The Hobbit 16 | A Thief in the Night

by Glenn on November 11, 2019

The chapter opens with things in a kind of stasis. Outside the hall, Bard and a group of men and elves have declared a siege on those inside the Mountain. Inside the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield, with his small company of dwarves, and Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit, have the superior position and plenty of weapons. They constructed a wall across the main entrance and the only way in would be through a direct assault that would be costly on both sides, though likely terminal for the dwarves.

Bard made his demands known—one twelfth of the gold and Thorin needs to do something to help the people of Lake Town. It seems like a reasonable “offer.” He could have been way more demanding and belligerent. While Bard doesn’t have the upper hand in terms of topography, the dwarves have a couple of problems. First, their food supply isn’t endless. While time is not necessarily on the side of those who have besieged the Mountain because winter is coming, waiting means those outside will be cold but those inside will be starving. Second, there is a kind of political problem among the dwarves. Thorin is the kind of ruler whose commands are not questioned. He has said that he is giving none of the gold away and no one seems willing or able to counter his position.

Our narrator says that “days passed slowly and wearily.” There was some organizing of the treasure and Thorin asked for the others to help him find the Arkenstone, which he said was

“worth more than a river of gold in itself, and to me it is beyond price. That stone of all the treasure I name unto myself, and I will be avenged on anyone who finds it and withholds it.”

These words were, of course, concerning for Bilbo. Early on he had pocketed the Arkenstone, thinking it lovely and the one item he would have picked. It was bound up in what he was using as a pillow.

It’s hard to see how this is going to end well for the company.

Word came from the ravens that dwarves were on the march to come and help. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to arrive unnoticed, which probably meant a battle in the valley. Roäc, the talking raven, asked Thorin, “How shall you be fed without the friendship and goodwill of the lands about you?” And then he stated the truth of the situation: “The treasure is likely to be your death, though the dragon is no more!” But Thorin was pretty well entrenched both physically and spiritually/emotionally. His hope was that the coming of winter might make the men and elves easier to negotiate with. How likely was that?

Then we are told, “That night Bilbo made up his mind.” It was a dark, moonless night. Bombur was standing guard and Bilbo offered to take over his duties, which Bombur happily accepted so that he could go inside to sleep and be warm. Bilbo put on his ring of invisibility and climbed out. He sneaked behind the lines of the elves and after he revealed himself demanded that he be taken to their leaders. Some time later he was in front of both the Elvenking and Bard where he conducted business. Bilbo described Thorin’s intransigence and in the process of discussions learned that Bard and the Elvenking were of similar mind. Bilbo told them something they didn’t know, that Dain and 500 armed dwarves were just a couple of days away. They were on the cusp of “serious trouble.” Bard wondered why Bilbo was telling them this: “Are you betraying your friends, or are you threatening us?”

Bilbo deflected the question declaring, “I never met such suspicious folk!” Bilbo told them he was making them an offer, at which point he brought out the Arkenstone.

“This is the Arkenstone of Thrain, said Bilbo, “the Heart of the Mountain; and it is also the heart of Thorin. He values it above a river of gold. I give it to you. It will aid you in your bargaining.”

The narrator tells us that “Bilbo, not without a shudder, not without a glance of longing, handed the marvellous stone to Bard.”

Bard asked the obvious question, “But how is it yours to give?”

Bilbo admitted, “It isn’t exactly; but, well, I am willing to let it stand against all my claim.” Bilbo then said he was headed back to the dwarves. The Elvenking wondered if it was safe for Bilbo to return, having just betrayed Thorin so profoundly. He offered to let Bilbo stay, but Bilbo declared, “I don’t think I ought to leave my friends like this, after all we have gone through together.” He couldn’t be dissuaded so they escorted him out of the camp.

On his way out of the camp, “an old man, wrapped in a dark cloak, rose from a tent door where he was sitting and came towards them.” It was Gandalf who clapped Bilbo on the back declaring, “Well done! Mr. Baggins!” Bilbo was delighted to see Gandalf “But there was no time for all the questions that he immediately wished to ask.”

One of the questions throughout this tale is how much does Gandalf see into the future. Is he just wise or does he have premonitions or is he extraordinarily well-connected. He tells Bilbo,

“Things are drawing towards the end now, unless I am mistaken. There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep your heart up! You may come through all right. There is news brewing that even the ravens have not heard. Good night!”

Bilbo returned to the Mountain. He woke up Bombur who went back on guard duty and then curled up and went to sleep dreaming of eggs and bacon.

*   *   *

Bilbo is a complicated guy/hobbit. He is an independent operator. The dwarves engaged Bilbo to serve on a contracted basis. He was being paid to do a job and his loyalty to Thorin was based solely on potential financial gain. Since Bilbo’s interest was financial, the extent to which financial gain mattered to him was the extent to which he could be counted on to be loyal. It’s interesting in this chapter that when Bilbo gives away the Arkenstone, it wasn’t “without a shudder, not without a glance of longing.” So the money matters. But other things do, too, and self-preservation is not one of them, because Bilbo wanted to go back to the dwarves. They had been through a lot together. As an independent operator, Bilbo could think independently. He thought of what might get the dwarves beyond the impasse. What he did definitely would be considered traitorous if it had been done by one of the dwarves. It was a combination of wise and shrewd and dangerous and common sense. What remains is to see how it will play out.

The Hobbit 15 | The Gathering of the Clouds

by Glenn on November 11, 2019

The dwarves and Bilbo were in a bit of a predicament. The fourteen of them were sitting high atop The Lonely Mountain in a look-out station. If Smaug came back, they were probably in some trouble. But what do they do now? The original agreement that the dwarves made with Bilbo was “cash on delivery, up to and not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits (if any).” The question no one really seemed to think through was what did “delivery” mean. Bilbo had retrieved one item and that had made the dwarves really happy. (Did that fulfill Bilbo’s job as burglar?) Later, when Smaug had apparently gone away, the whole company picked out some things for themselves. A few noteworthy acquisitions: Thorin was looking very regal in chain mail and with a sword; Bilbo was given a child-sized coat of mithril, a very light coat of elf-made armor; and Bilbo pocketed the Arkenstone, which was desired most of all by Thorin.

