Bilbo is responsible for leaving the One Ring for Frodo, who subsequently became hunted by the Nazgûl, Saruman, Sauron, and even Boromir in a way. Yet in the Peter Jackson film Fellowship of the Ring, we come across Bilbo in Rivendell kind of just hanging out -- he gives Frodo all his weaponry and armour, tells Frodo he is sorry he brought Frodo into the whole One Ring mess, and then basically bids Frodo adieu and watches as Frodo sets off on the Fellowship of the Ring quest.

Almost all races are involved in the war to destroy the Ring. But what does Bilbo do during the quest of the Fellowship? Does he simply remain in Rivendell and work on his memoir? Is there any information regarding Bilbo and what he did while the quest of the Fellowship of the Ring was ongoing? What did he do during the time the One Ring was being taken to Mt. Doom?

ETA: The usual caveat. I've read The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, but have not read The Silmarillion or The Return of the King. I've seen Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy many times. I just got The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on BD this past Tuesday, so I'm pretty unfamiliar with it still. I.e. I'm not a Tolkien scholar, so please pardon me if this is an obvious question to those in the know.

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    +1, I have no idea why this was downvoted. I always thought it was an odd gap in the timeline as well... – Izkata Apr 30 '13 at 2:48
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    You haven't read The Return of the King? Come on. There are some very excellent parts that aren't in the movie. – Plutor Apr 30 '13 at 11:51
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    @Plutor - for better or worse, the community consensus was that reading/watching the source material is NOT required before asking a question. – phantom42 Apr 30 '13 at 14:24
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    My comment wasn't meant as a criticism of the question. I thought it was a fine question. I was just making a (firm) suggestion. – Plutor Apr 30 '13 at 14:44
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    This question seems trivial at best, and while @phantom42 mentions that it is not required to read the source material before asking a question, that does not make a question that is answered in the source material worthy for up vote, nor does it guarantee an absence of down votes. It is not explicitly mentioned that he did nothing during the events of LOTR, because implicitly that is exactly what he did, nothing. – NominSim Apr 30 '13 at 15:02
up vote 46 down vote accepted

Advance warning: I'm going to assume that the fact that you've asked this question, despite having not read RotK, means that you don't mind being spoilered on anything in RotK.

If this assumption is false, then stop reading this answer and start reading RotK. Now.

End of advance warning.

When the Hobbits get back to Rivendell, Bilbo has grown old. He's sleepy, he doesn't get much done, he feels the end of his life coming on.

They found him all alone in his little room. It was littered with papers and pens and pencils; but Bilbo was sitting in a chair before a small bright fire. He looked very old, but peaceful, and sleepy.

From Bilbo himself:

"Do you know, I shall be one hundred and twenty-nine? And in one year more, if I am spared, I shall equal the Old Took. I should like to beat him; but we shall see."

Some general behaviour:

...they sat much with their old friend, who spent most of his time now in his room...At first he pretended to take some notes; but he often fell asleep; and when he woke he would say: 'How splendid! How wonderful! But where were we?' Then they went on with the story from the point where he had begun to nod.

He gets forgetful:

Then he gave Frodo his mithril-coat and Sting, forgetting that he had already done so ... 'what's become of my ring, Frodo, that you took away?'

His poem:

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Sam's observation:

'I don't think, Mr. Frodo, that he's done much writing while we've been away. He won't ever write our story now.'

Bilbo's reply:

'You see, I am getting so sleepy,' he said. 'And when I have time to write, I only really like writing poetry.'

And much much more.

This is not a Hobbit who is going to do anything while the Fellowship were away. This is an old Hobbit at the end of his life. If all that you have to go by is Jackson's movie, you're not going to get the full weight of this. So I'll end as I started: read RotK.

