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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
Bilbo Baggins, a respectable and unadventurous hobbit, is paid a visit by Gandalf, a wizard, who offers him the chance to go on an adventure. Bilbo, in trying to get rid of the wizard, inadvertently invites him to tea the next evening. The next day, Bilbo is flustered to find that in addition to Gandalf, he seems to have invited thirteen dwarves to tea as well. As he serves the dwarves and Gandalf tea and then supper, Bilbo learns that Gandalf has advertised him to the dwarves as a burglar. The dwarves wish him to help them on their quest to the Lonely Mountain, where they hope to recover treasure from Smaug the dragon, who destroyed their ancestral home under the mountain. Though at first Bilbo quakes at the suggestion of meeting a dragon, he is challenged upon hearing the dwarves' disparaging his courage and abilities. Stung by their remarks, Bilbo throws himself into the adventure with uncharacteristic boldness and determination.
The adventures quickly begin; the dwarves and Bilbo are caught by three trolls, who put them into sacks. They are saved by Gandalf, who sets the trolls squabbling amongst themselves until daybreak, when they are all turned to stone. Once set free, the dwarves find the trolls' cave, where they discover food, gold, and weapons. Soon after, they have a short rest at Rivendell, home to Elrond, an elf- lord, and his people. Refreshed and restored, the company sets off once again.
As they venture into the Misty Mountains, they are caught in a tremendous storm and take shelter in a cave, along with their ponies. While resting in the cave, all but Gandalf are captured by goblins. Gandalf again saves them, but as they are fleeing in the dark, underground tunnels, Bilbo bumps his head and is separated from the party. As Bilbo wanders about, scared and nervous, he finds and pockets a small silver ring. A little later he comes to a lake. There he meets a strange creature, Gollum, the previous owner of the ring, who challenges him to a riddle game. Gollum figures out that Bilbo has the ring and tries to attack Bilbo, at which point Bilbo discovers that the ring makes its wearer invisible. With the help of the ring, he escapes from the tunnels and is reunited with his companions, who are surprised to find him alive.
Soon after their reunion, they are caught and treed by Wargs, evil wolves who are allies of the goblins. Gandalf tries to rescue them by throwing burning pinecones at them, but the goblins soon arrive and set fire to the trees. At the last minute, they are rescued by a flock of eagles, which carry them to a safe spot. The next day, the eagles carry them a little further along on their journey to a spot in the wilderness. In need of rest and provisions, the group seeks shelter with Beorn, a man-bear who can take on either form.
After spending a couple of days with Beorn, the company moves on to the outskirts of Mirkwood, where Gandalf leaves them. The dwarves and Bilbo have been warned repeatedly by Beorn and Gandalf to stick to the path, but once their provisions begin dwindling and the gloom of the forest becomes too oppressive, they fail to heed the warnings they have heard. They stray off the path, lured by the sight of lights and the sounds of elfish merrymaking.
Lost in Mirkwood, the dwarves and Bilbo are captured by giant spiders. It is only Bilbo's luck and courage and the advantage of the ring's power that helps them to escape. At this point, they are then horror-struck to find that Thorin Oakenshield, the chief dwarf, is missing. Soon, all the other dwarves are captured by the elves, who already have Thorin in their dungeons. Bilbo, however, slips on the ring and escapes. On his own, he devises a plan to set his friends free and manages to do so by hiding them in empty barrels and floating them downstream to Lake-town, near their final destination. The dwarves and Bilbo, battered and weary, are given a hero's welcome by the inhabitants of Lake-town, who see them as the ones who will rescue them from Smaug.
Once again given ponies and provisions, the dwarves and Bilbo set out for the Lonely Mountain. After many days of searching, they find the secret entrance to the mountain. The dwarves expect Bilbo to go into the mountain and steal the treasure from Smaug. Bilbo overcomes his fear and ventures inside. When he spies Smaug, he steals a cup from the dragon's horde as he sleeps. The dragon wakes up and, enraged to find that someone has stolen something from him, flies around the mountain looking for the dwarves, who hide in the tunnel that leads to the secret entrance. Having had a narrow escape, Bilbo ventures into Smaug's chamber again. There he talks to Smaug and discovers a weak spot in the iron-scale armor on Smaug's breast. The furious Smaug tries to catch the dwarves and Bilbo, but, unable to achieve his purpose, vents his fury on Lake-town and its dwellers. Smaug nearly destroys the city, but Bard, a brave archer, kills him with the help of a thrush, who tells him of Smaug's weak spot.
With the death of Smaug, the whole story changes. Men and elves join forces and march toward the mountain, hoping to claim a part of the treasure. Meanwhile, the dwarves, led by Thorin, have reclaimed their ancestral home. Unfortunately, the vast treasure, which Smaug had accumulated, has a detrimental effect on Thorin and the other dwarves, and they become bewitched by a greed for gold. A party, led by Bard, demands a portion of the treasure in payment for the hospitality they offered the dwarves and the losses they suffered from Smaug. Thorin refuses to consider their claim; instead, he sends for help to his cousin Dain and prepares for war.
The elves and the men besiege the Lonely Mountain, and Thorin, the dwarves, and Bilbo are caught inside. Bilbo attempts to break the stalemate by taking the Arkenstone, the most precious stone in the horde and Thorin's most cherished family heirloom, to use as a bargaining counter. When Thorin discovers Bilbo's deception, he is furious and sends him off with harsh words. Even Gandalf, who reappears, cannot reason with Thorin. Dain soon arrives with a large force of dwarves, and it seems as though war will break out. Just as the first arrows are launched, however, the goblins and wolves arrive, and the elves, men, and dwarves join to fight them in the Battle of Five Armies.
Both sides suffer tremendous losses, and it is only with the arrival of the eagles and Beorn that victory is assured for the forces of good. Thorin is grievously injured, and just before he dies, he extends his friendship once again to Bilbo. The treasure is distributed, and Bard sets out to rebuild Dale, where his ancestors lived before it was destroyed by Smaug.
Finally, Bilbo sets out for home with Gandalf, having accepted only a small fraction of the treasure offered to him. They take the longer route home around Mirkwood and spend the winter with Beorn and the elves of Rivendell. Bilbo arrives home just in time to prevent his home and property from being auctioned off. He settles down to living a calm and unadventurous life once again, though he is marked forever afterward as strange and not quite respectable by his neighbors. A few years later, Gandalf and Balin, one of the dwarves, visit Bilbo and tell him about the great prosperity that has come to the lands around the Lonely Mountain.