Summary: Chapter 6
Fleeing from the goblins—and still invisible, thanks to the ring—Bilbo looks back and realizes that he has made it to the other side of the Misty Mountains. The tunnels have taken him all the way through the range. Walking along, he stumbles upon Gandalf and the dwarves, who have just been wondering whether they should leave without him. The hobbit slips off the ring and surprises them and then explains how he made his way out of the mountain. However, he refrains from mentioning his discovery of the magic ring and the role it played in his escape from Gollum and the goblins.
Gandalf implores the company to get moving again since only the sunlight is keeping the goblins from coming after them. The group is a bit north of where they had planned to be, and they have difficult country to cross. Evening comes as they pass through a grove of trees. Suddenly, they hear the howling of wolves and barely have time to scurry up into the trees before the wolves descend upon them. The beasts are actually wolflike creatures called Wargs. The Wargs are allies of the goblins, and they quickly notify the goblins of the situation. The goblins begin to arrive and, laughing at the company’s predicament, light fires under the trees in which Gandalf, the dwarves, and Bilbo are hiding.
Gandalf prepares to attack the goblins, hoping to kill as many as he can before they kill him. Luckily for the company, the Lord of the Eagles has seen the commotion from his roost high in the mountains. With a number of other eagles, he swoops down, picks up the marooned travelers, and flies them to safety. The eagles are friends of Gandalf’s and enemies of the goblins. They are happy to provide food and rest for the weary travelers, who then continue on their journey.
Summary: Chapter 7
Once again, Gandalf disappoints the company by announcing that he must leave. He says, however, that he will stay around long enough to help them find food and ponies so that they can make their way on their own through Mirkwood—the last great obstacle before the Lonely Mountain. He leads them to the house of Beorn. Beorn is a half-man, half-bear creature who has a great wooden house in the middle of the woods outside Mirkwood. Gandalf takes the dwarves to Beorn’s house a few at a time, so as not to startle him. He tells Beorn the story of their adventure in the mountain. Gandalf’s story amuses Beorn greatly because he despises goblins, who are enemies of nature.
Beorn offers the company much-needed food and lodging. He also does some scouting and finds that the Wargs and goblins have put together an attack party in order to find the dwarves and wizard that killed their leader, the Great Goblin. To evade this attack party, Beorn recommends that the group take the northern pass (the elf path) through Mirkwood, which will bring them near the Lonely Mountain. This choice will throw the goblins off the company’s trail and allow them to bypass the dangerous southern pass. The northern pass is not entirely safe either, so Beorn repeatedly warns his guests never to stray from the path.
Beorn provides the group with food and ponies to carry them to the gate at the path’s start. From there, however, they must return the ponies and travel on foot. When they reach the path, Gandalf also departs, wishing his friends the best and reminding them never to stray from the path—dark things lurk in Mirkwood that even the wizard does not know about. On that note, the dwarves and the hobbit plunge into the forest.
Analysis: Chapters 6–7
Although the eagles and Beorn help the company tremendously, they both express that hatred for goblins, rather than love for dwarves, is their main reason for helping the company. Neither Beorn nor the eagles have any interest in the dwarves’ gold, but as representatives of pure nature, they are the sworn enemies of corrupted nature, represented by the goblins and Wargs. The eagles generally keep distant from the affairs of other races, and Beorn can be downright cruel to those who displease him. When he finds a goblin and a Warg prowling about in the woods, for instance, he puts the goblin’s head on a stake and the Warg’s pelt on a tree outside his house as a warning. Beorn and the eagles show all the brute force of nature and, in fact, seem to be part of it. Gandalf surmises that, long ago, Beorn was born from the mountains themselves.
By the end of Chapter 7, the episodic nature of The Hobbit narrative becomes increasingly clear. Like successive episodes of a popular television show, each chapter brings a new setting and a new set of adventures. Chapter 2 involved the trolls, Chapter 3 introduced us to Elrond and Rivendell, Chapter 4 involved the goblins, Chapter 5 chronicled Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum, and so forth. Once an adventure is completed, it generally has relatively little bearing on the rest of the novel. The one continuous thread, however, is that the changes Bilbo undergoes as a result of each adventure affect his behavior in subsequent adventures.
Moreover, until the group nears its destination at the Lonely Mountain, the particular adventures that they face have little to do with their ultimate goal of regaining Thorin’s treasure. Dangers like the goblins and the tempest are merely incidental obstacles the characters encounter on the way to their destination. These impediments make up The Hobbit’s cast of antagonists, each of whom predominates in a single adventure. Examples of particular antagonists include the Great Goblin, the spiders of Mirkwood, and the great dragon Smaug.
The novel’s overall tone grows darker and more ominous the farther the company travels, so that the solace they find in Beorn’s lair after escaping the goblins seems grim and violent compared to the solace they found in Rivendell after escaping the trolls. Even after the company escapes the goblins, the coming journey into Mirkwood seems so perilous that the road ahead seems more frightening than the road behind. This gradually darkening tone builds tension. It also transforms the novel’s dynamic from a lighthearted children’s story into a more serious epic. This gradual change corresponds to the reader’s immersion into the tale and to Bilbo’s transformation into a true hero. As Bilbo travels farther from the safe and familiar comforts of Hobbiton, the dangers he faces heighten, and he evolves from a humble hobbit into a noble protagonist heroically negotiating his way through evil.