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The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Chapter 12 : Inside Information | Summary



At this point in the adventure, Bilbo Baggins undertakes the most dangerous feat he has been asked to perform. Assuming his burglar role, he creeps down the tunnel and into the dragon's lair. Fortunately Smaug is sleeping, and Bilbo grabs a magnificent goblet to take to the dwarves.

When the dragon senses that some treasure has been taken, he goes on a rampage searching for the thief. After Smaug returns to his hoard Bilbo again approaches to identify himself. The overconfident monster casually exposes his belly, and Bilbo identifies a weakness in a bare patch of skin. As the hobbit exits the den Smaug shoots flames up the tunnel; Bilbo barely escapes. Unfortunately, in Bilbo's banter with the dragon, he exposes Lake-town and its people and accidentally reveals that they helped him. In a rage the dragon destroys the secret entrance and flies off to Lake-town to punish the citizens for aiding the treasure seekers.


Tolkien had a great love for Beowulf, the Old English epic poem. Remnants of that tale are found throughout The Hobbit, but no more so than in this chapter. At the end of Beowulf a slave steals a golden cup from the dragon's hoard. The dragon becomes enraged and attacks the people and villages in Beowulf's kingdom. Beowulf goes up to fight the mighty dragon and is fatally wounded.

Even though Bilbo is an unlikely hero compared to Beowulf, they both face the dragon head on. There is also mention of revenge in Bilbo's conversation with Smaug. Revenge is a common theme throughout Beowulf. In Anglo-Saxon culture, revenge was expected for an unjustified killing. It wasn't frowned upon or looked down on morally; it was part of the culture.

Meanwhile Bilbo also continues to grow. He becomes brave enough to go into the dragon's lair twice, and yet he is still very much a Baggins and yearns for his life of comfort, regular meals, teatime, and a nice smoke. He is moving steadily through the road of trials portion of his hero's journey.

Tolkien has changed Bilbo to become more well-rounded, with a sense of the world going on outside his own existence and a newfound appreciation for the simplicity that was his normal life. In this chapter Bilbo gets a bit overconfident in his powers of luck and wit. He unwittingly reveals to the dragon that the Lake-people helped his group get to the dragon's lair, and as a result he plays a part in Lake-town's destruction.

In this chapter the effects of gold on the dwarves become more evident: they become more disagreeable, stubborn, and greedy.

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