Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog – The Hobbit (Chapters 6-12)

Whew!  Lots to discuss!  (Thank you to everyone that read and commented on the last check-in, it’s now our most commented post, which is pretty awesome.)

When we left off, we were lamenting the loss of Bilbo’s buttons – look, I don’t know why the buttons made such an impression on me, but they did.  It’s mentioned a few times later when Bilbo is feeling particularly shabby, and I…never mind, the buttons aren’t important.  What IS important is that just as Bilbo is despairing of ever finding his friends or home, he stumbles across the campsite.

Gandalf is trying to rally the troops to go back for our dear hobbit, but it turns out to be unnecessary because TA-DA!  Here’s Mr Baggins!  Balin is pretty peeved that Bilbo somehow managed to sneak past him.  We all know it was the Ring, but Bilbo decides to leave that part out of his story, instead exaggerating his bravery and cunning just a tad.  Gandalf seems to know what’s up, but doesn’t call him on it.

So.  Things are looking pretty grim for our little party.  No ponies, no food, NO HANDKERCHIEFS!

BUT THEN…things get worse.  The Wargs show up.  Not gonna lie, guys, the Wargs scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.  They talked, they worked with the goblins/orcs…that was enough for me to know they were bad news bears wolves.  Reading THIS TIME, though, I was surprised at how much I giggled through this passage.

Everyone climbs trees to escape them, except for poor Bilbo whose legs are too short for climbing, so there’s a bit of hilarity as he gets helped up.  Then ALL OF THE WARGS proceed to have their Warg-y Meeting right.  there.  Fun.  Only Gandalf can understand them, but they’re talking about how they’re supposed to be there to meet the goblins, only the goblins are a no-show and everything is falling apart since the Great Goblin was killed.

Well.  Gandalf has this brilliant idea to start throwing fireballs at the wolves.  In the middle of a forest.  With trees.  Trees that ARE LIKELY TO CATCH ON FIRE.  Hey, GUESS WHAT HAPPENS?!  Of course the goblins show up, and use the Wargs on Fire (which I’m totally singing to this tune, btw) to set the trees that our party are hiding in on fire.

Thank goodness for the Giant Eagles, amirite?

The Eagles take them to the Carrock, where they make their way to Beorn’s house.  [sigh]  Beorn.  [sigh]  For realsies, I had a huge crush on him when I was a kid.  It might have been my first literary crush.  Not sure, but I think it was.

Um, this is not how I pictured him. At all.  Stupid PJ.  :(

Anyway, Gandalf has to trick Beorn into letting all of their party show up, but he’s so tricksy with his trickery that Beorn is totally cool with having his house taken over by everyone.  I felt kind of bad because of his obvious prejudice against the dwarves when we started, but then I felt EVEN WORSE for Beorn.  Cos I’m sure it gets lonely with only animals to keep you company, and he doesn’t have a lady friend and…well, anyway.  This part was a little sad for me.  I think I’m far too sentimental.

So, Beorn follows their trail back to make sure they’re telling the truth about killing the Great Goblin (because he hates goblins more than dwarves, at least), and mounts a goblin head on a pike in his yard.  Look, Beorn.  I want you to find a lady friend, and having heads on sticks out in front of the house probably isn’t going to help.  I mean, YAY for killing goblins and wargs and whatnot, but…that’s not all that attractive.  Sorry.  I still heart you, though.

Thennnnnnnnnn, Beorn lets them borrow his ponies and gives them all food and stuff so they can get to Mirkwood.  But then he follows them the whole way?  Why didn’t he just GO WITH THEM?  [sigh]

Anyway, Gandalf leaves them at the edge of Mirkwood, and tells them he’s got other things to take care of.  “But stay on the path, dummies.”  Um…they don’t stay on the path.  They try to crash a few elf parties, which ends in sadness when the elves disappear and everyone is captured by the giant spiders.  Well, everyone except Thorin, cos he’s actually captured by the elves.

Bilbo saves everyone from the spider (using the ring) and sings a taunting song.  He kills a bunch of spiders, but then everyone except for Bilbo ends up being taken to Thranduil’s cave palace and imprisoned.  Bilbo manages to sneak in after the elves, but wanders around invisible, hiding in dark places until he comes up with a plan for escape.

