Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Perhaps exactly how The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again came to be written will never be settled. J. R. R. Tolkien himself said that inspiration for the beginning of the story came to him one day when, in the midst of grading examinations, he found that a student had turned in a blank sheet of paper. On that sheet, Tolkien wrote, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” He said that names always suggested stories to him, and that he immediately wanted to find out what hobbits were. Tolkien’s children also recall hearing parts of the story told to them at bedtime; some version of The Hobbit, perhaps incomplete, was probably in existence before 1932, when it was seen by C. S. Lewis, then a fellow professor with Tolkien at Oxford.
Whatever the immediate spark, the story that resulted was a fresh version of an age-old plot, the quest. At the very start of the story, the reader learns what hobbits are: a smaller, shyer, home-loving race related to humans; a race living in a far-distant mythical past on a world both like and unlike Earth. The central character, the young hobbit Bilbo Baggins, seems typical of his people at the beginning, content to live a quiet and unexciting life in his cozy dwelling. From the beginning, however, the story sounds a note of mystery: Gandalf, a wizard whose powers are only hinted at, has seen in Bilbo a taste for adventure and a capacity for heroism.
Gandalf knows that the dwarf Thorin...
(The entire section is 833 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Comfortably settled in his family home, Bag End, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins loves eating good food, blowing smoke rings, and living a quiet, peaceful life. The last thing he expects is an adventure, but that is exactly what the wizard Gandalf has in store for him. Gandalf appears on Bilbo’s doorstep one day, and the flustered hobbit finds himself caught up in an increasingly alarming conversation in which the wizard begins to talk of sending Bilbo on an adventure. Thoroughly discomfited, the hobbit ends the conversation and scurries back into his hole but only after inadvertently inviting the wizard to tea the next day.
When Gandalf returns, with him come thirteen dwarves, including the mighty Thorin Oakenshield. The dwarves are starting a quest to recover their ancient stronghold far to the east, where Thorin’s grandfather was King under the Mountain. Great treasure awaits them—and Bilbo, too, whom they expect to hire, on Gandalf’s recommendation, as the group’s burglar. The dwarves need all the help they can get, because sitting on the gold that awaits them at the Lonely Mountain is the dreaded dragon Smaug, who drove their forefathers away years ago.
Bilbo reluctantly joins the group, and—after meeting the hobbit—they reluctantly accept him. As uncertain as he is about the whole adventure, the dwarves are equally dubious about the hobbit’s qualifications for the expedition. Bilbo’s first burglary attempt—picking a...
(The entire section is 1333 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Tolkien’s The Hobbit, a story that has appealed to adults as well as children, provides the background to his larger work, The Lord of the Rings. All of these works find their place in the even larger series of stories on which Tolkien had been working from the 1920’s, and which were published posthumously by his son Christopher. Tolkien peopled his stories of Middle-earth with a number of traditional fictional races, including elves, dwarfs, and trolls, as well as “orcs,” goblins created by sorcery. The hobbit of the title is Bilbo Baggins, representative of a quiet, unadventurous race living in the Shire, in the west of Middle-earth. Gandalf the magician lures Bilbo, who is more adventurous than he himself thinks, into joining a group of dwarfs. They are determined to return to their home, the Lonely Mountain, kill the dragon Smaug, and recover their lost treasure and homeland.
After a number of initial adventures in which Bilbo shows his resourcefulness, they are trapped in a cave by a storm in the Misty Mountains. Caught by orcs and goblins, only Gandalf’s magic saves them. During their escape, Bilbo is separated from the group, knocked unconscious, and meets Gollum, a strange cave dweller. This juncture is the turning point of the story; without the help of others, Bilbo must defeat an opponent who will literally eat him if he loses. Providentially, Bilbo has found a ring that Gollum has lost, and after a riddle contest,...
(The entire section is 786 words.)
In the fantasy world of Middle-earth, Tolkien has created many echoes of the "real" world. Familiar human traits, both good and bad, abound in the actions of the hobbits, elves, dwarves, goblins, wizards, necromancers, dragons, and other more unusual inhabitants of this world. In his essay "On Fairy Stories," Tolkien states that one of the major values of stories about the Perilous Realm of Faerie is that such stories provide opportunities for regaining a clearer perspective on the real world. While the adventure story is an entertaining, well-constructed narrative, it is also an appreciation of the simple things in life—good and regular meals, comfortable homes, songs and traditions, and the joys of friendship. In The Hobbit an unlikely hero learns that courage, honesty, and imagination count far more than physical power.
Much of the evil that the forces of good must overcome in Middle-earth is embodied in fantastic beings: a dragon, trolls, goblins, and monstrous spiders. The kind of evil that they represent, especially greed and destructive malice, is, however, familiar to all readers, children or adults. The strongest lesson about the insidious nature of evil lies in the way in which a good dwarf, Thorin, yields to greed and almost destroys his friends. It is Bilbo's willingness to give up the wealth to which he has a right, combined with his sense of responsibility for his friends, that keeps forces for good from destroying one another and...
(The entire section is 294 words.)
The Beginning of the Quest
The Hobbit is set in the imaginary world of Middle-earth. The unidentified narrator begins the tale with a description of hobbits:
They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards….They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it).
The main character, Bilbo Baggins, is a fifty-year-old hobbit living a quiet, comfortable life. This situation is changed by Gandalf, a mysterious wizard, who is looking for someone to go on an adventure with him. Bilbo wants no part of any adventures and quickly excuses himself to go back into his hobbit-hole. Gandalf, secretly amused, scratches a sign into Bilbo's door as it closes.
