Bilbo's Dark Psyche

Author: Curious

Nominator: White Gull

2007 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction

Story Type: Non-Fiction  ✧  Length: N/A

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: In this short essay I explore the deeper meaning behind the chapter "Riddles in the Dark" from The Hobbit, in which Bilbo meets Gollum for the first time. I address both the original 1937 version of that chapter and the 1951 version more familiar to today's readers, which Tolkien revised after writing Lord of the Rings. I wrote the essay some time ago in the context of a chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Hobbit in The Reading Room discussion board at

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Reviewed by: fantasyfan  ✧  Score: 10

It is always interesting to speculate on what was on Tolkien's mind when he wrote The Hobbit. His world had existed in his mind for decades, but Hobbits, their peculiarities and culture, were relatively recent inventions. In the 1937 version of The Hobbit, the choice of the Ring as a link to the larger story had not yet been concieved, and its power was not as clearly delineated as it became in the later work. So, knowing LOTR, having come to see Gollum through the eyes of Frodo and Sam, seeing his near repentance and having his hobbity similarities pointed up deliberately, of course we see him as a foil for Frodo (and Bilbo) in their reactions to ownership of the Ring. I had always seen the point of departure between the characters as the finding of the Ring. Gollum reacted with murderous intentions, and Bilbo with pity. So Gandalf says, and it must be true! Looking at the earlier version of the story, as Curious does in this essay, brings out interesting points about Gollum's reactions and motivations as they were originally concieved by the author. It is specifically courage that Gollum lacks: perhaps the Took in Bilbo is his true salvation and that of the whole of middle-earth, as much as his compassion for a pitiable creature. This is a well-reasoned and thought-provoking short essay, and an interesting point of view well worth pondering.

Reviewed by: White Gull  ✧  Score: 7

Where do I begin? I love this small essay; there is so much conveyed in relatively few and very readable words. The subject is deep - Bilbo's (and Gollum's and Frodo's) exposure to darkness and what they do with it. Curious displays an equally deep understanding of Tolkien and Bilbo and Gollum and Frodo, and an equally deep love for each. Well, except maybe for Gollum! The similarities between Bilbo and Gollum's backgrounds and experience with the Ring and the Misty Mountains are striking. The choices they made are not in any way similar, which Curious makes very clear. Tying in Frodo's experience in the Barrow mound is effective and thought-provoking. I also liked the references to the 1937 version. That is something I don't study on my own, and I appreciate the chance to learn from it. That we all have a dark psyche is unavoidably true. What we each do with it is pure choice, as Curious deftly leaves us thinking. I'd like to think I'd choose as Bilbo and Frodo chose.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

I really need to start hanging out at TORn again as once I did. Here Curious compares and contrasts Bilbo and Gollum--and obliquely Frodo and Gollum--pointing out precisely the one difference that causes Bilbo--and Frodo--to become heroes--the courage to act out against the darkness in which they find themselves. Most thought-provoking indeed! And I find I pity Gollum the more for having read this.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 3

In this interesting analysis of the relationship of Bilbo and Gollum, the author makes the case that Gollum is the "flip side" of Bilbo. Surely the two of them have far more in common than we would normally imagine. But she puts forth the notion that Gollum is more than that: his fate could be Bilbo's fate--he is the "dark side" of Bilbo. A very intriguing idea.