The Hobbit read along
Sixty years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins is approached by the wizard Gandalf and embroiled in an adventure almost against his will. Along with thirteen dwarves, Bilbo embarks towards Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, to reclaim their ancient home from the terrible dragon Smaug.
(You can also read all of The Hobbit recaps.)
I have already seen the film twice, so you can guess where this review is headed. The film opens with Old Bilbo (played again by Ian Holm) writing his version of events down for Frodo, promising to tell him the whole story as he has never told it before. We learn that he has sat down to write on the day of his infamous 111th birthday party, and we get to see that it was Frodo (Elijah Wood) who hung the sign on the gate – “No admittance except on party business). He asks Bilbo about Gandalf, and decides to go wait for him. Bilbo sits down on his bench in the front garden, smoking a pipe. The camera follows an excellent smoke ring, then zooms back on to young Bilbo.
I have never before seen such a beautiful framing device. It was a great way to explain the context of the events of The Hobbit versus those in Lord of the Rings, giving fans of the movies who haven’t read the book a clear introduction. Having just read the book, I was also tickled that the opening exchange between Gandalf and young Bilbo was almost word for word of that in the book. The only thing they left out was Bilbo’s last second decision to invite the wizard for tea. But you know what? It worked anyway.
There were of course several small changes in the film, because films and books are simply not the same medium. Most of The Hobbit was written with insights into Bilbo’s mind that we cannot get in the movie. Being Tolkien, there is also a lot of background information related by the narrator to the reader, but not necessarily between characters. I thought Peter Jackson did a great job of taking all of the information in The Hobbit and Tolkien’s additional background and really fleshing out the movie. While a few things might have been changed, I could see the reason for all of it, and I honestly agreed with most of his changes. I especially liked seeing the meeting of the White Council and the urgency that was added with the Necromancer. I’ll try not to say anymore for those who have yet to see the film.
I did not particularly understand the inclusion of a certain orc (that in Tolkien’s lore was killed by another dwarf), but I do realize that it helped with the pacing of the movie. Let’s be honest, in the book there is a lot of walking, riding, and moving. That’s not the most interesting thing to show on screen, so the added tension with the dwarf helps pick up the pace and keep things from getting choppy. So while I was a bit confused when I left the first time, I appreciated it far more the second time.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was a wonderful return to Middle Earth and a great reminder of the talent of Peter Jackson. I for one am grateful that he was able to direct instead of Guillermo Del Toro; the film feels like a seamless addition to any of the “Lord of the Rings” films with him behind the camera. Add in the dashes of Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, and other characters, and you are firmly planted again within Middle Earth.
Since this Appendix mostly hold a timeline and some facts, I’ll just summarize those that are interesting to The Hobbit’s timeline – things that may appear in the movie. It’s kind of dense, just as a warning.
The third age begins with Sauron’s fall. The Eldar (elves) only live in the past and do nothing new, wielding the Three Rings. The Dwarves hide and guard treasures, but evil began to stir and brought dragons, scattering the dwarves. Moria remained secure until its people merely dwindled. When around a thousand years had passed, and the first shadows came, the Istari or Wizards appeared. They came from the Far West as messengers sent to contest Sauron’s power, and to unite those who would resist him. They were forbidden to match power with power or to dominate men and elves. They came as men, but they were never young and aged slowly. They were gifted with powers of mind and hand. The Wizards also only revealed their true names on rare occasions, instead letting themselves be called by the people (Gandalf for instance was Mithrandir, the Grey Pilgrim, to the elves and Gandalf to the men. Saruman and Gandalf were the two highest of their order. Gandalf was the closest with the elves, and kept himself mostly in the west, never settling as Saruman did in Isengard. Gandalf is given his ring of power, Narya the Ring of Fire, by Cirdan, a leader of elves who was the only one to know of the wizards’ true purpose and origin. He gives Gandalf Narya so that it “may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill”.
Isildur dies in year 2, losing the ring in the Disaster of the Gladden Fields. In 1100, the Chief Eldar and the Wizards notice a dark power makes a stronghold at Dol Guldur; they believe it is one of the Nazgul. In 2060 Dol Guldur’s power grows, and the Wise now fear it is Sauron taking shape. Three years later, Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur and Sauron retreats, hiding in the east. In 2460, Sauron returns to Dol Guldur with more strength. Again, three years later The White Council is formed. Deagol finds the One Ring and is murdered by Gollum. Seven years later, 2470, he goes to hide in the Misty Mountains. In 2590, Thror (Thorin’s grandfather) returns to the Mountain and stays until 2770 when Smaug attacks. When Thror is killed by an orc twenty years later, the battles between Dwarves and Orcs begin, lasting for ten years. Thrain and Thorin go west after the loss of Moria, beyond the Shire. Thrain tries to go out to visit the Mountain in 2841, but is pursued by Sauron’s servants and eventually imprisoned in Dol Guldur. Sauron takes the last of the Seven Rings from him. Five years after Thrain’s capture, Gandalf infiltrates Dol Guldur, discovers that it is indeed Sauron who is gathering all of the rings of power and looking for the One, along with Isildur’s heir. Thrain gives Gandalf the map and key of the mountain and dies.
