Every time Frodo put on the ring the Eye of Sauron could see where he was and almost see into his soul as well. Frodo appeared to suffer hugely when he put the ring on.

Bilbo was able to turn invisible and have no side effects or suffering when he wore it.

What changed between Bilbo having the ring and then passing it on to Frodo?

Were the Nazgûl looking for the ring when Bilbo had it or was it only around the time Frodo got the ring?

  • Frodo had the ring on in the prancing poney and sauron didn't see him
    – user4474
    Mar 29, 2013 at 15:09
  • The Nazgûl turned up at the Prancing Pony so Sauron must've seen where they were and sent the Nazgûl there. Mar 31, 2013 at 7:10

6 Answers 6


I think the two main reasons behind this are:

  • That Sauron is slowly increasing his powers over the whole timeline of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings - the stories of which take place over an 80 year period.

  • That Bilbo never receives the attention of Sauron in quite the same way that Frodo does.

Bilbo's 111th birthday party which starts the story of the Lord of the Rings, and where Bilbo gives the ring to Frodo, takes place about 60 years after the events of The Hobbit. A further 18 years elapses before Frodo starts to bear the ring towards Mordor to destroy it.

In the distant past, Sauron was defeated by Isildur and thought to be destroyed, however he is slowly rebuilding his power for literally hundreds of years under the guise of being The Necromancer of Dol Guldur. Sauron does not even openly declare himself until about 10 years after Bilbo finds the ring, and he believes the ring has been lost in the area he was defeated by Isildur.

So at the time that Bilbo owns the ring, Sauron is not as powerful, and he believes the ring is lost and is searching for it in the wrong area.

In Tolkien's writings, Bilbo's party is in S.R. (Shire Reckoning) 1401. It is not until some time between 1409 and 1417 that Gollum (venturing into Mordor seeking the ring himself) is captured by Sauron. Since Gollum is released only a year before the Nazgul actively start seeking for "Baggins" one can guess that it is likely that this happens towards the end of this time period.

So it is well after Bilbo is no longer the owner and active user of the ring that Sauron starts to seek him. Frodo obeys Gandalf's recommendations and does not use the ring in this period, and breaks this for the first time 'accidentally' in the Prancing Pony very briefly, and does not seem to suffer particularly from the experience.

It is when he is attacked by the Nazgul on Weathertop that he first starts to see things - and even then it is primarily the nearby Nazgul that can sense and see him - not Sauron yet from his tower hundreds of miles away.

Also Bilbo stays in the Shire with the ring whereas Frodo brings the ring ever closer to Sauron in the attempt to destroy it, so its possible the closer he comes to Mordor the more powerful and corruptive a hold it gains on Frodo.

  • 6
    Very excellent explination of the time-line. The first movie didn't do a good job at explaining the lapse of time between when Bilbo got the ring, it being handed down, and the start of Frodo's adventure.
    – DForck42
    Jun 11, 2012 at 13:56
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    It also didn't explain jsut how long Gandalf spent researching the ring and finding out it's history.
    – DForck42
    Jun 11, 2012 at 16:06
  • 1
    The time-line in the movie is not really correct anyway..in the book Frodo is much older when he leaves on his trip, in the movie it is shortly after the party. I think the most important part is what you described in the last two paragraphs. After Saurons was made aware of the ring still existing (by Gollum), his mind was set on finding it (especially after Frodo exposed himself to Sauron).
    – Geerten
    Sep 7, 2012 at 14:51
  • 1
    @Geerten - I will have to watch the movie again. Its not clear to me one way or the other how quickly after the party Frodo departs on the journey. There is no obvious years passing, but it is implied that some time has passed. Bilbo has aged considerably by the time Frodo reaches Rivendell (although it is also suggested in the books that this effect of no longer having the ring).
    – iandotkelly
    Sep 7, 2012 at 14:56
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    @Geerten - Frodo is 33 at the time of the party, and 18 years pass - making him 51 at the time of the movie. Hobbits come of age at 33, so he is at most starting middle age, and is really still relatively young. But I do agree - he doesn't look like he is in his late 30's in human years.
    – iandotkelly
    Sep 7, 2012 at 16:33

Frodo also KNEW more of the ring than Bilbo (Gandalf told Frodo whereas with Bilbo he pretty much just kept an eye on the hobbit). That knowing would alter how Frodo would use the ring - whether he willed it or not. Additionally, Bilbo never sought to DESTROY the ring, thus the Ring had no reason to protect itself from Bilbo and therefore had less of a grip on him.


