Letters from Uncle Bilbo


I just finished listening to session 103 and have a couple questions about the talk of why Frodo does not know that Bilbo is in Rivendell. There was a lot of discussion about why Frodo never was told or, received a letter from Bilbo telling him where he ended up staying. There were some that thought it was just a simple case of not generally letting it known were Bilbo was. I believe this to be the most compelling reason. The less people know about something, the better chance there is for that secret to remain a secret. There was also a bit of talk about why Frodo never had a letter from Bilbo, and possibly that Gandalf and or Elrond were perhaps screening his letters looking for any reference to his ring. I was surprised that no one mentioned that in fact Frodo did talk about at least one letter he received from his Uncle. In Chapter 2 of The Fellowship, A shadow of the Past. Gandalf says in reference to Bilbo and The Ring,
"He said that it was "growing on his mind", and he was always worrying about it; but he did not suspect that the ring itself was to blame". "Though he had found out that the thing needed looking after; it did not always to seem of the same size or weight; it shrank or expanded in a odd way ,and might suddenly slip off a finger where it had been tight"
"Yes he warned me of that in his last letter," said Frodo, "so I have always kept it on it's chain".
(I found it interesting that "the ring" was not written "The Ring" but this was before the reveal of just what Bilbo's ring was),

So, it is plain that Frodo did, at least at one time, have contact with Bilbo after he left The Shire. We of course can not know when the letter Frodo is referring to was written, so it would be hard to really judge if Bilbo was already settled down in Rivendell. But it does show that at one point there was communication between the two, and that Bilbo talked about The Ring, and that it still was on his mind. Also that there was more then just one letter, since Frodo says "in his last letter", so there was more before that.

This of course still proves nothing about why Frodo was never told where Bilbo was living, even though Gandalf and Strider plainly knew, as did Gildor. I can totally agree that it was just a simple case of, lets not spoil the surprise, and that those that did know, really can't be sure if Bilbo is still alive, except for Gandalf, who knows about The Ring at this point and knows about its effects. But I would like to know your thoughts about Bilbo's letters to Frodo, and when they may have been written and when they stopped? Was there ever any other reference to Letters from Uncle Bilbo in any of the writings, published or unpublished?

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That would explain things if that was the case, but I never took his remark about his last letter to be that letter. It always seemed to say it was a letter he received later, at least to me.

Blad The Inspirer

New Member
Yes, I believe I raised the question of Bilbo's "last letter" a long time ago in the forum. I think the meaning of "last" is questionable. Does it mean "final" or does it mean "most recent"? If it means most recent, why would it be the letter he left at Bag End? Did Bilbo make a habit of sending Frodo letters during the long years they lived together? Yes, they weren't always living together, but it still seems strange to call that his most recent letter. If "last" means "final", it may work a little better, but it still has the same basic problem if he is referring to the letter that Bilbo left with the ring.

That being said, I think the letter that Frodo refers to probably is the letter that Bilbo left behind with the ring, but there is a chance that it is not. Also keep in mind that Bilbo did not go to Rivendell right away, so it is possible that he sent him letters before he got there.


Active Member
I imagine that the Conspirators would have not only intercepted or discovered a letter(s) from Bilbo to Frodo post vanishing but that they would have revealed so at Crickhollow. I also imagine that once all the cards are out on the table at Crickhollow that even Frodo would reveal a correspondence between him and Bilbo. But not necessarily so.

I love all of the nuggets of vague that Tolkien has in his literature.


Should this letter have been one from Bilbo after he left The Shire, I would think it would not have been delivered by "The Post", but rather would probably been hand delivered by a Dwarf. So the chances of The Conspirators knowing about it I think are slim. It is also plain that Bilbo did not want anyone from his home town to know where he was, Frodo tells many Hobbits he did not think Bilbo dead, but when ask where he was, he shrugged his shoulders. I do wonder if the question of this letter was ever asked JRR, and if it might be in one of his letters....I still have not read the book of his letters, it is on my list and is the next one for me to read after The Father Christmas letters book I just bought.