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Riddles in the Dark is the fifth chapter of J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit. This chapter of The Hobbit holds the most importance to The Lord of the Rings as it deals with Bilbo's finding of the One Ring and the introduction of Gollum. This chapter had been heavily edited by Tolkien to bring it closer in line with the plot of The Lord of the Rings.


Bilbo recovers from his fall and finds himself in a dark passage, finds a gold ring on the ground, and pockets it. Soon he comes across the creature Gollum. The two soon get engaged in an exchange of riddles.


Bilbo regains consciousness and, finding himself alone, tries to crawl through the tunnel. He stumbles across a Ring, which he absentmindedly pockets. As a hobbit, Bilbo orients himself quite well underground, and he descends the tunnel until he comes to a lake.

Bilbo is spotted by Gollum, a strange creature who lives alone on an island in the middle of the lake, which he navigates in a small boat. Gollum is a small, slimy, dark creature with pale eyes who eats Goblins and fish, named for the sound he makes when he swallows. Because he lives alone, Gollum is in the habit of speaking to himself in a hissing baby-talk, calling himself "my precious." Trying to assess Bilbo, he engages him in a game of riddles, at which Bilbo proves his equal.

Gollum decides to get the better of Bilbo by using his "birthday present", the Ring. When he wears it, he is invisible and can more easily snag his prey. He goes to the hiding place where he keeps the Ring, but it's missing (he wore the ring a few hours before to catch a goblin, and it slipped off in a tunnel on his way back). Gollum correctly surmises that Bilbo has it and confronts him, asking what is in his pocket. Bilbo, who does not understand the power of the Ring, slips it on his finger as Gollum runs to attack him. Bilbo becomes invisible, and Gollum cannot find him to attack.

Gollum is afraid that without the invisibility of the ring, he will be captured by the Goblins, so he panics and runs to escape the cave. Bilbo, who is still invisible, follows him, thereby discovering the way out. Gollum, who can smell Bilbo, blocks his way. Bilbo thinks of killing Gollum, but decides it would not be fair, since Gollum is defenseless. He escapes by leaping over Gollum's head and through the passageway, but he runs into the Goblins. As they rush at him, he slips the ring on and escapes to the outside where it is light and the Goblins cannot follow.

Changes from the first edition

The Lord of the Rings brought about changes to the context of the original story, and led to substantial changes to the character of Gollum.

In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum bets his Ring on the riddle game and if Bilbo wins, the Ring will be presented as a present. After losing, Gollum seeks for the Ring, but cannot find it. He begs for Bilbo's pardon and shows him the way out.

Tolkien made Gollum more aggressive in the second edition to reflect on the concept of the Ring's corrupting abilities.

In The Lord of the Rings, the original version of the riddle game is explained as a "lie" made up by Bilbo under the harmful influence of the Ring, whereas the revised version contains the "true" account.


These are the riddles that are told by Bilbo and Gollum in this chapter:

Gollum (Smeagol)

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

Answer: mountain


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

Answer: Teeth


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

Answer: Wind


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.'

Answer: Sun shining on daisies


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.

Answer: Darkness


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

Answer: Egg


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

Answer: Fish


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

Answer: Fish on a little one-legged table, man at table sitting on a three-legged stool, the cat gets the bones


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.

Answer: Time


What have I got in my pocket?

Answer: The One Ring of Power

This technically wasn't a riddle. They were supposed to be riddles. Gollum was right. Bilbo cheated. Though Gollum did say "Ask me a question." So it could be either way.


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  • Bilbo finds the One Ring

Objects and artifacts


Foreign Language Translated name
Afrikaans Raaisels In Die Donker
Amharic በጨለማ ውስጥ እንቆቅልሽ
Arabic الألغاز في الظلام
Armenian Հանելուկներ մթության մեջ
Azerbaijani Qaranlıq zərbi
Basque Asmakizunak ilunpetan
Belarusian Cyrillic Загадкі ў цемры
Bengali অন্ধকারে চালুনি
Bosnian Zagonetke u Mraku
Bulgarian Cyrillic Гатанки в тъмното
Catalan Endevinalles en la foscor
Cebuano Mga tigmo Sa Ang mangitngit Nga
Chinese 黑暗中的谜语
Croatian Zagonetke u Mraku
Czech Hádanky ve tmě
Danish Gåder i mørket
Dutch Raadsels In het Donker
Esperanto Enigmoj En La Mallumo
Estonian Mõistatuste pimedas
Finnish Arvoituksia pimeässä
French Énigmes dans l'obscurité
Galician Adiviñas na escuridade
German Rätsel Im Dunkeln
Greek Αινίγματα στο σκοτάδι
Gujarati ડાર્ક માં ઉખાણાઓ
Hebrew חידות באפלה
Hindi अंधेरे में पहेलियों
Hungarian Talányok a Sötétben
Hmong Txhiaj txhais Nyob rau hauv Lub Tsaus
Icelandic Gátur í Myrkrinu
Igbo N'ilu n'ọchịchịrị
Indonesian Teka-teki dalam gelap
Irish Gaelic Tomhaiseanna I An Dorchadas
Italian Enigmi al Buio
Japanese 暗闇の中の謎
Kannada ಡಾರ್ಕ್ ಒಗಟುಗಳು
Kazakh Қараңғыда жұмбақтар (Cyrillic) Qarañğıda jumbaqtar (Latin)
Korean 어둠 속에서 수수께끼
Latin Aenigmata in Tenebris
Latvian Mīklas Tumsā
Lithuanian Mįslės Tamsoje
Macedonian Cyrillic Гатанки во темница
Malaysian Teka-teki dalam gelap
Marathi गडद मध्ये सांगतात ?
Mongolian Cyrillic Тааварт харанхуйд
Nepalese अध्यारोमा पहेली
Norwegian Gåter i Mørket
Persian معماهای در تاریکی
Polish Zagadki w ciemności
Portuguese Enigmas no escuro
Romanian Ghicitori în întuneric
Russian Загадки в темноте
Serbian Загонетке у тами (Cyrillic) Zagonetke u Mraku (Latin)
Scottish Gaelic Tòimhseachain Ann An Dorchadas
Sinhalese අඳුරේ ආරක්ෂා කරන්නන්ද ?
Slovak Hádanky v tme
Slovenian Uganke v Temi
Spanish Acertijos en la oscuridad
Swahili Vitendawili katika giza
Swedish Gåtor I Mörkret
Tamil இருட்டில் புதிர்
Telugu డార్క్ చిక్కుముడులు
Thai ปริศนาในความมืด
Turkish Bilmeceler Karanlıkta
Ukrainian Cyrillic Загадки в темряві
Urdu اندھیرے میں راددلاس
Uzbek Қоронғуда жумбоқларнинг (Cyrillic) Qorong'uda jumboqlarning (Latin)
Vietnamese Câu đố trong bóng tối
Welsh Posau Yn Y Dywyll
Yiddish רידאַלז אין די דאַרק
Yucatec Maya Acertijos ti' le ak'abo'