The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again Summary
Bilbo Baggins lives in a beautiful hole under The Hill, where he's a respected (and rather rich) pillar of the hobbit community. Hobbits, by the way, are small people with furry toes and big bellies. They like beer and jokes and generally making merry. They believe in hanging out and not making too much trouble. But even though Bilbo has spent his whole life living contently under The Hill, an adventure comes to his doorstep and takes him far away anyway.
It just so happens that Bilbo is sitting on his front stoop when Gandalf, a wizard, walks by. Bilbo invites Gandalf to come back for tea on Wednesday and then completely forgets the whole thing. On Wednesday at four, he hears the doorbell ring and thinks it's Gandalf – but it's actually thirteen dwarves: Thorin, Dori, Nori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Oin, Gloin, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, and Kili. On Gandalf's recommendation, the chief dwarf, Thorin, has a job offer for Bilbo.
Thorin is the grandson of Thror, the dwarf who was King under the Lonely Mountain. Many years before, the evil dragon Smaug came and killed many of Thror's people and stole his treasure. Thorin wants to steal the treasure back from Smaug, and he wants Bilbo (who's evidently an expert burglar) to help him do it. Now, obviously, Bilbo is not an expert burglar. But he is so proud that Gandalf thinks so highly of him that he winds up agreeing to join Thorin & Co.
The thirteen dwarves, plus Bilbo and Gandalf, travel through the wilds to Rivendell, where they meet up with Elrond, a half-elf lord. Elrond shows Thorin & Co. some special hidden letters on Thorin's map of the Lonely Mountain. The letters (which are only visible at the right phase of the moon) say that the tiny, secret side door into the Lonely Mountain will only open on Durin's Day, the last day of autumn. So the dwarves decide to get a move on so that they can reach the Lonely Mountain in time.
On their way east, they must cross the Misty Mountain range. There, a bunch of goblins take them captive. Gandalf kills the Great Goblin and rescues all the dwarves. However, Bilbo gets separated from the group. As he makes his way as quietly as he can through the goblin halls, he happens to find a small golden ring in the dark. He puts the ring in his pocket and forgets about it.
Bilbo walks right into an underground lake. On an island in the middle of the lake is a small, slimy creature named Gollum. Gollum has been living under the mountain and dodging goblins for a long, long time. The one thing that makes his life bearable is his "birthday present" (5.78) – a golden ring that makes him invisible. And yes, that's the very same ring Bilbo has just found in the dark.
Gollum isn't hungry (yet), but he's not about to let Bilbo go past without a murmur. So Gollum challenges Bilbo to a game of riddles. If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show him the way out of the goblins' kingdom. If Gollum wins, Gollum gets to eat Bilbo. (No thank you.) Bilbo manages to win (barely), but Gollum still tries to kill him anyway. Luckily, Bilbo slips on the ring in his pocket by accident and becomes invisible. Gollum assumes that Bilbo is running out of the tunnels to the exit, so he quickly makes his way through the goblin kingdom. Bilbo follows Gollum with his ring of invisibility on. When they reach the exit, Bilbo leaps over Gollum and makes a break for the exit. He comes out on the other side of the Misty Mountains. Victory!
Bilbo hears voices nearby and rejoins his friends. Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves are almost killed once more by vengeful goblins coming out of the mountains, but they escape just in time. Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves seek shelter with a giant man, Beorn, who can take the shape of a bear. Beorn hates goblins, so he welcomes any goblin enemies to his home. Beorn gives Bilbo and the dwarves provisions to take them through the next stage of their journey: the giant forest of Mirkwood.
Gandalf leaves Bilbo and the dwarves behind as they enter Mirkwood. He has business elsewhere. But Gandalf warns them under no circumstances to leave the path and go into the forest. Of course, as they run out of food, they wind up doing just that. As they stray from the path, they stumble onto the feasts of the Wood-elves and Thorin gets taken prisoner while the rest of the dwarves scatter into the forest.
The rest of the dwarves (and Bilbo) get attacked by giant spiders. With his ring of invisibility and a knife, Bilbo manages to free himself and the dwarves. But the dwarves are then taken prisoner by the Wood-elves. So Bilbo quickly accompanies them to the Elvenking's dungeon, again while wearing his invisibility ring. As the dwarves sit in their thirteen separate cells, Bilbo manages to spy a way to escape. One night when all the elves are busy with a large feast, he frees the dwarves and packs them into barrels being taken to Lake-town. The dwarves arrive in secret in Lake-town, the nearest city to the Lonely Mountain.
Bilbo and the dwarves get assistance from the Master of Lake-town to travel to the Lonely Mountain. They settle down in front of the side door marked on Thorin's map. At last, Durin's Day comes and the door suddenly reveals a keyhole. Thorin uses his key to unlock the side door and open a tunnel into the heart of the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo uses this passage to creep down and steal a golden cup from Smaug the dragon. Bilbo also has a bit of a chat with the dragon (who can't see him, thanks to the handy ring), which is unnerving. Bilbo catches a glimpse of a bare patch of scales in Smaug's chest, which he realizes is the dragon's weak point. Bilbo tells the dwarves about this weak spot; luckily, a bird that will come into the story later hears this news as well.
