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 troll’s pocket—very nearly gets the whole band of them roasted for dinner, but they are saved by Gandalf, who keeps the three trolls arguing until they are turned to stone by the sunrise.
The group shelters briefly with Elrond the elf lord, who discovers hidden moon-letters on Thorin’s map that reveal the secret way into the Lonely Mountain. Elrond also identifies the elven swords that Thorin and Gandalf took from the trolls’ hoard. The swords glow whenever goblins are nearby. Bilbo later discovers that the elven knife he procured from the troll cave (which is large enough to be a short sword for the small hobbit) has the same power.
After leaving Elrond, the group begins the perilous crossing of the Misty Mountains. Having sought shelter in a cave, they are attacked by goblins. In the ensuing chaos, Bilbo gets separated from the dwarves and wanders lost through subterranean passages where he finds a small ring that he puts in his pocket. He encounters the strange creeping creature Gollum, and they agree to a game of riddles. If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show him the way out of the caves. If Gollum wins, he gets to eat Bilbo.
The game proceeds, each asking a riddle and the other answering, until Bilbo, unnerved by the menacing Gollum, cannot think of a riddle and instead asks the creature what he (Bilbo) has in his pocket. The answer is the ring, but Gollum guesses wrong, so Bilbo insists on being shown the way out. Gollum intends to kill the hobbit anyway, but Bilbo discovers that by putting the ring on, he becomes invisible. He tricks Gollum into leading him to the exit, where Gollum realizes too late that the hobbit has taken his ring and, unable to follow Bilbo into the outside world, curses him forever.
Bilbo finds the dwarves and Gandalf, who killed the...
(The entire section is 1333 words.)