TheOneRing.net Reading Room's 2012 Discussion of The Hobbit

This chart tracks the changes that J. R. R. Tolkien made to the "Riddles in the Dark" chapter of The Hobbit after he wrote The Lord of the

Rings. The breakdown is by paragraph (numbered for reference), and within each pair of paragraphs (old and new), blue highlighting

shows exactly which words or phrases were changed. However, in the segment where Bilbo hides from Gollum and follows him out,

instead of being shown the way as in the original, the texts diverge completely for several pages. In such cases, several paragraphs from

the earlier book will be treated as a unit for comparison to a (usually) much larger group of paragraphs in the revision.

 

Change #1. Gollum asks Bilbo to play at Riddles, and to the first one Bilbo answers:

“Easy!” said Bilbo. “Mountain, I suppose.”

1937: "Does it guess easy? It must have a competition with us, my preciouss! If precious asks, and it doesn't answer, we eats it, my preciousss. If it asks us, and we doesn't answer, we gives it a present, gollum!"

 

1951: “Does it guess easy? It must have a competition with us, my preciouss! If precious asks, and it doesn’t answer, we eats it, my preciousss. If it asks us, and we doesn’t answer, then we does what it wants, eh? We shows it the way out, yes!”

 

Change #2. Bilbo's second riddle invokes sun imagery, to Gollum's confusion:

“An eye in a blue face

 Saw an eye in a green face.

 “That eye is like to this eye”

 Said the first eye,

 “But in low place,

 Not in high place.”

1937: "Ss, ss, ss," said Gollum. He had been underground a long long time, and was forgetting this sort of thing. But just as Bilbo was beginning to wonder what Gollum's present would be like, Gollum brought up memories of ages and ages and ages before, when he lived with his grandmother in a hole in a bank by a river, "Sss, sss, my preciouss," he said. "Sun on the daisies it means, it does."

  1951: “Ss, ss, ss,” said Gollum. He had been underground a long long time, and was forgetting this sort of thing. But just as Bilbo was beginning to hope that the wretch would not be able to answer, Gollum brought up memories of ages and ages and ages before, when he lived with his grandmother in a hole in a bank by a river, “Sss, sss, my preciouss,” he said. “Sun on the daisies it means, it does.”

 

Change #3. Bilbo's third riddle is about eggs, and again Gollum is caught out and begs for more time:

“Give us a chance; let it give us a chance, my preciouss-ss-ss.”

1937: "Well," said Bilbo, after giving him a long chance, "what about your present?"

  1951: “Well,” said Bilbo, after giving him a long chance, “what about your guess?”

 

Change #4. Bilbo, out of riddles, stumps Gollum for three guesses of what's in the hobbit's pocket. The following paragraph becomes two:

§67. “String, or nothing!” shrieked Gollum, which was not quite fairworking in two guesses at once.

1937: §68. "Both wrong," 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.

  1951:  §68a. “Both wrong,” 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. He knew, of course, that the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it. But he felt he could not trust this slimy thing to keep any promise at a pinch. Any excuse would do for him to slide out of it. And after all that last question had not been a genuine riddle according to the ancient laws.

§68b. But at any rate Gollum did not at once attack him. He could see the sword in Bilbo’s hand. He sat still, shivering and whispering. At last Bilbo could wait no longer.

 

Change #5. The following paragraph:

1937: §69. "What about the present? asked Bilbo, not that he cared very much, still he felt that he had won it, pretty fairly, and in very difficult circumstances too.

  1951: §69. “Well?” he said. “What about your promise? I want to go. You must show me the way.”

 

Change #6. The following paragraph becomes eleven:

1937: §70. "Must we give it the thing, preciouss? Yess, we must! We must fetch it, preciouss, and give it the present we promised." So Gollum paddled back to his boat, and Bilbo thought he had heard the last of him. But he had not. The hobbit was just thinking of going back up the passage—having had quite enough of Gollum and the dark water's edge—when he heard him wailing and squeaking away in the gloom. He was on his island (of which, of course, Bilbo knew nothing), scrabbling here and there, searching and seeking in vain, and turning out his pockets.