How cute is this? The cutest. More kids need to draw pictures from the Hobbit, I love this so much.

The prejudices against dwarves are readily apparent in this chapter.  Poor Thorin is just trying to explain that they were STARVING TO DEATH not trying to accost any elves, but no one believes him.  At least elves treat their prisoners nicely and everyone is fed.

Bilbo steals the keys to the cells from a drunk elf, packs everyone in barrels and they all get sent downstream to Lake-Town.

“Who are you and what do you want?” they shouted leaping to their feet and groping for weapons.

“Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!” said the dwarf in a loud voice, and he looked it, in spite of his torn clothes and draggled hood. The gold gleamed on his neck and waist; his eyes were dark and deep. “I have come back. I wish to see the Master of your town!”

Then there was tremendous excitement. Some of the more foolish ran out of the hut as if they expected the Mountain to go golden in the night and all the waters of the lake turn yellow right away.

HAHAHAHAHA!  I loved this part.  So much.

Luckily, the people of Lake-Town (speaking of which, this is a lovely illustration of Lake-Town [not the one above] which I used as my desktop for quite a while – you should all check it out) are amenable to helping out the dwarves+hobbit, but they still think everyone’s going to die.  [shrug]  What would you think if strangers walked up talking about killing the dragon that had lived in the mountain outside your town for hundreds of years?  You’d wish them luck, then get on about your business is what you’d do.

Which is what happens.

Yeah, they don’t go this way. Dur. That would be suicide.

Most of them, except for Bombur (cos he says he’s too fat for the ropes to pull him up and to climb the trails), climb the Lonely Mountain in search of the soopersekrit entrance.  They find the door, but are having a hard time getting in.  Oh, and there’s an annoying bird that hangs around all the time.  LUCKILY they arrived around the time specified on the map to be able to open the soopersekrit door, and Bilbo is sent down to scout things out.

He steals a goblet and reports back.  The dragon (Smaug) is PISSED.  He knows immediately that his treasure has been stolen.  Bilbo goes down again, but Smaug is only pretending to be asleep.  They have a riddle-y sort of conversation, and Smaug (being a vain dragon) shows off his jewel-y armoured belly and chest, and Bilbo notices a chink in his armour.

He returns to urge the dwarves to fill them in and to urge everyone into the tunnel because he’s pretty sure Smaug is going to attempt some form of retaliation – but not before trying to chase off the bird that’s annoying him by trying to crack giant snail shells on their ledge.  Surprise, surprise, Smaug DOES show up and demolishes the side of the mountain when he can’t find their soopersekrit entrance.  So now…they’re trapped in the dark tunnel with no idea how to proceed.

Oh, and Smaug heads off to terrorize Lake-Town.  Fun.

“Barrel-rider!” he snorted. “Your feet came from the waterside and up the water you came without a doubt. I don’t know your smell, but if you are not one of those men of the Lake, you had their help. They shall see me and remember who is the real King under the Mountain!”

He rose in fire and went away south towards the Running River.

Discussion Topics

  • Do you think Gandalf is always this impatient with everyone, or does he subscribe to some of the prejudices against dwarves that everyone else in Middle-Earth seems to have?
  • For those of you reading the first time, what do you think Gandalf’s “other business” is?  What could be so important that he keeps leaving our party?
  • Let’s talk about Bilbo’s character.  He’s come a pretty long way from his hobbit-hole and seems to be rising to the various challenges set before him fairly well.  At what point did he (in your eyes) go from being a fraidy-hobbit to the dragon-challenging character we see at the end of this section?

Post Script I – if you’re writing your own posts on these topics, please be sure to either pingback or leave a link in the comments.  I’m working on creating a page with links to everyone else’s thoughts.

Post Script II – Sorry for this being put up so late.  It’s roughly eleventy billion degrees here and I’ve had to compose this post in pieces to avoid having to sit under the laptop for too long.  [sigh]

Post Script III – For those of you interested in guest posting, I’d really love to have people talk about their first experiences with Middle-Earth.  If that sounds like something you’d like to write about, please use the contact form on the scheduling page to let me know.  If you’ve ALREADY let me know, you can either send me your post using that contact form, or you can message me on goodreads about it.  Thank you!

