The dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf leave Rivendell and make their way into and over the Misty Mountains. With Gandalf’s help and Elrond’s advice, they make it onto the right roads and miss the bad, though danger and eeriness still lurk in their path. Bilbo hates the cold and thinks instead of the summer he would be having in the Shire – picnics and harvesting. While the dwarves hoped to make good time, Gandalf knows the dangers they may face. They witness a “thunder-battle” and stone-giants hurl rocks at each other during the storm. To escape the fierce storm and avoid being found by the giants, they send Kili and Fili out to look for better shelter. The young dwarves come back within minutes with news of a dry cave. While all looks well inside, when they drift off to sleep Bilbo dreams of the back of the cave opening in a crack. His dream is true, and he sees the last of the ponies being taken through the crack and out jump several goblins. The goblins capture all but Gandalf, and bring them onto the other side of the cave wall.
The goblins herd the dwarves and Bilbo down, down, down until they reach a great cavern lit by a fire and torches. Thorin and company are chained together, whipped, and have to watch as their things are rifled through by the goblins. (Tolkien mentions here that Goblins love inventing things of cruelty and torture, and they probably later invented instruments of mass murder that plague the world now.) The Great Goblin interrogates Thorin as to why they were in the cave, to which Thorin responds they were sheltering and traveling through the mountains to visit family. But when the goblins notice his sword Orcrist, the Great Goblin screams and runs at Thorin. Before he can kill Thorin, the lights and fire goes out and smoke fills the room, creating confusion. Someone kills the Great Goblin and Gandalf yells at the dwarves to run with him. They make it down into the heart of the mountain and Bilbo notices that Gandalf’s sword glows blue. After accounting for each of the party, Gandalf ushers them forward but goblins come up behind. He and Thorin fight off a fair few and give them time to escape again, but scouts go around them and behind them. As Bilbo rides on Dori’s shoulders, Dori is grabbed from behind and Bilbo is knocked off and unconscious.
Bilbo wakes in complete darkness, knowing he has been forgotten or lost by the goblins. He feels his way forward and while going finds a cold metal ring. He puts the thing in his pocket but hardly thinks of it as it cannot be very useful. Bilbo notices he has his pipe and tobacco, but not matches. He then remembers that lighting a match might bring something out of the dark he does not wish to meet. Inspecting his forgotten dagger, he notices that it too is an elvish blade, and while it glows dimly, it is not enough to show that goblins are very near. Proud of his elvish blade, he moves forward through the dark with a bit more lightness in his heart.
Bilbo moves on until his feet hit water. He listens and figures that it is a pool or lake, but he has no idea where to go from where he stands. Unbeknownst to him he is watched by Gollum. Gollum is a creature who has lived on the island in the middle of the lake for years and years, and he likes to eat the blind fish and goblins when he can get them. Gollum climbs in his boat and floats across the water to where Bilbo stands, startling the hobbit when he speaks. Bilbo tells him that he has lost the dwarves and wizard, and as he is lost himself, he only wants to get away. Since Gollum cannot decide if he should eat Bilbo or not (he is after all, not particularly hungry), they enter into a game of riddles. When Bilbo guesses the first riddle so easily, Gollum decides to turn it into a competition – if Bilbo wins, Gollum shows him the way out, but if Gollum wins, he eats Bilbo. For lack of options, Bilbo agrees, and off they go into their competition. Bilbo wins the competition when he accidentally asks out loud what is in his pocket and Gollum takes it for a riddle. Gollum, frustrated by being cheated, heads back to his island to look for his ring. But the ring is not in its hole and Gollum begins to wonder if that is what is in Bilbo’s pocket. Bilbo, sensing Gollum will murder him anyway, runs up the passage and away from the creature.
Bilbo gropes for the ring in his pocket and it slips on to his finger. When Gollum comes upon him, the creature runs past cursing. Bilbo does not understand how Gollum could have missed him. But as Bilbo listens to Gollum mourn his birthday present, he begins to understand that what he’s found is a magic ring that can make its wearer invisible. Bilbo follows Gollum onward, with Gollum thinking Bilbo knows the back-door out. Gollum sits in the way of the passage towards the back-door, and Bilbo, afraid of Gollum, thinks he must kill the creature. But then Bilbo realizes that Gollum had not actually tried to harm him, yet, and Gollum is such a miserable thing. So instead, Bilbo leaps over Gollum and into the passage.
Running from Gollum’s cries, Bilbo moves up the passage as quick as he can, though it is steep and slows him down. When he gets to an open door, the sunshine nearly blinds him. The ring is no longer on his finger, so the goblins guarding the door see him, but as they rush him, Bilbo finds it again in his left pocket and puts it on. Confused, the goblins run around and into each other looking for Bilbo and the hobbit moves out of the fray as best he can. He finally spots an opening and goes to the door, but gets stuck as it is only ajar. The goblins see his shadow and run for him, but Bilbo squeezes through just in time, losing buttons on his waistcoat in the process. He runs for the trees and with the ring hides among them. Since the goblins hate the sun, they soon give up the search and return to the cave.
- One of us should really count how many times Tolkien mentions Bilbo wishes for his warm hobbit hole. It’s a funny and sympathizing motif.
- Being from Kansas where you get some pretty fantastic thunderstorms, I can imagine what the narrator means by it being a thunder battle in the mountains.
- Anyone else feel especially sorry for the doomed ponies?
- When Bilbo finds the ring, I love that he is drawn to pick it up, almost without noticing it. Lays the groundwork for everything it means and does during The Lord of the Rings.
- I realize this post is literally riddled with the name Gollum. Sorry!
- As they trade riddles, could any of you actually guess any of them before you read the answer? It’s been so long since I’ve read The Hobbit that I didn’t remember any. Ironically the one I got was the one that Bilbo was stumped on – time.
- If you didn’t know the events of Return of the King and Mount Doom, would you have thought it best Gollum died by Bilbo’s hand, there and then?