 

1951: §70a. “Did we say so, precious? Show the nassty little Baggins the way out, yes, yes. But what has it got in its pocketses, eh? Not string, precious, but not nothing. Oh no! gollum!”

§70b. “Never you mind,” said Bilbo. “A promise is a promise.”

§70c. “Cross it is, impatient, precious,” hissed Gollum. “But it must wait, yes it must. We can’t go up the tunnels so hasty. We must go and get some things first, yes, things to help us.”

[P. 92]; §70d. “Well, hurry up!” said Bilbo, relieved to think of Gollum going away. He thought he was just making an excuse and did not mean to come back. What was Gollum talking about? What useful thing could he keep out on the dark lake? But he was wrong. Gollum did mean to come back. He was angry now and hungry. And he was a miserable wicked creature, and already he had a plan.

§70e. Not far away was his island, of which Bilbo knew nothing, and there in his hiding-place he kept a few wretched oddments, and one very beautiful thing, very beautiful, very wonderful. He had a ring, a golden ring, a precious ring.

§70f. “My birthday-present!” he whispered to himself, as he had often done in the endless dark days. “That’s what we wants now, yes; we wants it!”

§70g. He wanted it because it was a ring of power, and if you slipped that ring on your finger, you were invisible; only in the full sunlight could you be seen, and then only by your shadow, and that would be shaky and faint.

§70h. “My birthday-present! It came to me on my birthday, my precious,” So he had always said to himself. But who knows how Gollum came by that present, ages ago in the old days when such rings were still at large in the world? Perhaps even the Master who ruled them could not have said. Gollum used to wear it at first, till it tired him; and then he kept it in a pouch next his skin, till it galled him; and now usually he hid it in a hole in the rock on his island, and was always going back to look at it. And still sometimes he put it on, when he could not bear to be parted from it any longer, or when he was very, very, hungry, and tired of fish. Then he would creep along dark passages looking for stray goblins. He might even venture into places where the torches were lit and made his eyes blink and smart; for he would be safe. Oh yes, quite safe. No one would see him, no one would notice him, till he had his fingers on [P. 93] their throat. Only a few hours ago he had worn it, and caught a small goblin-imp. How it squeaked! He still had a bone or two left to gnaw, but he wanted something softer.

§70i. “Quite safe, yes,” he whispered to himself. “It won’t see us, will it, my precious? No. It won’t see us, and its nassty little sword will be useless, yes quite.”

§70j. That is what was in his wicked little mind, as he slipped suddenly from Bilbo’s side, and flapped back to his boat, and went off into the dark. Bilbo thought he had heard the last of him. Still he waited a while; for he had no idea how to find his way out alone.

§70k. Suddenly he heard a screech. It sent a shiver down his back. Gollum was cursing and wailing away in the gloom, not very far off by the sound of it. He was on his island, scrabbling here and there, searching and seeking in vain.

 

Change #7. The following paragraph:

1937: §71."Where iss it? Where iss it?" Bilbo heard him squeaking. "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."

  1951: §71. “Where is it? Where iss it?” Bilbo heard him crying. “Losst it is, my precious, lost, lost! Curse us and crush us, my precious is lost!”

 

Change #8. The following three paragraphs become seven:

1937: §72-1. Bilbo turned round and waited, wondering what it could be that the creature was making such a fuss about. This proved very fortunate afterwards. For Gollum came back and made a tremendous spluttering and whispering and croaking; and in the end Bilbo gathered that Gollum had had a ring—a wonderful, beautiful ring, a ring that he had been given for a birthday present, ages and ages before in the old days when such rings were less uncommon. Sometimes he had it in his pocket; usually he kept it in a little hole in the rock on his island; sometimes he wore it—when he was very, very hungry, and tired of fish, and crept along dark passages looking for stray goblins. Then he might even venture into places where the torches were lit and made his eyes blink and smart; for he would be safe. Oh yes! very nearly safe; for if you slipped that ring on your finger, you were invisible; only in the sunlight could you be seen, and then only by your shadow, and that was a faint and shaky sort of shadow.

