Study Guide

The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again Chapter 11

By J.R.R. Tolkien

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Chapter 11

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).

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