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.)
Welcome to our first day of The Hobbit read-along! The format for these posts will begin with recaps and are followed with discussion questions. Remember to take part in the comments and let us know what you think. And for those who maybe aren’t a huge fan of Tolkien or are reading The Hobbit for the first time, don’t hesitate to say what you feel; we won’t keep you from saying you don’t like something. Really.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” The Hobbit opens with one of the classic lines in literature, and it immediately sets the tone for the novel. It moves quickly with descriptions, the next couple of pages telling us about Bilbo’s house, his family – “they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected”, and his remarkable mother from the more adventurous, less respectable Tooks.
One morning after breakfast, Bilbo stands outside smoking a pipe when he notices an old man standing near his home. When Bilbo calls “Good morning”, Gandalf questions him on the meaning. (I love Gandalf.) After their musings, Gandalf mentions he is looking for someone to share in an adventure. To which Bilbo tells him it would be rather hard to find an adventurer nearby as adventures are uncomfortable things and “Make you late for dinner!” When Gandalf introduces himself, Bilbo is intrigued, but only enough to invite Gandalf to tea the next day before darting back in his house. Once Bilbo is inside, Gandalf scratches a sign on Bilbo’s green front door and leaves.
Of course, Bilbo completely forgot he invited anyone round to tea, so when someone rings the bell he is caught off guard. Though the person at his door is not Gandalf, but a dwarf! Bilbo, being the ever-polite host, invites Dwalin for tea, despite the fact that Dwalin is already in the house and has hung his cloak already. Then arrives Balin, then Kili and Fili (who mention a throng and send Bilbo into a panic), followed by Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin. Last come Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and Thorin Oakenshield, who tumble into Bilbo’s house and fall flat on the floor, with Thorin on the bottom. Gandalf follows them all in, and more food is called round. The dwarves feast and Bilbo serves, though Thorin does have them pitch in for the cleanup (hilariously singing about chipping dishes while they do it).
All the food is followed by music, including “Over the Misty Mountains”, which sets the stage for their adventure. Thorin then begins to explain their quest, and though Bilbo felt a bit Tookish and adventurous earlier during the singing, actually talking about things pushes Bilbo over the edge and he screams. The dwarves put him in another room and question Gandalf’s choice of burglar. It is their insults towards Bilbo that spur him on and he tells them that he is quite good, thank you very much. He’ll come along to prove it. He asks for more detail about their adventure, which Thorin provides with a history of the Lonely Mountain, how the dragon came to be there, and Gandalf provides a map and key from Thorin’s father (which he acquired while in the dungeons of the Necromancer). They decide to take a hidden passage at the side of the mountain as their initial plan of attack, and Bilbo grows a bit more reluctant to help. He suggests everyone gets to bed and he’ll make them breakfast before the dwarves leave. At which point, Thorin reminds Bilbo that he is in fact coming with them. Bilbo sleeps uneasily and wakes late the next day.
- Looking at the narration for the story, it certainly opens with a tone of almost innocent delight – much like you would use when telling a small child a bedtime story. But as the dwarves pile into Bilbo’s house, does the tone get a bit darker? I think it does, but it still feels pretty light.
- Who else giggled when you realized Bilbo was almost more upset that he might have to (GASP!) go without cake in order to feed his guests than the fact there were so many unannounced guests?
- Rereading this, I still wonder – why do you think Gandalf chose Bilbo of all hobbits?
- After reading the first chapter, do you think Gandalf knows already that the Necromancer is Sauron? He seems pretty adamant that Thorin stay away, and he’s been in the dungeons.