The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
How we cite our quotes:
Naturally the dwarves accepted the offer eagerly. Already they had come to respect little Bilbo. Now he had become the real leader in their adventure. He had begun to have ideas and plans of his own. When midday came he got ready for another journey down into the Mountain. (12.40)
Bilbo's "offer" here is to go down and have a second look at the dragon, now that he has stolen this golden cup. The dwarves have now been walled into the Lonely Mountain because the dragon has blocked the side door with trees and rocks and things, so Bilbo agrees to go spy on the dragon once more. What do you think the dwarves are hoping Bilbo will achieve here? Isn't there strength in numbers – is this the most sensible plan you can think of for dealing with Smaug? How might the following events of the novel have changed if Bilbo had actually succeeded in catching Smaug asleep a second time? Do you think Bilbo would have it in him to kill Smaug himself, under any circumstances?
But in the end, when Bilbo actually began to stamp on the floor, and screamed out "light!" at the top of his shrill voice, Thorin gave way, and Oin and Gloin were sent back to their bundles at the top of the tunnel.
After a while a twinkling gleam showed them returning, Oin with a small pine-torch alight in his hand, and Gloin with a bundle of others under his arm. Quickly Bilbo trotted to the door and took the torch; but he could not persuade the dwarves to light the others or to come and join him yet. As Thorin carefully explained, Mr. Baggins was still officially their expert burglar and investigator. If he liked to risk a light, that was his affair. They would wait in the tunnel for his report. (13.17)
Thorin is brave enough to make his last stand against the goblins. So why does he hesitate to simply join Bilbo in the dragon's empty lair in this scene? When do the dwarves show the most courage? When do they show the least? What seems to inspire courage in the dwarves?
Roaring [Smaug] swept back over the town. A hail of dark arrows leaped up and snapped and rattled on his scales and jewels, and their shafts fell back kindled by his breath burning and hissing into the lake. No fireworks you ever imagined equaled the sights that night. At the twanging of the bows and the shrilling of the trumpets the dragon's wrath blazed to its height, till he was blind and mad with it. No one had dared to give battle to him for many an age; nor would they have dared now, if it had not been for the grim-voiced man (Bard was his name), who ran to and fro cheering on the archers and urging the Master to order them to fight to the last arrow. (14.14)
The men of Lake-town have been so cowed by Smaug that "[n]o one had dared to give battle to him for many an age." Only Bard is able to lead the men of Lake-town against Smaug. Do we get any sense of Bard as a character? What are his traits beyond bravery and grimness? How does Bard's courage differ from Bilbo's or Thorin's?