The next day, Gandalf and a band of thirteen dwarves visit Bilbo. Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarves, tries to recruit the reluctant hobbit to help recover his father's treasure from the wicked dragon, Smaug. Aided by a map, the group plans to cross the Misty Mountains and the Mirkwood Forest to reach Smaug's hideout....
(The entire section is 1809 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
Bilbo Baggins lives in a dry, comfortable hole in the ground. Bilbo is a hobbit, a little person about half the height of an ordinary man. Hobbits have fat bellies and shoeless, hairy feet. They like food, comfort, and simple lives. Among the hobbits, Bilbo’s family is highly respected for being predictable and never having adventures—but that is about to change.
One day Bilbo is out in the sunshine smoking a pipe when Gandalf the wizard stops to talk with him. Gandalf explains that he wants to find a companion for an adventure, and Bilbo scoffs, saying that nobody in his neighborhood would agree to go along. Gandalf tells Bilbo that an adventure would be good for him. This scares Bilbo so much that he puts out his pipe and flees into his hole. He does not want to be discourteous, though, and finds himself inviting the wizard to tea the next day as he hurries inside. Gandalf laughs and makes a strange mark on Bilbo’s front door.
The next day, thirteen dwarves arrive at Bilbo’s house, each of them stepping inside and hanging up his hood just as if he had been invited. Gandalf comes too. Bilbo rushes around making tea and coffee and getting out cakes and scones for the unexpected guests. He is overwhelmed and not at all please with being imposed upon in such a way, but the dwarves all help him get out the food and clean up after they eat—except for Thorin, the leader, who is too important to do such work.
After tea, the dwarves play music and sing a song that makes Bilbo imagine leaving home and going exploring through mountains and caves. He tries to sneak away and hide, but the dwarves and Gandalf tell him to stay. Thorin gives a speech about how they will all embark the next morning on an adventure that is so dangerous they may never return. This idea upsets Bilbo so much that he faints. The dwarves carry him to the sofa in the next room, but he can still hear them talking in the parlor.
When Bilbo overhears one of the dwarves, Gloin, describe him as cowardly and “more like a grocer than a burglar,” his pride gets the best of him. He marches back into the parlor and announces that he is perfectly capable of doing anything they want him to do. Gloin protests, but Gandalf says that nobody should underestimate Bilbo:
There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.
Gandalf gets out a map,...
(The entire section is 634 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
In the morning, Bilbo awakens to find his house empty and his kitchen a mess. The twelve dwarves and the wizard have helped themselves to food and then left without washing up. Bilbo is mostly relieved—but also slightly disappointed—to realize that the group has set off without him. He eats breakfast, cleans up, and is sitting down to a second breakfast when Gandalf arrives and demands to know why Bilbo is not on his way to meet the dwarves. Thorin had left Bilbo a note inviting him on their adventure and offering a fourteenth share of the treasure for his services as a burglar, but Bilbo had not found it. Gandalf shoves the poor hobbit out the door so quickly that he does not even have a chance to grab a hat or a pocket handkerchief.
The dwarves tell Bilbo that he does not need a handkerchief, and they loan him a hood to use for a hat. They also give him a pony, then they all set out on the journey. For a few weeks, Bilbo rather enjoys himself. Their adventure seems to consist of riding a pony in the sun and listening to dwarves sing songs and tell stories. Meals are a bit too scarce for Bilbo’s liking, but otherwise it is quite nice.
The journey takes a turn for the worse one day when rain soaks the travelers and their stores. Gandalf disappears without saying where he is going, and Bilbo and the dwarves are feeling grumpy as they make camp. They are unable to start a fire, and their mood worsens. Suddenly Balin, the lookout, tells everyone he sees a light that looks like it might be a campfire. They are in dangerous lands, so they argue about whether it would be wise to investigate. Eventually the prospect of a fire and a warm meal entice them to brave the dangers and investigate—besides, they say, they did bring a burglar.
Together, the dwarves and Bilbo creep toward the light. When they get close, Thorin orders Bilbo to go alone to find out whose it is. If he gets in trouble, Bilbo is supposed to “hoot twice like a barn-owl and once like a screech-owl” so the dwarves will know to try and rescue him. Bilbo has no idea how to hoot “even once like any kind of owl,” but, like all hobbits, he can move quietly in the woods. He creeps right up next to the fire.
Three huge trolls are sitting next to the fire, complaining loudly that they have only mutton and not “manflesh” to eat. Bilbo knows that, as a burglar, he is supposed to pick their pockets or steal their meat—or simply...
(The entire section is 800 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves travel onward for many more days. Bilbo is not enjoying the trip, as he did at the beginning. He often finds himself missing his hobbit hole. When he sees a mountain in the distance, he asks whether it is their destination. Balin scoffs and says it is only the first of the Misty Mountains. The little group has to cross the Wilds, climb over or under the Misty Mountains, and then journey through more Wilds beyond that before coming to the Lonely Mountain where Smaug the dragon lives. When Bilbo understands how far they still have to go, he feels worn out and sad.
One day Gandalf says they will soon stop and rest for a while. He has sent a message to Elrond of Rivendell, an elf-friend who will let them stay with him and replenish their stores. This idea cheers Bilbo and the dwarves a great deal, but the journey to Rivendell is longer and slower than they imagined. Tea time passes without notice that afternoon, and the day grows dark as they cross fields and marshes. Finally Gandalf calls out that they have arrived, and Bilbo looks down into the hidden valley of the elves.
As Bilbo rides into the valley, he hears elves singing in the trees. The singers tease the dwarves, who do not generally like elves. They direct the travelers toward the Last Homely House, where Elrond lives. Bilbo and his companions spend two weeks in Elrond’s home, eating, refreshing themselves, and listening to the elves’ wonderful stories. Rivendell is a sort of paradise, and Bilbo feels that he would gladly stay forever, even if it meant never seeing his hobbit hole again.
