The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Discussion Questions 51 - 56


In Chapter 17 of The Hobbit Bilbo misses the peak of the battlefield action because he is unconscious. What might be Tolkien's motive for this approach?

Clearly the battle was extremely violent, and numerous trained elves, humans, and dwarves died in spite of their skills, weapons, and experience. Since this is a story about Bilbo's adventure, not war, Tolkien cleverly renders the protagonist unconscious throughout this scene in order to spare his intended audience—children—the gory details. Also, if Bilbo had been fully engaged in the battle, he would likely have died and never completed his quest. The Battle of Five Armies and Bilbo's role in it may also have been influenced by Tolkien's military service in World War I. Although two of Tolkien's closest friends died in the conflict, he contracted trench fever (caused by bites from lice) and was shipped home to England for recuperation. He spent the rest of the war in domestic military service and never saw fighting again. Invisible and unconscious, the hobbit survives the Battle of Five Armies, reports the end of the conflict, and returns home. From this perspective, the reader is also able to observe the growth in Bilbo's character; his decision-making and bravery brought success to the dwarves' quest, but his role in this story is to use his head to resolve a situation, not brute force.

Before Thorin dies in Chapter 18 of The Hobbit he reconciles with Bilbo. Why did Thorin change his mind?

Thorin realizes that Bilbo was right: Thorin should not hoard all of the treasure for himself and must be more selfless. Thorin now understands why Bilbo tried to broker a deal with the Arkenstone. He praises the hobbit for his goodness. The dwarf leader is freed of the dragon sickness, or greed, realizing he cannot take the treasure with him in death. At this point the two characters are united in their attitude, which values the lives of others and their world more than material wealth.

In Chapter 18 of The Hobbit how does Dain's behavior contrast with Thorin's behavior with regard to the treasure?

Unlike Thorin's simple-minded determination to possess the entire hoard, Dain recognizes that others have rightful claims. Dain gives Bard one-fourteenth of the share as a reward for performing well in battle. Bard, in turn, shares some of the treasure with the Master of Lake-town to rebuild. In this act Dain also shows compassion to those most injured by Smaug. The new King under the Mountain has definitely created close ties with his neighbors. Bilbo rejects a large portion of the treasure offered to him and instead takes only what his pony can carry.

Why is the trek back to the Shire in Chapter 19 of The Hobbit much more peaceful than the outward journey?

Bilbo has two strong traveling companions for most of the trip: Gandalf and Beorn. Most of the goblins have been killed in the war, and the few remaining have been expelled from the Misty Mountains. The wargs have also disappeared from the woods. The small group goes slightly out of their way to avoid Mirkwood, so the hobbit is able to travel safely on his way home.

What purpose is served by Bilbo's stay in the Last Homely House with the elves in Chapter 19 of The Hobbit?

The hobbit's time with the elves serves as a time of transition from the quest back to regular life. The elves serenade Bilbo with a song that celebrates Smaug's death and the restoration of nature. The song depicts the safe and peaceful world of Bag End as a warm fire, enticing him to stay home. Bilbo rests peacefully.

In Chapter 19 of The Hobbit how is the theme of greed reflected in actions of the Sackville-Bagginses, thus showing a negative side of some hobbits?

The qualities of greed and acquisitiveness are not only the result of exposure to hoards of wealth, such as the treasure collected by Smaug; even hobbits who have never left Bag End can be touched by dragon sickness. For example, in Chapter 19 Bilbo returns home to find out his relatives presumed him dead and his home and possessions are being sold off. While Bilbo's return prevents these other hobbits from profiting from his possessions, he never recovers his silver spoons. In this way even the hobbit cousins of Bilbo are affected by greed and covetousness. Bilbo understands that greed runs far and wide. He knows that if he carries too much treasure home from Smaug's lair, it will inspire greediness (and therefore danger) from those he might encounter on his return journey as well as other hobbits in his village.

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