JRR Tolkien

Hobbit Read Along – Chapters 18 and 19

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These are the last two chapters of “The Hobbit”!  Congratulations, you are now more than prepared for the movie this Friday (or Thursday for UK readers), and well-informed to adore or scrutinize Peter Jackson’s take.  We’ll host a discussion on the movie on Friday, but please remember that books and movies are two different mediums.  No adaptation will be perfect, nor should it be.

Hobbit Read Along Chapters 18 and 19Recap:

Chapter 18

Bilbo comes to and realizes he is by himself on Ravenshill.  He can see no goblins left alive and thinks there are elves on the rocks below.  Dwarves are removing the wall at the front gate, but everything is quiet.  No songs or laughter.  Bilbo decides that victory is a gloomy business.  He sense someone coming towards him, but when he calls the man is confused.  He realizes that he is still wearing the ring, and kicks himself because he might have had a soft bed otherwise.  The man tells him that Gandalf thought he was still alive, and had last heard Bilbo’s voice on the hill.  Bilbo only has a sore head, but is a bit wobbly, so the man carries Bilbo down to Dale.  At the tents he meets a delighted Gandalf whose arm is in a sling.  Gandalf tells him that Thorin wishes to see him, and directs him into a tent.  There lies Thorin, covered in many wounds and he knows that he will soon leave the world where the treasure of his fathers matter.  Thorin wants to part in friendship with Bilbo, and tells the hobbit he is far better than he realizes.  He also mentions that if only everyone cared for good food and a song above gold as Bilbo does, the world would be a better place.  The two say farewell, and Bilbo goes away, crying until his eyes are red and his voice hoarse.

The narrator informs us here of the rest of the events of the battle.  The eagles had been watching the goblins gather, and thus gathered themselves under the Lord of the Eagles.  When they smelled war, they flew to help.  The eagles were able to pull the goblins off of the mountainside, evening out the battle again.  But the battle turned, and all looked lost until Beorn showed up in his bear form, more giant with anger.  It was Beorn that pulled a wounded Thorin out of the fray, then rejoined the battle.  He killed the goblin leader Bolg, and at his death the other goblins fled.  The coalition of dwarves, elves, men, eagles, and Beorn feared the goblins’ escape, so they chased them down and slaughtered them, or drove them into Mirkwood to get lost under the trees.  They estimate that three parts of the northern goblins were killed that day, leaving the lands in peace for many years.  When Bilbo wakes, all but the most wounded were out on the hunt for the goblins.

Bilbo regrets missing the eagles, and he asks Gandalf when they can head home.  Gandalf tells him soon.  First, Thorin is buried at the bottom of the mountain, the Arkenstone laid on top.  The elf-king returns Orcrist to also be buried with him, and it’s said that the sword would glow whenever enemies were near.  Fili and Kili fell defending Thorin, and Dain becomes King Under the Mountain.  Dain rewards the eagles with gold, and gives Bard the agreed one fourteenth share.  Bard in turn shares it with the Master for the rebuild and rewards his followers and friends generously.  Bard gives the elf king emeralds and tries to reward Bilbo with the largest portion.  Bilbo, however, does not trust a journey with so much gold and agrees to only take one chest each of gold and silver to be carried by a pony.

Bilbo bids farewell to the dwarves, and the parties exchange invitations for future visits.  Bilbo, Gandalf, and Beorn ride next to the elf-king until they reach the edge of Mirkwood.  There Bilbo gifts the king with a necklace in payment for his thievery, and the amused king declares Bilbo an elf friend.  Gandalf, Bilbo, and Beorn plan to take the long road around Mirkwood, none of them keen to head into the forest and the other lands much safer with the goblins dead or hiding.  They have a few adventures on the way to Beorn’s, but Bilbo feels safe with his guides.  Gandalf and Bilbo stay awhile at Beorn’s, and though the hobbit is sad to leave, he is ready to return home.  The narrator informs us that Beorn and his line become great rulers in the area with the absence of the wargs and the ability of men to roam more freely.  Once they reach the Misty Mountains, Bilbo feels his Baggins side is very tired and ready to be home.

Chapter 19

They come to Rivendell on May the first and the elves are still singing.  The elves greet Gandalf and Bilbo and guide them again to Elrond’s.  Gandalf tells their tale to Elrond, Bilbo having related the majority of it to the wizard already.  The hobbit perks up when he hears a portion of the story he didn’t know – where Gandalf went.  Gandalf had met with the white counsel, a group of wizards and masters of lore and good magic, and they drove the Necromancer from Mirkwood.  The forest will get better, but Gandalf wishes they had been able to kill the Necromancer.  Elrond mentions that that day may not happen within that age, or within any age near.  After their adventures are told, the elves tell old stories and made up ones until Bilbo falls asleep.  He wakes in a comfortable bed to the elves singing outside his window.  He tells them off for singing so early, and they in turn mock his loud snoring and tell him to get up already.  He ignores them and enjoys a rest until mid-morning.  He and Gandalf stay in Rivendell for a week, but again he is ready to be home.  They take the same route home as they came, and Bilbo feels it has been ten years instead of one since they traveled through.  The pair look for and recover the troll gold they had buried and Bilbo tries to give it all to Gandalf. The wizard tells Bilbo he will never know when it might come in handy, and in the end they both take some, weighing down their ponies.  They walk most of the way after that, slowing their pace.

