J. R. R. Tolkien's illustration of Bilbo Baggins
|First appearance||The Hobbit|
|Last appearance||The Lord of the Rings|
Bilbo Baggins is the title character and protagonist of J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit, as well as a supporting character in The Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien's narrative conceit, in which all the writings of Middle-earth are translations from the fictitious volume of the Red Book of Westmarch, Bilbo is the author of The Hobbit and translator of various "works from the elvish" (as mentioned in the end of The Return of the King).
In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit in comfortable middle age, was hired as a "burglar" –despite his initial objections– by the wizard Gandalf and 13 Dwarves led by their king, Thorin Oakenshield. The Dwarves were on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and its treasures from the dragon Smaug. The adventure took Bilbo and his companions through the wilderness, to the elf haven of Rivendell, across the Misty Mountains, through the black forest of Mirkwood, to Lake-town in the middle of Long Lake, and eventually to the Mountain itself. There, after Smaug was killed and the Mountain was reclaimed, the Battle of Five Armies took place. In that battle, a host of Elves, Men, and Dwarves - with the help of Eagles and Beorn the shapeshifter -defeated a host of Goblins and Warg. At the end of the story, Bilbo returned to his home in the Shire to find that several of his relatives - believing him to be dead - were trying to claim his home and possessions.
During his journey, Bilbo encountered other fantastic creatures, including Trolls, Elves, giant spiders, Beorn (a man who could change into a bear), Goblins, Eagles, Warg, and a murderous creature named Gollum. Underground, near Gollum's lair under the Misty Mountains, Bilbo accidentally found a magic ring of invisibility that, unbeknownst to him, belonged to Gollum. After playing a riddle game with Bilbo, Gollum planned to use the Ring to kill and eat Bilbo. Upon discovering that he lost the Ring, Gollum deduced that Bilbo had it from his last riddle - “What have I got in my pocket?” - and chased after him, but by then Bilbo had discovered the Ring's power and disappeared. Bilbo at first thought to kill Gollum, but spared his life out of pity and leaped over him to escape.
By the end of the journey, Bilbo had become wiser and more confident, having saved the day in many precarious situations. Bilbo's journey has been compared to a pilgrimage of grace. The Hobbit can be characterized as a "Christian bildungsroman which equates progress to wisdom gained in the form of a rite of passage". He rescued the Dwarves from giant spiders with the magic ring and a short Elven-sword that he had acquired. He used the magic ring to sneak around in dangerous places, and he used his wits to smuggle the 13 Dwarves out of the Wood-elves' prison. When tensions arose over ownership of the treasures beneath the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo used the Arkenstone, a stolen heirloom jewel, as leverage in an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a compromise between the Dwarves, the Wood-elves, and the Men of Lake-town. In so doing, Bilbo strained his relationship with Thorin; however, the two were reconciled at Thorin's deathbed following the Battle of the Five Armies. In addition to becoming wealthy from his share of the Dwarves' treasure, Bilbo found that he had traded respectability for experience and wisdom. At the end of the book, Gandalf proclaimed that Bilbo was no longer the Hobbit that he had been.
The Lord of the Rings
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The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, begins with Bilbo's "eleventy-first" (111th) birthday, 60 years after the beginning of The Hobbit. The main character of the novel is Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's cousin,[nb 1] who celebrates his 33rd birthday and legally comes of age on the same day.
In T.A. 2989 (S.R. 1389), Bilbo, a lifelong bachelor, adopted Frodo, the orphaned son of his first cousin Primula Brandybuck and his second cousin Drogo Baggins, and made him his heir. Though Frodo was actually "his first and second cousin once removed either way", the two regarded each other as uncle and nephew.
All this time Bilbo had kept his magic ring, with no idea of its significance, using it mostly to hide from his obnoxious cousins, the Sackville-Bagginses, when they came to visit. Gandalf's investigations revealed it to be the One Ring forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. The Ring had prolonged Bilbo's life beyond the normal hobbit span, and at 111 he still looked 50. While the Ring did not initially corrupt him as it had its previous owners, it was beginning to affect him; over the years, it had begun to prey on his mind when out of his sight, and he lost sleep and felt "thin, sort of stretched … like butter that has been scraped over too much bread".
On the night of his and Frodo's birthday, Bilbo threw himself a party and invited all of the Shire. He signed his home, Bag End, and estate over to Frodo. He then gave a farewell address to his neighbours, at the end of which he put on the Ring and vanished from sight. As Bilbo prepared finally to leave the house, he reacted with panic and suspicion when Gandalf tried to persuade him to leave the Ring with Frodo. Bilbo refused to give up the Ring, referring to it as his "precious" – just as Gollum had. Gandalf lost his temper with his old friend and talked some sense into him. Bilbo admitted he would have liked to be rid of the Ring, and he left it behind, becoming the first person to do so voluntarily. He left the Shire that night, and was never seen in Hobbiton again.
His earlier adventure, his eccentric habits as a hobbit, and his sudden disappearance led to the enduring figure of "Mad Baggins" in hobbit folklore, who disappeared with a flash and a bang and returned with gold and jewels.