Also, in the very end of the third movie(I haven't read the books in a long time :\ ) when they are headed towards the sea to leave with the elves, Bilbo, who looks like his life force is held on by a string asks Frodo if he still has the ring and even says, "I would have liked to have held it one last time". I agree, the movie timeline is really not apparent. You assume the extreme aging of Bilbo is because he no longer has the ring. The movies make it feel like the trilogy took half a year lol. Except for the end when Frodo says to Sam, "It's been four years...".

Why would Sauron ever think that the ring was destroyed? Is he not DIRECTLY linked to the ring? IF it was destroyed would he not also be killed?

  • From the books, Sauron does not believe the ring is lost and when he starts to re-establish himself in middle-earth does so in a place where he can search for it, near where Isildur dies at the Gladden Fields.
    – iandotkelly
    Dec 24, 2012 at 10:00
  • In the book, the hobbits (with Gandalf) go to Rivendell before heading home, and as they're leaving Bilbo says, ‘what's become of my ring, Frodo, that you took away?’ ‘I have lost it, Bilbo dear. I got rid of it, you know.’ ‘What a pity! I should have liked to see it again. But no, how silly of me! That's what you went for, wasn't it: to get rid of it?’ Feb 16, 2019 at 22:32

There are a few reasons.

When Bilbo had the Ring Sauron was relatively inactive and geographically distant. It is fairly strongly implied that the Ring began to 'wake up' in some sense as Sauron began to return to power.

Bilbo never really understood the full significance of the ring while it was in his possession and it's entirely possible that that knowledge, just in itself was a factor.

Another important factor is the would he received on Weathertop. It's explicitly stated that the shard of the Morgul Knife was in the process of turning him into a wraith and so it seems logical that this might well increase the hold that the ring had.It is certainly mentioned at several points that this injury has a lingering effect.

Also Frodo comes much closer, physically to the influence of Sauron. On Amon Hen he comes close to being discovered by the Eye which by now is actively searching for him and again it is explicitly explained that as he gets closer to Mordor and Mount Doom specifically he becomes increasingly aware of the influence of teh ring to the point where is feels like a crushing physical weight.


What spurred Gandalf to come to the Shire and to organize the Fellowship to try and destroy the Ring?

It was because Gollum, searching to regain the Ring, wandered close to Mordor and was captured and interrogated by Sauron.

The entire time Bilbo had the Ring, Sauron was quietly biding his time, and gathering his Ring-less strength, while the Ring languished, lost, in the deep caverns beneath mountains, with Gollum.

After Frodo got the Ring, a stronger Sauron became aware that the Ring was not lost, and began to actively seek the Ring, both his his servants (the Nazgul, Sauruman) and with his own consciousness.

He was actively using his powers, focused towards the Shire, to try and find the Ring, and the Ring was seeking him, as well. It makes sense that it would be more likely to draw his specific attention in the latter timeframe.


You can't really know exactly what effect it had on Bilbo though. You don't see it.

Also, Frodo did too become invisible when putting on the ring. In the scene on the hill top with the ruins, he puts it on to escape from the Nazgul. However, he gets stabbed nonetheless because the Nazgul can see him. After all, they're Saurons elite units :p

  • 3
    Well, you do see Bilbo putting on the ring at the end of his birthday party, and strolling back to Bag End apparently unaware of anything except that it makes him invisible.
    – iandotkelly
    Jun 11, 2012 at 13:30
  • Maybe he overcame his fears and made sure he put it on only for a short time. Also, to my understanding Bilbo did become mad from it, given the way he acts in the scene where he dissapears.
    – paddotk
    Jun 11, 2012 at 13:54
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    Everyone who wears the ring becomes obsessed with it, or even desires the ring like Boromir, but there is no evidence from the movies (or the books) that Bilbo experienced anything the like of which Frodo has later when wearing the ring whilst carrying it to Mordor.
    – iandotkelly
    Jun 11, 2012 at 14:02
  • 3
    There is also the scene in Rivendell where Bilbo tries to steal the ring back from Frodo, to show how it has, in fact, affected him mentally.
    – eidylon
    Sep 4, 2012 at 18:45

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