Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 4

“The most that can be said for the dwarves is this: they intended to pay Bilbo really handsomely for his services; they had brought him to do a nasty job for them, and they did not mind the poor little fellow doing it if he would; but they would all have done their best to get him out of trouble, if he got into it. . . . There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.”

In this passage from Chapter 12, the narrator makes an apology for the dwarves’ bad behavior in sending Bilbo into the dragon’s lair all alone. The narrator implies that the dwarves’ cowardice is not really their fault. Their character—their greed and deceptiveness—is inherent to their race. Tolkien’s apologetic explanation indicates the extent to which race is treated as a powerful determinant of identity in his Middle-Earth. No character is capable of breaking past the boundaries set by birth—goblins are all evil, elves are all good, and so on. It is important to note, however, that race in Middle-Earth is not the same as race in the real world.