Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 11 “On The Doorstep”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • It took the Company 2 days by water and at least 1 more by land to get to the Desolation.
  • Thorin still remembered what the place was like, pre-Smaug. So did Balin who was with him.
  • The hidden door was on one of the western spurs of the Mountain. The Dwarves proceeded carefully here.

  • The headwaters of the River Running was in Erebor, and from where it issued, the Company could discern black smoke, a Smaug lives indicator.
  • The presence of black ominous crows was another bad omen.
  • The Company’s spirits deflated, except Bilbo whose spirits were the most unflagged despite him being the most unhappy at departure from Lake-town.
    • He kept up the search and it was he, along with Kili and Fili, who found the door.
  • The Company made new camp nearer the door the next day.
  • Stubborn and impatient as Dwarves were, they tried the usual hack and hew, damaging their pride and tools before slowing down in deference to the map and the moon-runes. Of course they expected Bilbo to save the day again. And he didn’t, as yet.
  • The Company got nowhere up to the last week of Autumn. Dwalin remarked he ought to do some spying since he had the ring, which upset Bilbo.
  • The next day, the beginning of the last week of Autumn, near the end of the day, Bilbo, in a moment of inspiration and the thrush, figured out the keyhole and how to see it.
  • They opened the hidden door with the last light of day.

Key Notes/Quotes

With such gloomy thoughts, followed ever by croaking crows above them, they made their weary way back to the camp. Only in June they had been guests in the fair house of Elrond, and though autumn was now crawling towards winter that pleasant time now seemed years ago. They were alone in the perilous waste without hope of further help. They were at the end of their
journey, but as far as ever, it seemed, from the end of their quest. None of them had much spirit left.

Now strange to say Mr. Baggins had more than the others. He would often borrow Thorin’s map and gaze at it, pondering over the runes and the message of the moon-letters Elrond had read. It was he that made the dwarves begin the dangerous search on the western slopes for the secret door. They moved their camp then to a long valley, narrower than the great dale in the South where the Gates of the river stood, and walled with lower spurs of the Mountain. Two of these here thrust forward west from the main mass in long steep-sided ridges that fell ever downwards towards the plain. On this western side there were fewer signs of the dragon’s marauding feet, and there was some grass for their ponies. From this western camp, shadowed all day by cliff and wall until the sun began to sink towards the forest, day by day they toiled in parties searching for paths up the mountain-side. If the map was true, somewhere high above the cliff at the valley’s head must stand the secret door. Day by day they came back to their camp without success.

Bilbo, once again, was the driving force propelling the quest onward when the Dwarves faltered.



Perhaps it was due to being in the Desolation itself, but the Dwarves seemed to lose their famed fighting spirit rather quickly and often in the search for the hidden door. Thankfully Bilbo was there to keep things moving along. The Dwarves really did have Gandalf to thank for his most excellent recommendation.

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