Thanks for your responses everyone, I think I get it more now, that had been a huge gap in the story for me, and I was just PRAYING that the answer was not..."well the Ring woke up when Frodo got it so that Tolkien could write LOTR!"
Anyway, this thread is for Bilbo and so even if I'm going off this Ring matter, I will stay on the Bilbo topic.
I love ol' Bilbo. He was wildly entertaining in the Hobbit...running around without his handkerchief! and answering the door for dwarf after dwarf and showing them all resentful hospitality...I LOVE first chapter of the Hobbit! He is cordial, treated people well and I think he was treated in kind by others. I thought it was especially poignant in the story when Bilbo was at the Council of Elrond and started on and on about who would take the Ring...that he knew what they were all thinking etc but he couldn't do it after all he had a book to finish etc...and he started to go off the deep end about it like a fruity old man. Boromir tried to laugh but when he saw the rest of the Council defer to him in quiet respect he stopped short. Tolkien's use of the other characters to show that Bilbo was more than just a fruity old man but had indeed earned his stripes among these people was nothing short of brilliant. It showed me that he had proven both his strengths and weaknesses to his friends and was welcome to be himself...they showed him pity, sure, because they all understood that the Ring had just worn him out (as much as anyone was going to let it) but Bilbo was also respected as a beloved friend and an honorable hobbit...whose obligation to the Quest was understandably and unquestionably OVER.
Maybe a large difference (certainly not the only one) between Gollum and Bilbo is just that...Bilbo had FRIENDS to intervene when the Ring was starting to show its effects on Bilbo wayyy before they conquered him...and those people saw that Bilbo was worth saving from all that. Gollum, on the other hand, was cast out by his family and left to his own devices with it to find himself a cave.
EDITING NOW: I found that passage, it's only two sentences and three lines of my copy of LOTR but it taught me roughly half of everything I needed to know about Bilbo, and I think it's worth quoting.
Boromir looked in surprise at Bilbo, but the laughter died on his lips when he saw that all the others regarded the old hobbit with grave respect. Only Gloin smiled, but his smile came from old memories.
This passage is from FOTR The Council of Elrond, toward the end of the chapter. It is nestled in between Bilbo's outburst and Gandalf's reassurance that Bilbo is indeed off the hook...and I just love it.
Another huge sweet spot in my heart and lesson in hobbitry...is from the movie...and it's completely visual and personal for me, (probably wouldn't be as charming if they had done even a different take on the same scene). When Gandalf first sees Bilbo at the door before his birthday party, he stands back as if taking in the whole Bilbo, with his pipe in his mouth and cocks his head slightly with a twinkle in his eye and says so fondly... "Bil...bo...Baggins..." as if that's all that needs to be said! I just think that is so sweet. It's cool how Tolkien and in this case PJ used others' regard for Bilbo to show us what kind of guy he is.
[Edited on 25/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]
see? I'm not a complete PJ hater.nn[Edited on 25/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]