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Old 12-04-2000, 11:02 AM   #1
Mithadan
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I recently gave my 7 year old daughter a copy of the Hobbit, which she is devouring eagerly. She just finished Chapter 5, Riddles in the Dark, and I asked her what she thought. She replied, in a somewhat disappointed voice, that &quot;Bilbo cheated.&quot; I explained to her that Gollum had agreed to try to answer the &quot;What's in my pocket?&quot; question, which she quietly accepted (and I did not explain that Gollum would have tried to kill Bilbo anyway).

Her reaction was a bit unexpected. Did Bilbo cheat (and I know what JRRT explained in the prologue to LoTR)? Did Gollum's agreement to answer the riddle correct any impropriety in the question? Was Bilbo's &quot;riddle&quot; somehow prompted by the influence of the Ring itself (the Ring was being sought by Sauron and needed to leave the caverns to again come to light so its master might find it)?

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Old 12-04-2000, 02:28 PM   #2
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

May well be (can't bet)
But I guess there was a bit of a lot mixed up - the ring alongside with Bilbo's fright and anger and the similariry of his and Gollums's mentalities (remember Gandalf mentioning their practically similar riddles?)


In the same chapter is also very surprising turn, when Bilbo, coming out of a corner, sees a bunch of goblins, and realises that they see him too. His reaction puzzled me first time I read it and still is not fitting in my fancy what frightened man would do first: he did put a hand in a pocket. Can it be admitted that that too was an influence of a ring (than why it slipped off his finger in the first place) Or did Professor simply put it in to give a chapter dramatic &quot;grande finale&quot; ?

...but what they are really like, and what lies beyond them, only those can say who have climbed them.</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_profile&u=00000111>HerenIst arion</A> at: 12/4/00 3:47:54 pm
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Old 12-04-2000, 04:16 PM   #3
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

Bilbo reached into his pocket at least in part due to the influence of the Ring? Probably not.

Chapter 5 was revised when LoTR came out (first edition, fifth printing I think). The older version was, believe it or not, Bilbo's &quot;lie&quot; as told to the dwarves and Gandalf. If Gollum won Bilbo gets eaten. If Bilbo wins, Gollum gives Bilbo a &quot;present&quot;. Gollum loses and goes back to the island to fetch Bilbo his present, the ring (lower case &quot;r&quot; intended), and can't find it. He returns to shore and Bilbo demands that Gollum show him the way out, which Gollum does. The end of the Chapter is similar to the revised edition, except he calmly puts the ring back on when the goblins see him. There is no panic or pang of loss in the earlier version.

I guess this answers my question about the &quot;what do I have in my pocket&quot; question. When written, JRRT did not know Bilbo had found THE Ring, so Bilbo's question was not motivated by its influence. I forgot about the revisions to that Chapter.

So anyway, did Bilbo cheat?

--Mithadan--
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Old 12-04-2000, 04:22 PM   #4
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

FWIW
In the original text, Gollum had every intention of giving Bilbo the Ring as per the original agreement along with showing him the way out.

Gollum had more 'honor' than Bilbo. JRRT even emphasizes the mentality of Gollum by stating that he would never 'cheat' at such an ancient game.

In fact, in the original text, Gollum was not driven into the mountains, but went in and was cut off from rescue from his friends, by orcs.

An entirely different picture of Gollum is presented. How much the revisions were influenced now by the Hobbit 'sequel' is the crux of the question really.

Since the game was so ancient and well known to both hobbits, did Bilbo in 'cheating', have an influence directed from the ring (as you asked)... my guess would be; yes. Due to revision direction. The removal of the 'honor' of Gollum (which he previously possessed) and the re-casting into an even more wretched role, seems to give weight to the idea as having an outside influence (the Ring).

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Old 12-04-2000, 09:51 PM   #5
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

Actually, while Tolkien said that even Gollum would not cheat at such an ancient game of honour, he strongly implies that Gollum was so wretched that he may do even that. Hence, 'cheating', as you call it, would probably have been justified in this situation.

Bilbo, on the other hand, did not have an inkling of Smeagol's real nature. He just thought him another wild, dangerous beast who would respect the laws of the ancient riddle game. However, Bilbo 'cheated' anyway, and instead of coming up with a tough riddle, he said, &quot;What have i got in my pocket?&quot;, which i think cannot be classified as a riddle even by those who are partial to Bilbo Baggins.

Thus, I think it is safe to establish that Tolkien wanted to show his central Hobbit character with shades of grey.


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Old 12-04-2000, 11:18 PM   #6
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

I was actually using original text from Hobbit (pre-revision).

In that version, Gollum would not do such a thing at all.

