The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
Good vs. Evil Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know it to an ounce as a rule, especially after long possession; and Smaug was no exception. He had passed from an uneasy dream (in which a warrior, altogether insignificant in size but provided with a bitter sword and great courage, figured most unpleasantly) to a doze, and from a doze to wide waking. There was a breath of strange air in his cave. Could there be a draught from that little hole? He had never felt quite happy about it, though it was so small, and now he glared at it in suspicion and wondered why he had never blocked it up. (12.20)
Even though Smaug is evil through and through, we get more narrative from his perspective than we do from any of the goblins. Why might the novel spend so much time on Smaug's perspective (and even his feelings – like Bilbo, he has anxious dreams!)? What sense do we get of Smaug's motivations in The Hobbit?
"I am Bard, and by my hand was the dragon slain and your treasure delivered. Is that not a matter that concerns you? Moreover I am by right descent the heir of Girion of Dale, and in your hoard is mingled much of the wealth of his halls and towns, which old Smaug stole. Is not that a matter of which we may speak? Further in his last battle Smaug destroyed the dwellings of the men of Esgaroth, and I am yet the servant of their Master. I would speak for him and ask whether you have no thought for the sorrow and misery of his people. they aided you in your distress, and in recompense you have thus far brought ruin only, though doubtless undesigned."
Now these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken; and Bilbo thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them. He did not, of course, expect that any one would remember that it was he who discovered all by himself the dragon's weak spot; and that was just as well, for no one ever did. But also he did not reckon with the power that gold has upon which a dragon has long brooded, nor with dwarvish hearts. (15.41-42)
Bard lays out his case pretty clearly for why his people deserve some of Thorin's treasure. What rational arguments does Thorin use to try and rebut Bard's points? How does Thorin try and make his case for the morality of hoarding his treasure? If Thorin plans to keep his treasure anyway, why does he make a show of listening to Bard at all?
"But how is it yours to give?" [Bard] asked at last with an effort.
"O well!" said the hobbit uncomfortably. "It isn't exactly; but, well, I am willing to let it stand against all my claim, don't you know. I may be a burglar – or so they say: personally I never really felt like one – but I am an honest one, I hope, more or less. Anyway I am going back now, and the dwarves can do what they like to me. I hope you will find it useful." (16.38-9).
In a sense, Bilbo is the worst burglar ever because he's too moral to keep anything he steals. He is willing to let the Arkenstone go to Bard so that Bard can negotiate for "all of [Bilbo's] claim" on Thorin's treasure. (Dain does, in fact, honor this deal, so that one-fourteenth of Thorin's treasure goes to Bard after his death.) How do the dwarves and Gandalf decide that burglary is what Bilbo would be good at? What seems to be the job description for a burglar, according to the dwarves?