It was supposed to be a quiet night, Bilbo alone with his fish dinner enjoying his life the way he always has. The smile on his face tells us not only of his long habit of dining alone but also of his enjoyment of the activity. There is no family to annoy him, no children with whom he would share his meal, no Frodo yet either. And there he was, minding his own business, preparing to eat his own dinner in peace, when fate intervened.
There’s a ring of the doorbell just as he was salting his fish.
Dwalin: “Dwalin, at your service.”
Bilbo: “Hm. Uh, Bilbo Baggins, at yours. Do we know each other?”
Dwalin: “No. Which way laddie? Is it down here?”
Bilbo: “Is what down where?”
Dwalin: “Supper. He said there’d be food and lots of it.”
Bilbo: “He said? Who said?”
The mere sight of Dwalin, in spite of his offering of service, intimidates Bilbo. He adjusts his robe as he encounters Dwalin’s stern look. He definitely wants to leave a good first impression, regardless of the fact that he has never seen this Dwarf before. It is Dwalin’s general attitude that keeps Bilbo from closing the door on him. There is something menacing about him. If it came to any kind of altercation, Bilbo is sure not to be on the winning side.
The dynamics of their first encounter reminds me of that between a bully and the shy kid on the playground. The only way to escape the bully is to run, engaging it would probably lead to psychological, emotional, or physical abuse. So, whatever the reason behind Dwalin’s visit is, Bilbo simply lets him into his home, a far better solution to the alternative.
Dwalin on the other hand does not even try to be pleasant or respectful to Bilbo. His only purpose is to find something to eat, as simple as that. He was told there would be food and thus he came to find it.
Dwalin: “Very good this. Any more?”
Bilbo: “What? Uh, yes, yes. Help yourself. Hm. It’s just that, um, I wasn’t expecting company.”
Dwalin: “That’ll be the door.”
As Dwalin fills his mouth with Bilbo’s dinner, Bilbo sits behind him looking at the inappropriate manner in which this Dwarf is devouring his meal. What’s more, he is starting to boil on the inside. He had his evening all planned and ready to go, and now he is a guest in his own home, with this beast of a Dwarf sitting in his place at the table. Infuriating.
Nevertheless, he is as cordial as he could possibly be, and when questioned provides Dwalin with the little bread buns, which Dwalin, in turn, engulfs as he did the fish’s head. Bilbo keeps a couple for himself, saving what he can for himself to eat. And then the doorbell rings again.
Balin: “Balin, at your service.”
Bilbo: “Good evening.”
Balin: “Yes. Yes, it is. Though I think it might rain later.”
Balin: “Am I late?”
Bilbo: “Late for what?”
Now that there are two Dwarves in his Hobbit hole, he might be suspecting a plan afoot. As Balin questions his being late, there must be information circling that a gathering of some sort is taking place at Bag End. What gathering exactly Bilbo can’t know. But this isn’t random. Thankfully, unlike his predecessor, Balin is very cordial and respectful toward Bilbo. He even makes small talk about the possibility of rain. Bilbo’s “good evening” is not taken as a greeting, but rather a statement on the weather of the evening. An interesting meaning to gleam out of a simple greeting.
Balin: “Oh! Ha, ha! Evening brother.”
Dwalin: “By my beard, you are shorter and wider than last we met.”
Balin: “Wider, not shorter. Sharp enough for the both of us.”
Bilbo: “Uh, excuse me? Sorry, I hate to interrupt. But the thing is, I’m not entirely sure you’re in the right house.”
After their initial headbutting greeting, which startles Bilbo, Balin and Dwalin continue talking only amongst themselves, leaving Bilbo completely out of the loop of what is going on. He tries to get a word in but fails to grab their attention. He’s too polite and quiet a creature to have any kind of impact in this now Dwarf ran Hobbit hole. He has lost authority in his own home as soon as Dwalin set foot inside it. A terrible feeling it must be, especially if one is as private as Bilbo, his Hobbit hole being his private sanctuary.
Dwalin: “Have you eaten?”
Bilbo: “It’s not that I don’t like visitors. I like visitors as much as the next Hobbit. But I do like to know them before they come visiting.”
Dwalin: “What is this?”
Balin: “I don’t know. I think it’s cheese. Gone blue.”
Dwalin: “It’s riddled with mold.”
