What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?[note 3]
The most famous riddle-game was the one in which Bilbo Baggins and Gollum competed. If Gollum failed to answer a riddle, he would show Bilbo out of the Misty Mountains. However, if Bilbo lost, Gollum would eat him. The two exchanged several riddles, and Gollum's knowledge of the answers suggested to Gandalf years later that he had possibly been a hobbit once. At last, strapped for riddles to ask the loathsome creature, Bilbo, touching the ring he had found in the tunnels, asked "What have I got in my pocket?". Gollum failed to answer correctly, despite being given three guesses. Reneging on his promise, Gollum plotted to use his "Precious" to murder and eat Bilbo, but when he found it missing, he too late guessed the right answer to Bilbo's "riddle".
In a letter, Tolkien made the following comment concerning the riddles appearing in The Hobbit: "There is work to be done here on the sources and analogues". Douglas A. Anderson has claimed to having identified possible inspirations behind eight out of nine riddles; José Manuel Ferrández Bru has noted a resemblance between the remaining riddle ("Voiceless it cries") with a riddle published by Cecilia Böhl de Faber. While admitting that the similarity between the two riddles is "surely a mere coincidence", Ferrández Bru also speculates that Tolkien may possibly have read or heard the poem in his youth through Father Francis Xavier Morgan, Böhl de Faber's great-niece.
- A Possible Riddle-Source ("Time") by John D. Rateliff
- The Riddles of The Hobbit by Adam Roberts at Tolkien Library
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 25, (dated February 1938), p. 32
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition
- ↑ José Manuel Ferrández Bru, "'Wingless fluttering': Some Personal Connections in Tolkien's Formative Years", in Tolkien Studies, Vol. VIII (eds. Douglas A. Anderson, Michael D.C. Drout, Verlyn Flieger), p. 54