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    Contributors | September 15, 2015

    Mary Karr: IMG Memoir Tutorials with Mary Karr, Lena Dunham, and Gary Shteyngart

    Editor's note: It's been 20 years since the groundbreaking memoir The Liars' Club sent Mary Karr into the literary spotlight with its phenomenal... Continue »
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The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again


The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again Cover

ISBN13: 9780395071229
ISBN10: 0395071224
Condition: Standard
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'Chapter I


IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet

hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry,

bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was

a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green,

with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened

on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel

without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted,

provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and

coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on,

going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The

Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many

little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on

another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms,

cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms

devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same

floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the

left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have

windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows

beyond, sloping down to the river.

This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was

Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for

time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not

only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had

any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a

Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him.

This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself

doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the

neighbours' respect, but he gained—well, you will see whether he

gained anything in the end.

The mother of our particular hobbit—what is a hobbit? I

suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have

become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or

were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the

bearded dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic

about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to

disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me

come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can

hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they

dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes,

because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown

hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever

brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs

(especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can

get it). Now you know enough to go on with. As I was saying, the

mother of this hobbit—of Bilbo Baggins, that is—was the famous

Belladonna Took, one of the three remarkable daughters of the Old

Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the small river

that ran at the foot of The Hill. It was often said (in other

families) that long ago one of the Took ancestors must have taken a

fairy wife. That was, of course, absurd, but certainly there was

still something not entirely hobbitlike about them, and once in a

while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures. They

discreetly disappeared, and the family hushed it up; but the fact

remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses,

though they were undoubtedly richer.

Not that Belladonna Took ever had any adventures after she

became Mrs. Bungo Baggins. Bungo, that was Bilbo's father, built the

most luxurious hobbit-hole for her (and partly with her money) that

was to be found either under The Hill or over The Hill or across The

Water, and there they remained to the end of their days. Still it is

probable that Bilbo, her only son, although he looked and behaved

exactly like a second edition of his solid and comfortable father,

got something a bit queer in his make-up from the Took side,

something that only waited for a chance to come out. The chance never

arrived, until Bilbo Baggins was grown up, being about fifty years

old or so, and living in the beautiful hobbit-hole built by his

father, which I have just described for you, until he had in fact

apparently settled down immovably.

By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of

the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits

were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at

his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that

reached nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed)—Gandalf came

by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard

about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear,

you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and

adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the

most extraordinary fashion. He had not been down that way under The

Hill for ages and ages, not since his friend the Old Took died, in

fact, and the hobbits had almost forgotten what he looked like. He

had been away over The Hill and across The Water on businesses of his

own since they were all small hobbit-boys and hobbit-girls.

All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old

man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak,

a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his

waist, and immense black boots.

"Good Morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was

shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from

under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his

shady hat.

"What do you mean?" he said. "Do you wish me a good morning,

or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that

you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?"

"All of them at once," said Bilbo. "And a very fine morning

for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a

pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine! There's no hurry,

we have all the day before us!" Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his

door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke

that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over

The Hill.

"Very pretty!" said Gandalf. "But I have no time to blow

smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an

adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find


"I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk

and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable

things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in

them," said our Mr. Baggins, and stuck one thumb behind his braces,

and blew out another even bigger smoke-ring. Then he took out his

morning letters, and began to read, pretending to take no more notice

of the old man. He had decided that he was not quite his sort, and

wanted him to go away. But the old man did not move. He stood leaning

on his stick and gazing at the hobbit without saying anything, till

Bilbo got quite uncomfortable and even a little cross.

"Good morning!" he said at last. "We don't want any

adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The

Water." By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.

"What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!" said

Gandalf. "Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it

won't be good till I move off."

"Not at all, not at all, my dear sir! Let me see, I don't

think I know your name?"

"Yes, yes, my dear sir—and I do know your name, Mr. Bilbo

Baggins. And you do know my name, though you don't remember that I

belong to it. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me! To think that I

should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took's son, as

if I was selling buttons at the door!"

