gandalf get the later "true" story out of him.
Do you have a cite for this? I've never seen it before. I always just thought that Bilbo's memoir was an internal, and unquoted book, distinct from Tolkeien's narratives, and that Gandalf was implying that Bilbo had glossed the story of how he got the ring in his own account.

Last edited by Diogenes the Cynic; 03-07-2011 at 01:06 PM..
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  #7  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:09 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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Never mind. Looks like wiki backs you up. I'll be damned. I never knew that.
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  #8  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:16 PM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogenes the Cynic View Post
Do you have a cite for this? I've never seen it before. I always just thought that Bilbo's memoir was an internal, and unquoted book, distinct from Tolkeien's narratives, and that Gandalf was implying that Bilbo had glossed the story of how he got the ring in his own account.
It's laid out, with citations, in The Hobbit wiki. Neat.
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  #9  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:45 PM
Biffy the Elephant Shrew Biffy the Elephant Shrew is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
In the original version of the Hobbit, Gollum gave the ring to Bilbo as a reward for winning the riddle game.
Huh, I also didn't know that. So that means Bilbo didn't originally win the riddle game with his unfair question.
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  #10  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:46 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is online now
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IIRC, the annotated Hobbit covers this as well as a bunch of other things about the evolution of the text.

In any case, the last edition is the canonical, and consistent with your understanding Dio.
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  #11  
Old 03-07-2011, 01:55 PM
cjepson cjepson is offline
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I have a copy of an early edition of The Hobbit which includes the main revision concerning the finding of the Ring, but still contains some old wording that was eventually changed (e.g., calling hobbits "much larger than lilliputians"). I've always wanted a copy of that first edition -- but looking at Wiki I see that there's now something called The History of The Hobbit... that will definitely be on my birthday list!
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  #12  
Old 03-07-2011, 02:04 PM
Biffy the Elephant Shrew Biffy the Elephant Shrew is online now
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Originally Posted by cjepson View Post
The History of The Hobbit... that will definitely be on my birthday list!
It will be your "birthday present," yessss...
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  #13  
Old 03-07-2011, 02:51 PM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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I keep thinking of the great line: He would have killed the wretched creature, but pity stayed his hand. "It's a pity," he thought, "that I've run out of bullets."

Last edited by Tim R. Mortiss; 03-07-2011 at 02:51 PM..
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  #14  
Old 03-07-2011, 02:51 PM
Alka Seltzer Alka Seltzer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogenes the Cynic View Post
Do you have a cite for this? I've never seen it before.
The prologue to my copy of LOTR has a brief section about the finding of the ring (the later version), and mentions that he originally told a different tale to Gandalf and the dwarves (the original version). I didn't know the significance of all this until I read a Tolkein biography.

To expand slightly on my first post, in the ignoble history of retconning it's a good one because it's not just consistant with the story but it actually adds to it. The idea of Bilbo claiming to have won the ring in a game is due to it's corrupting influence. If he said he had mearly found it, he could not fairly claim it was his property.
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  #15  
Old 03-07-2011, 02:55 PM
Doctor Who Doctor Who is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
I keep thinking of the great line: He would have killed the wretched creature, but pity stayed his hand. "It's a pity," he thought, "that I've run out of bullets."
That made me smile. Long time since I read that book.
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  #16  
Old 03-07-2011, 03:05 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
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Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
Only later did Gandalf get the later "true" story out of him.
Using one of his potions, possibly sodium pentathol...
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  #17  
Old 03-07-2011, 03:24 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
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Wow, I thought it was common knowledge that Tolkien re-wrote that section.

Here is a side-by-side comparison for those who were unaware.

Scroll down to the blue text and you can find it.
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  #18  
Old 03-07-2011, 04:24 PM
TBG TBG is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
Wow, I thought it was common knowledge that Tolkien re-wrote that section.

Here is a side-by-side comparison for those who were unaware.

Scroll down to the blue text and you can find it.
Great link, thanks.
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  #19  
Old 03-07-2011, 04:56 PM
Alka Seltzer Alka Seltzer is offline
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Thanks for that, I always wondered what the original was like.

Not quite as I thought it happened. I didn't realise Bilbo found the ring (which he would have won anyway) before the game.
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  #20  
Old 03-07-2011, 04:59 PM
Unpronounceable Unpronounceable is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
Thanks for that, I always wondered what the original was like.

Not quite as I thought it happened. I didn't realise Bilbo found the ring (which he would have won anyway) before the game.
Uh...he wasn't actually going to win the ring...