Smaug, finding this one golden cup missing from his hoard of treasure, flies out to Lake-town in a rage. He wants to remind them all that he's the true King under the Mountain. But there is an archer in Lake-town, a descendant of lords of the town of Dale, which Smaug destroyed. The bird that has been keeping an eye on Bilbo and the dwarves flies over to Lake-town and finds this archer, Bard. It's the special skill of Bard's family to be able to understand this kind of bird. So when the bird tells him about the weak spot on Smaug's chest that Bilbo has discovered, Bard takes his great bow and his strongest arrow and waits until the dragon is flying right over Lake-town. He takes aim and shoots Smaug in the chest at just the right spot, and Smaug is killed.
Meanwhile, back under the mountain, Bilbo and the dwarves wait a while to see if Smaug is going to reappear. When he doesn't, Bilbo creeps down to his treasure. One of the first things Bilbo finds is a giant diamond, the Arkenstone of Thrain. This is a family heirloom that Thorin desperately wants. But Bilbo keeps it a secret from Thorin – he doesn't know exactly why, but he'll go with the hunch.
Tidings are spreading all over the place that Smaug has been killed. The Elvenking of Mirkwood comes with his armies in the hopes of grabbing some treasure; Bard also leads an army of men from Lake-town seeking money to rebuild their town and his own city of Dale. But, even though Bard is the one who killed Smaug and the Elvenking is Bard's friend, Thorin absolutely refuses to give them any share of the treasure. Thorin sends for his cousin Dain and some dwarvish troops to stand by his side. So it looks like they're going to come to war over Smaug's old treasure.
Bilbo wants to prevent this war and save his friends, so by cover of night, he brings the Arkenstone down to the camp of the humans and the elves. He gives it to Bard so that Bard can use it to negotiate with Thorin. But before negotiations between the humans, elves, and dwarves can continue, Gandalf suddenly appears with terrible news. While they have all been caught up with each other, the goblins of the Misty Mountains have been banding with the evil wolves (the Wargs) of the wild to march against all of them.
So, suddenly, the humans, elves, and dwarves who had been about to go to war against one another band together against the goblins and the Wargs. They barely manage to win, but they come out on top thanks to the help of a group of giant eagles and the sudden appearance of Beorn the bear-man. Thorin is horribly wounded in battle, and his last wish is to befriend Bilbo once more. He realizes that Bilbo was only trying to help, and after all, what is gold truly worth when you can't take it with you? Bilbo weeps at Thorin's death, and feels just about ready to go home. So Gandalf escorts Bilbo back to his old home under The Hill with a portion of the treasure and loads of respect from men, elves, and dwarves for his courage and resourcefulness.
An Unexpected Party
- Bilbo Baggins is a well-to-do, well-respected hobbit living in a cozy hole in The Hill.
- (Hobbits are about half the size of humans. They enjoy eating, drinking, and generally being happy and comfortable at home. Sounds plenty human to us!)
- One day, Bilbo is sitting outside his front door smoking when a wizard comes by: Gandalf.
- Gandalf comes to The Hill every now and again and stirs things up by telling wild stories and bringing young hobbits on adventures.
- Bilbo is uncomfortable and flustered so he panics, asks Gandalf to come to tea the following Wednesday, and runs inside.
- Gandalf laughs and makes some kind of strange mark on Bilbo's door.
- Bilbo totally forgets that Gandalf is coming over for tea on Wednesday, so when the doorbell rings, he's surprised.
- He is even more surprised when thirteen dwarves show up on his doorstep: Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Oin, Gloin, Fili, Kili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Dwalin, Balin, and Thorin Oakenshield, their leader.
- Gandalf also turns up.
- So now Bilbo has an unexpected party of fourteen strangers on his hands: how will he feed them all?!
- The evening goes on and, eventually, it comes out that the mark Gandalf put on the door was an ad.
- Gandalf is the one who told all the dwarves to turn up at Bilbo's home for tea on Wednesday.
- The mark on the door means, "Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward" (1.98).
- The dwarves hesitate to believe that Bilbo would be a good addition to a treasure quest.
- But Gandalf insists that Bilbo is "as fierce as a dragon in a pinch" (1.93).
- He also promises: "There is a lot more in [Bilbo] than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself" (1.104).
- Bilbo feels proud (and frightened) at Gandalf's recommendation, so he sticks around to find out what Gandalf and the dwarves want him to do.
- Thorin's grandfather Thror set up a huge, fine hall underneath the Lonely Mountain.
- Their family prospered, and they made lots of armor and jewelry and other fine things.
- All of this wealth attracted a dragon from the North, Smaug.
- When Smaug attacked the mountain under cover of night, these thirteen dwarves (along with Thorin's grandfather and father) barely escaped with their lives.
- They all vowed to return to the Lonely Mountain one day to take back the treasure from nasty old Smaug.
- Gandalf has a map showing a secret side door to the Lonely Mountain. He also has the key.
- He got both of these items from Thorin's father, Thrain, who was dying in the dungeons of the Necromancer when Gandalf found him.
- With this map and key in hand, the dwarves want to go to the Lonely Mountain.
- Then they want Bilbo, their professional burglar, to steal the treasure from the dragon Smaug.
- It's now late at night and everyone goes to sleep.
- Bilbo is still on the fence about whether he's going to go on this adventure or not.