56 thoughts on “Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog – The Hobbit (Chapters 6-12)

  1. I’ve not actually read The Hobbit. I tried, but shamefully, I just didn’t click with it. Despite this, I loved TLOTR films with a passion – Luke and I watched The Return of the King the other night – and all things Middle-Earth that I know of. I guess I really should read the books… anyway, you just know when someone says ‘stay on the path’ the recipients won’t stay on the path. This is true of all kinds of warnings, otherwise the author wouldn’t put them in there in the first place. It’s sort of like ‘whatever you do, DON’T DO X’ and yo’re just sat there like …sigh……

    Anyway, great post! There’s always so much life in your writing. I like how you write about serious things that you find fascinating and that you enjoy, but are not bound to formality. Sometimes, in other people’s stuff it can get on your nerves but you pull it off quite well! Keep it up~~

    Also, loving the use of tricksy. We’ve been saying that since ‘tricksy hobbits’ ahahahaha~

    • I promise I’m not going to fall into my trap of ranting about the LotR movies right now, BUT! You should totally read along with us! Even if you don’t read the Hobbit, we’re starting Fellowship on Wednesday.

      And thank you for the compliment. I always feel like I’m just writing for myself and hope that other people don’t think my ramblings are stupid.

    • I wonder if it was that he didn’t trust himself around them in bear form, as well. I’m not entirely sure that makes sense, though, since he was following them the entire time! Thanks for linking your post. Loved it.

  2. Now see, I never thought of Gandalf as being part of the general dump-on-the-dwarves party BUT now that I think about it, he could be especially impatient with dwarves and thinking that they lack that Big Picture perspective. But, uh, so does everyone else who isn’t a member of The Wise.

    It does make his selection of Bilbo as a fourteenth member of the party a bit more interesting though. We’re always given to believe that it was because Gandalf saw something in Bilbo that no one else did, but it could also be a sort of subtle gesture of contempt, along the lines of “you guys are so incompetent that I’m going to find the most bourgeois little fussbudget I can and even HE will have to turn into a badass hero just to keep you all alive.”

    But he wouldn’t be like that, would he?

    Would he?

    Oh, and here’s my long-winded entry http://kateofmind.blogspot.com/2012/06/puttin-blog-in-balrog-ii-hobbit.html

    • I just finished reading your post on mobile safari (DEDICATION, what what?) a few minutes ago, but I’m still trying not to troll that post, so haven’t turned the laptop back on. I will comment tonight probably.

      I don’t necessarily think Gandalf is as prejudiced as everyone else, but I think he bears a bit of disdain for them. He certainly seems to have a shorter temper with them than he does for everyone/thing else. I may be reading too much into it. I mean, he did set them up with Bilbo, almost ensuring their success, but…dunno. Something feels hinky to me.

  3. You are a kick-ass summary writer. SO GOOD.

    I need to think a bit before I respond to the Discussion Topics, but I have some initial thoughts RIGHT NOW.

    First, Beorn is probably my MOST favorite character in the Hobbit. (And, as an aside, I think he *had* to follow them and not go with them so that he was sure he could trust them … more on that later.) Anyway, I have a definite mental image of what Beorn looks like. It is not some washed-up, Fabio-looking, skinny-ass actor dressed COMPLETELY wrong. OMFG, Peter Jackson, you are an ASSHOLE with no imagination WHATSOEVER.

    I cannot explain it, but when I opened the illustration of Lake-Town you attached, it made me cry looking at it. Maybe because it was like looking at a memory.

    • Heh, generally, I had few problems with PJ’s casting choices for LotR, but this Hobbit nonsense has me all riled up.

      I’m glad you liked the Lake-Town illustration. It makes me a little weepy to look at too. Mostly, I think, because it is pretty much exactly as I always imagined it in my head when I was reading this growing up.

