In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
With these magic words starts one of my favourite books though there is not so much time to enjoy this comfort. Why? Bilbo Baggins, this hole’s owner, decides driven by the Tookish part (his mother was a Took) to join a party of thirteen drawes that longs to regain the treasure of the Lonely Mountain. Here the first background information – or what they sing about in “Misty Mountains”. These certain drawes lived once in the Lonely Mountain, which lies in the west of Mirkwood and northern of the Long Lake, build by River Running flowing out of the Mountain itself. But unfotunately the huge treasure of Thorin Oakenshield’s grandfather (Thorin is the party’s head) attracted a nice and kind dragon called Smaug. Smaug was so kind, that he ate almost all the drawes and now sleeps more or less about some hundred years on the stolen gold.
So Bilbo leaves his home on a morning in May on back of a pony even without a handkerchief! Soon afterwards he gets to know what it means to be freezing wet, really hungry and to afraid to sleep for longer than a few hours. For him being the “burglar” of the party he gets his companions into danger (e.g. the trolls), but most of the time he’s saving them. Their journey leads from the Shire, to the Last Homely House, through the Misty Mountains (caputered by goblins – later called orcs by Tolkien), saved by eagles from burning trees, getting acquainted with Beorn, a shape shifter, through Mirkwood, again captured (firstly by spiders, secondly by wood elves), afterwards to Lake Town and finally to the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo has some very interesting conversation with Smaug.
Thereafter Smaug flies out of the Lonely Mountain to visit the Lake Town which helped his enemies. But it takes a sad ending for him, for Bard, a stern man and descendant of Dale (ruined town quite close to the Lonely Mountain), uses a black arrow inherited by his father and hits the only weak point in the dragon’s belly. Actually it was Bilbo who found this weakness, but noone ever remembered afterwards. While winter is coming, the people from Lake Town gather together and with the woodelves and their king (Legolas’ father by the way) claim their share on the treasure. Thorin poisoned by the last bit of Smaug’s magic denies this and hopes for his relatives of the Iron Hills to defend his regained realm. Even when he’s offered the Arkenstone which he wanted most he stucks to this. On the other side there wasn’t a lot of time to rethink the whole thing, because the goblins still angry for the goblin king being slained by Thorin attack. What follows is known as the “Battle of the 5 Armies”, for human, elves and drawes fight against orcs and wargs (huge, evil wolves – though it’s actually just the swedish word for wolf), but also the eagles and Beorn fight along.
Finally one could call it nearly a happy ending, but then it’s a bitter happy ending. Thorin dies due to his wounds, while his nephews Fili and Kili die already on the battlefield trying to defend him. Still Bilbo is after his adventure with the drawes and after the adventures he has on the way back home (not written in detail) quite settled. There are only three things that changed: First he had to buy back a lot of his own furniture, second he became friends with many great persons of his time and third he lost his reputation in the Shire, but found a good way by a riddle game with Gollum to escape his relatives.
Three is an important number in this context, not only this wonderful book was splitted in three films, but it was also my third time to read it. There were so many details I wasn’t sure of while watching the last two films, so I wanted to refresh my knowledge.
I tried to reproduce the splitting for you according to my copy, but Peter Jackson changed the order slightly so it isn’t that clear.
- p. 3-102 An Unexpected Journey – Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire
- p. 103 – 209 Queer Lodgings – Inside Information (for it ends with Smaug saying “They shall see me and remember who is the real King under the Mountain”
- p. 210 – 272 Not at Home – The Last Stage
Now it’s time to bring some light into the mist gathering around the films.
Not in the book:
- any romance story
- some drawes staying behind in Lake Town
- Beorn attacking his guests (it’s actually a quite peaceful setting and full of story-telling)
- Barrel-Riding while hunted by orcs (they were shut in them!), by a closer look actually this complete troup of orcs pursuing them
Really in the book:
- stone giant in the Misty Mountains
- Gandalf fighting against the necromancer (it’s mentioned when he and Bilbo are back to Elrond in two sentences)
- the dwarves disturbing Legolas’ feast three times (okay, Legolas is not really mentioned – what a pity)
- the songs: Misty Mountains, Don’t Blunt the Knives, Down to Goblin-Town and a huge amount more (what’s about making a musical?)
- dwarves are highly superstitious
- and of course: Bilbo finding the One Ring
I hope I made you curious, for it’s really worth reading this piece of Tolkien’s work, especially in English. There are many passages that explain themselves only with the subtelties of the original language (e,g, “feast” instead of “celebration”, which lays the focus on the food).
Less than two months to go till the last film is shown in the cinemas and I’m getting more and more excited. Is there still no chance that Smaug might win? 😉