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> JRR Tolkien
&quot;Both wrong,&quot; cried Bilbo very much relieved; and he jumped at once to his feet, put his back to the nearest wall, and held out his little sword. But funnily enough he need not have been alarmed. For one thing Gollum had learned long long ago was never, never, to cheat at the riddle-game, which is a sacred one and of immense antiquity. Also there was the sword. He simply sat and whispered.
&quot;What about the present?&quot; asked Bilbo, not that he cared very much, still he felt that he had won it, pretty fairly, and in difficult circumstances too. &quot;Must we give it the thing, preciouss? Yess, we must! We must fetch it, preciouss, and give it the present we promised.&quot;.... &quot;Where iss it? Where iss it?&quot; Bilbo heard him squeaking. &quot;Lost, lost, my preciouss, lost, lost! Bless us and splash us! We haven't the present we promised, and we haven't even got it for ourselves.&quot;<hr></blockquote>

As for shades of grey... an entire discussion could be held on the actions of characters that are of dubious nature and how they affect the future. Care to discuss Boromir's actions? Or Feanor's? Or Thingol's bride-brice for Luthien? There are many....

Bilbo's thinking of winning it pretty fairly is interesting, when by accounts even in Hobbit, Bilbo realized it was not a fair riddle.


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Old 12-05-2000, 08:27 AM   #7
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

Interesting that this discussion was triggered by the offhand comment of a seven year old. I first read The Hobbit at age 11 and the question of Bilbo cheating never occurred to me, at least until I read the prologue of LoTR.

Saulotus, you have a first edition too or are you working off the Annotated Hobbit? Regarding &quot;revision direction&quot;, clearly JRRT's revisions cast Gollum and the Ring in a more sinister light. But the riddle itself did not change between the original text and the revised. To me this indicates that Bilbo's &quot;pocket&quot; question was not itself influenced by the Ring. When written, the One Ring (as opposed to the &quot;ring&quot; Bilbo found) did not exist. Bilbo ran out of questions and was scared by Gollum. He merely voiced his curiosity about what he had found in an innocent manner. When Gollum responded, Bilbo did take advantage of the situation, but Gollum did agree to guess even though it wasn't a proper riddle.

You can look at it two ways. Bilbo didn't intend to cheat and had run out of resources, or Bilbo knew it wasn't a real riddle and cheated by pushing Gollum to answer the question. Its a little of both in my opinion. Bilbo knew nothing of Gollum's honor and clearly believed that Gollum would try to kill him anyway.

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Old 12-05-2000, 10:55 AM   #8
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> Interesting that this discussion was triggered by the offhand comment of a seven year old.<hr></blockquote>
The eyes of the innocent see through shades of grey.

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> To me this indicates that Bilbo's &quot;pocket&quot; question was not itself influenced by the Ring.<hr></blockquote>
Initially,I'd say so also (in the original text). However; with the revision the text makes it clear that the Ring has ulterior motive and affects a person.

This does not change Bilbo's manner of question instead of riddle (or the honor therein).
The original text makes it clear (not to Bilbo though; correct) that Bilbo feared wrongly. The revised text just adds additional undertones.

In each case, the question instead of the riddle vs. the question is the issue: WAS IT CHEATING? Adding in the shade of grey concerning personal safety is a cloud on the issue, as is having foreknowledge of Gollum's honor. You're looking for a black and white answer; not a middle ground of grey. This is concerning BILBO's honor and sense of fair-play.

Bilbo 'taking advantage' (as you say) lends even more weight to the answer. When taken in context with Gollum's cries of 'Not fair! not Fair!' and the earlier (and far clearer view of his ethics before loss in revision). I think the answer is self-evident, and through the eyes of a 7 year old the truth is glaring, WITHOUT this historical study, even when the nature (revised or otherwise) of Gollum in KNOWN to the 7 year old.

He may not have intended it, but he COMMITTED to it.

Only later in revision, is a darker answer 'possible'.

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Old 12-05-2000, 04:38 PM   #9
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

Very interesting...I had never considered this before.
However, I agree with everything in saulotus's above reply.

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Old 12-06-2000, 03:41 AM   #10
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/wight.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

Most of Tolkien's characters have shades pf grey except perhaps Aragorn and even he looks into the palantir though that can be seen as honourable or as grey-either way. even Gandalf has his irrational moments and Galadriel too.

As for th earlier edition, I haven't read it. I was talking only on the basis of the revised edition where it was clear that Bilbo cheated, because as yet, the ring had no power over him, nor did he have any reason to believe that Gollum would flout the rules of the sacred game.

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Old 12-07-2000, 09:39 AM   #11
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/wight.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

The cheat was not intended. And, Gollum protesting not answering would force Bilbo to ask a proper riddle. As it took place, with Gollum bargaining for 3 guesses, it was not a cheat but and agreement, when both sides were breaking the rules - Bilbo asking a riddle without almost any logical key, and Gollum obtaining the right to answer it 3 times.

