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The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Chapter 11 : On the Doorstep | Summary



As Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves travel through the desolation of Smaug, their mood changes. While they are geographically closer to their goal, achieving it seems as far away as ever. Bilbo, however, continues to study the map and contemplates the runes. After the group discovers the secret door, the attempts to open it fail. Only Bilbo continues to consider options. When the old thrush (bird) appears, the hobbit realizes the events described on the map are occurring, and he encourages Thorin to use the key to open the entrance.


Bilbo continues to develop in this chapter. He is the patient and thoughtful one who waits by the gray stone for the door to the secret passage to open. He doesn't try to force it open like the dwarves with their mining tools. He reflects on the runes and the moon letters, showing that Bilbo is perhaps gaining faith.

His path has been predestined thus far, and it appears that he finally rests in that knowledge. He sees the old thrush that was mentioned in the runes and waits; sure enough, the door opens, and Bilbo remembers the key that they happened upon. There is conflict with the dwarves, and while they are more friends now than colleagues, they appear to take a step back as Thorin is still willing to throw Bilbo to the wolves—or in this case the dragon—without much hesitation.

Thorin's attitude can be explained by the personal nature of the quest. The dwarves are heavily invested because they are seeking to reclaim their inheritance and perhaps think that for Bilbo it is just an adventure. But Bilbo's approach is highly effective and leads to him saving them again and again as he progresses on the road of trials. The old thrush becomes yet another ally to Bilbo and the group.

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