§72-2. I don't know how many times Gollum begged Bilbo's pardon. He kept on saying: "We are ssorry; we didn't mean to cheat, we meant to give it our only only pressent, if it won the competition." He even offered to catch Bilbo some nice juicy fish to eat as a consolation.

§72-3. Bilbo shuddered at the thought of it. "No thank you!" he said as politely as he could.
  1951: §72a. “What’s the matter?” Bilbo called. “What have you lost?”

§72b. “It mustn’t ask us,” shrieked Gollum. “Not its business, no, gollum! It’s losst, gollum, gollum, gollum.”

§72c. “Well, so am I,” cried Bilbo, “and I want to get unlost. And I won the game, and you promised. So come along! Come and let me out, and then go on with your looking!”

§72d.Utterly miserable as Gollum sounded, Bilbo could not find much pity in his heart, and he had a feeling that anything Gollum wanted so much could hardly be something good. “Come along!” he shouted.

§72e. “No, not yet, precious!” Gollum answered. “We must search for it, it’s lost, gollum.”

§72f. “But you never guessed my last question, and you promised,” said Bilbo.

§72g. “Never guessed!” said Gollum. Then suddenly out of [P. 94] the gloom came a sharp hiss. “What has it got in its pocketses? Tell us that. It must tell first.”

 

Change #9. The following eleven paragraphs become twenty-two:

1937: §73-1. He was thinking hard, and the idea came to him that Gollum must have dropped that ring sometime and that he must have found it, and that he had that very ring in his pocket. But he had the wits not to tell Gollum.

§73-2. "Finding's keeping!" he said to himself; and being in a very tight place, I daresay, he was right. Anyway the ring belonged to him now.

§73-4. "Never mind!" he said. "The ring would have been mine now, if you had found it; so you would have lost it anyway. And I will let you off on one condition."

§73-5. "Yes, what iss it? What does it wish us to do, my precious?"

§73-6. "Help me to get out of these places," said Bilbo.

§73-7. Now Gollum had to agree to this, if he was not to cheat. He still very much wanted just to try what the stranger tasted like; but now he had to give up all idea of it. Still, there was the little sword; and the stranger was wide awake and on the look out, not unsuspecting as Gollum liked to have things which he attacked. So perhaps it was best after all.

§73-8. That is how Bilbo got to know that the tunnel ended at the water and went no further on the other side where the mountain wall was dark and solid. He also learned that he ought to have turned down one of the side passages to the right before he came to the bottom; but he could not follow Gollum's directions for finding it again on the way up, and he made the wretched creature come and show him the way.

§73-9. As they went along up the tunnel together, Gollum flip-flapping at his side, Bilbo going very softly, he thought he would try the ring. He slipped it on his finger.

§73-10. "Where iss it? Where iss it gone to?" said Gollum at once, peering about with his long eyes.

§73-11. "Here I am, following behind!" said Bilbo slipping off the ring again, and feeling very pleased to have it and to find that it really did what Gollum said.
  1951: §73a. As far as Bilbo knew, there was no particular reason why he should not tell. Gollum’s mind had jumped to a guess quicker than his; naturally, for Gollum had brooded for ages on this one thing, and he was always afraid of its being stolen. But Bilbo was annoyed at the delay. After all, he had won the game, pretty fairly, at a horrible risk. “Answers were to be guessed not given,” he said.

§73b. “But it wasn’t a fair question,” said Gollum. “Not a riddle, precious, no.”

§73c. “Oh well, if it’s a matter of ordinary questions,” Bilbo replied, “then I asked one first. What have you lost? Tell me that!”

§73d. “What has it got in its pocketses?” The sound came hissing louder and sharper, and as he looked towards it, to his alarm Bilbo now saw two small points of light peering at him. As suspicion grew in Gollum’s mind, the light of his eyes burned with a pale flame.

