A lot of things happened by accident in life. For example, penicillin was discovered after Sir Alexander Fleming accidentally left a petri dish over night in his laboratory. That is just one example. So, if accidents tend to happen in real life, where we really cannot control the circumstances surrounding us, why wouldn’t they happen in fiction, where the author completely controls the lives of his characters? These accidents are fictional, but in the lives of the characters themselves, they are real as penicillin was real for Fleming. Today, we’re going to talk about one of these accidents, the accident which lead to Bilbo Baggins acquiring the One Ring while losing his matches in the dark. Why was that good? Keep reading to find out!
The fact that Bilbo Baggins lost his matches while inside the Misty Mountains had two benefits. For one, he came in the possession of the One Ring, although he did not know what it was at the time; for the other, the smell of smoke and the light of the match would certainly have attracted enemies, as Tolkien himself stated, so basically – losing the matches saved Bilbo’s life.
In today’s article, you are going to find out what exactly happened before Bilbo lost his matches and how he got into that situation in the first place. Then, we are going to explain why it was good that it happened and connect it to the epilogue of that story. Stick with us because he have several interesting stories for you in today’s article.
How did Bilbo end up without his matches?
When Thorin, Bilbo, Gandalf and the rest of the company leave Rivendell, they decided to cross the Misty Mountains. There, they witnessed the distant fight of giants before taking shelter in what seemed to be an ordinary cave. Yet, while in that cave, they were captured by the goblins; Dori, who way carrying Bilbo, was grabbed by a Goblin and in the ensuing struggle, Bilbo lost consciousness and was left in the darkness of the cave, abandoned by his companions. In The Hobbit, these events were chronicled in Chapter V, “Riddles in the Dark”, and here’s what Tolkien wrote about the circumstances surrounding Bilbo’s dark awakening:
“When Bilbo opened his eyes, he wondered if he had; for it was just as dark as with them shut. No one was anywhere near him. Just imagine his fright! He could hear nothing, see nothing, and he could feel nothing except the stone of the floor.
Very slowly he got up and groped about on all fours, till he touched the wall of the tunnel; but neither up nor down it could he find anything: nothing at all, no sign of goblins, no sign of dwarves. His head was swimming, and he was far from certain even of the direction they had been going in when he had his fall. He guessed as well as he could, and crawled along for a good way, till suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment. He did not go much further, but sat down on the cold floor and gave himself up to complete miserableness, for a long while. He thought of himself frying bacon and eggs in his own kitchen at home-for he could feel inside that it was high time for some meal or other; but that only made him miserabler.
He could not think what to do; nor could he think what had happened; or why he had been left behind; or why, if he had been left behind, the goblins had not caught him; or even why his head was so sore. The truth was he had been lying quiet, out of sight and out of mind, in a very dark corner for a long while.
After some time he felt for his pipe. It was not broken, and that was something. Then he felt for his pouch, and there was some tobacco in it, and that was something more. Then he felt for matches and he could not find any at all, and that shattered his hopes completely. Just as well for him, as he agreed when he came to his senses. Goodness knows what the striking of matches and the smell of tobacco would have brought on him out of dark holes in that horrible place. Still at the moment he felt very crushed. But in slapping all his pockets and feeling all round himself for matches his hand came on the hilt of his little sword-the little dagger that he got from the trolls, and that he had quite forgotten; nor fortunately had the goblins noticed it, as he wore it inside his breeches.
Now he drew it out. It shone pale and dim before his eyes. “So it is an elvish blade, too,” he thought; “and goblins are not very near, and yet not far enough.”
But somehow he was comforted. It was rather splendid to be wearing a blade made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars of which so many songs had sung; and also he had noticed that such weapons made a great impression on goblins that came upon them suddenly.
“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.
Now certainly Bilbo was in what is called a tight place. But you must remember it was not quite so tight for him as it would have been for me or for you. Hobbits are not quite like ordinary people; and after all if their holes are nice cheery places and properly aired, quite different from the tunnels of the goblins, still they are more used to tunnelling than we are, and they do not easily lose their sense of direction underground-not when their heads have recovered from being bumped. Also they can move very quietly, and hide easily, and recover wonderfully from falls and bruises, and they have a fund of wisdom and wise sayings that men have mostly never heard or have forgotten long ago.”– The Hobbit, Chapter V: “Riddles in the Dark”
As you can see, Bilbo Baggins was not in a very pleasant situation. He was in the dark and his matched had disappeared. But, that turned out to be good for him. Why?
Why was it good that he had lost his matches?
So, why was it good that Bilbo Baggins lost his matches when he woke up in the darkness of the cave? First of all, it seems to have spared his life. He was in a dark place with a specific smell. The light of a match, along with the smell of tobacco and sulfur (as he had intended on lighting his pipe), would certainly have attracted something in that cave, probably the goblins that had already attacked them. As Tolkien himself writes, who knows “what the striking of matches and the smell of tobacco would have brought on him out of dark holes in that horrible place”. Bilbo realised that soon enough and he was, in a way, happy to have found himself match-less.
As for the other reason, it is depicted on the image – or, rather, screenshot – above, which shows Bilbo holding the One Ring in his hand. While crawling through the cave, Bilbo found the “turning point in his career, but he did not know it” at the time. He found a small metallic sing, which he conveniently placed in his pocket. Bilbo had no idea he was carrying with him the One Ring, which would prove essential for the plot of The Lord of the Rings, so he kept on walking until he found Gollum, who had lost that same thing earlier. After a game of riddles, Bilbo eventually used the Ring to trick the Gollum into showing him the exit, eventually escaping with it.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!