The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Chapter 17 : The Clouds Burst | Summary



The following morning, negotiators approach the gates and reveal the Arkenstone, hoping it will move Thorin to make a deal. Thorin, still fixated on the treasure, relents and accepts the plan, but he has no intention of fulfilling his end of the bargain.

Thorin plans to wait for Dain and his troops, keep the gold, and fight for the Arkenstone. In anger he turns on Bilbo Baggins and threatens to kill him. Some of the dwarves are secretly dismayed at Thorin's treatment of the hobbit. Dain and his troops finally appear. Bard will not let Dain in to see Thorin, and both sides prepare to do battle.

Suddenly the skies darken as thousands of bats block out the sun. Their arrival signals the threat of attack by a huge force of goblins and wargs. The danger forces the elves, men, and dwarves to unite to defeat their common enemy. At first the strategy appears to work, but the numbers of evil fighters are too great. Thorin, finally coming to his senses, breaches his wall and emerges to rally the weary allies. Just when it appears the goblins will prevail, the eagles arrive, and the forces for good gain the upper hand. Bilbo, who has been with the elves, puts on his invisibility ring and is struck by a rock and knocked unconscious before the final victory.


Gandalf is quite pleased with Bilbo's actions, but Thorin is enraged that he has to purchase the Arkenstone (which is rightfully his in the first place) while also having to bargain for some of the treasure that belonged to his people.

Thorin can't see beyond the gold. Even his loyal followers are disgusted by Thorin's actions toward Bilbo. But bad again leads to something good. Although they were set to do battle with one another, they join forces once faced with their mutual enemies, the goblins and wargs. Ultimately Thorin's lust for gold is conquered by his hate for goblins.

This chapter has an element of redemption, as Thorin breaks down the wall he had built to save the men and elves defending Lonely Mountain. The war has a bit of a fairy tale ending—unsurprising, since Tolkien had a fondness for these kinds of moments, even naming them "eucatastrophe" and sprinkling them throughout The Hobbit. A eucatastrophe, as defined by Tolkien, is a joyous turn of events, or a sudden miracle. In a 1944 letter to his son Christopher he explained the term as the "sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears." Chapter 17 represents a step on Bilbo's hero's journey called the ordeal, a major test or life-or-death crisis. In The Hobbit that crisis is the Battle of Five Armies. Although Bilbo survived because he was unconscious and not fighting, many individuals on both side of the conflict lost their lives.

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