In The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey the 50 year old Bilbo Baggins is played Martin Freeman and when he gets to his 100's (at the start of the movie and in The Lord of the Rings) Ian Holm plays a older grey haired version of Bilbo. In the LOTR book it is said

Time wore on, but it seemed to have little effect on Mr. Baggins. At ninety he was much the same as fifty. At ninety-nine they began to call him well-preserved ; but unchanged would have been nearer the mark.

So, Shouldn't Bilbo still be the same young hobbit he was at 50?

  • 1
    I remember vaguely Gandalf mentioning that Bilbo doesn't look like he has aged at all in the fellowship of the ring. I think the only confusion is that the actors in real life are relatively differently aged.
    – Jared
    Jan 13, 2013 at 23:50
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    I'm not clear if this is asking about any aging or if it's actually asking why Martin Freeman doesn't look like Ian Holm.
    – Tango
    Jan 14, 2013 at 0:38
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    I think that was more of a casting mistake of Peter Jackson but I realize that's not a good enough answer here with the genius quotes I've seen on this forum. Jan 14, 2013 at 3:55
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    this question doesn't make much sense. If anything, Jackson made the mistake of casting a too old Bilbo in LOTR
    – flq
    Jan 14, 2013 at 13:31
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    ... though if you can overlook the problem with age, I think the casting of Bilbo in both movies is pretty damn awesome! :) Jan 18, 2013 at 20:47

5 Answers 5


Your quote seems to answer itself.

The casting of Bilbo in Lord of the Rings actually didn't fit with the book.

I can't say for sure that it was a mistake however. In a movie, it's a little bit harder to just clarify details such as "Bilbo is 100 years old even though he looks young"

If The director did that for Bilbo's age and all the other like details, you would have too much narration. Which would have changed the overall style of the movie.

Casting him as an older character makes it clear to the audience that this character is Frodo's elder by far, and it does it in a way that doesn't require a lot of narration.


Shouldn't Bilbo still be the same young hobbit he was at 50? No. If you read what the book has to say again, and I'll provide the quote with some added emphasis:

Time wore on, but it seemed to have little effect on Mr. Baggins. At ninety he was much the same as fifty.

The two important things to note are:

  • Tolkien does not say "no effect", he says "little effect".

  • Tolkien does not say "the very same", he says "much the same".

Therefore Bilbo did change, he did show signs of age, but just not as much as would have been expected. So it's valid to show a changed Bilbo in the movies.

  • 8
    Huh. I'd never actually considered this distinction. That actually makes a lot of sense: Ian Holm's Bilbo looks older than Martin Freeman's, but Ian Holm's is still much younger than Bilbo at that age ought to look. Fascinating. +1
    – Nerrolken
    Oct 21, 2014 at 21:23
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    Not to mention that 111 is considerably more than 90. Feb 6, 2015 at 15:37

Because Peter Jackson got it wrong. Also, in the movie we see Bilbo rapidly age after he passes on the Ring to Frodo. There is no textual evidence to support this idea. Bilbo's rapid aging in the movie leads to the question "Why didn't Gollum age as well?" Well that answer need by be asked at all if you go only by what is in the book.

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    Gollum did age as well. The aging process for him is what turned him from Hobbit to Gollum creature. Had Bilbo continued down the same path, he would have ended up like Gollum.
    – dkuntz2
    Jan 17, 2013 at 3:07
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    I think italia means, "why didn't Gollum age as well AFTER he lost the One Ring?" In the movies, Bilbo becomes a doddering blue-hair pretty quick, but Gollum, who's had the Ring for quite a long time, keeps on keepin' on. Jan 21, 2013 at 4:43
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    Utter speculation on my part, but one might imagine that it had something to do with Bilbo's presence in Rivendell: perhaps the magic of the Elves helped lift the effects of the Ring, either accelerating Bilbo's aging back to normal or just preventing any further preservation, while Gollum held the Ring for so long that its preserving effects lingered for a while. No sources at all, but it's a plausible explanation.
    – Nerrolken
    Oct 21, 2014 at 21:26
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    Perhaps because Bilbo actually gave up the Ring of his own free will (albeit with a lot of encouragement from Gandalf). Gollum never did; indeed, he still regarded it as his, and "Baggins" had stolen it. So Gollum was affected by the Ring after losing it in a way that Bilbo wasn't after giving it up. Bilbo was still affected by the Ring in some ways (as the scene in Rivendell when Frodo shows it to him shows), but not in others.
    – Wallnut
    May 10, 2017 at 16:01

That's the problem with making movies with prequels, right? I mean, Ian Holm was about 65 years old when filming for LOTR started, and in the scene where he finds the ring, he wore makeup and was altered in post to appear younger:

Young Bilbo played by Ian Holm

And Ian's part of The Lord of the Rings was a pretty quiet part, he just had to sit around and drink tea and talk to Ian McKellan. When the Hobbit started filming, Ian was 80 years old, and since the Hobbit movies focus on Bilbo's adventure, it's hard to see how they could ask Ian Holm to run around in Mirkwood, be chased by orcs and so on.

Ian McKellan is younger than Ian Holm, but if you look at the behind the scenes stuff, it's clear that age is catching up to McKellan's capability to perform too many "action scenes". Luckily, Gandalf isn't involved in a lot of action in at least the first two movies.

But, to answer your question - Yes, Bilbo should appear pretty much the same on his 111:th birthday as he would have appeared back in misty mountains.


Martin Freeman didn't make his first film until the late 90s, at the time LOTR was filmed he was only 28 - much too young to play Bilbo. If Hobbit was filmed first then he would have been a great Bilbo for both films, in my opinion, however, that was not the case and Ian Holms is far too old for the physical nature of Hobbit. I think Martin Freeman is an excellent actor and does a supurb job as Bilbo, and to my eye makes a very passable younger Bilbo.

  • Can you give evidence?
    – bleh
    Mar 10, 2016 at 1:12

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