Thorin's letter

From Tolkien Gateway
This article describes a concept which is mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's works, but was never given a definite name.
The second page of Thorin's letter in tengwar.

Thorin's letter,[1] commonly referred to as Bilbo's contract[note 1], was a note from Thorin and Company to Bilbo Baggins.[2]

History[edit | edit source]

Thorin Oakenshield wrote the message after the unexpected party in T.A. 2941[3] and left it on Bilbo's mantelpiece just under the clock. The next morning, having not dusted the mantelpiece, Bilbo did not see the letter until Gandalf walked in and pointed it out.

The letter began with a greeting to "Burglar Bilbo" and thanks for his hospitality and offer to help. A short list of contract terms were then laid out, promising Bilbo one fourteenth of the profits (if any), with travelling and funeral expenses covered. The letter then explained that the dwarves had gone ahead to make preparations and that Bilbo was expected at the Green Dragon Inn in Bywater at eleven. A final sentence emphasized that Thorin expected him to arrive on time.

By the time the hobbit had finished reading the note he had, as the wizard remarked, just ten minutes to get from Bag End to the Green Dragon in order to be on-time for the start of the quest to the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo ran as fast as he could and made it on the stroke of eleven.[2]

Eventually Bilbo brought out Thorin's letter in the camp of the Elvenking and Bard in the valley before the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo had kept the crumpled and much folded missive in his jacket pocket throughout his adventures and used it to explain his interest in the matters at hand.[1]

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

In the manuscript for The Hobbit Thorin's letter, referred to as "Bilbo's contract" by John D. Rateliff, was the same as the one published, with the exception that the rendezvous point was the Great Mill. However, J.R.R. Tolkien also produced a handwritten version of the letter in tengwar, mentioned in his letter to The Observer in February 1938, which proved to be too difficult to reproduce for publication. It was finally included, with a transcript by Taum Santoski, in Rateliff's The History of The Hobbit as the frontispiece to Part Two: Return to Bag-End. The Tengwar text was semi-phonetical.[4]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

Thorin's letter in adaptations
Bilbo's contract in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  
Bilbo's contract by Weta Workshop  

2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

Unlike Tolkien's version, where Bilbo gets the message first after the departure of the dwarves, Peter Jackson's film version makes Bilbo receive the contract directly from Thorin and Company while still at Bag End. Furthermore, the contract is much longer in the film version than in The Hobbit.[5] Weta Workshop has released a replica of Bilbo's contract as portrayed in the film, hand made by Daniel Reeve.[6]

External links[edit | edit source]


  1. A term apparently not occuring in Tolkien's works, but often used by fans and scholars.