The Hobbit
J. R. R. Tolkien
Contributed by Machelle Schuler
Chapter 6

Bilbo emerges on the other side of the Misty Mountains, but does not know whether his friends are still being held captive by goblins. He has just made up his mind to go back into the Mountains to rescue them when he hears the dwarves and Gandalf approaching. Bilbo is still wearing the magic ring, and he decides to leave it on in order to surprise the others, which he does, revealing himself in a dramatic way. The stunt dramatically improves Bilbo’s standing in the dwarves’ eyes: "If they had still doubted that he was really a first-class burglar. they doubted no longer." Bilbo tells them about his adventures; however, he leaves out the fact of the Ring-an omission about which Gandalf seems somehow to be aware. The others tell Bilbo about their escape, including the fact that the Great Goblin has been killed.

The company resumes its trek. They are suddenly set upon by Wargs-wild, evil wolves. Gandalf, and the others scurry up trees to avoid the beasts. Gandalf, who understands the Wargs’ howls, hears that the Wargs are planning to meet the goblins for a raid on nearby villages of men. The goblins have been delayed by the escape of Thorin and his band. The Wargs plan to stay in the glade until the goblins-who, unlike the Wargs, can climb trees-arrive. By magic, Gandalf sets fire to a tree branch and tosses it at the Wargs, setting them on fire. Meanwhile, from far away, the Lord of the Eagles hears the commotion in the woods. By the time he flies to the scene, the goblins have arrived, and are threatening Gandalf and the rest. The Lord of the Eagles snatches Gandalf to safety, and the other eagles rescue the dwarves and the hobbit. The eagles will not take the company anywhere near the villages of men for fear that the men will shoot at them, but they do agree to carry the travelers to safety.


This chapter is primarily a direct episode of adventure, designed to move the plot forward, as well as to lay the foundation for a large part of the novel’s conclusion. It is fast-paced and tightly written. Still, it does offer a few points worthy of further reflection. Bilbo’s failure to tell his fellow travelers about his discovery of the Ring, for example, may be seen as a further hint that the Ring is no ordinary, morally neutral piece of jewelry. The Lord of the Eagles’ reluctance to carry the company south toward the realm of men echoes the mistrust readers saw earlier between elves and dwarves (see Chapter 3), and, like that earlier instance, anticipates Tolkien’s further development of the theme of interdependence in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien also offers two amusing, fictional derivations of customary sayings in this chapter (a practice that will occur again in The Lord of the Rings-as when Frodo sings his song at the Prancing Pony in Book I-but only briefly and only in the work’s early portion). The presence of these derivations is evidence that Tolkien began The Hobbit as, fundamentally, a work for children. In one of his letters, Tolkien expresses regret for some of the instances in which he "talked down" to his readers. It was a stylistic choice he would not make again when turning to The Lord of the Rings. Although the latter work began life as a straightforward sequel to this work-Tolkien, in letters to his publisher, sometimes referred to it as "the new Hobbit"-it quickly grew more mature, complex, and, consequently, darker.

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