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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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!