Book Summary of the "Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien

by Leslie Nierste

J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit; or There and Back Again," originally published in 1937, serves as an introduction and background story to his later 1950s trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings." "The Hobbit" centers on an unlikely and reluctant hero, Bilbo Baggins, who must suffer trolls, dragons and elves to find his fortune. Spoilers follow.

The Adventure Begins

Gandalf, the Grey Wizard, visits Bilbo Baggins to invite him to join an expedition of dwarves to the Lonely Mountain. The dwarves seek to reclaim their ancestral treasure, which is guarded by the dragon Smaug. The dwarves offer Bilbo one-fourteenth of the treasure, and Bilbo agrees to go. Bilbo is soon captured when he stumbles upon three trolls. Eventually, the trolls catch the entire company as they come looking for Bilbo. Gandalf tricks the dwarves into arguing until dawn; they turn to stone at first light.

Of Elves and Goblins

Gandalf suggests the company stay with the elves in Rivendell to rest. The company agrees and stays for fourteen days before continuing the journey. Goblins capture the dwarves and Bilbo while they are sleeping in a cave. The group is interrogated and sentenced to die, but before they are killed, Gandalf's sword appears by itself and stabs the goblin leader. The group escapes, but Bilbo hits his head and is knocked unconscious before leaving the cave.

A Fateful Meeting

Bilbo wakes up alone and looks for his friends. He finds a ring in the caves and puts it in his pocket. Gollum, a lonely creature who speaks to himself, attacks Bilbo to gain possession of the ring he considers his. Bilbo escapes using the ring's power of invisibility and meets up with his friends. The group leaves the caves, but wargs and goblins soon attack them. The travelers are saved when eagles fly in and give them a place to rest, after which Gandalf takes the group to Mirkwood to continue the journey.

Mirkwood

The group enters Mirkwood in and encounters many dangers including an enchanted stream and giant spiders. After surviving many of these dangers, the dwarves decide to look for the wood elves, who have captured Thorin, a dwarf leader. The wood elves catch all the company except Bilbo. Bilbo uses the ring to free all the other dwarves, including Thorin. The dwarves and Bilbo escape to Esgaroth, a human town, where Thorin and his friends are welcomed.

Enter the Dragon

The group enters the Lonely Mountain by way of a secret door. Bilbo goes ahead of the company and finds Smaug and the treasure. The dragon, annoyed with intruders and the theft of the cup, leaves the mountain and heads toward Esgaroth. Bilbo and the dwarves go to Smaug's lair after Smaug has left and play with the treasure. Bilbo takes a few key treasures for himself, including the Arkenstone, a treasure more valuable to dwarves than any other.

Smaug Becomes Angry

Smaug leaves the mountain and attacks Esgaroth until everything is destroyed. Eventually, a man named Bard shoots an arrow into the dragon's weak spot, killing him instantly. The people of the town blame the dwarves for their misfortune and head to the mountain to take the treasure and rebuild the town. A thrush warns Bilbo of the people's coming. Bard tries to strike a deal with Thorin, but Thorin refuses, believing the treasure is rightfully his. Bilbo sneaks away from the group and brings the Arkenstone to Bard.

Bilbo Saves the Day (Spoilers)

Bard approaches Thorin with the Arkenstone and trades it for one-fourteenth of the treasure. Wargs and goblins show up to attack the present company and take the treasure for themselves. A great battle ensues. During the battle, Bilbo hits his head and loses consciousness. When he awakens, he finds that the battle is won, but Thorin is dying from a battle wound. Bilbo is rewarded with some treasure, and the company departs the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo returns home to find that he is presumed dead and his house is at auction. Because of his adventuring, his fellow hobbits never really accept Bilbo again, but Bilbo doesn't mind as he receives company from dwarves and wizards often.

References

  • The Hobbit; or There and Back Again; J.R.R. Tolkien; 1999