The Hobbit Summary and Analysis
Chapter Thirteen: Not at Home
Bilbo and the dwarves cannot simply wait forever on the side of the mountain, waiting for Smaug to find them. What they do, eventually, is decide to enter the cave. Not only is this their end goal, but Bilbo is leading the way. Of course, when they find that Smaug is not there, they enjoy the sight of his treasure and Thorin is quick to reclaim the mountain as his palace. Bilbo has really become an expert burglar by this point and he has claimed for himself the one artifact that Thorin finds most valuablethe Arkenstone, the Heart of the Mountain. Bilbo also wears a coat, forged by elves of a material called mithril and he admits that he fills "magnificent." After Bilbo's heroic leadership has brought the dwarves to the treasure, Thorin announces himself as King and calls an end to the days of Smaug's dominion.
The tone may be summed up in the sentence: "The dark hall was filled with a melody that had long been silent." But the melody is the rejoicing of the young dwarves, Fili and Kili. Thorin does not become a villain but his character degenerates into greed and unfortunately, there will be battle at this mountain. There is an awful irony in the title of the chapter "Not at Home" and Thorin's hard rebuke: "Don't call my palace a nasty hole! You wait till it has been cleaned and redecorated." First, we consider the question of whether this is Thorin's palace or Smaug's home. Then, there is the fact of the hobbit's nostalgia for his home in a "hole." Finally, as we will soon see, a palace is a piece of architecture; what Thorin requires is a court. The banquet halls of the epic sagas were established with social contexts that required war. Perhaps the question "where was Smaug"a question marked by the "gathering of very many birds" foreshadows the requisite battle to come.
Chapter Fourteen: Fire and Water
The lake-town of Esgaroth is the victim of Smaug's terror, for the information that he learns from Bilbo gives him reason to believe that they are involved in the theft of his cup. Watchmen see fire in the distance but their warnings go unheeded. Perhaps the lights are a sign of the King under the Mountain, who is again forging gold, according to the songs and legends. Smaug approaches and the people are in a state of combined worship and terror. Smaug breathes fire down upon their city but those who listened to the grim-voiced man had time to collect water to mitigate the damage. They also destroy the bridge that links the island city to the mainland and in this, they are able to halt Smaug's advance. His fire is quenched by the water but that little harms him, nor do the arrows shot from the city garrison. The Master of the city seeks to save himself and his fortune but there is a hero on the scene.
Bard, the grim-voiced, grim-faced man, is willing to challenge Snaug and he has help from a messenger bird, called a thrush. The thrush relays information that Bilbo discovered while in Smaug's lair: the hollow of Smaug's left breast is not plated with his red-gold armor. When Bard strikes this spot, Smaug falls dead, his massive body crushing the city of Esgaroth. The survivors seek Bard as their new king but Bard provisionally declines the offer, though he intends to establish his own city. As the news of Smaug's death spreads, various groups advance towards the mountainfor there is treasure to be had.
In an allusion to the Biblical story of Noah, one of the doomed citizens scoffs: "You are always foreboding gloomy things...Anything from floods to poisoned fish." Bard can also be compared to the ancient Greek character, Cassandra, who is unheeded in her prophetic warnings to the town of Troy. The name Bard establishes the character as a "story-teller" which may account for the people's disregard of his news and for Tolkien's higher estimation of the character, for Tolkien is a bard, himself. In the end, we also find the theme of knowledge and the motif of the map and key recreated in an interesting parallel. Here we meet Bard, a descendant of the people of Dale, knowledgeable in the language of the thrush-bird. Consequently, he is able to understand the secret that Bilbo discovered in the hidden cave, though in thematic terms, Bard never carried out surveillance. The key of the motif is represented by the "black arrow" that is saved as the last one in the quiver, and the image is definitely a parallel to the key that Bilbo uses because Bard is told to strike when "the moon rose above the eastern shore and silvered his [Smaug's] great wings." This is a revision of the scene of Chapter 11 when the same old thrush cracked against the door of Smaug's cave, exposing it, and allowing Bilbo to unlock the entrance just as "the gleam went out, the sun sank, the moon was gone, and evening sprang into the sky."
