The Hobbit :: Week Six

Welcome to the The Hobbit read-a-long! We’re reading this book through November and December. You can see the reading schedule and guidelines on the Starting Post Page.

Week Six: Read to Chapter XIII


“You are familiar with Thorin’s style on important occasions…” (212), oh Tolkien, I love how you treat us with such familiarity. Of course we know Thorin’s style – giggle, giggle. (I honestly can’t remember a thing about Thorin’s style – are we supposed to remember it? Do we care or do we just love the fact that Tolkien acts like we know each other so well?!)

Only a few pages after the above quote, it’s mentioned that Bilbo is a very different hobbit than he was when they left – that he doesn’t even carry a pocket-handkercheif and hasn’t for some time now. We all know that Bilbo is a different hobbit, certainly more flexible, brave, and self-reliant. What, though, do we think is the significance of the tidbit about the pocket-handkercheif. There are so many explanations running through my head, and I’m curious what you all think is the significance of telling us this specific thing.

We also witness Blibo beginning to wish he was home again – and I’ve realized that Tolkien has done a painstaking job to create a creature who is so incredibly human in some of our most base ways. All of the characters have human characteristics, of course, but Bilbo’s are very specific to children (who not only need routine, whether or not they like it, but also have strong bonds to their homes). Of course, adults can be exactly the same way (we really are just bigger children, aren’t we), but I do like that he seemed to take into account the psychology of children when writing Bilbo. (Hint: this is one of my theories about the pocket-handkercheif… a sort of “blankie” if you will.) What do you think of my theory?

The scene where Bilbo is speaking to Smaug is insightful. It’s almost as though Bilbo is realizing who he is now and saying it aloud. Though he calls them riddles (about himself) he could just as easily call them affirmations! He most certainly would not have been able to say even half of those things about him had he decided to stay home in his hobbit hole.

Is anyone nervous about the dragon taking revenge on the wrong people? I’m feeling anxious about the upcoming reading! And lastly, I have to say, I think Tolkien did not like ponies very much. I literally couldn’t help but exclaiming (aloud), “Not again! The ponies!”

Who’s Reading Along:

** Please don’t forget to come to this blog each Friday and share your thoughts in the comments section of the weekly The Hobbit discussion (see below for more information).**

Melissa Caldwell
Meg @ A Bookish Affair
June @So_Meow
Brittany M
Jenny Colvin (@readingenvy)
kai charles (@YogiKai)

Friendly Reminders:

  • If you are participating and I don’t have you on this list, please let me know in the comments section. I did not include people who said ‘maybe’ so if you have changed your mind and are definitely reading along with us, let me know so I can add you. Also, if you are not going to be able to join us anymore please let me know and I will take you off the list.
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  • If you go for two weeks without commenting in my weekly update comments section, I will assume you are no longer participating and will take you off of the list (*NEW GUIDELINE*, in order to get back onthe list, you need to a.) Have missed no more than two weeks of discussion, b.) Let me know you would like to be on the list again, and c.) consistently be part of the discussion for the next two weeks after requesting to be put back on the list.). This is in no way to be discouraging, but helps to keep the read-a-long organized (and helps me remember who’s completed what read-a-long…there (ahem) might be something fun for different levels of participants at the end of the year! Thanks!

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40 thoughts on “The Hobbit :: Week Six

  1. Bilbo and the dwarves find the door to the mountain and, at the right time, use the key to open the door. It’s amazing how brave Bilbo has become. When he says, “Perhaps, I have begun to trust my luck more than I used to in the old days,” I think he is feeling more confident about his abilities than just trusting in luck. During his first trek to the dragon’s room, he was “trembling with fear,” but he continued. What a transformation from the Bilbo who started this journey!!

    The dragon certainly isn’t a disappointment…he’s a really nasty creature. I much prefer “Pete’s Dragon” myself, but a friendly dragon wouldn’t fit in this story. Now we wait to see how Bilbo and crew will manage to escape the mountain and the dragon. Dare I hope the thrush will come to their aid in some way?!?!

    I wondered about “Thorin’s style” myself. I thought I missed something, but now that I see you’re curious about it, I don’t feel so bad. Also, I like your theory about the hankerchief/blankie.,especially since I ALWAYS have tissues with me!!!

    • It’s so funny that I honestly can’t remember what happens next in the book. I have no idea how (or if) they defeat the dragon. It’s actually quite exciting to re-read it with such a vague memory of the plot. I can’t remember if anyone comes to their aid – but I imagine we’ll see in this upcoming week’s reading.

