The Hobbit Summary

The Hobbit is a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien about Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who embarks on an adventure with the wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves.

  • Bilbo joins Gandalf and the dwarves on their journey to the Lonely Mountain, the dwarves' ancestral home, to defeat the dragon Smaug.

  • On the way, Bilbo and his companions face many hardships, including encounters with trolls, elves, goblins, and a creature called Gollum.

  • Bilbo takes Gollum's ring, which makes him invisible, and uses it to steal from Smaug's hoard. The dragon is killed, and after the Battle of Five Armies, the dwarves retake their mountain home.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Hobbit tells the story of an unlikely hero, the eponymous hobbit Bilbo Baggins, and his episodic quest, along with thirteen dwarves and the wizard Gandalf, to reclaim gold from the dragon Smaug. Each chapter of the book introduces a new creature of Wilderland which the company has to face in order to continue on to their goal.

At the beginning, readers are introduced to Bilbo Baggins, a respectable homebody who isn’t known for his daring. Gandalf comes by and decides to send Bilbo on an adventure, but Bilbo refuses. The next day Bilbo unwillingly hosts Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, including Thorin Oakenshield, their leader. The dwarves sing of reclaiming their “long-forgotten gold,” which belonged to their forefathers, from the dragon Smaug in the Lonely Mountain. Gandalf shows the company a map and a key leading them to the door in the Mountain where the gold is hidden. Thorin and Gandalf tell Bilbo that he has been chosen to come along with them as a burglar to help steal back the gold.

Soon after their departure, the company runs into a group of trolls eating around a fire. The trolls catch the dwarves and put them in sacks. The trolls are arguing over how they will cook them when Gandalf appears and tricks the trolls into prolonging their argument. As a result, they remain above ground until dawn and, struck by the sun’s rays, turn to stone.

The company then comes to Rivendell, home of Elrond the half-elf. Elrond discovers “moon letters” on their map, revealed only in moonlight. Elrond instructs them to “stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks,” at which point “the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the keyhole.”

In the next leg of their journey, the company is seized by goblins and brought to the goblins’ caves, leaving Gandalf behind. When the goblins plan to kill the company, Gandalf arrives and helps them escape from the goblins, but Dori, one of the dwarves, is seized by an unseen goblin. Bilbo, who had been riding on Dori’s back, falls off, hits his head, and blacks out.

Bilbo wakes in the goblin caves, finds a golden ring, and puts it in his pocket. He comes upon a mysterious creature named Gollum. At Gollum’s request, Bilbo agrees to play a riddling game. If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show him the way out. When Gollum loses the riddling game to Bilbo, Gollum rushes off to find his ring so that he can return invisibly and kill Bilbo. He is enraged when he realizes that Bilbo must have stolen it. Bilbo runs off and Gollum tries to follow, but Bilbo slips on the ring, disappears, and escapes out the back door.

Bilbo ends up on the other side of the Misty Mountains. He soon rejoins the company but omits mention of the ring. The company shelters in a forest, where they run into a pack of giant wolves called Wargs. The company hides in the trees; Gandalf sets the Wargs on fire, and the beasts run away. Then the goblins arrive and ignite a ring of fire beneath the dwarves. At this point the Eagles swoop down and carry Gandalf and the company away from danger.

Gandalf leads the company to the home of Beorn (a shape-shifter who can take the form of either man or bear). Beorn gives them a place to sleep, as well as ponies and food for their journey.

The company enters Mirkwood and crosses an enchanted river. The company is then attacked by giant spiders and wrapped up by the spiders’ spun silk. Bilbo frees himself and the others, and the company gets away. Bilbo finally tells them about the ring and Gollum.

Next, the dwarves are captured by the Wood-elves and taken to the Elvenking. However, Bilbo evades capture by wearing the ring. While the dwarves are imprisoned, Bilbo comes up with a plan to help the dwarves escape. The dwarves hide themselves in barrels, which the unknowing elves toss down into a river that runs out of their domain. Bilbo tosses himself down after them.

The company ends up in Lake Town, also known as Esgaroth, at the foot of the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo lets the dwarves out of the barrels, and Thorin presents himself to the master of the town as grandson of Thror, the King under the Mountain. He says that he is at last making a homecoming to recover his lost gold.

Soon the company reaches the Desolation of Smaug. They find the door hidden in the mountain face but cannot figure out how to open it. Bilbo notices a thrush knocking on the door and waits for sunset. Then a ray of red light pierces a hole in the stone. Thorin inserts the key they have brought with them and opens the door.

Bilbo puts on the ring and walks to the lair of Smaug. Smaug is lying asleep on a hoard of treasure but smells the hobbit’s presence. Bilbo tricks Smaug into showing him the weak spot on his belly. Bilbo escapes the lair, and the company plans how to get their treasure; they especially wish to recover the Arkenstone of their ancestor Thrain.

Bilbo goes down to the lair again, bringing the dwarves with him. Bilbo finds the Arkenstone in the hoard and pockets it but doesn’t tell the company.

Meanwhile, Smaug flies to the Lake Town of Esgaroth and burns and destroys the city in revenge. Bard, captain of the archers, shoots Smaug in his weak spot and kills him. The Lake People celebrate this act but grow angry at Thorin and his company for sending Smaug upon them, and they want the now-unguarded treasure as recompense for the destruction. The Lake People send to the Elvenking for help. The Esgaroth and the Wood-elves march up into the mountain to face the company of dwarves.

When the men and elves arrive armed at the mountain, Bard claims that they deserve a share of Smaug’s hoard. If the dwarves do not agree to this, they will fight for it. Thorin refuses them, and the men and elves besiege the mountain until a truce can be arrived at.

That night, Bilbo escapes the dwarf camp in secret, and makes an offer of the Arkenstone of Thrain to Bard and the Elvenking.

The next day, the elves and men return to the besieged mountain and try to bargain with the dwarves using the Arkenstone. Thorin, discovering that Bilbo has betrayed him, turns on Bilbo in anger. The dwarves of the iron hills arrive to aid the dwarves, suddenly attacking the men and elves guarding the mountain. Goblins riding Wargs soon arrive, and thus begins the Battle of the Five Armies. All other races, including the Eagles, join the fight against the goblins, their shared foe. During the battle, Bilbo is hit on the head with a stone and blacks out.

Bilbo is carried from the battlefield to a camp in Dale, where he finds Thorin, weakened from many wounds. With his dying words, Thorin reconciles with Bilbo, praising him for his goodness and bravery. Thorin is buried with the Arkenstone. Gandalf and Bilbo begin their ride back home again.

Bilbo and Gandalf pass through Rivendell and at last return to Bilbo’s home country, Hobbiton. Bilbo arrives back at his door to discover an auction of his own property, which ends when the hobbits realize he is still alive. Years later, Bilbo writes his memoirs, called “There and Back Again, a Hobbit’s Holiday.” Bilbo learns from Gandalf that Bard has rebuilt the Lake Town and that the Desolation of Smaug is now filled with flora. There is a renewed friendship between elves, dwarves, and men.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Chapter Summaries