Mark Reads ‘The Hobbit’: Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of The Hobbit, HOLY SHIT THIS IS SO AWESOME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hobbit.


Oh SHIT YEAH, THIS SHIT IS BOSS. This shit right here? Sweet fucking christ, this chapter takes all other chapters, throat punches them, then drops them off a cliff to be eaten by gargoyles and doesn’t even break a sweat.

You see that Bilbo Baggins? He’s a fucking riddle genius, and he takes those fucking logical tricks, and he makes them cry and wish they were never born. But I’m getting ahead of myself because I am impatient and I just want to high five the shit out of Bilbo. Not literally, I mean, because that would be gross. I don’t even know if hobbits can poop, but now I’m treading into crackfic territory and I’ve got some badassery we need to discuss.

Basically, chapter five takes all of the silliness and weirdness of the first four chapters of The Hobbit and J.R.R. Tolkien makes you want to wet the bed with fear. He’s like, “Hey, assholes, y’all are gonna need to wipe your memories after this fucking chapter because I just gave you nightmare fuel to last a couple centuries.” And this fucking book was written in 1937 and basically Tolkien could tell the future and shit or something, because how else would he know that I am terrified of being in small, cramped, and dark spaces? That’s right, I’m the last person on planet Earth to read The Hobbit and I’m stating that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote it specifically for me. DEAL WITH IT.

So Bilbo wakes up from being knocked out and shit and he’s crawling around in a dark ass cave and there’s no one there, and all he finds is a tiny ring in the room, and shit is goddamn fucked up. And it’s made even more frightening because Gandalf doesn’t catwalk into the cave being all fabulous and saving the day. Bilbo’s on his own, and this shit is fucking scary as fuck.

But he takes the elvish blade he had stolen from one of the trolls earlier in the book, and he just sucks it up and decides to throw up a middle finger to the cave and just find a way out. He straight-up doesn’t give a fuck. Well, actually, he gives quite a few fucks because he’s a frightened little hobbit, but that’s Bilbo for you. He’s afraid and he keeps going anyway. Someone elect him as president immediately.

So fucking Bilbo Baggins is just a badass and he crawls his way through the network of tunnels like some kind of Middle Earth Clint Eastwood or something, only without a pistol. Or a cowboy hat. Or music from Ennio Morricone playing in the background. Or the same fearless attitude. Whatever, he’s awesome, no one else is. The end. So he’s crawling through this cave with his blade out, ready to gut the fuck out of some goblins, when he stumbles onto a giant body of water. And it’s dark as hell in this place, and in just a few paragraphs, Tolkien makes The Exorcist seem like a children’s fairytale about cotton candy and unicorns. BECAUSE GOLLUM.

GOLLUM. WHAT THE HOLY FUCK IS THIS THING. THE NARRATOR IS SO FREAKED OUT BY THIS THING THAT THEY CANNOT EVEN DESCRIBE IT PROPERLY. Dude’s got a boat, and….wait, I can’t even call Gollum dude, can I? Well, I guess Tolkien uses manly pronouns and shit, so whatever. GOLLUM IS CREEPY AS FUCK. He blends in with the darkness “except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face.” WHAT THE HELL. Is he like those scary ass fish you find deep underwater that have like flashlights growing out of their head or those other creatures that look like creations of H.P. Lovecraft? This is how I am imagining him. Because the dude paddles a boat by dangling his feet over the side. I am never going to be okay with this in any universe WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS.

oh my god the way this son of a motherless bumblebee talks. oh my god. Remember when I thought Dobby annoyed me the first time I met him during Harry Potter? This is not that. This terrifies me. IT IS CREEPY AND I DO LIKE IT AND WHY IS HE A PRECIOUS that seems like an inside joke I do not want to discover the meaning of AMIRITE. And Gollum eats the fuck out of other creatures, especially fish and goblins, and now he’s looking upon the very first hobbit he’s ever seen and he sneaks up on Biblo and this shit is scary, all right? I don’t need you judging me. none allowed.

Oh, but Gollum isn’t comfortable just creeping out Bilbo and threatening to eat him. He forces Bilbo into a RIDDLE WAR. Which…yes, is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but HONESTLY IT WORKS REALLY WELL. Especially since I would have died in the first round because I AM NOT AT ALL FAMILIAR WITH RIDDLES AT ALL. The trade riddles back and forth, Bilbo knowing that one wrong answer means he GETS EATEN. NO PRESSURE AT ALL, THOUGH. Just your life on the line! But Tolkien had already established that hobbits, Bilbo in particular, are pretty damn crafty and clever, so this is what rapidly and exponentially increases how unbearably intense this is.


Oh, and in the midst of all this? Tolkien reveals that Gollum used to live aboveground. In a hole. By a river. WITH HIS GRANDMOTHER. how how how how is that a thing that happened. Are there Mama Gollum and Papa Gollum? WHAT IS THIS THING.

When both characters are nearly stumped to death, Biblo, that clever son of a llama, decides to trick Gollum. SORT OF. I don’t know? Does this count? It’s not really a riddle, but it STILL COUNTS, I would say. But Bilbo poses the final riddle of the game? What’s he holding in his pocket? We, of course, know it’s that tiny ring in his pocket, but Gollum thinks it’s a trick, and never guesses correctly. SO BILBO WINS SHIT YEAH, which means that Gollum has to help Bilbo finds his way out. WHY CAN’T OUR SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT BE RUN WITH RIDDLES. oh god wouldn’t that be perfect I’M PRETTY SURE IT WOULD.