      • Just finished reading next week’s section, and I was surprised at the outcome. Can’t wait for discussions about this!

  2. I actually thought Bilbo’s affirmations/riddles were somewhat arrogant…I mean he was sharing the same space with a dragon after all. Just because he couldn’t see Bilbo didn’t mean he was out of danger (which we learn at the end of chapter 12)

    I’m also curious about the old thrush. Friend or foe? I’m going with friend.

    • Oh how interesting that you saw it that way. I think I was looking at it like he really WAS scared and was, in essence, trying to puff up his chest so that the dragon would think he was “bigger” than he actually is – and therefore gain a little bit of security. But in the process he ended up naming real things he had accomplished. Were you feeling that he was too confident and put himself in danger?

  3. I had the handkerchief line highlighted for mentioning this week so I’m excited that it tripped your trigger too!

    I LOVE your theory! And I think it is spot-on if a big part of Tolkien’s goal of this book was to make it relatable to kids. What small child wouldn’t relate to the horror of starting a journey (even just a day trip to grandma’s house!) without their lovey, be it a blankey, a stuffed animal or a handkerchief!

    I loved Bilbo’s affirmations while talking to Smaug. They made me smile. Finally he is seeing himself for what he is really worth! I loved his fearless attitude in the presence of that horrible dragon. Any lesser person (or hobbit) would be frozen in fear or running for their lives. This makes me feel that Bilbo is truly the right man for the job at hand and gives me optimism for how this adventure will end.

    I am also worried that Smaug is going to get his revenge on the town’s people….

    • I totally agree about the handkerchief. It represented safety for Bilbo. This weeks reading proved that Bilbo is indeed the hobbit for the job. I enjoyed the riddles with dragon, but I fear for the safety of everyone now that the “dwarves are out of the bag!”

  4. I’m thinking along the same lines regarding the pocket handkerchief — the handkerchief represents home, civility, culture and the like, and here is our Bilbo out and about, thinking on his feet, going without second breakfast (and sometimes his first!). Bilbo now is thriving outside his comfort zone.

    • I agree with the representations of the handkerchief. There’s also a specific mention of Bilbo’s interest in Thorin’s map, which could have another set of symbols attached to it. He became invested when he had to help them escape, and I think he feels more responsible.

  5. I’ll bring my Week 6 thoughts later–right now I’m straying off the path (Gandalf would SO not be pleased) to share my movie apprehension! Show starts in less than 2 hours and I’m getting cold feet after reading THIS: *SIGHS*

    THANKFULLY I did some research in hopes of assuaging my fears and found: which tells me if the movie seems to stray from the book it doesn’t necessarily mean it strayed from Tolkien.

    Both links are very quick reads. I’d love to see some movie discussion here this weekend!

    • Did you see this (, June? I haven’t had a chance to read your articles yet, but will at the end of the work day today. Am thinking maybe you saw that the movie is not solely based on The Hobbit but also on The Silmarillion. They did this with the LOTR trilogy as well. I very much want to read that book, I heard it’s a bit of a slog, but fascinating!

      Did you end up seeing the movie over the weekend?

  6. I’ve been impressed how much the journey is the key to Bilbo’s growth. Bravery is shown as something to strive for , something that can be built over time. Bilbo’s default status is to think of his comfortable home and plentiful food but he doesnt stay in that energy long before once again solving the latest challenge. Smaug was terrifying! I feel that Bilbo’s taunting is going to have strong consequences.

  7. Wallace, your comment about Tolkien’s inclusion of the reader with remarks like “You are familiar with Thorin’s style on important occasions…”, gave me a sudden jolt and I thought of how this fits in with a storyteller’s style, especially in telling stories to children. Great storytellers often speak directly to their audience, ask them to remember as it invites the reader into the story and in doing so re-engages and/or redirects them. In especially long tales this would certainly be true. The Iliad and The Odyssey are similar types of very long adventure stories, and they were meant to be told.