"Gandalf, Gandalf! Good gracious me! Not the wandering wizard

that gave Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened

themselves and never came undone till ordered? Not the fellow who

used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and

goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the unexpected

luck of widows' sons? Not the man that used to make such particularly

excellent fireworks! I remember those! Old Took used to have them on

Midsummer's Eve. Splendid! They used to go up like great lilies and

snapdragons and laburnums of fire and hang in the twilight all

evening!" You will notice already that Mr. Baggins was not quite so

prosy as he liked to believe, also that he was very fond of

flowers. "Dear me!" he went on. "Not the Gandalf who was responsible

for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad

adventures? Anything from climbing trees to visiting elves—or sailing

in ships, sailing to other shores! Bless me, life used to be quite

inter—I mean, you used to upset things badly in these parts once upon

a time. I beg your pardon, but I had no idea you were still in


"Where else should I be?" said the wizard. "All the same I am

pleased to find you remember something about me. You seem to remember

my fireworks kindly, at any rate, and that is not without hope.

Indeed for your old grandfather Took's sake, and for the sake of poor

Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for."

"I beg your pardon, I haven't asked for anything!"

"Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you. In fact

I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for

me, very good for you—and profitable too, very likely, if you ever

get over it."

"Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today.

Good morning! But please come to tea—any time you like! Why not

tomorrow? Come tomorrow! Good bye!" With that the hobbit turned and

scuttled inside his round green door, and shut it as quickly as he

dared, not to seem rude. Wizards after all are wizards.

"What on earth did I ask him to tea for!" he said to himself,

as he went to the pantry. He had only just had breakfast, but he

thought a cake or two and a drink of something would do him good

after his fright.

Gandalf in the meantime was still standing outside the door,

and laughing long but quietly. After a while he stepped up, and with

the spike on his staff scratched a queer sign on the hobbit's

beautiful green front-door. Then he strode away, just about the time

when Bilbo was finishing his second cake and beginning to think that

he had escaped adventures very well.

The next day he had almost forgotten about Gandalf. He did

not remember things very well, unless he put them down on his

Engagement Tablet: like this: Gandalf Tea Wednesday. Yesterday he had

been too flustered to do anything of the kind.

Just before tea-time there came a tremendous ring on the

front-door bell, and then he remembered! He rushed and put on the

kettle, and put out another cup and saucer, and an extra cake or two,

and ran to the door.

"I am so sorry to keep you waiting!" he was going to say,

when he saw that it was not Gandalf at all. It was a dwarf with a

blue beard tucked into a golden belt, and very bright eyes under his

dark-green hood. As soon as the door was opened, he pushed inside,

just as if he had been expected.

He hung his hooded cloak on the nearest peg, and "Dwalin at

your service!" he said with a low bow.

"Bilbo Baggins at yours!" said the hobbit, too surprised to

ask any questions for the moment. When the silence that followed had

become uncomfortable, he added: "I am just about to take tea; pray

come and have some with me." A little stiff perhaps, but he meant it

kindly. And what would you do, if an uninvited dwarf came and hung

his things up in your hall without a word of explanation?

They had not been at table long, in fact they had hardly

reached the third cake, when there came another even louder ring at

the bell.

"Excuse me!" said the hobbit, and off he went to the door.

"So you have got here at last!" That was what he was going to

say to Gandalf this time. But it was not Gandalf. Instead there was a

very old-looking dwarf on the step with a white beard and a scarlet

hood; and he too hopped inside as soon as the door was open, just as

if he had been invited.

"I see they have begun to arrive already," he said when he

caught sight of Dwalin's green hood hanging up. He hung his red one

next to it, and "Balin at your service!" he said with his hand on his


"Thank you!" said Bilbo with a gasp. It was not the correct

thing to say, but they have begun to arrive had flustered him badly.

He liked visitors, but he liked to know them before they arrived, and

he preferred to ask them himself. He had a horrible thought that the

cakes might run short, and then he—as the host: he knew his duty and

stuck to it however painful—he might have to go without.

"Come along in, and have some tea!" he managed to say after

taking a deep breath.

"A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to

you, my good sir," said Balin with the white beard. "But I don't mind

some cake—seed-cake, if you have any."

"Lots!" Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise;

and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint

beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-

cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.

When he got back Balin and Dwalin were talking at the table

like old friends (as a matter of fact they were brothers). Bilbo

plumped down the beer and the cake in front of them, when loud came a

ring at the bell again, and then another ring.