Bilbo finally spots his own hill and stops to compose a poem (see below).  To this weird action, Gandalf notes that Bilbo is not the same hobbit that left Bag-end not long ago.  When they arrive at his house, there is an auction going on.  Bilbo had been presumed dead, and most of his things have already been sold.  The Sackville-Baggins are even measuring for their own furniture.  It takes years for Bilbo to be declared alive again, and he has to buy back many of his own furniture to speed up the recovery process.  The Sackville-Baggins are never kind to him after, and he learns that he has lost his reputation.  Bilbo is now queer at home, though highly respected amongst elves, dwarves, wizards, or other such folk that pass through.  Only his nieces and nephews on the Took side will talk to them, and even their parents encourage them not to.  Bilbo is glad to be left alone though.  He hangs his sword over the mantel and his mail in the hall until he lends it to a museum.  He buys extravagant gifts for his nieces and nephews, but keeps the ring a secret so he can hide from unpleasant callers.  People might not believe his tales (he’s “poor old Baggins”), but Bilbo continues to write poetry and goes to visit the elves.

Years later, Gandalf and Balin visit.  Bilbo notices that Balin dresses richly, and wonders if Balin notices that Bilbo’s own waistcoat buttons are pure gold.  Balin tells him that the Mountain is prosperous again and Dale and Lake-town have been rebuilt.  The old Master ran away with most of the gold, but was deserted by his friends in the Wild and died.  The new Master is a better man and is doing a fine job.  Trade is flourishing and there are new songs that say the rivers do run with gold.  Bilbo states, sort of amazed, that prophecies come true.  Gandalf laughs, asking Bilbo how he could doubt the prophecy that he helped make true, and tells him that he wasn’t as lucky as he thought and is a small person in the world.  Bilbo laughs and brings out the tobacco.

Discussion Questions/Thoughts:

  1. Technically speaking, Bilbo was unconscious for the conclusion of the battle and therefore unconscious during the climax of the book.  That means we miss out on that as readers.  Maybe this is where Stephanie Meyer got the idea from.  But even still, Tolkien almost pulls it off.
  2. I feel sorry for Bilbo, who has been on all these great adventures but is now almost shunned at home.
  3. Our narrator tells us that Bilbo wants to write his adventures down – so are we supposed to assume that the narrator is a much more informed Bilbo, or a third party?
  4. Also, silly Bard for trusting the Master with that much gold.

Roads Go Ever Ever On – Full Poem

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
and horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

< Chapters 16 & 17                                                                  Lord of the Rings Appendices >


Hobbit Read Along – Chapters 16 and 17

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Hobbit Read Along Chapters 16 and 17Recap:

Chapter 16

With little else to do, the dwarves spend most of their time organizing the treasure, and Thorin asks them all to look for the Arkenstone.  He also warns them that anyone who might withhold the stone would meet with his vengeance.  This worries Bilbo, who has it hidden in a bundle he uses for a pillow, but he does not give it up because he has a plan forming.  The ravens bring news of Dain, saying he is within just a couple days’ march from Dale.  Roac the raven leader wants Thorin to give up some of the treasure so that a battle might be avoided and the dwarves can make friends for the harsh winter to come.  Thorin remains stubborn, however, and says the winter will bother the men and elves as well.

Bilbo one evening makes up his mind and grabs the Arkenstone and some rope from his bundle.  He goes to the wall at the front gate, currently guarded by a grumpy Bombur, and offers to keep watch so Bombur can be warm.  Bilbo claims he will not be able to sleep anyway, so Bombur accepts.  Once Bombur is gone however, Bilbo slips on his ring and climbs over the wall.  While crossing the stream, Bilbo falls in and alarms the elves watching.  They think it just might be the dwarves’ weird servant, so Bilbo pulls off the ring and pops out from behind a rock.  He asks to speak to Bard and to warm up by a fire.  Bilbo gets to speak to both Bard and the elven king, and tells them that he is tired of the siege but knows that Thorin would rather sit on his treasure and die then share it.  Bilbo also shows them his letter from Thorin that entitles him to a share of the profits, but points out that those profits in his case could come after the share with Bard.  He also reminds the two that winter will be hard on everyone, and shares the news of Dain’s imminent coming.  They suspect Bilbo is either a traitor or warning them, but Bilbo tells them that he only wants a peaceful conclusion to the whole business.  At this point, he produces the Arkenstone, and loathe to hand it off, gives it to Bard to help in their bargaining.  He tells them that it is the heart of the Mountain and the heart of Thorin, so it will be a great tool to them.

