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When he is tortured in Mordor, Gollum famously screams 'Shire! Baggins!' to divulge the location of the Ring. However, I've recently been rereading The Hobbit, and at no point does Bilbo say the word 'Shire', or even insinuates it. I've heard some claim he remembers it from his youth, but that seems highly unlikely due to his lack of the memory of the word 'Baggins'. So, how did Gollum know?

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    Bilbo tells him
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 22:46
  • @Edlothiad When? Not in the pool scene.
    – Imperator
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 22:47
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    Gandalf says in "The Shadow of the Past," "Well, as for the name, Bilbo very foolishly told Gollum himself; and after that it would not be difficult to discover his country, once Gollum came out."
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 22:49
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    Gandalf retrospectively criticizing Bilbo as "very foolish" for revealing his name was somewhat unfair. Gandalf himself had introduced Bilbo by name (to Beorn for example) and never cautioned him not to use it. His name and origin were well-known around the Lonely Mountain after Smaug's death in any case. Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 13:23
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    @Edlothiad was quite right. "What iss he, my preciouss?" whispered Gollum (who always spoke to himself through never having anyone else to speak to). This is what he had come to find out, for he was not really very hungry at the moment, only curious; otherwise he would have grabbed first and whispered afterwards. "I am Mr. Bilbo Baggins. I have lost the dwarves and I have lost the wizard, and I don't know where I am; and I don't want to know, if only I can get away." "What's he got in his handses?" said Gollum, looking at the sword, which he did not quite like.
    – A. B.
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 22:42

2 Answers 2

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Bilbo was apparently quite famous in certain parts of the world, in connection with the murder of Smaug. Merely listening for the name of a famous hobbit adventurer named Bilbo Baggins (in Dale) was enough to point Gollum in the right direction, and presumably to remind him of Bilbo's name.

'That is a sample of his talk. I don't suppose you want any more. I had weary days of it. But from hints dropped among the snarls I even gathered that his padding feet had taken him at last to Esgaroth, and even to the streets of Dale, listening secretly and peering. Well, the news of the great events went far and wide in Wilderland, and many had heard Bilbo's name and knew where he came from. We had made no secret of our return journey to his home in the West. Gollum's sharp ears would soon learn what he wanted.'

Fellowship of the Ring: The Shadow of the Past

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As The Hobbit pre-dates The Lord of the Rings in the real world, I suspect The Shire didn't yet exist in Tolkien's mind as such, but was fleshed out more for the trilogy. It is true "shire" isn't mentioned at all in The Hobbit.

Bilbo was indeed quite famous after the battle of five armies. One can imagine him telling people of Bag-End in Hobbiton while in Esgaroth, and that would have been retconned, as it were, into adding The Shire when the idea of larger region was conceived more fully.

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