    • A “washed-up, Fabio-looking, skinny-ass actor dressed COMPLETELY wrong”? Hell, yeah. DUDE IS A BEAR. Not a f!#&ing wimpy TEDDY with poorly-crimped fluff. So. sad. I was really looking forward to the PJ version of the Hobbit, mostly because, um, more hobbit houses? and now I want to day-drink while watching it on a dinky flatscreen eight months after opening day and throw popcorn.

      Also, that Laketown image is almost exactly what I pictured as a kid, so ditto on the oh-hey-there-memory! thing, except mine had a narrower river. I don’t know why, maybe I just really dislike big rivers.

      I never thought of Gandalf as all that impatient really. I just think he’s King of All Snark and gets snappy when he wants his supper. Also, I feel like he tends to be at his grumpiest when he’s feeling just a wee bit guilty and worried. (Don’t we all?)

      I think I pretty much started thinking of Bilbo as secretly adventurous (it’s the Took, of course) just about as soon as they get to Rivendell. After that he has relapses, but it always seemed to me that once he actually got OUT of the Shire the starry-eyed adventurer in him was front and foremost – just as if it had been waiting for its chance all along. (aHA, says Gandalf.) Once they saw elves and things got interesting, I always thought the oh-dear-where’s-my-dinner became more like force of habit than genuine conviction. I mean, Bilbo is always kind of self-important, it’s just that the self-importance switches gears. (He’s so SMUG about his dragon-riddling!)

      And sj, you are totally the best summarizer ever.

      • Your first 3 sentences made me gigglesnort. Amen! The fact that bears are kinda my thing makes me that much more ragey. No clue what is going on with that casting choice!

      • Awww, compliments make me smile, thank you. <3

        I like your thoughts on Mr Baggins, quite a bit. He is the most smug, and it almost gets him in trouble there, doesn’t it?

    • My mental image of Beorn is this big, burly guy with black hair…lots of black hair on his body. You know, like a black bear but in man form. He certainly DOESN’T look like a blond Fabio wannabe.

  4. I had to go back and read the last post. I missed it somehow. Now I am caught up. I always liked the part where they escaped in the barrels for some reason. And I spent a lot of time picturing Lake Town in my head, because it seemed like a neat way to live, and very believable, even though if I lived near a dragon, I wouldn’t build my house out of wood way out in the open on a lake. And we got to the part with the eagles, which is where my question about the size of these creatures as compared to the Silmarillion description, where they seem to be much bigger. But maybe they used to be bigger. Who knows.
    To backtrack just a bit, the party in Bilbo’s house where the Dwarves behave like the Cat in the Hat was always a highlight for me. And Gandalf’s history with fireworks must have made an impression on good old PJ, because he did the scenes with them. Or are we not supposed to allude to the trilogy yet? I get so confused. But this is the best idea ever, and I hope these books catch on with people who somehow avoided them.

  5. Wait… I need to talk about the Dwarves too… I think the thing about the Dwarves is that although they are an ancient race, they do sort of tend to focus on the material things, the gold and jewels, and this, combined with the fact that they tend to keep to themselves, make them interesting characters. It allows us to see them as good or greedy or just aloof. And they do not have the etherial beauty of the Elves, but might even be considered, to human eyes, I don’t want to say ugly, but not particularly attractive. They can be brave and noble, but also short sighted and stubborn and a little abrasive. They are sort of the anti-Elves. This, to me, makes them endlessly fascinating. There are too many characters in literature that are just too good or too bad. We need a little ambiguity. We need to be able to draw our own conclusions. I like that there is a race of which you can say I like that one and that one, but not all of them. That have have both positive and negative traits. You might instinctively like an Elf, but not usually a Dwarf. But when you got to know a Dwarf, the relationship might well be deeper. And maybe that is where this is all leading, in books to come…

  6. More questions! Hooray!

    Do you think Gandalf is always this impatient with everyone, or does he subscribe to some of the prejudices against dwarves that everyone else in Middle-Earth seems to have?

    I think he’s this way with most people. Probably because he’s so smart and knows so much. It’s got to be tough to know so much and to have seen so much and be around people who haven’t.

    For those of you reading the first time, what do you think Gandalf’s “other business” is? What could be so important that he keeps leaving our party?

    I had no idea. I’ve finished the book and still am fuzzy on what it was, honestly.