The king and Bard try to get Bilbo to stay with them, fearing the dwarves will punish him once they know he has taken the stone.  Bilbo will not leave his friends, and must stay loyal to them after so many adventures.  They provide him an escort, and as they walk through the camp an old man pops out of a tent, saying, “Well done, Mr. Baggins!  There is always more about you then anyone expects!”  It was of course Gandalf, who also warns Bilbo that hard times are coming, and that there are things even the ravens have not heard.  Without time for further questions, Bilbo’s escort gets him across the stream still dry, and he climbs over the front gate wall, hiding the rope.  At midnight he wakes Bombur and goes to sleep easily, dreaming of eggs and bacon.

Chapter 17

Trumpets sound early in the camp the next day, and a messenger comes to Thorin asking for another meeting, saying that things had changed.  Thorin believes Dain is close at hand, and reminds the messenger that they must come unarmed.  A small number come at midday, bearing the arms of both the woods and the lake, with the elven king, Bard, and an old man bearing an iron casket at the head.  Bard asks if Thorin has changed his mind, to which Thorin replies that nothing would change his mind in just a few days.  Thorin is also angry the elves are still present, and states again that he will not negotiate while they remain.  Bard asks if anything will tempt him to yield some of the gold, and when Thorin responds negatively, Bard reveals he has the Arkenstone.  The old man holds the stone aloft in the iron casket for Thorin to clearly see.  Thorin is angry and will not buy back something that is rightfully his own, but wonders how the thieves got it in the first place.  That is when Bilbo squeaks that he took it and gave it to them.  Thorin grabs the hobbit with both hands, shakes him, and threatens to throw him over the wall.  Thorin wishes Gandalf were here to see the treachery.  The old man throws back his cloak and reveals that he is Gandalf and asks Thorin to not harm the hobbit.

Thorin vows to never trust a wizard or his friends, but listens to Bilbo’s explanation.  Bilbo tells Thorin that he may have taken the promise of one fourteenth share a bit too literally, but he had claimed the Arkenstone as his reward.  He reminds Thorin of the services he had paid him, and asks Thorin think that he disposed of his share as he wished.  Thorin then states he will give gold and silver, Bilbo’s share, in return for the Arkenstone, and they can divide it how they wish.  Thorin tells the men and elves to take the hobbit and that no manner of friendship will go with him.  He promises the gold and silver later, and Bard states they will hold onto the stone until they have been paid.  Gandalf warns him that he is behaving terribly as King under the Mountain, but may change that yet.  Thorin actually hopes that he can contrive to recover the Arkenstone with Dain’s help and not have to part with any gold.

Bilbo bids them farewell, wishing to Thorin that they can be friends one day again.  Thorin only responds by telling him to make haste, saying that Bilbo is too good for the mail he wears, and he would shoot arrows at Bilbo’s feet if he does not move.  Bard will return at noon the next day for Bilbo’s share, and the elf-host will return to the forest if the share is fair.  Thorin then sends Roac with a message to Dain of what had passed and asks him to hurry his walk.

Dain and his men arrive the next morning, marching towards Dale.  Runners sound the alarm.  Dain and his army are stronger even then normal dwarves, wear long mail and even mail pants of their own design, and carry mattocks, swords, and shields.  The elves and men arm themselves, going out to meet the dwarves.  The men laid down their arms, and Bard and Bilbo go out to meet them.  The dwarves’ spokesman tells Bard that they have come to help the restored king, asking why they sit as enemies before defended walls, that they have no business there.  Bard will not let them pass straight on to the mountain, knowing that their carried supplies and sheer numbers mean the men will never get the gold from Thorin.  Instead, he sends messengers to the front gate, but they are shot at once they are in range.  Bard says that they can still win the war with spies hidden in the hills, ready to shoot at the dwarves from above, but the elven king wishes for a peaceful resolution.  He asks Bard to wait and just continue to bar Dain’s passing.

While the elven king and Bard debate, the dwarves begin their attack, their hearts set on the Arkenstone.  But a dark cloud descend upon them, and another cloud comes made of flying creatures.  Gandalf jumps in between the battle, his staff setting a flash like lightning.  He tells them that the goblins are coming led by Bolg, son of Azog who Dain defeated in Moria.  The cloud is the bats that ride before them, and the goblins will ride on wolves and have Wargs in their midst.  Gandalf tells them that there is still time for a council, if they hurry.

