Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 16 “A Thief In The Night”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • Thorin was getting OCD with Arkenstone possession.
    • The Arkenstone was worth A LOT.
  • Bilbo was getting the quavers with his Arkenstone possession.
  • Days passed, and finally ravens brought news that Dain was two days’ march away.

  • Roac counselled peace as winter approached. But Thorin was stubborn, confident instead that Dain and winter would push the combined host to parley.
  • The same night, Bilbo made a decision to go on a little side adventure, which involved relieving Bombur of his watch until midnight, which Bombur gladly took up as apparently he had been trying to recapture the beautiful dreams when he was unconscious from the water of the Enchanted River.
  • Bilbo had five hours to do what he planned, and he went down the Mountain to the camp of the combined host.
  • There he made a splash at the border and was nearly captured as a POW by elven sentries.
  • Bilbo got to the camp with two or three hours to spare, he was truly cutting it close for a daring plan quite uncharacteristic of himself or Hobbits in general. It must the inner Took driving him. And probably a desire to get the quest over and with and be home, cosy and comfy again.
  • Both Bard and the Elvenking were equally surprised at the sight of a Hobbit in elvish armour.
  • Bilbo’s meeting nearly went wrong when he revealed the proximity of Dain’s army, with Bard questioning his motive (betrayal or threat).
    • Bilbo certainly has gotten to know Thorin well, sure that he would sit on the treasure and starve as long as the host was there.
    • Bard, ever grim and practical, was willing to let that happen.
    • Bilbo, even more practical, reminded the chiefs of the coming hardships of winter, along with Dain’s arrival.
  • Bilbo’s brilliant plan was to present the Arkenstone to the combined host as a negotiation edge with Thorin. He also generously ceded his share of the treasure to Bard.
    • Both the Elvenking and Bard were mesmerised.
    • The Arkenstone had its own allure. Bilbo had difficulty giving it up.
  • He earned the admiration and goodwill of the Elvenking, who offered him a place in the camp against risking Thorin’s ill-will, along with Bard. But feeling still a sense of loyalty, he declined.
  • On the way out of the camp, Gandalf revealed himself.
    • Gandalf was pleased, how he knew was not clear, and sent Bilbo back with promises of happy tidings yet to be revealed.
    • It wasn’t clear if the chiefs knew of his presence.
  • Bilbo made it back up the Mountain with time to spare.

 

Key Notes/Quotes

“But they cannot reach the Mountain unmarked,” said Roäc, “and I fear lest there be battle in the valley. I do not call this counsel good. Though they are a grim folk, they are not likely to overcome the host that besets you; and even if they did so, what will you gain? Winter and snow is hastening behind them. How shall you be fed without the friendship and goodwill of the lands
about you? The treasure is likely to be your death, though the dragon is no more!”

But Thorin was not moved. “Winter and snow will bite both men and elves,” he said, “and they may find their dwelling in the waste grievous to bear. With my friends behind them and winter upon them, they will perhaps be in softer mood to parley with.”

Roac showed he was perhaps more wise than Thorin. Could a mere raven be truly so perceptive?

“That was no fish!” one said. “There is a spy about. Hide your lights! They will help him more than us, if it is that queer little creature that is said to be their servant.”

“Servant, indeed!” snorted Bilbo; and in the middle of his snort he sneezed loudly, and the elves immediately gathered towards the sound.

“Let’s have a light!” he said. “I am here, if you want me!” and he slipped off his ring, and popped from behind a rock.

They seized him quickly, in spite of their surprise. “Who are you? Are you the dwarves’ hobbit? What are you doing? How did you get so far past our sentinels?” they asked one after another.

Apparently, intelligence was shared with the Elves, or else they heard about Bilbo when the raft-elves first made their report back to the Realm after leaving Lake-town. Of course, Bilbo’s indignation was both true to character for a genteel, and his tremendous contributions to the quest’s success thus far.

“I am Mr. Bilbo Baggins,” he answered, “companion of Thorin, if you want to know. I know your king well by sight, though perhaps he doesn’t know me to look at. But Bard will remember me, and it is Bard I particularly want to see.”

What did the Elves made of his statement about the Elvenking, or indeed what did the Elvenking make of it when it was, inevitably, reported to him?

The Elvenking himself, whose eyes were used to things of wonder and beauty, stood up in amazement. Even Bard gazed marvelling at it in silence. It was as if a globe had been filled with moonlight and hung before them in a net woven of the glint of frosty stars.

“This is the Arkenstone of Thrain,” said Bilbo, “the Heart of the Mountain; and it is also the heart of Thorin. He values it above a river of gold. I give it to you. It will aid you in your bargaining.” Then Bilbo, not without a shudder, not without a glance of longing, handed the marvellous stone to Bard, and he held it in his hand, as though dazed.

“But how is it yours to give?” he asked at last with an effort.

The Elvenking has apparently seen many wonders but even he was captivated. The reaction of Bard confirmed the rare beauty of the Arkenstone. It is interesting that Bilbo felt the “shudder” at giving it up. Was it the usual gem-lust anyone would feel, or was there more at play in his reaction?

The Elvenking looked at Bilbo with a new wonder. “Bilbo Baggins!” he said. “You are more worthy to wear the armour of elf-princes than many that have looked more comely in it. But I wonder if Thorin Oakenshield will see it so. I have more knowledge of dwarves in general than you have perhaps. I advise you to remain with us, and here you shall be honoured and thrice welcome.”

And

Nothing they could say would stop him; so an escort was provided for him, and as he went both the king and Bard saluted him with honour.

The Elvenking, despite the perception of his character in the book initially, was clearly a perceptive and considerate Elf.

 

Thoughts

As soon as Bombur had gone, Bilbo put on his ring, fastened his rope, slipped down over the wall, and was gone. He had about five hours before him. Bombur would sleep (he could sleep at any time, and ever since the adventure in the forest he was always trying to recapture the beautiful
dreams he had then);….

This was interesting. Were the dreams the reason Bombur was not for aggression? Or had he been a Elf-sympathiser or peace-advocate all along?

More interesting was Gandalf apparently knowing what Bilbo had done without being present at his meeting with the chiefs. In fact, how and when did Gandalf get to the camp? And why did he not make himself known to the chiefs?

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