"Gandalf for certain this time," he thought as he puffed

along the passage. But it was not. It was two more dwarves, both with

blue hoods, silver belts, and yellow beards; and each of them carried

a bag of tools and a spade. In they hopped, as soon as the door began

to open—Bilbo was hardly surprised at all.

"What can I do for you, my dwarves?" he said.

"Kili at your service!" said the one. "And Fili!" added the

other; and they both swept off their blue hoods and bowed.

"At yours and your family's!" replied Bilbo, remembering his

manners this time.

"Dwalin and Balin here already, I see," said Kili. "Let us

join the throng!"

"Throng!" thought Mr. Baggins. "I don't like the sound of

that. I really must sit down for a minute and collect my wits, and

have a drink." He had only just had a sip—in the corner, while the

four dwarves sat round the table, and talked about mines and gold and

troubles with the goblins, and the depredations of dragons, and lots

of other things which he did not understand, and did not want to, for

they sounded much too adventurous—when, ding-dong-a-ling-dang, his

bell rang again, as if some naughty little hobbit-boy was trying to

pull the handle off.

"Someone at the door!" he said, blinking.

"Some four, I should say by the sound," said Fili. "Besides,

we saw them coming along behind us in the distance."

The poor little hobbit sat down in the hall and put his head

in his hands, and wondered what had happened, and what was going to

happen, and whether they would all stay to supper. Then the bell rang

again louder than ever, and he had to run to the door. It was not

four after all, it was FIVE. Another dwarf had come along while he

was wondering in the hall. He had hardly turned the knob, before they

were all inside, bowing and saying "at your service" one after

another. Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin were their names; and very

soon two purple hoods, a grey hood, a brown hood, and a white hood

were hanging on the pegs, and off they marched with their broad hands

stuck in their gold and silver belts to join the others. Already it

had almost become a throng. Some called for ale, and some for porter,

and one for coffee, and all of them for cakes; so the hobbit was kept

very busy for a while.

A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-

cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered

scones, when there came—a loud knock. Not a ring, but a hard rat-tat

on the hobbit's beautiful green door. Somebody was banging with a


Bilbo rushed along the passage, very angry, and altogether

bewildered and bewuthered—this was the most awkward Wednesday he ever

remembered. He pulled open the door with a jerk, and they all fell

in, one on top of the other. More dwarves, four more! And there was

Gandalf behind, leaning on his staff and laughing. He had made quite

a dent on the beautiful door; he had also, by the way, knocked out

the secret mark that he had put there the morning before.

"Carefully! Carefully!" he said. "It is not like you, Bilbo,

to keep friends waiting on the mat, and then open the door like a pop-

gun! Let me introduce Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and especially Thorin!"

"At your service!" said Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur standing in

a row. Then they hung up two yellow hoods and a pale green one; and

also a sky-blue one with a long silver tassel. This last belonged to

Thorin, an enormously important dwarf, in fact no other than the

great Thorin Oakenshield himself, who was not at all pleased at

falling flat on Bilbo's mat with Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur on top of

him. For one thing Bombur was immensely fat and heavy. Thorin indeed

was very haughty, and said nothing about service; but poor Mr.

Baggins said he was sorry so many times, that at last he

grunted "pray don't mention it," and stopped frowning.

"Now we are all here!" said Gandalf, looking at the row of

thirteen hoods—the best detachable party hoods—and his own hat

hanging on the pegs. "Quite a merry gathering! I hope there is

something left for the late-comers to eat and drink! What's that?

Tea! No thank you! A little red wine, I think for me."

"And for me," said Thorin.

"And raspberry jam and apple-tart," said Bifur.

"And mince-pies and cheese," said Bofur.

"And pork-pie and salad," said Bombur.

"And more cakes—and ale—and coffee, if you don't mind,"

called the other dwarves through the door.

"Put on a few eggs, there's a good fellow!" Gandalf called

after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. "And just bring

out the cold chicken and pickles!"