So begins the Battle of Five Armies, with goblins and wild wolves on one side, and the dwarves, elves, and men on the other.  The killing of the Great Goblin in the Misty Mountains made the goblins hate the dwarves more than ever, so they communicated between cities until they amassed weapons and an army and vowed to take the North.  When news of Smaug’s death reached them, they hastened around the woods towards the Mountain.  Gandalf gathers with the elf-king, Bard, and Dain, and they make a plan to set the battle around the Mountain, hoping to lure the goblins in and trap them.  Their plan works, but the number of Goblins is great.  Bilbo slips his ring on in the beginning of the battle and is safe from most danger.  The elves charge first, then pull back in time for the dwarves and men to come out screaming from the side, with the elves joining in once again.  The battle seems almost won when they notice many goblins had climbed the mountain.  Thorin and his dwarves break down the wall, dodging rocks from above hurled by goblins, and call fighters to him.  There in gleaming armor and Thorin with his axe, they strike hard against the goblins.  Bodies pile high in Dale, most of them goblins, and though they surround the goblins, they cannot break into the ranks.  Bilbo, having chosen to stay near the elves, worries that the fighting will end with the goblins winning and them getting the treasure.  He would rather old Smaug had lived and kept it then to have the goblins get it and have bad things happen to his friends.

It is when all seems lost that Bilbo notices the eagles on the horizon.  He screams of their coming and the elves quickly take up the cry.  He feels hope again, but a rock hits him on the head, knocking him out.

Discussion Questions/Thoughts:

  1. I still can’t believe how brave Bilbo is handing over the Arkenstone.  And how much restraint Thorin shows in not actually killing him.
  2. How surprising is it that the elven-king wants to delay battle, especially since he has no love of dwarves?
  3. How does no one remember to help Thorin once the goblins come?
  4. Another section of The Hobbit where A TON happens in less than 20 pages.

< Chapters 13-15                                                                                               Chapters 18 & 19 >

Hobbit Read Along – Chapters 13 – 15

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Hobbit Read Along Chapters 13 14 and 15Recap:

Chapter 13

The group huddles in the tunnel for what feels like days, with quiet that unnerves them.  They cannot get out of the secret door anymore, and they do not know if Smaug had ever returned.  Bilbo decides to venture down towards Smaug’s lair, and tells the rest of the dwarves they must come with him.  Thorin joins him at the front before Bilbo ventures on ahead with his ring.  There is no light, however, and Bilbo falls into the hall because of its total darkness.  He calls out for Smaug but gets no reply.  Bilbo yells at the dwarves for a light, and goes over shouting at them until Oin and Gloin run and prepare a torch.  Thorin tells Bilbo they will not join him yet, but as he is still the burglar and investigator, he is completely welcome to look around while they huddle in the tunnel.  Bilbo walks amongst the treasure with his torch and comes upon the Arkenstone at the top of the pile.  Drawn to it, he puts it in his pocket and hopes to claim it for himself, though he knows that the stone may not have been meant in Thorin’s bargain.  While close to the doors, a bat flies at his head and makes Bilbo drop his torch, the light extinguishing and leaving him in darkness.

He yells at the dwarves to bring him a light, but it takes them several minutes to work up the courage.  Once the torches are lit, Bilbo makes his way back to them and informs them his struggles were merely because of a bat.  With the light the dwarves see the immense wealth and forget their worries and venture into the hall to explore.  Overcome with the gold, they pack on whatever trinkets they can carry, play harps that were magically kept in tune, and Thorin outfits himself in gold armor with a silver axe.  He gifts Bilbo with a set of mithril rings and a leather helm studded with white jewels.  Bilbo feels a bit silly in all the get-up and weary of looking at the jewels.  Bilbo shouts to Thorin that while they may be armed, they still have Smaug to contend with.  So the group cover their fine armor with their old cloaks and hoods and Thorin leads them expertly through the bone-littered rooms out to the front gate.

Bilbo, ever complaining of hunger, mentions the need for breakfast but in a place safer than Smaug’s front step.  Balin mentions a look-out tower nearby that is only a five hours’ march and climb.  Bilbo of course groans about this wait, but as he fears Smaug may be on top of the mountain waiting for them, they all agree with Balin’s plan.  They hike and find the road mostly gone, but make their way up the hill and stop midway for a breakfast of cram and water (the narrator explains that cram is some biscuity thing the Lake-men make that’s sustaining but not wonderful to eat).  They wonder on and find the guard tower built into the rock, where Balin explains they had little need of it when they were prosperous.  They take up the guardroom and watch area, and while some of them sleep, others discuss what may have become of Smaug as there is no sign of him on the horizon.

