Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 12 “Inside Information”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • Finally the Company stood within the walls of the Erebor.
  • Thorin immediately called upon Bilbo to do his burglary duties
    • Balin was the only one to volunteer to accompany Bilbo as he was fond of the Hobbit. but even for him, the line was drawn at “come inside at least
      and perhaps a bit of the way too, ready to call for help if necessary.”

  • Dwarves were not heroes, and fully expected hired help to do as they were commissioned with no qualms. (Though they would also be at the ready to help said help out of a bind if needed)
    • They were great with interior-decor: “…. It was far easier going than he expected.

      This was no goblin entrance, or rough wood-elves’ cave. It was a passage made by dwarves, at the height of their wealth and skill: straight as a ruler, smooth-floored and smooth-sided, going with a gentle never-varying slope direct…”

  • Bilbo was a different Hobbit than the one who set out with the Dwarves. He proceeded into the Mountain alone after Balin stopped.
  • Still, the un-Tookish part of him was not gone, and he had trepidations as he proceeded.
  • Bilbo encountered Smaug.
    • They had an interesting exchange, and Bilbo managed to beguile him into turning belly-up for a confirmation of the chink in his armoury hide.
  • At the sight of the hoard, even he was not immune to the goldlust that seemed to plague the Dwarves.
  • He made it back out with a cup, alive and well. The Dwarves were overjoyed.
  • Smaug’s avarice and bean-counter acumen for exactly what was in his hoard was astounding. He was woken from the cup’s removal.
  • Smaug exited the Mountain and flew round looking for the thief through the night.
  • Bilbo, probably shored up by the successful cup theft, offered to look for a weakness in the dragon the next day’s noon.
    • Smaug could detect Bilbo’s presence despite the Ring.
    • He and Bilbo exchanged words. There was a certain approach to conversational small-talk with Dragons. Giving oneself too many inventive names and titles was not a good idea.
    • Bilbo had certainly picked up some guile during the adventure.
    • Bilbo only escaped death by dragonfire due to quick feet.
    • He was cross with himself for implicating Lake-town and even tried to take it out on the spectator thrush who clued him in onto the secret of the hidden door.
  • Dragon-battling strategies were apparently generally known with the worst being a frontal attack.
  • Thorin had the Arkenstone uppermost in his mind, despite the dangers.
  • Threats of death and near-death experiences had a way of stripping enchantment, and Bilbo was no longer quite so enamoured.
  • Smaug did indeed take off to exact vengence on Lake-town. The Company escaped death by roasting only due to heeding Bilbo’s premonition to shut the door, just before Smaug breathed some fire up the route.

 

Key Notes/Quotes

The most that can be said for the dwarves is this: they intended to pay Bilbo really handsomely for his services; they had brought him to do a nasty job for them, and they did not mind the poor little fellow doing it if he would; but they would all have done their best to get him out of trouble, if he got into it, as they did in the case of the trolls at the beginning of their adventures before they had any particular reasons for being grateful to him. There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.

Clear characterisations of Dwarven nature.

After a while Balin bade Bilbo “Good luck!” and stopped where he could still see the faint outline of the door, and by a trick of the echoes of the tunnel hear the rustle of the whispering voices of the others just outside. Then the hobbit slipped on his ring, and warned by the echoes to take more than hobbit’s care to make no sound, he crept noiselessly down, down, down into the dark. He was trembling with fear, but his little face was set and grim. Already he was a very different hobbit from the one that had run out without a pocket-handkerchief from Bag-End long ago. He had not had a pocket-handkerchief for ages. He loosened his dagger in its sheath, tightened his belt, and went on.

Bilbo definitely had a lifer on this adventure.

There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; a thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver redstained in the ruddy light.

Smaug lay, with wings folded like an immeasurable bat, turned partly on one side, so that the hobbit could see his underparts and his long pale belly crusted with gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his costly bed. Behind him where the walls were nearest could dimly be seen coats of mail, helms and axes, swords and spears hanging; and there in rows stood great jars and vessels filled with a wealth that could not be guessed.

Dragon and hoard. Disgustingly rich resources unoptimised.

To say that Bilbo’s breath was taken away is no description at all. There are no words left to express his staggerment, since Men changed the language that they learned of elves in the days when all the world was wonderful. Bilbo had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment and with the desire of dwarves; and he gazed motionless, almost forgetting the frightful guardian, at the gold beyond price and count.

The hoard’s magnificence was such that even Hobbits could be beguiled.

 

Thoughts

Dragons were avaricious, but for hot-tempered creatures, they were on slow-burn. It took a full day and night from Bilbo’s theft of one cup for Smaug to work his way up to vengence exaction.

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