- But he falls asleep listening to Thorin singing, "Far over the misty mountains cold / To dungeons deep and caverns old / We must away, ere break of day, / To find out long-forgotten gold" (1.143).
- Bilbo oversleeps the next morning and finds that the dwarves have left by the time he gets out of bed.
- He's both relieved and disappointed – no more adventures for him!
- But then Gandalf turns up and points out a note Bilbo missed.
- The note gives Bilbo Thorin's "grateful acceptance" for his offer of "professional assistance" (2.8).
- Bilbo rushes to meet Thorin & Co. at a local inn at 11:00. And they're off to steal Smaug's treasure!
- As Bilbo and the dwarves ride off on their ponies, they hit a patch of bad weather.
- Bilbo heartily misses home. This adventure business is cold, wet, and uncomfortable!
- One night, the dwarves are feeling thoroughly bad-tempered and everyone is damp.
- Gandalf has also mysteriously disappeared.
- They notice a light flickering in the forest, and they send their burglar out to investigate.
- Bilbo finds three giant trolls sitting and roasting meat over the fire.
- The trolls are named Bert, Tom, and William.
- Bilbo wants to show the dwarves that he's worth something, so he tries to pick William's pocket.
- But William has a magic wallet that speaks up when Bilbo attempts to steals it.
- So the trolls capture Bilbo.
- They aren't hungry, though, so they don't eat him right away.
- They fall to arguing about what they should do with Bilbo.
- Of course, just then, two of the dwarves – Bifur and Bofur – come to the fire to check out what's going on.
- The trolls catch the two dwarves – and every dwarf who comes after them – in sacks.
- Bilbo takes advantage of the ruckus to get clear of the trolls.
- So, by the end, all the dwarves are tied up in sacks and Bilbo is crouching in the forest shadows wondering what to do.
- The trolls are "arguing whether they should roast them slowly, or mince them fine and boil them, or just sit on them one by one and squash them into jelly" (2.75) – not an ideal situation for the dwarves, to be sure.
- As the trolls argue, a mysterious voice keeps egging them on.
- Sometimes it sounds like William and sometimes it sounds like Tom. Who could it be?!
- The voice finally tells the trolls, "Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!" (2.101).
- It's Gandalf!
- He got back to the party just in time to keep the trolls arguing until the sun came up.
- So Gandalf frees the dwarves from their sacks and they all go to the trolls' cave.
- Inside the cave is lots of treasure, which they bury near the road for later.
- Gandalf and Thorin pick up two beautiful swords, and Bilbo takes a knife of the same make.
- All the dwarves grab the trolls' bread and cheese and beer for the road.
- Gandalf tells the dwarves and Bilbo that they should head to Rivendell, the house of Elrond.
A Short Rest
- Things are starting to get more classically adventure-y: "They camped under the stars, and their horses had more to eat than they had, for there was plenty of grass, but there was not much in their bags" (3.1).
- At last, a large mountain comes into view.
- Bilbo has never seen anything so big before, but it's only the first of the Misty Mountains.
- They have to get over or under this mountain range before coming close to the Lonely Mountain where Smaug is waiting.
- Before they reach the Misty Mountains, they rest briefly in Rivendell.
- Rivendell is a secret valley lined with pine forest and filled with elves.
- The dwarves aren't totally happy to be hanging with elves because the two groups don't get along that well.
- But Bilbo and Gandalf have a grand old time.
- The head of the Last Homely House in Rivendell is Elrond, who is "as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves and as kind as summer" (3.28). So, he's pretty great, we guess.
- He's the one who tells Gandalf and Thorin that their swords are elvish ones dating back to the Goblin-wars.
- Thorin shows Elrond his map of the Lonely Mountain.
- The moon happens to be shining on the map in just the right way to expose moon-letters, special secret runes that say, "Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks [...] and the setting sun with the last light of Durin's Day will shine upon the keyhole" (3.39).
- Durin is Thorin's first ancestor, and his Day is the first day of the dwarves' new year.
- But there's a problem: no one can calculate exactly when Durin's Day falls anymore.
- Elrond gives Thorin his map back.
- The next morning, Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves all set off for the Misty Mountains.
Over Hill and Under Hill
- They climb up and up and up, and the weather gets colder and more uncertain.
- One night, a truly terrific storm breaks out and they try to find shelter crouched against a sheer cliff.
- The dwarves send the two youngest, Fili and Kili, to scout for shelter.
- Quick as anything, Fili and Kili return with good news: there's a cave nearby!
- They promise they've explored the cave thoroughly, even though they haven't been gone nearly long enough for that to be true.
- Everyone is relieved to be in out of the rain and falling rocks and thunder, though.
- That night, Bilbo has strange dreams that prevent him from sleeping.
- This turns out to be lucky, because Bilbo is awake when a crack opens at the back of the cave.
- Bilbo yells and wakes Gandalf, who disappears in a flash of light.
- Suddenly, a bunch of goblins jump out of the crack.
- They grab Bilbo and all the dwarves and carry them into their mountain passages.
- The goblins shake their prisoners and laugh and sing threatening songs: "Crash, crash! Crush, smash! / Hammer and tongs! Knocker and gongs! / Pound, pound, far underground! / Ho, ho! my lad!" (4.18)
- The goblins arrive with their prisoners in a big chamber lit with fires.
- The Great Goblin sees that Thorin is carrying an elvish sword – Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver – and freaks out.
