Bilbo Baggins was the son of Bungo Baggins and Belladonna Took,1 and adopted Frodo Baggins as his heir.3 He played an important role in the Quest of Erebor during which he found the One Ring. Bilbo was the first Ring-bearer to give up the Ring of free will when he passed it to his heir, Frodo Baggins.
Bilbo Baggins was born on September 22, T.A. 2890, to Bungo Baggins
and Belladonna Took
During his youth, Bilbo came to know Gandalf
from his storytelling and excellent fireworks4
. Gandalf noticed young Bilbo's adventurousness and love for maps and long walks, a trait inherited from the Took side of the family. After the death of his parents Bilbo inherited Bag End where he settled into a comfortable life.
On a spring morning in T.A. 2941, Gandalf approached Bilbo talking of adventures. Having grown fond of his uneventful life style, Bilbo did not like the idea of adventures at all but reluctantly invited Gandalf for tea the next day.
"I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone."
"I should think so ó in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party
The next evening Gandalf returned with Thorin Oakenshield
and twelve other Dwarves named Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Oin, Gloin, Dori, Nori, and Ori. Gandalf had volunteered Bilbo to become the burglar on an expedition to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug
, the Quest of Erebor. After the Dwarves' stories of Smaug's treasure had awoken the Tookish side in him, Bilbo allowed Gandalf to persuade him into becoming the fourteenth member of the Company.
The company set out across Eridor the next day, accompanied by Gandalf. About a month later, after Gandalf had disappeared, the Company found themselves unable to make fire on a particularly rainy night.6
When seeing a camp fire in the distance they sent Bilbo to investigate. Bilbo saw three Trolls when he approached the fire and decided to steal their purse to prove himself as a burglar. Unfortunately he was caught and the Dwarves were captured shortly afterwards. They were saved by the return of Gandalf, who tricked the Trolls into arguing over how to eat their captives until the dawn, when the Trolls turned into stone. Upon searching through the Trolls' cave Bilbo found a small sword which he kept for the rest of the adventure and later named Sting.
The Company arrived to Rivendell in June and Bilbo met Elrond for the first time.7
After a short rest, they continued over the Misty Mountains through the High Pass. Bilbo and the Dwarves were captured by Goblins after seeking refuge in a cave on a stormy night. they were rescued by Gandalf, who had avoided capture, but Bilbo was knocked unconscious and was left behind.8
When Bilbo's consciousness returned he felt a golden ring in the dark and put it in his pocket.9
He wandered through the dark until he came upon a lake. There he met the creature Gollum, the owner of the ring. Gollum proposed a game of riddles. If Bilbo won, Gollum would show him the way out. If Gollum won, he would eat Bilbo.
Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.
- One of Bilbo's riddles for Gollum.
After running out of riddles, Bilbo won the game by accident when wondering out loud as he fingered the ring he had picked up, "What have I got in my pocket?". Gollum mistook it for a riddle and failed to answer correctly. Angered by his loss Gollum went to fetch his magic ring so that he could kill Bilbo anyway, but it was gone. Gollum, enraged, suddenly guessed that Bilbo had it and went after him. Bilbo unwittingly used the ring, turned invisible and escaped. He then followed Gollum to the eastern door of the tunnels and escaped outside.
Soon after leaving the tunnels he found his companions and his reputation with the Dwarves increased when they learned of his escape.10
However, Bilbo did not mention the ring. Not long after they had started moving they were attacked by Wargs and climbed up in a group of trees. After Gandalf had unsuccessfully tried to save them with pinecones set on fire they narrowly escaped with the help of the Eagles of Gwaihir.
The Company travelled to Beorn
's Hall, where they stayed for three days.11
Beorn provides them with food, ponies and a horse and they set out for Mirkwood. When the Company reached the edge of Mirkwoon they sent back the ponies and said goodbye to Gandalf before they entered the forest.
After travelling through the forest for many days and beginning to run out of food the Dwarves persuaded Bilbo to climb up a tree.12
Not realizing they were in a valley, Bilbo told them there was no end to the forest in sight. In despair, they strayed off the path and approached on of the fires of the Wood-elves. However, the elves disappeared as soon as they tried to make contact with them and on the third attempt Bilbo lost his companions.