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    No, no, the Jackson movies are a nice visual representation of Tolkien's world, but the books are really where it's at. I was merely sharing what experience(s) I have with the books versus the movies. In fact, part of what prompted me to ask this question was the possibility that Jackson had merely cut Bilbo's role out of the films and I wasn't sure. Thank you for a really nice answer and, no, I don't mind spoilers at all. In fact, I always read the last chapter of a book first -- I'm that bad when it comes to spoilers :) +1 – Slytherincess Apr 30 '13 at 23:28
  • I actually think this is a better answer than the most upvoted one. – daviewales May 1 '13 at 1:37
  • You mean you'll end as you started, right? :P – Junuxx May 1 '13 at 12:26
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    I'll also point out that this isn't really spoiling anything for anyone who's seen the movies. You see this Bilbo-as-extremely-elderly while they head to the Grey Havens. The only real difference with (this part of) the book is that the hobbits stop in Rivendell on their way back to The Shire. – Plutor May 1 '13 at 12:27
  • @Junuxx: "You mean you'll end as you started, right? :P" - yup; you win the prize for spotting the deliberate mistake! Plutor - you're probably right, although the movie does underplay it a little, and I'm conscious that (and this is an individual preference) some may take exception to even this much of a reveal. – user8719 May 1 '13 at 12:39

Bilbo had given the ring up almost two decades before and though he reacted strongly to it when it reappeared, he recovered his composure. The books are infused with the idea that Hobbits are for some reason less affected by the One Ring's miasma--not unaffected, but resistant.

Further he was an old, old Hobbit and was aware of the demands of questing and his own limitations.

Bilbo had for a long time been contented with his maps and his writing, he was presumably happy as a clam living in Rivendell, and I see no reason to suppose that he did anything more than bug Elrond for updates rather more often than they were available.

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    And eat copious amounts of Lembas bread. – Jeff Apr 30 '13 at 13:06
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    I just want to make sure I'm understanding this correctly. Bilbo gave Frodo the One Ring twenty years before the Fellowship of the Ring began its quest? – Slytherincess Apr 30 '13 at 23:32
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    Well, I'm working from memory here but the big birthday party was for Bilbo's eleventy-first birthdays, and I seem to recall that he was 133 around the time of The Lord of the Rings. Someone with the source material in front of them may be able to give you more exact dates. Hmmm...I see below that I was recalling things a little later than they were. Will edit. – dmckee Apr 30 '13 at 23:33
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    @aSlytherin Yup, roughly 20 years passed between Bilbo's party and the Ring's destruction. – user1027 May 1 '13 at 1:03
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    @aSlytherin The movies are pretty terrible when it comes to conveying the passage of time. Every time you see a montage of the group walking somewhere, weeks/months are passing, but I never get that feeling from watching the films. – user1027 May 1 '13 at 16:57

I can't improve on dmkee's answer, but I'll add this just for completeness' sake:
(By the way, this is from Chapter 1, right after the Party)

[Bilbo:] "Well I've made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf – mountains; and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days."

and this is one or two pages later:

"I am being swept off my feet at last."

This seems to suggest that he wants to go out walking again, and then go to Rivendell, and consume copious amounts of Lembas (see dmkee's answer).

I also found this in the Tale of Years (Appendix B):

3001 Bilbo's farewell feast [september]. Gandalf . . .
3002 Bilbo becomes a guest of Elrond, and settles in Rivendell.

That gives us a rough timeline.

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    While true, and an excellent point, it doesn't really answer the question of what he did while the fellowship was on their quest (e.g. 3019 TA) – The Fallen Apr 30 '13 at 13:48
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    @SSumner He writes his book and bugs Elrond, as in dmkee's answer. I just though I could add to that answer, giving some extra information. – MadTux Apr 30 '13 at 14:24
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    @SSumner Thanks for the hint and thanks for the upvote :-) – MadTux Apr 30 '13 at 15:34
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    +1 for "and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days" - reading over the early LotR drafts in HoME, one can see how much of a bother this particular line was to Tolkien, and how much effort he put into avoiding any further adventures for Bilbo because of it. – user8719 Apr 30 '13 at 20:47
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    Also +1 for Bilbo living happily ever after to the end of his days :) – Slytherincess Apr 30 '13 at 23:30

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