So Gollum prepares to help Bilbo get back up to the surface, and by that, I mean that he goes off on his own back to his slimy rock in the middle of the lack to retrieve “something” that will assist in their journey. And by that, I mean that Gollum actually had no intention to come back to Bilbo because he had something that would totally screw Bilbo over:

He wanted it because it was a ring of power, and if you slipped that ring on your finger, you were invisible; only in the full sunlight could you be seen, and then only by your shadow, and that would be shaky and faint.

OH. OH. OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK. Oh my god does this mean that Gollum is the lord of the ring? GET IT DO YOU GET IT oh god I’m pretty sure I’m the millionth person ever to make that joke. THIS IS MY FIRST TIME CUT ME SOME SLACK, GODDAMN IT. So Gollum is going to just disappear on Bilbo, but Bilbo has the ring, and in despair over losing it, Gollum creates a goddamn scene down on that lake, so much so that Bilbo actually becomes concerned for the welfare of this creature. But sweet summer child, y’all, when Gollum realizes that Bilbo has the ring and his eyes start changing colors, and he is paddling with his goddamn feet in that boat and Bilbo is running and tripping HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH ALL OF THIS my poor heart oh my god.

BUT THEN BILBO PUTS THE RING ON SHIT YEAH WHAT A BADASS. And this chapter turns into UNBEARABLE TENSION as Gollum tries to find Bilbo, who realizes that Gollum is arguing with himself about where Bilbo went. OH GOD SO CREEPY. Gollum basically surmises that Bilbo came down here on purpose to steal the ring, so Bilbo must know the way out. So Bilbo, who brilliantly realizes what is about to happen, follows Gollum the entire way to the final passageway that leads out of this dark, dank place. DUDE IS A CLEVER SHIT, RIGHT? WHAT A GOOD PLAN. But then Gollum, in a state of despair, frightened by the prospect of leaving his cave and being seen by the goblins, sits down in the entrance to the exit passage and blocks Bilbo’s way. GODDAMN IT. Bilbo wonders whether he should just kill Gollum and move on, but then Tolkien drops this in the middle of everything:

No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering. All these thoughts passed in a flash of a second. he trembled.

YEAH, GOOD GOD, THIS IS DEPRESSING. Oh god, Bilbo is FULL OF EMPATHY. And so Bilbo decides not to kill Gollum, instead choosing to JUMP OVER HIM and escape from him that way, hearing Gollum’s shrieks of despair and hatred getting quieter and further away. WELL, THAT’S NOT SAD OR UPSETTING AT ALL.


He does manage to slip the ring on, and y’all, this shit is fucking real. I cannot imagine how I would survive both being invisible and having to move about to not give away my physical location from a bunch of goblins streaming out of the room to look for me. But Bilbo does it. HE IS A BOSS. No, he is the boss I AM TAKING THAT FROM YOU SPRINGSTEEN. Just kidding, you are forever the Boss in my heart, sir.

Anyway, I, like Bilbo, had forgotten that sunlight casts a shadow on a person wearing the ring. Well, actually, Bilbo doesn’t even know how this shit works yet. STILL. Our little hobbit spies a door to the outside slightly open, nearly enough for him to squeeze through, so Bilbo goes for it. BUT IT’S NOT OPEN WIDE ENOUGH AND HE ISN’T ABLE TO SQUEEZE THROUGH AND THEN THE GOBLINS SEE HIS GODDAMN SHADOW oh god how is this real and how was this written like 75 years ago oh god

But Bilbo escapes, just at the last minute, because the dude is a badass. And this chapter is badass. And I don’t think it’s going to get any less fucked up at this point because THERE ARE STILL FOURTEEN CHAPTERS LEFT. oh god what is this book.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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295 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Hobbit’: Chapter 5

  1. Ryan LohnerRmlohner says:

    I'd forgotten this chapter comes so early. It also has Tolkien's most famous revision which I won't mention because spoilers.

  2. Radgast says:

    Yes! This chapter was a highlight of my childhood; the wordplay of the riddles and the awesomeness of Bilbo's escape are forever seared on my brain.

    Oh, and Gollum is in there too; to this day I'll be, like, rooting round in the fridge and randomly say "Eggses! Eggses, it is!" in that gravelly voice like a total dork. So sue me.

  3. bearshorty says:

    This is my favorite chapter too. At least it is the only one that I vividly remember. It is so tense. I can't help but read it all the way through and not stop even for a second. Gollum is just so creepy.

    There was a really amazing picture of Gollum in my Russian edition. I hope I can actually manage to post it here.

    <img src="; alt="Gollum" border="1" height="300"/>

  4. cait0716 says:


    There's the fanboy we all know and love!

    I love the riddles in this chapter. They're probably my favorite part. I remember stopping after each one my first time through and trying to work them all out. And now I'm reminded of my very favorite riddle of all from Mirrormask: What's green, hangs on a wall, and whistles?

    When Bilbo leapt over Gollum I had this image in my mind of Bilbo-as-Mario leaping over Gollum-as-Goomba. I mean, the dude's only 3 feet tall and he jumped 3 feet into the air and 7 feet forward. Dude has gravity defying skills.

  5. Albion19 says:

    Oh Gollum. I can't help but find him adorable. What's wrong with me? lol

  6. pennylane27 says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA OH MY GOD I'M LAUGHING SO HARD THERE ARE TEARS. Best review ever Mark. You managed to swear in like every paragraph, you wondered if Hobbits shit or not, and omg that was awesome. Also, you are eternally unprepared, but you know that already.

    Seriously though. Gollum is forever creepy as hell. Want illustrations to fuel your nightmares? Courtesy of Alan Lee this time

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    I am proud to say that I could figure out some of the riddles. I remember covering the next lines so as not to cheat and think about the answer. Of course, most of the times the tension got the better of me and I just had to keep reading, but still.

    And Bilbo is the very best ever. I like to think that I wouldn't have killed Gollum either. Probably. But I know I wouldn't be able to jump over him without killing myself either, so I don't know.