Shortly after discovering Sauron’s plans, the White Council meets. While Gandalf wants to attack, Saruman overrules him, instead going to search near where the Ring was lost. (A note in the appendix states that it became clear later that Saruman wanted to possess the One Ring himself, and hoped that it would reveal itself, seeking its master, if Sauron were let be.) Bilbo is born in 2890, and it is 2941 when the events of The Hobbit take place. During this time, Saruman agrees to finally attack Dol Guldur, fearing Sauron might find the Ring first. Sauron abandons Dol Guldur, his plans already in motion. When Bilbo returns to the Shire, Sauron has also returned to Mordor. It is in 2949 when Balin and Gandalf visit Bilbo.
- I really need to read all of these. There’s a ton of information here, and a lot of it is really interesting. For instance, Aragorn didn’t know his own lineage until he was twenty, Elrond having concealed it from everyone his entire life. It’s in that same year he’s given the shards of Narsil and he meets Arwen, who’s like 2700 years older than him. What a year for a kid. Someone please write Aragorn’s story. Make it a movie Peter Jackson! Plus, the kid is 10 when The Hobbit is happening, so why can’t we see him running around Rivendell in the last movie???
- Why did no one guess Saruman’s treachery earlier?
- I really wish there was more about the ousting of Sauron from Mirkwood, but I suppose Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and Peter Jackson will fill in the gaps.
I know many of you have been unable to follow along completely with our read along, and that’s perfectly fine. Others may have hoped to read the entire novel, and either fell behind the pace or were too busy to even begin. Since the movie is out tomorrow, now is the perfect time to skim through our recaps! Each chapter is detailed with all of the major events and even some small, interesting details relayed.
The movie ends after chapter 6, so feel free to only catch up to there if you like. I have listed chapter titles with each chapter as well, to help you put numbers with events. Feel free to also use the recaps after you watch the movie. Not that the movie should be word for word what’s in the book, but we all will wonder about this or that part and how is that different from the book. Enjoy your Hobbit cliff-notes!
The HobbitChapter List and Chapter Recaps
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- I feel sorry for Bilbo, who has been on all these great adventures but is now almost shunned at home.
- 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?
- 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.
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.
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.
- I still can’t believe how brave Bilbo is handing over the Arkenstone. And how much restraint Thorin shows in not actually killing him.
- How surprising is it that the elven-king wants to delay battle, especially since he has no love of dwarves?
- How does no one remember to help Thorin once the goblins come?
- Another section of The Hobbit where A TON happens in less than 20 pages.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Birds in Tolkien stories are never just birds, are they?
- 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.
After two days up the river, the dwarves and Bilbo meet their supplies from Lake-town on the shore. The Lake-town escorts do not wish to stay, with the dragon so near and the tales yet unfulfilled. The party is less enthused that night and sets off on a slow road toward the Lonely Mountain. They meet no one of their road, but can see the signs of the dragon’s habitation. Bilbo, Balin, Fili, and Kili set out to spy on the front gate, but evil looking birds and smoke rising from the gate make them weary to tarry long. While Bilbo sees the smoke as a sign of the dragon being still alive, Balin makes the point that the halls are probably so full of its reek that it would smoke even when he was gone. But, all the dwarves believe that the dragon still lives.
Their spirits low, Bilbo forces the dwarves to look for the secret door and studies the maps that had had the moon runes. After days of searching and returning to their newer camp without luck, Bilbo, Fili, and Kili stumble upon rough steps going upward. They keep losing and refinding the narrow track, but finally get to the small, narrow cave that houses the secret door. No broken spells or pounding can force the door to move, so the trio heads down at dusk without luck of entrance but knowing where they must go. Elated, the dwarves move their camp up the narrow path and onto a grassy ledge. Using ropes, they pull up the supplies they need as there would be no room for the ponies. The animals they leave in the care of Bifur and Bombur, who feels he is too fat to come up anyway. The ledge-dwellers spend days trying to mine into the door or think of something else that might work to open it. Bilbo takes to sitting on its doorstep (as he said he might in the beginning) to think of a way in, but spends most of that time staring off into the distance at Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. The dwarves, restless, discuss sending Bilbo in through the front gate with his invisible ring, something he does not like the sound of. Bilbo feels resentful that now that the wizard is gone, he is the one always saving the dwarves from their scrapes.
It is then that Bilbo, watching the moon rise and a thrush crack a snail, remembers what the rune letters had said. He hails the dwarves to come to him quick, and a small sliver of moonlight lights the door just long enough for the keyhole to appear and Thorin to put the key in and open the secret door. All they could see inside was a deep darkness.