"Seems to know as much about the inside of my larders as I do

myself!" thought Mr. Baggins, who was feeling positively flummoxed,

and was beginning to wonder whether a most wretched adventure had not

come right into his house. By the time he had got all the bottles and

dishes and knives and forks and glasses and plates and spoons and

things piled up on big trays, he was getting very hot, and red in the

face, and annoyed.

"Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!" he said

aloud. "Why don't they come and lend a hand?" Lo and behold! there

stood Balin and Dwalin at the door of the kitchen, and Fili and Kili

behind them, and before he could say knife they had whisked the trays

and a couple of small tables into the parlour and set out everything


Gandalf sat at the head of the party with the thirteen

dwarves all round: and Bilbo sat on a stool at the fireside, nibbling

at a biscuit (his appetite was quite taken away), and trying to look

as if this was all perfectly ordinary and not in the least an

adventure. The dwarves ate and ate, and talked and talked, and time

got on. At last they pushed their chairs back, and Bilbo made a move

to collect the plates and glasses.

"I suppose you will all stay to supper?" he said in his

politest unpressing tones.

"Of course!" said Thorin. "And after. We shan't get through

the business till late, and we must have some music first. Now to

clear up!"

Thereupon the twelve dwarves—not Thorin, he was too

important, and stayed talking to Gandalf—jumped to their feet, and

made tall piles of all the things. Off they went, not waiting for

trays, balancing columns of plates, each with a bottle on the top,

with one hand, while the hobbit ran after them almost squeaking with

fright: "please be careful!" and "please, don't trouble! I can

manage." But the dwarves only started to sing:

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!

Blunt the knives and bend the forks!

That's what Bilbo Baggins hates—

Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!

Pour the milk on the pantry floor!

Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!

Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;

Pound them up with a thumping pole;

And when you've finished, if any are whole,

Send them down the hall to roll!

That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!

So, carefully! carefully with the plates!

And of course they did none of these dreadful things, and

everything was cleaned and put away safe as quick as lightning, while

the hobbit was turning round and round in the middle of the kitchen

trying to see what they were doing. Then they went back, and found

Thorin with his feet on the fender smoking a pipe. He was blowing the

most enormous smoke-rings, and wherever he told one to go, it went—up

the chimney, or behind the clock on the mantelpiece, or under the

table, or round and round the ceiling; but wherever it went it was

not quick enough to escape Gandalf. Pop! he sent a smaller smoke-ring

from his short clay-pipe straight through each one of Thorin's. Then

Gandalf's smoke-ring would go green and come back to hover over the

wizard's head. He had a cloud of them about him already, and in the

dim light it made him look strange and sorcerous. Bilbo stood still

and watched—he loved smoke-rings—and then he blushed to think how

proud he had been yesterday morning of the smoke-rings he had sent up

the wind over The Hill.

"Now for some music!" said Thorin. "Bring out the


Kili and Fili rushed for their bags and brought back little

fiddles; Dori, Nori, and Ori brought out flutes from somewhere inside

their coats; Bombur produced a drum from the hall; Bifur and Bofur

went out too, and came back with clarinets that they had left among

the walking-sticks. Dwalin and Balin said: "Excuse me, I left mine in

the porch!" "Just bring mine in with you!" said Thorin. They came

back with viols as big as themselves, and with Thorin's harp wrapped

in a green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, and when Thorin

struck it the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo

forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under

strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit-hole

under The Hill.

The dark came into the room from the little window that

opened in the side of The Hill; the firelight flickered—it was April—

and still they played on, while the shadow of Gandalf's beard wagged

against the wall.

The dark filled all the room, and the fire died down, and the

shadows were lost, and still they played on. And suddenly first one

and then another began to sing as they played, deep-throated singing

of the dwarves in the deep places of their ancient homes; and this is

like a fragment of their song, if it can be like their song without

their music.

Far over the misty mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away ere break of day

To seek the pale enchanted gold.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,

While hammers fell like ringing bells

In places deep, where dark things sleep,

In hollow halls beneath the fells.

For ancient king and elvish lord

There many a gleaming golden hoard

They shaped and wrought, and light they caught

To hide in gems on hilt of sword.

On silver necklaces they strung

The flowering stars, on crowns they hung

The dragon-fire, in twisted wire

They meshed the light of moon and sun.

Far over the misty mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away, ere break of day,

To claim our long-forgotten gold.

