Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog – The Hobbit (Chapters 13-19)

Once again, lots to discuss in this section!  I’m admitting ahead of time that there was much bloo-blooing in this house during these last chapters.  Why was there weeping?  Let’s talk about it.

When we left our intrepid group, Smaug had just demolished the side of the Lonely Mountain and taken off for Lake-Town.  They don’t know that, though, all they know is that they’re stuck.  In the dark.  Not having any idea WTS ol’ Smaug is up to, or when he’ll be back.  Thorin says he doesn’t care if he’s going to die, he wants to feel the wind one last time.

Um, no.  Trapped, remember?  So, just as everyone is falling into a pit of despair, Bilbo tells everyone to buck the eff up, cos he’s going down into the dragon’s lair one more time.  GO BILBO!  Seriously, I heart Bilbo.  So, he tells all the dwarves to be sooperquiet, but still thinks they’re loud.

I think it’s worthy of noting, here, that Bilbo is starting to get rather annoyed with our friends, the dwarves.  I know I’ve talked about it before, how I felt much more sympathy for the true first children of Middle-Earth this time around than on previous reads, but this time I agree with Mr Baggins.  So far, he’s really the only one who’s actually done a damn thing on this trip, and yet he keeps being told he needs to earn his keep.  What, because he’s a hobbit and not a dwarf?  No.

I imagine Bilbo feeling somewhat like I do, when the kids refuse to cooperate and everything is JUST.  ABOUT.  TO BLOW.

You need to GTFO if you see this face. For realsies.

Mr Baggins calls for light, but they all pretend like they’ve got wax in their ears to get out of having to actually do anything.  Finally (after much running around and being loud and all “IT’S SAFE LOOK WHAT I’M DOING BRING ME A LIGHT YOU MOFOS!”) he’s brought a light, but then the dwarves go scampering back to safety.

What’s Bilbo gonna do now?  Well, he’s going to take a look at the treasure and see what he wants for himself.  He’s the one doing all the work after all, right?

Well, well, well.  What do we have here?  Oh, it’s the Arkenstone.  The thing all the dwarves want most.  It’s supposed to be the most beautiful gem they ever dug and polished (as a race).  Now, Bilbo KNOWS they’re all extremely desirous of the Arkenstone (how could he not, after they started CHANTING about it in the last section?) but he still decides to keep it a secret that he’s found it.  He thinks “hey, maybe I’ll just take THIS as my 14th share,” even though he knows better.  Tricksy, Bilbo.  Tricksy.

Eventually, he convinces the rest of Thorin and Co to come down into the lair, and they start sorting through the treasure (Bilbo gets an awesome Mithril suit of armour) then decide to find their way out.  Bilbo makes a disparaging comment about the place before he’s reminded that this is Thorin’s ancestral home.  Oops.

They find their way out, but they still don’t have any idea what happened to the dragon.

LUCKILY FOR US!  We have our reliable narrator to fill us in on what happened down in Lake-Town!  Those stupid people I talked about last time that thought Thorin’s arrival meant IMMEDIATE RIVERS OF GOLD?  Well, they see a light heading across the lake and think it’s the prophecy coming true.  Of course it isn’t.  It’s the dragon.

They then proceed to do something that doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever.  They cut the ties to the bridges.

Um….?  Why?  Your enemy approacheth ON WINGS.  What the hell good is cutting the bridges going to do?  NOW YOU’RE TRAPPED YOU DUMMIES!  Seriously, don’t get it.

Things are looking pretty bad for the folks of Lake-Town, until Bard the top archer guy, I dunno – his family WAS from Dale, before Smaug burnt everything near the mountain to the ground – gets a message from that bird Bilbo tried to chase off up near the soopersekrit mountain entrance.

Yeah, don’t worry if that didn’t make any sense to you.  It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to anyone.  [sigh]  It’s one of the low-points with this story, really.

Anyway, the thrush tells Bard exactly where Smaug’s weak point is, Bard shoots his last arrow there, Smaug dies and falls into the lake.

Everyone starts shouting for Bard to be their king, but he declines AFTER he jumps into the lake to retrieve his lucky arrow from its watery dragony possible loss.  Then they start shouting about how the dwarves MUST BE dead, so LET’S ALL GO GET THE TREASURE, YEAH!

[sigh]

So, the birds show up to warn Thorin and Co. that not only are the people of Lake-Town on their way, but Thranduil’s coming too, and everyone wants a piece of the treasure.  OH NOES.

Now, I know a lot of people start skimming around this point, because they feel like Bilbo did.

In any case he felt that the adventure was, properly speaking, over with the death of the dragon.

Of course you think that, Bilbo.  Unfortunately, there’s still much to see, and battles to fight and whatnot.