Bilbo soon discovered that the Dwarves had been captured by giant spiders.12
Using the magic ring he helped free them and named his sword Sting after killing his first spider. Shortly after their escape the Company were caught by the Wood-elves and brought to Thranduil, the Elven-king. Using his ring, Bilbo managed to avoid capture.13
The Dwarves refused to tell their errand to Thranduil and were imprisoned.13
Bilbo used his ring to communicate with the Dwarves and devised a plan for their escape. One day, when the head of the guard and the butler fell asleep after drinking too much wine, Bilbo managed to steal the keys to the cells. He then packed the Dwarves into barrels that were to be released into the stream running through Thranduils halls.
Bilbo and the Dwarves travelled down the stream in the barrels and eventually reached the Long lake and Lake-town.14
They received a warm welcome from the Men in Lake-town and were given ponies and food. They traveled by boat to the northern tip of Long-lake from where they proceeded to the Lonely Mountain.
They began searching for the secret back door into the mountain described on Thorin's map.15
Upon finding it they were unable to open it until Bilbo solved the riddle on the map when the last light of Durin's day shone upon the key hole.
Being the burglar, Bilbo was elected to proceed into the mountain. He brought back a golden cup from the treasure, something which pleased the Dwarves but unfortunately awoke the Dragon.15
Enraged, Smaug ravaged the mountain and killed the ponies. Bilbo decided to return into the mountain to find a weakness in Smaug.16
Smaug did not recognize Bilbo's scent and challenged him. Bilbo told Smaug riddles of his identity and tricked him into showing a gap in his armor. Upon telling the weakness to the Dwarves, he was overheard by a Thrush.
"I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen. I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number. I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of bag, but no bag went over me. I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ring-winner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Inside Information
When riddling Smaug, Bilbo had called himself "barrel-rider".16
This led Smaug to believe the Dwarves had been aided by the people of Lake-town and that night he set out to destroy it. Fortunately, the Thrush who had overheard Bilbo passed on his knowledge to Bard the Bowman of Lake-town who pierced Smaug's armor and killed him.17
With Smaug gone, both the Elves and the people of Lake-town sought part of the treasure which now remained unprotected at the Lonely Mountain.18
Thorin refused their claims and sent for aid from to his nephew DŠin, lord of the Iron Hills. Bilbo, who thought the claims reasonable and feared war, sneaked out of Erebor and gave the most precious jewel in the treasure, the Arkenstone, to Bard to bargain with. This deed made Thorin willing to negotiate.
Yet war did come. Wargs and Goblins had gone to war against them and so it was that the Battle of the Five Armies was fought.18
While Bilbo survived the battle, Thorin did not. Thorin forgave Bilbo for handing over the Arkenstone on his deathbed.
Bilbo took his share of the treasure and returned to the Shire together with Gandalf.19
When he returned home he discovered everyone believed he was dead and his belongings were being auctioned off. He bought them back and settled in Bag End once again.
After the Quest of Erebor, Bilbo lived a wealthy and comfortable life.20
His adventures had earned him a reputation of being "strange" and eccentric and there was a widespread belief that Bag End had tunnels filled with gold. People also noted how Bilbo showed no signs of aging, something which was caused by his possession of the One Ring. When the parents of Bilbo's young cousin Frodo Baggins died, he adopted the boy and named him his heir.
In September, T.A. 3001, Bilbo threw a grand party as a celebration of his 111th birthday and Frodo's 33th birthday.20
During the party he used his ring to vanish and left with three Dwarves for Rivendell to live with the Elves. He left Bag End along with all his possessions to Frodo. Encouraged by Gandalf, Bilbo also left the One Ring and was thus the first Ring-bearer to give up the object willingly.
When Frodo came to Rivendell in T.A. 3019 Bilbo gave him his sword Sting as well as a mithril coat he had been given by Thorin.21
At the Council of Elrond, Bilbo volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor but it was decided the burden was now on Frodo to bear.
After the end of the War of the Ring, Bilbo was honored with a place on a ship to the West.22
On 29 September, T.A. 3021, he left on a ship from the Grey Havens accompanied by Frodo, Gandalf and a number of Elves. A week earlier he had celebrated his 131st birthday, becoming the oldest Hobbit in the history of Middle-earth. As a a mortal, he died in the West.