Page 27. " Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday "

Hobbits call the number one hundred and eleven (111) eleventy-one.  This is a habit peculiar to Hobbits and its use is not found elsewhere in Middle-earth.

Page 27. " Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of the Shire for sixty years, ever since his remarkable disappearance and unexpected return. "
The Hobbit, second edition books
Public DomainThe Hobbit, second edition books - Credit: Strebe/Wikimedia Commons

Bilbo Baggins is the main character from Tolkien’s earlier book The Hobbit, also set in Middle-earth. In it, Bilbo joins a group of dwarves on an adventure to steal a hoard of treasure from the dragon Smaug, and regain the Lonely Mountain from him. Their quest sees them pitted against trolls, goblins, giant spiders and wood elves. Underneath the Misty Mountains, Bilbo is separated from the others and stumbles across a magical ring. He then engages in a battle of riddles with the ring’s current owner, the creature Gollum, eventually using the ring to become invisible and escape. Finally, the dragon is killed and the treasure recovered. Bilbo returns to the Shire a more adventurous, less stuffy, and much richer hobbit.

The hobbits of the Shire are a very conservative, respectable folk, disapproving of excitement and adventures in general. They regard Bilbo as their somewhat baffling and rather eccentric neighbour.


Page 28. " No one had a more attentive audience than old Ham Gamgee, commonly known as the Gaffer "

Gaffer is a British colloquial term for ‘foreman’, ‘boss’, ‘father’ or ‘old man.’

Page 32. " An old man was driving it all alone. He wore a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver scarf. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows "
Odin as wanderer
Public DomainOdin as wanderer - Credit: wikimedia commons

This has now become the typical image of a fantasy wizard. The idea of powerful men and women who can perform magic dates back to ancient times, but it was in the medieval period that the wizard as we know him became established. In High Medieval romance, wizards would often appear as wise mentor figures who aided the hero on his quest, just as Gandalf does in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The word ‘wizard’ itself derives from the Middle English ‘wisard’ – wise + -ard, and today the word is often used for a very clever or skilled person, e.g. a computer wizard. As age is often associated with wisdom, the archetype of the wizard as ‘wise old man’ was established, marked by his long white beard. From Merlin to Dumbledore, wizards are very popular figures in myth, legend and fantasy fiction.

Wotan, by Arthur Rackham (1867 - 1939)
Public DomainWotan, by Arthur Rackham (1867 - 1939) - Credit: wikimedia commons

The robes, tall pointed hat and staff (or sometimes wand) are also typical wizard features. It is possible that these may have been influenced by descriptions of the Germanic god Woden/Wotan (Norse Odin). In his guise as Wanderer, Odin wears a long robe, wide-brimmed hat, long grey beard, and carries a staff. Tolkien has stated that the image of the Odinic wanderer did influence him when creating the character of Gandalf.

The name Gandalf means ‘wand elf’ or ‘magic elf’ in Old Norse, and can be found in the Völuspá, a poem in the Poetic Edda (a collection of Old Norse poetry). 





Page 39. " the anniversary of my arrival by barrel at Esgaroth on the Long Lake "
Smaug in the lake
Creative Commons AttributionSmaug in the lake - Credit: Zsófia Ziaja/Wikimedia Commons
This is a reference to an episode in The Hobbit when Bilbo freed the captive dwarves from the wood elves. The dwarves then hid in some empty barrels that were to be dropped into the river. Clinging to one of the barrels, Bilbo travelled with them down the river to the Long Lake, arriving at Esgaroth, a town of men on the lake. Here the dwarves emerged from their barrels and were welcomed by the townsfolk, before finally resuming their mission to the Lonely Mountain and the dragon Smaug.
Page 41. " his magic ring that he had kept secret for so many years. As he stepped down he slipped it on his finger, and he was never seen by any hobbit in Hobbiton again. "
The One Ring (3D model)
Public DomainThe One Ring (3D model) - Credit: Xander/Wikimedia Commons

There are many possible influences for Tolkien’s ring of power. The first and most obvious is the magical ring of the Norse Völsunga Saga and later Germanic Nibelungenlied. In these, a ring called Andvarinaut is cursed by the god Loki to bring tragedy to whoever possesses it. The ring is desired by everyone, causing much conflict, but it only brings unhappiness. In the same story there is also a broken sword that is re-forged, something that will appear later in Lord of the Rings.

Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, a cycle of four operas based on the Völsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied, also features the magical, cursed ring. Some critics have seen major similarities between Wagner’s work and The Lord of the Rings, but Tolkien himself denied this influence, saying that “both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.” Tolkien did not consider Wagner’s operas to be a particularly good interpretation of the Germanic mythology. However, this has not prevented some modern scholars and critics from concluding that Tolkien must have been influenced by Wagner, whether consciously or not, as many elements of their work are so similar. Others argue that this is a natural consequence of using the same source material.

Sigurd proofs his reforged sword, by Johannes Gehrts
Public DomainSigurd proofs his reforged sword, by Johannes Gehrts - Credit: wikimedia commons
Another possible influence is the Ring of Gyges, a story told by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato in Book 2 of The Republic, as an example of how power corrupts. In it, the ring has the power to grant its wearer invisibility. The shepherd Gyges uses it to seduce the Queen and murder the King, taking the throne for himself. The point is that even the most moral man would use such an object if he knew that he could get what he liked with no fear of the consequences. However, in doing so he would lose his good character and moral beliefs, and become like Gollum in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a miserable creature driven by desire and wracked by inner turmoil.

Magical rings can be found in many different stories and legends. Other items of power are very common too. The Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, tells of a magical artifact called the Sampo, which brings good fortune to its owner. The Sampo is fought over by good and evil, until it is eventually destroyed. Tolkien was very impressed with the Kalevala and has stated that it influenced him in the creation of Middle-earth.


Page 44. " It is mine, I tell you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious. "

Creative Commons AttributionGollum - Credit: RAM at Arte and Fotografia
In The Hobbit, the creature Gollum referred to the ring as ‘my precious.’ Gollum was consumed by the power of the ring, both revering it and hating it at the same time, driven half mad by his desire to possess it. When Bilbo took the ring, Gollum was furious and would have killed Bilbo if he had not used the power of the ring to slip away unseen. The ring had turned Gollum into something both pitiful and frightening. By repeating Gollum’s words, Bilbo shows that he too is falling under the ring’s control.

Page 46. " The Road goes ever on and on "

J.R.R Tolkien reading 'The Road goes ever on and on': 



The Tolkien Ensemble are a Danish group of musicians that write songs based on the lyrics of J.R.R. Tolkien.  Here they perform their interpretation of 'The Old Walking Song':