The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again Chapter 11
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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).