Study Guide

The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again Chapter 8

By J.R.R. Tolkien

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Chapter 8

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.

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