As the party sat in the look-out station on the mountain, they noticed flocks of birds were moving into the area. These were the kinds of birds that gathered when “a battle were afoot.” And then the old thrush appeared again. He appeared very excited as though he was attempting to communicate with them. But no one could understand him. Balin wished he was a raven, because he could understand their speech. He mentioned, in particular, a raven pair, “old Carc and his wife,” who used to live in the area. At this the thrush flew off and brought back the son of Carc, who was quite aged and who explained that his father was long dead. He explained that the birds were gathering because Smaug was dead. This brought great joy to the dwarves who concluded that there was no reason to fear and that the treasure was theirs. Thorin had to quiet the dwarves down because the old raven was not through speaking. He said they “could go back to [their] hall in safety; all the treasure is [theirs]—for the moment.” The news of the death of Smaug had spread throughout the land and everyone’s thoughts had turned to the gold that was up in The Mountain. Everyone wanted a share. The lake men, in particular, were upset at the dwarves because their mission to climb the mountain resulted in the destruction of their town and the deaths of many of their people. The son of Carc was careful to say that the dwarves’ “own wisdom must decide [their] course,” but that he recommended they “not trust the Master of the Lake-men, but rather him that shot the dragon with his bow.” The raven’s concluding statement,

“We would see peace once more among dwarves and men and elves after the long desolation; but it may cost you dear in gold.”

The dwarves rushed back to the great hall where they immediately began fortifications. All the other entrances had been closed up by the dragon, except of course for the secret entrance. The birds told the dwarves they had a little time, because the men and elves were rebuilding their town. The dwarves were able to create a wall in front of the main entrance and they had food for at least some time. Then an army approached, led by Bard. Bard was surprised that the dwarves were alive. He said,

“Hail Thorin! Why do you fence yourself like a robber in his hold? We are not yet foes, and we rejoice that you are alive beyond our hope. We came expecting to find none living here; yet now that we are met there is matter for a parley and a council.”

Bard’s belief was that the fact that he had killed the dragon and that his people had suffered so much with the dragon’s attack warranted some recompense. Our narrator tells us “these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken; and Bilbo thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them.” Thorin didn’t, for the simple fact that the dragon had taken the gold from his people and no one else was entitled to it. He said they would recompense the men of Lake-town for their supplies and help,

“But nothing will we give, not even a loaf’s worth, under threat of force. While an armed host lies before our doors, we look on you as foes and thieves.”

Thorin asked Bard how much they intended to give his people if they had found him dead. Bard declared it a “just question,” but since the dwarves “are not dead, and we are not robbers” it only seems fair that they help the people who “befriended them when they were in want.”

Thorin decided there would be no negotiations “with armed men at my gate.”
Bard left for a time and sent back representatives to announce that the dwarves should hand over 1/12 of their treasure to Bard and that in the interest of “friendship and honour of the lands about” he should give something of his own for the men of the Lake. Thorin said no with an arrow shot that stuck in the shield of Bard’s representative who then announced that they should consider themselves besieged.

Thorin had become quite grim and no one dared speak to him, though presumably some were questioning the wisdom of his course of action. We are told, “Bilbo, of course, disapproved of the whole turn of affairs.” He didn’t like the smell of dragon or the food they had to live on.

The Hobbit 14 | Fire and Water

by Glenn on November 5, 2019

Up to now, this has been Bilbo’s story. We’ve watched him as he was approached by Gandalf to pursue an adventure and saw how he was lured into it through the music of the dwarves whom he was to serve as burglar. We empathized with him as he was pushed out the door in haste by Gandalf and we imagined the discomfort of the rain as they traveled on horse back (or, in the case of Bilbo, on a pony).

Aside: There is an old-fashioned sense of adventure in this book. The absence of modern technology forces us to consider what it might have been like for other adventurers in the past. Think about the family heading out on the Oregon Trail in the 1800’s versus the modern family renting a U-Haul with air-conditioning to make the same journey today.

It was not just an uncomfortable journey but a dangerous one, too, especially when Gandalf wasn’t around. He slips away from time to time. When the company came upon three trolls, Bilbo was captured trying to pick the pocket of one of the trolls. (He didn’t anticipate a magical wallet.) When the dwarves came to help him, they were captured as well. Gandalf, sensing that he was needed, and clearly he was, returned in time to rescue the whole party and the group took some loot from the trolls. They all diverted, then, to the home of Elrond, an elf lord whose “last homely house” is far from homely. They gained needed rest, replenished supplies, and valuable intelligence to help them cross the Misty Mountains.

The main problem crossing the Misty Mountains was going to be avoiding goblins. They might have made it successfully, but the weather got bad again. The company, stuck in a terrible thunder and lightning storm found shelter in a cave. It was a classic dilemma. They all knew caves were potentially evil—you never knew what might be hiding in there—but this one looked safe and the cave seemed better than perishing in the storm. Bilbo had a nightmare where a crack opened up in the cave and Goblins appeared. It was not just a dream. When he cried out, it was enough warning for Gandalf to save himself. The rest of the company were taken hostage and taken deep into the heart of their mountain while their pack animals were eaten. Again, when things could have gone terribly wrong for the company, Gandalf appeared and with some pyrotechnics distracted the goblin host and killed The Great Goblin. The whole party then left on a run. Goblins in pursuit eventually caught up and Bilbo was thrown off the back of the dwarf who was carrying him. He hit his head and was rendered unconscious.  When Bilbo woke up, he was alone and in the dark. Crawling around he found a ring that rendered its wearer invisible. Its now previous owner, Gollum, tried to kill Bilbo, but he escaped by wearing the ring. Bilbo found his way out from underground and amazingly enough found the rest of the company who had escaped ahead of him and were discussing what to do about the fact that he was missing. Not for the last time, an apparent setback actually helped moved the adventure forward. Instead of a long and winding path through the Misty Mountains, the company had traveled under them.

But now they were “out of the frying pan into the frying pan.” They tried to put as much distance between themselves and the goblins as possible but they were discovered by wargs (evil wolves) who chased the company up trees. Gandalf sent down fire on the wargs, but newly arriving goblins used the fire to set fires beneath the trees where the company had taken refuge. What goes around comes around in Middle-Earth, though, and the Lord of the Eagles who had once been healed by Gandalf came to see what the commotion was and with his guards rescued the company from out of the top of the trees. The eagles carried the company a ways down the road at which point the company continued until they came to the home of Beorn, a skin-changer who was both a man and a bear. He provided needed hospitality.