Elrond tells the dwarves and Gandalf the names of the blades they retrieved from the trolls’ cave. They were made by the High Elves of the West for use in the Goblin Wars. He says it is a mystery how the blades came into the hands of trolls, but he guesses that they have a long history. He supposes that the trolls took them from plunderers who took them from a dragon who took them from their original owners.
Although Elrond disapproves of dwarves’ love for treasure, he agrees to look at their map and offer advice about how to approach the Lonely Mountain. On the map, he notices moon runes, characters magically written so they can only be read in moonlight on the anniversary of the night they were written. These runes instruct the travelers to wait outside the secret entrance of the Lonely Mountain on Durin’s Day, the...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Bilbo and the dwarves think they might reach the Lonely Mountain before the very next Durin’s Day, but Gandalf is not so optimistic. He knows that the journey will be dangerous and slow. As the little group climbs into the Misty Mountains, Bilbo once again finds himself pining after his hobbit hole. He thinks about the hobbits of his neighborhood and the happy time they must be spending, blackberry picking and harvesting, while he is traveling farther and farther from home in the cheerless mountains. The dwarves are equally gloomy.
When a thunderstorm begins, everyone’s mood grows gloomier still. Stone giants come out and hurl rocks at one another in the hills. Everyone is terrified that they will get caught in this battle, so Thorin sends Fili and Kili, the youngest of the dwarves, to look for shelter. They soon come back with the news that they have found a cave large enough to accommodate all of them and all of their ponies. Gandalf asks if it is uninhabited, and Fili and Kili assure him that all is well. Everyone packs up and moves to the cave, which is indeed dry and cozy. Gandalf lights his wand and searches the room for any sign of danger, but the cave seems empty. The travelers unload the ponies and spread their clothes out to dry. Then they lie down to smoke before sleeping.
That night, for the first time, Bilbo is truly useful to the group. He has trouble sleeping, and he dreams that a crack opens at the back of the cave. He awakens to see that his dream is true, and he cries out loudly. At that moment, several goblins appear and snatch up the dwarves and the hobbit. Bilbo’s shout came just soon enough to alert Gandalf, who disappears in a flash, killing several goblins in the process. Nobody knows where he has gone. The goblins seize Bilbo and the dwarves and run away fast, sealing the hole in the wall behind them. They laugh and sing horrible songs as they carry their victims toward a fire in the middle of the mountain, where the Great Goblin awaits them. It seems that the goblins plan on enslaving them in their tunnels.
The goblins lead the travelers down into an enormous cave that acts as their throne room. The Great Goblin surveys the travelers and accuses them of trying to steal from his people. Thorin speaks for the group and claims that they were only taking shelter as they passed through. The goblins call him a liar, especially when they see his sword, a blade that is renowned for having...
(The entire section is 687 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Bilbo wakes up in such darkness that he cannot tell by looking whether his eyes are open or shut. He knows he is in a goblin cave, but he does not remember how he came to be knocked out or why he has been left behind. He crawls through the dark and puts his hand on something small and round—a ring. He puts it in his pocket. Then he sits down and smokes his pipe and looks at his blade, which he sees is glowing faintly blue. This, he knows by now, means that it is an elvish blade, and it gives him a little hope. He determines that there is nothing to do but go on.
Slowly, Bilbo makes his way down a path through the darkness. After a long walk, he comes to a dark underground lake, where he meets a small, slimy creature called Gollum. Gollum takes one look at Bilbo and decides that he would make a wonderful meal. However, he is not particularly hungry and he sees that Bilbo is armed, so he decides to be cautious. He suggests a game of riddles; he thinks this will give him time to figure out whether Bilbo can defend himself. Bilbo agrees; he thinks the game will give him time to determine whether Gollum is dangerous. If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show Bilbo the way out of the cave.
Gollum and Bilbo exchange several riddles. By luck, cleverness, and some knowledge of the same sorts of riddles, they each keep getting the correct answers. Gollum’s riddles become darker and more centered on eating, which makes Bilbo nervous. Finally Bilbo cannot think of another riddle. He puts a hand in his pocket and feels the ring. “What have I got in my pocket?” he asks. Gollum thinks this is a riddle. He protests that he cannot know the answer, but he guesses three times and fails to get the answer. Bilbo demands to be shown the way out, and Gollum pretends to give in—but first, he says, he has to go and fetch something.
Gollum wants to get his precious ring, a ring of power that turns him invisible. He plans to sneak up to Bilbo while wearing the ring and kill him. He goes home to a little island where he lives and tries to find it, but the ring is gone. Gollum howls in anger and returns to Bilbo, now suspecting that Bilbo has the ring. When Gollum grows increasingly angry, Bilbo gets scared and runs away. He slips the ring on his finger, and he is surprised to see Gollum bound past him as if he is not there. After some reflection, Bilbo realizes that the ring makes him invisible. He decides to follow Gollum.
(The entire section is 589 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Bilbo walks away from the mountain and into the wild. He soon realizes that his journey has taken him to the other side of the mountain, but he has no idea where his friends are. He wanders for a while, trying to decide whether to go back and try to find them. Just when he has decided it is his duty to try to rescue the others from the goblins, he hears voices. He puts on the ring to make himself invisible while he investigates.