    Let’s talk about Bilbo’s character. He’s come a pretty long way from his hobbit-hole and seems to be rising to the various challenges set before him fairly well. At what point did he (in your eyes) go from being a fraidy-hobbit to the dragon-challenging character we see at the end of this section?

    Honestly? I thought he was brave the minute he left his Hobbit-hole. That’s where the bravery is, to me – in taking the first step.

    • Heh, the thing with Gandalf is briefly explained when they meet up with Elrond again. I’m not surprised you missed it, many people do. Don’t worry, though, I’ll talk about it more tonight/tomorrow.

  7. The Dwarves are greedy treasure hoarders, which is where they get their reputation. Of course everyone is distrustful of what is different. So the men and dwarves and elves and goblins and keep to their own kind. And none of them have ever seen a hobbit so they are more curious of Bilbo than having any initial prejudices. The wood elves are kind of redneck country folk, Tolkien even pointed out that they didn’t evolve to the same levels of wisdom and abilities as other types of elves did. That was why they were very distrustful of outsiders. I like the scene where Bilbo and the Dwarves try to approach the Wood Elf feast and they keep disappearing. It just seemed like a very surreal effect, to be almost there, practically jump out screaming ‘here we are!’ and then the lights go out and you hear the chirp of crickets.
    Gandalf was a wily old vagabond. He has lots of friends all over the place. And I’m beginning to think of him as more of an illusionist than a wizard. Does he really have supernatural abilities or is he doing magic tricks? He is known for his great fireworks. His one bit of magic he performs is when he blasts the Wargs with fireballs and starts up a forest fire. Were these just errant bottle rockets, the “wizard” lost control of? As for his errands, I think it was a little too soon for Gandalf to be rounding up allies for the great war to end all war battles of the upcoming LOTR. 60 years to soon or something. But Gandalf was building his alliances, checking in on old friends and chillin’ out blowing multi colored smoke rings with his buddies so that one day their grandchildren would say ‘Hey my grandpa was friends with Gandalf, we gotta put aside our differences and fight evil together for him.’

  8. Pingback: “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” #PtBiB | Thoughts in the grass.

  9. In Gandalf’s defense, the dwarves are not too bright and rather single-minded, I don’t think he needs any predisposed attitudes to be exasperated with this bunch.;)

    • I think this is a valid point. They are very single-minded, which we learn when its discovered THAT NO ONE has made provisions for WTS they’re going to do with all of this treasure once they actually GET IT.

  10. The biggest realization I had with these chapters is that I find Smaug to be the least scary of all the baddies. His physical power is emphasized, sure, but he doesn’t seem to have the wits to match. I guess I like an evil force that’ll trick you AND cut you.

    The escape with the barrels is an image so vivid in my mind to this day. I remember perfectly how this tickled me as a child and it’s still brilliant.

    I really loved Biblo for stepping up his adventurousness and sometimes even pushing that boundary into impulsivity. Way to taunt a dragon, Bilbo. As mentioned above, I think it’s been in him all along, but he needed the surroundings to draw it out. He was not challenged this way in the Shire. I also appreciate that he retains the practical side, as in, “Hey, how are we going to kill this dragon?” and, “Oh, what about getting this loot out of here, huh?” Valid concerns!

    • Yeah, Smaug really doesn’t come across as all that terrifying here, does he? I think the confrontation with the Goblins and Gollum in the Misty Mountains were more terrifying than anything we see with Smaug.

  11. Gandalf seems to be impatient with everyone, but it does seem like he gets fed up with the dwarves more quickly. I think part of the reason is that Gandalf “knows everything” but chooses not to tell everything, so he gets frustrated when things events aren’t happening according to his personal time frame. I get a little fed up with the dwarves, too, though, because they’re so one-track and materialistic and they don’t take time to think about the bigger picture.

    It’s hard for me to fairly judge when Bilbo started getting braver, just because I’ve read the book twice now and I know what’s going to happen. I think he was already braver than he realized when he left his hobbit-hole to go on the adventure in the first place, and then I think the ring gave him the extra self-confidence he needed for the rest of the story. I’m not sure he would have been as brave had he not been able to make himself invisible whenever he wanted. That makes a HUGE difference.