§73e. “What have you lost?” Bilbo persisted. But now the light in Gollum’s eyes had become a green fire, and it was coming swiftly nearer. Gollum was in his boat again, paddling wildly back to the dark shore; and such a rage of loss and suspicion was in his heart that no sword had any more terror for him.

§73f. Bilbo could not guess what had maddened the wretched creature, but he saw that all was up, and that Gollum meant to murder him at any rate. Just in time he turned and ran blindly back up the dark passage down which he had come, keeping close to the wall and feeling it with his left hand.

§73g. “What has it got in its pocketses?” he heard the hiss loud behind him, and the splash as Gollum leapt from his boat.

§73h. “What have I, I wonder?” he said to himself, as he panted and stumbled along. He put his left hand in his pocket. The [P. 95] ring felt very cold as it quietly slipped on to his groping forefinger.

§73i. The hiss was close behind him. He turned now and saw Gollum’s eyes like small green lamps coming up the slope. Terrified he tried to run faster, but suddenly he struck his toes on a snag in the floor, and fell flat with his little sword under him.

§73j. In a moment Gollum was on him. But before Bilbo could do anything, recover his breath, pick himself up, or wave his sword, Gollum passed by, taking no notice of him, cursing and whispering as he ran.

§73k. What could it mean? Gollum could see in the dark. Bilbo could see the light of his eyes palely shining even from behind. Painfully he got up, and sheathed his sword, which was now glowing faintly again, then very cautiously he followed. There seemed nothing else to do. It was no good crawling back down to Gollum’s water. Perhaps if he followed him, Gollum might lead him to some way of escape without meaning to.

§73l.  “Curse it! curse it! curse it!” hissed Gollum. “Curse the Baggins! It’s gone! What has it got in its pocketses? Oh we guess, we guess, my precious. He’s found it, yes he must have. My birthday-present.”

§73m. Bilbo pricked up his ears. He was at last beginning to guess himself. He hurried a little, getting as close as he dared behind Gollum, who was still going quickly, not looking back, but turning his head from side to side, as Bilbo could see from the faint glimmer on the walls.

§73n. “My birthday-present! Curse it! How did we lose it, my precious? Yes, that’s it. When we came this way last, when we twisted that nassty young squeaker. That’s it. Curse it! It slipped from us, after all these ages and ages! It’s gone, gollum.”

§73o. Suddenly Gollum sat down and began to weep, a whistling [P. 96] and gurgling sound horrible to listen to. Bilbo halted and flattened himself against the tunnel-wall. After a while Gollum stopped weeping and began to talk. He seemed to be having an argument with himself.

§73p. “It’s no good going back there to search, no. We doesn’t remember all the places we’ve visited. And it’s no use. The Baggins has got it in its pocketses; the nassty noser has found it, we says.”

§73q. “We guesses, precious, only guesses. We can’t know till we find the nassty creature and squeezes it. But it doesn’t know what the present can do, does it? It’ll just keep it in its pocketses. It doesn’t know, and it can’t go far. It’s lost itself, the nassty nosey thing. It doesn’t know the way out. It said so.”

§73r. “It said so, yes; but it’s tricksy. It doesn’t say what it means. It won’t say what it’s got in its pocketses. It knows. It knows a way in, it must know a way out, yes. It’s off to the back-door. To the back-door, that’s it.”

§73s. “The goblinses will catch it then. It can’t get out that way, precious.”

§73t. “Ssss, sss, gollum! Goblinses! Yes, but if it’s got the present, our precious present, then goblinses will get it, gollum! They’ll find it, they’ll find out what it does. We shan’t ever be safe again, never, gollum! One of the goblinses will put it on, and then no one will see him. He’ll be there but not seen. Not even our clever eyeses will notice him; and he’ll come creepsy and tricksy and catch us, gollum, gollum!”

