Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 5 “Riddles In The Dark”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • Bilbo found a ring deep in the lightless cavern where he ended up in.
    • Pockets are always handy things to have. So’s a blade of Elven-make.
  • There are always things living deep in places where no one thought things could live and thrive.

  • Gollum: debutante. A good boatman and swimmer, and a career small-time schemer, very indiscriminate in what he killed and ate, with a small horde of oddments, wretched things really, though among which he prized his birthday-present the most.
  • Bilbo, new to adventuring, proffered his actual name when asked. Clearly, he was still not wise to the ways to the world.
  • Riddling was held as a time-honoured game.
  • Both Gollum and Bilbo were good at riddling. And both were adamant about standing their grounds on their respective score when push came to shove.
  • Gollum was quick on the update, Bilbo slightly less so.
  • The Ring had began to work its magic on Bilbo almost at once.
  • Bilbo’s pity stayed his hand which in desperation he had raised and was near to killing Gollum while he himself was invisible.
  • Bilbo eluded both Gollum and some hunting goblins and escaped the caves, thanks to the Ring. It was daytime which stopped the goblins’ pursuit.


Key Notes/Quotes

Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum—as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face. He had a little boat, and he rowed about quite quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and deep and deadly cold. He paddled it with large feet dangling over the side, but never a ripple did he make. Not he. He was looking out of his pale lamp-like eyes for blind fish, which he grabbed with his long fingers as quick as thinking. He liked meat too. Goblin he thought good, when he could get it; but he took care they never found him out. He just throttled them from behind, if they ever came down alone anywhere near the edge of the water, while he was prowling about. They very seldom did, for they had a feeling that something unpleasant was lurking down there, down at the very roots of the mountain. They had come on the lake, when they were tunnelling down long ago, and they found they could go no further; so there their road ended in that direction, and there was no reason to go that way—unless the Great Goblin sent them. Sometimes he took a fancy for fish from the lake, and sometimes neither goblin nor fish came back.

Gollum, as he was. Nasty to a fault even before he met any of the Bagginses.

Actually Gollum lived on a slimy island of rock in the middle of the lake. He was watching Bilbo now from the distance with his pale eyes like telescopes. Bilbo could not see him, but he was wondering a lot about Bilbo, for he could see that he was no goblin at all.

Gollum got into his boat and shot off from the island, while Bilbo was sitting on the brink altogether flummoxed and at the end of his way and his wits. Suddenly up came Gollum and whispered and hissed:

“Bless us and splash us, my precioussss! I guess it’s a choice feast; at least a tasty morsel it’d make us, gollum!” And when he said gollum he made a horrible swallowing noise in his throat.

That is how he got his name, though he always called himself ‘my precious’.

The hobbit jumped nearly out of his skin when the hiss came in his ears, and he suddenly saw the pale eyes sticking out at him.

“Who are you?” he said, thrusting his dagger in front of him.

“What iss he, my preciouss?” whispered Gollum (who always spoke to himself through never having anyone else to speak to). This is what he had come to find out, for he was not really very hungry at the moment, only curious; otherwise he would have grabbed first and whispered afterwards.

Gollum had excellent eyesight obviously. But it was a curious thing that he did not recognise Bilbo’s race, given his own origins. I put it down to TH pre-dating LotR.

Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He was desperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he had any strength left. He must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyes out, kill it. It meant to kill him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering. All these thoughts passed in a flash of a second. He trembled. And then quite suddenly in another flash, as if lifted by a new strength and resolve, he leaped.

Bilbo’s pity, which has such resounding repercussions. Despite the utterly unloveable nature of Gollum, still Bilbo was moved by his circumstance to not end his life when opportunity presented itself.

“Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!”

Candidate for famous last words.



Since I read TH post-LotR, hindsight informed much of my opinions about events depicted. This encounter was barely sketched out in LotR, during the Council of Elrond, and therefore, interesting as new supporting material. Even here the relationships between the various Ring-bearers, post-Isildur, was being hinted at already. It is amazing how much thought and planning the prof must have poured into ME.

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