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.

2 | Roast Mutton

The next morning, Bilbo oversleeps and thinks that the adventurers have left without him, which suits Bilbo just fine. He wasn’t really interested in an adventure thank you very much. Gandalf shows up to push Bilbo out the door just in time for him to rush down the road with the dwarves who have been arranging for supplies along with horses and a pony (for Bilbo). Bilbo sets out for this journey totally unprepared, but Gandalf later brings along some comfort items for him—tobacco and handkerchiefs. There are two difficulties that the company encounter right away. One of them is natural—the weather. Rain dampens their spirits and makes the travel more difficult. Then the group encounters three large trolls who capture them. Somewhere along the way, Gandalf had slipped away to take care of other business. This would have ended the book but Gandalf, sensing that the group needed his presence, returned just in time to save the company from being eaten.

3 | A Short Rest

The party takes a diversion to the Last Homely House, the home of Elrond the Elf Lord. Here they each rest up, acquire supplies, gain some information about the map they are carrying as well as the weapons they took from the trolls, and learn the best way over the Misty Mountains.

4 | Over Hill and Under Hill

It turns out the way over the Misty Mountains is not easy. The company encounters bad weather, again, and the narrow mountain pass they are on doesn’t have a lot of shelter. Two of the dwarves go to find a cave for shelter. There is a lot of concern about the potential danger lurking in mountain caves, but everyone believes it is safe enough. It isn’t. When the company sleeps, Goblins come into the cave through a crack. The situation was bad, but fortunately Bilbo had a nightmare that woke up him and he shouted in time for Gandalf to save himself. The pack animals are killed. Everyone else is carried to the Great Goblin.  Negotiations seem like they might have a chance until one of the swords that was stolen from the trolls is revealed to be a famous “goblin killer” from a war. The dwarves are identified as enemies and things could have gone downhill quickly, except that Gandalf kills the Great Goblin and, through some pyrotechnics, creates enough chaos for the dwarves to run away, with one of them carrying Bilbo. Unfortunately, the goblins catch up to the party and in the process, Bilbo is dropped and he knocks his head on a rock rendering him unconscious.

5 | Riddles in the Dark

Bilbo wakes up in the dark of the goblin tunnel and, crawling around finds a ring, which he pockets. Bilbo follows a path and comes to water, which turns out to be a large underground lake and which impedes his progress. On an island in the middle of the lake is Smeagol, a creature of uncertain origins. Smeagol, who has developed keen senses in the dark of the tunnel sees and hears the hobbit and paddles over to kill him. Bilbo produces a blade which holds off Smeagol and buys him some time. Bilbo and Smeagol decide to play a game of riddles. If Bilbo wins, Smeagol has to show him the way out. If Smeagol wins, he will kill Bilbo. The contest ends on what turns out to be a not very fair riddle—Bilbo asks what he has in his pocket. The ring of course, but Smeagol can’t guess. The ring belongs to Smeagol who is unaware that he has lost it. He believes it is out on his island. The ring renders its wearer invisible. Bilbo puts it on which saves him from being killed by Smeagol. When Smeagol heads for the exit, thinking that’s where Bilbo has gone. Bilbo follows him. Smeagol stops when he comes across goblins guarding an exit but Bilbo takes the opportunity to escape from Smeagol and the golbins and heads out into the light of day.

6 | Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

Bilbo, wearing his new-found ring, comes across his companions who had escaped from under the mountain. They are engaged in a discussion of what to do about the missing hobbit. Gandalf wants to go back and search for him while the dwarves are irritated that they even brought him. Everyone seems happy to have the Hobbit back but they realize while it’s light the company now needs to put some distance between themselves and the goblins, who are known to come out at night. The group barely survives a landslide. Then they are discovered by evil wolves, or Wargs as they are called. The company members climb trees to escape and Gandalf sends down fire onto the Wargs. When goblins show up, they place fires underneath the trees in which the company is hiding. Things would have been very bad except the company is rescued by the Lord of the Eagles and some of his fellow eagles who take them away to their cliff dwelling.

7 | Queer Lodgings

The next morning, the company is flown by the eagles to a large outcropping where Gandalf reveals he will soon be leaving them to take care of other pressing business he has. But first he will get them to the home of Someone who lives in the area, Beorn, who has the ability to change from a man into a bear. He is a little dangerous, but Gandalf is able to ingratiate himself and the company to him and he provides food and lodging for them. Beorn is a formidable ally. Once he learns, after reconnaissance, that the company was part of action that killed the Great Goblin, he shows more respect for them. He provides supplies and some animals to carry them part-way. The way forward for the company is through the Forest of Mirkwood. Around it would take too long and be too dangerous. They are told to follow the path through the forest and not to eat any food they find or drink any water. Gandalf takes his leave stressing the importance of not leaving the path.