Goblets they carved there for themselves

And harps of gold; where no man delves

There lay they long, and many a song

Was sung unheard by men or elves.

The pines were roaring on the height,

The winds were moaning in the night.

The fire was red, it flaming spread;

The trees like torches blazed with light.

The bells were ringing in the dale

And men looked up with faces pale;

Then dragon's ire more fierce than fire

Laid low their towers and houses frail.

The mountain smoked beneath the moon;

The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.

They fled their hall to dying fall

Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.

Far over the misty mountains grim

To dungeons deep and caverns dim

We must away, ere break of day,

To win our harps and gold from him!

As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things

made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a

fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then

something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the

great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and

explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick. He

looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the

trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark

caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up—

probably somebody lighting a wood-fire—and he thought of plundering

dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He

shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr. Baggins of Bag-End,

Under-Hill, again.

He got up trembling. He had less than half a mind to fetch

the lamp, and more than half a mind to pretend to, and go and hide

behind the beer-barrels in the cellar, and not come out again until

all the dwarves had gone away. Suddenly he found that the music and

the singing had stopped, and they were all looking at him with eyes

shining in the dark.

"Where are you going?" said Thorin, in a tone that seemed to

show that he guessed both halves of the hobbit's mind.

"What about a little light?" said Bilbo apologetically.

"We like the dark," said all the dwarves. "Dark for dark

business! There are many hours before dawn."

"Of course!" said Bilbo, and sat down in a hurry. He missed

the stool and sat in the fender, knocking over the poker and shovel

with a crash.

"Hush!" said Gandalf. "Let Thorin speak!" And this is how

Thorin began.

"Gandalf, dwarves and Mr. Baggins! We are met together in the

house of our friend and fellow conspirator, this most excellent and

audacious hobbit—may the hair on his toes never fall out! all praise

to his wine and ale! He paused for breath and for a polite remark

from the hobbit, but the compliments were quite lost on poor Bilbo

Baggins, who was wagging his mouth in protest at being called

audacious and worst of all fellow conspirator, though no noise came

out, he was so flummoxed. So Thorin went on:

"We are met to discuss our plans, our ways, means, policy and

devices. We shall soon before the break of day start on our long

journey, a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us

(except our friend and counsellor, the ingenious wizard Gandalf) may

never return. It is a solemn moment. Our object is, I take it, well

known to us all. To the estimable Mr. Baggins, and perhaps to one or

two of the younger dwarves (I think I should be right in naming Kili

and Fili, for instance), the exact situation at the moment may

require a little brief explanation—"

This was Thorin's style. He was an important dwarf. If he had

been allowed, he would probably have gone on like this until he was

out of breath, without telling any one there anything that was not

known already. But he was rudely interrupted. Poor Bilbo couldn't

bear it any longer. At may never return he began to feel a shriek

coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an

engine coming out of a tunnel. All the dwarves sprang up, knocking

over the table. Gandalf struck a blue light on the end of his magic

staff, and in its firework glare the poor little hobbit could be seen

kneeling on the hearth-rug, shaking like a jelly that was melting.

Then he fell flat on the floor, and kept on calling out "struck by

lightning, struck by lightning!" over and over again; and that was

all they could get out of him for a long time. So they took him and

laid him out of the way on the drawing-room sofa with a drink at his

elbow, and they went back to their dark business.

"Excitable little fellow," said Gandalf, as they sat down

again. "Gets funny queer fits, but he is one of the best, one of the

best—as fierce as a dragon in a pinch."

If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize

that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even

to Old Took's great-grand-uncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a

hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the

goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked

their king Golfimbul's head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a

hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in

this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same


In the meanwhile, however, Bullroarer's gentler descendant

was reviving in the drawing-room. After a while and a drink he crept

nervously to the door of the parlour. This is what he heard, Gloin

speaking: "Humph!" (or some snort more or less like that). "Will he

do, do you think? It is all very well for Gandalf to talk about this

hobbit being fierce, but one shriek like that in a moment of

excitement would be enough to wake the dragon and all his relatives,

and kill the lot of us. I think it sounded more like fright than

excitement! In fact, if it had not been for the sign on the door, I

should have been sure we had come to the wrong house. As soon as I

clapped eyes on the little fellow bobbing and puffing on the mat, I

had my doubts. He looks more like a grocer than a burglar!"