The company next had to go through the Forest of Mirkwood. And they would do it without Gandalf, who had other pressing business. In the forest they had to contend with spiders and then they were captured by wood elves. Bilbo kept himself free, though, by wearing his ring of invisibility. He managed an escape for the dwarves by loading them into empty barrels that were to be sent down the river to the men of Lake Town who would refill them. When the dwarves arrived in Lake Town they were greeted warmly as their leader, Thorin, was a descendant of the King under the Mountain. There was some serious nostalgia for those days as it was a more prosperous time. The dragon, Smaug, had come and rained destruction on  the area. The Lonely Mountain was now inhabited by the dragon where he kept watch over his horde of gold. The town of Dale, which was near the Mountain had been abandoned, and the people moved to Lake Town.

The men of Lake Town gave provisions to Thorin and company who set out for the Lonely Mountain. The company found the secret entrance and because of Bilbo’s patience and the actions of a thrush, figured out a way in. Bilbo managed to take something from Smaug to show the dwarves, but when Smaug woke up he realized something was missing. (Dragons know their gold.) Smaug went crazy and the dwarves who had been hanging outside of the secret entrance got inside at the last moment. When Bilbo made a second appearance to where the dragon was sleeping, this time the dragon was not sleeping. Bilbo had a long conversation with the dragon who had never encountered a hobbit and didn’t know what to make of him. He could only smell him because Bilbo was wearing his ring.

Bilbo in the course of his discussion discovered a a weakness in the armor of the dragon. The conversation ended badly and Bilbo was nearly killed by flames as he ran back up the tunnel. When Bilbo recounted his story, including the information about the dragon, the thrush was listening in and then flew off. Smaug then decided to search for his interlopers in a more stealthy way. Bilbo sensed something was wrong and he encouraged the entire party to get inside the tunnel once again. This time they closed the door, which was good because it meant the dragon couldn’t find them. But it meant they were locked inside. The dragon went off to Lake Town, to hand out some vengeance on the people who had helped the dwarves. The company eventually made their way down the tunnel to explore. Bilbo found the ultimate prize, the Arkenstone, coveted by Thorin. He put it in his pocket thinking it was the thing out of all the treasure he might like. Thorin later gave Bilbo some mithril, a light armor made by elves. Realizing they were pressing their luck by hanging out in the now dragon’s lair, the company made their way to the main entrance and traveled to a former lookout spot.

*   *   *

Up to now we have been following the story through Bilbo’s eyes. When, for example, Bilbo was separated from the rest of the company in the Misty Mountains, we followed what Bilbo was doing and only found out how the company escaped when Bilbo was reunited with them and they told him how they escaped. But now an interesting thing happens in terms of the narrative. We leave Bilbo and the dwarves and follow the dragon to what ends up as his demise.

It’s actually quite a short chapter. 9 pages. If I end up watching the film, I wonder if this will be a major deal.

The people of Lake Town have noticed some fire off in the distance of The Lonely Mountain. There was some debate whether the dwarves had gotten things going again or if it was the dragon, Smaug. It turned out it was the dragon who now attacked and reigned down fire and destruction on the town. The people did their best to put out the flames. In the midst of people fleeing for their lives, “a grim-voice man” named Bard kept archers firing at the dragon. Unfortunately it was to no avail. But as the dragon continued his attack, a bird, the thrush, landed on Bard’s shoulder and said,

“The moon is rising. Look for the hollow of the left breast as he flies and turns above you!”

That was all the intelligence he needed. And Bard’s well-placed arrow was the end of Smaug. People instantly wanted to proclaim Bard king. They were upset at all the destruction and happy for Bard’s courage and success. But the Master of the town protested that Bard was from Dale and that rulers of Lake Town always came from Lake Town. He encouraged Bard to become king back in Dale. The people still clamored for Bard to be king. But then the Master demonstrated some skillful politics by praising Bard and asking why people had turned on him when the blame for arousing the dragon should fall on the dwarves. At first Bard was unhappy at the Master for diverting blame but then Bard thought of all the gold up on the mountain and considered “the fabled treasure of the Mountain lying without guard or owner [assuming that the dwarves had been killed], and he fell suddenly silent.” He let it go for the time-being and got to work helping to care for the wounded. With the destruction of the town and the cold of the season, the people needed help. Bard sent messengers to the King of the Elves of the Wood who had already learned of the end of Smaug from his own messengers. The word also spread to Beorn and the goblins of The Misty Mountains. The King of the Wood Elves sent supplies down the river to help the people of Lake Town and sent an army to assist the men of Lake Town. They helped rebuild the town (away from where the dragon lay in the water) and then they “got ready to march north to the Mountain.”

The Hobbit 13 | Not At Home

by Glenn on November 4, 2019

At the end of the previous chapter, the dwarves, at Bilbo’s urging, hustled inside the mountain and shut the door of the secret entrance. It was just in the nick of time. Outside, Smaug, stealthily, was looking for his interlopers. When he couldn’t find them, he flew off to deal with the people of Lake Town whom he had determined had helped the dwarves. Inside the company was in the dark and trapped and they laid low for a long time. They couldn’t open the door because they could find no keyhole on the inside. The other direction was down the tunnel that led them straight to where Smaug slept on his pile of gold. The dwarves were in despair but for some reason Bilbo’s spirit was light:

“Come, come!” he said. “‘While there’s life there’s hope!’ as my father used to say, and ‘Third times pays for all.’ I am going down the tunnel once again. I have been that way twice, when I knew there was a dragon at the other end, so I will risk a third visit when I am no longer sure. Anyway the only way out is down, And I think this time you had better all come with me.”

So they headed down. It was dark when the got to the end of the tunnel and Bilbo accidentally stumbled into the room. He assumed he was a dead hobbit because of the dragon. But nothing happened. Finally Bilbo asked the dwarves to make some fire so they could see. The dwarves hung back by the entrance while Bilbo explored with a torch. Bilbo discovered the Arkenstone, the piece of treasure that Thorin was most concerned with finding. Bilbo decided to put it in his pocket:

“Now I am a burglar indeed!” thought he. “But I suppose I must tell the dwarves about it—some time. They did say I could pick and choose my own share; and I think I would choose this, if they took all the rest!” All the same he had an uncomfortable feeling that the picking and choosing had not really been meant to include this marvellous gem, and that trouble would yet come of it.”