The Dwarves work on making their home totally defensible again, and all kinds of impressive changes are made in a short period of time.  I’m not going to go into all of them because you read it, but it was impressive, right?  Right.  The Men and the Elves show up, and Thorin refuses to give them any treasure.  The Men want it cos Bard slayed the dragon.  The elves…well, Thranduil just likes treasure AND he’s still pissed cos they all escaped from his kingdom.

Bilbo sneaks out in the middle of the night and does either the stupidest or bravest thing imaginable.  He puts on the Ring, and gives the Arkenstone to Bard.  Now, he knows this is going to make Thorin mad, BUT he doesn’t want there to be any more fighting, he just wants to GO HOME.  Of course Thorin is pissed, and war were declared BUT before that, his Dwarf Cousins show up to fortify their ranks.  Um…too bad they’re about to be beset upon by the Goblin Horde.  Riding Wargs.  And the Goblins riding Wargs that shoot bees from their mouths.

This was probably a pretty impressive battle, especially once the Eagles showed up.  The sad thing is we don’t really get to hear too much about it because Bilbo spends it invisible and unconscious.

We eventually find out that Beorn showed up in the nick of time and went into rampaging bear mode.  He did a lot of the killing himself, and I’m sure there were OTHER casualties, but the ones we care most about are Fili and Kili (Thorin’s nephews) and…well, Thorin is on his deathbead.  [insert tears here]  I totally cried.  This is what did it:

“Farewell, good thief,” he said. “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 knelt on one knee filled with sorrow. “Farewell, King under the Mountain!” he said. “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.”

“No!” said Thorin. “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. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!”

So, Thorin is laid to rest with his sword and the Arkenstone.  Go Bard, that was way cool of you to give it up like that (heh, I don’t mean give it up like that, jerks – although, who knows?).

Bilbo dithers over the amount of treasure he’s entitled to, finally settles on as much gold and silver as his pony can carry (two small chests).

There are few adventures on their way back to the shire.  They spend most of the winter with Beorn, then stop in at Elrond and the other elves’ Happy Home again, they dig up the treasure they’d hidden after defeating the trolls, and make their way back to the Shire.

Oh, but wait.  Before we get into the Shire proper, let’s take a second to talk about Gandalf’s revelations when he was recounting the tale for the elves.  Did you catch it?  Most people don’t, because they’re already skimming at this point.

It was in this way that he learned where Gandalf had been to; for he overheard the words of the wizard to Elrond. It appeared that Gandalf had been to a great council of the white wizards, masters of lore and good magic; and that they had at last driven the Necromancer from his dark hold in the south of Mirkwood.

Wanna guess who the Necromancer is/was?  No?  It’s Sauron.  He wasn’t able to establish a proper hold after his defeat by Isildur so many years before and was regaining strength in Mirkwood.  Hmmm, I wonder where he’s gone now?  Guess we’ll have to keep reading to find out.

Heh, luckily (?) they arrive on the very day that all of Bilbo’s things are being auctioned off, because he’s been “presumed dead.”  Bilbo eventually has to buy all of his things back, and he’s seen as a bit odd forevermore, but that’s rather a small price to pay for a Ring of Power and being named elf-friend, amirite?

“If ever you are passing my way,” said Bilbo, “don’t wait to knock!  Tea is at four, but any of you are welcome at any time!”

Discussion Topics

  • First time readers/non-fanatics:  Did you catch the bit about the Necromancer at the end, and did you figure out who he was?
  • My fellow read and re-readers:  Was the Arkenstone one of the lost Silmarils?  What leads you to that belief?
  • Now that we’ve finished this book, if you haven’t read Tolkien before – how are you feeling having accomplished this much?  Are you planning on continuing through the rest of the books with us?  For those of you who’ve read it countless times – how is reading this time different than the first (or even the last) time you read it?

Make sure you come back tomorrow!  I have another amazing guest post from another fantastic guest poster lined up!

[edited to add]  If you hover over the Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog tab up at the top of the page, you’ll see that I’ve added a sub-page with links to all of the Silmarillion posts, as well as another sub-page which is attempting to collect the various links from other blogs, which pertain to our discussion of Middle-Earth.  If you haven’t already checked these posts out, please do.

28 thoughts on “Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog – The Hobbit (Chapters 13-19)

  1. I do not buy the Arkenstone as a Silmaril because it was buried with Thorin. Sure, Thorin’s importantish, but so important that he gets a Silmaril as a grave toy? Non. I don’t think Gandalf would have allowed that.

  2. But I TOTALLY would buy Goblins riding Wargs that shoot bees from their mouths. I would buy the Snape out of them and sic them at people (like Gandalf) who start forest fires.

    Only Goblins riding Wargs that shoot bees from their mouths can prevent forest fires.

    • I feel the same way about the Arkenstone, for pretty much the same reasons. I know it is a subject of much debate, however, which is why I threw it out there.

