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 lake. Smaug understands that Bilbo at least received...
(The entire section is 715 words.)