    Bottom line is BEST CHAPTER EVER.

  7. knut_knut says:

    I LOVE THIS CHAPTER!! I'm terrible at riddles, though, so good thing I'm not Bilbo.

    someone had better post a picture of Gollum from the Rankin-Bass animation <3

  8. bookworm67 says:

    OMG one of my favorite chapters! I think I used to go around telling the riddles to people when I was like 7, and they thought I was weird :/

    Also: Ynhtuvat fb uneq ng gur TBYYHZ VF GUR YBEQ BS GUR EVAT. Hahaha.

  9. tethysdust says:

    I love this chapter, too! I think it is by far the strongest chapter yet, and I think it is probably one of the most well-known scenes in the Hobbit. Seriously, Gollum is so intensely creepy– and yet he's also a more complex kind of 'villain', as you get those little innocent snippets of his life story (as he's considering eating Bilbo O.O).

    Honestly, this review frightened me at first. I wasn't sure if Mark actually liked the chapter, or if he was being sarcastic. But yeah, Bilbo is a badass of a very logical and non-murderous variety.

  10. krystalreid says:

    I'm pretty sure Ravenclaws would also favor a system of government run on riddles.

    This is a fantastic, creepy, brilliant chapter. I've read this book before, and could still only figure out about half the riddles. I would be Gollum food right about now if I had to face him in a riddle contest.

  11. @redbeardjim says:


  12. saphling says:

    Oh god, Mark. Your review's expletive-laden flailing has totally made my morning. I had so hoped that you would like this book, specifically this chapter, because damn. And you don't disappoint! This chapter made you say variations on the word "fuck" nineteen times in your review, and variations on "shit" sixteen times (and five counts of "badass"), which all-in-all I think has to be some sort of record. ^__^

    This was the chapter when, the first time I read this book, I finally became invested in what happened. Before this, I was just coasting, wondering (like all the dwarves) if Gandalf had been mistaken about the hidden depths of the hobbit. But that's Bilbo for you. Bilbo Baggins. Bravest little hobbit of them all. ^_^

  13. Mauve_Avenger says:

    "He knew, of course, that the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it."

    And now I'm imagining Lord Voldemort (naq gur Jvgpu-xvat naq Fnheba, sbe gung znggre) being defeated by a good old-fashioned riddle-off. Though if his performance in front of the sphinx was any indicator, I guess Harry would have to have Hermione or even Ron do it for him?

  14. ADB says:

    YAY! I was fanboying yesterday in preperation. Gollum is my all-time favorite character of this universe.


    "Jung vf guvf guvat?" lbh fnl? Guvax nobhg vg, ur yvirq va n ubyr ol gur evire…V vzntvar vg jnf abg n fzryyl jrg ubyr abe n qel fnaql ubyr! Bu, V pna'g jnvg sbe lbh gb trg gb Sryybjfuvc naq unir GUNG yvggyr purfgahg penpxrq va lbhe snpr. Ojnunun!

    I've never had a harder time keeping spoilers to myself, even during Harry Potter, to which I was constantly giving your reviews knowing glances and saying "Oh, how precious [[see what I did there?]], just wait until he gets to the next one." Of course, you were finished with them all by the time I found you, and this is just MADDENING!!!!

  15. ldwy says:

    I thought it was interesting that you mentioned Dobby, Mark. I read the Hobbit for the first and only time many years ago, before I read Harry Potter. And when Dobby was introduced in HP, my first thought was that I was vaguely reminded of Gollum!

  16. Jenny_M says:

    Muah. Muahha. Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. GOLLUM. GOLLUM. Who used to live in a hole with his grandmother and who is CREEPY AS SHIT.

    V qba'g xabj vs V jbhyq unir ernyvmrq Tbyyhz jnf bapr n uboovg vs V unqa'g ernq YBGE svefg, gb or gbgnyyl ubarfg. Gur ovt srrg naq yvivat va n ubyr ner boivbhfyl tvnag pyhrf, ohg V nz tvtnagvpnyyl qrafr.

  17. Nick the Australian says:

    Mark, your OMGFLAILING just cheered me up immensely. Thank you thank you thank you.

  18. pennylane27 says:

    My sister and I tend to use "hc hc hc hc gur fgnvef jr tb" and "xvyy gurz obgu" and "gb pngpu n svfu fb whvpl fjrrrrrrg" from time to time. 😀

  19. stellaaaaakris says:

    I read your review as such high intensity, Mark. Like, you were basically yelling and flailing the whole time and just forgot to include some exclamation points.

    I love this chapter though I'm sad to say I would have been eaten quite early on. The only answer I got right on this reread was "Fish." Sometimes I get the "Time" one, but not this morning. Let's assume that Gollum just gave me the "Fish" riddle over and over again and I survived, we still would have been stuck in that cave forever because here are what my riddles would have been like:

    Q: What's black and white and red all over?
    A: N arjfcncre be n crathva jvgu n fhaohea

    Q: Where did the mommy and daddy ghost leave their baby ghost when they went haunting for the day?
    A: Qnl fpner

    So, yeah, we'd have either been stuck for ages or Gollum would've tried to attack me for such bad riddles/jokes.

  20. drippingmercury says:

    GOLLUM! I FUCKING LOVE GOLLUM. My mother read the Hobbit to me when I was 6/7 and Gollum has always been my favorite. I drew a ridiculous amount of terrible Gollum fanart as a child, which… well, I can only wonder what my teachers thought of the weird, bug-eyed creature skulking in my margins.

  21. redheadedgirl says:

    Full disclosure: I have not read The Hobbit. I tried, I really did. I really, really did.