To Bilbo’s delight, the voices belong to his fellow travelers. He creeps among them and listens to Gandalf arguing with the dwarves. Gandalf says that they must go back to rescue Bilbo. The dwarves disagree; they complain that the little hobbit is useless and that it was silly of him to get lost underground. In the middle of this argument, Bilbo takes off his ring and announces that he has saved himself. The others ask how he got away, and he tells the story—but he leaves out the part about the magic ring. The dwarves think far more highly of him after this, and Gandalf reminds them that he has always said Bilbo would prove useful.
The travelers have lost their ponies and all of their food, and there is no time to hunt or gather supplies. They have to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the mountains before nightfall, when the goblins will pursue them. Bilbo and the dwarves travel as quickly as they can, and they soon enter a dark wood. A little while after nightfall, they hear wolves cry, and they all climb trees—all except Bilbo, who is too short to reach the branches. Dori climbs down and risks his life to hoist Bilbo into the branches.
The wolves, called Wargs, cannot climb. However, they are very intelligent, and they are partners with the goblins. They post guards at the base of each tree and hold a meeting. Gandalf, who understands the Wargs’ language, hears them discussing their plans to join forces with the goblins and ransack local villages. The Wargs know nothing about Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves, but they assume the little group is in the woods to spy for the villagers.
Gandalf knows that their captors will not let them go. He uses magic to set fire to pinecones, which he throws at the wolves. This catches fire to the fur of several wolves, sending them into a panic. However, they do not all retreat. Soon the goblins arrive and control the fires, laughing at the wolves for being afraid of mere flames. The goblins decide to light the...
(The entire section is 557 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
The next morning, the eagles fly the travelers far to the east and deposit them on a large, standing rock that Gandalf calls the Carrock. Gandalf says he will take them to see somebody who lives in the area. Bilbo and the dwarves ask for information about this mysterious person, and Gandalf reluctantly explains. Beorn, he tells them, is a shape-shifter who sometimes appears as a man and sometimes as a bear. He is a cranky fellow who likes to be left alone. Gandalf takes Bilbo to Beorn’s house, and he leaves the others with instructions to follow, two at a time, at five-minute intervals.
Beorn does not normally allow strangers into his home. However, he knows Gandalf’s cousin, and Bilbo is such an nonthreatening character that nobody could object to his presence. They sit down, and Gandalf begins telling the story of their adventure in the Misty Mountains. He is frequently interrupted as the dwarves arrive in pairs. Beorn allows each pair of dwarves to stay; he is so eager to hear what happens next that he does not want to stop and throw anyone out. When Gandalf finishes, Beorn says that it is a wonderful story and allows everyone to stay and eat with him.
The next day, Beorn and Gandalf both disappear. At nightfall, Gandalf returns and says that he has tracked Beorn and a group of bears to the edge of the lands of the goblins and Wargs. At first the dwarves think Beorn is going to betray them, but Gandalf knows he is just going to find out whether their story is true. When Beorn returns, he is pleased because he knows that the adventure happened as Gandalf said. He offers to help the travelers with the next leg of their journey.
Beorn supplies Bilbo and the dwarves with as much food as they can carry, and he explains the route they must travel toward the Lonely Mountain. They must cross a dangerous forest, Mirkwood, and they must not leave the path through the forest. He lends the travelers ponies for the trip to Mirkwood but makes everyone promise to send the ponies home when they reach Mirkwood. They set off and travel swiftly. Each night Bilbo sees a dark shape like a bear in the woods by their camp. He tells Gandalf, but the wizard says to be quiet about it. It is only Beorn, watching over the travelers and his ponies.
Gandalf always said that he only planned to accompany Bilbo and the dwarves on part of their journey. At the edge of Mirkwood, he says it is time for him to go his own way....
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Bilbo and the dwarves walk through Mirkwood, which is such a thick forest that after a day or so they do not see any sunlight hitting the ground. The nights are so dark that it is impossible to make out any shapes at all. Bilbo thinks the forest is worse than the goblin tunnels. Even the dwarves, who are used to tunneling, dislike the oppressive feel of this forest.
The travelers know they should not leave the path or drink the water from Mirkwood’s one stream, so they have to eat and drink only what they can carry. They try to shoot some of the animals they see, but they only manage to bring down a single black squirrel, which tastes terrible.
Eventually the travelers come to a wide stream with black water. Beorn has warned them not to drink it or touch it, so they are careful to follow his instructions. They spot a boat on the opposite shore and use a rope and hook to catch and drag it to them. They cross the stream in small groups. Just as the last group is crossing, a herd of deer appears, and the dwarves try to shoot them. One of the deer, in its hurry to get away, knocks Bombur into the water. Bilbo and the other dwarves pull Bombur out and find that he has fallen into an enchanted sleep. Now they have to carry him.
Eventually the food and water run out. The dwarves send Bilbo up a tree to find out if they are near the edge of the forest. They are quite near the edge, but they are in a small valley, so Bilbo only sees a sea of trees in every direction. He climbs down in dismay. That night, he and the dwarves spot lights in the forest. Bombur, who has finally awakened, tells them about a dream he has had in which he enjoyed a feast with wood elves, the king of whom had a crown of leaves. His stories make the hungry travelers reckless, and they all leave the path to go investigate the lights.
Three times Bilbo and the dwarves approach the lights, and three times the lights vanish. Soon the group is lost in the black forest, and everyone gets separated. Bilbo sits down at the base of a tree to sleep, and he awakens later to find his legs being tied up by a giant spider. He uses his sword to free himself and kill the spider. His success surprises him, and he begins to believe himself far braver than he had suspected. Afterward he has far more confidence. He names his sword Sting.
Bilbo puts on his ring and creeps deeper into the forest, looking for his friends. He finds them tied up...
