The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, chapter 5: Riddles in the Dark

Chapter 1, An Unexpected Party
Chapter 2, Roast Mutton.
Chapter 3, A Short Rest.
Chapter 4, Over Hill and Under Hill.

What’s your favorite riddle? Do you ever tell riddles in your family? Can you answer the riddles in this post?

In chapter five of The Hobbit, we are introduced to the creature Gollum, a sort of ancient and seedy hobbit-like character who has come down in the world, both figuratively and literally speaking. Gollum lives deep under the Misty Mountains, in the dark and the damp, wandering tunnels, talking to himself, and eating raw fish and other unsavory foods.

Bilbo and Gollum play The Riddle Game, a game of who can stump whom with a riddle. The stakes are high: Bilbo’s life and freedom. Unfortunately for Gollum, he, too, is risking something that is more precious to him than life: a very special ring. There’s more about that ring in The Lord of the Rings.

For now, let’s stick with the riddles.

1. What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
Yet never grows?

2. Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters.

3. It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first, and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.

4. This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

5. What has every person seen and will never see again?

6. An architect had a brother and the brother died; the man who died had no brother. Who was the architect?

7. What is put on the table and cut, but never eaten?

8. Unable to think, unable to speak, yet it presents a true picture to every person. What is it?

And, finally, what did Bilbo have in his pocketeses, eh, precious?

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