Chapter 14

The narration here switches to Lake-town.  On the night Smaug smashed the secret door, some men in Lake-town see light on the horizon.  Their view of the Lonely Mountain mostly blocked by other hills, a few believe that the King under the Mountain is once again forging gold.  One man though believes it to be the dragon.  When the river appears to turn to gold, most believe the songs have finally come true, and people rush out of their homes to see.  However, the doubter runs to the Master and they sound the alarm, arming the men and preparing for the dragon’s coming.  The doubter we learn is Bard, and he commands the archers as Smaug flies over, trying to light the pre-soaked houses.  Anytime he is able to get something alight, the fires are quickly put out.  Unable to swim the river and with the bridge gone, Smaug continues to fly over.  He lights trees on the shore and with his tail manages to knock the roof off of the Great House, followed by more and more houses.  Flames begin to take over and no arrow can penetrate Smaug’s diamond armor.

While the town burns, women and children escape into boats and the Master goes for his gilded craft hoping to flee in the confusion.  Only a small portion of archers continue to fight, and Bard of Dale commands them.  It is then that the thrush lands on his shoulder, and Bard is astonished to understand what it tells him.  He aims for the bare patch on the dragon’s left breast as the thrush instructs, and with a dwarven-made arrow takes down the great dragon.  Smaug lands on top of Lake-town, sinking it, but dead himself.  The people gather on the shore, decrying the Master who abandoned the town so soon and voicing their wish to make Bard king if he had only lived.  Bard then walks into the crowd, announcing his survival and feat as the dragon-slayer.  The people take up the chant to rid themselves of the Master and make Bard king again, but an annoyed Master turns the town towards the thought of the dwarves who brought the destruction on them in the first place.  Bard believes they probably all died by Smaug first, but thinks of the treasure in the mountain and his ability to rebuild Dale.

Bard helps to arrange shelter and food for those displaced, always in the Master’s name.  A few die because of lack of shelter and food, and even the Master goes short on dinner.  The people send for help from the wood-elves, but the king already knew of their plight because of the birds.  Birds fly everywhere, telling all about the death of Smaug and everyone thinks of the treasure now supposedly unprotected under the Mountain.  No one believes Thorin and company to still live, and each wish to make a claim.  While the elf-king marches to the Mountain, he receives the message from Bard, and having pity, turns towards the Lake-town, sending supplies ahead of them up the river.  They gather with the men for awhile and move the camp along the shore for fear of where the dragon lay.  No one ever passes over the watery grave of Smaug, and no one ever tries to retrieve the jewels falling from his carcass.  Instead, the men and elves get ready to march north to the mountain.

Chapter 15

The party of dwarves and Bilbo notice the heavy presence of birds.  The thrush shows up and Bilbo thinks he’s trying to communicate, but no one can understand him.  Balin remarks he wish the thrush was a raven, birds that he used to be friends with and gather news from.  The thrush flies away and brings back with him an old raven, who begins to speak to them in the language of men.  He tells them that he is the son of a raven well known to them, and that he has both good and bad news for the dwarves.  He tells them that Smaug is dead, but Smaug’s death has brought misery to the men of the lake, who now expect the gold of the Mountain to pay for their suffering.  Elves are also on their way, and more may come who remember the vastness of Thror’s treasure.  The raven tells Thorin to give the men a bit of gold, and to only trust Bard, not the Master.  Thorin however will not share his inheritance and asks the raven to send his younger companions to dwarves close at hand to help them in their plight.  Bilbo feels that the adventure is quite done now that Smaug is dead and would gladly give up his wealth in order to make the whole thing end.

With a few days to prepare, the dwarves learn that all other entrances to the Mountain were smashed in by Smaug, so they turn instead to fortifying the front gate.  They build a brick wall with no entrance, making the only way in a narrow ledge or by ropes.  Kili and Fili gather the rest of their supplies out in the valley and send the surviving three ponies back down south riderless.  Lights appear in Dale, and the next day the company of men and elvish bowman march up towards the gates.  They are surprised, however, to see the defenses, and more surprised when Thorin calls to them, asking why they come as if to war to his Mountain.  Many turned around at first, and the other followed them not long after.  The coalition camp moves closer to the Mountain, and Bilbo is warmed by the sound of their songs and laughter.  Even some of the younger dwarves wish they could have been friends, but Thorin grunts and so they make their own music instead.

The next day a few men and elves come, and when Thorin bids an answer, Bard responds.  He reminds Thorin that amongst the treasure is some that had belonged to the men of Dale, and asks for help for the people of Lake-town who have lost everything and yet have received no help from the dwarves yet.  Bard points out that so far the dwarves have only brought ruin, and he wishes to speak with Thorin.  Thorin will not speak to him while he comes with an armed host, feels no need to repay the men of Dale but will help those of Lake-town (eventually), and will definitely not speak until the elves have returned to their forest.  Bard notes that the elves have helped them and he will not send them away.  Though Thorin doubts Bard would have shared the treasure with his kin had he perished, Bard wishes to only address the situation as they now find it.  Bard and his men leave after Thorin again refuses to speak to armed men.  A messenger comes and in Bard’s name, asks for one twelth of the treasure, from which Bard will help the Lake-town and take his reward as dragon slayer.  Thorin’s response is to shoot an arrow at the messenger, with it lodging in the man’s shield.  The messenger then informs the dwarves that they are besieged, and tells them to enjoy their inevitable dinners of gold.  Bombur especially hates this turn of events, as cram has begun to stick nastily in his throat.

