Bilbo Baggins was born in 2890 TA to Bungo Baggins and Belladonna Took. He would be first seen in the Hobbit, though Gandalf had known him for a while and believed him to be fit for the journey he was about to take.
Bilbo Baggins, along with his family the Bagginses would live in The Hill and were considered very respectable – because they were rich and never would have any adventures nor do anything unexpected. Bilbo resided in Bag End, which his father had built.
His mother, Belladonna, was one of the three remarkable daughters of the Old Took, who is the head of the hobbits who lived in his area.
Why Bilbo was chosen
“I was very troubled at that time,” said Gandalf, “for Saruman was hindering all my plans.” As Sauron arose and declared himself, and Gandalf didn’t know what to do, nor did he expect him there. (UT)
Gandalf had some dark thoughts, and he was away from the Shire for over 20 years. By then, Sauron had arisen again, and was close to declaring himself. Gandalf saw fit a need to attack Lórien and Rivendell at first. He urged the Council to see that Rivendell was not out of Sauron’s reach by then.
Gandalf came to believe that Bilbo Baggins was ideal for a task that he had at hand – before then, he met Thorin by chance in Bree, and they went to Thorin’s Halls. There, they discovered a shared desire to remove Smaug. Thorin had actually asked for Gandalf’s advice, so they went to the Blue Mountains. Thorin was mainly focused on “brooding of his wrongs, and the loss of the treasure of his forefathers, and burdened too with the duty of revenge upon Smaug that he had inherited,” for “Dwarves take such duties very seriously.” (UT, “The Quest of Erebor”)
And that was also when Gandalf had the idea of taking Thorin and his company of dwarves, along with Bilbo (and especially him) to travel to the Lonely Mountain.
Gandalf had been attracted by Bilbo during his childhood – as a young hobbit. “[Bilbo] had stayed in [Gandalf’s] mind ever since, with his eagerness and his bright eyes, and his love of tales, and his questions about the wide world outside the Shire,” …(UT, “The Quest of Erebor”)
…having heard news of him and saw that he was talking to Dwarves.
Gandalf had tried to visit Bilbo Baggins many times, but he was often off, probably visiting the Dwarves. However, he went back to Thorin in order to persuade him to let Bilbo come along with him. “For Bilbo had changed, of course. At least, he was getting rather greedy and fat, and his old desires had dwindles down to a sort of private dream.” (UT, “The Quest of Erebor”)
Meanwhile, it was a map and key that would save the situation and get into Erebor, which was used to help Thrór and Thráin escape, according to Thorin.
Thorin was suspicious at the time, deeming Bilbo “soft as the mud of his Shire, and silly.” (UT: “The Quest of Erebor”)
Gandalf insists that “if [Bilbo] goes with you, you will succeed. If not, you will fail.” After many frustrations and concerns from Thorin, Gandalf eventually went through with his own foresight, and later decided to go to the Shire to visit Bilbo in TA 2941.
Quest of Erebor
Like most other hobbits, Bilbo Baggins seemed to prefer staying in his hobbit hole in Bag End. It would take Gandalf a few tries and finally a letter from the Dwarves, before Bilbo would rush over to Thorin and Company and fret over forgetting his pocket handkerchief. He would go with:
- Thorin Oakenshield
Gandalf would show up in a white horse, with a lot of pocket handkerchiefs, and Bilbo’s pipe. To their dismay they would encounter trolls, Bert, Tom and William, which Bilbo would be able to notice despite his sheltered life.
They would later go to Rivendell, the Last Homely House East of the Sea – where he would meet and learn about Elrond and the dwarves.
Soon after, he would meet Gollum after going to the roots of the mountains, and find a ring on the ground later known as the One Ring of Sauron, but Bilbo would not know, thinking it a magic ring.
“Maybe [Gollum] would have attacked Bilbo at once, if the ring had been on him when they met; but it was not, and the hobbit held in his hand an Elvish knife, which served him as a sword. So to gain time Gollum challenged Bilbo to the Riddle-game, saying that if he asked a riddle which Bilbo could not guess, then he would kill him and eat him; but if Bilbo defeated him, then he would do as Bilbo wished: he would lead him to a way out of the tunnels.”
