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Chapter 18: The Return Journey
When Bilbo regains consciousness, he finds that the battle is over and that the dwarves, elves, and men seem to have won. After removing his ring and becoming visible, he is found by one of the men and taken to Dale, where he is reunited with Gandalf and quickly brought to Thorin. The leader of the dwarves is mortally wounded and close to death. Thorin repents his harsh words to Bilbo and parts in friendship from him. Bilbo is grief-stricken at Thorin's death.
In a flashback, the events that occurred after Bilbo fell unconscious are recounted. The arrival of the eagles helps the elves and men considerably, but even then they are outnumbered. It is only with Beorn's arrival that the battle swings decisively in favor of the forces of good. Beorn storms through the goblin troops, rescues Thorin, and kills Bolg; then the armies of good begin pursuing and killing the fleeing goblins. Of the thirteen dwarves in Bilbo's party, ten remain; Fili and Kili die defending Thorin.
Thorin is buried with the Arkenstone upon his breast, and Dain is made King under the Mountain. As promised, one-fourteenth of the treasure is given to Bard, who dispenses it generously. He wishes to reward Bilbo "most richly of all," but Bilbo, ever- practical, refuses to take anything other than two chests, one of silver, the other of gold, small enough to be carried by a pony. Having said good-bye to the dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo set out on their journey home in the company of Beorn and the Elvenking's army. After parting from the elves at the edge of Mirkwood, Bilbo and his party journey north around the forest and arrive at Beorn's home in time for Yuletide. When spring arrives, Bilbo sets out from Beorn's house to go home.
With the victory for the forces of good, the climax of the plot occurs. With the arrival and help of Beorn and his men, the goblins and the wolves are defeated. Then the action starts to quickly fall, as Tolkien begins to tie up all the loose ends of the novel. Thorin's death, the division of the treasure, the annunciation of Dain as King under the Mountain, and Bilbo's journey back to his home are all condensed into this relatively short chapter. Once the main plot is complete, Tolkien wastes little space prolonging the story unnecessarily.
Tolkien tells the story of the battle in a flashback; all the forces of good (the Lake-town men, the elves, the dwarves, and Beorn and his men) join together to defeat the evil forces, finally chasing the goblins and the wolves away from the mountain. Fili and Kili die defending Thorin, who is still mortally wounded. In his heroic death, Thorin redeems himself and once again becomes a positive figure. Before he dies, he even apologizes to Bilbo for his harsh behavior. With the nobility he shows in fighting and dying, Thorin earns the sympathy of the reader as never before. Once the battle is past and the tension is released, Bilbo changes; he seems less adventurous and less eager for comfort and food. He also refuses to take his fair share of the treasure, leaving with only two small chests of gold and silver that can be easily carried by a pony. Never does the protagonist show any greed.
Although there is a mood of sorrow in this chapter because of Thorin's death and the various farewells that are given, there is once again a lightening of spirit since the battle is over and the treasure is fairly distributed. The travelers are eager to be homeward bound, and an air relaxation predominates. Although the forces of evil have not been crushed for good, there are many signs that peace will reign in the land for many years to come.