- The goblins call this sword Biter, and they hate it in memory of the Goblin-wars back in the day.
- The Great Goblin calls them "Murderers and elf-friends!" (4.31) and rushes at Thorin to kill him.
- Just then, the lights go out and another sword starts to flash: it's Glamdring, the Foehammer, which the goblins call Beater. In other words, it's Gandalf's sword. Gandalf's back!
- With Gandalf's help, Bilbo, Thorin, and the other dwarves escape.
- They rush along the dark mountain halls as quickly as they can.
- But goblins are fast, quiet, and they know the way better than the dwarves do, so eventually they manage to ambush the dwarves.
- In the confusion, Bilbo knocks his head on a rock and loses consciousness.
Riddles in the Dark
- Bilbo wakes up in the dark.
- He has no idea what's happening, so he gropes around the tunnel trying to get his bearings.
- Bilbo puts his hand on a metal ring. (Dun dun dun!)
- As the narrator points out, "[the ring] was the turning point in his career but he did not know it" (5.2).
- After all, this is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings.
- Anyhoo, back to the action: Bilbo puts the ring in his pocket and goes on his merry way.
- He finds that he's still armed with that little knife he got from the trolls' treasure cave.
- The knife is glowing faintly: like Orcrist and Glamdring, it must be of elvish make.
- Bilbo feels a bit braver with the knife in hand, so he keeps on down this dark tunnel.
- Bilbo suddenly puts his foot in cold water: he has reached an underground lake.
- On an island in this underground lake lives Gollum, a small slimy fellow who's been living under the mountains and dodging goblins for longer than he can remember.
- Gollum sees Bilbo, gets into his little boat, and comes rowing out to attack him. Here we go!
- Bilbo holds Gollum off with his knife.
- Gollum challenges Bilbo to a riddle game to get on Bilbo's good side.
- If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show the hobbit how to get out of the goblins' caves.
- If Gollum wins, Gollum gets to eat Bilbo. High stakes!
- The two exchange riddles for a while, but Bilbo starts to get flustered.
- In his panic, he asks the first thing that pops into his head: "What have I got in my pocket?" (5.54).
- Of course, Gollum fails to guess the right answer.
- Bilbo is on guard: he knows that he's on shaky ground because his question wasn't a real riddle.
- Gollum says he'll show Bilbo the way out, but he has to get something first.
- Gollum rows back to his island to find something special of his: "a ring of power, and if you slipped that ring on your finger, you were invisible" (5.78).
- But the ring is gone!
- Gollum rows back to Bilbo wailing about having lost his "precious" (5.82) – the ring.
- Suddenly, Gollum gets suspicious: what does Bilbo have in his pockets? Could it be – the ring?
- Gollum leaps at Bilbo, but Bilbo happens to slip on the ring.
- Suddenly, Bilbo is invisible. Gollum is confused.
- Gollum sits weeping and muttering to himself. He wants to get his "birthday-present" (5.100) back.
- Gollum assumes Bilbo's heading for the exit, so he starts to creep down the tunnel to try and find him.
- Bilbo follows Gollum as quietly as he can, allowing Gollum to show him the way out.
- When they get close to the door, Gollum stops. He can't go on because he might be seen by the goblins.
- Bilbo almost kills Gollum to get him out of the way.
- But he feels so much pity for the wretched fellow that he decides to jump over Gollum instead.
- Gollum shouts after him: "Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!" (5.122).
- Bilbo races down the passageway.
- He finds the open door surrounded by goblin guards.
- He has a bad moment when the ring slips off and they all rush at him together.
- But Bilbo manages to burst through the exit just before the door shuts. Phew!
Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire
- Bilbo has come out the other side of the Misty Mountains.
- But what is he supposed to do next? He's alone in the middle of the wild!
- Fortunately, as he walks along, he soon overhears arguing voices: it's the dwarves and Gandalf.
- He decides to sneak up on them and give the group a bit of a surprise.
- So Bilbo puts his ring on and walks right up to their fire before announcing, "And here's the burglar!" (6.13).
- Everyone is very impressed by Bilbo's skills.
- But they're not out of the woods yet: the goblins will come hunting the dwarves when night comes, so they have to find some place safe.
- After a long evening of travel, they stumble into a moonlit clearing.
- They hear wolves howling nearby.
- Gandalf tells everyone, "Up the trees quick!" (6.52).
- They all get up into the trees just in time to avoid being eaten by Wargs – "for so the evil wolves over the Edge of the Wild are named" (6.59).
- The Wargs keep pouring in to the clearing. They're waiting for the goblins to arrive.
- Gandalf starts setting pine cones on fire and hurling them like grenades at the Wargs in the clearing.
- The sounds of the Wargs "howling [...] crying and yammering" (6.65) attracts the attention of the Lord of the Eagles.
- The Lord of the Eagles gathers a bunch of his eagle friends and flies out to investigate.
- Meanwhile, the burning Wargs have been running around setting the clearing on fire.
- So, all the dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo are caught in burning trees.
- The goblins have arrived, and they are dancing around these trees singing, "Bake and toast 'em, fry and roast 'em! / till beards blaze and eyes glaze" (6.75). (Eep!)
- Luckily, before these horrible things happen, the eagles swoop in and rescue our friends.