Bilbo crossed the hall as he continued to explore. He fell and his torch went out. He called for the dwarves. This was enough urgency to get the dwarves to enter the hall. They lit torches and and went to help Bilbo. Seeing the treasure in the hall renewed their spirits and now they, too, explored. The thing that Thorin wanted—the Arkenstone—he couldn’t find, but he kept this to himself. He did find for himself “a coat of gold-plated rings, with a silver-hafted axe in a belt crusted with scarlet stones.” This made him look royal. Thorin, in good spirits, gave Bilbo “a small coat of mail, wrought for some young elf-prince long ago. It was of silver-steel, which the elves call mithril, and with it went a belt of pearls and crystals.” Bilbo put on a helmet.

“I feel magnificent,” he thought; “but I expect I look rather absurd.”

Bilbo got tired of exploring the treasure before the dwarves did. He realized they had some troubles. They were now armed, but it would do nothing against a dragon. And they were tempting fate. If they were caught by the dragon it would be all over. He convinced the dwarves that the thing they needed was a way out. At this point Thorin recovered his wits and declared,

“Let us go! I will guide you. Not in a thousand years should I forget the ways of this palace.”

Thorin guided them to the main entrance. It was then that Balin thought they should find “the old look-out post at the South-West corner of the Mountain.” The only problem was that it was a march of five hours. Along the way they paused to eat from what they carried. Eventually they arrived at the look-out post.

*    *   *

In retrospect, this was an ambitious quest. Thirteen dwarves and a hobbit with the sometime help of a wizard, Gandalf, thought they would retrieve the gold taken from the dwarves by the dragon Smaug. On their journey they were almost killed by trolls, goblins, wargs (evil wolves), and spiders. They did have some help from Elrond, the elf Lord; Beorn, the skin-changer; and the Lord of the Eagles. But then they were captured by wood elves. Fortunately, they escaped with the help of Bilbo, who had at one point been separated from the group and discovered a magical ring that made him invisible. The escape from the wood elves, by hiding in barrels that were going to be sent down river, meant the company was able to travel to a town of men within sight of The Lonely Mountain. Here we see the effect that the dragon has had on the region. Economic activity had slowed dramatically. The area surrounding the mountain was called “The Desolation of Smaug.”

I like the story, but to think critically for just a moment, What exactly did Thorin and the dwarves think they were going to do when they got to The Lonely Mountain? There was a lot of excitement surrounding the arrival of the dwarves at Lake Town. Before the dragon, Smaug, arrived, there were dwarves led by The King Under the Mountain. That was a great time in terms of the prosperity for the region. So now that the dwarves had returned, what were they thinking they would do? Clearly they didn’t think a direct approach was going to work. They had a map that identified a secret entrance into the mountain and they had a key. But what next? Dragons are dangerous. And that’s why they had brought Bilbo to serve as a burglar. But what exactly did they think Bilbo was going to do? Steal a piece of gold one at a time? And where were they going to put all the treasure? This plan seems really flawed and it doesn’t seem like they had really thought all this through.

The Hobbit 12 | Inside Information

by Glenn on October 31, 2019

Through Bilbo’s patience and reasoning, the company gained entrance into the secret side door of the mountain. Thorin gives a long speech about how “our esteemed Mr. Baggins” has performed well on this adventure but “now is the time for him to perform the service for which he was included in our Company.”

The narrator then writes to us directly, “You are familiar with Thorin’s style on important occasions, so I will not give you any more of it … but Bilbo was impatient. By now he was quite familiar with Thorin too, and he knew what he was driving at.” Bilbo’s response is priceless:

“‘If you mean you think it is my job to go into the secret passage first, O Thorin Thrain’s son Oakenshield, may your beard grow ever longer,”[Bilbo] said crossly, ‘say so at once and have done! I might refuse. I have got you out of two messes already, which were hardly in the original bargain, so that I am, I think, already owed some reward. But “third time pays for all” as my father used to say, and somehow I don’t think I shall refuse.'” Bilbo asks for volunteers who will go with him. Only Balin, the oldest, “who was rather fond of the hobbit” agreed to “come inside at least and perhaps a bit of the way too, ready to call for help if necessary.”

So then the narrator makes things clear if they aren’t already:

“The most that can be said for the dwarves is this: they intended to pay Bilbo really handsomely for his services; they had brought him to do a nasty job for them, and they did not mind the poor little fellow doing it if he would; but they would all have done their best to get him out of trouble, if he got into it, as they did in the case of the trolls at the beginning of their adventures before they had any particular reasons for being grateful to him. There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.”

This is what I think you would have to call a stereotype. And it’s the narrator who has it, which is interesting. The tone of The Hobbit is playful. There’s probably more comedy than I’ve picked up because I’ve been trying to pay attention to the idea of adventure as an underlying theme. But this chapter is funny with Thorin’s great solemnity and absolute lack of courage disguised in rather indirect speech paired with Bilbo’s barely-there respect and clearly-there impatience. Perhaps it’s because this is a potentially scary moment in this story and Tolkien wants to keep the light touch.

Bilbo made his way down the long passageway. We are given some of his internal conversation along the way. The “least Tookish part of him” said,

“Now you are in for it at last, Bilbo Baggins . . . I have absolutely no use for dragon-guarded treasures, and the whole lot could stay here for ever, if only I could wake up and find this beastly tunnel was my own front-hall at home.”

Eventually there was a temperature change in the tunnel and, then, the sounds of a sleeping dragon could be heard. At the end of the tunnel “Bilbo stopped” and “Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did.” But his decision to move forward had already been made. Or as the narrator puts it, “He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”

The dragon was “vast” and “red-golden” and asleep. It took a moment for Bilbo to take it all in. He had heard tales of dragons, but here was the actual thing. Smaug was “a dire menace even in his sleep.” Bilbo grabbed the heaviest “two-handled cup” he could carry and ran as fast as he could back up the tunnel. Balin greeted him warmly and carried him outside to the rest of the company where the dwarves passed “the cup from hand to hand . . . talking delightedly of the recovery of their treasure.”

Two problems emerged. The first, very quickly. Smaug woke up. The company was outside and had propped the door ajar with a rock. But they could hear Smaug waking up from a dream in which he had been robbed, which is not the first time in this book that a character had been dreaming of something that was actually happening (see Bilbo in the cave in The Misty Mountains). The narrator tells us that

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him. [You think?] Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know it to an ounce as a rule.”

