Bilbo is to be a burglar in this company’s great venture. Not only he himself knows this not to be the right decision for him or the occupation, but the Dwarves see him as more of a liability than a strength. From what they witnessed while rummaging through his home, they could only deduce that he is more concerned about the state of his home and his possessions than the truth of the situation. Bilbo might probably agree with this assessment of theirs, as he is the proud owner of all his possessions and makes a point of telling others how old they are and who they belonged to.
Unable in the Wild
Dwalin: “Aye, the Wild is no place for gentle folk who can neither fight nor fend for themselves.”
Kili: “He’s just fine.”
Someone so involved with his family’s heirlooms cannot be counted to take care of himself on the treacherous paths of the world. He would be missing all that he holds dear, including the warmth and safety of his home. Bilbo agrees with Dwalin on the subject. He does not want to participate in an adventure any more than they want him in their company.
Kili’s comment is one of placation. He is determined to succeed in the quest and to have as many people helping their cause as possible. He does not objectively see the liability this Hobbit could be to the entire quest. Kili is interested in using whatever skills Bilbo possesses to achieve what his uncle has set out to do.
Gandalf’s final word
Gandalf: “Enough. If I say Bilbo Baggins is a burglar then a burglar he is. Hobbits are remarkably light on their feet. In fact they can pass unseen by most, if they choose. And, while the dragon is accustomed to the smell of Dwarf, the smell of Hobbit is all but unknown to him which gives us a distinct advantage. You asked me to find the 14th member of this company and I have chosen Mr. Baggins. There’s a lot more to him than appearances suggest. And he’s got a great deal more to offer than any of you know, including himself. You must trust me on this.”
Gandalf knows all too well why he chose Bilbo to help their cause. The points he makes are attributes that all Hobbits share. Bilbo, however, is in need of a change, in Gandalf’s opinion. It is still unclear to Bilbo what his smell and the dragon has anything to do with the quest, for his involvement with the said beast is still held as a secret. This is something he will discover as he enters Erebor himself.
What is more, apart from his applicable appearance and unknown smell, Gandalf has thought of Bilbo’s other qualities and strengths that aren’t necessarily visible. He has faith in the Hobbit more than Bilbo has in himself, and for all that he knows he is, there are qualities in him that Gandalf has seen, that will benefit not only the company but Bilbo himself.
Unknown qualities and instincts
We can know ourselves deeply, understand ourselves, but there are qualities and traits in us that not even we ourselves have not yet discovered. This depends on the situations in which we find ourselves. If there was never any real danger to ourselves or to someone we care about, then there was never any real reason for our protective sides to shine through. We can never know what we are capable of before we are placed in a position that demands our reaction. As with all situations, there is always a decision to be made, an instant decision that defines our character in a particular situation.
The fight or flight instinct. These are instincts we all carry within ourselves, an instinct that provides us with an immediate response in a threatening situation. We don’t have to be in a life or death situation for these instincts to kick in. Even in everyday situations, such as confrontations and arguments with others, this instinct will appear. In a flight instinct mode, one is the kind of person to avoid confrontation or standing one’s own ground in an argument or simply leaving the argument altogether.
This does not mean one is weak or unassertive, it just points to a trait that has not yet been developed in them. When one responds to all situations with the fight instinct, not being able to distinguish where the line should be drawn, then this person needs fine-tuning as well. This is a lifelong process of self-improvement, one everyone goes through.
Bilbo will certainly be exposed to as many situations as possible that will challenge his instincts and help him balance out these two opposing forces.
Thorin: “Very well. We’ll do it your way.”
Bilbo: “No, no.”
Thorin: “Give him the contract.”
Bofur: “We’re in. We’re off.”
Balin: “It’s just the usual. Summary of out-of-pocket expenses, time required, remuneration, funeral arrangements, so forth.”
Bilbo: “Funeral arrangements?”
Since Thorin has no other choice but to trust Gandalf on his estimation of Bilbo, he takes the next step in the negotiations by presenting Bilbo with a contract. He does not do this in a gentle manner, but rather pushes the contract into Bilbo’s hands without glancing at him once.
As this is something they all had to sign, the Dwarves don’t find the contract as anything significant, just a piece of paper one signs when joining a company. Bilbo is, however, much more thorough about these things. He reads the contract in front of them, line by line, to see exactly what he is getting himself into. The funeral arrangements throw him off since he wasn’t planning on dying on this possible quest of theirs. But since they have to plan ahead of time for these kinds of things, this particular clause has to have a place in the contract. Although stunned by it, Bilbo reads on.
On his own
Thorin: “I cannot guarantee his safety.”
Thorin: “Nor will I be responsible for his fate.”
While Bilbo is otherwise occupied, Thorin makes it clear to Gandalf that Bilbo is to be responsible for his own life and his own fate. Thorin will not carry the burden of Bilbo’s life or death. If he chooses to go with them, he does so understanding he is on his own. He may be a part of their company, but when his life is concerned, it is his to rescue. Since Thorin does not believe in the Hobbit’s ability to fend for himself, his statement is a much-needed agreement of understanding between him and Gandalf. No one can guarantee anyone’s safety, so everyone is responsible for their own fate and their own lives.
Bilbo: ““Terms: Cash on delivery, up to but not exceeding one-fourteenth of total profit, if any.” Seems fair. “Present company shall not be liable for injuries inflicted by or sustained as a consequence thereof, including, but not limited to lacerations, evisceration, incineration?””
Bofur: “Aye. He’ll melt the flesh off your bones in the blink of an eye.”
Balin: “You all right, laddie?”
Bilbo: “Yeah. Feel a bit faint.”
Bofur: “Think furnace with wings.”
Bilbo: “Air, I need air.”
Bofur: “Flash of light, searing pain, then puff you’re nothing more than a pile of ash.”
Gandalf: “Oh, very helpful, Bofur.”
In his own colorful way, Bofur describes death by the dragon. Although Bilbo has heard of dragons, this vivid description was never a part of the fairy stories. This information throws him for a loop, turning his stomach and his head simultaneously. The thought of being lacerated, eviscerated, and incinerated brings about particular images in his mind that ignites fear in his very bones. While Bilbo reads these consequences, Gandalf looks toward Bilbo in angst he might back out of the quest altogether. He had not signed the contract yet, but this kind of repercussion will make him question his involvement with the company.
Bilbo’s breathing does not help him calm down, and neither does Bofur’s insistence of piling on. Balin expresses concern over the obvious panic attack that is happening before his eyes. Although compassion is a positive feeling Bilbo certainly is in need of, it does not stay his panic and he falls to the floor.
Gandalf reprimands Bofur and sees to Bilbo’s recuperation. Read on in my next post.
Photo credit to Bilbo’s contract, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, WETA Workshop, Wellington, New Zealand