    When I was a senior in high school, I was working as a usher at the Children's Theater Company, and they did a production of The Hobbit, which was FANTASTIC. The scene with Gollum was one of the best- I remember there was black light involved to make Gollum's eyes go all creepy, and the actor was, among other things, a dancer, so she could bend in all these ways and basically seemed to teleport herself around the stage.

    Good times!

  22. bookworm67 says:

    Alright, this is COMPLETELY random, but I'm just wondering if anyone's doing NaNoWriMo this year? 😀
    …or knows what it is?

  23. This review had me laughing so hard I almost cried. Oh, Mark, I am so happy you liked this chapter because it is honestly one of my favorites.

    Well, actually, he gives quite a few fucks because he’s a frightened little hobbit, but that’s Bilbo for you. He’s afraid and he keeps going anyway. Someone elect him as president immediately.
    And then we can have a government system run by riddles where making sure everyone has tea, seedcakes, and second dinners is top priority. And who else thinks Bilbo would totally find a way to pull this off? I have complete faith in him.

    The riddle about time never fails to give me the chills. It's just such a creepy and potent bit of writing, not to mention it's a little different from everything else Gollum asked.

    Sidenote: "We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!" has been a byword in my household ever since we read this book, most often used about the Yankees (sorry, New Yorkers) or some kind of food the younger kids are in the process of refusing to eat. And I still use this line for about half my complaining. It sounds a lot more impressive than your standard whining.

  24. notemily says:

    MARK, OH MARK. This review is a thing of beauty. 😀 <3 <3

    Ahahaha, Gollum ACTUALLY taught his grandmother to suck eggs. When I was a kid I had no idea this was a joke.

    (It's an old saying meaning to teach someone about something they already know. Sort of the archaic version of 'splaining. From Wikipedia:

    "You see, Grandmama, before you extract the contents of this bird's egg by suction, you must make an incision at one extremity, and a corresponding orifice at the other." Grandmama's response is to the effect, "Dearie me! And we used to just make a hole at each end.")

    My roommate tried some of these riddles on me the other night to see if I remembered them. I got them all right, but that was probably because she knows them by heart and has asked me them before. 😛 I think I like the "time" one the best. It's very philosophical. Time defeats everything in the end. This too shall pass, etc.

    Gollum should very well know that "What have I got in my pocket" is against the rules of the riddle game, and shouldn't have accepted it as a riddle. It's his own fault he lost, I'm just saying.

    Poor Gollum. What a miserable existence, and I'm glad Bilbo realizes it and doesn't try to kill him.

    Ahahaha, in my internet wanderings I found a version of The Hobbit cover that Tolkien reportedly hated. It's not spoilery, just UTTERLY RIDICULOUS: what even is this

    Fun things gleaned from The Annotated Hobbit:

    Tolkien began writing for children in 1920 with the first of what became for many years a series of illustrated letters, addressed to his own children, ostensibly written by Father Christmas and telling of events at the North Pole. The earliest letters are fairly simple, but around 1925 they began to grow in length and complexity, as Tolkien inevitably evolved a mythology around Father Christmas and the various elves, gnomes, and polar bears of that region.

    Tolkien "inevitably" wrote a mythology for Santa Claus. OF COURSE HE DID.

    I also learned that Tolkien had a villain character named "Bill Stickers," which just makes this image more hilarious.

    Something that I already knew, but which I keep forgetting so it blows my mind every time: the original manuscripts and proofs of The Hobbit and many of Tolkien's other works are RIGHT HERE IN MY CITY. This makes me wish I had stayed in grad school and become an archivist just so I could get a job there. (Not that I was studying to be an archivist, but I WOULD HAVE CHANGED MY FOCUS FOR THIS OKAY.)

    (According to that website, the reason they live here (as opposed to in the Bodleian Library at Oxford with the rest of Tolkien's stuff) is simply because we asked first. Sweet.)

    For yea, those who post spoilers shall be relegated to the 8th circle of Internet Hell. And those who do not read the spoiler policy shall languish in the Vestibule, until such time as they RTFM, verily.

  25. Tbyyhz vf bar bs gur zbfg dhbgnoyr bs Gbyxvra’f punenpgref, juvpu vf xvaq bs jrveq jura lbh guvax nobhg vg… gung ebyr fubhyq ernyyl snyy gb fbzrbar ryfr. Ohg ab. Tbyyhz unf fbzr bs gur orfg yvarf, zbfg bs gurz pbafvfgvat bs “cerpvbhfffff…” nggnpurq gb fbzrguvat be bgure.

  26. BumblebeeTuna says:

    Oh man, I am cackling away over here!

    "it’s made even more frightening because Gandalf doesn’t catwalk into the cave being all fabulous and saving the day" HAHAH why am I imagining Ian Mckellen swishing into the cave wearing a Gilderoy Lockhart-esque pink robe and giant sunglasses, pouting at Gollum until he explodes.

    That would be sad. I love Gollum, despite all his creepiness. I mean, there is definitely no judging here Mark. This chapter gave me nightmares as a child. I immediately set about memorising as many riddles as possible just in case this situation ever came up. You never know.

  27. threerings says:

    This chapter is the Best Chapter of Anything Ever. Reading it again was just such a JOY, and there is nothing that is not perfect about it. It's a little strange to me, because I've been feeling critical of The Hobbit on this read through, since, in comparison to LOTR it seems so poorly thought out. (Which, ok, is still better thought out than most things, but I'm comparing it to my favorite book ever, so…)

    But this chapter is just PERFECT AND AMAZING FOREVER.

    Also this review, cause LOL Mark, you are adorable.

  28. Lis says:

    so so so glad i came back to mark reads for this one. Mark, so happy to see you're enjoying it because IT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME AND IF YOU DIDN'T LIKE IT I WOULD PROBABLY CRY. THAT IS ALL.