§73u. “Then let’s stop talking, precious, and make haste. If the Baggins has gone that way, we must go quick and see. Go! Not far now. Make haste!”

§73v. With a spring Gollum got up and started shambling off at a great pace. Bilbo hurried after him, still cautiously, though his chief fear now was of tripping on another snag [P. 97] and falling with a noise. His head was in a whirl of hope and wonder. It seemed that the ring he had was a magic ring: it made you invisible! He had heard of such things, of course, in old old tales; but it was hard to believe that he really had found one, by accident. Still there it was: Gollum with his bright eyes had passed him by, only a yard to one side.

 

Change #10. The following paragraph becomes four:

1937: §74. Now on they went again, while Gollum counted the passages to left and right: "One left, one right, two right, three right, two left," and so on. He began to get very shaky and afraid as they left the water further and further behind; but at last he stopped by a low opening on their left (going up)—"six right, four left."

  1951: §74a. On they went, Gollum flip-flapping ahead, hissing and cursing; Bilbo behind going as softly as a hobbit can. Soon they came to places where, as Bilbo had noticed on the way down, side-passages opened, this way and that. Gollum began at once to count them.

§74b. “One left, yes. One right, yes. Two right, yes, yes. Two left, yes, yes.” And so on and on.

§75c. As the count grew he slowed down, and he began to get shaky and weepy; for he was leaving the water further and further behind, and he was getting afraid. Goblins might be about, and he had lost his ring. At last he stopped by a low opening, on their left as they went up.

§75d.  “Seven right, yes. Six left, yes!” he whispered. “This is it. This is the way to the back-door, yes. Here’s the passage!”

 

Change #11. The following paragraph becomes three:

1937: §75. "Here'ss the passage," he whispered. "It musst squeeze in and sneak down. We durstn't go with it, my preciouss, no we durstn't, gollum!"

  1951: §75a. He peered in, and shrank back. “But we durstn’t go in, precious, no we durstn’t. Goblinses down there. Lots of goblinses. We smells them. Ssss!”

§75b. “What shall we do? Curse them and crush them! We must wait here, precious, wait a bit and see.”

§75c. So they came to a dead stop. Gollum had brought Bilbo to the way out after all, but Bilbo could not get in! There was Gollum sitting humped up right in the opening, and his eyes gleamed cold in his head, as he swayed it from side to side between his knees.

 

Change #12. The following paragraph becomes six:

1937: §76. So Bilbo slipped under the arch, and said good-bye to the nasty miserable creature; and very glad he was. He did not feel comfortable until he felt quite sure it was gone, and he kept his head out in the main tunnel listening until the flip-flap of Gollum going back to his boat died away in the darkness. Then he went down the new passage.

  1951: §76a. Bilbo crept away from the wall more quietly than a mouse; but Gollum stiffened at once, and sniffed, and his [P. 98] eyes went green. He hissed softly but menacingly. He could not see the hobbit, but now he was on the alert, and he had other senses that the darkness had sharpened: hearing and smell. He seemed to be crouched right down with his flat hands splayed on the floor, and his head thrust out, nose almost to the stone. Though he was only a black shadow in the gleam of his own eyes, Bilbo could see or feel that he was tense as a bowstring, gathered for a spring.

§76b. Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He was desperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he had any strength left. He must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyes out, kill it. It meant to kill him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering. All these thoughts passed in a flash of a second. He trembled. And then quite suddenly in another flash, as if lifted by a new strength and resolve, he leaped.

§76c. No great leap for a man, but a leap in the dark. Straight over Gollum’s head he jumped, seven feet forward and three in the air; indeed, had he known it, he only just missed cracking his skull on the low arch of the passage.

§76d. Gollum threw himself backwards, and grabbed as the hobbit flew over him, but too late: his hands snapped on thin air, and Bilbo, falling fair on his sturdy feet, sped off down the new tunnel. He did not turn to see what Gollum was doing. There was a hissing and cursing almost at his heels at first, then it stopped. All at once there came a bloodcurdling shriek, filled with hatred and despair. Gollum was defeated. He dared go no further. He had lost: lost his prey, [P. 99] and lost, too, the only thing he had ever cared for, his precious. The cry brought Bilbo’s heart to his mouth, but still he held on. Now faint as an echo, but menacing, the voice came behind:

§76e. “Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!”

