Lets face it, Thanksgiving is a very Hobbitish holiday. Food, family, thankfulness, and more food.
It seems appropriate, therefore, to have one of our chapters from The Hobbit Read-along fall on this day. Here we are, at the next to last chapter, “The Return Journey”.
We have been in the midst of a chaotic battle, but the dust has settled and dear Bilbo, invisible, wakes from unconsciousness, cold, and alone. He wakes to find victory, but not a joyful one. “Well it seems a very gloomy business,” he says. Yes, Bilbo, it is a very gloomy business.
Last chapter, the Dwarves showed some real character. Now, so near the end, we get more. We see Thorin, faced with death, gaining perspective. Forgiveness and friendship finally outweigh material things to him. This death, and the deaths of Fili and Kili (I am so sad for their parents, if they still live!) bring home to Bilbo the painful reality that adventure and tragedy are closely related.
They buried Thorin deep beneath the mountain, and Bard laid the Arkenstone upon his breast.
“There let it lie till the Mountain falls!” he said. “May it bring good fortune to all his folk that dwell here after!”
Upon his tomb the Elvenking then laid Orcrist, the elvish sword that had been taken from Thorin in captivity. It is said in songs that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves could not be taken by surprise.
There are some interesting details in this chapter, and, in my opinion, some of the best quotes in the book.
In the “interesting” category, I place the fact that Gandalf has his arm in a sling. Gandalf, who will one day fight a Balrog! I know he can be injured, but I really want to know how it happened.
Also interesting is Tolkien’s more relaxed use of language. Just look at his description of Beorn’s roars:
The roar of his voice was like drums and guns.
No shying from modern lingo here!
Now I will conclude with some of my favorite quotes from the chapter.
“How I should have got all that treasure home without war and murder all along the way, I don’t know. And I don’t know what I should have done with it when I got home.”
Bilbo has become a much wiser hobbit over the course of his adventure. And much more generous, too:
“If ever you are passing my way,” said Bilbo, “don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome to come at any time!”
Could there be a more hobbitish farewell?
There is some nice, probably unintentional foreshadowing:
“Farewell! O Gandalf!” said the king. “May you ever appear where you are most needed and least expected!”
Tolkien taunts us with:
“He had many hardships and adventures before he got back.”
And yet he tells us so little! Why, Tolkien, why?!
And finally we have this:
“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!”
Have a happy Thanksgiving day!