The whole mountain rocked with the rage of the dragon. The dwarves had “cowered down in fright” and it was Bilbo who commanded that the company get inside the tunnel. A couple of the dwarves had not made it up to the entrance, yet. Bombur, the biggest dwarf, and Bofur, were still down with the ponies. With ropes, the dwarves hauled them up and everyone got inside the tunnel in the nick of time as Smaug circled the mountain spewing flame. The ponies, in terror, broke their ropes and ran away.

In the morning, the emotions of the company had calmed somewhat. They were in a bit of a bind at this point. They had stirred up a dragon, which was inevitable, and needed to lay low for a while or get killed immediately. The narrator tells us,

“They debated long on what was to be done, but they could think of no way of getting rid of Smaug—which had always been a weak point in their plans, as Bilbo felt inclined to point out. Then as is the nature of folk that are thoroughly perplexed, they began to grumble at the hobbit, blaming him for what had at first so pleased them: for bringing away a cup and stirring up Smaug’s wrath so soon.”

The second problem emerged at this point. They had hired Bilbo as a burglar but hadn’t really thought the whole thing through.

“‘What else do you suppose a burglar is to do?’ asked Bilbo angrily. ‘I was not engaged to kill dragons, that is warrior’s work, but to steal treasure. I made the best beginning I could. Did you expect me to trot back with the whole hoard of Thor on my back? If there is any grumbling to be done, I think I might have a say. You ought to have brought five hundred burglars not one. I am sure it reflects great credit on your grandfather, but you cannot pretend that you ever made the vast extent of his wealth clear to me. I should want hundreds of years to bring it all up, if I was fifty times as big, and Smaug as tame as a rabbit.”

What exactly were the dwarves thinking they were going to do with this vast treasure. How would you transport it, for one? The dwarves apologized and then asked Bilbo what he thought they should do. Bilbo responded, perhaps dryly, “Getting rid of dragons is not at all in my line, but I will do my best to think about it. Personally I have no hopes at all, and wish I was safe back at home.” When the dwarves press him for a more immediate sort of plan Bilbo reminds the dwarves that he has his ring and that he will creep down and see Smaug again and see what happens. And here is the humor again,

“‘Every worm has his weak spot,’ as my father used to say, though I am sure it was not from personal experience.”

Adventures change us. And they had changed Bilbo. “Already [the dwarves] had come to respect little Bilbo. Now he had become the real leader in their adventure. He had begun to have ideas and plans of his own.” Bilbo made his way back down to see Smaug, who was pretending to be asleep. Fortunately, Bilbo sensed this and, even with the ring, stayed in the shadows. And then Smaug spoke, “Well, thief! I smell you and I feel your air. I hear your breath. Come along! Help yourself again, there is plenty to spare.” And so began a conversation Bilbo had with Smaug. Bilbo spoke with his best manners and used riddles so that it was not clear who he was or how he had gotten there. And the narrator tells us,

“This of course is the way to talk to dragons, if you don’t want to reveal your proper name (which is wise), and don’t want to infuriate them by a flat refusal (which is also very wise.) No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and of wasting time trying to understand it.”

The conversation with Smaug goes on for quite a while. One of the things that happened is that Smaug—too arrogant—showed Bilbo his armored underbelly. Bilbo noticed that there was an unprotected patch which is when Bilbo decided he wanted to get away. This was good information. He told Smaug, “Well, I really must not detain Your Magnificence any longer.” He suggested that Smaug would need some rest and that burglars did, too. This last thing was a little too provocative. Bilbo had been careful with his speech up to this point and although he was running as fast as he could up the tunnel, it wasn’t nearly fast enough. Smaug stuck his face up to the tunnel and blew fire that singed Bilbo pretty good.

One of the unanswered questions along this journey has been what did Gandalf know about Bilbo? Did he have foreknowledge of how Bilbo would be? What becomes clear in the conversation that Bilbo has with Smaug is that hobbits are an unknown uknown for dragons. Perhaps that was part of Gandalf’s reasoning. It was a kind of protection for Bilbo, at least at first, until the end of the conversation where Bilbo got a little too cocky. Smaug (and by extension I suppose all dragons) have an exaggerated sense of smell. Smaug could smell the dwarves—even just on the saddles of the pack animals—but he didn’t quite know what to do with this smell of Bilbo, which was new to him.

On his way out, we get another of Bilbo’s internal conversations: “‘Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!’ he said to himself, and it became a favourite saying of his later, and passed into a proverb.” This is how we learn from experience. Something happens and we create an axiom based on it. Some time later Bilbo got back to the dwarves who tried to doctor up his wounds as well as they could.  They had heard the terrible noise that Smaug had made and wanted to hear Bilbo’s story, but Bilbo was regretting some of the things he had said to the dragon, figuring that Smaug would have been able to figure out some of the riddles. Bilbo worried that he put the people of Lake Town in danger. As Bilbo is wrestling with his thoughts, he saw the old thrush that had signaled the opening for the key in the door and he threw a rock at him. He thought he was evil. The bird “merely fluttered aside and came back.” Thorin told Bilbo not to bother the thrush, that the bird was magical and probably was alive from the time of his father and grandfather.

Bilbo recounted everything and then the thrush flew away. Bilbo had a bad feeling about their being outside. He demanded that the company move in and shut the door. Good thing and just in time because a stealthy Smaug had been trying to find his robbers and was flying around the mountain silently. When Smaug could “find nobody and see nothing” he left in a rage to extract some revenge on the men of the Lake. Of course, the company was locked inside at this point.

The Hobbit 11 | On the Doorstep

by Glenn on October 30, 2019

Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, was compelled by Gandalf, a wizard, to join Thorin Oakenshield and twelve other dwarves in an adventure to retrieve gold that was taken from the dwarves by a dragon, Smaug. They left Bilbo’s home on The Hill in the land of Hobbits in the late Spring and traveled toward the Misty Mountains. The trip hasn’t been easy. There was weather to contend with. And there were enemies—trolls, goblins, and wargs (evil wolves) that were out to kill them. But there was help along the way, too. Elrond, the elf lord at the Last Homely House, gave hospitality, provisions, and key knowledge; the Lord of the Eagles provided a timely rescue; and a skin-changer named Beorn, who could change from a human into a bear, re-provisioned the group.