(The entire section is 753 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Bilbo and dwarves are hopelessly lost, so they simply pick a direction and walk. Shortly after they set out, the wood-elves capture them. The dwarves are so hungry and sick after the spider attack that they are actually relieved. They lay down their weapons and allow themselves to be marched to the Elvenking’s castle. Only Bilbo is not captured. He puts on his ring and follows at a distance.
The Elvenking questions the dwarves closely, but they refuse to tell him why they have come to his forest or where they are going. Frustrated, the king has them all locked up in separate cells. For many long days they stay there, with plenty to eat but no way out. Bilbo, meanwhile, wanders invisibly through the castle in despair. He is unwilling to leave his friends but unable to find a way to save them. He slips in and out of the gates several times, but he sees no way to get the dwarves out without starting a fight they would have no hope of winning.
Eventually Bilbo discovers Thorin locked away in a particularly deep cell. Eventually he finds a chance to approach when the hall is deserted, and he whispers to Thorin through the keyhole. Thorin is thrilled. After hearing of Bilbo’s success against the spider, he seems sure the little hobbit will think of a way to help him and his fellow dwarves escape. Bilbo dislikes being in charge of the escape plan. For a long time he cannot think of anything to do. Eventually, however, he discovers another entrance to the castle: a stream runs out through a water-gate. Every now and then the elves dump empty wine and food barrels into this stream, then they open the gate to allow the barrels to float down the river. This gives Bilbo an idea.
One day Bilbo is lucky enough to discover the castle butler and chief guard both passed out from drinking too much wine. Bilbo steals the butler’s key ring and releases the dwarves from their imprisonment. He leads them to the back of the castle, where the latest group of empty barrels stands waiting to be deposited into the stream. The dwarves dislike the idea of hiding inside the barrels, but they see no other way out, so they allow Bilbo to pack them inside. When the castle servants dump the barrels into the steam, Bilbo hops into the water and clings to a barrel, allowing himself to be swept out the water-gate and down toward the edge of Mirkwood.
The barrels float to a bend in the river, where a group of raft elves gather them...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
On the way to the Long Lake, Bilbo eavesdrops on the raft elves’ talk and learns that floods and earthquakes have made the land around the Lonely Mountain extremely treacherous. The paths that lead out of Mirkwood are overrun by swamp, leaving the river—the very path Bilbo and the dwarves are traveling—as the only safe route. This information does little to cheer Bilbo, who is wet, cold, and uncomfortable. Besides that, the sight of the Lonely Mountain fills him with dread.
In the wasteland around the Lonely Mountain, one human community has survived: Lake-town. It is built on platforms on the Long Lake. Leaving the barrels at the entrance to the village, the raft elves go up to meet the town’s Master for a feast. When they are gone, Bilbo sets to work untying the barrels and letting the dwarves out. The dwarves are battered, starving, and half-drowned after their uncomfortable journey down the river. Many of them can hardly move. Thorin, Fili, Kili, and Bilbo leave the worst sufferers on the bank of the river and walk up to the town to announce their presence.
The townspeople are gathered at a feast with the raft elves. Thorin marches in and announces that he is the heir to the throne of the Lonely Mountain. The town’s Master thinks immediately that Thorin is a fraud, but the townspeople have many legends about the King under the Mountain and the riches that will be brought by his return. The people cheer and celebrate. The Master decides that he has no choice but to pretend to be happy to see Thorin and his company. He gives the dwarves a house to stay in and he orders his people to feed them and help the ones who are injured.
The raft elves are less happy to see the travelers. They protest that the dwarves are the Elvenking’s prisoners, but Thorin points out that elves cannot imprison the guests of a town of men. The raft elves leave angrily and carry the story back to the Elvenking. Unlike the men, the king does not believe that the dwarves will kill the dragon, Smaug. He thinks they must be planning a burglary instead. The Elvenking is angry at being outsmarted by the dwarves and resolves to make it difficult for them to carry their spoils back through his territory.
The dwarves spend a week healing and resting, and then Thorin goes to tell the Master of Lake-town that they will soon continue on to the Lonely Mountain. This surprises the Master, who never expected the dwarves to make...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Accompanied by a few men from Lake-town, Bilbo and his friends ride in boats to the lake’s far shore. There, in the wastelands surrounding the Lonely Mountain, the lake men help them unload before returning home; they will not stay this close to the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo and the dwarves will face Smaug alone. Seeing the wreckage of the land that used to be their home, the dwarves grow gloomy. Only Bilbo remains somewhat hopeful.
Bilbo and a small group of dwarves take a peek at the mountain’s front entrance. It looks burned and wasted, and a foul smoke drifts out. It is far too dangerous to enter the main gate. The little group rejoins the others and helps to look for the secret side gate. It takes a great deal of effort, but eventually a search party finds a steep, winding staircase up the mountain. Following its treacherous course, they find a smooth rock face that must be the entrance. Everyone feels excited, and the group moves the camp closer. There is a small, sheltered grassy space before the rock face, and they call this the “door-step.”
Unfortunately, the travelers soon find that opening the gate is impossible, even with mining tools. The entrance is closed with such strong magic that they cannot find even a crack in the stone, let alone a keyhole. The days are turning toward the end of autumn, and Bilbo and his friends have no idea how to get inside the Lonely Mountain. The dwarves begin to grumble and say Bilbo should find a way. They even discuss sending him in by the front gate. This leaves Bilbo feeling resentful. Ever since Gandalf left, everyone has acted as though it is the hobbit’s job to fix problems.
