How old does Bilbo look?

Blad The Inspirer

New Member
All of Bilbo's words and actions in this scene seem totally consistent with an old, retired man. However, there is, as far as I can tell, zero reference to how old Bilbo actually looks - not even something as simple as, he "looked older and more careworn", like we got when Frodo saw Gandalf in chapter two.

This is conspicuous for two reasons: First, wouldn't Frodo take special note of how Bilbo looks, given that they were so close and haven't seen each other in seventeen years? Second, whether Bilbo looks older or whether he doesn't appear to have aged a day, in either case it should be worthy of note. In chapter two, even Gandalf was uncertain about what would happen to Bilbo after he parted from the ring. He said, "he might live on for years, quite happily: just stop as he was when he parted with it." Maybe I am reading too much into that line, but I have always believed that Gandalf was speaking at least in part about Bilbo's physical appearance.

So, why don't we get a physical description? Should we assume that Bilbo's physical appearance has changed to match his old man behavior? Or, since the narrator makes no mention of it, should we assume that Bilbo still appears to be the same age he was before? Is it possible that Bilbo looks much older now, but Frodo as narrator doesn't want to comment on it directly, out of respect for Bilbo?
 
I wonder, can we understand it in terms of Rivendell's sense of "timelessness"? Maybe when you're at Rivendell, the people around you don't look either young or old, but rather they look "right" -- maybe you see them at their best. Maybe to Frodo, there in Rivendell, Bilbo just looked like "Bilbo." Because otherwise I would agree, it's very strange that there's no statement made either way of whether he looked 17 years older or looked much the same.
 
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