At one point, Bilbo was separated from the group and found a ring which rendered him invisible, a helpful discovery considering his role in the company was as a burglar. Beyond the Misty Mountains the company, now without Gandalf, traveled through the Forest of Mirkwood where they were nearly killed by spiders and captured by wood elves. With his ring of invisibility, Bilbo managed an escape for the dwarves from the dungeon of the wood elves. The escape was uncomfortable, though. Bilbo noticed that empty barrels were going to be sent downstream to be refilled with provisions for the elves and at an opportune moment, he freed the dwarves and placed each in an empty barrel. The barrels were later tied together into a raft and steered to the Long Lake and the home of men. The town and environs appeared to be only a shadow of themselves. The presence of the dragon made this an area of desolation with greatly reduced economic activity. Bilbo freed the dwarves from the barrels and their leader, Thorin, presented himself to the Master of the town as a person who required great respect. A political problem emerged. The elves were irritated that the dwarves had escaped. The people in the town remembered old songs about the return of the King under the Mountain, the Lonely Mountain, that could be seen from the town. The Master decided to help the dwarves continue their journey as productivity in the town had fallen with their presence. The Elf King realized that if the dwarves were successful, he could appropriate some of the gold when they returned through Mirkwood.

And so we arrive at Chapter XI, “On the Doorstep.”

The Master of the town provisioned the company. He sent the company upstream in boats and provided horses and ponies with other provisions to meet the company upstream. After three days, the company left the boats and joined up with the pack animals. The men who had accompanied them left as quickly as possible as no one liked being this close to the mountain: “‘Not at any rate until the songs have come true!’, said they.” And this great comment by the narrator: “It was easier to believe in the Dragon and less easy to believe in Thorin in these wild parts.” The company left the provisions they couldn’t carry under a tent. There was no concern that anyone would steal them because no one was out here.

It’s become later in the year and the narrator gives us another great line: “They spent a cold and lonely night and their spirits fell.” The company has made all this progress and they are near their destination, but this has not improved their moods. Why? We are told that “the pride and hopes which had stirred in their hearts at the singing of old songs by the lake died away to a plodding gloom. … They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were come at the waning of the year.”

The company traveled toward the mountain. First, a small group crept up to look at The Front Gate, out of which a river flowed and dark smoke, presumably from the dragon, rose into the sky. This view was discouraging. There was no way in and there was a general feeling of evil. So they returned to camp. The narrator summarizes the status:

“Only in June they had been guests in the fair house of Elrond, and though autumn was now crawling towards winter that pleasant time now seemed years ago. They were alone in the perilous waste without hope of further help. They were at the end of their journey, but as far as ever, it seemed, from the end of their quest. None of them had much spirit left.”

They had a map and a key to a secret entrance and so the group made their way for the western slope where they eventually found what had to be the entrance. The problem was that there was no sign of a door.

Our narrator remains intriguing to me. He seems to be telling us what’s happening as it is happening, but clearly this is a tale he is recounting because at one point he clarifies that something Bombur said “was not true, as you will see.”

The company had become discouraged and Bilbo sensed that the dwarves were blaming him for their lack of progress at gaining entrance to the Mountain. Bilbo had become thoughtful. At one point he was thinking of home. But also he must have been thinking about what he had learned in the house of Elrond. And then one sunset it happened. Something Elrond had read on the map way back in Chapter III now made sense: “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.” And so the chapter finishes with Bilbo figuring it out. The entire company stood watching as sunset came, a thrush trilled, and a crack appeared in the rock. Thorin was able to insert his key into the lock and they opened the door.

The Hobbit 10 | A Warm Welcome

by Glenn on October 28, 2019

The basic premise of The Hobbit is leaving comfort to pursue adventure and that, somehow, the latter is better than the former. Perhaps it’s not that big a mystery why that might be so. Something along the lines of “A ship in harbor is safe; but that’s not what ships are built for.”

Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit living a predictable and comfortable life, was contacted by Gandalf, a wizard, to take part in an adventure. Bilbo attempted to put Gandalf off, carefully as you must because wizard, and told him politely that he had no interest in adventures but to come back. That was a mistake—it was all the opening Gandalf needed. Come back he did, sending thirteen dwarves ahead of him for his return call the next day.

The dwarves were setting out on an adventure to retrieve gold that was taken from their people by a dragon, Smaug. Gandalf had represented Bilbo to the dwarves as a burglar. This is patently untrue of Bilbo. And this is a funny aspect of the book. Why Bilbo? What does Gandalf know about him? How much does he see into the future? Where does Gandalf appear on a spectrum from mischievous to deadly serious? (Or maybe those categories aren’t mutually exclusive and he is both.) That’s a bit of a mystery as is much about Gandalf. At one point he explains that the company is going to go forward without him. When they protest he says,

 “It is no use arguing. I have, as I told you, some pressing business away south; and I am already late through bothering with you people. We may meet again before all is over, and then again of course we may not. That depends on your luck and on your courage and sense; and I am sending Mr. Baggins with you. I have told you before that he has more about him than you can guess, and you will find that out before long.”

There’s so much in there. Gandalf sounds a bit condescending and if not exactly self-important, has important business to attend to. He wants to impart hope but maintains that forward progress is both luck and courage. And he declares that Bilbo will be helpful to them, which suggest some sort of premonitions about or desire to create something in the future. It might have been tongue-in-cheek if he hadn’t qualified his statement about “sending Mr. Baggins.” Is this foreknowledge or a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy?

The dwarves and Gandalf spend the night in Bilbo’s home. When, the next morning, everyone has left, Bilbo thinks they have left on their adventure without him, which suits him just fine. But then Gandalf returns and shoves Bilbo out the door with just minutes to spare. He leaves for the adventure totally unprepared, which doesn’t seem exactly fair, but perhaps in a state of panic was the only way Bilbo was heading out on this adventure. Later Gandalf would bring along some comfort items that Bilbo quickly found himself missing—including handkerchiefs and tobacco.

