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The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again Chapter 12 Summary How It All Goes Down
Inside Information The dwarves strongly encourage Bilbo to go down into the hole and see what's going on with Smaug. Bilbo walks down the long tunnel towards a red glow. It's getting hotter and steamier the closer he gets to the center of the mountain. At last, Bilbo sees Smaug: "a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep [...] with wings folded like an immeasurable bat" (12.13-4). Smaug is lying on a huge bed of jewels and gold (we'll trade our flannel sheets for that any day!). Bilbo sneaks up and grabs a large golden cup. Bilbo thinks to himself, "I've done it! This will show [the dwarves]. 'More like a grocer than a burglar' indeed!" (12.17). The dwarves are delighted by the cup – that is, until Smaug the dragon comes flying out the front gate tearing up trees and setting things on fire. Quickly, they haul as much as they can into their tiny secret passageway. Smaug comes flying by, flaming things along the way. He catches and eats all of their ponies (*sniff*!). Back in the hole, the dwarves are now annoyed that Bilbo made Smaug angry. Bilbo offers to go back down into Smaug's lair to find out more: "'Every worm has his weak spot,' as [Bilbo's] father used to say" (12.37). Smaug is awake and waiting for Bilbo. But, of course, Smaug can't see him, so they fall into pleasant (if tense) conversation. Bilbo butters up Smaug as much as he can – "Smaug the Tremendous!" (12.45) and "Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities" (12.47), Bilbo calls him. Bilbo tries not to give Smaug any direct information about where he's coming from because it might give Smaug power. Even though Bilbo tries to be clever about hiding his origins, Smaug figures out that he has come through Lake-town in the company of dwarves. Smaug starts to sow doubt in Bilbo's mind: why is Bilbo there alone? Why are the dwarves willing to let him do the dirty work? Is Bilbo really going to make any cash off this venture? Bilbo plucks up his courage. He tells Smaug that Bilbo and his friends are there for revenge. Smaug gets overconfident and rolls over to show Bilbo his solid, armored underbelly. Unfortunately for Smaug, Bilbo spots something else: a patch of skin that's bare of scales. Smaug's weak point! Bilbo turns to go and Smaug sends a flame after him. Bilbo barely escapes with his life. Bilbo tells the dwarves all that he let slip, which will point Smaug right in the direction of Lake-town. Bilbo convinces the dwarves that they're in danger. Even though it seems desperate, they close the side door out of the mountain. Just in time! Smaug starts throwing boulders and trees against the side of the mountain in his rage. Smaug then flies to Lake-town to teach them a lesson: "They shall see me and remember who is the real King under the Mountain!" (12.101).
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