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 Bilbo Baggins

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PostSubject: Bilbo Baggins   Thu Jun 18, 2015 4:41 pm


The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, begins with Bilbo's "eleventy-first" (111th) birthday, 60 years after the beginning of The Hobbit. The primary protagonist of the novel is Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's cousin,[nb 1] who celebrates his 33rd birthday and legally comes of age on the same day.

In T.A. 2989 (S.R. 1389), Bilbo, a lifelong bachelor, adopted Frodo, the orphaned son of his first cousin Primula Brandybuck and his second cousin Drogo Baggins, and made him his heir. Though Frodo was actually "his first and second cousin once removed either way", the two regarded each other as uncle and nephew.

All this time Bilbo had kept his magic ring, with no idea of its significance, using it mostly to hide from his obnoxious cousins, the Sackville-Bagginses, when they came to visit. Gandalf's investigations revealed it to be the One Ring forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. The Ring had prolonged Bilbo's life beyond the normal hobbit span, and at 111 he still looked 50. While the Ring did not initially corrupt him as it had its previous owners, it was beginning to affect him; over the years, it had begun to prey on his mind when out of his sight, and he lost sleep and felt "thin, sort of stretched … like butter that has been scraped over too much bread," as he said to Gandalf.

On the night of his and Frodo's birthday, Bilbo announced his intent to turn his home and estate over to Frodo, put on the Ring and vanished from sight. As Bilbo prepared finally to leave the house, he reacted with panic and suspicion when Gandalf tried to persuade him to leave the Ring with Frodo. Bilbo refused to give up the Ring, referring to it as his "precious" – just as Gollum had in The Hobbit. Gandalf lost his temper with his old friend, talking some sense into him. Bilbo admitted he would have liked to be rid of the Ring, and he left it behind, becoming the first person to do so voluntarily. He left the Shire that night, and was never seen in Hobbiton again.

His earlier adventure, his eccentric habits as a hobbit, and his sudden disappearance led to the enduring figure of "Mad Baggins" in hobbit folklore, who disappeared with a flash and a bang and returned with gold and jewels.

Freed of the Ring's power over his senses, Bilbo travelled first to Rivendell, and then on to visit the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain. After he returned to Rivendell he spent much of the next 17 years living a pleasant life of retirement: eating, sleeping, writing poetry, and working on his memoirs, There and Back Again, known as The Hobbit. He became a scholar of Elven lore, leaving behind the Translations from the Elvish, which forms the basis of what is known to us as The Silmarillion.

When Frodo and the other Hobbits stopped in Rivendell on their quest to destroy the Ring, Bilbo was still alive but now visibly aged, the years having caught up with him after he surrendered the Ring. Upon seeing the Ring again, he suddenly tried to take it from Frodo; he returned to his senses when a terrified Frodo backed away, and he broke down in tears, apologizing for bringing the burden of the Ring onto Frodo.

After the quest to destroy the Ring was fulfilled in The Return of the King, Gandalf and the four Hobbits visited Rivendell on their way back to the Shire and found Bilbo still living there. He gave Frodo a set of manuscripts that later became Translations from the Elvish, and also gave Samwise Gamgee a small bag of gold that represented the last of his share from Smaug's vast hoard. Two years later Bilbo accompanied Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Frodo to the Grey Havens, there to take ship for Tol Eressëa across the sea, on 29 September, T.A. 3021. He had already celebrated his 131st birthday by this time, surpassing the Old Took by one year and becoming the oldest Hobbit ever in Middle-earth, save for Gollum. (The natural lifespan of hobbits is about 100 years.)

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