- Gandalf is friends with the Lord of the Eagles, so the Lord of the Eagles agrees to bring them all far away from the Misty Mountains.
- The eagles fly Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves to a place near the Carrock.
- The Carrock is the home of "the Somebody [Gandalf] spoke of – a very great person" (7.18).
- Gandalf comes up with a plan: he and Bilbo are going to introduce themselves, and then the dwarves can follow two-by-two at decent intervals.
- So Gandalf and Bilbo approach the house of this Somebody.
- Somebody is "a huge man with a thick black beard and hair, and great bare arms and legs with knotted muscles" (7.34).
- He is Beorn, and he's a skin-changer – a shape-shifter.
- He has a large, spacious house with lots of beehives and gets waited on by smart, alert little horses.
- Gandalf settles in with Beorn and starts talking about the adventures of Bilbo, Thorin, and the dwarves.
- Every now and again, two more dwarves will turn up and introduce themselves, thus interrupting the story.
- Beorn gets irritated by the interruptions, but Bilbo finally realizes that the interruptions are also keeping Beorn interested in Gandalf's tale.
- Beorn hates goblins, so he gets really excited when Gandalf describes how he killed the Great Goblin with his sword.
- When all the dwarves have arrived, Beorn is so delighted by the story that he offers them dinner.
- After supper, Beorn leaves the house. He warns the dwarves to stay inside the hall.
- Late at night, Bilbo hears the growl of a bear outside.
- The next morning, Gandalf tells them all, "There must have been a regular bears' meeting outside here last night [...] I should say there were little bears, large bears, ordinary bears, and gigantic big bears, all dancing outside from dark to nearly dawn" (7.111).
- The bear tracks go in the direction of the Misty Mountains.
- They don't see Beorn again for another day. When he arrives the next morning, he seems very cheerful.
- In his bear shape, he has traveled all the way to the Misty Mountain and found that Gandalf's story is true.
- Beorn warns that the goblins and the Wargs are angry, and are gathering huge armies to go after their little band.
- Beorn provides the dwarves with provisions and directions for how to get through the dangerous forest of Mirkwood.
- He warns them not to go off the path into the forest.
- They all arrive at the edge of Mirkwood.
- There, Gandalf leaves the dwarves and Bilbo behind. He has "some pressing business away south" (7.136).
- The dwarves are disappointed to see Gandalf go (of course – if you're on an expedition, you don't want to lose your wizard!).
- Gandalf's last words to them are: "Good-bye! Be good, take care of yourselves – and DON'T LEAVE THE PATH!" (7.147).
- (Three guesses about what they're all going to do in the very next chapter.)
Flies and Spiders
- Mirkwood is indeed murky – it's dark, stuffy, and feels claustrophobic.
- Eventually, they reach a river.
- Everyone crosses the river in groups on a little rowboat.
- But, unfortunately, a stag comes bounding into the dwarves and knocks Bombur (the heaviest dwarf) into the river.
- They rescue Bombur from the water, but he's not safe just yet.
- He keeps falling asleep and having strange dreams about a feast.
- The other dwarves have to carry Bombur's heavy butt through the forest, and they aren't too happy about it.
- They also keep hearing odd giggling in the woods: "The laughter was the laughter of fair voices not of goblins, and the singing was beautiful, but it sounded eerie and strange, and they were not comforted" (8.30).
- They've run out of food, they are thirsty, and Bombur keeps waking up just long enough to talk about his dream feasts.
- One night, they see lights through the forest, and they decide to go off the path (against the direct instructions of Gandalf and Beorn).
- They stumble onto an elvish feast.
- Thorin approaches the elves.
- Suddenly, the lights go out.
- Bilbo hears the dwarves calling each other's names in the dark, but they're growing more and more distant.
- He's lost alone in the dark. So he does what any hobbit would do: he falls asleep.
- But Bilbo wakes up just in time to find a spider wrapping him in thread.
- He pulls his knife and stabs at the spider until it dies. Close one!
- He slips on his ring and creeps invisibly through the forest.
- Eventually, he hears the hissing of spiders speaking to each other: they've got the dwarves wrapped up in their webs!
- Bilbo starts throwing stones and singing jeering songs at the spiders: "Here I am, naughty little fly; / you are fat and lazy. / You cannot trap me, though you try, / in your cobwebs crazy" (8.97).
- The spiders are so angry that they chase Bilbo's invisible voice away from the dwarves.
- Then Bilbo sneaks back to free the dwarves.
- The dwarves do their best to fight off the spiders when they come back to the clearing, but they aren't very strong after being hung upside down and poisoned.
- So Bilbo has to use his ring to lure the spiders a second time.
- When Bilbo and the dwarves meet up again, Bilbo tells them all about his ring of invisibility.
- They're now very impressed by Bilbo's quick-thinking and good luck.
- But just then, they notice that they are one dwarf down: Thorin is gone!
- When Thorin walked up to the elves' feast, the elves took him captive for interrupting their feasting.
- Thorin refuses to explain to the king of the Wood-elves what has brought his people to Mirkwood.
- So the Elvenking tosses Thorin into his dungeon.
Barrels Out of Bond
- Bilbo and the dwarves find themselves lost in the forest with no food or water.
- So they immediately surrender when the Wood-elves surround them.
- Bilbo slips on his ring and follows the dwarves to see where they are being led.
