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The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


How is the theme of luck and destiny evident in Chapter 8 of The Hobbit?

The dwarves and Bilbo find themselves in complete darkness again as they approach the elves for a third time. This time they can't find one another. Bilbo is alone, but he makes a good guess about the direction in which the dwarves disappeared. The luck is explicit, "and by luck ... he guessed more or less right, as you will see." When Bilbo finds his friends entangled in webs surrounded by spiders, it just so happens that Bilbo remembers he is quite good at throwing rocks, a skill he taught himself as a child. Likewise there just so happen to be a number of rocks on the forest floor. As Bilbo is looking for a way to get up into the trees and rescue the dwarves from the spiders' webs, he notices a rope dangling nearby. The narrator states that it is doubtful that Bilbo, "would have managed it, if a spider had not luckily left a rope hanging down."

Despite the group being captured by the Wood-elves in Chapter 8 of The Hobbit, what evidence is there that the Wood-elves are inherently good?

One of the first clues that the elves are good is that the narrator states they are "not wicked folk." The narrator also talks about how they live by a certain moral code: for example, they take proper care of their prisoners. When the group is captured by the Wood-elves, one of the elf elders questions why they are detaining the dwarves and not being better hosts. The elves are clearly one with nature, and Tolkien equates nature with goodness. The Elvenking doesn't wear a crown of gold, but rather a crown of leaves in the fall and one of flowers in the spring—both symbols of nature and thus of goodness. Beorn, the part bear/part man, is also one with nature and a good character. The elves have a similar connection and goodness about them. Additionally the elves are portrayed laughing as they sit around the fire, showing a sense of caring and community. The only negative assessment the narrator points out is that the elves do not trust strangers, which is different from their counterparts, the High Elves of Rivendell—so they may not always act kindly, although they are "good."

How is loyalty an important theme in the first nine chapters of The Hobbit?

There are several opportunities in the book where one or more characters could have saved themselves and deserted the rest of the group, but out of a sense of loyalty they risked their own lives for the sake of the group. For example, when Bilbo becomes lost in the goblins' tunnels, his friends escape but do not leave, even though they are in great danger. And when Bombur falls into the river and is in a deep sleep, instead of leaving him behind, four dwarves have to carry him. It is exhausting and puts them in considerable danger of never getting out of the forest. In Chapter 9 Bilbo puts on the ring and becomes invisible. He could escape the dungeon and continue on his journey, but he spends two weeks in the elves' cave planning a way to help his friends escape. There are also numerous occasions in which Bilbo's small size causes him to be in mortal danger, but the dwarves jump in to save him. Early on it's hard to say whether the dwarves' heroic acts come from a place of genuine loyalty and friendship or they're doing it to serve their own interest of getting the gold. While their motives might have been less pure originally, by Chapter 9 they seem to have a genuine respect for Bilbo and maybe even a sense of loyalty toward him. This is equally true for Bilbo. His sense of loyalty is clear to readers as he sneaks in and out of the caves to find a way to save his friends. He has gained a great deal of confidence and independence, and he saves the dwarves much more often than they save him. It is becoming apparent that the dwarves may now need Bilbo more than he needs them.

In Chapter 10 of The Hobbit how do the current conditions of the inhabitants of Lake-town compare to those when Thorin's ancestor ruled under the Lonely Mountain?

The citizens of Lake-town are far less prosperous now than they were when Thorin's ancestor ruled the Lonely Mountain. When the King under the Mountain ruled, trade flowed into the town from the Dale and the Wood-elves. The surrounding area was green and fertile, and the inhabitants of Lake-town prospered in those peaceful times. Smaug's arrival not only destroyed the dwarf kingdom, but the Dale also became a blighted wasteland. Nonetheless trade with the Wood-elves has allowed the diminished population of Lake-town to survive—though their standard of living has been greatly reduced compared to the glory days under Thorin's ancestor's rule.

How do the prophecies in the residents' song in Chapter 10 of The Hobbit influence the Lake-town people's decision to welcome the dwarves?

The song predicts the return of a dwarf king and describes the splendor that will be restored to his halls. The last two verses describe the impact of the restoration on the men's environment: a flow of wealth is predicted, as well as the end of sorrows and trouble. However, the song does not detail how the kingdom is to be reestablished. In their optimism the townspeople embrace the arrival of the dwarf party while ignoring the serious issues that must be resolved.

In Chapter 10 of The Hobbit why is the Master of Lake-town reluctant to join in the fervor with which his people react to the dwarves' appearance?

The Master of Lake-town is a skeptical man whose practical approach warns him that the old songs may not present a real picture of the future. The King under the Mountain has been gone for so long, the Master questions Thorin's claim to the crown and his assurances that he will profit, no matter if the dwarves succeed or not. In this discussion everyone seems to neglect the obstacle presented by Smaug.

How does the theme of family heritage influence Thorin's mood and the way he presents himself after being rescued from the barrel in Chapter 10 of The Hobbit?

After Bilbo releases Thorin from the barrel, Thorin is ragged and weary, but when he approaches the guards, his demeanor changes. The goal of restoring the kingdom, which is part of Thorin's family heritage, is now within reach, and that knowledge energizes his travel-worn body and spirit. He uses a commanding voice in announcing himself and proudly walks up to the Master of Lake-town, proclaiming his heritage and his intent to restore the kingdom. Thorin's presence and stated goal win the joyful support of the townspeople.

How does Bilbo react in Chapter 10 of The Hobbit to Thorin's proclamation of his heritage and intent to restore the kingdom?

Bilbo receives the same acclaim and public adulation as his companions, but he has a much more sober reaction. In addition to the discomfort of a head cold, Bilbo has been concerned with the dragon's threat since he first saw the mountain. Since the beginning of the story, the dwarves have been increasingly willing to sit back and depend on Bilbo to rescue them from dangers. The hobbit is fully aware of the peril and is aware that he will not receive much assistance from his fellow travelers, and his anticipation of this danger also dampens his celebration.

In Chapter 11 of The Hobbit, as they approach the Lonely Mountain, how does the dwarves' hopeful mood change?

Smaug has decimated the land where the group is traveling. There is no life or greenery, and the river steams and smokes from the dragon's presence. The barren surroundings have a sobering effect on the dwarves as they confront the reality of the formidable task they must achieve to gain their reward. As the group faces the end of the quest, the dwarves realize they have to conquer an impossible challenge in destroying the seemingly invincible Smaug. Bilbo's reaction is different; he continues to study the map and contemplate its message. Somehow the burglar senses a possible solution is in these artifacts.

In contrast to the behavior of the dwarves, how does Bilbo's focus help open the secret entrance on the Lonely Mountain in Chapter 11 of The Hobbit?

When the dwarves find the door to the Lonely Mountain, they ignore the directions on the map and instead use force to try to open the entrance. With their experience using rocks and construction underground, they rush to try to force the entrance using tools. In an example of situational irony, the dwarves do more damage to themselves than the entrance—and ultimately give up after failing to open the door. In contrast Bilbo is the only one who uses his head instead of his hands, guided by his feeling that something will happen as the sequences in the tunes occur bit by bit. He ponders the meaning of the prophecy and alone maintains faith in the truth of the message. He sees the sun setting and hears the thrush's cracking of snails. He alone sees the keyhole and reminds Thorin to use the key they have carried so far. The door opens easily. Bilbo's patience and use of observation turns out to be the best method for achieving the goal.

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