  3. Oh boy.

    I remember this. Because when I recounted the death of Thorin, I used my dying-on-a-slab voice. Lots of halting and shortness of breath, sort of like a geriatric William Shatner (which is now almost a tautology, or at least a self-fulfilling prophecy). The thing is, I wanted Thorin’s death to mean something because Josh wasn’t remotely bothered by the death of Mufasa in The Lion King (despite the fact that I consistently weep buckets), or Bambi’s mother, or the death of the cute little .

    Right, I thought. I’ll get him this time. So I went for it dwarf-hammer and elvensmith-tongs. It was, I have to say, an Academy Award winning performance, or at least deserving of a Razzie. But I should have spotted the warning signs. “Look,” I said, pointing at one of Michael Hague’s beautiful illustrations. “There’s Thorin on his bed there.”
    “He doesn’t look like he’s dying.”
    “He is, though.”
    “There’s no blood.”
    “No, they’ve cleaned him up. But he’s still going to die.”

    And so we did that, and then I told him about Fili and Kili (which seems almost like an afterthought on the part of Tolkien) and then, when we got to the end of the chapter, I shut the book and turned and said “That was a bit of a sad one, wasn’t it?”. And he burst into tears. And I felt like the worst father ever.

  4. I love questions. I was totally the nerd in school who did extra credit FOR FUN.

    1. I had no idea what was up with the Necromancer. None at all. I caught the reference, but was like, “WHO CARES WHAT THE HELL GANDALF.” Just realized why I should have cared, because I’m reading Fellowship. Got to that part and was all, “Oh. OH.” Heh.

    3. I was not overly impressed with The Hobbit, but am a stubborn cuss, so decided to move on to Fellowship to see if I liked it any better. Glad I did. I’m liking it a million times better than The Hobbit and I’m only 3/4 of the way through.

    • You know, I was talking about this with Kate last night. For some reason (maybe it’s because I’m coming into it as a married adult with a whole passel of kids), this reading of The Hobbit is kind of opening my eyes to things I hadn’t really noticed – or even considered – before. New parts are really resounding with me, and it’s like it’s a whole new book from the one I read over and over as a kid.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying Fellowship. If you count LotR as three books, it’s probably my favourite of the three, even though (what I think is) the most important line in the series happens in TT. I hope you’ll decide to continue when you’re done, but if you don’t, I totally understand.

  5. This time through the thing that really stood out was the influence of the Ring on Bilbo, I think. I don’t know if I would have noticed it alone, even on read number seventy-two or whatever, but after the whole how-tricksy-was-Bilbo-with-Gollum really thing I started paying more attention. I was always mad at him for taking the Arkenstone, and I don’t think I ever really connected him running around with the Ring all the time to what happens to Frodo’s brain later.

    Also, the auction is hands down my most favoritist of all the scenes in the book, except maybe for the trolls. I hope PJ does THAT right, at least.

    • Jericha, I think this is something that a lot of people miss, even those of us who have read the entire story eleventy billion times. I think you’ll see, as we progress, that you’ll really kind of need to keep the things I talked about from the Silmarillion in mind, and it will really enhance certain aspects of the story that you may not have noticed before.

      I LOVE the auction. And those stupid Sackville-Bagginses!

      • I know, they are among the bestest characters.

        And this is why I’m so grateful for the awesome Silmarillion synopsis — I would not ever have read it myself, and as it turns out, he wrote that stuff for a reason! Whoa! Who knew! (Well, a lot of people, I think, but NOT ME.) Um, like, reading Gandalf as a minor god is going to make things WAY more interesting.

  6. Knew about the Necromancer and Sauron connection, but never thought about the Arkenstone and possible Silmaril connection. If it is, it is never spelled out like that. But it’s an interesting thought.

  7. I don’t think the Arkenstone is a Silmaril. Partly because I believe they are all accounted for at the end of The Silmarillion (lost, or fastened to a mariner’s brow) but also because since we know Tolkien had written most of the tales that would become The Silmarillion / Books of Lost Tales, he would have made a more explicit reference to this in The Hobbit, or at least about the qualities of the Arkenstone that would have made it unmistakable to readers of the earlier legends. In the recent single-volume edition of The History of The Hobbit by John D. Rateliff, that question is also posed, as an alternative version that Tolkien may have mulled over but ultimatley did not go with.
    Fascinating, FASCINATING idea, though…. would have tied The Hobbit in to the earlier histories in a remarkable way.

    • I think the primary faction that believes it is one of the Silmarils believes it was the one lost to the Earth that the dwarves then found when mining. I am of the opinion that if that was the case, it probably would have been made clearer in subsequent updates. Since it wasn’t, I think it was just a pretty bauble.

      It’s interesting to think about, though.

