Episode 148 - What Was Gandalf Doing Right After Bilbo Left the Shire?

Rachel Port

Active Member
The timeline Kate put together was remarkable, but I think one important part of Gandalf's first researches was left out. I think one of the first places he went was Rivendell. He would probably think Bilbo was likely to go there sooner or later, and he would want to consult with Elrond and enlist his help in observing Bilbo and assisting Bilbo's healing. If he got there after Bilbo, so much the better. He is concerned for Bilbo as a friend, but would follow his recovery and/or lasting damage anxiously. Elrond is a great healer, and Rivendell itself is a soothing place.

I think he would return there from time to time to see for himself, the same way he makes quick visits to Frodo to ask after his health. Part of his research is seeing the Ring's effects on these two. Although he worries about them, he thinks this Ring is safely hidden in the Shire while he tries to find out more from Gollum. I think he would have figured something else out if he saw serious deterioration in either of them. I think it might even have been during one of his visits to Rivendell that he met Aragorn and opened his heart to him.

What do you think?


Well-Known Member
Hi Rachel,

I think your suppositions are highly likely. I don't think we have any evidence however?

Here is the evidence we do have (some of it contradictory).

We know (from Appendix B) that Bilbo left Bag End on the night of his birthday in 3001, and became a guest of Elrond and settled in Rivendell in 3002.

We know from Bilbo's conversation with Frodo in 'Many Meetings' that "When he had left Hobbiton he.... had steered all the time towards Rivendell. "I got here without much adventure, and after a rest I went on with the dwarves to Dale: my last journey"".

So, we know that Bilbo went to Dale, and presumably Erebor. Possibly Thranduil's Halls in Mirkwood, but returned to Rivendell within about a year.

Gandalf left Bag End on the evening of the day after the party. He did not return for three years (both Appendix B and the text in 'The Shadow of the Past'). He then visited Frodo "fairly often" "During the next year or two". (according to the text). Though in Appendix B, it says that, "Gandalf visits Frodo, and does so at intervals during the next four years."

Gandalf then vanishes from the Shire and does not appear again until, "Over nine years" according to the text. According to Appendix B, Gandalf "pays his last visit to Frodo" in the autumn of 3008. He does not show up again until April 12, 3018. So, they are agreed on about nine and a half years.

From the evidence then, I do not see definitively that Gandalf visited Rivendell either to consult Elrond about Bilbo, or to check on Bilbo, once he took up residence there. However, it seems likely. Gandalf's immediate concerns about Frodo were not great, as it was three years before he visited after the Party. However, then there was a period of either 'a year or two', or 'four years' when Gandalf visits Frodo 'fairly often'. When he did, "He would not discuss his own business and journeys, and seemed chiefly interested in small news about Frodo's health and doings." This certainly seems likely to have been checking Frodo for any effects of the Ring?

However, he seemingly was satisfied, as he disappeared again for more than nine years, and only returned when he had information from Gollum, that made him think Frodo's Ring was the One, and a test, which he had learned in Gondor.

So, I think your conjectures about Gandalf's movements are likely, but not certain. At any event, Gandalf may have checked in on Bilbo infrequently, as he certainly checked in with Frodo infrequently?

Could Gandalf have been worried enough about Bilbo that he secretly shadowed him all the way to Dale and back to Rivendell to make sure that nothing untoward happened? I don't really think so. But it is possible? Gandalf expresses both confidence in Bilbo, and perhaps a smidgeon of doubt in his final farewell, "Good-bye, for the present, Bilbo. Take care of yourself! Your are old enough, and perhaps wise enough."

Gandalf certainly intends to see Bilbo again, as evidenced by his 'Good-bye, for the present', and by his comment to himself as Bilbo disappears into the night, "Good-bye, my dear Bilbo - until our next meeting!"
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Rachel Port

Active Member
That nine years would be his search with Aragorn for Gollum, then his visit to the archives of Minas Tirith, and finally his interviewing of Gollum.

I would guess that any visits to Rivendell would have been infrequent and not long. I don't think he shadowed Bilbo - as he told Frodo, Bilbo seemed better immediately upon leaving the Ring. You're right, there's not much to go on in the text - but there is in Gandalf's character. Affection is a strong factor for him. Bilbo is old and tired, and will be feeling it more now that no longer has the Ring. He left in the care of the dwarves, so immediate safety was less of a concern. But Gandalf has spent time with Bilbo in Rivendell, and probably makes a shrewd guess that Bilbo will retire there for peace among friends. Bilbo becomes friends with Aragorn, so we know that Aragorn visits there, as he says, when he can.

Gandalf wants to monitor both Frodo and Bilbo because he is fond of them both, and because he feels some responsibility for their safety. He needs to make sure they are okay while he figures out what Frodo's Ring is. This is why he would confide rather quickly in Elrond. I'm not saying he goes straight there after leaving Bag End - he probably does try to find news of Gollum first. and check with the Rangers to make sure they keep guarding the Shire and to get their report. But I figure he gets there after a year or two and sees Bilbo and enlists Elrond's help.

But it does come down to this: I cannot imagine him acting otherwise.