The Hobbit is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who lives in Hobbiton. He enjoys a peaceful and pastoral life but his life is interrupted by a surprise visit by the wizard Gandalf. Before Bilbo is really able to improve upon the situation, Gandalf has invited himself to tea and when he arrives, he comes with a company of dwarves led by Thorin. They are embarking on a journey to recover lost treasure that is guarded by the dragon Smaug, at the Lonely Mountain. Gandalf has decided, much to Bilbo's chagrin, that the hobbit will make an excellent addition to the team and Bilbo is going to play the role of a burglar. As they start on their way, Bilbo has serious misgivings.
On the journey, Bilbo and the dwarves encounter all sorts of villains and obstacles. They have not traveled very far when they stumble upon a group of trolls. A combination of Gandalf's wizardry and Bilbo's burglary land the group out of harm's way. They are able to replenish their supplies with the food that they find in the trolls' lodging place and they soon move on, pensive and fearful.
Gandalf leads the group to a place where they can get a short rest and they pass through the country of the elves. It is June and all of the joys and songs of midsummer are on display. Bilbo and the dwarves stay at the house of Elrond, an old friend of Gandalf. As they continue on their journey, Bilbo is depressed and nostalgic. The group passes through a mountain chain and two of the dwarves, Fili and Kili, locate a cave for the group to sleep for the nightbut the cave turns out to be inhabited by Goblins. Bilbo's startled yell helps to save the group.
And after these difficulties, there is trouble with giant spiders and with elves before the group actually arrives at Smaug's mountain. In these travels though, Bilbo has outwitted a creature called Gollum, and gained a ring that makes him invisible. This is certainly helpful in battling the Giant Spiders and getting the dwarves out of the Elvenking's prison. But the ring is especially needed when the group arrives at Smaug's mountain. Once there, the dwarves argue about who will enter Smaug's cave and since Bilbo is the burglar, Bilbo must go ahead and face the challenge. He follows the treacherous course into the heart of the cave and though he is sure he is in danger, he is attracted by a red glow that compels him to approach. This is the glow of Smaug. Bilbo manages to steal a cup and hurriedly exits but Smaug awakens and begins to rage. 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. 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.
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. Thorin is thinking of ways to avoid a fair bargain and when battle erupts, it includes men, elves and dwarves. They are ready to attack one another until Gandalf announces the approach of the Goblins, bats, wolves and Wargs. The armies re-align themselves and conduct what became known as the "Battle of Five Armies." The Goblins and Wild Wolves battle against the Elves, Men and Dwarves. Gandalf has expected some sort of assault but it did come swifter than he had expected. The Goblins are initially repelled and ambushed by the Elves, but a reinforcement of Goblin troops tilts the balance of the battle. It is only with the final arrival of the Eagles, that the forces of good are sustained. Unfortunately, Bilbo is "smote" with a "stone hurtling from above...and he fell with a crash and knew no more."
When Bilbo regains consciousness, he finds that he is alone and he has to take his ring off so that the individuals who were sent for him can find him. After recovering in the company of Gandalf, Bilbo makes his way back home and their journeythough covering the same perilous terrainis far more pleasant and mild than it was the first time. As Bilbo says, "So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending." Gandalf and Bilbo pass through Rivendell and eventually make their way to Hobbiton. It is summer and Bilbo is disappointed to learn that he is legally dead. Greedy cousins, the Sackville-Bagginses are auctioning his property because he is "Presumed Dead." They are more than a little displeased at his arrival and it takes several years for Bilbo to sort out the legalisms. In fact, Bilbo had to buy back a good deal of his own furniturehis reputation, for better or worse, was harder to reclaim. But as for Bilbo, son of Belladonna Took, "for ever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honour of dwarves, wizards, and all such folk as ever passed that way.