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When Frodo put on the ring at Amon Hen, he could see telescopically for hundreds of miles. And when he put it on at Weathertop, everything became dim and dark except the Ringwraiths.

Yet the first time Bilbo put on the ring, he didn't notice anything until Gollum ran straight past him. Subsequent uses of the ring also describe nothing but invisibility.

Is there a reason for this? My guess would be Sauron wasn't as powerful in The Hobbit, and so the ring wasn't as powerful, until he rose up again and his power increased, letting Frodo perceive more of the other side, but I'm not sure.

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  • Does this answer your question? Why didn't Sauron find Bilbo when he put on the ring like Frodo?
    – Mixxiphoid
    Feb 14 at 13:45
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    @Mixxiphoid - this question is asking if Bilbo had the same visual experiences as Frodo while wearing the ring, nothing about Sauron being able to find either of them
    – fez
    Feb 14 at 14:47
  • @fez true, but I think the accepted answer on that question actually answers this question as well. Perhaps not as clearly as you would expect from a direct answer to this question.
    – Mixxiphoid
    Feb 14 at 14:51
  • @Mixxiphoid - so actively looking for Sauron draws you deeper into the Wraith world, Bilbo never actively looked for Sauron. therefore Bilbo never had the same visuals? If so, I follow that logic, but don't think it's good enough for a dupe closure
    – fez
    Feb 14 at 15:05
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    Amon Hen was specifically a special lookout point. Bilbo's cave was already dark so you wouldn't notice.
    – OrangeDog
    Feb 14 at 17:25

1 Answer 1

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In-universe, I think you're correct in that the Ring was mostly dormant, or was just beginning to come out of dormancy. Also, Amon Hen was the "Hill of Seeing," and so the Ring must have tied him into some powers specific to that locality.

Out of universe, when The Hobbit was first written, the Ring was simply a tool that helped Bilbo accomplish his quest, and had no broader connection to Dark Powers in the world. So there was no reason for it to have powers beyond invisibility. But Tolkien is extremely good at continuity, and the fact of the Ring being dormant while Sauron was dormant ties in well with this. The chapter where Bilbo finds the Ring even ends with an ambiguous and slightly ominous note, about Bilbo having a dream where he wanders through his home looking for something he lost, but can't remember what it looks like. Whether intended originally or not, this to me can be seen as the first sign, even in The Hobbit, that the Ring was more sinister than it seemed.

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