§76f. Then there was a silence. But that too seemed menacing to Bilbo. “If goblins are so near that he smelt them,” he thought, “then they’ll have heard his shrieking and cursing. Careful now, or this way will lead you to worse things.”

 

Change #13. The following paragraph:

1937: §77. It was a low narrow one roughly made. It was all right for the hobbit, except when he stubbed his toes in the dark on nasty jags in the floor; but it must have been a bit low for goblins. Perhaps it was not knowing that goblins are used to this sort of thing, and go along quite fast stooping low with their hands almost on the floor, that made Bilbo forget the danger of meeting them and hurry forward recklessly.

  1951: §77. The passage was low and roughly made. It was not too difficult for the hobbit, except when, in spite of all care, he stubbed his poor toes again, several times, on nasty jagged stones in the floor. “A bit low for goblins, at least for the big ones,” thought Bilbo, not knowing that even the big ones, the orcs of the mountains, go along at a great speed stooping low with their hands almost on the ground.

 

Change #14. The following paragraph becomes two:

1937: §78. Soon the passage began to go up again, and after a while it climbed steeply. That slowed him down. But at last after some time the slope stopped, the passage turned a corner and dipped down again, and at the bottom of a short incline he saw filtering round another corner—a glimmer of light. Not red light as of fire or lantern, but pale ordinary out-of-doors sort of light. Then he began to run. Scuttling along as fast as his little legs would carry him he turned the corner and came suddenly right into an open place where the light, after all that time in the dark, seemed dazzlingly bright. Really it was only a leak of sunshine in through a doorway, where a great door, a stone door, was left a little open.

 

1951: §78a. Soon the passage that had been sloping down began to go up again, and after a while it climbed steeply. That slowed Bilbo down. But at last the slope stopped, the passage turned a corner, and dipped down again, and there, at the bottom of a short incline, he saw, filtering round another corner—a glimpse of light. Not red light, as of fire or lantern, but a pale out-of-doors sort of light. Then Bilbo began to run.

§78b. Scuttling as fast as his legs would carry him he turned the last corner and came suddenly right into an open space, where the light, after all that time in the dark, seemed dazzlingly bright. Really it was only a leak of sunshine in through a doorway, where a great door, a stone door, was left standing open.

 

Change #15. The following paragraph becomes two:

1937: §79. Bilbo blinked, and then he suddenly saw the goblins: goblins in full armour with drawn swords sitting just inside the door, and watching it with wide eyes, and the passage that led to it!

 

1951: §79. Bilbo blinked, and then suddenly he saw the goblins: goblins in full armour with drawn swords sitting just inside the door, and watching it with wide eyes, and watching the [P. 100] passage that led to it. They were aroused, alert, ready for anything.

 

Change #16. The following two paragraphs are recombined:

1937: §80-1. They saw him sooner than he saw them, and with yells of delight they rushed upon him.

§80-2. Whether it was accident or presence of mind, I don't know. Accident, I think, because the hobbit was not used yet to his new treasure. Anyway he slipped the ring on his left hand—and the goblins stopped short. They could not see a sign of him. Then they yelled twice as loud as before, but not so delightedly.
 

1951: §80a. They saw him sooner than he saw them. Yes, they saw him. Whether it was an accident, or a last trick of the ring before it took a new master, it was not on his finger. With yells of delight the goblins rushed upon him.

§80b. A pang of fear and loss, like an echo of Gollum’s misery, smote Bilbo, and forgetting even to draw his sword he struck his hands into his pockets. And there was the ring still, in his left pocket, and it slipped on his finger. The goblins stopped short. They could not see a sign of him. He had vanished. They yelled twice as loud as before, but not so delightedly.