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Riddles In The Dark

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Riddles In The Dark
Alan Lee's portrayal of the riddle game
Chapter Information
Title Riddles In The Dark
Number 5
Location Goblin-town
Date 10—12 July T.A. 2941
Characters Bilbo Baggins, Gollum
Previous Over Hill And Under Hill
Next Out Of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire

Riddles in the Dark is the fifth chapter of J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit. This chapter of The Hobbit holds the most importance to The Lord of the Rings as it deals with Bilbo's finding of the One Ring and the introduction of Gollum. This chapter has been heavily edited by Tolkien to bring it closer in line with the plot of The Lord of the Rings.


Bilbo recovers from his fall and finds himself in a dark passage, finds a gold ring on the ground, and pockets it. Soon he comes across the creature Gollum. The two soon get engaged in a riddle war.


Bilbo regains consciousness and, finding himself alone, tries to crawl through the tunnel. He stumbles across a ring, which he absentmindedly pockets. As a hobbit, Bilbo orients himself quite well underground, and he descends the tunnel until he comes to a lake.

Bilbo is spotted by Gollum, a strange creature who lives alone on an island in the middle of the lake, which he navigates in a small boat. Gollum is a small, slimy, dark creature with pale eyes who eats Goblins and fish, named for the sound he makes when he swallows. Because he lives alone, Gollum is in the habit of speaking to himself in a hissing baby-talk, calling himself "my precious." Trying to assess Bilbo, he engages him in a game of riddles, at which Bilbo proves his equal.

Gollum decides to get the better of Bilbo by using his "birthday present", the ring. When he wears it, he is invisible and can more easily snag his prey. He goes to the hiding place where he keeps the ring, but it's missing. Gollum correctly surmises that Bilbo has it and confronts him, asking what is in his pocket. Bilbo, who does not understand the power of the ring, slips it on his finger as Gollum runs to attack him. Bilbo becomes invisible, and Gollum cannot find him to attack.

Gollum is afraid that without the invisibility of the ring, he will be captured by the Goblins, so he panics and runs to escape the cave. Bilbo, who is still invisible, follows him, thereby discovering the way out. Gollum, who can smell Bilbo, blocks his way. Bilbo thinks of killing Gollum, but decides it would not be fair, since Gollum is defenseless. He escapes by leaping over Gollum's head and through the passageway, but he runs into the Goblins. As they rush at him, he slips the ring on and escapes to the outside where it is light and the Goblins cannot follow.

Changes from the first editionEdit

The Lord of the Rings brought about changes to the context of the original story, and led to substantial changes to the character of Gollum.

In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum bets his ring on the riddle game and if Bilbo wins, the ring will be presented as a present. After losing, Gollum seeks for the ring, but cannot find it. He begs for Bilbo's pardon and shows him the way out.

Tolkien made Gollum more aggressive in the second edition to reflect on the concept of the ring's corrupting abilities.

In The Lord of the Rings, the original version of the riddle game is explained as a "lie" made up by Bilbo under the harmful influence of the Ring, whereas the revised version contains the "true" account.


These are the riddles that are told by Bilbo and Gollum in this chapter:


What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees Up, up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?

Answer: Mountain


Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.

Answer: Teeth


Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters. . .

Answer: Wind


An eye in a blue face
Saw an eye in a green face.
'That eye is like to this eye'
Said the first eye,
'But in low place
Not in high place.'

Answer: Sun shining on daisies


It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.

Answer: Dark


A box without hinges, key or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.

Answer: Egg


Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking

Answer: Fish


No-legs lay on one-leg,two legs sat near on three legs,four legs got some.

Answer: Fish on a little one-legged table,man at table sitting on a three-legged stool,the cat gets the bones


This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

Answer: Time


What have I got in my pocket?

Answer: The One Ring Of Power


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