Gollum went back to his hut to put the ring on, so he could strangle & eat Bilbo.
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  #21  
Old 03-07-2011, 05:25 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gagundathar View Post
I understood that the Ring 'wanted' to leave that dank hole to return to the affairs of Elves, Dwarfs, Hobbits and (oh yeah, Men) and it contrived to be found by Bilbo.
Which raises another issue. Did Bilbo really decide to give Frodo the Ring of his own free will or did the Ring decide that Frodo would make a better "owner" than Bilbo? Maybe the Ring had decided the Shire wasn't all that much of an improvement over Gollum's cave as far as opportunities for evil was concerned. It might have pushed the whole idea of a quest as a means of getting out in the wider world (although it turned out to be a bad plan as Frodo was able to stay focused on his mission). The Ring is the overlooked character in the series.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:37 PM
Malacandra Malacandra is offline
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Originally Posted by Unpronounceable View Post
Uh...he wasn't actually going to win the ring...

Gollum went back to his hut to put the ring on, so he could strangle & eat Bilbo.
Yes, but in the original version, Gollum promised Bilbo the ring if he won, and then found it was no longer on his island.
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  #23  
Old 03-07-2011, 05:46 PM
Roderick Femm Roderick Femm is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Which raises another issue. Did Bilbo really decide to give Frodo the Ring of his own free will or did the Ring decide that Frodo would make a better "owner" than Bilbo? Maybe the Ring had decided the Shire wasn't all that much of an improvement over Gollum's cave as far as opportunities for evil was concerned. It might have pushed the whole idea of a quest as a means of getting out in the wider world (although it turned out to be a bad plan as Frodo was able to stay focused on his mission). The Ring is the overlooked character in the series.
If Bilbo had kept the ring and gone on his little journey, it would have ended up safely in Rivendell almost 20 years sooner (I don't remember the exact chronology, but Frodo spent a long time in the Shire after Bilbo left). Of course, when the black riders finally came to the Shire looking for a Baggins and the ring, Frodo would likely have been found and killed, just an innocent bystander.

And once Bilbo got to Rivendell, would Gandalf have been able to persuade him to show the ring to Elrond, and would they have figured out the truth then? Would Elrond have called the council then, and what would they have decided to do? Bilbo was too old to do a quest (and he didn't have a Sam to go with him), and no-one else could be trusted with it. Fun to speculate, but the story doesn't come out very well this way.


Roddy
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  #24  
Old 03-07-2011, 05:58 PM
Unpronounceable Unpronounceable is offline
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Originally Posted by Malacandra View Post
Yes, but in the original version, Gollum promised Bilbo the ring if he won, and then found it was no longer on his island.
Well, yeah - but that was the lie. The reason given for his lie was was to legitimize his finding & keeping the ring, since he objected to being the burglar. The fact that the lie was totally unnecessary was the evidence of the ring's influence - nobody complains if you disarm an axe-murderer.
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  #25  
Old 03-07-2011, 06:37 PM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is online now
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Originally Posted by Unpronounceable View Post
Well, yeah - but that was the lie. The reason given for his lie was was to legitimize his finding & keeping the ring, since he objected to being the burglar. The fact that the lie was totally unnecessary was the evidence of the ring's influence - nobody complains if you disarm an axe-murderer.
Are you saying that Bilbo lied about Gollum going to find the ring so he could eat him (which would legitimize him keeping the ring)? Or are you referring to Gollum lying about giving the ring to Bilbo at all?
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  #26  
Old 03-07-2011, 09:57 PM
MikeG MikeG is offline
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Thanks for the link! It clears things up and makes things murkier for me at the same time. I knew about the differences but after reading the website, I am sure now that when I was very young I must have read the 1st ed version somewhere! Where did I get a copy?!?
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  #27  
Old 03-08-2011, 10:46 AM
Unpronounceable Unpronounceable is offline
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Originally Posted by Freudian Slit View Post
Are you saying that Bilbo lied about Gollum going to find the ring so he could eat him (which would legitimize him keeping the ring)? Or are you referring to Gollum lying about giving the ring to Bilbo at all?
Gollum lied about giving Bilbo the ring if he won the contest.
Then Bilbo lied to the others that he won the ring through the riddle contest, rather than his completely justifiable theft.
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  #28  
Old 03-08-2011, 11:33 AM
Alka Seltzer Alka Seltzer is offline
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Originally Posted by Unpronounceable View Post
Gollum lied about giving Bilbo the ring if he won the contest.
In the original version, Gollum wasn't lying, he really intended to give Bilbo the ring.

Quote:
But funnily enough he need not have been alarmed. For one thing Gollum had learned long long ago was never, never, to cheat at the riddle-game, which is a sacred one and of immense antiquity. Also there was the sword. He simply sat and whispered.
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