Frodo and Bilbo's tense moment

I've had a bit of a change of mind about how to read the interaction between Bilbo and Frodo in the Hall of Fire, when Bilbo asks to "peep" at the Ring. I think we decided that the transformation that Frodo saw was entirely a product of the shadow on his heart that is the influence of the Ring. I'm pretty sure we agreed that Bilbo didn't actually go all Gollum, as in the Peter Jackson treatment.
The latest episode of the Prancing Pony Podcast dropped yesterday, and they've reached that event. Their discussion was thought-provoking. Being thus provoked, I pose the following for your consideration.
We have a lot of evidence available to us that Frodo has a keen eye for people's hearts and for situations. Examples: in the Shadows of the Past, after his moment of panic around GAndalf's revellations about the Ring, he gets rather quickly to the heart of the matter, realizing that he is a danger to everything he loves. Even Gandalf is surprised by his decisiveness when it comes to it.
Next: Frodo is able to see that Strider, while grim and off-putting in appearance is a friend, long before he has any real reason to believe this, and before any of the other hobbits come around to his way of seeing STrider. One could argue that this is a lonely, frightened hobbit seeking comfort in a world that is so much darker than he had known it was six months earlier, but there are other incidents to consider.
For example, in A Journey in the Dark, we learn that, possibly as a result of "that grim wound" Frodo has keener sight in the dark than any, save possibly GAndalf. This is physical, not spiritual sight, but again there's more.
IN The Mirror of Galadriel, she marks how keen his vision has become. He is able to read her heart more truly than many even among the Wise might have done. And he is able to see the Ring that even Sauron can not. He divines her desire, though I think she may misunderstand his motivation for offering her the Ring as "gentle revenge," rather than the desperate "take this cup from me" that I think it is.
And in all Frodo's interactions with Gollum, we see that Frodo sees his heart more keenly than does SAm, or in fact than perhaps even Gandalf does. One might attribute some of this to his empathy and understanding how Gollum would feel in the presence of the Ring which he may not even see, let alone touch. I do think though that the other incidents previously mentioned point to Frodo being blessed with a heart that sees well, something that may be amplified by the Ring, giving power to him according to his stature, or his talents.
All that is preamble, but if you accept my premise that Frodo has a particular gift of vision, perhaps amplified by the Ring, then it it's an easy leap from there to get to him seeing Bilbo's heart clearly, and seeing the embers of Bilbo's Ring longing, being fanned by its presence. The particular manifestation of that sight, the transformation, may be colored (coloured?) by the shadow of the Ring on his heart, but I think it likely that Frodo is seeing truly, if with a terrible SnapChat filter. There is more to Bilbo's request than curiosity, and this is a touchier moment than we might have thought, saved by Bilbo's understanding, having seen the horror in Frodo's eyes, what the Ring is doing to him, and to his nephew. The moment is redeemed by Bilbo's love and his repentence, something that would appeal to a good Catholic like John Ronald.
There, that's my reading of this riddle.


I agree with you. I think the upbringing of Frodo might have something to do with his insight into the human heart better then most. He seemed to be more social-able then Bilbo and smarter then Sam. These powers of perception seem to be amplified by the ring.

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
He divines her desire, though I think she may misunderstand his motivation for offering her the Ring as "gentle revenge," rather than the desperate "take this cup from me" that I think it is.
I like your post. But I've never thought that Galadriel misunderstood this: she knows full well that Frodo could truly wish (though probably not be able) to give up the Ring to her. It is HER gentleness that keeps her from mentioning his fear and what he himself would probably characterize as cowardice. Instead, she turns it aside with Hobbit-like jest.

It seems that hobbitry is contagious, doesn't it?

Kate Neville

Active Member
I like this train of thought... even more so as Frodo will eventually meet "a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands." Perhaps the Pity that Frodo found for Gollum was begun when he saw what Bilbo might have been had he not given up the Ring (and what he was in danger of becoming so long as the Ring existed).