The similarities between Bilbo and Gollum.
Many people joke about having an evil twin, someone who is the same but paradoxically the exact opposite. The hobbit, Bilbo, and the enigmatic creature, Gollum, stand apart as characters in Tolkien’s The Hobbit because they are beings that have never been seen in fantasy stories; unlike the dwarves, wizard, and dragon, they are not stock creatures. Bilbo and Gollum have many similar traits, but these only serve to emphasize the fact that they are inherent opposites. Gollum is Bilbo’s evil twin.
Gollum is described as being “a small slimy creature” (71). Similarly, hobbits are “a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves” (2). But while hobbits are basically described as smaller versions of humans, Gollum is described as being a creature. He is “as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face” (71). In this way, the physical descriptions of the characters are both similar and different; both are small and virtually unknown in the wider world, yet Gollum is a slimy creature while Bilbo is well dressed and groomed.
Both Gollum and Bilbo live in holes in the ground. Gollum lives in a dank cave in the mountain while Bilbo lives in a hobbit-hole, something which Tolkien takes great care to describe as being luxurious: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort” (1). Bilbo’s comfortable home is in direct contrast to Gollum’s dark, wet lair.
Bilbo and Gollum have similar tastes in entertainment, and both have clearly been educated as evidenced by the riddle game. Both are able to come up with riddles on the spot under tense circumstances. But while Bilbo’s riddles are light and fun, Gollum’s are dark and ominous: “Voiceless it cries, / Wingless flutters, / Toothless bites, / Mouthless mutters” (74). The language of Bilbo’s riddles is much less dark and reflects his upbringing in the outer world: “A box without hinges, key, or lid, / Yet golden treasure inside is hid (75). Gollum’s language, in comparison, compliments the dark world in which he lurks.
The hobbit and the creature are mirror opposites of each other; their similarities enhance their differences. Both are small, but whereas Bilbo is described as being very genteel, Gollum is dark and slimy. Both live underground, but the hobbit lives in a comfortable hobbit-hole while Gollum survives in a dingy cave. Both enjoy riddles, but while Bilbo’s riddles are bright and depict cheerful things, Gollum’s are dark and ominous sounding. In this way, Gollum is a kind of evil twin for Bilbo; he is a darker version of the hobbit.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.