Finally, the company, and Bilbo, are free and clear of that horrid place in the mountain: the Dwarves because they were able to escape with their lives intact from the Great Goblin and the persecution of his minions after his death, and Bilbo who managed to escape capture and violent death by Gollum. Now that they have the safety of daylight on their side they can take a breath, regroup and continue on with their quest.
Gandalf: “Five, six, seven, eight. Bifur. Bofur. That’s 10. Fili, Kili! That’s 12. And Bombur. That makes 13. Where’s Bilbo? Where is our Hobbit? Where is our Hobbit?”
Dwalin: “Curse the Halfling! Now he’s lost?”
Glóin: “I thought he was with Dori!”
Dori: “Don’t blame me!”
Gandalf counts the Dwarves (again), something the actor Ian McKellan didn’t really care for, only to come one company member short. All the Dwarves are present but Bilbo is nowhere to be found. This is the first time the Dwarves looked around themselves to see that their burglar was missing. With the lack of time and freedom while in Goblin-town they couldn’t focus on anything other than their own escape.
They held together as a group but without including the Hobbit into it. Only when Gandalf mentions him do they notice his absence, and even then it doesn’t seem to matter that much. His absence only seems to infuriate them rather than worry them. Bilbo could have been lost or worse, killed, but that doesn’t seem to upset them terribly.
Not being able to answer Gandalf his question, the Dwarves begin to blame each other for losing sight of the Hobbit. A strategy that helps no one.
Gandalf: “Where did you last see him?”
Nori: “I think I saw him slip away when they first collared us.”
Gandalf: “What happened, exactly? Tell me!”
Thorin: “I’ll tell you what happened. Master Baggins saw his chance and he took it. He has thought of nothing but his soft bed and his warm hearth since first he stepped out of his door. We will not be seeing our Hobbit again. He is long gone.”
Nori then suddenly remembers seeing Bilbo disappear into the crowd of Goblins when they were first captured. That information does not alleviate Gandalf’s worries so he enquires further. Since Nori doesn’t have any additional information to provide on the Hobbit, Thorin steps in sharing his own opinion of what happened.
Although he could not possibly know what happened to Bilbo or cared to know he simply concluded that the Hobbit saw an opportunity to finally be rid of the discomfort and disrespect of his comrades.
It is no wonder Thorin would say this, for the last he heard or seen of Bilbo was when he was saying goodbye to Bofur, wanting to leave the cave they were all sleeping in. What he heard from him there was the lack of belonging he felt inside the group and the sense of belonging he felt when he was at home surrounded by his books, his warm hearth and all the comforts of home.
Thorin isn’t wrong to think what he thinks given the evidence he himself was awake to hear. Having Bilbo out of the picture means they would be traveling lighter than before, not having to worry if a member of their company would get himself killed or injured on their quest. Another soulless to save from trouble. Not that they paid any attention to his well-being whilst in the caves anyway.
While Thorin is expressing his opinion of Bilbo, again, Bilbo listens intently from behind a tree. Having the Ring on no one can even sense his presence let alone see him. This gives him the perfect opportunity to really run and save himself from the rest of the quest, or simply listen on what the Dwarves have to say about him.
There is truth in what Thorin says and Bilbo is more than aware of it, but for all its truthfulness and honesty, it brings him sadness hearing Thorin say it. He could have disappeared and never reappeared again if he wanted to. But as sadness touches his eyes as he hears the anger behind Thorin’s words, he decides on another course.
The anger or resentment that colours Thorin’s words may be for two reasons: one that he is genuinely angry at the Hobbit for his complaining about not being home and not belonging with them, or two, he is resentful because Bilbo has somewhere to belong. I would bet it was the second.
For all the grief and anger he had been carrying around with him, Thorin is likely to spew it out in regards to a Hobbit who hadn’t had the misfortunes that he did. It is almost as if Thorin is jealous of Bilbo having had a sheltered life and him having to be hardened by the life that befell him.
Bilbo: “No, he isn’t.”
Gandalf: “Bilbo Baggins. I have never been so glad to see anyone in my life.”
Kili: “Bilbo. We’d given you up.”
Fili: “How on earth did you get past the Goblins?”
Dwalin: “How, indeed.”
Gandalf: “Well, what does it matter? He’s back.”
Bilbo steps out from behind the tree, presenting himself in spite of the Dwarves’ expectations. Gandalf is overjoyed to see him, as is Kili, but Fili and Dwalin do not share their enthusiasm. They appear to be angered at the sight of him. As they ask how he managed to escape the Goblins when even they couldn’t, Bilbo places the Ring into his vest pocket. This slight movement of the hand only catches Gandalf’s eye.
Everyone else is oblivious to Bilbo’s movements. Dwalin looks on incredulously at Bilbo, with doubt searing from his eyes, not believing for a second that he managed to fight his way out of Goblin-town unscathed, given his inexperience with weapons. Gandalf, in an effort to change the subject and not let anyone else on how the Hobbit escaped his fate, focuses on the fact of his return.
Thorin: “It matters. I want to know. Why did you come back?”
Bilbo: “Look, I know you doubt me. I know you always have. And you’re right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair and my garden. See, that’s where I belong. That’s home. And that’s why I came back. Because you don’t have one, a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.”
Although other Dwarves would have let the subject go, Thorin is not so easy to sway. He is determined to know why he came back when he once already packed his bags and almost left their company. What would stop him from doing it again, right at the precise moment they needed him the most?
It is obvious that Thorin has immense trust issues, and they will continue to grow as they near the mountain, but right now these issues are focused on the one member of the company he didn’t even ask to come with him, but who was pushed on him by Gandalf.
The comforts of home
Bilbo uses this opportunity to say his peace and be as honest as possible to the rest of the company. They are right to think of him as someone who misses his home and everything in it, but they have underestimated him in another, more important aspect, the want to help the less fortunate than him.
He cannot understand what it feels like to lose his home, but he certainly knows what it feels like to have somewhere to belong to and what it means to him. And he wants them to experience the same feeling of warmth and comfort he does when he lounges in his Hobbit hole.
Since the Dwarves were bereft of their home through an outside influence, they had no choice in the matter but to flee for their lives. This left them in a permanent state of nostalgia and want of belonging which they are now trying to accomplish.
Bilbo has seen in the eyes of Bofur how much it hurt them and how much sadness it brought them not having somewhere to belong. And for all that he is good for, he will do his best to help them achieve their goal.
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