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.