Bilbo's Last Letter

Blad The Inspirer

New Member
Hello, first-time poster here.

I have a question that I don't think was covered in the course, stemming from Chapter 2 of Book 1.

Early on in the conversation between Gandalf and Frodo, after Gandalf describes Bilbo's account of the strange behavior of the ring, Frodo says,

"'Yes, he warned me of that in his last letter,' said Frodo, 'so I have always kept it on its chain.'"

I have always wondered if this suggests that Frodo received letters from Bilbo after he left the Shire.

Of course, the "last letter" could easily have been among the "other documents" left by Bilbo in the envelope with the ring at the end of chapter one. Indeed, I have always considered that to be the most likely explanation. However, it is the word "last" that has made me start questioning this.

"Last" could mean "final" or "most recent", but in either case it seems unlikely that it would refer to a letter left to Frodo at the end of chapter one. This is because, in either case, it implies that Bilbo has sent Frodo multiple letters. Otherwise, we would expect Frodo to simply refer to it as "Bilbo's letter".

Would Bilbo have sent Frodo any letters before leaving the Shire? It seems unlikely, given that Frodo was living with him in Bag End. Frodo was only 12 years old when his parents passed away, and while I don't know how long after that Bilbo took him in, I think it is safe to say that the two had been living together for many years.

This leads me to believe that the "last letter" must have been sent by Bilbo after he left the Shire. According to Bilbo in Many Meetings, Bilbo wandered around before making his way to Rivendell without much adventure, went to the Lonely Mountain, then finally came back to Rivendell for good. Since Frodo seemed to have no idea that Bilbo would be in Rivendell, maybe the letter was sent before Bilbo finally settled down there.

I would be interested to see if anyone can shed some light on this for me. This feels like a really important point to me, but I am not entirely convinced by any of the readings I have given here.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Also. Nice security there, compared to Gandalf's letter in Bree. "Dear Frodo. You know that magical invisibility ring I left for you? I forgot to mention that it will slip off your finger or fall out of your pocket at awkward moments. Keep it on you at all times (not like you won't haha), but put it on a chain so you don't "pull a Gollum" and lose it. Your pal, BB P.S. MAGIC RING!"
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
But as a serious reply, I never really noticed "last letter" before. I think the most likely explanation is the one you suggest as most likely - it was among the will and other papers he left for Frodo after his disappearance. It could be that there were letters afterward, but I have this vague memory of Frodo saying explicitly somewhere (Rivendell pre-Council?) that there's been no word about BB since he left. But I don't have a reference in my pocket; we'll have to keep an eye out.
 
Hello, another newbie here. :)
When I was young I always interpreted that "last letter" phrase that same way-that Frodo had received letters from Bilbo at various longer or shorter intervals over the years. But at some point when I was around twenty or so I realized he probably meant the last letter as in whatever letter of explanation Bilbo left along with the will and other documents after he joke at the party and subsequent absence from Hobbiton.
 
Top