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The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again Chapter 5 Summary How It All Goes Down
Riddles in the Dark Bilbo wakes up in the dark. He has no idea what's happening, so he gropes around the tunnel trying to get his bearings. Bilbo puts his hand on a metal ring. (Dun dun dun!) As the narrator points out, "[the ring] was the turning point in his career but he did not know it" (5.2). After all, this is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings. Anyhoo, back to the action: Bilbo puts the ring in his pocket and goes on his merry way. He finds that he's still armed with that little knife he got from the trolls' treasure cave. The knife is glowing faintly: like Orcrist and Glamdring, it must be of elvish make. Bilbo feels a bit braver with the knife in hand, so he keeps on down this dark tunnel. Bilbo suddenly puts his foot in cold water: he has reached an underground lake. On an island in this underground lake lives Gollum, a small slimy fellow who's been living under the mountains and dodging goblins for longer than he can remember. Gollum sees Bilbo, gets into his little boat, and comes rowing out to attack him. Here we go! Bilbo holds Gollum off with his knife. Gollum challenges Bilbo to a riddle game to get on Bilbo's good side. If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show the hobbit how to get out of the goblins' caves. If Gollum wins, Gollum gets to eat Bilbo. High stakes! The two exchange riddles for a while, but Bilbo starts to get flustered. In his panic, he asks the first thing that pops into his head: "What have I got in my pocket?" (5.54). Of course, Gollum fails to guess the right answer. Bilbo is on guard: he knows that he's on shaky ground because his question wasn't a real riddle. Gollum says he'll show Bilbo the way out, but he has to get something first. Gollum rows back to his island to find something special of his: "a ring of power, and if you slipped that ring on your finger, you were invisible" (5.78). But the ring is gone! Gollum rows back to Bilbo wailing about having lost his "precious" (5.82) – the ring. Suddenly, Gollum gets suspicious: what does Bilbo have in his pockets? Could it be – the ring? Gollum leaps at Bilbo, but Bilbo happens to slip on the ring. Suddenly, Bilbo is invisible. Gollum is confused. Gollum sits weeping and muttering to himself. He wants to get his "birthday-present" (5.100) back. Gollum assumes Bilbo's heading for the exit, so he starts to creep down the tunnel to try and find him. Bilbo follows Gollum as quietly as he can, allowing Gollum to show him the way out. When they get close to the door, Gollum stops. He can't go on because he might be seen by the goblins. Bilbo almost kills Gollum to get him out of the way. But he feels so much pity for the wretched fellow that he decides to jump over Gollum instead. Gollum shouts after him: "Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!" (5.122). Bilbo races down the passageway. He finds the open door surrounded by goblin guards. He has a bad moment when the ring slips off and they all rush at him together. But Bilbo manages to burst through the exit just before the door shuts. Phew!
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