...but what they are really like, and what lies beyond them, only those can say who have climbed them.</p>
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Old 12-14-2000, 08:49 AM   #12
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/wight.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

But Bilbo 'cheated' first.

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Old 12-14-2000, 12:58 PM   #13
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/narya.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Did Bilbo cheat?

No I would say he did not. His question was simply a shock and a little misleading to Gollum, he did not lie about the answer when it was given to him henceforth deleting any chance of a cheat. It was just a shock for Gollum to have different types of questions, but this issue should'nt be read into as much as it has.


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Old 12-14-2000, 09:41 PM   #14
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/narya.jpg" align=absmiddle> cheating?

I'd always been under the impression that the &quot;what have I got in my pockets?&quot; question wasn't meant to be a riddle, but Gollum tried to answer it so Bilbo took advantage of this:

<blockquote>Quote:<hr>
But Bilbo simply could not think of any question ... he even felt in his pocket with his other hand. There he found the ring he had picked up in the passage and forgotten about.
&quot;What have I got in my pocket?&quot; he said aloud. He was talking to himself, but Gollum thought it was a riddle and was frightfully upset.
&quot;Not fair! not fair!&quot; he hissed. &quot;It isn't fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it's got in its nassty little pocketses?&quot;
Bilbo seeing what had happened and having nothing better to ask stuck to his question.
<hr></blockquote>

So in a way, he did cheat, because he used a question that wasn't a riddle when he couldn't think of any. But I still don't think he meant to.

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Old 12-22-2000, 03:35 AM   #15
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/narya.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: cheating?

Meant-shmeant. The hobbit cheated!

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Old 12-23-2000, 09:15 PM   #16
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/narya.jpg" align=absmiddle> motives

Yes, he did cheat, but he (most likely) wasn't motivated by greed or whatever. It was an accident, and a result of the circumstances, not a deliberate 'I'm going to cheat in the ancient riddle game' type thing.

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Old 12-24-2000, 08:01 AM   #17
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

I agree with Zoe on this one.

It's obvious that Bilbo's last question was unfair and not within the bounds of the rules or good sportsmanship. But he did not intentionally break riddle-game etiquette. He only blurted out his question in desperation after Gollum pressed him for speed and mentally harrassed him with such mumblings a 'is it scrumptious, my precccciousss?'. Gollum could have cried foul, but he didn't. He accepted the question as a riddle. And since they were their own judges in this case, the outcome must be accepted.

But Bilbo should have gotten at least a two-game suspenion.

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Old 12-24-2000, 08:40 AM   #18
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

Maybe Bilbo didn't intend to cheat at first. But he went through with it. Motives don't alter facts.

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Old 12-24-2000, 09:54 AM   #19
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

We've all agreed to that. But your staunch adherence to the 'he cheated' line makes me ask if you are passing judgement on poor Bilbo. Is he just a cheater and should be looked down on as one? Or are you simply saying 'cheating's cheating'?

I think I detect some animosity agains Mr. Baggins. You're not from Sackville, are you, Wanderer?

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Old 12-25-2000, 06:08 AM   #20
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> Maybe Bilbo didn't intend to cheat at first. But he went through with it. Motives don't alter facts.<hr></blockquote>
One question: If you had been stuck next to a subterranean lake, with a nasty looking creature pressing you to ask it a riddle, and you accidentally asked aloud 'what have I got in my pockets?', wouldn't you have 'cheated' as well?

I certainly would have.


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Old 12-25-2000, 08:40 PM   #21
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

I might have cheated too and I'm not condemning Bilbo's actions in that particular situation. What he did was perfectly understandable...BUT (here comes the big but) -he cheated, didn't he?
i don't have anything against Bilbo, I have a grudge against the Master (read Tolkien) himself because of what he did to Bilbo in LOTR. He went from an adventurous, active hobbit to an ancient, dull (as in dull senses) who couldn't even stay awake. I know it had to be that way but I wish Bilbo had retained some of his previous traits.

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Old 12-25-2000, 10:33 PM   #22
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<img src="http://www.barrowdowns.com/images/posticons/onering.jpg" align=absmiddle> Re: Bilbo cheated?

How about we drop the 'cheating' question as it's getting nowhere (it looks like we're all covering and re-covering the same ground) and move onto something new, like JRRT's treatment of Bilbo in the LotR.

I do agree, Bilbo is a bit boring in the LotR, but then, you do have Frodo to make up for it. And in a way, Bilbo was simply going back to his hobbit-ness and retiring in comfort. He may have been an adventurer, but that doesn't stop him from being a hobbit.

(BTW: in the original drafts of the LotR, it was Bilbo who was to take the Ring to the Cracks of Doom, but then Tolkien must have decided he (Bilbo) was getting to be too old to do such things, and introduced Frodo.)

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