The travelers have all forgotten about the message Elrond read in the moon-runes, which instructed them to watch the secret entrance on the final day of autumn. When that day arrives, Bilbo happens to be sitting glumly on the doorstep, daydreaming of his hobbit-hole. When he sees a thrush knock a snail against a rock in the center of the door-step, he suddenly remembers the mention of the thrush in the message. He calls the dwarves, and everyone watches breathlessly until a ray of light hits the center of the flat rock face. A small hole appears in the door, and Bilbo shouts excitedly to Thorin to use his key. The key turns, and everyone works together to push the door open. As darkness falls, they all stand staring down the passage that leads into the mountain.
(The entire section is 433 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
When the door is open, Thorin launches into a speech about Bilbo’s bravery and value to the group. He says that now is the time for Bilbo to earn his share of the treasure. Crossly, Bilbo interrupts and says that he is well aware that Thorin wants him to go inside and try to steal from the dragon, although he feels he is already entitled to his share because of the many times he has saved the dwarves. He says he will go down and investigate and asks who wants to join him. The dwarves go quiet, except for Balin, who offers to take a few steps inside the door. This is just the way dwarves are. They always expect others to take risks for their benefit—but they also do their best to help their friends out of trouble. Dwarves are not heroic, but they are “decent enough people...if you don’t expect too much.”
Bilbo and Balin creep down a wide tunnel. When Balin has gone as far as he is willing to go, Bilbo continues alone. When he nears the bottom, he begins to see steam float up the tunnel, and he hears the low, throbbing sound of a gigantic animal. He feels so frightened that he almost gives up. It takes all the courage he has to go on after that; this requires more bravery than any other moment in his life. Eventually Bilbo reaches the dragon’s bedroom, where he finds a pile of treasure so magnificent he is overcome by desire for it. Until this point, the idea of wealth has never moved him much, but now he understands why the dwarves want it so badly. While the dragon sleeps, he steals a huge golden cup and runs back up the passage to his friends.
When the dwarves see the cup, they cheer and celebrate and congratulate Bilbo on a job well done. However, their opinions change when they hear a roar from below. Like all dragons, Smaug knows every item in his horde, and he notices immediately that the cup is gone. Bilbo and the dwarves hide in the secret tunnel while Smaug flies through the countryside and eats their ponies. Now the dwarves all tell Bilbo that he was foolish to steal from under Smaug’s nose. Bilbo defends himself, reminding them that burglary is his job.
The next day, when he thinks Smaug will be asleep after hunting all night, Bilbo again tiptoes down to the lair. Smaug is waiting with one eye cracked open. He cannot see Bilbo, who is wearing his ring, but he can smell him. Smaug asks who Bilbo is, and the hobbit replies in a series of riddles, one of which hints at having come from the...
(The entire section is 715 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Bilbo and his friends wait fearfully inside the mountain for a long, dark while; it feels like they have been there for days. Finally Thorin suggests trying to open the gate even if the dragon is on the other side. The dwarves try, but that entire part of the mountain has been crushed; no one will ever enter or exit by that way again. Everyone falls into despair except Bilbo, who points out that he has been down the tunnel to the dragon’s lair twice without getting caught. He suggests going again—this time all together.
The dwarves agree, and they all walk as quietly as possible down the passageway. When they reach the treasure, Smaug is not there. The dwarves send Bilbo out to investigate, but he finds no dragon and no information about where the dragon might have gone. As he climbs the mountain of treasure, he finds the Arkenstone, the heart of the mountain. It is an enormous jewel that was the pride of the dwarves when Thorin’s grandfather was King under the Mountain. Bilbo is stunned by the stone’s beauty, and he puts it in his pocket. Thorin promised him one fourteenth of the treasure and said he could choose his part first. He decides that the Arkenstone is the part he wants. He is not sure if the dwarves will let him have it, but he keeps it close for the time being.
When they are sure Smaug is not at home, the dwarves come out of the tunnel to investigate the treasure. They are astounded by the magnificent pile of gold and jewels, and they quickly pocket some bits and pieces. They take swords and armor as well, and Thorin gives Bilbo a coat of mithril, a special armor made by elves. A celebration begins, but Bilbo stops it, pointing out that they are in grave danger. Thorin immediately recognizes that the hobbit is right, and he quickly leads everyone to the front entrance.
Outside, the travelers stop and discuss what to do next. They see no sign of Smaug, but they know he could be hiding and waiting to ambush them. Balin suggests climbing to a lookout tower so they will be able to see their surroundings without being seen. Everyone agrees that this is a good idea. When they arrive at their destination, Smaug is still missing. Bilbo and some of the dwarves collapse to the ground, greatly in need of rest. The rest sit by the door and look around. They see a large gathering of birds to the south, but nobody has any idea what it could mean.
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
On the same night Smaug blocks the side entrance to the Lonely Mountain, he flies out to Lake-town. Some of the men in the town are out walking, and they notice strange lights coming from the Lonely Mountain in the distance. One of them says that it must be Thorin, back at work mining gold. Another, a grimmer fellow, says that it is probably Smaug out marauding. The others tell him to think about something more cheerful for a change. They then see a golden glow near the head of the lake, far away, and some say that the rivers are running golden now that the King beneath the Mountain has returned—but the grim man runs to the Master, crying out that the dragon is coming. Alarms sound and the bridges are flung down. Because of the man’s warning, Smaug finds the townspeople armed and ready when he arrives.
Smaug flies over the town, angry that the people are daring to fight him. The lake provides a moat that makes the attack difficult, so he flies over again, looking for vulnerability. He is met with a hail of arrows. This enrages him, and he spits fire down on the town. He watches gleefully as it burns, and he feels giddy with happiness as he imagines chasing and eating the last survivors. To his surprise, however, the people do not give up. The grim man, Bard, runs back and forth urging people to fight on. Even as the town burns around them, he and a few brave archers continue to fight.
