Hobbit Riddles

J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterful Lord of the Rings needs no introduction, nor does the prequel The Hobbit. One of my favorite parts of The Hobbit is in chapter five, “Riddles in the Dark,” when Bilbo Baggins and Gollum enter into a contest of riddles. Gollum initiates a test of minds to size-up Bilbo whom he rightly thinks has his precious ring.

Later in Lord of the Rings, Frodo becomes angry about Gollum’s treacherous ways and expresses the wish that Bilbo had killed him. Gandalf argues against this and adds that Gollum is related to hobbits. Frodo is outraged, and Gandalf uses as evidence the fact that they knew many of the same riddles.

Gollum in 1977’s The Hobbit cartoon

Here are the riddles:

What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.

No-legs lay on one-leg,
two legs sat near on three legs,
four legs got some.

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.’

Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking

It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.

A box without hinges, key or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.

Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters.

Polaroid image from this fan site.


#1 LOJACKZ on 07.14.08 at 8:53 AM

AWESOME DUDE! The animated version of Gollum is always the best, and so is his voice actor, Brother Theodore! I appreciate Andy Serkins in the live action version, but honestly,in terms of look and design, GOLLUM LOOKS BETTER IN THE ANIMATED VERSION THAN THE LIVE ACTION!

#2 Dave ESPi on 08.29.08 at 4:05 PM

Hi, I make a gollum resin model kit. Can I use that cartoon image and some of your riddles?

#3 Richard Wiegand on 02.28.09 at 2:27 AM

I’m writing to you to encourage you to go forward and try to create not only a Gollum model but a Bilbo model as well. I’ve been looking for models based on the Rankin/Bass Animation. Yours is the closest I’ve found so far. Please try!

Richard Wiegand

#4 Roots of mountains « Dogs vomit on 09.07.09 at 3:30 AM

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