Then Mr. Baggins turned the handle and went in. The Took side

had won. He suddenly felt he would gowithout bed and breakfast to be

thought fierce. As for little fellow bobbing on the mat it almost

made him really fierce. Many a time afterwards the Baggins part

regretted what he did now, and he said to himself: "Bilbo, you were a

fool; you walked right in and put your foot in it."

"Pardon me," he said, "if I have overheard words that you

were saying. I don't pretend to understand what you are talking

about, or your reference to burglars, but I think I am right in

believing" (this is what he called being on his dignity) "that you

think I am no good. I will show you. I have no signs on my door—it

was painted a week ago—, and I am quite sure you have come to the

wrong house. As soon as I saw your funny faces on the door-step, I

had my doubts. But treat it as the right one. Tell me what you want

done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of

East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert. I had a great-

great-great-grand-uncle once, Bullroarer Took, and—"

"Yes, yes, but that was long ago," said Gloin. "I was talking

about you. And I assure you there is a mark on this door—the usual

one in the trade, or used to be. Burglar wants a good job, plenty of

Excitement and reasonable Reward, that's how it is usually read. You

can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if you like. Some

of them do. It's all the same to us. Gandalf told us that there was a

man of the sort in these parts looking for a Job at once, and that he

had arranged for a meeting here this Wednesday tea-time."

"Of course there is a mark," said Gandalf. "I put it there

myself. For very good reasons. You asked me to find the fourteenth

man for your expedition, and I chose Mr. Baggins. Just let any one

say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and you can stop at

thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging


He scowled so angrily at Gloin that the dwarf huddled back in

his chair; and when Bilbo tried to open his mouth to ask a question,

he turned and frowned at him and stuck out his bushy eyebrows, till

Bilbo shut his mouth tight with a snap. "That's right," said

Gandalf. "Let's have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and

that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a

Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in

him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.

You may (possibly) all live to thank me yet. Now Bilbo, my boy, fetch

the lamp, and let's have a little light on this!"

On the table in the light of a big lamp with a red shade he

spread a piece of parchment rather like a map.

"This was made by Thror, your grandfather, Thorin," he said

in answer to the dwarves' excited questions. "It is a plan of the


"I don't see that this will help us much," said Thorin

disappointedly after a glance. "I remember the Mountain well enough

and the lands about it. And I know where Mirkwood is, and the

Withered Heath where the great dragons bred."

"There is a dragon marked in red on the Mountain," said

Balin, "but it will be easy enough to find him without that, if ever

we arrive there."

"There is one point that you haven't noticed," said the

wizard, "and that is the secret entrance. You see that rune on the

West side, and the hand pointing to it from the other runes? That

marks a hidden passage to the Lower Halls." (Look at the map at the

beginning of this book, and you will see there the runes.)

"It may have been secret once," said Thorin, "but how do we

know that it is secret any longer? Old Smaug has lived there long

enough now to find out anything there is to know about those caves."

"He may—but he can't have used it for years and years."


"Because it is too small. 'Five feet high the door and three

may walk abreast' say the runes, but Smaug could not creep into a

hole that size, not even when he was a young dragon, certainly not

after devouring so many of the dwarves and men of Dale."

"It seems a great big hole to me," squeaked Bilbo (who had no

experience of dragons and only of hobbit-holes). He was getting

excited and interested again, so that he forgot to keep his mouth

shut. He loved maps, and in his hall there hung a large one of the

Country Round with all his favourite walks marked on it in red

ink. "How could such a large door be kept secret from everybody

outside, apart from the dragon?" he asked. He was only a little

hobbit you must remember.

"In lots of ways," said Gandalf. "But in what way this one

has been hidden we don't know without going to see. From what it says

on the map I should guess there is a closed door which has been made

to look exactly like the side of the Mountain. That is the usual

dwarves' method—I think that is right, isn't it?"

"Quite right," said Thorin.

"Also," went on Gandalf, "I forgot to mention that with the

map went a key, a small and curious key. Here it is!" he said, and

handed to Thorin a key with a long barrel and intricate wards, made

of silver. "Keep it safe!"

