Tolkien Re-read Part I: The Hobbit (Chapters 17-19)

HMH Hobbit CoverWelcome back to the Tolkien re-read! For those of you just joining in, since the first Hobbit movie is coming out later this year, I’ve commited myself (rather foolishly, perhaps) to a re-read of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion (check out previous posts here). Each week I’ll be posting a write-up of my progress, complete with chapter summaries, my own musings, and anything else Tolkien-related that I feel like throwing in. So, if you’ve been wanting to (re)read some Tolkien, here’s your chance. If you just want to use my hard work as digital cliff notes, well, that’s okay, too. (Warning: There might be spoilers ahead. For the most part, the posts will keep in time with the chapters I’m discussing from The Hobbit, but I will probably also make references to things that occur in The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve at least seen the movies, it won’t be a problem.)

And now, the concluding chapters of The Hobbit. It’s a bit later than expected (blame New York Comic Con), but prepare yourself for some epic fighting, the spoilery spoiler involving Richard Armitage, and oh so much walking.

Chapter 17: The Clouds Burst

After giving Thorin a night to rethink the division of Smaug’s hoard, Bard returns to the Front Gate with the elven king Thranduil and twenty men. But Bard quickly discovers the stubborness of dwarves when Thorin refuses to share the treasure with him or the men of Lake Town.

Bard: Is there then nothing for which you would yield any of your gold?

Thorin: Nothing that you or your friends have to offer.

At this, Bard motions forward an old man who is hooded and carrying a small box. On Bard’s command, the old man opens the box and produces the Arkenstone, which Bilbo gave to him in secret the night beofre.

As expected, this does not make Thorin happy. The Arkenstone is the heirloom of his house and, as Bilbo realized over the last few days, Thorin covets it above all else. He demands to know how Bard got his hands on it, but Bard only says that he isn’t a thief and refuses to reveal anything else. Eventually, Bilbo speaks up and admits that he gave the stone to Bard and the Elvenking.

This confession sends Thorin into a into a bit of a rage. He snatches up the hobbit, shaking him and shouting and threatening to throw Bilbo to the rocks below the Front Gate. In his anger, Thorin even curses Gandalf for insisting that the dwarves take the traitorous hobbit on their journey, and at that moment the “old man” in Bard’s company tosses off his hood and cloak.

Favorite Quote Break!

Old Man: Here is Gandalf! And none too soon it seems. If you don’t like my Burglar, please don’t damage him. Put him down, and listen first to what he has to say!

Thorin: You all seem in league! Never again will I have dealings with any wizard or his friends. What have you to say, you descendent of rats?

(Hah. Descendent of rats. Now that’s a proper insult.)

Bilbo hastily explains that since the dwarves had said he may choose his share of the treasure, Thorin may count the Arkenstone as his share, which he has now disposed of as he sees fit. Thorin grudgingly accepts this and sends Bilbo over the wall, calling him a traitor and declaring he goes without the freindship of the dwarves. Thorin then agrees to return that night with 1/14 share of the hoard to trade for the Arkenstone. With that, Bard, the Elvenking, Gandalf, Bilbo, and the rest of that group go back to camp.

The following day trumpets call the camp of men and elves to arms. Dain and the dwarves from the Iron Hills have arrived at the Lonely Mountain ready for battle. Their leaders briefly parley with Bard and Bilbo, but Bard refuses to let the newly arrived host of dwarves continue to the Front Gate until Thorin has delivered the promised share of the treasure. Unable to reach their fellow dwarves under the mountain, Dain and his dwarves become angry and prepare for battle.

The Almost-Battle, a Summary

– The dwarves of the Iron Hills start to advance on the eastern side of the Mountain

– Bard orders his archers to send arrows down upon them

– King Thranduil stops them, unwilling to begin a war over gold

– The dwarves begin their attack while Bard and the Elvenking hesitate

– Gandalf appears suddenly between the two hosts, stopping the battle before it begins

Favorite Quote Break!

Gandalf: Halt! Dread has come upon you all! Alas! It has come more swiftly than I guessed. The Goblins are upon you! Bolg of the North is coming, O Dain! Whose father you slew in Moria.

(Wait, wait, what? The goblins are here now?)

How the Goblins are Suddenly There, a Hasty Explanation

– When Thorin & Co. killed the Great Goblin in the Misty Mountains the goblins’ hatred for the race of dwarves was rekindled

– Resolved to take dominion of the North, they sent messengers to all their strongholds, including the goblin capital of Gundabad

– The goblins armed their legions and marched to the Lonely Mountain in secret via underground passages

In light of the arrival of the goblin army, Dain joins his dwarves with Bard’s men and Thranduil’s elves. So begins the Battle of the Five Armies. Much classically epic fighting ensues.

Favorite Quote Break!

The elves were the first to charge. Their hatred for the goblins is cold and bitter. Their spears and swords shone in the gloom with a gleam of chill flame, so deadly was the wrath of the hands that held them.

(This is an exact image of me reading that passage.)

The battle rages on through the day and the goblins have gained the upper hand when there is suddenly “a great shout” from the Front Gate as Thorin and his dwarves charge out from under the Mountain.

Favorite Quote Break!

Thorin: To me! To me! Elves and Men! To me! O my kinsfolk!

Down, heedless of order, rushed all the dwarves of Dain to his help. Down too came many of the Lake-men, for Bard could not restrain them; and out upon the other side came many of the spearmen of the elves.

(Chills! Anyone else? No? Just me. Okay.)

