Tolkien Gateway

Riddles in the Dark

Revision as of 22:46, 22 October 2009 by (Talk)
The Hobbit chapters
  1. An Unexpected Party
  2. Roast Mutton
  3. A Short Rest
  4. Over Hill and Under Hill
  5. Riddles in the Dark
  6. Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
  7. Queer Lodgings
  8. Flies and Spiders
  9. Barrels Out of Bond
  10. A Warm Welcome
  11. On the Doorstep
  12. Inside Information
  13. Not at Home
  14. Fire and Water
  15. The Gathering of the Clouds
  16. A Thief in the Night
  17. The Clouds Burst
  18. The Return Journey
  19. The Last Stage

Riddles in the Dark is the 5th chapter in The Hobbit.

"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
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After waking up in the dark goblin tunnels, Bilbo discovered that he was all alone. He fumbled about on all fours, and he soon found a little metal ring, which he put into his pocket almost without thinking. Through searching his pockets, he found the dagger he had found in the troll hoard, and discovered by its pale glow that it too was an Elvish blade, and that goblins were around, but not close enough to worry about. He decided that his only choice was to go forward, so he traveled down the goblin tunnel.

Bilbo's way was soon obstructed by an icy pool in the path, but before he could collect his wits, he was met by Gollum, a dark creature of unknown species living down in the pool, who used his luminous eyes to catch fish, and always talked to himself, calling himself "my precious". He thought Bilbo might make a tasty treat, but he didn't want to attack while Bilbo was carrying a weapon. To gain time, he challenged Bilbo to a game of riddles, with very dangerous terms: if Gollum asked a riddle Bilbo couldn't answer, he would have to allow himself to be eaten. However, if Bilbo asked a riddle Gollum couldn't answer, he promised to show the hobbit the way out. Seeing that he had no choice, Bilbo agreed, and the two exchanged several riddles, each getting harder and harder. At last, Bilbo was unable to think of a riddle, though Gollum pressed him to ask just one more. Feeling about his pockets, he found the ring he had found earlier and had forgotten about, and asked out loud to himself, "What have I got in my pocket?". Gollum was outraged, thinking it was a riddle, so Bilbo chose it as his last riddle. Gollum guessed wrong three times, and was now forced to show Bilbo the way out.

However, years in the darkness had blackened Gollum's heart and made him sneaky. He asked Bilbo to be patient; he had to get necessary supplies, a "birthday present", as he said. As he paddled off, Bilbo didn't think Gollum was going to come back, but he was wrong. Away on the island in the middle of the lake on which he lived, Gollum kept something very precious: a magic, gold ring. Wearing it made the user invisible, and he often used it when he wanted goblin instead of fish. With it, Gollum would be able to strike Bilbo without him knowing what had hit him. However, when Gollum returned to his cave, he found that the ring had disappeared. His blood-curdling shriek sent shudders down Bilbo's spine, though he wasn't sure what was happening. He was getting annoyed at the delay, and though Gollum pleaded that he had to keep searching, Bilbo reminded him that he had never answered his last riddle. Suddenly, Gollum's mind jumped to a suspicious guess, and he demanded the answer to Bilbo's ridde. He sped back toward the shore, ready to murder the hobbit and reclaim his "precious". Realizing that he was in danger, Bilbo ran back up the tunnel and put his hand in his pocket, the ring slipping onto his finger. He tripped on a snag and fell, but Gollum passed him, much to his surprise. Quietly, he listened to Gollum cursing Bilbo and now guessing that he had found his "birthday present". Through his talk, Bilbo deduced that Gollum's "precious" was a magic ring that made the wearer invisible, but Gollum didn't think Bilbo knew what it did, and was "tricksy", saying that he didn't know the way out, but knew a way in, so he must be off to the "back door". Gollum quickly ran off to head him off, Bilbo following quietly behind. Gollum soon stopped at a low opening, but the loathsome creature stopped right there, for he could sense goblins. To make matters worse, he was now aware that Bilbo might have been behind him, so he was ready for an attempt at escape. Bilbo, frantic to escape, though of stabbing Gollum and killing him, but when he considered how miserable the creature really was, he was moved to pity. Instead of killing him, he leaped over his head before Gollum could snatch at him. As he sped off, Gollum's rage-filled cries echoed: "Thief! Thief! Baggins! We hates it! We hates it forever!"

At the end of the tunnel, Bilbo was relieved to see real sunlight, but forgot his joy when he saw armored goblins watching the giant door it came through, and somehow, the ring had slipped off his finger and made him visible. Before they could catch him, he put it back on and vanished. As the angry goblins frantically searched for him, he slipped past them and reached the door, but it was only open a crack. He tried to squeeze through, but he got his buttons caught in the space between the door and door-post. The goblins spotted his shadow, but before they could catch him, Bilbo tore loose, ripping his buttons off, and allowing him to hurry out of the tunnels and back into the open. Bilbo had escaped out of the Misty Mountains!