"Indeed I will," said Thorin, and he fastened it upon a fine

chain that hung about his neck and under his jacket. "Now things

begin to look more hopeful. This news alters them much for the

better. So far we have had no clear idea what to do. We thought of

going East, as quiet and careful as we could, as far as the Long

Lake. After that the trouble would begin—."

"A long time before that, if I know anything about the roads

East," interrupted Gandalf.

"We might go from there up along the River Running," went on

Thorin taking no notice, "and so to the ruins of Dale—the old town in

the valley there, under the shadow of the Mountain. But we none of us

liked the idea of the Front Gate. The river runs right out of it

through the great cliff at the South of the Mountain, and out of it

comes the dragon too—far too often, unless he has changed his habits."

"That would be no good," said the wizard, "not without a

mighty Warrior, even a Hero. I tried to find one; but warriors are

busy fighting one another in distant lands, and in this neighbourhood

heroes are scarce, or simply not to be found. Swords in these parts

are mostly blunt, and axes are used for trees, and shields as cradles

or dish-covers; and dragons are comfortably far-off (and therefore

legendary). That is why I settled on burglary—especially when I

remembered the existence of a Side-door. And here is our little Bilbo

Baggins, the burglar, the chosen and selected burglar. So now let's

get on and make some plans."

"Very well then," said Thorin, "supposing the burglar-expert

gives us some ideas or suggestions." He turned with mock-politeness

to Bilbo.

"First I should like to know a bit more about things," said

he, feeling all confused and a bit shaky inside, but so far still

Tookishly determined to go on with things. "I mean about the gold and

the dragon, and all that, and how it got there, and who it belongs

to, and so on and further."

"Bless me!" said Thorin, "haven't you got a map? and didn't

you hear our song? and haven't we been talking about all this for


"All the same, I should like it all plain and clear," said he

obstinately, putting on his business manner (usually reserved for

people who tried to borrow money off him), and doing his best to

appear wise and prudent and professional and live up to Gandalf's

recommendation. "Also I should like to know about risks, out-of-

pocket expenses, time required and remuneration, and so forthby which

he meant: "What am I going to get out of it? and am I going to come

back alive?"

"O very well," said Thorin. "Long ago in my grandfather

Thror's time our family was driven out of the far North, and came

back with all their wealth and their tools to this Mountain on the

map. It had been discovered by my far ancestor, Thrain the Old, but

now they mined and they tunnelled and they made huger halls and

greater workshops—and in addition I believe they found a good deal of

gold and a great many jewels too. Anyway they grew immensely rich and

famous, and my grandfather was King under the Mountain again, and

treated with great reverence by the mortal men, who lived to the

South, and were gradually spreading up the Running River as far as

the valley overshadowed by the Mountain. They built the merry town of

Dale there in those days. Kings used to send for our smiths, and

reward even the least skillful most richly. Fathers would beg us to

take their sons as apprentices, and pay us handsomely, especially in

food-supplies, which we never bothered to grow or find for ourselves.

Altogether those were good days for us, and the poorest of us had

money to spend and to lend, and leisure to make beautiful things just

for the fun of it, not to speak of the most marvellous and magical

toys, the like of which is not to be found in the world now-a-days.

