- "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
- ― The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
Bilbo Baggins inherited the home from his parents, Bungo and Belladonna Baggins, who built the smial in Third Age 2889. The Hobbit-hole is noted to have a green door with a round brass knob, all but countless rooms with round windows, and a garden. Although Hobbits are known to be of small stature, larger visitors are often seen, indicating that the ceilings are certainly taller than expected. The grounds and home were kept by the Gamgee family, most notably Hamfast ("The Gaffer") and later his son, Samwise. The beautiful hole is a point of contention between Bilbo and his relatives, the Sackville-Bagginses, who very much desire to own it.
Here, Bilbo lived a quiet existence until the wizard Gandalf appeared with thirteen Dwarves at the beginning of The Hobbit. Upon his return, he discovered the contents of the smial being auctioned off, due to his suspected death. The Sackville-Bagginses are disappointed at his return and their loss of Bag End.
By the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo adopts his cousin (and nephew) Frodo as his heir. Frodo becomes the Master of Bag End on their mutual birthday, at the age of 33, while Bilbo, now 111 years old, leaves to live with the Elves at Rivendell. Frodo remains content at Bag End until Gandalf returns and confirms that Bilbo's ring is actually the One Ring. Preperations for departure ensue, with Frodo selling Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses and removing to Crickhollow, before beginning the quest to destroy the ring.
Upon their return during the Scouring of the Shire, Frodo and company discover that Lotho Sackville-Baggins had made Bag End his power base as he became Chief of the Shire. He succeeded, if only too well, and lost control of the entire enterprise. After Saruman arrived, Gríma Wormtongue killed Lotho in his sleep.
Frodo resumes living in Bag End and is joined by Sam, upon his marriage to Rose Cotton. However, with wounds too deep to heal, in 3021 he names Sam his heir, and leaves across the sea. Bag End remains in the Gamgee family (later known as the Gardners) for at least three generations following Sam.
The name comes from the farmhouse in the tiny Worcestershire village of Dormston, in which Tolkien's aunt lived. It can also be seen as a pun on "cul-de-sac" (literally "bottom of the bag"). In the books, it is supposedly a translation of the Westron Labin-nec, which has much the same meaning, and the same relationship to the Westron form of Baggins: Labingi.
In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, a life-sized exterior of Bag End was constructed as part of the Hobbiton set near Matamata, New Zealand. The interior sets of Bag End were built on two different scales, and their design was based on artwork by John Howe.