The Hobbit | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Chapter 6 : Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire | Summary

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Summary

After escaping the goblins, Bilbo Baggins catches up with the rest of his friends. He retells the story of his escape with great vigor—but leaves out the details of the ring. Gandalf reminds them the goblins will begin searching for them as soon as the sun goes down. They hurry along but are soon surrounded by wolves.

They climb into the trees; Dori again saves Bilbo and himself in the nick of time. The wargs (wolves) sometimes collaborate with goblins; the goblins may even ride the wolves like horses. A grey chief talks to the wolves, and Gandalf listens to their foreign language, explaining that the wargs and the goblins have a plan to kill many brave and strong humans who are returning from the south and setting up villages in the Wild.

There are guards placed around all of the trees, and Gandalf knows they must make their escape. Out of pinecones, he creates fireballs and throws them at the wargs. The wargs, of course, hate fire, and a great commotion ensues—such a commotion that the Lord of the Eagles takes notice. The eagles come and rescue Bilbo and his friends. Their assistance is in repayment of a debt owed to Gandalf for healing their lord at one time. The eagles take them to their eyrie (nest) and feed them rabbits and small sheep. They plan to take the group as far south as possible without creating conflict with the humans who disapprove of the eagles' occasional raids on their sheep.

Analysis

Bilbo's choice to find his friends illustrates both his loyalty and growing confidence. He retells the story of his escape but purposely leaves out the part about the ring. It is easy to determine his motives—that he is gaining some respect from the dwarves. He doesn't want them to know he escaped by using the power of invisibility.

Bilbo is sensitive to their criticisms. Even Gandalf seems impressed by Bilbo's escape, but the narrative also leads us to believe he is well aware of what is in Bilbo's pocket. Once trapped up in the trees by the wargs, a new problem begins. The group is safe for the moment but unable to escape. Tolkien uses humor to lighten the severity of the situation. The goblins come along and sing a morbid song about their plans for the dwarves, which is to "Roast 'em alive." While whimsical, it's clear the goblins are quite interested in torture. They aren't interested in killing to fulfill a basic need; they get pleasure from watching something die, making them the most evil species in Tolkien's world.

The dynamics between all the different species in Middle-earth can be a bit overwhelming, and the complexities are apparent in this chapter. During this portion of the road of trials, new enemies (wargs) and new allies (eagles) are introduced. Eagles appear more moral than goblins or wargs. The eagles end up saving Bilbo and his friends—though their motive was not purely altruistic. They want to harass the goblins and ruin their fun more than they want to save Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves. And based on the narrator's description, the woodmen are inherently good, but they are not friends with the eagles, because of the birds' desire to eat the occasional lamb.

Tolkien's world parallels the one he saw in World War I, where military alliances (England and France; humans, elves, and dwarves) fought against ferocious forces (Germany; goblins and wargs). Bilbo's loyalty to his friends may be influenced by Tolkien's loyalty to his group of school friends who entered military service in World War I. Of the group of four young men, only Tolkien and one other survived the war. Thorin will die in the conflict.

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