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The Hobbit

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The Hobbit

On the day the story begins, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, is enjoying a pipe outside his front door when an old man with a long cloak and a staff drops by. Bilbo recognizes the old man as the wizard Gandalf who has created spectacular fireworks displays on holidays in Hobbiton, but Bilbo still looks on Gandalf with a suspicious eye. When Gandalf asks if Bilbo would be interested in going on an adventure, the hobbit declines and excuses himself quickly, asking the wizard to come by for tea sometime (but only so as not to seem rude). Naturally, then, when the doorbell rings the next afternoon, Bilbo assumes it is Gandalf, so he is surprised when a dwarf named Dwalin enters and promptly sits down to eat. Soon, other dwarves arrive, and Bilbo becomes increasingly confused and annoyed until Gandalf finally enters with the head dwarf, Thorin. The thirteen dwarves and the wizard nearly clean out Bilbo's pantry before finally settling down to discuss their business. It seems that Gandalf has volunteered Bilbo to be a "burglar" for the dwarves on their adventure. The hobbit protests, and the dwarves grumble that "He looks more like a grocer than a burglar." Gandalf, however, is certain that Bilbo will prove useful. The wizard then brings out an old map of a great mountain and points to a mysterious secret entrance; Thorin holds the key to that door. At this point, Bilbo demands some clarification about the point of the whole expedition. Thorin explains that his grandfather, Thror, had mined the mountain shown on the map and discovered a wealth of gold and jewels. Thror then became King under the Mountain, but his fantastic treasure attracted unwanted attention. Soon, the dragon Smaug came and killed or scattered all of Thror's people. The dragon has been guarding the treasure ever since. Thorin and the rest of the dwarves are out to reclaim their rightful inheritance, even though they are unsure of what they will do with Smaug when they find him. Bilbo has a suspicion that they want him to play a part in this; although his Baggins side would like nothing better than to sit at home with his pipe, the Took in him is curious for adventure and is excited by tales of dragons and treasure and great battles. After looking at the map and discussing the adventure, the hobbit makes up beds for all his guests and then spends his night in troubled dreams. Bilbo wakes up rather late the next morning and is surprised--and a little relieved--to see that the dwarves have left without him. However, he is just sitting down to a quiet breakfast when Gandalf enters and rushes him off to the Bywater Inn, where Thorin and the rest of the dwarves have been waiting to begin their journey. As they head east on the main road, Bilbo sulks at having gone without breakfast or proper preparations. As if to spite him, rain begins to fall. By the time dusk approaches, the whole company is tired, hungry, ready to camp, and annoyed at Gandalf's mysterious disappearance earlier in the day. Suddenly, they see what looks like the light of a fire in the distance. They move closer to investigate it, and Bilbo is sent ahead in his first official task as "burglar." Coming near a clearing in the woods, he sees three huge trolls sitting around a fire and eating mutton. Bilbo tries to make off with one of their money purses, but they hear the noise and grab him. Trolls will eat just about anything but are also short-tempered and dull-witted, and they proceed to fight over cooking up Bilbo. The commotion attracts the dwarves, who unfortunately come to the clearing one at a time. The trolls stop fighting just long enough to hide in the trees and throw a sack over each approaching dwarf. Soon, they have everyone tied up except Bilbo, who has been forgotten. The trolls decide to cook the dwarves immediately; but then a voice, which sounds like one of the trolls, starts an argument, and the three trolls start fighting all over again. This goes on for some time, until the trolls suddenly notice, too late, that it is almost dawn. The sun peeks over the horizon and the trolls all freeze--for sunlight turns trolls to stone. Gandalf then steps triumphantly into the clearing; he had been throwing his voice all the while, keeping the argument going among the trolls until morning. He and Bilbo release the dwarves, who are shaken but otherwise unharmed. Searching nearby, they find the trolls' cave and a number of well-wrought weapons, which they take as payment for their pains. As the company sets off the next morning, Gandalf explains that he has checked the road ahead up to the last safe stop along their way. This is Rivendell, a city of elves located just beyond the Edge of the Wild, near the foothills of the Misty Mountains, which the company will have to pass. Approaching Rivendell, they are greeted by a number of elves, who invite them in to eat and rest. The next morning, they meet Elrond, the great chief elf, who is "as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer."

Elrond gives the company valuable information, for he can interpret the ancient runes on their new weapons and Thorin's map of the mountain. The swords taken from the trolls, he tells them, are from the great wars between the elves and the goblins, and they are famous goblin-killers. On Thorin's map, he is able to read "moon runes" (only visible in the light of the moon in the proper phase) that describe how to find the secret entrance on the Lonely Mountain: "Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, . . . and the setting sun with the last light of Durin's Day will shine upon the key-hole." Though they are puzzled by this message, the company is in high spirits when it at last leaves Rivendell, well rested and prepared for the road ahead. Bilbo and company advance upon the Misty Mountains. Thanks to the advice of Elrond and Gandalf, they are able to find a good pass over the mountain range among the many dead-end trails and drop off. Still, the climb is long and treacherous. Suddenly, a violent thunderstorm breaks upon them, forcing them to find shelter. Luckily, two of the dwarves (Fili and Kili) are able to find a cave in the side of the mountain, and they bring in the ponies and make camp for the night. In the middle of the night, Bilbo awakes with a start--just in time to see the ponies being dragged into an enormous crack that has opened in the cave wall. He yells, and out of the crack jump dozens of goblins, who tie up and carry off each member of the company--except for Gandalf, who was forewarned by Bilbo's yell. The goblins carry the dwarves and the hobbit down into the mountain until they reach the huge chamber where the Great Goblin sits. He demands to know what the travelers are doing in his mountain. Thorin tries to explain about the storm,



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