Freed of the Ring's power over his senses, Bilbo travelled first to Rivendell, and then on to visit the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain. After he returned to Rivendell he spent much of the next 17 years living a pleasant life of retirement: eating, sleeping, writing poetry, and working on his memoirs, There and Back Again, known as The Hobbit. He became a scholar of Elven lore, leaving behind the Translations from the Elvish, which forms the basis of what is known to us as The Silmarillion.
When Frodo and his friends Samwise Gamgee, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took stopped in Rivendell on their quest to destroy the Ring, Bilbo was still alive but now visibly aged, the years having caught up with him after he surrendered the Ring. Upon seeing the Ring again, he suddenly tried to take it from Frodo; he returned to his senses when a terrified Frodo backed away, and he broke down in tears, apologizing for bringing the burden of the Ring onto Frodo.
After the quest to destroy the Ring was fulfilled in The Return of the King, Gandalf and the four Hobbits visited Rivendell on their way back to the Shire and found Bilbo still living there. He gave Frodo a set of manuscripts that later became Translations from the Elvish, and also gave Sam a small bag of gold that represented the last of his share from Smaug's vast hoard. Two years later Bilbo accompanied Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Frodo to the Grey Havens, there to take ship for Tol Eressëa across the sea, on 29th 'September' T.A. 3021. He had already celebrated his 131st birthday by this time, surpassing the Old Took by one year and becoming the oldest Hobbit ever in Middle-earth. (The natural lifespan of Hobbits is about 100 years.)
According to Appendix C of The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo was born to Bungo Baggins and Belladonna Took in T.A. 2890, or S.R. 1290. The Lord of the Rings gives the date of Bilbo's birthday as 22 September, but the actual date in the Shire calendar was Halimath 22; Tolkien tells us in Appendix D that he "used our modern names" for the months "to avoid confusion, while the seasonal implications of our names are more or less the same", so that Halimath is translated as September, but that "the Shire dates were actually in advance of ours by some ten days, and our New Year's Day corresponded more or less to the Shire January 9".
The Bagginses of Bag End were one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most respectable Hobbit families in Hobbiton until the year 2941 (SR 1341), when Bilbo inexplicably disappeared on his adventure and was thought dead.
Poems and songs written by Bilbo
- "A Walking Song"
- "All that is gold does not glitter"
- "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late"
- "The Road Goes Ever On"
Bilbo's Last Song
Tolkien's posthumously published poem "Bilbo's Last Song", illustrated by Pauline Baynes, describes Bilbo's contemplation of his forthcoming voyage to the Undying Lands. The illustrations evoke his last ride in the company of Elrond from Rivendell to the Grey Havens, as described in The Lord of the Rings.
In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo was voiced by Norman Bird. Billy Barty was the model for Bilbo, as well as Frodo and Sam, in the live-action recordings Bakshi used for rotoscoping.
Throughout the 2003 video game the players control Bilbo, voiced by Michael Beatie. The game follows the plot of the book, but adds the elements of platform gameplay and various side-objectives along the main quests.
In The Lord of the Rings Online (2007) Bilbo resides in Rivendell, mostly playing riddle games with the Elf Lindir in the Hall of Fire. The game also includes multiple storylines about Bilbo's adventures.
In Peter Jackson's films The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and The Return of the King (2003) Bilbo is played by Ian Holm, who had played Frodo in the BBC radio series 20 years earlier. The movies omit the 17-year gap between Bilbo's 111th birthday and Frodo's departure from the Shire; as a result, Bilbo mentions in Rivendell that he was unable to revisit the Lonely Mountain before his retirement.
In Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film series, a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, the young Bilbo is portrayed by Martin Freeman while Ian Holm reprises his role as an older Bilbo in An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Battle of the Five Armies (2014).
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|Balbo Baggins||Berylla Boffin|
|Laura Grubb||Mungo||Pansy||Fastolph Bolger||Ponto||Mimosa Bunce||Lily||Togo Goodbody||Largo||Tanta Hornblower|
|Bungo||Belladonna Took||Belba||Rudigar Bolger||Longo||Camellia Sackville||Linda||Bodo Proudfoot||Bingo||Chica Chubb||Fosco||Ruby Bolger|
|Bilbo Baggins||Otho Sackville-Baggins||Lobelia Bracegirdle||Falco Chubb-Baggins||?||Dora||Drogo||Primula Brandybuck||Dudo||?|
|Lotho||Poppy||Filibert Bolger||Frodo||Daisy||Griffo Boffin|
The International Astronomical Union names all colles (small hills) on Saturn's moon Titan after characters in Tolkien's work. In 2012, they named a hilly area "Bilbo Colles" after Bilbo Baggins.
Notes and references
- Although Frodo referred to Bilbo as his "uncle", they were in fact first and second cousins, once removed either way (his paternal great-great-uncle's son's son and his maternal great-aunt's son).
- Pearce, Joseph (2012). Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning of the Hobbit. Charlotte, NC: Saint Benedict Press. ISBN 978-1618900586.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "A Long-expected Party", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J.R.R. "Prologue, Of the Ordering of the Shire". The Lord of the Rings.
- The Lord of the Rings, Appendix D.
- Nicol Williamson on IMDB
- White, James (22 October 2010). "Martin Freeman Confirmed As Bilbo!". Empire. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- "Categories for Naming Features on Planets and Satellites". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- "Bilbo Colles". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 14 November 2012.