      • Only Tolkien could say whether he thought of it as a Silmaril, and then changed it, or just liked the motif of a stone that seemed to contain/reflect more light than its surroundings; but given the historical and mythological “baggage” of any of the Silmarils, to have it pop up in The Hobbit and then be forgotten about would be bizarre; and readers of the whole Middle-earth mythos might well wonder why a Ring forged by Sauron would matter that much when there was a loose Silmaril lying in a tomb, the sort of thing entire nations of elves (and Morgoth) went to war for centuries over.

  8. If I were to be completely honest, I did not catch the hint about Sauron the first time I read the book. But after reading the Trilogy, I began to see how tied together all of J.R.R.’s stroy lines were. He left othing to chance. There were no accidents, no uneeded parts, no dangling plot points. The guy made up whole laguages, for dog’s sake.
    I also should admit it never occured to me about the Arkenstone. I think in my early readings I was too young to view the whole story as anything other than a good adventure romp. I think I was about 11 or 12 when I read it first myself, and my dad had been reading it to me and my brothers at bedtime even earlier than that. But it does seem unlikely that Tolkien would have just left us to wonder, when all is said and done, so I would say it was just a little plot point for us to wonder what Bilbo was goiong to do.
    I do remember being dissapointed that the battle was not described more fully. I played it all out in my head, though.

    • Of course you did. Did you ever illustrate it? I don’t recall seeing any of it when reading through your blog – or have you not gotten to that part yet? If not, are you taking requests? ;)

      • I did do that one picture of Gandalf and some orcs that I posted way back. And some generic dragon pictures. And the ninja surrounded by cut off orc heads. I bet I have some more stuff like that around.

  9. I did not get the Necromancer/Sauron thing at ALL; thank you for pointing that out. I was wondering from the first reference who the hell he was and what was his story. The Arkenstone as Silmaril? I am not feeling it. I found the Hobbit more interesting, touching and funny than the first time and I really liked it the first time I read it as a teen. I did not get through the whole LOTR trilogy as a teen however, so looking forward to revisiting that next.

    I don’t know if I buy the ring influence on Bilbo entirely. Sure, maybe, but I don’t think he is one iota more evil than the Wood Elf king, or the Lake-men, or Beorn or the dwarves or me or anybody else. Also I loved the mess at the end after the dragon was killed, because that is the way real life is. The war ends and then you have the reparations, the disaster subsides and then you have to figure out which helping organization gets which funding. Self-interest doesn’t die with the bad guy. And there are ALWAYS goblin survivors waiting in the wings. Blech. Goblins.

    • FWiW, I’m not entirely sold on the whole “the Ring made him do it” line of thought, either. I think it may have given him a confidence boost, but I don’t think it was directly influencing him this early in the game, either. Maybe the lie he told to the Company about where it came from was Ring related, but since that was originally the way it happened, I don’t know that it wasn’t just something Tolkien neglected to update.

      He does talk about it a bit in the intros to LotR, but…I don’t know…maybe I’ll feel differently about it upon this re-read, but I think most of what we’ve seen so far is almost all Bilbo.

  10. I had no idea what you were on bout with Gandalf’s other business last check in so I completely missed this reference!

    Compared to reading this as a child, I had a much different experience with the ending. The dragon and war stuff feels awfully anticlimactic and I couldn’t even connect with Bilbo’s wily ways. Not sure what that’s about. But I’m thankful for revisiting it and the depth other comments have given me. Really looking forward to moving on to the next. I leave in the morning for the cottage so I should be able to plow through!

    • Hee! The reason I brought it up in the last checkin was cos Gandalf kept taking off on his “other business.” Of course, I already knew what I was going to talk about before that, but I was curious as to how deep an impression it had made with non-Tolkien enthusiasts (I am not saying this in a disparaging manner, just meaning those who aren’t OCD, that read and re-read).

  11. I’m not going to comment on the Arkenstone because it’s been twenty years (at least) since I read LotR and I don’t remember much about that stuff. I’ll answer that question later.

    I enjoyed different parts of this book much more this time around. I laughed out loud at parts that I didn’t laugh out loud at all those years ago. So although I loved it this time as much as I loved it back then, I loved it for different reasons this time.

    • I found myself laughing quite loudly at various parts of this one, and even at the beginning of Fellowship (although I’m not very far in that one yet).

  12. Catching up on my blogging. I hope you don’t mind the late comment.

    Bilbo really showed his mettle in this last section – taking the lead in exploring the treasure room, peaking under cups and furniture for a sneaky dragon. Then that whole thing with the Arkenstone! I had totally forgotten about that. The hobbit must have a brass pair, that’s all I got to say on that.

    I wanted to weep too when the body count was read out after the battle. sniffle, sniffle. Fili and Kili had their lives in front of them. I wasn’t too sad about Thorin as he was a major cause.

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