Gandalf begins to believe Bilbo's is the One Ring
Event Type: Artifacts
Age: 3rd Age - The Stewards
Date: September 22, 3001
An event in the aftermath of Bilbo's Farewell Party; see that entry for an overview:
'[All] seemed well with Bilbo.... He showed no signs of age. The shadow fell on me again. But I said to myself: "After all he comes of a long-lived family on his mother's side. There is time yet. Wait!"
'And I waited. Until that night when he left this house. He said and did things then that filled me with a fear.... I knew at last that something dark and deadly was at work.'
The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 2, The Shadow of the Past
Into the envelope [Bilbo] slipped his golden ring..., and then sealed it, and addressed it to Frodo. At first he put it on the mantelpiece, but suddenly he removed it and stuck it in his pocket. At that moment the door opened and Gandalf came quickly in.
'Hullo!' said Bilbo. 'I wondered if you would turn up.'
'I am glad to find you visible,' replied the wizard, sitting down in a chair, 'I wanted to catch you and have a few final words. I suppose you feel that everything has gone off splendidly and according to plan?'
'Yes, I do,' said Bilbo. "Though that flash was surprising: it quite startled me, let alone the others. A little addition of your own, I suppose?'
'It was. You have wisely kept that ring secret all these years, and it seemed to me necessary to give your guests something else that would seem to explain your sudden vanishment.'
'And would spoil my joke. You are an interfering old busybody,' laughed Bilbo....'
'... But I don't feel too sure about this whole affair. It has now come to the final point.... Are you going any further?'
'Yes, I am. I feel I need a holiday, a very long holiday, as I have told you before. Probably a permanent holiday: I don't expect I shall return....
'I am old, Gandalf. I don't look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed!' he snorted. 'Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.1 That can't be right. I need a change, or something.'
Gandalf looked curiously and closely at him. 'No, it does not seem right,' he said thoughtfully. 'No, after all I believe your plan is probably the best.'
'Well, I've made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf — mountains, and then find somewhere where I can rest.... I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days.'
Gandalf laughed. 'I hope he will. But nobody will read the book, however it ends.'
'Oh, they may, in years to come. Frodo has read some already, as far as it has gone. You'll keep an eye on Frodo, won't you?'
'Yes, I will — two eyes, as often as I can spare them.'
'He would come with me, of course, if I asked him. In fact he offered to once, just before the party. But he does not really want to, yet. I want to see the wild country again before I die, and the Mountains; but he is still in love with the Shire.... I am leaving everything to him, of course, except a few oddments. I hope he will be happy, when he gets used to being on his own. It's time he was his own master now.'
'Everything?' said Gandalf. 'The ring as well? You agreed to that, you remember.'
'Well, er, yes, I suppose so,' stammered Bilbo.
'Where is it?'
'In an envelope, if you must know,' said Bilbo impatiently. 'There on the mantelpiece. Well, no! Here it is in my pocket!' He hesitated. 'Isn't that odd now?' he said softly to himself. 'Yet after all, why not? Why shouldn't it stay there?'
Gandalf looked again very hard at Bilbo, and there was a gleam in his eyes. 'I think, Bilbo,' he said quietly, 'I should leave it behind. Don't you want to?'
'Well yes — and no. Now it comes to it, I don't like parting with it at all, I may say. And I don't really see why I should. Why do you want me to?' he asked, and a curious change came over his voice. It was sharp with suspicion and annoyance. 'You are always badgering me about my ring; but you have never bothered me about the other things that I got on my journey.'
'No, but I had to badger you,' said Gandalf. 'I wanted the truth. It was important. Magic rings are — well, magical; and they are rare and curious. I was professionally interested in your ring, you may say; and I still am. I should like to know where it is, if you go wandering again. Also I think you have had it quite long enough. You won't need it any more, Bilbo....'
Bilbo flushed, and there was an angry light in his eyes. His kindly face grew hard. 'Why not?' he cried. 'And what business is it of yours, anyway, to know what I do with my own things? It is my own. I found it. It came to me.'