Chapter Fifteen: The Gathering of the Clouds
The final four chapters of the novel bring a rapid conclusion to what has happened previously. The thrush comes with news that Smaug is dead. Thorin intends to secure his kingdom, but he moves with little wisdom. With several armies approaching for their share of Smaug's treasure, the mountain is in danger and Thorin makes the situation worse by calling upon his relatives to come from various lands and claim what is rightfully theirs. Bard petitions Thorin, reminding him that not all of Smaug's treasure has come from Thorin's people. Furthermore, the recent destruction of Esgaroth has come at the provocation of Thorin and his group. Thorin remains stubborn and war seems inevitable, though Bard's requests are not unreasonable and the supply of food within the fort (a bread-like paste called "cram") is dwindling.
In this chapter, Thorin's character development reveals the dwarf to be expectedly unappealing and disappointing. We were previously warned that the dwarves were not heroic and that they were greedy. Certainly, the Hobbit's litany of unpleasant tasks was evidence of Thorin's willingness to be a titular leader but not the leader who goes into the unknown cave. Full of historical claims of justice, it is easy for Thorin to find his hubris, and having found his hubris, he will fall. Birds and clouds are symbolic portents of wise advice, fate and prophecy. As the birds have already proven themselves (to us), their speech and warning produces the effect of dramatic irony, for we know precisely what will happen. Thorin may or may not die (cliffhanger) but there will definitely be an altercation. If the reader wants a foreshadowing of the future, it can be found in one of the final images, an inversion of a well-established one: When Thorin shoots his arrow at his enemy, it "smote his shield and stuck their quivering." We have been considering Thorin as the contrast to Bilbo, but here we can see him as a foil of Bard. Bard is fluent where Thorin is not perceptive, and Bard strikes the enemy's spot, while Thorin strikes the shield. Finally, if the arrow is a symbol of a key, a metonym of military power and a phallic symbol of power, virility and potency: we should focus on the fact that Thorin's arrow is stuck in the shield and it is "quivering." In this sense, the triple-pun explains that the arrow is shaking (or is it nervous?), and it does not return to its quiver. We find the exact opposite in "Fire and Water" when Bard blesses his arrow (a form of apostrophe) before shooting it: "Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!!"
Chapter Sixteen: A Thief in the Night
Thorin continues to speak of the Arkenstone because it means so much to him, as it is an heirloom and he threatens to take revenge on whoever has prevented him from getting it. In spite of this warning, Bilbo decides that he will leave the mountain and offer the Arkenstone to Bard; then, Bard can offer the Arkenstone to Thorin in exchange for a fair portion of the treasure. Of course, there is so much suspicion on both sides that Bard has no way of guaranteeing that Thorin would make good on his promise to offer repayment. At any rate, Bilbo establishes himself as a figure of incredible honoreven though he may be a traitor of sorts. At the end of the chapter, Gandalf appears and says "Well done, Mr Baggins," adding, "There is always more about you than anyone expects." Gandalf says that there is an unpleasant time just ahead, but after that Bilbo will be in a much better condition.
The title of the chapter comes from a Biblical parable that describes the transactions of justice and Divine judgment as occurring as quickly and suddenly as a "thief in the night;" accordingly, one should always be on guard. What we find in this brief chapter is the elevation of Bilbo to a pacifist/Christian hero, who receives the paternal blessing "Well done..." as opposed to the more martial, Anglo-Saxon hero. The Arkenstone comes to symbolize a sacrifice on Bilbo's part, and as the heart of the mountain, it is also a symbol of the gifts passed on as legacies and heirlooms. Bilbo's character development and his burglary in particular, represents a re-assignment of blessings and gifts without regards to history, lineage or tradition. This is another contrast between the pagan and Christian traditions that Tolkien seeks to merge in The Hobbit.
The Hobbit Essays and Related Content
- The Hobbit: Major Themes
- The Hobbit: Essays
- The Hobbit: Questions
- The Hobbit: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- J.R.R. Tolkien: Biography
- The Hobbit Summary
- About The Hobbit
- Character List
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-4
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5-8
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9-12
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-16
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 17-19
- Related Links on The Hobbit
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources