In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf says:

It [the ring] has been called that [precious] before, but not by you.

But we know that, at that time, Gandalf didn’t know whether that ring was the One Ring, so how can Gandalf know what he says here?

I mean, he didn’t know that was the One Ring, so he also shouldn’t know that it had been called precious before.

3 Answers 3


As with most things, this is more clear in the book (emphasis mine):

'It is mine, I tell you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious.'

The wizard’s face remained grave and attentive, and only a flicker in his deep eyes showed that he was startled and indeed alarmed. 'It has been called that before,' he said, 'but not by you.'

'But I say it now. And why not? Even if Gollum said the same once. It's not his now, but mine. And I shall keep it, I say.'

Fellowship of the Ring Book I Chapter 1: "A Long-Expected Party"

Bilbo had told Gandalf the true story of how he obtained the Ring from Gollum:

I wondered often how Gollum came by a Great Ring, as plainly it was - that at least was clear from the first. Then I heard Bilbo’s strange story of how he had “won” it, and I could not believe it. When I at last got the truth out of him, I saw at once that he had been trying to put his claim to the ring beyond doubt.

Fellowship of the Ring Book I Chapter 2: "The Shadow of the Past"

Presumably, Bilbo also mentioned Gollum's nickname.

  • 1
    So why didn't Gandalf do research about the ring right after Bilbo tell him the story instead ?
    – Our
    Apr 26, 2016 at 13:59
  • 6
    @Leth Because he believed the lies of Saruman that the Ring was lost beyond hope of recovery; from "The Council of Elrond": "'There I was at fault,' [Gandalf] said. 'I was lulled by the words of Saruman the Wise; but I should have sought for the truth sooner, and our peril would now be less.'" Apr 26, 2016 at 14:05
  • When does he say it ? Before learning the Saruman's intend or after ?
    – Our
    Apr 26, 2016 at 14:12
  • Also when Gandalf do research , he hasn't known that Saruman's real intend , so if he didn't do research about the ring due to Saruman after Bilbo told him the story , Why does he change his mind after Bilbo goes his journey ?
    – Our
    Apr 26, 2016 at 14:29
  • 3
    @Leth When does he say what? The quotes in my answer are from before Saruman revealed himself as a traitor, and the one I gave in the comment is technically from after, but is Gandalf describing what he was thinking before he knew Saruman was a traitor. The answer to your second comment is that he was concerned by Bilbo's behaviour: "[Bilbo] said and did things then that filled me with a fear that no words of Saruman could allay" Apr 26, 2016 at 14:38

It was written in Bilbo's book, There and Back Again, which Gandalf undoubtedly read between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. I believe it's also mentioned in Fellowship that Bilbo had originally lied about how he acquired the ring, saying that he won it in the riddle contest with Gollum. (In the original 1937 edition of The Hobbit, Gollum did intend to bet the ring in the game, but Bilbo had already found it. It was changed when Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, to make it more consistant with the Ring's new nature, and the original version was retconned.)

Of course, at the time, Gandalf just figured it to be a simple magic ring, not suspecting it to be the One Ring until much later.


I know this was asked a long time ago but just in case someone comes to this later as I have. After reading the previous posts, I believe that Gandolf comes to the realisation after Bilbo disappearance at his birthday party reminds him of the ring and he connects the disappearance of Bilbo to Bilbos greatly extended life and this connection starts him wondering if there is more to the ring than he believed and that it could posibly be the one ring or at least a dangerous ring, so he decides to then research it?

  • This sounds rather speculative. Can you cite any evidence to support the notion that that Gandalf began the suspect that the ring was the One Ring? Feb 9 at 23:19
  • No. It is speculative. But based on the timing of his actions it is a reasonable speculation. His reaction was immediately after Bilbo's disappearance, which Gandolf knew he could do as it had been revealed to the dwarves and then him, the only other difference was Bilbo's extended age as far as I can see. However it's not a garrantee only a reasonable speculation. Feb 11 at 0:17

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