When Bard is down to his last arrow, he hears a fluttering, and a thrush lands on his shoulder. It speaks, and to his surprise he can understand its language. It tells him about the hole Bilbo saw in the dragon’s armor. Bard shoots his last arrow straight into that hole. It disappears into Smaug’s flesh. The dragon shrieks and falls down dead on the town, which sinks with him into the lake.
Most of the town’s people had climbed into boats to escape the dragon’s attack. Their boats survive, as do their fields and animals. These people are lucky—but they are also angry at the loss of their homes. They turn on the Master, who abandoned the town almost immediately. The Master tells them that they should be angry at Thorin and the dwarves, who are responsible for angering the dragon. Bard says this is ridiculous because Thorin and his companions are probably dead. However, the mention of the expedition reminds him that the dragon’s treasure is now lying unguarded beneath the Lonely Mountain. He resolves to get it if he...
(The entire section is 582 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Back at the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo and the dwarves watch the gathering of birds with growing wonder. The thrush returns, and Balin comments that he wishes it were a raven. He does not know the thrush’s language, but the ravens can communicate with dwarves. The thrush flies away, and Balin watches it go, murmuring that it seems to understand everything it hears. Not long later, the thrush reappears with a very old raven, Roäc, who explains that Smaug is dead and that Lake-town is destroyed. Roäc says the men and elves are coming to seek a share in the treasure, and he points out that the small group of dwarves cannot defend the Lonely Mountain alone. He advises Thorin to avoid negotiating with the Master of Lake-town but to speak instead with Bard, the man who slew the dragon. Roäc believes that a new era of peace can begin for dwarves, elves, and men if Thorin acts wisely.
Thorin grows angry at the suggestion that anyone but his friends and family should ask for a share of the treasure. He has spent long hours inside the mountain looking at the jewels, and he does not want to give up any of it—not even to the needy townspeople or to the heroes who killed Smaug. He asks Roäc to send messengers to his cousins, asking them to send reinforcements to defend the gold. Roäc does not seem to approve of this choice, but he does as Thorin asks.
The dwarves rush back to the mountain and begin fortifying it against an invasion. Dwarves are skilled at such work, so the job gets finished quickly. When the men and elves arrive a few days later, they are astonished to see a large wall preventing their forward progress. Bard speaks with Thorin, pointing out that he killed Smaug and that part of the treasure belonged to his own ancestors as well as to Thorin’s. After some deliberation, he demands one twelfth of the treasure under the mountain.
Thorin flatly refuses to give Bard any part of the treasure, no matter what claim he may have on it. He accuses the men, and especially the elves they have brought with them, of being thieves and looters. He says he will speak with Bard again only if he lays down his arms and orders the elves to leave.
Bilbo feels dissatisfied with the way events are progressing. He is not as greedy as the dwarves are, and it seems just to him that the men who killed Smaug should have some share in the treasure—especially since they are now in great need. As far as Bilbo is...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
The men and elves make a camp outside the Lonely Mountain, keeping Bilbo and the dwarves under siege. The dwarves spend much of their time in the dragon’s lair, examining and organizing the treasure. Thorin tells everyone about the Arkenstone and says that it belongs to him because it belonged to his father:
That stone of all the treasure I name unto myself, and I will be avenged on anyone who finds it and withholds it.
This worries Bilbo, but he keeps the stone a secret anyway. In the back of his mind, he is beginning to form a plan.
After a period of stalemate, Roäc arrives with news that Thorin’s cousin Dain is marching toward their location with a force of five hundred dwarves. Roäc points out that this army will not arrive unnoticed and that Dain may have to fight men and elves long before he reaches the Lonely Mountain. This is a battle that the dwarves are not likely to win. Roäc also claims that the dwarves have little to gain even if they do win. It is winter, and Thorin has almost no food stored. He and his friends cannot survive without the help of their neighbors. Thorin stands his ground, saying stubbornly that the winter will be as hard for the men and elves as it will be for the dwarves.
When Bilbo hears this, he makes up his mind. When the night is dark, he volunteers to keep watch for Bombur, who is eager for sleep. Then he sneaks out to the camp of the men and the elves, where he demands to speak with Bard. The men and elves are shocked at the sight of the little hobbit in elvish mail, but Bard and the Elvenking agree to meet with him. Bilbo explains that he wants peace and that Thorin is unlikely to give in. He also informs them that Dain and his force is coming and that battle seems inevitable.
Bilbo gives Bard the Arkenstone and asks him to use it in his bargaining. He feels some regret as he gives up the beautiful stone, but he tells himself that it is worth the loss if he can only get home. Bard and the Elvenking marvel over the stone and over Bilbo. They are amazed that he would take such a risk for peace, and they ask him to stay in honor in their camp rather than return to the dwarves. Bilbo refuses; he says he belongs with his friends, even if they are going to be angry at him.
On his way out, Bilbo meets Gandalf, who tells him he has done far better than anyone could have expected. Bilbo tries to ask the old...
(The entire section is 539 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
The next morning, Bard and the Elvenking come to the mountain’s entrance with a cloaked old man. They ask Thorin if he would be willing to trade for some of his gold, and they show him the Arkenstone. Thorin is appalled that his enemies have the stone, and he says he should not have to buy back what is his own. He accuses them of stealing, but Bilbo admits that he gave Bard the stone. Thorin shakes Bilbo, cursing him and Gandalf for choosing him, and he threatens to throw the little hobbit onto the rocks below.