Discussion Questions/Thoughts:

  1. A lot happened in those three chapters, and it was barely 30 pages.  No wonder Jackson can make a trilogy out of this; Tolkien glazed over a lot.
  2. This is the point when I really can’t stand Thorin.  How selfish to keep a treasure that was only saved because of others and not help those who lost their lives because of the dwarves activities “reawakening” the dragon.
  3. Birds in Tolkien stories are never just birds, are they?
  4. I also feel for Bilbo at this point.  He is stuck in the worst possible position, not believing in the fight Thorin wants to wage and not able to leave either.

< Chapters 11 & 12                                                                                            Chapters 16 & 17 >

Hobbit Read Along – Chapters 9 & 10

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Hobbit Read Along Chapters 9 and 10Recap:

Chapter 9

The morning after battling the spiders, Bilbo and the dwarves try to guess which way the path lay, going in the direction eight of thirteen guess is right.  They do not get far before suddenly many torches sprang on around them and they are surrounded by elves.  Almost pleased at being taken captive, they give no fight.  Bilbo, however, slips on his ring so quickly that the elves never realize that he was there.  Bilbo follows the marched, blindfolded dwarves a ways behind, and they all cross the bridge that leads to the king’s doors.  Bilbo makes it inside the cave just before the doors are shut behind the group.  The dwarves are presented to the king, but they will tell him no more than Thorin of where they were headed.  Angry at their reluctance, he orders them locked up separately, but fed and watered, until one of them will divulge their secrets.  The king makes no mention of Thorin’s presence in his dungeons.  Bilbo hides in dark corners of the caves, sometimes leaving secretly behind the elves as they wander the woods, but never going far away.  He spends a week or two hiding with his ring in the caves before he realizes that if someone is going to help the dwarves it’ll have to be himself.

Bilbo finds Thorin and speaks with him, then carries his message to the other dwarves.  They all agree to say nothing to the king and give it more time for Bilbo to get them out; sharing the treasure with the wood elves would take far too much from their own shares.  Bilbo soon discovers another entrance to the caves, a sort of stream and water-gate under the lower portions of the palace.  Bilbo also learns that the wine-loving elves will send their empty barrels down the stream towards Lake-town.  One night, the butler and chief guard get drunk on especially heavy wine, allowing Bilbo to get the guard’s keys.  He goes and lets out each dwarf in turn, and when he gets Thorin explains his plan of sending them down the river in barrels.  They hate the plan, but realize they have no other option.  Bilbo kindly slips the keys back on the guard’s belt so it will look like the dwarves used some kind of magic to escape.  As soon as Bilbo carefully packs each dwarf in a barrel, elves come down the stairs to take care of the barrels they think are empty.  The elves complain about the weight in some of the barrels, but the wakened butler tells them he knows they are the ones to go.  Watching dwarves get tossed into the stream, Bilbo suddenly realizes that he himself will be left behind with no one to tuck him into a barrel.  He jumps along the last barrel to go, hugging it tight and feeling much like a drowned rat.  After awhile, he manages to climb on top and hold on for dear life.  At night they come ashore at a stopping point where raft-elves rope the barrels together.  Bilbo sneaks a stolen supper and sleeps on dry leaves.  He manages to jump onto the raft of barrels the next morning before they are shoved off down towards Lake-town.

Chapter 10

Bilbo floats atop the barrels, thinking that the river will never end when he finally sees the Lonely Mountain.  Far from happy at seeing it, he merely wants to rest.  The narrator informs us that they had actually come on the only route available.  Earthquakes and floods had wiped out the road Gandalf set them on, and he has recently learned of that himself and hopes to rush off to find the party of dwarves and hobbit.  The barreled dwarves and Bilbo reach Lake-town, and the narrator tells us that the men of Lake-town sometimes sing of Thror and Thrain (Thorin’s grandfather and father) returning and the rivers running again with gold, but they think little of that imagined future.  The town itself is built on wooden planks set out in the lake and men set off from the town in boats to tow the barrels back to the town.  They leave the barrels floating while they feast in Lake-town.  After nightfall, Bilbo releases a grumpy Thorin first and Thorin helps him release the other dwarves.  Thorin, Fili, Kili, and Bilbo, being in the best shape, walk right up to the guards of Lake-town where Thorin announces who he is and that he has returned, wanting to see the master of Lake-town.  While some guards get excited and run out, the captain maintains his head and asks the four to disarm themselves.  Thorin informs him that they are not armed (the elves took their knives and Orcrist, too, though Bilbo still carries Sting) and Fili begs for food and help for sick comrades.  The captain obliges and they walk towards the hall where the Master of Lake-town feasts.

