As the dwarves and Bilbo move into the forest, they rarely see sun, feel no wind, and can see black squirrels and cobwebs on the sides of the path. They all being to hate the forest and to feel that their path will never lead them out. At night it is so dark you could not see a hand in front of your face, and fires only brought hundreds of watching eyes, large moths, and bats. Running short of food and water, they reach the black stream Beorn warned them against drinking from. The bridge that once crossed it has rotted away, so they must find a way to cross without getting wet. A boat sits on the other side, but they argue how best to get to it. Fili throws a rope with an iron hook, and after a couple of tries, hooks it and pulls it to them. The dwarves and Bilbo take turns crossing using another hook and rope to pull them along, with poor, fat, grumbling Bombur in the last boat. As the last group disembarks, a deer bowls them over, with Bombur falling into the water. The dwarves throw him the rope and hook and pull him to safety, though he is already fast asleep. Thorin shot the deer for food, but as Bombur fell he pushed the boat out of their reach, thus making the deer irretrievable. As they curse their bad luck, they hear the sounds of a nearby hunt and sit and wait for it to subside. Three of the dwarves shoot at another deer, but miss and lose the last of their arrows.
The party must continue while taking turns carrying a still slumbering Bombur. After four days’ walk from the stream, the trees finally change to beech and more light gets in to the forest roof, but lack of food and water causes gloom amongst the travelers. Sometimes as they walk they hear singing or laughter of fair voices (elves), but they find it disconcerting. They eventually make it amongst oak trees, and they send Bilbo up the tree to look ahead of their path. Bilbo sees nothing but more trees at the top of his climb, but because of their position in the forest, that assumption was false. They are actually near the edge of the forest, but because Bilbo’s tree sat on lower ground, it made it look as if there was no end. That night they finish their food and the next morning feel nothing but thirst and hunger. However, Bombur awakes giving them some relief, but he does not remember a moment of their journey. Bombur cries when he hears there is no food and tells them all of his wonderful dreams – there had been a woodland king, torches burning, and a feast that went on forever.
Thorin begs Bombur to speak no more, and they continue to walk, though Bombur constantly whines that his legs cannot carry him. After hours of this, he suddenly flings himself on the ground and vows to move no more. Balin meanwhile spots a light in the forest, and they argue over whether to go towards it or not, remembering all too well the warnings Beorn and Gandalf gave about leaving the path. They want to send spies, but no one wants to go without the others and risk being forever lost. So in the end, they all leave the path and make their way into the forest. They rush into the ring filled with elves and the smells of roast meats, but as soon as they do, all the torches go out leaving them in complete darkness. Soon, more torches are lit farther off, and this time they decide to send Bilbo in on his own to beg for food. It does not work, with the elves disappearing again, and poor Bilbo almost getting lost because he falls asleep dreaming of food. Again they see lights, and again when Thorin steps into the ring the torches are all extinguished. Though this time Bilbo gets completely separated from the others, left alone in the dark.
Bilbo dozes until he wakes to something sticky. A spider was wrapping him in its web, but Bilbo remembers his little sword in time and cuts himself free and kills the spider. This leads him to call the sword Sting and to feel far better about his abilities, almost making him a new person. He wanders looking for his friends, and slips on the ring for added safety. He soon finds the dwarves, prisoners of more the giant spiders and all wrapped up and hanging ready to be fed on. Bilbo, a good shot, throws stones and kills two spiders. He then leads the other spiders on a chase through the trees, throwing stones and singing and taunting them. He tricks the spiders into thinking he has gone farther in the forest than he has, and doubles back to save the dwarves. He climbs up to their branch using a spider rope that hurts his hands, and kills the old, fat guard they had left behind. He pulls up and cuts away the web on Fili, who helps Bilbo rescue the other dwarves. Bombur merely rolls off the branch when he is rescued, and it is then that the spiders begin to come back. Bilbo leaps down to save Bombur from being caught again, and the other dwarves get knives, sticks, and stones to defend themselves. In order to finish them off, Bilbo must let the dwarves know the secret about the ring so that he can lure the spiders away. He tells the dwarves to meet him a ways off, and takes off singing taunts again. Because they wore poisoned and hanged upside down, the poor dwarves cannot move very fast and are soon almost overtaken by spiders again. Bilbo comes back and with Sting eventually drives the spiders into giving up their prey.
They find one of the elven rings in the forest and rest there for the night, badgering Bilbo with questions and gratitude. It takes them awhile to realize that Thorin is missing, and his disappearance unhinges them all. Thorin has been taken by the wood-elves, who are not as wise as the High Elves of the West and who are less trusting of strangers. The king is also a great lover of fine metals and jewels, which Thorin knows. Not wanting to reveal anything of his hunt for the treasure guarded by Smaug, he will only tell the elf king that he and his friends were starving and looking for food. Angry at Thorin’s unwillingness, the elf king has him locked up but fed and watered. Thorin worries about his friends and wonders if they are safe.
- I simply love Tolkien’s dry, matter-of-fact humor: “Quite apart from the stones no spider has ever liked being called Attercop, and Tomnoddy of course is insulting to anybody.” Also, I know a lot of Brit slang, and I am not at all familiar with these. Ha.
- This change in Bilbo caused by protecting himself from the spider in the night – do you think Gandalf knew that it was possible? Must have, because he had the hobbit go along on the adventure.
- Can’t dwarves and elves just get along like Legolas and Gimli? (Also, how fun that both are sons of people involved in this moment of the Hobbit?)
- The spiders are descendants of Shelob, but think they have a connection to Rowling’s spiders in the Forbidden Forest? (Seriously, rereading The Hobbit is like finding tons of things that obviously inspired her, whether or not she admits it.)