  29. Idapida says:

    "Is he like those scary ass fish you find deep underwater that have like flashlights growing out of their head or those other creatures that look like creations of H.P. Lovecraft? This is how I am imagining him. Because the dude paddles a boat by dangling his feet over the side. I am never going to be okay with this in any universe WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS."

    This kept me giggling to myself for a good five minutes. Hilarious pictures in my head. Gollum used to seriously creep me out. He still kind of does tbh.

    Also, the fact that Mark is obviously loving The Hobbit makes me want to flail with happiness! 😀

  30. Zoli says:

    Dude, how the fuck did I forget that the bit with Gollum was in Chapter 5? I totally thought it came way later in the book.

  31. Elexus Calcearius says:

    Ah, look, caps lock! Wondering when this would occur, as it is always inevitable.

    Mark, as a biologist, I can say that I'm 90% certain that Bilbo has some form of feces. There has to be something in all those second breakfasts that he can't digest, so its either our conventional way of getting rid of it or….I don't know, sweating it out?

    Ah, the ring! I remember the ring! Or perhaps, a ring, since I note that the title of the next series is plural, whereas Bilbo has only one. I wonder; if you were given a choice between the invisibility cloak and an invisibility ring, what would you go for? The ring is more compact, easier to wear, and I guess you don't have to worry about tripping over it, or accidentally exposing yourself. On the other hand, the cloak doesn't show your shadow, and you can hide other people/creatures under there if they're small enough….

    Also, for all I know, there's something about the ring that I don't know about, having forgotten pretty much everything else about this book, and not having read the next one. And this makes me hesitant to trust it.

  32. Mary Sue says:

    Every time I read this chapter, I cry for poor Gollum.

  33. echinodermata says:

    Easily the most memorable chapter in the book for me (Gollum!), and for whatever reason my one defining memory of reading this book as a child was Bilbo sort of coughing out "time" to mean 'give me more time' but luckily the answer was in fact time "time."

    I'm not even sure why it's the most vivid memory of this book for me, other than I remember thinking that was rather convenient (so maybe it was my first jump into having critical thoughts about fiction?).

    But seriously, a riddle-off? Love, and you bet I tried to answer each one before reading on.

  34. Tauriel_ says:

    Bu, naq va gur zvqfg bs nyy guvf? Gbyxvra erirnyf gung Tbyyhz hfrq gb yvir nobirtebhaq. Va n ubyr. Ol n evire. JVGU UVF TENAQZBGURE. ubj ubj ubj ubj vf gung n guvat gung unccrarq. Ner gurer Znzn Tbyyhz naq Cncn Tbyyhz? JUNG VF GUVF GUVAT..

    Teeeheeeheee. Oh Mark, darling Mark, you are so not prepared. 😀

  35. Tauriel_ says:

    Oh my god does this mean that Gollum is the lord of the ring?

    "Gurer vf bayl bar Ybeq bs gur Evat. Bayl bar. Naq ur qbrf abg funer cbjre." 😉

  36. settlingforhistory says:

    Tolkien’s writing really takes getting used to and sometimes the descriptions are so detailed that you almost forget what is going on in a chapter, but ‘Riddles in the dark’ is such a wonderful example of why, I guess, people love his books.
    All these adjectives and repeated words would make many other books boring but here it creates a perfect atmosphere of urgency so that I actually felt like being chased while reading.
    The whole chapter is so spooky with its descriptions of fish that never came back out of the caves and grew bigger eyes to see in them, of unknown monsters hiding in dark corners. I love this!
    Just like in the last chapter, Tolkien can make you feel as if you’re actually there, this how show-not-tell works!

    Gollum surprised me, I remembered him from this book, but not so early.
    I never liked him much but Bilbo’s sudden understanding of him, his loneliness and his miserable life, made me actually feel a bit bad for him.
    And aren’t those rules and the thought of honorable fights wonderful?
    I mean, Gollum could have easily eaten Bilbo, but there are ancient rules about riddles that bind him to his promise. Bilbo could not kill Gollum either not just because he pitied him, but because Golloum was unarmed and could not see him.
    I love this book and I can’t belive I waited so long to read it!

  37. kartikeya200 says:

    This is probably one of my favorite chapters of anything. I mean, even the name, Riddles in the Dark, isn't that pretty much just perfect? It sounds ominous, yet intriguing. Also, Gollum. I'm tempted to say Gollum has spawned more direct fanart than anything else Tolkien wrote, but that's something I completely made up just now because I, at least, have definitely seen more fanart of Gollum than anything else from these books.

    This is one of my favorites, from the fantastic John Howe (cropped for spoilers, FYI, don't go looking for the original yet):

    <img src=""&gt;

    And someone was asking for a picture from the Rankin Bass movie:

    <img src=""&gt;

  38. Holy crap, this was chapter five?? This is definitely one of the most memorable chapters in the book. Mark, meet Gollum. They hates you.

  39. Lady X says:

    And so the Lord of the Rings fan was born…

  40. @glyneth says:

    Bu Fzrntby. Bu Fzrntby.

    I think I may have to give this book a reread with you, Mark.

  41. Dreamflower says:

    "But he takes the elvish blade he had stolen from one of the trolls earlier in the book, and he just sucks it up and decides to throw up a middle finger to the cave and just find a way out. He straight-up doesn’t give a fuck. Well, actually, he gives quite a few fucks because he’s a frightened little hobbit, but that’s Bilbo for you. He’s afraid and he keeps going anyway. Someone elect him as president immediately."

    "Oh god, Bilbo is FULL OF EMPATHY. And so Bilbo decides not to kill Gollum, instead choosing to JUMP OVER HIM and escape from him that way, hearing Gollum’s shrieks of despair and hatred getting quieter and further away."

