The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien Summary and Analysis Chapter 6 - Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

Summary

When Bilbo emerges, he discovers that he is on the other side of the Misty Mountains; his wanderings inside have taken him through. He decides he must go back and look for his friends. Still invisible, he hears Gandalf and the dwarves arguing; Gandalf is saying that they must go back and rescue Bilbo. Bilbo slips into their midst and takes off the ring so that they see him. He tells his tale and gains their respect, but he does not reveal the existence of the ring. They set off, because the Goblins will be after them. They have nothing to eat, and Bilbo is hungry.

Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves slide down a stony slope, making more headway on their journey. Night falls and they hear wild wolves, the Wargs, howling. The dwarves and Bilbo (who is helped by Dori), climb trees to hide from them; Gandalf, who understands Warg language, listens to the wolves talking about their plans to join the Goblins in a raid on the nearby villages. He sets the wolves on fire with burning pinecones that he throws down from his tree, chasing them away.

The Lord of the Eagles hears the noise and brings other eagles with him to investigate. In the meantime, the Wargs have joined the Goblins, setting fire to the forest as they run through it. The Goblins build up the fire around the trees where Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves are hidden in an attempt to smoke them out of their hiding places. As Gandalf's tree goes up in flames and he prepares to jump to his death, the Lord of the Eagles swoops down and carries him away. The other eagles seize the dwarves and Bilbo and carry them to their eyrie. The eagles cannot fly them too far on their journey because men will shoot at them, but they give the expedition a place to rest for the night and bring back animals for the dwarves to roast and eat.

Analysis

In this chapter, Bilbo demonstrates that he has mastered the use of the ring and understands its strategic power. He also exercises discretion in not revealing its existence to the dwarves. He begins to be clever. It is significant that the dwarves respect him after he tells his tale; their growing respect contrasts with the begrudging attitude they had toward Bilbo at the beginning of the story, when they only tolerated him for Gandalf's sake. Although he is changing quickly, Bilbo is still enough of a hobbit to notice his hunger.

Like Bilbo's inadvertent passage through the Misty Mountains, the stony slide is an unexpected step forward on their journey, a lucky accident.

The Wargs live up to their traditional wolf reputation for savagery, and Gandalf provides a model for ingenuity in setting them on fire with burning pinecones. The Wargs are grounded creatures; they travel on land. The eagles, as flying creatures, have the power to transcend the danger of earth, although they are not immune to the dangers posed by men with weapons. Bilbo and the dwarves experience some of the transcendence — and vulnerability — of the eagles' way of life when they spend the night in the eyrie.

Glossary

larch a deciduous tree of the pine family.

porter a person who carries burdens or baggage.

glade an open space surrounded by woods.

bracken a large, coarse fern.

smote hit (past tense of smite, to hit).

eyrie a bird's nest on a cliff or mountaintop.

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