With that, the goblins are beaten back, but only for a time. Soon their numbers begin to overwhelm the army of elves, men, and dwarves. Bilbo, who is looking on at all this (wearing his ring and invisible, of course) begins to lose hope until he sees the approach of something on the horizon. He quickly realizes that it is a great host of Eagles from all the eyries of the North. He shouts out that the Eagles are coming until all those about him take notice. But then the hobbit takes a well-aimed rock to the head and spends the rest of the battle unconscious.

(Tolkien and his Eagles. He always has them show up at the most opportune moments to save everybody. Just sayin.)

Chapter 18: The Return Journey

Bilbo comes to the following day and finds himself alone. He can see elves moving about in the camp below his perch on the mountainside, and it appears that some dwarves are at work removing the wall from the Front Gate, but he has no idea what has happened since the Eagles came into the battle the night before.

It isn’t until he calls to a man climbing towards him that Bilbo realizes he’s still wearing the ring and is invisible. No wonder he was left behind! Bilbo removes the ring and the unnamed man rejoices at having finally found the hobbit (who they have all been looking for) and carries him back to the camp.

Gandalf is overjoyed to see that Bilbo is alive but quickly ushers him into a tent, saying that the hobbit has been “called for.” Inside the tent, Thorin is dying from wounds received in the battle and he wants to repent the unkind things he said to Bilbo.

The Last Words of Thorin Oakenshield

Thorin: Farewell, good thief. I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the Gate.

Bilbo: Farewell, King under the Moutain! This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so; and not a mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am glad that I have shared in your perils—that has been more than any Baggins deserves.

Thorin: No! There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

(Richard Armitage—nooooo!)

Poor Bilbo is hit hard by Thorin’s death and the narrator takes this opportunity to fill us in on the ending of the battle with the goblins.

Things That Happened While Bilbo Was Unconscious

– The Eagles, having noticed the movements of the goblins through the mountains, came to the Lonely Mountain and joined in the battle

– Beorn showed up in bear shape and joined the battle too

– The goblins, faced with so many foes, fled and were pursued through the hills and the forests

– Three parts of the goblin warriors of the North were destroyed

That night, Thorin is buried under the Mountain with the Arkenstone and Orcrist (the elvish sword taken from him during his captivity in Mirkwood). Buried alongside him are Fili and Kili, who perished while defending Thorin. (What? No! My favorite dwarves are dropping like flies! Now all that’s left is Bro-Dwarf, and we all know what happens to Balin [SLIGHT SPOILER for Fellowship of the Ring].)

With Thorin dead, Dain from the Iron Hills becomes King under the Mountain and, to honor the agreement made between Bard and Thorin, he gives a fourteenth share of the treasure to Bard. And Bilbo, though offered a large share of treasure, only takes two small chests.

Once the division of the treasure is settled, Bilbo bids farewell to his friends before leaving with Gandalf and Beorn and the elf-host to start his journey home. They travel as far as Mirkwood together before Bilbo, Gandalf, and Beorn part with the elves to travel around the great, gloomy forest, rather than through it—an option available to them now that the surrounding lands are free of goblins.

Favorite Quote Break!

Elvenking: Farewell! O Gandalf! May you ever appear where you are most needed and least expected!

Gandalf and Bilbo spend the winter at Beorn’s house before heading back through the pass under the Misty Mountains. They find little trouble in the tunnels (the remaining goblins are “few and terrified, and hidden in the deepest holes they could find”) and soon come out on the road west of the mountains.

Chapter 19: The Last Stage

By spring Bilbo and Gandalf have returned to Rivendell and the house of Elrond. They spend some time there resting and telling the elves of their adventures, and this is how Bilbo finds out where Gandalf went when he left Bilbo and the dwarves outside of Mirkwood.

What Gandalf was Up To

– Attending a great council of the white wizards (“masters of lore and good magic”)

– Driving “the Necromancer” from the south of Mirkwood with the help of members of that council

We’re not told much about this Necromancer here beyond the fact that he had a “dark hold” on Mirkwood and that without his presence the forest should “grow somewhat more wholesome. We’re also informed that while the North will be free from him for a time, he hasn’t been completely banished from the world. (More about the Necromancer is revealed later in The Fellowship of the Ring, so stay tuned for Part II of the Tolkien Re-read!)

After a week in Rivendell, Gandalf and Bilbo depart for the last leg of the journey. On the road they come upon the buried gold of the trolls that they encountered back in chapter 2 and gather it up in their packs before continuing on.

Then, finally, they reach Hobbiton and there they discover that an auction is in progress at Bilbo’s home. Apparently, after a year’s absence, the locals decided that Bilbo must be dead and his relations began to sell off his things. His return puts a stop to that nonsense, but Bilbo still ends up needing to buy back his own furniture and belongings.

Bilbo soon settles back in to his quiet hobbit life, though his spotless reputation of being properly predictable has suffered a bit now that he’s gone off adventuring with dwarves and wizards and the like. His neighbors now consider him to be rather queer, but he is well-liked by his nephews and nieces (Frodo, anyone?). Essentially, the story wraps up with Bilbo being content and happy and spending his post-adventure days writing poetry and visiting the elves. Later he learns from Gandalf and Balin that the lands around the Lonely Mountain are prosperous again, that Bard has rebuilt the town of Dale, and that Lake Town has a new and wiser Master.

So ends The Hobbit. Although, as Bilbo sings upon returning home, roads go ever ever on.

hall at bag end


That’s it for The Hobbit! I still think I like The Lord of the Rings better, but I did enjoy it more on the second read. Any first-time readers out there? Share your thoughts in the comments! And, if you enjoyed this, stay tuned to Unbound Worlds for Part II of the Tolkien Re-read in which I’ll be diving into The Fellowship of the Ring and re-teaching myself how to write my name in elvish. Yeah, that’s right. Prepare yourselves.