The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
How we cite our quotes:
[Dwalin] "What is our burglar doing for us? Since he has got an invisible ring, and ought to be a specially excellent performer now, I am beginning to think he might go through the front gate and spy things out a bit!"
Bilbo heard this – the dwarves were on the rocks just above the enclosure where he was sitting – and "Good Gracious!" he thought, "so that is what they are beginning to think, is it? It is always poor me that has to get them out of their difficulties, at least since the wizard left. Whatever am I going to do?" (11.27)
As Bilbo and the dwarves are sitting at the side door waiting for something to happen (before they find the keyhole), the dwarves get impatient and start to turn on Bilbo. As Bilbo says, "It is always poor [Bilbo] that has to get them out of their difficulties." So the flip side of the dwarves' newfound loyalty for Bilbo is that they expect a lot more of him – and it's perhaps these high expectations that make Thorin feel all the more betrayed when he finds out that Bilbo has given Thorin's Arkenstone to Bard.
The most that can be said for the dwarves is this: they intended to pay Bilbo really handsomely for his services; they had brought him to do a nasty job for them, and they did not mind the poor little fellow doing it if he would; but they would have done their best to get him out of trouble, if he got into it, as they did in the case of the trolls at the beginning of their adventures before they had any particular reasons for being grateful to him. There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don't expect too much. (12.6)
It's damning with faint praise to say that the dwarves "are decent enough people [...] if you don't expect too much." But we're also interested in the line between duty and friendship here: the dwarves "would have done their best to get [Bilbo] out of trouble, if he got into it." They would do this for Bilbo out of a sense of duty, because he's their burglar and they "had brought him to do a nasty job for them." Do we get a sense that any of the dwarves feel personal loyalty towards Bilbo, above and beyond a feeling of duty? Do any of them like him? Is there a lot of emotional content in the friendships of this novel? How might the friendships between Bilbo and the dwarves contrast with those portrayed in The Lord of the Rings, say, between Legolas and Gimli, or Frodo and Sam, or even Pippin and Merry?
They debated long on what was to be done, but they could think of no way of getting rid of Smaug – which had always been a weak point in their plans, as Bilbo felt inclined to point out. Then as is the nature of folk that are thoroughly perplexed, they began to grumble at the hobbit, blaming him for what had at first so pleased them: for bring away a cup and stirring up Smaug's wrath so soon. (12.33)
One of the things that strike us as funny about the dwarves is that they seem so much more human – flawed and imperfect – than the few named human characters in the novel, Bard among them. Even though they don't really seem to mean their grumbling against Bilbo, they're so confused about what to do next with Smaug that they turn on him anyway.