'Yes, yes,' said Gandalf. 'But there is no need to get angry.'
'If I am it is your fault,' said Bilbo. 'It is mine, I tell you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious.'
The wizard's face remained grave and attentive, and only a flicker in his deep eyes showed that he was startled and indeed alarmed. 'It has been called that before,' he said, 'but not by you.'
'But I say it now. And why not? Even if Gollum said the same once. It's not his now, but mine. And I shall keep it, I say.'
Gandalf stood up. He spoke sternly. 'You will be a fool if you do, Bilbo,' he said. 'You make that clearer with every word you say. It has got far too much hold on you. Let it go! And then you can go yourself, and be free.'
'I'll do as I choose and go as I please,' said Bilbo obstinately.
'Now, now, my dear hobbit!' said Gandalf. 'All your long life we have been friends, and you owe me something. Come! Do as you promised: give it up!"
'Well, if you want my ring yourself, say so!' cried Bilbo. 'But you won't get it. I won't give my precious away, I tell you.' His hand strayed to the hilt of his small sword.
Gandalf's eyes flashed. 'It will be my turn to get angry soon,' he said. 'If you say that again, I shall. Then you will see Gandalf the Grey uncloaked.' He took a step towards the hobbit, and he seemed to grow tall and menacing; his shadow filled the little room.
Bilbo backed away to the wall, breathing hard, his hand clutching at his pocket. They stood for a while facing one another, and the air of the room tingled. Gandalf's eyes remained bent on the hobbit. Slowly his hands relaxed, and he began to tremble.
'I don't know what has come over you, Gandalf,' he said. 'You have never been like this before. What is it all about? It is mine isn't it? I found it, and Gollum would have killed me, if I hadn't kept it. I'm not a thief, whatever he said.'
'I have never called you one,' Gandalf answered. 'And I am not one either. I am not trying to rob you, but to help you. I wish you would trust me, as you used.' He turned away, and the shadow passed. He seemed to dwindle again to an old grey man, bent and troubled.
Bilbo drew his hand over his eyes. 'I am sorry,' he said. 'But I felt so queer. And yet it would be a relief in a way not to be bothered with it any more. It has been so growing on my mind lately. Sometimes I have felt it was like an eye looking at me. And I am always wanting to put it on and disappear, don't you know; or wondering if it is safe, and pulling it out to make sure. I tried locking it up, but I found I couldn't rest without it in my pocket. I don't know why. And I don't seem able to make up my mind.'
'Then trust mine,' said Gandalf. 'It is quite made up. Go away and leave it behind. Stop possessing it. Give it to Frodo, and I will look after him.'
Bilbo stood for a moment tense and undecided. Presently he sighed. 'All right,' he said with an effort. I will.' Then he shrugged his shoulders, and smiled rather ruefully. 'After all that's what this party business was all about, really: to give away lots of birthday presents, and somehow make it easier to give it away at the same time. It hasn't made it any easier in the end, but it would be a pity to waste all my preparations. It would quite spoil the joke.'
'Indeed it would take away the only point I ever saw in the affair,' said Gandalf.
'Very well,' said Bilbo, 'it goes to Frodo with all the rest.'
The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 1, A Long-expected Party
'My doubts were awakened again to sudden fear. Whence came the hobbit's ring? What, if my fear was true, should be done with it? Those things I must decide. But I spoke yet of my dread to none, knowing the peril of an untimely whisper, if it went astray. In all the long wars with the Dark Tower treason has ever been our greatest foe.
'That was seventeen years ago. Soon I became aware that spies of many sorts... were gathered round the Shire, and my fear grew.'
The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond
1 [Said] Gandalf[,] 'But as for his long life, Bilbo never connected it with the ring at all. He took all the credit for that to himself, and he was very proud of it. Though he was getting restless and uneasy. Thin and stretched he said. A sign that the ring was getting control.'
The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 2, The Shadow of the Past
Elena Tiriel 19Jul07, 22Sep07