The nature of an adventure means that you encounter others who help you or hurt you. No one is exactly neutral. (I need to get through the end of the book to confirm this, but it seems to me that Tolkien’s character’s have a purity of intention. They try to help or hurt. No one hurts while trying to help. In other words, no one is in inept and doing harm while only meaning well. They do well or not. Edit: Although perhaps the encounter with the elves in the Forest of Mirkwood is a little bit this way. There are old enmities between dwarves and elves and while the elves don’t mean to harm the dwarves—they are, after all, only locked up and not killed—they are territorial and not kind to those who enter their domain univited.) When the company runs into three trolls, they would have eaten them had Gandalf not returned in the nick of time to save them. Where had Gandalf gone? That’s a mystery. He slips away from time to time on this adventure and he doesn’t always explain himself. What becomes clear is that, as a wizard, he has many irons in the fire. What is the job of a wizard exactly? That’s unknown. But he is working, we assume, to help friends and pursue the betterment of Middle-Earth.

It’s helpful to have a wizard on an adventure. Gandalf is well-connected, knows his way around, and can handle himself. And he is good. We sense from the outset that this adventure that he is springing on poor Bilbo is not to cause him pain and suffering even though the essence of pursuing adventure means discomfort.

Gandalf is on friendship terms with Elrond, an elf Lord who lives in the deprecatingly but inaccurately named Last Homely House. In the home of Elrond, the company is able to regroup. They replenish supplies and receive valuable information about weapons they recovered from the trolls, the map they carry, and the way through the Misty Mountains.

When you set out on an adventure, you cannot expect the natural world to cooperate with you. The company experiences bad weather—twice. The first time it’s a dispiriting inconvenience. The second time it’s a near disaster. When the company takes shelter in a cave, they are captured by goblins, which results in the demise of their pack animals. Even so, the setback also propels them forward. They had been attempting to cross over a mountain range. Instead they went under the mountain and covered a lot of ground.

At the moment before the company was about to be captured by Goblins, Bilbo was having a dream that a crack was opening in the cave they were sleeping in. He woke up shouting, which was just enough warning for Gandalf to save himself. The rest of the company was taken captive but Gandalf was able to follow the captured party as they were taken deep underground to the Great Goblin. When negotiations between the captured dwarves and hobbit didn’t go well, Gandalf threw in some well-timed pyrotechnics that disoriented everyone. He killed the Great Goblin and lead the dwarves out. Unfortunately, along the way goblins caught up to the escaping company and Bilbo, who was being carried because of his diminutive size, was knocked from the back of the dwarf who was carrying him, hit his head, and was rendered unconscious.

When Bilbo recovered he was alone in the dark in a tunnel underneath the mountain. As he crawled around he discovered a ring which was as extraordinarily lucky an occurrence as it seems unlikely. Bilbo had an encounter with Gollum who was, now, the former owner of the ring. Gollum wanted to kill and eat Bilbo but unwittingly showed Bilbo the way out from under the mountain when the ring found its way onto Bilbo’s finger. Keeping The Lord of the Rings out of mind, all we know of the ring at this point is that it renders its wearer invisible and Bilbo was able to re-unite with the company.

One of those that Gandalf has helped in the past (outside the scope of the book) is the Lord of the Eagles. What goes around comes around in Middle-Earth so that when the company was in a tight spot, about to be burned alive after they had climbed trees to flee wargs (evil wolves) and goblins, the Lord of the Eagles and his fellows rescued the company out of the trees and moved them forward on their journey. Gandalf also knew of a character named Beorn who could change from a man into a bear and who had the ability to talk with animals. At a key moment, Gandalf was able to ingratiate himself with Beorn, who provided all sorts of hospitality to the company. Beorn is interesting because he is one of the more dangerous people we meet in the book. You don’t want to cross him. But if he helps you, that help is significant. There’s something to say about a person who is both dangerous and helpful. Just the kind of ally you want.

When Gandalf left to pursue other matters, the company had to pass through the Forest of Mirkwood. There was no way around—only through. Forests are places of mystery. They are full of unknown unknowns. You sense you are not alone but you are not quite sure. Gandalf’s instructions were to not leave the path and to not drink the water. Crossing a stream, there was some commotion when a stag came racing down the path and one of the dwarves fell in. He was rendered unconscious by the enchantment of the water and had to be carried until he woke up days later. Eventually, the group left the path when they saw lights in the forest. As a reader it seems obvious that the company was being lured off the path. The result was that Thorin Oakenshield, their leader, was taken captive by wood elves. The rest of the company had to contend with spiders. (What is it with forests and spiders as there is a similar thing in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets?) Bilbo is able to rescue the remaining company from the spiders, but then they, too, are captured by wood elves. Bilbo, however, has his ring, which makes him invisible and allows him to follow along without being seen. The company is taken to the dungeon beneath the castle of the wood elves, where Thorin had already been taken.

In the castle, Bilbo makes himself useful by carrying messages from the different company members to the others. And then he develops a plan of escape. There are two ways into the castle—through the main gate, and then by water underneath the castle. The water path is also gated, but it is used as a means of moving supplies. Bilbo has seen how empty wine and food caskets are routinely dropped into the water below and sent out past the gate and onto the river. One night, Bilbo sees that the wine steward and the guard have passed out on some heavy-duty wine. Bilbo takes the keys and frees the dwarves whom he then places in empty wine and food barrels. The next morning they are dropped in the water and sent out onto the river. Later, the barrels are all tied together into a raft (many of them suspiciously low in the water, but fortunately no one acts on their suspicions) and set downstream where the men who had originally filled the barrels with food and drink would be able to re-use them. Bilbo, still invisible, sits on a corner of the raft, out of the way of the pilots.

 *   *   *

The writer of a book has to decide how the narrator will tell the story. Tolkien has the narrator telling the story through Bilbo Baggins’ experience. The narrator is funny. He doesn’t seem to have unlimited knowledge about the story. For example, he can’t tell you the complete history of Gollum. Also, he doesn’t always know what Gandalf is up to. In other words, the narrator is not omniscient. At the same time, the narrator appears to be recounting this story, not telling it as it happens. The narrator is telling a story that has some elements of danger, but he is both kindly about those dangerous elements, frequently reassuring to his readers that things are going to work out and desirous of creating some suspense. When we left off in the last chapter, the casks were all tied together in a raft. The narrator tells us,

“They had escaped the dungeons of the king and were through the wood, but whether alive or dead still remains to be seen.”

