From the movie, you can see that Gandalf knows Bilbo found something special during their adventure, but Bilbo did not tell him the truth in the end, nor did Gandalf pursue it. His final words seem to hint that he knows Bilbo has some treasure of significant power on him. At the point of their parting in the books, does Gandalf actually know or suspect the true identity of this powerful treasure?

Also, if the answer is yes (he knows Bilbo has the One Ring), why did he wait so long to set events in motion to destroy it?


1 Answer 1



Gandalf certainly did not realise that Bilbo's ring was the One Ring at the end of The Hobbit, or indeed by the start of The Lord of the Rings. The realisation came upon him slowly, and he only fully worked it out years after the start of The Lord of the Rings.

"How long have you known all this?" asked Frodo again.

"Known?" said Gandalf. "I have known much that only the Wise know, Frodo. But if you mean 'known about this ring', well, I still do not know, one might say. There is a last test to make. But I no longer doubt my guess.

"When did I first begin to guess?" he mused, searching back in memory. "Let me see - it was in the year that the White Council drove the dark power from Mirkwood, just before the Battle of Five Armies, that Bilbo found his ring. A shadow fell on my heart then, though I did not know yet what I feared. I wondered often how Gollum came by a Great Ring, as plainly as it was - that at least was clear from the first.


And I waited. Until that night when [Bilbo] left this house. He said and did things then that filled me with a fear that no words of Saruman could allay. I knew at last that something dark and deadly was at work. And I have spent most of the years since then in finding out the truth of it."

-- The Fellowship of the Ring, chapter 2: The Shadow of the Past

  • So, correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that it's known that Bilbo has found a ring, is that it? Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 5:02
  • Also, when Gandalf referred to it as a Great Ring, did he think of it as just a magical ring or an actual Ring of Power? Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 5:06
  • @thegreatjedi Yes, I think Great Ring = Ring of Power. Not completely certain though.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 12:40
  • Don't forget too that looking forwards from The Hobbit (rather than backwards from The Lord of the Ring) Gandalf has no idea what the Ring is because it isn't especially evil. Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 15:34
  • 1
    @MattGutting True - in fact, The Hobbit was even retconned post-publication to make the Ring stuff different!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 17:05

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