    When telling stories, especially with young children, the audience loves to be asked questions, to participate. It seems that Tolkien is doing just that. I can easily picture Tolkien telling this story to his children and saying ‘you will remember Thorin’s style’ and having the children respond with questions or comments. Lovely

    However, once I started to think about The Iliad, I could also see a reflection there which parallels Bilbo’s wish for home. Just before a great battle, Glaucus and Sarpedon (a son of Zeus) talk about the price of being a hero. Even though they are among the bravest, they too remember home when they are most embattled. Sarpedon says:

    Ah my friend, if we could escape this war,
    and live forever, without growing old,
    if we were ageless, then I’d not fight on
    in the foremost ranks, nor would I send you 350
    to those wars where men win glory. But now,
    a thousand shapes of fatal death confront us,
    which no mortal man can flee from or avoid.
    So let’s go forward, to give the glory
    to another man or win it for ourselves.”

    Central to The Iliad is also Achilles’ choice of fates. Alone of the heroes, Achilles the son of an immortal mother and Peleus, a mortal king, can chose whether to have a short but glorious and immortal (in the sense that he will always be remembered) life, or whether to have a long but unmemorable life enjoying hearth and home. In Greek times, the only way to immortality was through winning glory in battle.

    Bilbo, his Tookish side battling with his more general Hobbit tendencies, reflects this heroic dilemma. If Sarpedon and Achilles think of home while in the midst of battle, preferring it above all but glory (immortality), how understandable our Hobbit does, too.

    • Mary Ann, I love the way you fit Bilbo into the heroic tradition! Tolkien takes the ideal of the epic hero and plays with it through his unlikely characters. Hobbits are more of what you’d find in a folk or fairy tale, and I think also a bit of the “everyman” — but Tolkien shows that they too (and by extension, you and I?) can be heroes.

    • Can you even imagine being told this story as a child? Not even having it read to you, but just TOLD… with time for questions and comments and the like? Apparently this is how Tolkien’s children first heard it – lucky lot.

      I, too, love the fact that Bilbo fits the heroic tradition – thank you so much for taking the time to point that out! I had no idea. And now I can’t help but imagine that Tolkien chose to use that on purpose, what do you think?

      • Sorry, for the delay in the response — traveling this week. So glad both you and Jackiemania liked the link to epic heroes. About Tokien’s use of the heroic tradition on purpose — well, he was professor of English languare and literature, so probably it was just second nature to him.

  8. This week’s reading helped me through a very nasty plain delay on Saturday. Usually I can’t concentrate on anything when something goes wrong at the airport, but this part was so full of dangerous adventures, that I forgot everything about my worries =) What fascinated me most was the talk with the dragon. He is so cunning and clever! I wonder if Bilbo is still doubting his friends after this? And this old bird can be their way to freedom, because now they don’t seem to have any. Or at least it can warn the people in the city. I just hope this bird is a friend!

  9. I was also totally confused by the statement about Thorin’s style. What is it? Did we all miss something? Is Tolkien talking about just the sort of leadership he shows that seems to garner so much praise? I really don’t know what he was referring to. All the same, I love how Tolkien really wants to almost make the reader a part of the book. I think it can be really difficult to refer directly to a reader without pulling them out of the story but Tolkien continues to pull us right along with Bilbo and the rest of the crew!

    • I don’t actually think we are supposed to know Thorin’s style. I think it was more of a tool to make the reader feel like s/he is part of the story and is quite acquainted with these characters. Kind of like when you’re little and you don’t quite remember ALL of your relatives, but your grandma or aunt or uncle says, “Oh you KNOW old Aunt Hazel… she was there at your second birthday party!” which, of course, you have no recollection of, but now know you are supposed to be familiar with this person.

  10. I am really enjoying everybody’s thoughts on how Tolkien wrote The Hobbit in such a way as to particularly appeal to children, and yet somehow simultaneously managed not to write a “childish” book; he really was a genius in this regard!

    Along those lines, my favorite passage of this section of reading (and quite possibly the book so far) occurred when Bilbo was heading down the tunnel to tempt his fate with Smaug. Tolkien writes (p. 201 of the Kindle edition): “It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”

    As words of wisdom about life, that last sentence has such a resounding ring of truth about it, doesn’t it? I will admit that I personally am prone to (borrowing a phrase from Max Ehrmann) “dark imaginings,” that can freeze me from action unless I’m careful not to needlessly indulge my fears. Here Bilbo found himself in just that predicament, and I found Tolkien’s treatment of it extremely moving. Tolkien is telling us that Bilbo’s battle within himself to keep moving forward against his own dark imaginings was more courageous of him than actually facing a fire-breathing dragon — think about that! I read Tolkien to mean that our personal demons are often scarier to us than any outward ones, and that tackling those inner demons is therefore the highest form of bravery we can achieve. So true, and a wonderful life lesson for children reading this book (especially if they are of the age when I first read the book, which is on the cusp of entering a particularly scary part of life — the terrifying teens!)