In “A Warm Welcome” the raft floats down the river steered by elves. They are headed to “the Lake-men,” who produce the supplies for the wood elves and re-use the barrels. This chapter is short on action but long on description of the sights that Bilbo sees as the raft heads downstream. One of the sights is “the Mountain!” It’s their destination—The Lonely Mountain—and we are told that Bilbo “did not like the look of it in the least.” This part of the journey is a time of learning for Bilbo who “listened to the talk of the raftmen and pieced together the scraps of information they let fall.” Things had changed in this part of the world, much of which was due to the presence of the dragon.

As it happened with the goblins, being captured by the elves actually helped the company on their journey. Part of adventures means we describe the things that happen along the way, but we aren’t too quick to characterize them as “good” or “bad.” The first time there was bad weather it was certainly uncomfortable, but it was just part of the trip. The second time, it was positively dangerous. The company had to get out of it for their own safety. That led to their being captured by goblins, but then, ultimately, they were able to escape and pass under the mountains. Was the weather, then, bad or good? Hard to say. It certainly requires a complicated answer. As the raft makes its journey, Bilbo sees what would have happened had the company remained on the path. It “came to a doubtful and little used end at the eastern edge of the forest; only the river offered any longer a safe way from the skirts of Mirkwood in the North to the mountain-shadowed plains beyond, and the river was guarded by the Wood-elves’ king.” This conclusion, then, by the narrator: “So you see Bilbo had come in the end by the only road that was any good.” I suppose, then, that one way to evaluate an adventure is by the destination, not the route taken; whether or not you have reached a certain destination, not by the quality of the experience traveling.

The enduring mystery which is Gandalf comes up again when the narrator tells us that Bilbo might have been comforted by the fact that as he sat “shivering on the barrels … that news of this had reached Gandalf far away and given him great anxiety, and that he was in fact finishing his other business (which does not come into this tale) and getting ready to come in search of Thorin’s company.” The unanswered question is how did this news reach Gandalf in this world that is without modern technology?

The river eventually rushed into the Long Lake. We are given Bilbo’s first impression, which is a kind of overwhelm: “Bilbo had never imagined that any water that was not the sea could look so big.” And he sees Lake Town, which might have been something “in the great days of old” before the dragon. Is this an allusion to “The Fall” even as it is a description of how things here had fallen from what they had been?

Men helped the elves take the raft out of the current and tie it up. The end of this routine journey for the elves meant it was time for food and drink at a feast in town, which gave Bilbo the opportunity he needed to rescue the dwarves out of the barrels. The dwarves were none too happy about what they had just gone through. Bilbo wasn’t about to take any grief and said, “Well, are you alive or are you dead?” If that’s the standard, then there was nothing to complain about. Once the entire company was freed, Thorin regrouped and admitted, “I suppose we ought to thank our stars and Mr. Baggins. I am sure he has a right to expect it, though I wish he could have arranged a more comfortable journey.”

A small group of the company—Thorin, Bilbo, Fili, and Kili—went to the city gate to request entrance. As “son of Thrain son of Thor King under the Mountain,” Thorin asked for a certain kind of respect and demanded that he be taken to the Master of the town. The introduction of the group to the men created all sorts of excitement for the men of Lake Town. It also created an awkward moment when the elves cried, “These are prisoners of our king that have escaped, wandering vagabond dwarves that could not give any good account of themselves, sneaking through the woods and molesting our people.” This was a political quandry for the master of the town. You didn’t mess with the Elvenking but for the townspeople there was also this memory of “old songs concerning the return of the King under the mountain” (even though Thorin was the grandson of the King). The elves were at a loss as to how the dwarves escaped. The Master needed “to obey the general clamour, for the moment at any rate …” The other dwarves were brought in and the party continued.

We are told that the King of the Elves put some things together in terms of what the dwarves were up to, but didn’t say much. (This is a rare moment in the story where the attention is not on Bilbo and what is going on in his immediate orbit. We are given the thoughts of the Elvenking.) If they died trying to take on a dragon they would get their just desserts and if they tried to bring gold back through Mirkwood, he would have “something to say in the matter.”

A fortnight later, the dwarves announced their departure for the mountain. This made the Master wonder “if Thorin was after all really a descendant of the old kings,” although he wasn’t sorry to see them go: “They were expensive to keep, and their arrival had turned things into a long holiday in which business was at a standstill.” The Master gave the company boats, ponies, rowers, and provisions to continue their journey. Bilbo has a cold and isn’t too happy about continuing the journey.

 

The Hobbit 9 | Barrels Out of Bond

by Glenn on September 24, 2019

I’m re-reading The Hobbit after a long time and after multiple readings and viewings of The Lord of the Rings books and films. It’s a little strange coming back to this simpler story where the heart of the thing is the pursuit of monetary gain after the epic struggle of TLOTR, where the fate of Middle-Earth hangs in the balance, but I’m enjoying it. And I’m trying to develop as a better reader by recalling and retelling the story in my own words.

Thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, have a quest: Read the rest of this entry »

SS No. 67 | Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major

by Glenn on September 23, 2019

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

Symphony No. 2 in D major, Opus 73
I. Allegro non troppo
II. Adagio non troppo
III. Allegretto grazioso (quasi andantino)—Presto ma non assai—Tempot I—Presto ma non assai—Tempo I
IV. Allegro con spirito

It took Brahms forever to write his first symphony. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hobbit 8 | Flies and Spiders

by Glenn on September 18, 2019

1 | An Unexpected Party

Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, is approached by Gandalf, a wizard, to participate in an adventure. He attempts to refuse, politely as you must with a wizard, but is lured into the enterprise when, the next day, thirteen dwarves show up to his home with Gandalf and begin to speak and sing of gold, which they want to retake from a dragon, Smaug, who stole it from them. The whole company stays in his home that night with the plan to set out the next morning. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hobbit 7 | Queer Lodgings

by Glenn on September 10, 2019

Poor Bilbo. He wakes up “with the early sun in his eyes” and being a creature of routine expects to get up, check the time, and “put his kettle on” just like at home, except he’s not at home. He’s still up with the eagles who help the company by carrying them a good part of the way on their journey. It’s an indication of just how long this journey is that “air travel” hardly makes a dent in the overall length of the trip. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hobbit 6 | Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire

by Glenn on September 6, 2019

This is the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Two chapters previous, his journey took him underground (not by choice) when he and his companions were captured by goblins. That chapter ended with him falling off the dwarf who was carrying him and knocking his head on a rock and going unconscious as the rest of his companions ran to escape goblins. Read the rest of this entry »