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 trees on fire and burn out Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves. Gandalf is just about to leap down from his tree to fight them—even though he has no chance of winning—when an eagle swoops down and plucks him from the branches.
Once, long ago, Gandalf healed the Lord of the Eagles from an injury, and the Eagles has been friendly with him ever since. More eagles come and rescue Bilbo and the dwarves from their trees. The birds carry the travelers to their eyrie high up on some cliffs. After discussing the travelers’ predicament with Gandalf, the eagles agree to carry them part of the way to their destination.