The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Chapter 18 : The Return Journey | Summary



Bilbo Baggins is knocked out shortly after spotting the eagles and misses the end of the conflict. A soldier finds the unconscious hobbit and carries him to the winning camp. Gandalf congratulates the hobbit for his luck in surviving the battle, and Bilbo is quickly taken to Thorin, who is dying from battle wounds. Thorin sincerely apologizes to Bilbo and recognizes he cannot take the treasure with him into death.

The hobbit grieves for Thorin, and Bilbo is now ready to return home. Thorin is buried with the Arkenstone, which was destined to be his, and Dain, the new dwarf king, proves wise in distributing the treasure. A large group including Gandalf and Beorn travels with the elves and the Elvenking, and they all sing Bilbo's praises. After spending the winter with Beorn, Bilbo stays for a while in Rivendell.


Although the eagles miraculously save the group, there is no way to romanticize the atrocities of war. Bilbo loses many friends, particularly Thorin, for whom he grieves a great deal. Thorin redeems himself when he apologizes to Bilbo and asks for forgiveness. He pays Bilbo his greatest compliment, "There is more in you of good than you know." Bilbo has changed once again. He is not as simple and lighthearted as he once was, and he has experienced regret. He has seen the world beyond his little hole in the ground. He knows of the struggles and plight of others; he has seen too much to be the same hobbit, and yet he yearns for the simplicity of his little home in the Shire.

It is no wonder that Tolkien calls his invented world Middle-earth, because it is an Old English term synonymous with a world very similar to the one we live in—a world of light and dark, good and evil, love and hate, peace and war. All of the same qualities and dynamics of Middle-earth can be seen right here. Tolkien saw it firsthand—from his little rural English village to the horrible violence of World War I. He brought all of it to the hobbit's world, but he also showed that good can prevail.

This chapter spans three steps in the hero's journey: the ordeal (the end of the Battle of Five Armies, including Thorin's death), the ultimate boon or reward (Bilbo has helped reclaim Smaug's treasure, is given a portion of the riches as his reward, and gives much of it away in acts of generosity), and the road back (Bilbo begins a long wistful journey toward home).

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