When Bilbo returns home and the hobbits are auctioning off his belongings, the auctioneer says the items are “Shire-made” and not “dwarvish reproductions.” It’s always stuck out to me because, well, dwarves are pretty important to this story.

Then, during my latest viewing, I realized that there’s something present in that scene that kind of is a dwarvish reproduction:


Reproductions look very much the same as their originals, but the difference is clear enough that they lose their value. The same is true of post-adventure Bilbo. He was whisked away by dwarves, changed by his experiences with them, and sent back as a similar but not completely identical version of himself. He still looks Shire-made and acts Shire-made to a certain extent, but something is different. So what do the hobbits do? They value him less.

As we know, the Bilbo who returns to the Shire is “not the same” Bilbo who left it. The one who returns has a dwarvish signature. And I don’t just mean the ones on the contract.