The old man beside Bard and the Elvenking throws off his cloak and reveals himself to be Gandalf. He tells Thorin to make a deal and to refrain from hurting Bilbo. Furious, Thorin calls Bilbo “descendant of rats” and demands that he explain himself. Bilbo answers that he took the Arkenstone as his fourteenth of the treasure and that it was his own property to give. Thorin declares that he will consider Bilbo an enemy forever and tells him to leave as a traitor. However, he promises to send a fourteenth of the gold and silver tomorrow in exchange for the Arkenstone. The other dwarves watch sadly as Bilbo goes, but Thorin does not regret losing him. He plots how to get the Arkenstone back without having to give up any of the treasure.
The next day, Dain arrives in the valley with his force of five hundred strong, armed dwarves. He demands to be allowed to pass by the forces of men and elves so he can join his cousin in the Lonely Mountain. Bard and the Elvenking refuse. They know that, once joined, the dwarves will likely refuse to give up any of their treasure. The dwarves are on the point of attacking when Gandalf appears between the two sides and calls them to a halt. He informs them that an army of goblins and Wargs is approaching, hoping to take control of the Lonely Mountain.
At this news, the men, elves, and dwarves join forces and stand together to fight the goblins. The battle that follows is known as the Battle of the Five Armies, and Bilbo hates it most of all his terrifying experiences. However, it is by far the most exciting—and so it is the story he most likes to tell afterward, when he is safe at home. In truth, he is insignificant in the battle, and he wears his ring most of the time to stay invisible. A magic ring cannot protect a person from being injured by flying arrows or spears, but it “prevents your head from being specially chosen for a sweeping stroke” by a sword or...
(The entire section is 546 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Bilbo wakes up where he fell and is surprised to find himself alone among the rocks. He lost consciousness while wearing his ring, and nobody has been able to find him. When a man comes looking for him, Bilbo takes off his ring and learns that his side has won the battle. The man carries the aching Bilbo to camp. There he speaks to Thorin, who is lying on his deathbed from battle wounds. Thorin says he wants to “part in friendship,” and he and Bilbo forgive each other. Just before he dies, the dwarf says:
If more of use valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
After Thorin dies, Bilbo cries alone for some time. Later, people tell him about the end of the battle. The eagles helped turn the tide, along with Beorn, who also arrived near the end and killed the goblin leader.
The dwarves bury Thorin deep in the mountain, along with the Arkenstone and his sword. Dain becomes King under the Mountain, and he honors Thorin’s promise to give Bilbo’s share of the treasure to Bard. One fourteenth of the treasure is an enormous fortune. Even after sharing some of it with the townspeople and the elves, Bard is a wealthy man. He offers to give much of his gold to Bilbo, but Bilbo refuses; he says carrying it will make his return journey too hard. In the end he accepts only the amount of gold and silver that one pony can carry.
After the funeral, Bilbo bids good-bye to the dwarves and sets out toward home. At the beginning, he and Gandalf and Beorn travel with the wood-elves, but only the wood-elves enter Mirkwood. Now that the goblins are defeated, Gandalf and Beorn feel that it is safe enough to skirt the forest to the south, and Bilbo goes with them. Bilbo gives the Elvenking a pearl necklace as a good-bye present because he feels he should pay for the food he stole while in the wood-elves’ castle.
By this time, Bilbo is extremely lonely for his hobbit hole and desperate to get back to the quiet life he left behind. Gandalf accompanies Bilbo throughout the journey. They travel with Beorn to his home before pressing on to the Misty Mountains. As they cross the highest point, Bilbo looks back at the lands where he met Beorn, the wood-elves, and Smaug.
(The entire section is 407 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
By May, Gandalf and Bilbo have made it over the Misty Mountains. They return to Rivendell, where they are greeted by happy elves once again. They rest and share stories, and Bilbo learns what else was happening in the world while he and the dwarves traveled through Mirkwood. Gandalf and a group of white wizards have fought an evil ruler, the Necromancer, and driven him from his lands in Mirkwood. From now on, Gandalf says, the lands of the North will be safer than they have been for some time. However, the Necromancer is not dead, and Gandalf knows that he is still dangerous even if he is farther away.
Gandalf and Bilbo rest and gather their strength in Rivendell, but this time Bilbo is not tempted to stay forever. He is eager to get back home. Gandalf reminds him that they still have a long journey ahead, but Bilbo says he does not mind. It is, after all, the last journey he has to make before he arrives at the place where he wants to be. As they make the trip, Bilbo looks for the places where his first few adventures occurred. He and Gandalf return to the trolls’ cave and gather the treasure there. Bilbo tries to give Gandalf his share, but Gandalf says that Bilbo may need more gold than he imagines. Eventually Bilbo accepts his half.
When at last Bilbo reaches his home, he finds it full of people. He has been declared dead, and his relatives, the Sackville-Bagginses, are trying to take ownership of his house. It takes him a great deal of time to convince people that he is indeed alive. Many of his possessions have already been sold, and Bilbo pays a great deal of money to get them back. The Sackville-Bagginses claim that the returned Bilbo is an impostor, and they are angry when they do not get to move into his hole.
Bilbo now has the respect of elves, dwarves, and wizards—but he has lost the respect of his fellow hobbits. His neighbors refuse to believe most of his stories about his adventures. They declare him a queer sort and avoid him. This does not bother him much, and he spends much of his time writing poetry and visiting elves.
One day some years later, Bilbo is working on his memoirs when he is interrupted by a knock at the door. When he goes to see who it is, he finds Gandalf and Balin on the doorstep. They give him all the news about life at the Lonely Mountain and in the rebuilt town of Dale below it, which Bard governs. The people are prospering and all is well. As they chat,...
(The entire section is 482 words.)