The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


How does luck help the party after the door to Lonely Mountain is found in Chapter 11 of The Hobbit?

The timing of the group's arrival at Lonely Mountain is very lucky. For the door to be opened, the moon has to be in a phase that occurs once per year. The group arrives at the most opportune moment to take advantage of that lunar phase. Fortune also favors Bilbo when he sees the thrush's behavior and connects it to the prophecy. Additionally, the hobbit luckily waits long enough until the light ray strikes the rock, revealing the keyhole. Bilbo also recalls the key the group has carried so far and realizes its significance at the perfect moment. This sequence of events had to occur in a particular order at a specific time and place for the group's goal to be realized.

In Chapter 12 of The Hobbit how do Bilbo's previous achievements help him prepare for his trek down the tunnel in Smaug's cave?

While Bilbo is frightened when he starts down the tunnel, he has learned throughout his journey that he can depend on his wits and quick reactions to successfully handle desperate situations. Encountering Smaug is the most dangerous task he has been asked to perform. All the other obstacles pale in comparison; however, they have prepared him for this moment. Alone in the dark, he reminds himself that he has no real desire for treasure—thus finding it is not a major achievement. He already owns all the items he needs for contentment. Instead he is motivated by his sense of loyalty to the group and their goal and perhaps to proving his own worth to himself.

How does Bilbo engage in a contest of riddles with Smaug in Chapter 12 of The Hobbit, and why does saying "Barrel-rider" give dangerous information to the dragon?

Bilbo engages the dragon Smaug in another battle of wits after having been successful in the riddle contest with Gollum in Chapter 5. He first mentions his home and then references his power of invisibility: "I come from under the hill, and ... I am he that walks unseen." Then Bilbo recalls some of the other tasks he has completed in freeing the dwarves and emphasizes his selection as "lucky" number 14 (that is, Bilbo joined the group as their 14th member): "I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. ... chosen for the lucky number." Next the hobbit references events that occurred in saving the company from the elves. He is a little overconfident and uses the term Barrel-rider. Unfortunately Smaug cleverly associates that term with Lake-town, where he assumes the dwarves received help in reaching the Lonely Mountain. Smaug later attacks Lake-town in retaliation.

In Chapter 12 of The Hobbit, when Bilbo engages in a battle of riddles with Smaug, how does Bilbo explore Smaug's vulnerability?

Bilbo recalls a saying of his father's that all worms have a weakness. Bilbo praises the beautiful gems that protect Smaug's belly. Smaug then displays the area because of his pride. The dragon does not realize that there is an unprotected spot, and his overconfidence allows Bilbo to identify the weak spot. Later that information is given to Bard, who slays the beast.

In The Hobbit how does Smaug attempt to undermine Bilbo's commitment to the quest?

Smaug seems to have an almost hypnotic effect on Bilbo. While the hobbit has consistently rejected the desire for gold, he is momentarily enchanted by the riches. The dragon tries to convince Bilbo he will never be able to succeed in his task because there is simply too much treasure to haul away. And in an attempt to deter Bilbo, Smaug brags that his age and experience make him invincible.

When Smaug begins to rage in The Hobbit, how does Bilbo once again save the party?

Bilbo has a strong instinct that Smaug is about to seek the group out and attack, giving them time to plan their defense. Thorin argues this contention by pointing out that the monster has not sealed the lower entrance. Bilbo ultimately prevails by pointing out that the dragon may attack momentarily. The dwarves are reluctant to withdraw deeper into the mountain, concerned about being sealed in the tunnel with only one way out should Smaug attack the entrance. Finally the dwarves are convinced; they shut the outer door and retreat into the mountain. Bilbo again saves the day; Smaug's violent attack at the entrance would have killed the whole group had they ignored the hobbit's warning.

In The Hobbit, when Bilbo explains how Smaug can be killed, who overhears the details, and what action does this creature take that proves critical to the dragon's downfall?

When the adventurers spy the thrush, Thorin comments that they are good and friendly creatures. The bird overhears Bilbo and Smaug's discussion and learns of Smaug's weakness; he flies away to carry the information to Bard, who uses it to kill the dragon.

In Chapter 13 of The Hobbit Bilbo finds and keeps the Arkenstone. What does his choice say about him?

While it is possible that Bilbo may want to profit as a result of his adventures, that is hard to believe; Bilbo is not a thief at heart and several times has expressly disclaimed any desire for treasure. Instead he instinctively recognizes that having possession of the Arkenstone may allow him to exercise some control over Thorin's behavior. Also the hobbit has relied on his instincts frequently, and he may be concealing the gem because he knows it will be critical in one way or another.

How does Bilbo's exploration of the caverns in Smaug's lair compare to that of the dwarves' in Chapter 13 of The Hobbit?

The dwarves are initially intoxicated with the treasures in Smaug's lair. Some fill their pockets with gold and gems; they stroke and admire the objects and play magic harps. Then caution rules the dwarves when they discover weapons and armor. They arm themselves—perhaps sensing they will have to defend the treasure hoard later. Bilbo, however, is far more practical; he realizes that food and drinking water are far more important to meet the group's immediate needs.

How does the theme of luck and destiny play a part in Bard's successful attack on Smaug in Chapter 14 of The Hobbit?

A number of "lucky" events had to happen to allow Bard to kill Smaug. First, Bard is probably the only archer in the fight who has the exceptional skill necessary to kill Smaug. Bard also happens to possess the special black arrow that has always brought success when used. In addition the old thrush arrives at just the right moment to tell Bard where to shoot the dragon and persuades the archer to wait for moonrise so he can aim for Smaug's weak area. Bard is lucky to be able to understand the language the bird uses to deliver these vital details. This sequence of actions had to occur with perfect timing in order to allow Bard to defeat this almost invincible enemy.

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