- The elves bring the dwarves to the halls of the Elvenking.
- The Elvenking informs the dwarves that, "It is a crime to wander in my realm without leave."
- He throws the dwarves into his dungeon until they agree to tell the king why they have come to Mirkwood.
- Bilbo sneaks around, "miserably burgling the same house day after day" (9.12).
- Bilbo tracks down all of the dwarves' cells, and he manages to get word to Thorin that all of the other dwarves are alive and imprisoned by the elves.
- Bilbo also finds out that there's another way out of the Elvenking's palace besides the front door.
- There is also a water gate where the elves send their empty wine barrels down to Long Lake, to be filled up by the men of Lake-town (a.k.a. Esgaroth).
- Bilbo waits until the night when there's a great feast and most of the servants are busy.
- The chief of the guards gets drunk on party wine and Bilbo sneaks his keys.
- Bilbo quietly brings all of the dwarves to the pier and packs them into individual wine barrels.
- He then waits for the next morning, when the hung-over butler instructs his servants to toss the "empty" barrels into the river.
- The barrels (containing one dwarf apiece) bob down the river to Lake-town.
- Bilbo jumps onto the last barrel and bobs along with them.
- Some elves on a raft fish the barrels onto a raft and row them downstream.
A Warm Welcome
- The trip down the river is very unpleasant, and Bilbo (who's clinging to a barrel rather than being packed inside one) catches a horrible cold.
- Once the raft of barrels is moored at Lake-town, the elves go off and Bilbo cuts the dwarves out of their barrels.
- Thorin thanks Bilbo for the trip, "though [he wishes Bilbo] could have arranged a more comfortable journey" (10.17).
- Thorin marches right up to the gates of the town and announces, "Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain! [...] I have come back. I wish to see the Master of your town!" (10.21).
- All the guards are pretty excited to hear this.
- They bring the dwarves to see the Master of the town, who's feasting with the elves who brought their "empty" wine barrels to the town.
- These elves identify Thorin and his crew as prisoners escaped from the Elvenking.
- Thorin dismisses the right of the Elvenking to keep him prisoner.
- People are really excited that Thorin is back in town – they all have legends of the great wealth of the Lonely Mountain when the dwarves were in residence.
- They start singing in the streets: "The King beneath the mountains, / The King of carven stone, / The lord of silver fountains / Shall come into his own!" (10.35).
- After about two weeks chilling in Lake-town, Thorin suggests that they get going on their quest.
- The Master is surprised: he never really believed that Thorin was a descendant of the old dwarvish kings.
- But the Master is glad to see Thorin go – he and his dwarves are really stirring things up in Lake-town.
- So the dwarves (and Bilbo) all set out one autumn day to the Lonely Mountain.
On the Doorstep
- As Bilbo and the dwarves march onward to the Lonely Mountain, they reach "the Desolation of the Dragon" (11.4): there are no bushes or trees, and very little grass. It's all just exposed rock.
- They scout around the mountain and find the ruins of the town of Dale.
- They eventually find the little side door marked on Thorin's map.
- But the door won't open, no matter how hard they shove.
- So Bilbo and the dwarves settle down in front of the side door to think about what to do next.
- It is an eerie place: "silence [reigns], broken by no bird or sound except that of the wind in the crannies of stone" (11.19).
- Everyone feels more and more depressed about their chances of making this whole quest thing work.
- Some of the dwarves start muttering about sending their burglar – poor Bilbo – in by the front door!
- Luckily, before that kind of talk really takes off, they have a breakthrough.
- On the last day of autumn, Bilbo is sitting on the doorstep at sunset. The moon is already in the sky.
- Just then, a thrush suddenly starts to crack a snail shell against the side door.
- Bilbo realizes that the bird is telling him something: it's Durin's Day, their only shot to use Thorin's father's key to open the side door to the Lonely Mountain.
- He beckons everyone over.
- A loud crack echoes: "A hole [appears] suddenly about three feet from the ground" (11.32).
- Bilbo shouts, "The key! [...] The key that went with the map! Try it now while there is still time!" (11.36).
- Thorin turns the key in this new keyhole, the dwarves all shove, and the side door opens into a "yawning mouth leading down and down" (11.38).
- 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).
Not at Home
- Days go by, and Bilbo and the dwarves don't hear a peep from Smaug.
- Finally, they decide to walk down the passage to the center of the mountain to see what's going on.
- But Smaug isn't home!
- As Bilbo goes exploring over the treasure pile, he finds the Arkenstone, Thorin's most desired treasure.
- The Arkenstone – a.k.a. the Heart of the Mountain – is a great gem that takes "all light that [falls] upon it and [changes] it into ten thousand sparks of white radiance shot with glints of rainbow" (13.19). Yes, please!
- For some reason, he decides not to show it to the dwarves quite yet.
- The dwarves arrive and start combing through the treasure.
- Thorin gives Bilbo a present: a chain-mail coat made of mithril, Elvish metal.
- Bilbo thinks, "I feel magnificent [...] but I expect I look rather absurd. How they would laugh on the Hill at home!" (13.37).
- Bilbo reminds the greedy dwarves that they can't just hang around waiting for Smaug to get back.
- Thorin agrees, and he leads them by memory through the old halls (and past some skulls and things) to the Front Gate.
