Facing death hanging by one hand over a ledge of a mountain that had just come to life must have been an experience Bilbo wasn’t ready for. How could he be? Stone giants throwing boulders at each other, headbutting one another…complete mayhem. It was an unbelievable event to witness, a legend coming true. As the Dwarves saw Bilbo holding onto the ledge, they made an effort to return him to safety.
Dwalin: “I thought we’d lost our burglar.”
Thorin: “He’s been lost ever since he left home. He should never have come. He has no place amongst us. Dwalin!”
And there it is, plain as day, Thorin’s thoughts of Bilbo. It is too light to say that Bilbo wasn’t thrilled by Thorin’s opinion. After the shock of his near death experience now another blow from the one who saved him. Bilbo is hurt, very much so. Although he suspected Thorin’s feelings he never would have thought to hear them be said out loud.
I would think that Bilbo’s upbringing and manners taught him not to voice his opinion as crudely as Thorin just did. I would think he would either keep it to himself or describe it in a way that is non-threatening to the other. Thorin never learned such finesse, which is why he says precisely what he means without any regard to whom it may hurt.
It could also be said, however, that Thorin is mad at himself and not at the Hobbit, for it is he who climbed down to save Bilbo after explicitly stating he would not be responsible for his fate. As with the Trolls, Thorin has now gone back twice on his word, which to him might be equal to a federal crime. He does not like that he cares for Bilbo and he does not willingly admit it to himself either. It would have been ten times easier to just let Bilbo fend for himself but would Thorin be able to live with it? Apparently not, because if he did he would have let the Hobbit fall.
This rescue and its subsequent resentment say more about Thorin’s character than Bilbo’s. The fact that Thorin belittles Bilbo in front of everyone shows two things: Thorin’s embarrassment on showing care for the Hobbit and his strive to be the leader he thinks his Dwarves need him to be.
Shelter in need
Dwalin: “It looks safe enough.”
Thorin: “Search to the back. Caves in the mountain are seldom unoccupied.”
Dwalin: “There’s nothing here.”
Glóin: “Right then. Let’s get a fire started.”
Thorin: “No. No fires. Not in this place. Get some sleep. We start at first light.”
Balin: “We were to wait in the mountains until Gandalf joined us. That was the plan.”
Thorin: “Plans change. Bofur, take the first watch.”
Azog: “The scent is fresh. They have taken the mountain pass.”
Shelter is finally found. They have found a nice hideout from the storm and the rain outside. Since this territory is unknown, they cannot go about as they did by the farmer’s house. They need to be more alert and doubtful of this place.
Thorin does not wait for the Wizard to show him the way. He makes his own. The plan was to wait, but as Gandalf is not there to meet them, they will move on on their own. Balin, though familiar with the paths of the Wild, seems to still prefer the company of the Wizard and his expertise to guide them along rather than rely on himself. Thorin thinks otherwise and takes charge in Gandalf’s stead.
Bofur unwillingly takes the first watch. Simultaneously, Azog and his lot trail the scent of the Dwarves to exactly where they turned from the hills and valleys and onto the mountain.
The Dwarves sleep, but Bilbo is only pretending. As soon as everyone quietens down, and Bombur starts to snore, he folds his sleeping bag, fastens his backpack onto his back, grabs his walking stick and heads for the exit.
Bofur: “Where do you think you’re going?”
Bilbo: “Back to Rivendell.”
Bofur: “No, no, you can’t turn back now, eh? You’re part of the company. You’re one of us.”
Bilbo: “I’m not though, am I? Thorin said I should never have come and he was right. I’m not a Took, I’m a Baggins. I don’t know what I was thinking. I should never have run out my door.”
Bofur suddenly awakens as Bilbo tries to exit past him. He is surprised to see him go. Just moments ago Bofur was lending a hand to help save Bilbo, and now he is leaving? That cannot be true. For all Thorin had said about Bilbo, Bofur probably reckoned Thorin was just saying words that would not be taken seriously. Obviously, Bofur was wrong. The words did hurt Bilbo but they were also the truth. There is a reason why Bilbo would want to go back to Rivendell. He would probably stay there forever if he could. But in the company of the Dwarves he feels meaningless and unwelcome.
Bofur, and I suspect the rest of the company excluding Thorin and probably Dwalin, see Bilbo as a part of their company. However, Thorin’s words echoed deeper to Bilbo, where he himself admitted not to feel like part of the company. He felt this way already in Rivendell, why would it be any different now that he has heard the opinion of his supposed leader.
It is one thing to agree to accompany a troupe of Dwarves around Middle-Earth to help them retrieve their gold, but it is completely different to feel as if he belonged. Bilbo cannot belong with them in the Dwarvish sense of the word, because he is not a Dwarf. But in all other aspects that matter, the core values that every race shares he is more than just a member of their company.
Bilbo doubts himself for ever thinking he could do this. Given Thorin’s evaluation of his character, he was obviously wrong to do so. Therefore, he wants to try and rectify the situation he put himself and the company in by leaving.
Whilst the two are talking Thorin is eavesdropping and although nothing is said one could tell from his eyes there may be some regret for voicing his mind earlier. It could very well be that he didn’t mean to bring it this far. He was mad, mad at himself, and he took it out on Bilbo, unnecessarily.
Bofur: “You’re homesick. I understand.”
Bilbo: “No, you don’t. You don’t understand. None of you do. You’re Dwarves. You’re used to this life, to living on the road never settling in one place, not belonging anywhere! Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t…”
Bofur: “No, you’re right. We don’t belong anywhere. I wish you all the luck in the world. I really do.”
Bilbo’s lashing out. It took all of his patience and composure to keep his true feelings hidden. However, now that the question of belonging has again been raised he speaks his mind. If Thorin can judge him based on no proof at all then what stops Bilbo from doing the same? Although far apart in tradition, manners and lifestyles, both Bilbo and the Dwarves share a commonality, the longing for home. The Dwarves may not have one as such, but the feeling is real nevertheless.
Bilbo knows exactly what he misses and why he misses it, whereas the Dwarves can only imagine what it would be like to finally have a home of their own. The concept and the feelings tied to the concept of belonging are the same though the experience is somewhat different.
Bilbo, however impulsively and cruelly tries to make Bofur understand the difference between them, he fails to see the big picture. His lash out is simply a consequence of his hurt feelings. However, as opposed to Thorin, Bilbo sees where he crossed the line. He can detect the sadness in Bofur’s eyes as he rambles on, and he is not immune to it, he doesn’t ignore it. As soon as the last sentence is finished he apologizes, he knows he had gone too far.
Compassion to sadness
From empathy to depression in a matter of seconds. That is what this particular conversation had brought Bofur. The sad reality of his existence strikes him like a slap in the face. They truly do not belong anywhere. Their home was taken by force, they fled to the Blue Mountains to recover some normalcy, but no matter how normal this new life became for them, it was never a home.
Thorin, still listening to the conversation, feels the same weight of sadness that Bofur feels. He can attest to not only having a home to belong to but losing it to greed with a slight chance of reclaiming it one day. A struggle he deals with every day.
They have the need to belong somewhere as we all do. It might be our childhood home or the home we make for ourselves. No matter where and what it is, it is an essential part of being a human being. It is a stabilizing presence in the ever-changing process that is life.
And then Bilbo’s sword begins to glow blue.
Bofur: “What’s that?”
Thorin: “Wake up! Wake up!”
Thorin knows just what his sword glowing blue represents and as soon as sand starts to fall through the newly forming cracks in the ground he screams for the others to wake. He was right to doubt the safety of this cave.
Read on in my next post.