The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien Summary and Analysis Chapter 3 - A Short Rest

Summary

Bilbo and the dwarves approach the Misty Mountains. The sense of danger increases and, once again, Bilbo thinks of home. Gandalf warns them that they are at the edge of the Wild and that they can stay with his friend Elrond in Rivendell. The way is difficult, but at last they come to the valley of Rivendell and are greeted by singing elves. Bilbo loves elves, but dwarves and elves are traditional enemies, and Bilbo's companions decline the elves' invitation to supper.

The group comes to the house of Elrond, a wise and hospitable elf. They stay for fourteen days, until midsummer, eating, singing, and telling tales. Elrond identifies their swords as having come from dragon plunder or the Goblin-wars and translates their runes: Thorin's sword is named Orcrist and Gandalf's is Glamdring.

Elrond also interprets the moon-letters on Thorin's map, letters like runes that can be seen only by the light of a moon that is the same as the one under which they were written. The letters tell the reader to stand by a stone near a thrush and the setting sun of Durin's Day will shine on a key-hole. Thorin, Durin's heir, explains that Durin's Day is the first day of the dwarves' New Year.

The next day, the dwarves leave to go over the Misty Mountains and beyond.

Analysis

The first great obstacle Bilbo and the dwarves overcome is the Misty Mountains. As is the case throughout their journey, the farther from home they travel, the greater the danger. The very name of "the Wild" provides a symbolic contrast with what is familiar, tame, and domestic, and the deserted terrain represents the difficulties they begin to face so far from home. They have one last opportunity to enjoy themselves at the home of Gandalf's friend Elrond. The traditional enmity between elves and dwarves is depicted here in the dwarves' rejection of the elves' invitation and provides motivation for some of the events later in the novel.

Elrond assumes an important role in explaining to Thorin and Gandalf the significance of the swords they took from the trolls' cave. The swords have enormous power because they were used to kill Goblins, and they are associated with the dragon from whom the dwarves wish to reclaim their treasure. They are important enough to have names of their own, like the weapons belonging to legendary heroes Beowulf and Arthur. Elrond's ability to read runes also allows him to interpret the map that Thorin has inherited from his grandfather. Elrond's translation of the map provides an important foreshadowing of the dramatic discovery of the secret door in Smaug's mountain lair, much later in the novel.

Glossary

lair den; refuge or hiding place.

hoard a supply stored up or hidden away.

Goblins grotesque, malicious creatures.

plundered/plunderers to take by force; to rob or loot; those who take by force, rob, or loot.

cleave to split or pass through by cutting.

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