    OK, and now you know why I'm the opposite of Gollum: "Baggins! I loves it forever!" I have been in love with hobbits for 45 years, and this is part of the reason why!

  42. Tauriel_ says:

    You know, it's actually false information that Hobbits have five (or six?) meals a day.

    In fact, they only have one meal a day – they pretty much eat continuously all day and only take a break for sleeping. 😉

    That's the proper life of a respectable Hobbit. *nods*

  43. Kiryn says:

    Bilbo's going to get his background music from Howard Shore, so it's all good. AND OMG, I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT IT'LL BE FOR THIS SCENE IN PARTICULAR.

    BECAUSE I AM RIGHT THERE WITH YOU, MARK. I love riddles, and this chapter…!!!!! This chapter is so freaking amazing, and GOLLUM!!!! I LOVE GOLLUM, HE IS TOTALLY AWESOME IN THIS WARPED, TWISTED, FUCKED UP WAY!!!

    And yeah, I am totally afraid of dark spaces like caves, especially if they have a Gollum lurking in them, so yeah, my ass would have been toast.

    Nyfb: V shpxvat ybir Naql Frexvf sberire hagvy gur raq bs gvzr naq orlbaq. ORFG TBYYHZ RIRE VA GUR TBQQNZA JBEYQ, NAQ GUNG ZRNAF GUVF FPRAR VA GUR ZBIVR PNA'G OR NALGUVAT OHG NJRFBZR, SHPX LRF.

    I love this chapter. It rules, the end. 🙂

  44. arctic_hare says:


    <img src="; border="0"/>
    <img src="; border="0"/>

    Gollum! <3 I love Gollum. BECAUSE he is so deeply creepy and ew and do not want. I love the creepy shit in stories, okay? IT'S JUST <i>MY THING. So this chapter is right up my alley. I love the riddles, how tense it is, how scary it gets, everything it is and chooses to be. All hail this chapter!

    All hail Bilbo too! Now you see why I love him, Mark. He's trapped in a dark tunnel, with goblins nearby, separated from his friends, far away from the comfy home he wants so desperately to be back in. He's alone and lost and scared. But he doesn't give up, he just pulls out that sword and keeps on going, and gets through this ordeal using his brains. I think this chapter really shows off what Gandalf saw in him to take him along on this journey: he's got some hidden badass lurking deep down inside and it's starting to emerge. <3


  45. Lyra Laurelluin says:

    Oh yes, Bilbo Baggins for President! LYKNOW!! I am so ready for a government run by riddles and seed cakes for everyone. You've got my vote, Bilbo.

  46. ravenclaw42 says:

    I love this chapter SO MUCH. Other than his ill-thought-out attempt to pick a troll's pocket, Bilbo doesn't really get to prove how much courage, ingenuity and sheer willpower he has until now. And no one's even around to see him – I have great respect for characters who prove their own agency and worth when they definitely can't be doing it to show off. He's alone, lost in the dark and confronted with a monster who wants to eat his face. Suddenly we get to see why Gandalf thought he was worth all the trouble of recruiting: even though he's scared, he has a survivor's spirit and doesn't lose his head in a crisis. (He's like Hermione to the dwarves' hotheaded Godrics! He's still a Gryffindor, but puts more value in common sense. Or a Ravenclaw, because of riddles. Shit. So in the Shire he thinks he's a Hufflepuff like all the other hobbits but he secretly harbors the bravery and intelligence of a Gryffinclaw, there we go. I've solved it! I'm going to stop now.)

    I still know all the riddles by heart… And I always, always uhz gur "vg pnaabg or frra, pnaabg or sryg" bar.

    Nyfb gurer'f guvf zbzrag va gur SbgE zbivr jura Tnaqnys vf yvxr, "Gur rarzl unf znal fcvrf… oveqf, ornfgf." Naq V pna'g uryc ohg xrrc tbvat, "gerrf, sybjref. Tanjf veba, ovgrf fgrry…"

    Time for one of Hague's most iconic images, of Bilbo lost in the dark.

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    Gur bayl vyyhfgengvbaf zber vpbavp ner gur barf bs Fznht. Va snpg, orgjrra Tbyyhz naq Fznht naq tvnag fcvqref V graq gb sbetrg gung vagreyhqrf yvxr gur rntyrf' rlevr naq Orbea'f ubhfr rire unccrarq, be gung gurer'f yvxr nabgure guveq bs gur obbx gb tb nsgre Fznht qvrf.

  47. Becky_J_ says:

    Hahahahahaha oh this was so worth skipping my first class to read. Two things:

    1. I am forever calling him Biblo now because of that typo, because it makes him sound like some crazy bible-carrying hobbit.

    2. BECAUSE GOLLUM is now my answer to every stupid question.

  48. stefb says:


  49. Starsea28 says:

    Mark, your entire review of this chapter is golden. This chapter remains my favourite chapter of the book. When I first read it, I was so impressed by Bilbo's riddle skills (the game of riddles comes from Norse mythology, by the way, though I'm sure that's not the ONLY mythology where you find it) that I looked up all the riddles I could find (in the days before the Internet) and learnt the answers to all of them in case I was ever in this situation.

    Gollum is creepy as hell. His physical appearance is bad enough but what's even worse is him TALKING TO HIMSELF and the implication that once he lived above ground, so there might be MORE of him out there. :-X

    Trivia: apparently this is the first scene Martin Freeman shot as Bilbo. When I heard this, I thought "Jesus, Peter Jackson, you didn't just drop him in the deep end, you DROP KICKED HIM in there!" But then I thought about how confused and isolated Bilbo feels in this chapter, a place where he's never been before, something weird and possibly dangerous crouching in front of him, he doesn't know what the hell he's doing. I'm sure Martin could sympathise with those feelings a bit. So Peter Jackson's a goddamn genius.