Thorin enters and exclaims himself:  “I am Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!  I return!”  Before much else can be said, surprised wood elves stand and declare the dwarves escaped prisoners who were merely vagabonds.  The Master, being a man who cares more for trade and tolls and less for songs, wants to believe the elves, but the people in the hall quickly side with the dwarves.  People rush to the hall and sing and play songs of the King’s return.  The elves worry if the king made a mistake, and the Master only follows the people’s clamor until he has more time to assess the situation.  He gives Thorin his chair and the dwarves and Bilbo seats at the high table.  The people soon brought in the rest of the dwarves and provided Thorin and party with a large house, food, and boats and rowers for his disposal.  Men of the town sat outside the house and sang songs all day, singing of the demise of the dragon and presents that will flow down the river.  While the dwarves grow fat and healthy, Bilbo worries about the Mountain and Smaug and suffers from a terrible cold.  The elves return up the river, and the king guesses at the dwarves’ real intention for burglary instead of an outright defeat of Smaug.  After a couple of weeks of rest, Thorin tells the Master that they must be off towards the Mountain.  It is then that the Master believes that he really is Thorin, son of Thrain son of Thror, but does not believe they can complete their quest.  He does give them boats to the shore and ponies, but is grateful to be rid of his expensive guests.

On the lake towards the Mountain, only Bilbo worries about what is to come.

Discussion Questions/Thoughts:

  1. Who else is really excited to learn more about the wood-elves and the tricksy king (played by former pie-making Lee Pace) in the movie?
  2. I also prematurely feel bad for Martin Freeman, floating down the river on those barrels.
  3. Why is Bilbo the only one that realizes that they have yet to reach the most dangerous bit of their journey?
  4. The people of Lake-town and their extreme optimism at the return of Thorin really only foreshadows bad things to come.  Didn’t anyone teach them not to count their chickens before they’re hatched?

< Chapter 8                                                                                                        Chapters 11 & 12 >

Hobbit Read Along – Chapter 8

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Hobbit Read Along Chapter 8Recap:

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.

Discussion Questions/Thoughts:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?)
  4. 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.)

< Chapter 7                                                                                                           Chapters 9 & 10 >

Hobbit Read Along – Chapter 7

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Hobbit Read Along Chapter 7Recap:

Bilbo wakes thinking he is home, but soon realizes he is not.  After an unsatisfying breakfast (for a hobbit), the group clambers onto the eagles’ backs and thank the Lord of the Eagles for his hospitality.  Mid flight, Bilbo gets scared, but the eagle carrying him teases him into silence.  The eagles carefully set down their riders on a lonely hill and bid them adieu.  This is when Gandalf tells the dwarves and Bilbo that he must soon be on his way, but that he will stay with them until they are on the right path and have gotten supplies.  There is somebody nearby that may help, but they must go find him.  They bathe and dry in the sun before setting on the road.  Gandalf tells Bilbo that the somebody they are going to see is quick to anger by can be humored, so he thinks it best that the party are introduced in pairs.  After some prodding by the dwarves, Gandalf reveals that somebody is Beorn, a skin-changer.  (Bilbo hilariously thinks Gandalf means a furrier.)  Beorn talks to animals and eats mostly cream and honey and no meat.  He himself changes into a big black bear, and Gandalf is not sure if he is descended from a race of bears or men.

They first reach Beorn’s pastures filled with giant bees.  Closer to the house, Gandalf stops them and tells the dwarves to come along every five minutes in pairs, after he has given the first signal.  As Bombur is so fat, he must come alone and last.  Gandalf and Bilbo set off for the house, and two horses spot them, then run ahead to tell Beorn of their coming.  Gandalf introduces himself and Bilbo, and slides in a mention of his cousin Radagast.  He tells Beorn of their plight, and the skin-changer invites them inside so that he can hear more of their story.  A few minutes into his tale, Gandalf mentions other friends, so Beorn bids him call for them.  Thorin and Dori are first to arrive, and Thorin’s name intrigues Beorn even more.  As Gandalf talks, more and more dwarves make their way in, annoying and humoring Beorn.  The disturbances make Beorn more interested in their story, and by the time Bombur waddles in, he agrees to host them for dinner.

The group head into Beorn’s hall, where they are waited on by dogs that can carry trays in their forepaws, sheep who bring food in on their backs, and ponies who carry in torches and seats.  Over dinner Beorn and the dwarves exchange stories, though Beorn cares little for the material possessions dwarves love.  Beorn leaves, but the dwarves continue to sing until Gandalf asks them all to sleep, and reminds them not to go outside until the sun is up.  While they sleep, Bilbo is woken by growling and scuffling, but the animal remains outside.