8 | Flies and Spiders

Things go well for a while. They don’t leave the path. But it’s a big forest and the trip through it is taking a long time. The narrator tells us that “days followed days, and still the forest seemed just the same, they began to get anxious.” Supplies are running short. And then there’s a stream to cross and they remember not to go in. They find a small boat that happens to be there and rig up some lines so they can cross and return the boat to the other side. The company is all across except for Bombur, the biggest of them. At that moment a deer came flying down the path knocking everyone over and knocking Bombur into the stream as he tried to get into the boat. The deer leaped across the stream and Thorin took a shot at it with his bow. It found its mark and somewhere in the forest they heard the sound of hooves go still. Bilbo shouted that Bombur had fallen into the water during the incident creating several problems. First, the boat was now lost downstream in the process; second, the deer was now on the wrong side of the stream and they couldn’t go and look for it; and third, Bombur was out cold because of the enchanted water.

What to do? They decide to continue on their way, low on food and now having to carry Bombur. Four days later there was a change in the forest, which might have been a hopeful sign, but Thorin said, “Is there no end to this accursed forest?” Bilbo was sent to climb a tree and look above to see how much farther the forest went on, but he couldn’t see the edge of the forest. The kindly narrator informs us,

“Actually . . . they were not far off the edge of the forest and if Bilbo had had the sense to see it, the tree that he had climbed, though it was tall in itself, was standing hear the bottom of a wider valley, so that from its top the trees seemed to sell up all round like the edges of a great bowl, and he could not expect to see how far the forest lasted. Still he did not see this, and he climbed down full of despair.”

Bilbo’s despair became the company’s despair. That night they ate the last of their food. The good news is that Bombur finally woke up. Dreams are significant in this book and relate to the future or the near future. Bombur recounts,

“I dreamed I was walking in a forest rather like this one, only lite with torches on the trees and lamps swinging from the branches and fires burning on the ground and there was a great feast going on, going on for ever. A woodland king was there with a crown of leaves, and there was a merry singing, and I could not count or describe the things there were to eat and drink.”

Of course, a dream like this was pretty annoying to a group of dwarves who had no food. But in the same way that Bilbo’s dream of a crack in the wall related directly to their experience, Bombur’s dream was a picture of reality. And now things go south. The company sees a light in the forest and so they decide to head toward it (for the record: leaving the path). When they get close to the light they see it is actually a number of lights and they find a group of wood elves who are “eating and drinking and laughing merrily.” But as soon as one of the dwarves approaches, all the lights go out “as if by magic” and all the elves disappear. At this point the company has no idea where the path was to head back to. And then they see more lights in the distance and try to sneak up on the elves better than they did the last time. But the same thing happens—all the lights go out. A third time this happens. And now everyone was thoroughly lost and Bilbo was separated from the rest of the group.

Bilbo decides to take a snooze but woke up when he felt something sticky on his hand. It was a spider web. A great spider was trying to wrap him up. He woke up in time and before the spider could sting him to “keep him quiet” Bilbo pulled out his sword and attacked the spider. Knowing The Lord of the Rings, this is an interesting bit of foreshadowing. Bilbo kills the spider and then sets out to try and find the rest of the group. All of the dwarves had been captured but Bilbo manages to free them using his ring and sword. A battle ensues and the dwarves and the hobbit manage to get away from the spiders and find themselves in one of the rings where the elves had been the previous night. The dwarves demand an explanation of how it is that Bilbo was able to go invisible, and so Bilbo explains how he came across the ring. The dwarves think much more of Bilbo now and the narrator adds “as Gandalf had said they would,” and one wonders, again just where Gandalf’s limits of knowledge are. And then the company makes an important realization: Thorin, their leader, is gone.

And the story now shifts to what has happened to Thorin. It turns out he was captured by wood elves. He actually had no part of the battle with the spiders. When he approached the light of the wood-elves, he was enchanted and fell unconscious. He had been carried to the king of the wood-elves. Thorin refused to say why the dwarves were passing through the kingdom of the wood-elves and so he was thrown into the dungeon.

And the chapter ends.

On the list of creatures we meet in this book, we must add spiders and wood-elves. But the narrator tells us there are all sorts of elves: Light-elves, Deep-elves, Sea-elves.

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