LOTR/The Hobbit - Did Bilbo Have a Job?

What was the source of Bilbo’s income in The Hobbit? (By the time LOTR rolls around, Bilbo is living off of his proceeds from [spolier]whatever he could loot from Smaug’s treasure[/spoiler]).

Bag-End seems to be almost a mansion by Hobbit standards, and Bilbo never seems to want for food, wine or other comforts. He has enough money to hire a gardner (Hamfast Gamgee), and he leaves a pretty sizable estate to Frodo, who also hires a gardner (Samwise Gamgee).

However, none of the four books (IIRC) mentions Frodo or Bilbo doing anything to support themselves. My guess is that Bilbo’s father (Bungo Baggins) must have been a wealthy merchant of some kind, or perhaps a vintner (in the movie, and possibly the book, Bilbo mentions a bottle of wine being “laid down by my father”), and left a lot of money to Bilbo.

So, does anything in the Hobbit/LOTR books, or other writings by Tolkien, hint at what Bilbo and/or Frodo did to support themselves?

Actually Bilbo’s father, while well off, married even better. Following that, Bilbo brought back a chest of gold and another of silver from the dragon’s hoard. Money was not a problem.

Yes, but prior to Smaug, did Bilbo just live off his parents’ money?

I can look up the exact quote when I get home, but near the beginning of The Hobbit, we are informed that Bilbo’s mom, the fabulous Belladonna Took, was extremely wealthy. IIRC, Bilbo’s dad built Bag End using her money, and presumably there was enough left over for them and their son to live on comfortably.

Remember that Bilbo is the personification of a person of Tolkien’s social class, circa 1890. His is old family money, probably derived in large part from rents on lands that he inherited. He was not (prior to taking part in the Quest) as wealthy as the Took or the Master of Buckland (the local “nobility”), but was clearly quite “comfortable”.

I’ve always been rather under the impression that the Bagginses were more a solid middle-class family who married “up” through their connections with the Tooks and Brandybucks (the top level of hobbit society).

That’s the whole point, of course. He’s living comfortably, he doesn’t have to “do” anything, and he’s dissatisfied, so that when Gandalf and dwarves offer him an adventure, he goes. A hobbit with a job, like Gaffer Gamgee, couldn’t go running off like that.

I’ve always thought of Bilbo as belonging to the Hobbit equivalent of the “landed gentry.”

But I now think that would apply more to the Tooks and Brandybucks.

So Bilbo exploited the labor of the hobbit working classes by renting them land? What a bourgeois bastard!

There you go, bringing class into it again…


That’s what it’s all about!

Yes, the Bagginses were parasites who lived off the blood and sweat of the noble proletariat class. Why did you think Gollum said “Thief! Baggins! We hates it forever!” He was commenting on Bilbo’s lifestyle.

The background of the Hobbit and LOTR is solidly 19th century England. Social class is very real, and the interplay between classes is a large part of the general milieu of LOTR. The passionate friendship between Frodo and Sam seems kind of “meh” now, but it was wildly inappropriate in the cultural niche that the hobbits are supposed to be representative of. Frodo’s other friends, Merry and Pippin, are the younger sons of the upper upper class of the Shire, making their relationship with Frodo more appropriate.

The Underhill Bagginses were solidly upper middle class. The Sackville-Bagginses, on the other hand, were simply social-climbing wannabes…