While there, Bilbo would play a riddle game with Gollum and win, but more by luck as it seemed. He found out the ring allowed the wearer to be invisible. Gollum wouldn’t know where the ring was, and Bilbo would press Gollum to keep his promise. Gollum was bound by his promise, though it is unknown whether the last question counted as a riddle.
Bilbo would guess that the ring was his as he had won the game. He asked Gollum to show him the way out as a reward. He had kept the finding of this ring a secret for as long as he could.
Then, the Company went to Beorn’s and stayed there for a couple of days before going into Wilderland and subsequently, Mirkwood – where they were captured by the Elves of the Woodland Realm after being able to escape from spiders.
He would have a conversation with Smaug, and it was start out much like his conversation with Gollum and the ring.
The Dwarves would debate something beforehand, and Bilbo would find himself conversing with Smaug, despite knowing he was going to kill him. They intended to pay him for his services.
Bilbo first sees a great glow, and was shocked when he first seen Smaug.
Thorin and Company went through a secret Back Door after the last light of Durin’s Day. Bilbo had to go “burgle” something from the Dwarves, being the designated “burglar.” He stole a golden cup, and Smaug flew off in a rage and almost destroyed the entire town – but was slain by Bard, one of its residents and thus, completing the Quest of Erebor.
Shortly after, Bard and Thranduil (the king of the Woodland Realm) demanded compensation in gold in order to rebuild the lives of their people.
Thorin refused, which led to the Battle of Five Armies and many complications – and sadly, Thorin’s own life and the lives of his most immediate nephews, Fili and Kili. His last words being to Bilbo,
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
(J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, “The Return Journey”)
Thorin was wounded with many wounds, with his axe on the ground when he looked up as he and Bilbo had one last conversation, parting ways with kindness.
On May 1st the following year, Bilbo and Gandalf would go back to Rivendell for a warm welcome from the elves, before heading back to his home in Bag End.
Bilbo would find that his spoons , furniture, and home were being sold and auctioned, and his reputation lost by the hobbits, though that was gained by the dwarves and wizards and elves. He had to buy back some of the items he had once owned. But he did not mind, being quite content.
Bilbo Baggins would be turning 111 at the start of Lord of the Rings – and use the One Ring for his joke to disappear after his birthday speech.
When he was 99, he would adopt his cousin Frodo whom he would call his ‘nephew.’ They would have the same birthday, September 22nd.
By then, Bilbo Baggins had already had the ring for 60 years. He cited feeling “thin and stretched,” the effects of holding on to the ring for so long, though he would not know it at the time, thinking it was the visitors.
Bilbo eventually knew to give the ring to Frodo, but it took a lot of prodding from Gandalf. He went off to Rivendell to write his memoir in the Red Book of Westmarch, before sailing off to the Undying Lands after the Fall of Sauron with Frodo, Gandalf, and the bearers of the Three Rings.
However, shortly before giving it up, he would cite it as his “precious” much like Gollum. Bilbo Baggins would also experience a brief moment of temptation when he saw the ring around Frodo’s neck when the fellowship reached Rivendell.
In earlier drafts, Tolkien was envisioning a wife for him, but the idea was dropped quickly. Thus, he and his cousin, Frodo, would be “as bachelors very exceptional.” In his own faith, marriage is a vocation much like the priesthood or the clergy – with the latter remaining celibate and in many cases desiring to do so.
The relationship dynamic of Bilbo and Frodo was likely influenced by Tolkien’s own experiences being raised by Fr Francis as a teen, after the death of his mother (and subsequently becoming an orphan).
Gandalf would choose Bilbo Baggins due to his adventurous side, which he would inherit from his mother, which is commonly referred to as the “Took side” – while his father would not be so adventurous, which is commonly referred to as the “Baggins side.” Bilbo would experience the two sides as he goes on his quest.
Bilbo’s initial desire to remain in Bag End was fueled by his Baggins side.
“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” (The Hobbit)