    • I think he was already braver than he realized when he left his hobbit-hole to go on the adventure in the first place, and then I think the ring gave him the extra self-confidence he needed for the rest of the story. I’m not sure he would have been as brave had he not been able to make himself invisible whenever he wanted. That makes a HUGE difference.

      This is an interesting point you bring up. Bilbo certainly wouldn’t have had the courage to taunt Smaug like he did, had he not been in possession of the Ring. Things also would have likely played out quite differently in the upcoming Battle of the Five Armies, I think.

  12. I won’t get into the Beorn side discussion, as I may post on this myself if time allows. But I will speak to the first question, ie. is Gandalf always this impatient with everyone? I think yes, except probably people who know as much as he does about the ish that’s going down in Middle-earth (eg., Saruman, Treebeard, Elrond, Galadriel, probably Beorn). Gandalf has probably seen time and time again that, as Lex Luthor put it: “People are no damn good.” I mean, come on, if you can’t trust the flower of humanity, the Númenoreans, not to do the one thing you forbid them doing (sail to the Undying Lands), then the various agendas of vengeful dwarves and fussbudget hobbits may well get short shrift when there are things you need them to do that sort of line up with things they want you to help with. Overall, I’d say Gandalf shows remarkable patience. And, of course, by the end of The Hobbit, we get an honest picture of what he thinks of the hobbit.

    • Ohohoh! I look forward to your Beorn-centred post! Fun.

      David, it makes me happy that you brought up the Númenoreans, because I really think that early interactions with them rather paved the way for how humanity as a whole is perceived throughout the whole saga.

      Sure, there are those that buck that stereotype, but not many.

      • Yes, and consider that pretty much any human societies not directly influenced by the Elves or the Men of Númenor are basically written off as wicked or degenerate — anyone from the south or the east. Yikes, Professor Tolkien. Should we be reading much into this? Or just note that Tolkien was uprooted from his homeland in South Africa and raised in England, maybe had bad associations with the southern hemisphere, and leave it at that? I’m totally speculating, of course. But I don’t remember a single good people or character to have come from anywhere in Tolkien’s Middle-earth except the west or the north.

        • Hm, II may have responded to the wrong aspect of your comment here. But yes, I think the other peoples of Middle-earth take a dim view of Men in general. If the Dwarves are given a rough treatment in general — massive wars with the orcs, distrust from the Elves, being homeless, etc., it’s probably Men that we hear most have failed again and again.

        • I read an interesting review yesterday, which brought up racial tension and subtle misogyny. The person who wrote it said it only slightly hindered his enjoyment as an adult, and I’m not entirely sure I agree, but it’s definitely one way the books can be read.

          I think the period in which they were written needs to be taken into account, too, though.

          • I agree, and overall I think Tolkien presents the fictional peoples and nations he actually wrote about as very fallible and praiseworthy and noble or foolish in their own way. Also, when I get irked by the notion that there-are-no-good-Haradrim, I remember that he set out to write a mythology for England, not the whole world. And in that it is a remarkably durable and and rich world, even if we’re only getting to know part of it.

            • Right, that’s something I try to keep in mind, as well. It wasn’t his intention to write a new mythology for ALL OF US, but for the people of England, and this story is fairly indicative of its time, in that way.

              Sure, it would have been neat to read about everyone else, and (as you mentioned the Haradrim) to have seen things from their perspective, but I’m fairly content with what we have.

              I sure would like to know more about the Haradrim joining up with [REDACTED], though – like [REDACTED] does in TT.

  13. Y’all are entirely too cerebral for me. So I am just going to share my favorite passage, which occurs after Bombur wakes from his enchanted sleep and declares he cannot describe the feasts of his dreams.

    “You need not try,” said Thorin. “In fact, if you can’t talk about something else you had better be silent. We are quite annoyed enough with you as it is. If you hadn’t waked up, we should have left you to your idiotic dreams in the forest; you are no joke to carry even after weeks of short commons.”

    Trust the king of dwarves to nail a telling off.

  14. Pingback: Beorn again: Tolkien's favoured lycanthrope | As You Were

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