Bilbo: “The thing is, I don’t know either of you. Not in the slightest. I don’t mean to be blunt, but I had to speak my mind. I’m sorry.”
Balin: “You think…? Apology accepted.”
Balin: “Now, fill it up, brother, don’t stint.”
Dwalin: “You wanna get stuck in?”
Balin: “I could eat again if you insist, brother.”
Poor Bilbo tries to catch their attention, explaining how he likes to receive his guests, while Dwalin and Balin pillage his pantry. They are still not giving him the light of day. An incredibly infuriating situation to be in. In all his politeness he is stating facts that everyone would objectively agree to be true. However, he hasn’t told them once he wants them out of his house. That would be crossing the line of good manners.
What Bilbo is trying to accomplish is that they themselves figure they need to leave, but as they are not paying any attention to Bilbo’s comments, there is no way they would even consider it.
What they do hear is Bilbo’s apology, which Balin falsely interprets as him apologizing for his own behavior. Interesting to see that Dwalin and Balin don’t seem to find their behavior at all inappropriate. Bilbo is taken aback by Balin’s acceptance of his apology. He was being assertive enough to express his own opinion and kindly finished by apologizing for it, which for all intents and purposes he didn’t have to do. It is his house and his will to do whatever he wanted in it, including wanting the two Dwarves to leave.
Fili and Kili
And again the doorbell rings.
Kili: “And Kili.”
Both: “At your service.”
Kili: “You must be Mr. Boggins.”
Bilbo: “Nope! You can’t come in. You’ve come to the wrong house.”
Kili: “What? Has it been canceled?”
Fili: “No one told us.”
Bilbo: “No, nothing’s been canceled.”
Kili: “That’s a relief.”
Two more Dwarves. This is getting out of hand. As Kili pronounces his name wrong Bilbo finally has a reason to slam the door in their faces. Could it be that Balin and Dwalin have come to the wrong house as well? When they ask if it, whatever it may be, has been canceled, Bilbo, naturally answers negatively. There was no party planned to be canceled now, a perfectly reasonable train of thought. However, given the information Fili and Kili had been given, Bilbo’s answer confirms their plans and they enter his house without an invitation.
Fili: “Careful with these. I just had them sharpened.”
Kili: “It’s nice, this place.”
Kili: “Did you do it yourself?”
Bilbo: “What? No it’s been in the family for years. That’s my mother’s glory box. Can you please not do that?”
To make things even worse, they invade Bilbo’s house disrespectfully, cleaning the mud off their boots on his mother’s glory box. Whatever one’s opinion may be of such furniture items, an implied sense of respect should be instilled in anyone entering someone else’s house, especially someone they have never met before. Dwarves, apparently, don’t have the slightest sense of appropriateness and good manners.
Eight Dwarves and a Wizard
Dwalin: “Fili, Kili. Come on, give us a hand.”
Kili: “Mr. Dwalin.”
Balin: “Shove this in the hallway. Otherwise we’ll never get everyone in.”
Bilbo: “Everyone? How many more are there?”
Dwalin: “Where do you want this?”
Bilbo: “Oh, no.”
Dwalin: “It’s really heavy.”
Bilbo: “No. No. There’s nobody home! Go away and bother somebody else. There’s far too many Dwarves in my dining room as it is. If this is some clot-head’s idea of a joke I can only say it is in very poor taste. Gandalf.”
And now they are rearranging his dining room. The nerve of some people. As the doorbell rings again, Bilbo’s patience runs out. He is now expressing himself without any need for an “I’m sorry” at the end. They have usurped his territory without his permission and without any regard for his personal feelings or belongings.
The situation is so ludicrous that he gives off a madman’s laugh at the incredibility of it all. What else could he think other than someone playing a practical joke on him? As he opens the door, another eight Dwarves fall on top of one another right in front of him. And then the culprit shows his face, finally.
Knowing about his inflexibility and unwillingness to cooperate voluntarily, Gandalf had to come up with a way for them to swarm Bilbo’s home without him having any say in it and he was very successful in the execution of his plan. And Bilbo finally knows who is behind all of this. The small inconvenience to Bilbo’s life is nothing compared to what they have in store for him next. Read on in the following post.
Photo credit to Der Hobbit Broschur XL 2020, Athesia Kalenderverlag GmbH