The dwarves debate in the dark of the door before Thorin tells Bilbo (in a long-winded speech) that it is his turn to earn his reward. Bilbo interrupts Thorin, reminding him that the burglar has already done more than was bargained for, but he will go, trusting his unusual bit of luck. He asks for volunteers, but only Balin agrees to come inside a little ways, ready to call for help if need be. Bilbo walks into the smooth-walled cave, bidding Balin adieu after a short time. Bilbo slipped on his ring and crept silently down into the dark. More courageous than he had ever been in Hobbiton, he walked on with his face set, dagger loose, and belt tight.
As he walks, a red light glows in the distance, getting redder and redder as he nears. Hot in the tunnel, vapor surrounds him and he begins to sweat. He hears snoring, as if it was a cross between a gigantic cat and a large pot on the fire. Bilbo presses forward, feeling it the most brave thing he had ever done. He peeks his head through the door, and there lay Smaug, the red-golden dragon. Smaug sleeps on piles and piles of gold and precious jewels, with armor, swords, and spears hanging nearby. Bilbo is astonished at the gold, and stares and stares, until he moves from the doorway and towards the nearest pile of treasure. There he grabs a two-handled cup and Smaug stirs. Bilbo flees, finding a surprised Balin in the tunnel who carries the hobbit out on his shoulders to more rejoicing dwarves.
Suddenly, they hear a rumbling in the mountain, and the secret door almost closes save for a rock keeping it open. Dreadful sounds come up from the tunnel, scaring the dwarves. Smaug, as many other dragons, knows every ounce of his own treasure, and with a breath of different air in his cave, grows angry and flies towards the front gate when he cannot get up the little hole. The party all hear the dragon’s noise and Bilbo directs them inside the tunnel to hide. A few run in while Thorin wrangles the others to pull up Bofur and Bombur and some of the stores. They make it just barely in the tunnel when Smaug comes round the Mountain, breathing fire on the hillside. They know that the ponies are lost, but must spend the night in the tunnel.
Smaug returns to his golden couch at dawn, and the dwarves begin to be sore at Bilbo for bringing up the cup. He points out that the wealth was too great for him to carry in one turn, and that he was not hired to kill a dragon. After some arguing, they agree to stay in the tunnel by night and near the door by day. Bilbo offers to go down at midday to spy on the dragon, hoping to catch him napping. Bilbo moves quietly, but does not realize that dragons have a keen sense of smell and can sleep with an eye half open. Bilbo notices the eye is open just in time to creep back behind the door, but Smaug speaks, inviting him in to steal again.
Bilbo, knowing how to speak to dragons, compliments him and states that he only came for a look. Smaug asks for Bilbo’s name, and Bilbo in turn speaks in riddles about his home and name. Smaug thinks that Bilbo’s riddling talk means he is a man from Lake-town and tells him that he enjoyed the dinner of the ponies the night before. He also knows that he came with dwarves and tells Bilbo not to trust them. They continue talking, with Smaug asking how the treasure was going to be removed and why else they might have come except for gold. He does not believe it when Bilbo speaks of revenge, stating he is too mighty to be taken on. Bilbo manages to convince the dragon to show his underbelly, noting that there is a patch without diamonds guarding it. He manages to get away, but accidentally makes Smaug mad when he calls himself a burglar, and barely escapes the flames that lick the tunnel behind him.
The dwarves doctor Bilbo’s burns, but with some distance, Bilbo now regrets many of the things he told the dragon. In anger, he throws a stone at a thrush, and is then scolded by Thorin. Thorin’s father and grandfather had thrushes tame to them, and some of the men of the lake used to speak to the birds and use them as messengers. Bilbo then relates all that was said, and feels guilty that Smaug may now be headed towards Lake-town for revenge. They discuss ways of killing a dragon, but cannot think of anything that would really work, even with the bare patch on his chest. Bilbo, worried that Smaug knows where on the hillside they sit, begs the dwarves come into the tunnel before it grows too dark. In the tunnel, they talk of the treasure and reassure Bilbo that they will figure out how to get his share home again, even with the world so wild. Thorin and Balin then move on to discussing the treasure and pieces they remember, which leads them to the Arkenstone. The Arkenstone “was like a globe with a thousand facets; it shone like silver in the firelight, like water in the sun, like snow under the stars, like rain upon the Moon!” Bilbo, however, is too scared to think of treasure and begs them to shut the door for good. Thorin finally agrees and does so just in time, with Smaug smashing up the hillside in anger moments later. Unable to get to the thief, the dragon heads to Lake-town for revenge.
- Why does no one remember the moon runes? Are they just too eager, too excited, to remember the talk of Durin’s Day?
- Silly Bilbo stealing the cup. Of course, he wasn’t to know that Smaug would notice, but it is a bit of common sense, isn’t it?
- Would love to hear more of Tolkien’s version of dragon-lore and riddling talk.