  50. stefb says:

    Best chapter ever, or best chapter ever? I'm only a chapter or two ahead, but I was riveted rereading this one, I have so much love for it. Mark, this is the best review ever and I laughed the entire time and you swore so much and there needs to be more reviews like this in my life. I hope this is has converted you SHIT JUST GETS REALER. I think this was the point-of-no-return chapter. OH GOD WHAT HAPPENS NEXT I CAN'T STAND IT.

  51. ek_johnston says:

    Oh, Mark. Oh, this chapter. OH, THE UNPREPAREDNESS OF WHAT IS TO COME!

  52. VoldieBeth says:

    Oh Gollum! Best character EVER!!! Sure Gandalf and Bilbo are awesome, but Gollum, he has such depth!

    And of course this was an amazing chapter! This was the chapter that hooked me for life as well! Riddles and rings and goblins oh my! I can't wait for more!

  53. Genny_ says:

    This is definitely where the book kicks off for me. The previous stuff was set-up in my eyes- it establishes the characters, gets you settled into the world, and kicks your feet under you a bit so you understand This Is Serious. Then this chapter just drops so much on you and is so tense and exciting! It threw me because there seemed to be such a SLOW set-up (because: VERBOSE), but in retrospect it's mostly just how the book is written. IMO, anyway.

    It also tends to amaze me, because I am TERRIBLE at riddles, so seeing them be set out and solved is awesome.

  54. Doodle says:

    I am filled with glee right now! I have to go re-read and catch up! I forgot how awesome this book is!!!!

  55. hazelwillow says:

    This chapter was re-written by Tolkein later than the rest of the book. I think that's one reason it shines so much, because by that point he had had much more practise and was a better writer, and the chapter benefited. Absolutely everyone who reads this book remembers Riddles in the Dark, it just stands out in your mind. 😀

  56. Elise says:

    Oh my god. All I can think of is all the hilarious parody videos and little animations and Leonard Nimoy that Mark has in store for him. I AM SO HAPPY BY PROXY.

  57. SporkyRat says:

    Mark. Just. Mark. Your unpreparedness is just adorable. You make me squeak like a hobbit child because you just have no idea of what's ahead.

  58. Lugija says:

    My first experience with Tolkien was when I was ten years old and our teacher read the Hobbit to our class, a couple of pages a day. Now I have almost every book written by him, and a map of Middle-Earth on my wall. I could say it has been one of the three biggest cultural aspects of my life, along with Star Wars and Harry Potter.

    Here's a riddle told by my grandfather:
    Milk fell to the floor, won't go by wiping, by shaving nor by cat licking (it rhymes better in Finnish). What is this milk?
    Answer in rot13: Fhafuvar

    And I must say, this is a first time I'm actually following Mark every day and be able to post comments, I found the page (got the link from tvtropes) a year ago, but since I haven't yet read anything before Mark, I haven't been able to read posts because of spoilers. With the Hobbit I finally can, but I had to pluck up courage for a couple of days. During this time I've read about derailing and splaining and spoilers until I finally feel like being prepared enough to post anything.

  59. Chris says:

    Favorite chapter of the book. I've read the novel a few times, but every now and then I get busy and don't complete it, and this chapter is usually the last I read in those sequences. It's just my favorite thing about this story!

    Gollum, you creepy little shit, I feel your pain!

  60. MsSmeagol says:

    Gollum is like the saddest/most complex character/creature ever. I love him! Also, this chapter is so awesome because it shows the readers how totally badass hobbits can be. Like "yeah, they might be small and chubby and scared, but they're also brave and self-sufficient and some are really really clever". I love how Tolkien always reminds us that even those who seem or feel small and insignificant can do great things.

  61. nanceoir says:

    Anyone else get Huffle Badger vibes from this review? No one? Just me, then? Moving along. 🙂

  62. ChronicReader91 says:

    GOLLUM. Hell yeah, we’ve made it to Gollum and the riddle war! I’m TERRIBLE at riddles- both solving them and making them up- so I would definitely have become Gollum’s dinner in this situation.

    V’ir nyjnlf ybirq gur pnfhny jnl Ovyob bognvaf gur Evat. Vg’f znqr gb frrz yvxr n zvabe qrgnvy; yvxr, bu, ol gur jnl, gurer jnf n evat ba gur tebhaq naq ur chg vg va uvf cbpxrg, ovt qrny, jul ner lbh rira pbaprearq jvgu guvf jura Ovyob vf va crevy naq ybfg va n qnex pnir? Rira jura vg’f pyrne ubj cerpvbhf vg vf gb Tbyyhz, gurer’f ab fhttrfgvba gung vg’f sbe nal ernfba bgure guna vgf cbjre bs vaivfvovyvgl. Gurer’f ab junpxvat lbh bire gur urnq jvgu vg be synfuvat fvtaf fnlvat “Guvf jvyy or vzcbegnag, cnl nggragvba gb vg!”

    Anyway, this review is awesome. It should go into the review Hall of Fame and receive multiple review awards.

    oh my god the way this son of a motherless bumblebee talks.

    Biblo, that clever son of a llama,

    Those made me laugh more than is probably rational.

  63. elyce says:

    Yay! Okay, so I definitely would have been dead at the first riddle. The only one I know the answer to was the eggs one, and that might just be from reading this book too many times. Maybe the fish one too?

    Gollum is definitely super creepy here, living all alone in that pitch black lake… luring little fishies into his talons and throttling goblins when they chance by…

  64. AnHibou says:

    I am so so glad you loved this chapter; I was starting to worry you wouldn't like The Hobbit AT ALL, and that would have been awful, since it is honestly so glorious.
    I remember that as a kid I always used to (after I'd read it the first couple of times) start from this chapter because it was so ETERNALLY CREEPY FOREVER. Love it so much, though, it's some beautiful and terrifying writing.

