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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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The travelers are captured by goblins in the Misty Mountains.
In the goblin tunnels, Bilbo finds a magic ring and meets its
previous owner, Gollum. With the help of the ring, Bilbo
escapes the tunnels and rejoins his friends.

Days later, Thorin and the company cross the Misty Mountains
and are attacked by goblins. All but Gandalf are captured and
carried through a maze of tunnels into the heart of the
mountain. Tolkien tells you that the goblins are "cruel, wicked,
and bad-hearted," and in his description of them you can see
the beginnings of his concept of evil. Their hatred of others is
an important part of evil. They deny others free will by
enslaving them, and they create nothing of beauty. Tolkien also
makes an association here between evil and technology,
particularly the technology of war-"the ingenious devices for
killing large numbers of people at once."

One of the purposes of songs in The Hobbit is to characterize
the different races. In chapter I, the dwarves' song expresses
their love for treasure. The elves' song in chapter 3 expresses
their gaiety. The song that the goblins sing is reminiscent of
pirates and reveals their cruelty. The many one-syllable words
and exclamation points give it a savage rhythm that Tolkien
echoes in the narrative and in the speech of the Great Goblin.

Once again, Gandalf comes to the rescue. He kills the Great
Goblin and leads Bilbo and the dwarves down the tunnels.
Notice how Tolkien uses personification to describe Gandalf's
sword. It "burned with a rage" at the presence of goblins and
now gleams "bright as blue flame for delight" in killing their

The angry goblins chase after their escaping prisoners. In the
confusion, Bilbo falls, bumps his head, and is knocked

When he wakes up, Bilbo finds himself alone in the dark.
While groping around blindly, he comes upon a ring and slips
it into his pocket. Tolkien tells you that this is a turning point in
Bilbo's career, but doesn't say why.

Bilbo searches in his pockets for matches to light his pipe. He
doesn't find them but does come upon his sword, which he
draws out. This action is highly significant, for while smoking
a pipe just then would have been both stupid and hobbitlike,
the decision to draw his sword could be a sign of Bilbo's
growing independence. He sets off down the tunnel and at an
underground lake meets Gollum, one of Tolkien's most
unforgettable creations.

It is Gollum's speech that is most remarkable. He hisses as he
talks, and calls himself "we" and "my precious." He never
speaks directly to Bilbo; he talks to himself and refers to Bilbo
as "it." This way of speaking shows the selfishness of evil:
Gollum treats Bilbo as an object-a potential meal-rather than
as an individual with free will. In accordance with Tolkien's
theme that nothing starts out evil, Gollum was once a sun-
loving creature like Bilbo. For some reason not yet disclosed to
the reader, Gollum was driven from his home and eventually
found his way to the lake in the middle of the mountain. (You
will learn more about Gollum's life, such as how he came to the
underground lake, in The Lord of the Rings.)

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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