The Hobbit Book Summary
Bilbo Baggins is a middle-aged and rather rich Hobbit who, like most of his kind, is not fond of adventures. One day Gandalf the wizard arrives on his doorstep and mentions an expedition he is helping to organise. Bilbo is rather horrified at the thought and, very flustered, bids him good day but asks him to come to tea the following evening. Gandalf leaves a mark on his front door, and at teatime the next evening Bilbo’s snug and cosy Hobbit hole is filled by Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, all of whom require refreshment.
It emerges that the adventure Gandalf mentioned is a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ treasure from the dragon Smaug – and that Gandalf has nominated Bilbo as burglar.
The next morning Bilbo wakes up late, to find that the Dwarves have left him mountains of washing up and a note telling him where and when to meet them. Prompted by Gandalf, Bilbo runs out of his house without so much as a pocket handkerchief.
Eventually the group runs into trouble. When Gandalf disappears for a while, they stumble across a camp of trolls, resulting in each of the Dwarves being tied up in a sack. Bilbo can do nothing to help, and it is only Gandalf’s reappearance that saves them, keeping the trolls arguing by mimicking their voices until the morning light turns them into stone. In the trolls’ cave they find two swords, one for Gandalf and one for Thorin, and a knife for Bilbo. They also find considerable treasure, which they bury to recover later.
After this they soon arrive at Rivendell, the home of Elrond the Half-Elven. Elrond gives the group aid and advice, and on Midsummer’s Day they set out again on their journey. They climb up into the Misty Mountains, where one wet night they take shelter in a large dry cave. But as the dwarves sleep a crack opens in the wall, and Goblins appear, capturing the ponies, dwarves and Bilbo. Gandalf, warned by a shout from Bilbo, manages to escape. When they reach the Goblins’ main hall he reappears, putting out all of the lights and killing the Great Goblin, then leading the dwarves and Bilbo away. However the Goblins sneak up on them and in the confusion Bilbo is knocked out.
When he wakes up he is alone, and he stumbles through the dark. Crawling along, he finds a ring, which he picks up and puts in his pocket. He continues until he reaches a dark underground lake, where he meets Gollum, a thin lonely creature who lives on an island in the middle of the lake and likes fish and fresh meat to eat. Fortunately for Bilbo, Gollum sees his sword, and rather than attacking immediately challenges him to a game of riddles. Mostly by chance, Bilbo wins, and Gollum goes to his island to find his ‘birthday present’ – the ring which Bilbo has picked up, a magic ring which makes the wearer invisible. Realising it is gone, he rushes back, but as Bilbo is wearing the ring he misses him. Following Gollum, Bilbo reaches the goblins’ Back Door and manages to escape.
Fortunately the dwarves and Gandalf are not far away, and they all hurry on together, eventually reaching a clearing surrounded by tall trees. As they do so, they hear wolves howling, and climb the trees to escape just in time. The wolves reach the clearing and guard the trees in which they are sat, and are soon joined by goblins from the mountains. Gandalf tries to frighten them with fire, but the goblins manage to put out all the fires except those surrounding their trees. At the last moment, the group are rescued by the eagles, who take them to their eyries, bring them food and then take them on towards Mirkwood. When they are set down, they are in the lands of Beorn, a great man who can turn into a bear. Beorn allows them to stay in his home and then gives them food and drink to carry on with their journey. At the edge of Mirkwood, Gandalf says goodbye to the dwarves and Bilbo, as he has urgent business elsewhere, and they are left to enter the great dark forest alone, warned neither to stray from the path nor to touch the water of the stream that crosses it.
They travel on for many days. At night it is pitch black, but there are eyes all around. Finally they reach the stream and cross in a boat, but Bombur, the fattest of the dwarves, falls in. When he is rescued he is fast asleep and the others are forced to carry him. Not long afterwards they see lights in the forest at night, and hear beautiful singing. Driven by hunger, they leave the path, but when they reach the fires, surrounded by elves, the lights go out. This happens several times; then when the lights go out it is so dark that they cannot find each other. They are captured by Great Spiders, but Bilbo manages to escape. By putting on his ring, throwing stones and singing rude songs, he draws the spiders away from the dwarves, who have been wrapped in spider’s webs. Bilbo then sneaks back to free them and they fight their way out of the spiders’ clearing. It is only when they have settled down for the night and Bilbo has finally related the story of the ring that they realise that Thorin is missing – he has been captured by the Wood-elves.
It is not long before the rest of the Dwarves, tired and lost, are also captured. Bilbo however manages to put on his ring, and rather than being captive, he follows the group. The dwarves are all locked up in different cells; and Bilbo lives as a scavenger in the Elven-King’s halls for several weeks, but eventually makes a plan of escape. One night when the King’s butler and the head of the guards fall asleep after drinking too much wine, he frees the dwarves and takes them to a river which flows out of the halls. In order to escape they have to get into empty barrels, which are later pushed down the river towards Lake-town. Bilbo has to sit on top of a barrel, having nobody to secure him in one.
At last the barrels and Bilbo arrive in Lake-town, and in the night Bilbo, releases the Dwarves. Once they are all standing, they all head towards the town, where they are greeted warmly, especially when they tell the people of their ambition to be rid of the dragon Smaug.
