Summary: Chapter 18
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
When Bilbo awakens, he is still lying with a bad headache on the side of the mountain, but he is otherwise unharmed. From the camps below, he sees that his side has won the battle against the goblins and Wargs. A man comes searching for Bilbo but cannot find him until the hobbit remembers to take off his magic ring. Bilbo is carried back to the camp where Gandalf waits and is delighted to see the hobbit alive. However, there is sad business to attend to. Bilbo must say farewell to Thorin, who is mortally wounded. Thorin asks Bilbo’s forgiveness for the harsh words spoken earlier.
Fili and Kili have also been killed, but the rest of the dwarves have survived. Gandalf describes the end of the battle for Bilbo: the eagles, watching the movements of the goblins, came just in time and turned the tide of battle. Yet things still might have gone badly were it not for the sudden appearance of Beorn in the shape of a bear, massive and enraged. This sent the rest of the goblins scattering, and now they are all either dead or in hiding.
Summary: Chapter 19
The dead are buried, and Dain is crowned the new King under the Mountain. The dwarves are at peace with the lake men and the wood elves. Bard is the new Master of Lake Town, and from his share of the treasure, he gives Bilbo a handsome sum. Soon, it is time for the hobbit to return home. He travels with Gandalf and Beorn, taking the long way north around Mirkwood, for nothing could persuade him to enter that forest again. They spend most of the harsh winter at Beorn’s house, with much feasting and merriment.
In the spring, they continue on to Rivendell. There, Gandalf and Elrond exchange many tales of great deeds, past and present, while Bilbo recovers from his weariness and wounds through rest and the magic of the elves. Bilbo learns the reason Gandalf left the company near Mirkwood: he was fighting alongside the council of wizards to drive the Necromancer out of the forest. Finally, Bilbo and Gandalf travel the last, long stretch of road back to the hobbit lands. Approaching his home, Bilbo receives a nasty surprise. He has been presumed dead, and the contents of his hill are being auctioned off.
Though he puts a stop to the auction and recovers most of his valuables, Bilbo is never again really accepted by the other hobbits. They view his adventuring with skepticism, and his return with gold and tales of dragons and war only confirms the hobbits’ suspicion that Bilbo has gotten in over his head. This Bilbo doesn’t mind—now that he has a wizard, elves, and the occasional dwarf coming to visit him, he does not care much for the company of respectable hobbits. Most important, however, he still has his kettle, his pipe, and all the comforts of his home at Bag End.
Analysis: Chapters 18–19
Thorin’s parting words resolve The Hobbit’s central conflict. Thorin at last regrets his greed, and he recognizes the value of a race like the hobbits (and particularly of Bilbo), which he had scorned at the beginning of the book. “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world,” Thorin says. Bilbo’s love of food, cheer, and song seem like undesirable qualities when we first meet him in his hill at Bag End. However, the great elves share these qualities, while the ill-fated Thorin does not.
Throughout The Hobbit, Bilbo struggles to subdue his love of comfort, which is the product of his Baggins heritage, and to tune in to his love of adventure, which comes from his Took heritage. However, he never really loses touch with the Baggins in him. As he rests in Beorn’s house, we see a return to the Bilbo who wishes nothing more than to sit in his old armchair. If The Hobbit has an overarching message, it is that even a small, unassuming person such as Bilbo possesses the inner resources necessary to perform adventurous, heroic deeds and that the transformation that makes him a hero does not erase his essential nature.
Bilbo’s heroic deeds are all the more remarkable because they fail to change him. He possesses a new confidence and a drastically widened perspective on the world, to the point that he now prefers the company of elves and wizards to that of other hobbits. Much of The Hobbit explores the contrast between the world in ancient epics that Tolkien studied as a scholar and the modern, English world in which he lived. The novel closes with a compromise between the two worlds: Bilbo goes on living amid the comforts of Bag End, but he passes his time reading and writing about adventure and conversing with characters from his heroic quest. In a way, this image is a concise symbol of Tolkien himself, living his comfortable life at Oxford while immersed in the grim violent imaginative realm of heroic literature, which he both studied and wrote.
The company’s quest, which seemed tainted by the greed that motivated it, is redeemed by its wide-ranging and beneficial effects. Lake Town is rebuilt stronger than before. Humans can once again live in Dale, no longer fearing the dragon’s fire. The goblins have been conquered, and, thus, much of the wilderness of the east has been made safer for travelers. Moreover, Bilbo hears in Rivendell that the errand that Gandalf performed while he was away from the quest was to join a great council of wizards, who have succeeded in driving the Necromancer out of southern Mirkwood. This is another incident that will have important ramifications in The Lord of the Rings, as the dark lord merely leaves Mirkwood to return to his ancient stronghold in the land of Mordor, where he attempts to conquer the world.
Despite our sense that other, perhaps grander, adventures are happening at the same time as the events recounted in The Hobbit, Bilbo nevertheless ends up playing a significant role in the larger affairs of Middle-Earth. Certainly, without Bilbo’s intervention at several tough points, Smaug would never have been killed, the treasure would never have been recovered, and the goblins would still roam the Misty Mountains. He is without question a hero, although such a title would hardly suit his tastes. In the book’s last passage, Gandalf jokingly chides the hobbit about his insignificance, telling him that he is “only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!” In part, the wizard is laughing at himself, because even he could hardly have foreseen just how important a role Bilbo would play.