    • Stewart, thank you so much for shining the light on that sentence. I remember it, but read through it much too quickly to let the essence hammer in. I LOVE that sentiment, and I absolutely believe it too. The battle really is won in the tunnel, isn’t it? That’s something that I need printed out and hung up, I think. Brilliant.

    • Great insight on that passage! I’m amazed by how many little lessons Tolkien has fit in here without making the story drag. This one, though, is one of my favorites.

  11. The poor ponies…I wonder if Tolkien was kicked by one in his childhood. Although now that I think about it, we do see some different animals throughout the book, but it’s always the ponies who seem to meet untimely ends. Hmmm…

    In regards to Bilbo’s confidence and/or arrogance, I have to say that whether he was being arrogant or just suddenly realizing all that he’d done, I love that scene! I do think he’s a bit presumptuous, handling a dragon that way, but things seem to work out for him don’t they? One of the advantages to being small and invisible.

    Thorin’s style!! I love that remark. Every time I read it I immediately think I must’ve missed a passage – but it does make me feel more entrenched in the story and more connected to the characters.

    Random sidenote: I’m interesting in hearing everyone’s take on the differences in Thorin in the book and Thorin in the movie, so if anyone has comments please share them!

  12. I enjoyed Bilbo’s interaction with the dragon. He seemed much more comfortable and clever than compared to his riddles with Gollum. I supposed it does help that he was invisible with the help of the ring, which may have given him a false sense of security.

  13. I can’t wait to see the Bilbo/Smaug scene. To me it sounds similar to the banter between Sherlock and Watson, and since both sets of characters are played by the same actors, I’m imagining a Sherlockesque moment.

    Used the search to find the mention in this section to Thorin’s style, and it was mentioned in the beginning (p.20 of the Nook book/ 17 in the paperback pictured at the top). Basically, he can talk for hours and hours and not say anything new.

    Tolkien must have felt bad for the ponies after this. The fellowship didn’t use any but Bill for a while, but he got to safety.

  14. I can’t remember what Thorin’s style is either; you aren’t alone in that sentiment. I am finding the book really packed with stuff and am finding myself skimming it as I read it. Now mind, I am not usually looking for details and just want to sort get it done.

    Don’t know how much I will be able to read in the coming days, but I am hoping that I can get some done while traveling this coming weekend.

  15. My favorite scene this time was with Bilbo and Smaug (of course)!

    And the Thrush!!! I love how I am reading along and Tolkien introduces new characters that seem so benign but become such an important part of the story!!!!

  16. I have read this before, but it’s been many years, and I’m really enjoying reading it again, plus all the comments with you guys! It is like I am fresh to it, too, seeing what you all have to say.
    I had forgotten how funny Tokien was/is… so that is a nice bit of relief in this hectic season.

    • It is, and the humor has been helpful this week. I found I needed to put down a more violent book that I was reading and concentrate on things like this instead.

  17. I agree with you about the handkerchief. Probably like a security blanket for him. I can picture him with it in his pocket and him reaching in and fingering it for comfort…much like he does with the ring from time to time.

    Poor ponies! They just can’t catch a break. I guess it’s inevitable with a dragon in the vicinity. Smaug sure is scary and cunning, but also boastful which will get him in trouble later on. No spoilers. ;)

    Yes, Tollkien again talking to us like we’re all old friends and we’re so accustomed to Thorin’s way. Did he mention that in the beginning? Thorin’s way? I can’t remember.

    Anyway, my sons and I saw the movie last weekend and I just loved it! Such a wonderful film. Brought me back to the LOTR trilogy of films. The Fellowship of the Ring was the first film my older son ever went to. He was in his baby carrier, not even a month old, when my husband and I saw the movie when it first came out. He was such a good baby at movies. Never cried and disrupted the movie. His second movie was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But I digress. The Hobbit movie is definitely a must-see. I can’t believe we have to wait a year for the next one and two years for the third. Why do they do it to us? :(

    • No, I don’t think we did know Thorin’s way of speaking – I think Tolkien just used the phrase to engage us. Love it!

      Your son has had some pretty awesome movie choices picked for him so far! :) Can’t wait to see the movie!

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