The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien Summary and Analysis Chapter 4 - Over Hill and Under Hill

Summary

With the advice of Elrond and under the direction of Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves take the right path that leads into the mountains. As they climb up out of the valley and the weather gets colder and the terrain more dangerous, Bilbo thinks of the joys of summer back at home. The dwarves are hopeful of reaching the Lonely Mountain by Durin's Day, but Gandalf is skeptical because he knows that the land they are traveling has become evil and dangerous.

The travelers are caught in a violent thunderstorm that is the work of stone-giants. With their ponies, the expedition seeks shelter and sleep in a cave. Bilbo dreams that a crack opens in the back of the cave; he wakes to find that the crack is real and that the ponies have disappeared through it and Goblins have entered. When the Goblins try to grab Gandalf, he creates a great lightning-like flash in the cave and several Goblins fall dead. The crack closes, and Gandalf disappears.

With whips, the Goblins drive Bilbo and the dwarves to the cavern of the Great Goblin. On the way, they see their ponies, who will be eaten by the Goblins. The Great Goblin interrogates Thorin and accuses the dwarves of being spies, thieves, and murderers. The Goblins discover Thorin's sword, Orcrist or Goblin-cleaver, which they recognize as an elvish sword that killed many Goblins; they know it as Biter. The Great Goblin is enraged and orders the dwarves sent off to their deaths. Suddenly, the lights go off and the sword Glamdring (also called Foe-hammer or Beater), appears by itself, and runs through the Great Goblin, killing him.

Gandalf's voice leads the dwarves and Bilbo out of the cavern. The Goblins chase after them until, finally, Thorin and Gandalf turn and, with their swords, kill several of the Goblins. Bilbo, the dwarves, and Gandalf then descend deeper into the Goblin tunnels. Goblins sneak up behind Dori, who is carrying Bilbo; Dori falls and Bilbo hits his head on a rock and loses consciousness.

Analysis

In this chapter, Bilbo and the dwarves engage in their first real battle. They first choose the right path to get through the Misty Mountains, paying attention to Elrond and Gandalf. The journey, at the very least, represents the experience of learning to make one's way through life. Many times along this journey the travelers do not know what to do without following the advice or direction of others, thus emphasizing both the unfamiliar situations in which they find themselves in and the amount they still need to learn.

As Bilbo and the dwarves seek shelter from the storm, elements of fantasy enter the story again. First, the storm is the work of stone-giants and secondly, Goblins invade the cave. Additionally, you see Gandalf engaged in a bit of magic, killing some of the Goblins. The taking of the ponies with all the supplies strips the travelers of the last comforts of home and leaves them to rely almost entirely on their own resources.

The swords that Elrond identified for them are crucial to the expedition's survival in this chapter. Gandalf's sword Glamdring reclaims its historical role by killing the Great Goblin.

The travelers' attempt to escape the Goblins leads them farther along their journey as they descend into the Goblin tunnels. In addition, Dori's attempt to help Bilbo represents the dwarves' gradual softening toward the hobbit, which develops into real respect later in the story. But Bilbo here shows himself to have one foot still in his previous life, missing the hobbit joys of summer and, at the end of the chapter, unhelpfully losing consciousness in a fall.

Glossary

tinder a flammable substance that can be used as kindling.

flint material used for producing a spark.

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