After a fortnight of good food and hospitality the company continue on their journey, helped by offers of ponies, boats and food. They cross the desolate country leading from Lake-town to the Lonely Mountain, and make camp at its feet, searching daily for the door described on the map which Thorin has carried since they set out, along with a key.
Eventually they discover it, although they cannot open it. On the map it says:
“Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole.”
For many days the group sit outside the door, until at last the meaning of the words is revealed. A thrush knocks a snail on a stone, and as the sun sets a ray shines onto the door, revealing a hole about three feet from the ground. Thorin puts the key into the hole, and the door opens. The words ‘Durin’s Day’ refer to the first day of the Dwarves’ New Year, the first day of the last moon of Autumn, when it is in the sky with the sun, and by luck the group are at the door at the right time.
A long dark passage leads down from the door. Bilbo is quickly nominated to investigate, and none of the dwarves will accompany him far. He moves down the tunnel alone, and at the bottom discovers an immeasurable collection of treasure, guarded by a huge red-golden dragon, sleeping. After staring for a long time, Bilbo grabs a large golden cup and runs back up the tunnel to where the dwarves are waiting. They are all very excited, but it is not long before Smaug awakens, bellowing as he realises that part of his hoard has disappeared. Quickly, the dwarves by the door pull up the two who are waiting at their previous camp below by ropes, and they all manage to get inside the small tunnel just in time before Smaug appears, flying around the mountain. Fortunately for the dwarves and Bilbo, he is distracted by the ponies who have been left below, and so does not discover where they are.
The next day, Bilbo offers to go down into the dragon’s lair once more, wearing his ring. He does so, and by flattering Smaug and using riddles he manages to discover that the dragon’s breastplate has a large hole in it. He reports this to the Dwarves, and a thrush, who is nearby, seems to be listening. When they finish speaking, the thrush flies away. Soon, Bilbo, who is worried about what Smaug will do, begs the Dwarves to retreat into the tunnel and shut the door. They do so only just in time; Smaug is very angry and starts breaking rocks off the side of the mountain. When he fails to find the Dwarves, he flies towards Lake-town.
The Dwarves and Bilbo have no choice but to go down the channel, but they find that Smaug is not there and so help themselves to some of his treasures. Thorin searches for the Arkenstone, the most valuable, but it is Bilbo who finds it and he does not tell Thorin. After enjoying the treasure for a while the party set off towards an old look-out point to ensure that they are not surprised by Smaug.
Smaug, however, has headed into Laketown, and there, after destroying most of the town, has been killed by Bard, one of the men of the town. As a result the townspeople are attempting to put Bard in the place of the town’s Master. The Master’s reaction, however, is to turn their anger towards the dwarves, and more importantly their greed towards the gold, and so they prepare to march to the Lonely Mountain, reinforced by the Elvenking and his host, all eager to find the treasure which Smaug has sat on for so long.
The Dwarves hear of this and Thorin is greatly offended, and he refuses to give the Men and Elves any of his treasure. He sends for help from his cousin Dain in the Iron Hills and prepares to fight if necessary.
Bilbo is unhappy with these events and eventually travels secretly down to the men’s camp, and in an attempt to make peace between the sides gives the Arkenstone to Bard. He is surprised by the appearance of Gandalf, who praises his actions but warns him of dark times ahead. Cheered by the sight of the wizard, Bilbo returns to the dwarves.
The next day Bard comes to the mountain and offers the Arkenstone to Thorin in return for gold; this angers Thorin more than anything else, particularly when Bilbo admits to his part in the bargain. Gandalf then reveals himself to Thorin and the others, but it makes no difference. Thorin grudgingly agrees to give one fourteenth of the treasure to Bard, instead of to Bilbo, and he refuses to allow Bilbo to stay with the Dwarves.
Before the exchange takes place, Dain arrives with his own army of Dwarves, and rather than make the bargain, the Dwarves prepare for battle. But things take a surprising and unpleasant turn, as the Goblins of Moria come to the plain to take revenge of the dwarves. And so the Battle of the Five Armies begins, with the Goblins and Wild Wolves fighting against the Men and Elves and Dwarves. The dispute over the Arkenstone and the treasure is forgotten in the urgency of this battle. Bilbo himself plays very little part, using his ring to get out of the way, but there are many casualties before both Beorn and the eagles arrive to ensure victory.
After the battle is over, Bilbo discovers that several of his Dwarven companions have died; and Thorin is on his deathbed. Before the Dwarf dies, however, he resolves his argument with Bilbo, and when Bilbo finally sets off for home he takes some of the treasure which he was promised – as much as he can carry. Bard rebuilds the town of Dale, and the Laketown has a new master.
Bilbo eventually arrives back his cosy Hobbit hole just in time to see his furniture being auctioned off, the inhabitants of Hobbiton having reached the conclusion that he would never come back. The Sackville-Bagginses, his relations, are very upset at having missed the chance to live in Bag End, and they are never on good terms again. In fact Bilbo’s reputation is been completely lost; he will never again be seen as a respectable Hobbit. This however is not a problem for him; he is quite happy with the company of his younger Took cousins, and he often has Dwarves (and a certain wizard) popping in unexpectedly for tea.
Article by Elioclya