Another doorbell rings. This was the Dwarf Gandalf was missing. This is the Dwarf that unites them all. Although he is expected to attend, the mere action of the doorbell ring tightens the loose atmosphere in Bilbo’s home. All the Dwarves were laughing and entertaining themselves as they tidied up the mess they had made. They came together as a unit, an organized band of Dwarves who not only provided themselves with the food they consumed but who also made a point of straightening up after themselves.
In a household situation, they do not need a steering wheel to direct them. They know each other well enough to know what their individual strengths and weaknesses are. They can count on each other to help clean up.
As soon as the doorbell rang, the laughter that defined them vanished. All their faces turned serious in anticipation of the coming of their leader.
Gandalf: “He is here.”
Thorin: “Gandalf. I thought you said this place would be easy to find. I lost my way, twice. I wouldn’t have found it at all had it not been for that mark on the door.”
Bilbo: “Mark? There’s no mark on that door. It was painted a week ago.”
Gandalf: “There is a mark. I put it there myself. Bilbo Baggins, allow me to introduce the leader of our company: Thorin Oakenshield.”
As Thorin enters the Hobbit hole, all the Dwarves standing near him bow their heads in the presence of the King Under the Mountain. Bilbo, not knowing the dynamic of their relationship to this particular Dwarf, does not take to bowing. Thorin is just another uninvited Dwarf in his home. Gandalf, however, introduces Bilbo to Thorin, officially, something he did not do with all the other Dwarves.
Thorin: “So, this is the Hobbit. Tell me, Mr. Baggins, have you done much fighting?”
Bilbo: “Pardon me?”
Thorin: “Ax or sword? What is your weapon of choice?”
Bilbo: “Well, I do have some skill at conkers, if you must know, but I fail to see why that’s relevant.”
Thorin: “Thought as much. He looks more like a grocer than a burglar.”
Immediately upon meeting Bilbo, Thorin exercises his role as the leader with all the arrogance that a particular role can entail. Thorin crosses his arms across his chest signaling the unwelcomeness of the Hobbit, powerful body language. He circles the Hobbit as if he were on trial for something he has no idea he’s done. Thorin, of course, has the information Bilbo lacks and is assessing Bilbo as per the agreement with the Wizard about taking the Hobbit with them on their quest.
Bilbo, being put in an awkward position of being the center of attention of something he doesn’t know is afoot, plays his role the best he can, asserting his position as the skillful conkers player. He was just trying to mirror the same attitude that Thorin was showing him. It would have been a disparaging tête-à-tête if only one of them asserted their dominance. Bilbo tried asserting his but failed. He couldn’t have done it either way. He didn’t know what this Dwarf was talking about and why he was assessing him. Bilbo just wanted to be a contender.
Pride and prejudice
Thorin, in his arrogance, leaves Bilbo standing in the entryway with an insult. Bilbo could not have understood it, given the lack of information on their plan.
This is a situation in which no one would like to find themselves. Twelve Dwarves crossed his doors, made a mess of his home without a single word of explanation or apology. Then their leader comes in all arrogant and judgmental assessing Bilbo while others stand and watch. They all know what this is all about, even Gandalf, and no one told Bilbo a word. It is disrespectful to say the least. One could understand that Gandalf would not have told Bilbo anything because of his tendency to say “no” to any kind of change, but to invade his private space without so much as an explanation is beyond rude.
It is interesting to note, as Thorin leaves Bilbo standing in the entryway, Gandalf breathes a sigh of relief. He had been standing all the while Bilbo was being assessed without saying a word to defend the Hobbit. It would seem that Gandalf was more concerned with Thorin’s impression of Bilbo than the other way around. It is also interesting to see how threatened he seemed to be by Thorin. He was next in line to take the throne of Erebor, but there was no throne to take. For all that Thorin now was was a leader of twelve Dwarves, nothing more. He didn’t have a mountain to rule under so his arrogance and prejudice is strongly misplaced.
The pride Thorin takes in his role that has yet to be established is overinflated. There is no basis for him to act in this way. If the words of Thrór were to be followed, then Thorin does not have the divine right to rule any kingdom, especially not one that has been taken over by a dragon. There is no Arkenstone in his possession to make him anything more than a simple Dwarf. It is a shame to see him this haughty in front of Bilbo. Thorin does not seem to possess any kind of respect towards Bilbo’s race let alone him as an individual.
The pride of these thirteen Dwarves is unfounded. They are proud to belong to the race they were born into. But in itself, pride to be a part of a community or a nation is mere coincidence. One could have been born in any other part of the world. So why be proud to belong to a race that you just happened to be brought up in? It doesn’t make any sense, but still many people use it as their only thread to who they are. Sad, actually.
Balin: “What news from the meeting in Ered Luin? Did they all come?”
Thorin: “Aye. Envoys from all seven kingdoms.”
Balin: “All of them!”
Dwalin: “And what did the Dwarves of the Iron Hills say? Is Dáin with us?”
Thorin: “They will not come. They say this quest is ours and ours alone.”
Now we are getting somewhere. Thorin had taken a quest on his own to try and involve all seven kingdoms of the Dwarves to participate in their quest. And they all have declined. The success of their quest will be relying on the twelve Dwarves he sees before him, gathered around a table.
The Lonely Mountain
Bilbo: “You’re going on a quest?”
Gandalf: “Bilbo, my dear fellow, let us have a little more light. Far to the east, over ranges and rivers, beyond woodlands and wastelands lies a single solitary peak.”
Bilbo: “The Lonely Mountain.”
And there’s the endpoint to the quest. The Lonely Mountain, one Thorin wishes to rule. There is a lot of ground to cover until they reach said mountain. Bilbo had obviously never heard of this mountain before and any quests made by the Dwarves do not ring any bells for him. He has been sheltered in the confines of the Shire for all his life, troubles of other races have escaped him. He had his peace and harmony. That is all he ever asked for.
Smaug the Terrible
Glóin: “Aye, Óin has read the portents and the portents say it is time. Ravens have been seen flying back to the mountain, as it was foretold. “When the birds of yore return to Erebor, the reign of the beast will end.”
Bilbo: “Uh, what beast?”
Bofur: “That would be a reference to Smaug the Terrible, chiefest and greatest calamity of our age. Airborne firebreather. Teeth like razor, claws like meathooks, extremely fond of precious metals.”
Bilbo: “Yes, I know what a dragon is.”
And here we have the villain in all his lizard resembling glory. The Dwarves have guided themselves with sayings and warnings about their homeland, waiting for the perfect opportunity to seize the chance and take back Erebor. One of the problems lying in their path is the dragon that still broods over the vast amount of treasure.
Bilbo had probably never seen a dragon, only heard of one. So, to know this beast would be part of the quest for conquest is a warning sign onto itself. He may not have believed a dragon to exist, only to be a fairy tale from long ago. But now that he hears that one is alive and sleeping on a treasure horde, makes him not only second-guess all that he had believed in for so long, but to fear it. Any sign of adventure makes him nervous, even when there is no sign of a dragon, but this information now sends him to another level of panic.
We have the “where”, the “what” and the “hindrance”, what we are missing is the “why” and the reason why they all gathered in Bilbo’s place. So follow me to my next post.