- Balin leads them up to an old watchmen's place so that they can keep an eye on Smaug (if he comes back).
- So they go to sleep filled with wonder that there's still no sign of Smaug the dragon.
Fire and Water
- Meanwhile, back in Lake-town, they observe a red glow from the Lonely Mountain.
- They think it's a good thing: "The King beneath the Mountain! [...] His wealth is like the Sun, his silver like a fountain, his rivers golden run! The river is running gold from the Mountain!" (14.8).
- But one grim-voiced guard warns them: it's actually the dragon coming!
- This grim fellow is Bard, and he's a descendent of the old lords of Dale. We'll be coming back to him in a second.
- Smaug flames the town from a distance while the men of Lake-town pepper him with arrows.
- Because Bard's ancestors were the lords of Dale, he can understand the language of thrushes. (...Right.)
- So when a thrush flutters up and starts talking to him – the same thrush that showed Bilbo where the side door's keyhole was – Bard understands the bird.
- The thrush explains, "The moon is rising. Look for the hollow of the left breast as [Smaug] flies and turns above you!" (14.20).
- The thrush tells Bard everything that he's heard from Bilbo and the dwarves.
- So Bard takes his great bow and his finest arrow and shoots Smaug in his weak spot as he flies overhead.
- Smaug's body falls directly on Lake-town. So Smaug and Lake-town are both dead.
- The people are so impressed with Bard that they want to make him king of Lake-town.
- The Master of Lake-town doesn't want to let go of power, though.
- The Elvenking, meanwhile, has heard the news of what's going on in Lake-town from his own messengers.
- The Elvenking travels quickly to Lake-town to help the people rebuild their home.
- All of the able-bodied soldiers from Lake-town and the troops of the Elvenking march to the Lonely Mountain to see if Thorin is still alive.
The Gathering of the Clouds
- Thorin notices that there are huge flocks of birds flying to the mountain. Something strange is happening.
- The old thrush appears and keeps singing meaningfully at them.
- None of them can understand, but Thorin mentions that he can follow the speech of the ravens.
- So the thrush flies off and comes back with an ancient raven, Roäc.
- Roäc explains that Smaug has been killed (yay!).
- But, "many are gathering hither besides the birds" (15.19).
- The elves are marching to the Lonely Mountain in hopes of gaining a share of the treasure.
- And the Lake-men aren't too happy with the dwarves. They want some cash to rebuild their town.
- Thorin sends Roäc to bring all this news to his cousin, Dain. The dwarves need reinforcements.
- The dwarves return to the mountain and block off as many gates as they can to prepare for war.
- The dwarves are feeling braver and braver: even though there are only thirteen of them (well, plus one hobbit), they're fighting from their old home.
- Also, they now have tons of treasure – that would make anybody feel better about things.
- The elvish and human armies eventually arrive to camp in front of the Lonely Mountain.
- The dwarves sing their song with a new, inspiring twist: "The king is come unto his hall / Under the Mountain dark and tall / The Worm of Dread is slain and dead, / And ever so our foes shall fall!" (15.35).
- Bilbo is starting to feel really depressed: all of the dwarves' talk is so warlike.
- The next day, Bard of Lake-town goes to address Thorin.
- He reminds Thorin that Lake-town has been destroyed in part because Thorin got Smaug all riled up.
- What's more, it was Bard who shot the arrow to destroy the dragon.
- So doesn't Thorin owe the men of Lake-town a little something?
- Thorin admits that there is some truth to this.
- Still, he won't negotiate with an army on his doorstep.
- And Thorin especially won't negotiate while the Elvenking is nearby – he hates that guy.
- Bard replies, "The Elvenking is my friend, and he has succoured the people of the Lake in their need, though they have no claim of friendship on him" (15.47).
- In other words, unlike you, Thorin, the Elvenking has helped us out now that our whole town has been crushed under a dragon corpse.
- Then, the armies of the Lake-men announce that the Lonely Mountain is under siege. They won't actively attack the dwarves, but they won't let them leave without giving the Lake-men a portion of their gold first.
- They hope to starve Thorin out.
A Thief in the Night
- Roäc the raven asks Thorin how he plans to make it through the winter alone in the mountain.
- Thorin reminds Roäc that it will be equally cold for the armies on the plain.
- Bilbo realizes Thorin is never going to change his mind without outside prodding.
- So Bilbo hatches a plan.
- He takes the Arkenstone (which he still has in secret) and goes to relieve Bombur of his watch duties.
- As soon as Bombur is asleep, Bilbo sneaks down to the human/elf camp.
- He meets with both the Elvenking and Bard.
- Bilbo explains that absolutely nothing will change Thorin's mind.
- What's more, the humans and the elves don't know that Thorin is waiting for reinforcements from Dain, Thorin's cousin.
- Bilbo wants peace and to save his friends.
- So Bilbo gives Bard the Arkenstone of Thrain.
- He wants Bard to use the Arkenstone to negotiate peace with Thorin.
- Bilbo heads back to the dwarves.
- On his way out of the human/elf camp, an old man in a dark cloak tells him, "Well done! Mr. Baggins!" (16.43).
- It's Gandalf! He's back!
- Gandalf promises Bilbo, "There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep your heart up! You may come through all right" (16.45).
- Bilbo is confused but cheerful as he climbs back up the side of the mountain to his friends.