The next day the party finds breakfast and service throughout the day, but no Gandalf or Beorn.  Gandalf finally arrives at suppertime, but will not answer any questions until after he eats and enjoys a smoke.  He then tells the others that he had been following bear tracks.  A party of bears had been present around the house, and then Beorn seemingly headed towards the wargs’ and goblins’ meeting place in the woods.  Bilbo thinks Beorn means to bring the goblins to them, but Gandalf laughs and tells him to sleep.  The next morning Beorn wakes them all himself, and pokes fun at Bilbo, telling him he is getting fat again.  Beorn tells them that he went to verify their story, and questioned a warg and goblin and found they did indeed kill the Great Goblin, which rather impresses him.  Gandalf relates their whole mission, and Beorn promises them ponies and food.  The ponies they must send back once they reach Mirkwood, but they will help speed their journey.  He also warns them to not drink or kill anything around a stream that is black and strong, as its water cause drowsiness and forgetfulness.  He offers his house to them again, should they need it.  The dwarves and Bilbo thank him, but begin to feel the full weight of danger in their journey.

Beorn advises the group to take a road to the north, nearer the goblins but closer to a little-known road through Mirkwood that provides a straight path to the Lonely Mountain.  After a few days of a quiet ride, the dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf reach the forest gates.  As they near, they hear fewer birds, see no deer or even rabbits.  Gandalf mentions near the gnarled trees that they must send back the ponies, at which the dwarves grumble.  The wizard points out to them that Beorn has been following them the whole way, and their promises must be kept.  It is also at this point that they realize Gandalf means to leave them the next day.  After breakfast the next morning, Gandalf bids farewell and warns them not to stray from the path, or they will never find it again.  Bilbo notes grumpily that the forest inside is as dark at morning as at night and groans at his plight.  Gandalf scolds him for it, and tells Bilbo that there are no safe paths in the Edge of the Wild.  Gandalf rides away, shouting at them to remember not to leave the path.  Without the wizard and knowing the danger that lies ahead, the dwarves and Bilbo head into Mirkwood.

Discussion Questions/Thoughts:

  1. I had completely forgotten that Beorn’s animals could serve like that.  Can we train my cat to do that?
  2. Anyone else feel the power of the ominous forest as Tolkien describes its twisted trees and branches?
  3. Gandalf leaving raises a question about the movie adaptation – this must be the portion they plan on adding in, correct?

< Chapter 6                                                                                                               Chapter 8 >

Hobbit Read Along – Chapter 6

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Hobbit Read Along Chapter 6Recap:

Bilbo has nothing, but he is on the other side of the mountains.  He walks for awhile and thinks of heading back into the caves to rescue his friends with the use of his new magic ring, but then he hears voices.  He finds the dwarves arguing with Gandalf over whether they should return for Bilbo; Gandalf wants to find him and the dwarves are reluctant to risk their necks for his.  Bilbo, still wearing the ring, decides to give them a surprise and slips the ring off, appearing to have slipped past their watch.  Bilbo tells them what became of him in the mountains, but leaves out the ring.  He thinks Gandalf guesses at it, but he’s not comfortable sharing just yet.  Gandalf in turn shares how he followed the captured dwarves and hobbit down initially and also tells Bilbo what happened to the party when they separated.  He also warns the group that they must move before nightfall when the goblins will swarm the hills looking for their escaped prisoners.  Bilbo complains about the lack of supper, but they move on.  A rock slide nearly knocks them down, but the catch their footing amongst trees.

In a clearing they hear oncoming wargs and take to trees.  Dori must climb down and help Bilbo up into the tree and is almost caught in the process.  More and more wargs gather, as they are waiting for a meeting with the goblins to plan an attack on nearby villagers.  The goblins are late, but the wargs wait and set a guard at each tree with a dwarf, wizard, or hobbit.  Gandalf sets their coats alight with magic flames, and soon many of them are engulfed.  Eagles nearby hear the commotion and fly towards it.  The goblins arrive and put out the fire on the wargs but direct it towards the trees with captives in them.

An eagle grabs Gandalf just as he is about to leap on the goblins.  The dwarves and Bilbo climb to the tops of their trees and are all rescued by more eagles, who fly them back to their eyries.  With some negotiation from Gandalf, the eagles agree to fly the party on down the road and far enough from the mountains.  The eagles also bring them firewood and game to eat and Bilbo rests comfortably for the first time in days.

Discussion Questions/Thoughts:

  1. Even Gandalf gets scared and has limitations.  I know this is before he becomes Gandalf the White, but it is nice to see he has weaknesses.
  2. Do you feel bad for Dori always being responsible for Bilbo?

< Chapters 4 & 5                                                                                                             Chapter 7 >