  65. Smurphy says:

    UGH… entire comment typed and disappeared into the internet…

    Oh Gollum. Oh this chapter. OKAY beef time. It enrages me so end how Bilbo won. I mean it "What's in my pocket?" can probably be a riddle in some sense but in this one no. ESPECIALLY when they are talking about how freaking sacred this game is. And i KNOW that Bilbo didn't MEAN to ask it as a riddle (gung ur fnvq vg ng nyy ng gung cerpvfr zbzrag V nyjnlf gubhtug jnf whfg nabgure gevpx bs gur evat) but the fact that he let it slide just doesn't sit right with me.

    And poor Gollum… at least he let him live…

    NYFB whfg erzrzorevat ubj zhpu V QVFYVXR Ovyob. YVXR N YBG. Yvxr V qba'g guvax ur unf nal erqrrzvat dhnyvgvrf. Htu… naq abj V unir gb ernq na ragver obbx nobhg uvz. QVFYVXR.

  66. Dreamflower says:

    Umm…that was an accident. I was just trying to subscribe to replies and somehow I posted a blank? Is there any way to delete it?

  67. katherinemh says:

    Zl zbz naq V serdhragyl fnl, "Jung'f gngref, cerpvbhf?" jurarire fur znxrf ure cbgngb fbhc. Hfhnyyl sbyybjrq ol, "CB-GNL-GBRF. Obvy 'rz, znfu 'rz, fgvpx 'rz va n fgrj."

  68. claretstock says:

    This is the first portion of The Hobbit that I ever read, because it was in an anthology of stories(which had pieces of other books in it, like a chapter from Huck Finn, etc). I loved the riddles. Eventually I went on to read the whole book, and this was still one of my favorite chapters.

  69. so effing HAPPY says:

    Fuck! I never comment here but I just stopped by and you've just read the goddamn Riddles chapter and GOD FUCKING DAMMIT YOU BET YOUR SWEET ASS THIS SHIT *IS* AWESOME. And guess what else, Mark? It gets better from here! I first read this when I was in high school. I loved reading things in secret places where I thought no one would find me and our high school's library was practically a goblin cave in itself since no one went in there (or at least in the stacks). There was one corner in the back out of sight behind the front desk where they kept all the magazines no one looked at and *that's* where I first read this chapter. The sun was streaming through the windows, making the air warm and stuffy but in my head everything was dark and scary. Motherfuck I love this book and I love Bilbo.

  70. gecko says:

    Great chapter. The riddling has stayed with me since childhood.

    Tolkien is likely to have got the idea for the riddles from The Exeter Book – a collection of Anglo-Saxon riddles. Here's one of them:

    Swings by his thigh
    a thing most magical!
    Below the belt
    beneath the folds
    Of his clothes it hangs
    a hole in its front end,
    stiff-set and stout
    it swivels about.

    Levelling the head
    of this hanging tool,
    its wielder hoists his hem
    above his knee;
    it is his will to fill
    a well-known hole
    that it fits fully
    when at full length

    He's oft filled it before.
    Now he fills it again.

    Answer (rot 13):

    N xrl.

  71. atheistsisters says:

    LOL – yup, the first few skeptical chapters have passed and wham, now you will not be able to put it down, Mark. This is the first time I get to read along in real time while you read a longtime favorite of mine, gah!!!

  72. Meltha says:

    Know what willl make you feel better? Just imagine Edward Cullen falling into Gollum's clutches. Ahhh, soothing, isn't it?

  73. catkinquill says:

    I LOVE THIS CHAPTER. This chapter is honestly my favorite in the book, and I can-not-WAIT to see it brought to life on screen. Squee!

  74. Noybusiness says:

    Gollum: So scary. You read my mind with the lamprey reference. I really started to hate Senna in K.A. Applegate's Everworld series when I got to the part where it's revealed that when she was younger she shapeshifted into Gollum and woke her sister April in the middle of the night to the sound of "What is it, My Precious?"

  75. Kelly says:

    Behind in reading your reviews because I'm working so much lately…but Gollum scared the hell out of me as a kid. I remember seeing the animated LOTR when I was young and the way Gollum was portrayed in that freaked me out so much that when I had to go to the doctor, I would throw a tantrum if they put me in a room on the side of the building near the picture of Bilbo from that movie. That scared. And although I love the LOTR trilogy for multiple reasons, I would tense up so much during Gollum scenes that I'd leave the theater with a stiff neck and sore back. Dude is freaky!

  76. @eeshannon says:

    All I can say about Gollum is:


  77. tori says:

    I still find it so weird that you know nothing about this series. I mean, your reaction to Gollum is insane. It's so hard for me to remember that you have no idea what he looks like!

  78. Caravelle says:

    I think this has to be the chapter everyone remembers best from The Hobbit, and not only orpnhfr vg'f gur bayl ovg gung'f ernyyl eryrinag gb gur frdhry. [spoiler for LOTR]

    That’s right, I’m the last person on planet Earth to read The Hobbit and I’m stating that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote it specifically for me. DEAL WITH IT.

    No it makes perfect sense, you're the Chosen One and that's how it works with Chosen Ones. There's a prophecy or something.

    Oh my god does this mean that Gollum is the lord of the ring? GET IT DO YOU GET IT oh god I’m pretty sure I’m the millionth person ever to make that joke.
    Wow, I've actually never heard anyone make that joke before… maybe because it is SO NOT FUNNY you are not prepared :p (well… I'm typing this after you read the first few chapters of LOTR:TFOR so you might be a little bit prepared at that)

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