Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 18 “The Return Journey”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • Bilbo awoke, by himself, still on Ravenhill.
  • He was found by a searcher, a Man, and apparently hadn’t been found earlier because he had his Ring on.
    • Gandalf certainly trusted in his ability to survive. He had been counted among the dead and the Man was on one last search for him.
    • The Man was clearly a strong healthy guy, he carried Bilbo, at speed, back down to the camp.

  • Gandalf’s arm was in a sling.
  • Thorin laid, dying, and was waiting for Bilbo.
    • They made peace.
    • Bilbo went aside and blamed himself for the outcome.
  • Bilbo learnt that even with the Eagles, victory was not certain until Beorn joined in the fray in the last hour.
    • He was also the one who found and retrieved Thorin’s fallen body.
    • He then pulled down and killed Bolg, throwing the goblin and warg armies into disarray, and flight.
    • By some songs’ reckoning, 3 parts (of? ten?) of the goblin host was done in, and there was peace for many years.
    • Victory was assured by the previous night (ie the day the Battle started), but the victorious was still doing cleanup when Bilbo reached camp.
    • Both Kili and Fili had also perished.
  • Thorin passed, days later.
    • Bard laid the Arkenstone upon his breast.
    • Even the Elvenking had made peace with Thorin, laying Orcrist upon Thorin’s tomb.
  • Dain proved gracious,  and honourable (and perhaps diplomatic prudence) by gifting Bard with one fourteenth of the treasure (still considerable) anyway.
    • Bard sent generous portions of it to the Master of Lake-town (perhaps unwisely) and rewarded his friends and followers as freely, including the gift of the emeralds of Girion to the Elvenking.
    • To Bilbo he was going to give the bulk of it, but Bilbo, proving his Hobbit sensibilities and humility, took only a small chest of gold and silver each that a strong pony could carry.
  • Gandalf and Bilbo, and Beorn, travelled with the elven-host as far as the eastern border of Mirkwood, to the north of the place where the Forest River ran out.
    • There the wizard and Bilbo declined the Elvenking’s hospitality.
    • Gandalf and the Elvenking exchanged friendly words of farewell.
    • Bilbo offered a necklace to the Elvenking in payment for room and board.
    • The Elvenking named Bilbo elf-friend.
  • Bilbo still had a ways and some hardships to endure before he finally reached the Shire, for “the Wild was still the Wild”, but Gandalf and Beorn (while they were travel-mates) kept him safe.
    • They celebrated Yule in Beorn’s house, together with men that Beorn had invited.
    • Beorn became a great chieftain of men, founding a line of skin-changers, and kept peace in “the edge of the Wild” from the Mountains to the edge of the Wood.
    • In spring, Gandalf and Bilbo resumed their journey. When they reached  the pass where the goblins had captured them before, Bilbo’s Baggins’ sensibility began to dominate the Tookishness.

Key Notes/Quotes

There indeed lay Thorin Oakenshield, wounded with many wounds, and his rent armour and notched axe were cast upon the floor. He looked up as Bilbo came beside him.

“Farewell, good thief,” he said. “I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the Gate.”

Bilbo knelt on one knee filled with sorrow. “Farewell, King under the Mountain!” he said. “This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so; and not a mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am glad that I have shared in your perils—that has been more than any Baggins deserves.”

“No!” said Thorin. “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!”

Thorin’s final words, to Bilbo.

Actually it was some days before Bilbo really set out. They buried Thorin deep beneath the Mountain, and Bard laid the Arkenstone upon his breast.

“There let it lie till the Mountain falls!” he said. “May it bring good fortune to all his folk that dwell here after!”

Upon his tomb the Elvenking then laid Orcrist, the elvish sword that had been taken from Thorin in captivity. It is said in songs that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves could not be taken by surprise. There now Dain son of Nain took up his abode, and he became King under the Mountain, and in time many other dwarves gathered to his
throne in the ancient halls. Of the twelve companions of Thorin, ten remained. Fili and Kili had fallen defending him with shield and body, for he was their mother’s elder brother. The others remained with Dain; for Dain dealt his treasure well.

The final tally of surviving key figures in the story.

Yet a fourteenth share of all the silver and gold, wrought and unwrought, was given up to Bard; for Dain said: “We will honour the agreement of the dead, and he has now the Arkenstone in his keeping.”

Dain was clearly a leader and a politician.

“Farewell! O Elvenking!” said Gandalf. “Merry be the greenwood, while the world is yet young! And merry be all your folk!”

“Farewell! O Gandalf!” said the king. “May you ever appear where you are most needed and least expected! The oftener you appear in my halls the better shall I be pleased!”

“I beg of you,” said Bilbo stammering and standing on one foot, “to accept this gift!” and he brought out a necklace of silver and pearls that Dain had given him at their parting.

“In what way have I earned such a gift, O hobbit?” said the king.

“Well, er, I thought, don’t you know,” said Bilbo rather confused, “that, er, some little return should be made for your, er, hospitality. I mean even a burglar has his feelings. I have drunk much of your wine and eaten much of your bread.”

“I will take your gift, O Bilbo the Magnificent!” said the king gravely. “And I name you elffriend and blessed. May your shadow never grow less (or stealing would be too easy)! Farewell!”

The farewell between Gandalf, Bilbo (with Beorn in the background no doubt) and the Elvenking.

Beorn indeed became a great chief afterwards in those regions and ruled a wide land between the mountains and the wood; and it is said that for many generations the men of his line had the power of taking bear’s shape, and some were grim men and bad, but most were in heart like Beorn, if less
in size and strength. In their day the last goblins were hunted from the Misty Mountains and a new peace came over the edge of the Wild.

Beorn’s importance to keeping the roads open between Erebor and Shire was an important fact, for several event spanning the sixty years’ until and into LotR.


Loose-ends being tied up and setups for LotR.

I am more interested in the exchange between Gandalf and the Elvenking, which to me indicated a prior familiarity. They may not be BFFs, but clearly, they knew and respected each other. The following exchange between Bilbo and the Elvenking was truly endearing: first, Bilbo’s sense of right in paying for what he had consumed in the Halls, second, the King’s reticence in accepting a gift unlooked for (so much for the gem-craze) and ultimately his gracious acceptance of it and naming Bilbo elf-friend, without condescension and yet quiet humour.

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