The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
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While the dwarves clearly love gold for its own sake – it's pretty much their thing – Thorin (and Balin, in this passage) seems to use this particular gold as a symbol for the past. He doesn't just value it because it's valuable. He also wants to remember "the spears that were made for the armies of the great King Bladorthin" and "the great golden cup of Thror." These things are meaningful to Thorin because they represent "warriors long dead." For more on Thorin's association of wealth with the past, check out "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory."
"The Arkenstone! The Arkenstone!" murmured Thorin in the dark, half dreaming with his chin upon his knees. "It was like a globe with a thousand facets; it shone like silver in the firelight, like water in the sun, like snow under the stars, like rain upon the Moon!" (12.95)
Thorin's description of the Arkenstone is like a love poem. Compared to his incredibly stiff, formal style when dealing with important things like hiring Bilbo as the dwarves' official burglar, this passage seems particularly beautiful. Why does Thorin seem to love things so much? Is it simply because he's a dwarf, or is it particular to his character? What sense do we get of how the other dwarves judge Thorin for his love of the Arkenstone?
I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the Gate. (18.17)
As Thorin lies dying, he starts to let go of his obsession with wealth. It's a shame that he couldn't have learned the lesson that you can't take it with you before he almost started a war with the Elvenking and Bard. Does the fact that Thorin opts for the right thing with Bilbo at the end of the novel make up for the way he treated Bilbo before the Battle of Five Armies? How do you feel about Thorin's deathbed change of heart?
"How on earth should I have got all that treasure home without war and murder all along the way, I don't know. And I don't know what I should have done with it when I got home. I am sure it is better in your hands."
In the end [Bilbo] would only take two small chests, one filled with silver, and the other with gold, such as one strong pony could carry. "That will be quite as much as I can manage," said he. (18.36-7)