The Clouds Burst
- The next day, Bard, the Elvenking, and "an old man wrapped in cloak and hood" (17.3) appear in front of Thorin's Front Gate.
- Bard shows Thorin the Arkenstone and demands that they negotiate terms.
- Bilbo admits that he was the one who gave the Arkenstone to Bard.
- Thorin agrees to give Bilbo's share of the treasure (one-fourteenth) to the elves and men in exchange for the Arkenstone.
- But he also casts Bilbo out of the Lonely Mountain, adding, "no friendship of mine goes with him" (17.19).
- Thorin sends his raven buddies to tell Dain what has been gong on.
- Thorin is already starting to wonder if he can use Dain's forces to capture the Arkenstone without paying the agreed price for it.
- Dain and his men arrive. The humans and elves block their access to the Lonely Mountain.
- Bard refuses to let the dwarf army join Thorin, but the Elvenking doesn't want to wage a war for gold.
- The Elvenking advises, "Let us hope still for something that will bring reconciliation" (17.37).
- The dwarves launch a surprise attack on the elves and men.
- Suddenly, Gandalf cries out, "Halt! [...] Dread has come upon you all! Alas! [...] The Goblins are upon you!" (17.41).
- The goblins are everyone's enemies, so they immediately stop fighting each other.
- Bard, the Elvenking, and Dain all join together to make war plans with Gandalf.
- They gather against the Lonely Mountain and prepare for the goblins to attack.
- Then war breaks out. It comes to be known as the Battle of Five Armies.
- Throughout the day, the advantage goes sometimes to the elves', humans', and dwarves' side, sometimes to the goblins and their allies, the Wargs.
- Thorin makes a plunge into the goblin army from the Front Gate of his mountain, armed with all his fine armor and backed by his twelve companions.
- But the tide of the battle seems to be going against the good side.
- Suddenly, Bilbo (wearing his invisibility ring and up out of the way) sees the Eagles flying in from far off.
- But just then, Bilbo gets clocked on the head by a falling rock.
- He loses consciousness and totally misses the end of the battle.
The Return Journey
- Bilbo wakes up all alone on the battlefield.
- He takes off his ring of invisibility and a man who has been sent to find him carries Bilbo down to the camp (much easier to locate a guy when he's not invisible).
- Gandalf is glad to see Bilbo.
- He quickly brings Bilbo to Thorin, who's dying.
- Thorin tells Bilbo that he wants them to be friends again. He adds, "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world" (18.19).
- Thorin passes away, and Bilbo cries.
- Bilbo learns later that the Eagles came upon observing that the goblins were massing their armies for attack.
- Following the Eagles, Beorn appeared alone in his bear shape, seeming "to have grown to almost giant-size in his wrath" (18.22).
- Beorn attacked the goblins and Wargs from the rear and fought right through their ranks.
- With the help of the Eagles and Beorn, the men, elves, and dwarves rallied and fought back the goblins and Wargs.
- They won! And "the mountains had peace for many a year" (18.24).
- Dain has been crowned King under the Mountain.
- Ten of the twelve dwarf companions of Thorin are still alive: Fili and Kili both died defending Thorin. But the other ten stay with Dain.
- Dain hands over a fourteenth portion of the treasure to Bard, as Thorin promised before the war.
- Bard uses the money to rebuild Dale and enrich Lake-town.
- Bilbo comes away with two small chests of treasure – "That will be quite as much as I can manage" (18.37).
- Bilbo and Gandalf ride along with the Elvenking to Mirkwood.
- Beorn accompanies Bilbo and Gandalf to his house close to the Misty Mountains.
- Bilbo and Gandalf spend the winter with Beorn.
- Then Bilbo and Gandalf continue on to Rivendell.
The Last Stage
- When Bilbo and Gandalf ride into Rivendell, the elves are singing a song of welcome.
- Gandalf tells Elrond all about their adventures in the North.
- Bilbo has a grand old time at Elrond's house: "Weariness fell from him soon [...] and he had many a merry jest and dance, early and late, with the elves of the valley" (19.11).
- But before long, Bilbo and Gandalf ride out to Hobbiton.
- On the way, they stop to pick up the bags of troll treasure they left buried at the side of the road over a year before.
- When Bilbo arrives at Bag-End, he finds that his relatives (the Sackville-Bagginses, but of course) have declared him dead and are selling off all of his stuff!
- Bilbo manages to prove that he is still alive.
- But he has lost his reputation for being a totally respectable, ordinary hobbit.
- Everyone in The Hill thinks he's a bit weird now.
- But Bilbo doesn't mind: he's happy to be at home, with his trusty dagger little sword hanging over the mantelpiece.
- Some years later, Gandalf and Balin happen to be passing by.
- Balin tells Bilbo the good news that the area around the Lonely Mountain has grown rich and peaceful.
- The men around the area sing songs that "the rivers run with gold" (19.34).
- Bilbo laughs: "Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true after a fashion!" (19.35).
- Gandalf points out that Bilbo shouldn't doubt prophecies just because he had a part in making them come true.
- It's not like everything that happened in these adventures were solely for Bilbo's own good!
- After all, Bilbo is "only quite a little fellow in a wide world" (19.36).
- Bilbo replies, "Thank goodness!" (19.37), and passes the tobacco.