Today we are going to take a look at the riddles used in The Hobbit. We will tell you exactly what the riddles are and then of course the answers. These riddles took place when Bilbo found his way into Gollum’s cave. We will tell you where in the book to find this exchange and give you a few details about what the riddles actually meant. If you are after the riddles from The Hobbit book or even the movie then you will find them on this page.
Chapter five of the Hobbit is called ‘Riddles in the dark’. In the first Lord of the Ring movie Gandalf actually mentions the phrases Riddles in the dark when he is trying to work out what exactly Frodo’s ring is. In the Hobbit this chapter and the events that take place in it are key to the entire LOTR story as well as things that later take place in the Hobbit. But what are these ‘Riddles in the dark?’.
Riddles In The Dark
The Riddles In The Hobbit
So to set the scene, Bilbo has got himself lost underground and is trying to find his way out of the Goblin’s tunnels. In doing so he comes across a ring, Gollum’s ring. Then he find himself down in Gollum’s cave. This is where he meets Gollum for the first time. Gollum spots Bilbo and is unsure whether to eat him or not, to give himself time to ponder on this Gollum invites Bilbo to play a game with him. They decide that if Bilbo wins the game then Gollum will lead him out of the tunnels and if Gollum wins, then he can eat Bilbo. The game is basically a series of riddles. So what are they and what are the answers?
Well as Bilbo was all in a fluster and unable to think of a riddle on the spot he invited Gollum to go first. So this was the first riddle given by Gollum:
‘What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller then trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows’.
This is quite an easy one to start with and Bilbo guesses the answer pretty quickly. The answer to the first riddle then is ‘mountains’.
The second riddle is posed by Bilbo, this is how it goes:
‘Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.’
Gollum instantly knows the answer as this is apparently quite an old well known one that many people know. The answer is ‘teeth’ although Gollum at this point reveals that he only actually has six teeth.
Next up Gollum comes up with this one:
‘Voiceless it cries,
This one took Bilbo a second to work out but he soon got the answer which is of course ‘wind’.
The Hobbit Book
At this point Bilbo is feeling quite pleased with himself and he actually has the presence of mind to think of a riddle on the spot. This ones is:
‘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.’
This one had Gollum puzzled for a while as he had spent many a long year in his cave underground. But then a long ago memory of his childhood gave him the answer he was looking for. The solution is ‘sun on the daisies’.
Next up Gollum asks a riddle that is fairly simple and due to the present circumstances Bilbo has no trouble with this one:
‘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.’
The answer to this one is simply ‘dark’.
Next up Bilbo throws out what he assumes is a simple one, simply because he can’t think of anything else to ask at the moment:
‘A box without hinges, key or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.’
This one actually has Gollum stumped for a while. It takes him a long time to come up with an answer and he only manages it when he remember what he used to pilfer from nests. The answer is ‘eggs’.
The last question had ruffled Gollum somewhat and so he throws out a question that he thinks is pretty obvious:
‘Alive without breathe,
As cold as death,
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.’
This time round it was Bilbo’s turn to be stumped. He thinks about it for a while and just when he thinks the answer will never come a fish jumps past and startles him. Then he realises that this is actually the answer, ‘fish’.
The next one is rather an odd one:
‘No-legs lay on one-leg, two-legs sat near on three-legs, four-legs got some.’
The answer to this one is quite strange as well but Gollum got in super quick. ‘Fish on a little table, man at table sitting on a stool, the cat has the bones.’
Now Gollum asks one that he knows is really tough and has a good chance of winning the game for him:
‘This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays kings, ruins towns,
And beats high mountain down.’
This has the desired effect as Bilbo does not know the answer. Bilbo tries to think of all the old stories he knows of giants but he decides that this is not the answer he is looking for. As Gollum starts to press him for an answer he starts to panic and says he needs more time, then he realises that this is the answer, ‘time.
Bilbo's Final Riddle
Now Bilbo has run out of riddles to ask. He can’t think of any more and Gollum who has now decided the Hobbit will indeed make a tasty meal is growing impatient for the conclusion of their game. So Bilbo asks something that is not really a riddle. But as Gollum does not actually complain and tries to answer it seems that Bilbo gets away with it. He simply asks:
‘What have I got in my pocket?’
Gollum asks for three guesses which Bilbo does indeed grant him. He goes for the answer hands, then a knife and then string. Of course all these answers are wrong and what Bilbo actually has in his pocket is Gollum’s ring. This then means that Bilbo has won the riddle game. If you want to know what happens next, you will just have to read the book.
The Hobbit really is wonderful book that is so well written. The author J.R.R Tolkien actually only wrote this book for his children, he never intended it to be published. If he knew back then what a massive impact this book would have and just how many people it would eventually reach he would surely have been amazed. The riddles contained in chapter 5 of The Hobbit are very good and some of them are ones you could actually use on your friends whereas some of them are a little bit more obscure. Let’s just hope you never find yourself sitting in a dark cave puzzling on the answers to these or similar riddles.
Anicham Pugal from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India on August 25, 2020:
I used to forget what the riddles were that were asked by Gollum and this article actually jogged my memory up.
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Black Eve on December 20, 2014:
as a writer (if only for my self) I have high respect for J.R.R Tolkien work and envy his skill with words and riddles
Encanto on December 09, 2014:
Timtimtim - If there were explosions in math riledds, they'd be a lot more popular. P.S. I'm totally inventing exploding math riledds. I'll make a fortune!Tony - Yet another good reason why all the eggs are belong to me. Vicki - I was born with the instincts necessary for rad ass dinosaur art. It's a gift. Nahl - I think he's just letting the tension ferment and then he's going to send me one at exactly the right time where it is maximally humorous. Because humor is like wine and cheese. Sometimes it needs to be aged just right. Grant - Dangit... you beat me to it. The Challenger was looking forward to penetrating your skull (that's what I call my imaginary strap-on)Allie - At first I was like "wait... I posted something in my comments section? No way!" But then I remembered that it is totally possible for other people to have the same name as me. And yes, boyfriend should learn to keep his chocolate off the floor if he expects to keep it. Becky - I just drank about 20 ounces of coffee. I can't tell if it is helping or not, but I bet I could build you a rocketship out of your thigh master and one of your drumsticks. Kiley - As a simulation, you should watch 2 Fast 2 Furious on fast forward under a strobe light and Queen blasting in the background. I think it would be remarkably similar. Gigi - I think he does it for the same reason that I used to put beer cans in the microwave - to see what will happen. qandlequeen - the Cadbury Mini Eggs were of indeterminate age. We had been carrying them around with us on our travels, and I'm not entirely sure where we acquired them in the first place. All I know is that they were chocolate and there weren't very many of them left, so I had to act fast!Jovial Connoisseur - According to Boyfriend, that is correct! However, I think the most logical answer would be for that stupid mother to get a toaster. Who makes toast in a pan anymore? It's the 21st century!
HOBBIT LOVER on September 02, 2013:
i always LOVE your ALL riddles ♥
and i ANSWER it ALL! yeahay!!
HOBBIT LOVER on September 02, 2013:
i love you the HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS ♥
John on November 22, 2012:
The Hobbit Hole (author) from Lancashire UK on February 29, 2012:
Yeah they are quite tricky, alhtough I must confess I was never very good at riddles.
TENKAY from Philippines on February 29, 2012:
I love this. I tried to answer some of the riddles ... hehehe... not even one correct answer. This is interesting though. Thanks for sharing.