So my grandfather's halls became full of armour and jewels and

carvings and cups, and the toy market of Dale was the wonder of the


"Undoubtedly that was what brought the dragon. Dragons steal

gold and jewels, you know, from men and elves and dwarves, wherever

they can find them; and they guard their plunder as long as they live

(which is practically for ever, unless they are killed), and never

enjoy a brass ring of it. Indeed they hardly know a good bit of work

from a bad, though they usually have a good notion of the current

market value; and they can't make a thing for themselves, not even

mend a little loose scale of their armour. There were lots of dragons

in the North in those days, and gold was probably getting scarce up

there, with the dwarves flying south or getting killed, and all the

general waste and destruction that dragons make going from bad to

worse. There was a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm

called Smaug. One day he flew up into the air and came south. The

first we heard of it was a noise like a hurricane coming from the

North, and the pine-trees on the Mountain creaking and cracking in

the wind. Some of the dwarves who happened to be outside (I was one

luckily—a fine adventurous lad in those days, always wandering about,

and it saved my life that day)—well, from a good way off we saw the

dragon settle on our mountain in a spout of flame. Then he came down

the slopes and when he reached the woods they all went up in fire. By

that time all the bells were ringing in Dale and the warriors were

arming. The dwarves rushed out of their great gate; but there was the

dragon waiting for them. None escaped that way. The river rushed up

in steam and a fog fell on Dale, and in the fog the dragon came on

them and destroyed most of the warriors—the usual unhappy story, it

was only too common in those days. Then he went back and crept in

through the Front Gate and routed out all the halls, and lanes, and

tunnels, alleys, cellars, mansions and passages. After that there

were no dwarves left alive inside, and he took all their wealth for

himself. Probably, for that is the dragons' way, he has piled it all

up in a great heap far inside, and sleeps on it for a bed. Later he

used to crawl out of the great gate and come by night to Dale, and

carry away people, especially maidens, to eat, until Dale was ruined,

and all the people dead or gone. What goes on there now I don't know

for certain, but I don't suppose any one lives nearer to the Mountain

than the far edge of the Long Lake now-a-days.

"The few of us that were well outside sat and wept in hiding,

and cursed Smaug; and there we were unexpectedly joined by my father

and my grandfather with singed beards. They looked very grim but they

said very little. When I asked how they had got away, they told me to

hold my tongue, and said that one day in the proper time I should

know. After that we went away, and we have had to earn our livings as

best we could up and down the lands, often enough sinking as low as

blacksmith-work or even coalmining. But we have never forgotten our

stolen treasure. And even now, when I will allow we have a good bit

laid by and are not so badly off"—here Thorin stroked the gold chain

round his neck—"we still mean to get it back, and to bring our curses

home to Smaug—if we can.

"I have often wondered about my father's and my grandfather's

escape. I see now they must have had a private Side-door which only

they knew about. But apparently they made a map, and I should like to

know how Gandalf got hold of it, and why it did not come down to me,

the rightful heir."

"I did not 'get hold of it,' I was given it," said the

wizard. "Your grandfather Thror was killed, you remember, in the

mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin."

"Curse his name, yes," said Thorin.

"And Thrain your father went away on the twenty-first of

April, a hundred years ago last Thursday, and has never been seen by

you since—"

"True, true," said Thorin.

"Well, your father gave me this to give to you; and if I have

chosen my own time and way for handing it over, you can hardly blame

me, considering the trouble I had to find you. Your father could not

remember his own name when he gave me the paper, and he never told me

yours; so on the whole I think I ought to be praised and thanked!

Here it is," said he handing the map to Thorin.

"I don't understand," said Thorin, and Bilbo felt he would

have liked to say the same. The explanation did not seem to explain.

"Your grandfather," said the wizard slowly and grimly, "gave

the map to his son for safety before he went to the mines of Moria.

Your father went away to try his luck with the map after your

grandfather was killed; and lots of adventures of a most unpleasant

sort he had, but he never got near the Mountain. How he got there I

don't know, but I found him a prisoner in the dungeons of the


"Whatever were you doing there?" asked Thorin with a shudder,

and all the dwarves shivered.

"Never you mind. I was finding things out, as usual; and a

nasty dangerous business it was. Even I, Gandalf, only just escaped.

I tried to save your father, but it was too late. He was witless and

wandering, and had forgotten almost everything except the map and the


"We have long ago paid the goblins of Moria," said

Thorin; "we must give a thought to the Necromancer."

"Don't be absurd! He is an enemy far beyond the powers of all

the dwarves put together, if they could all be collected again from

the four corners of the world. The one thing your father wished was

for his son to read the map and use the key. The dragon and the

Mountain are more than big enough tasks for you!"

"Hear, hear!" said Bilbo, and accidentally said it aloud.

"Hear what?" they all said turning suddenly towards him, and

he was so flustered that he answered "Hear what I have got to say!"

"What's that?" they asked.

"Well, I should say that you ought to go East and have a look

round. After all there is the Side-door, and dragons must sleep

sometimes, I suppose. If you sit on the door-step long enough, I

daresay you will think of something. And well, don't you know, I

think we have talked long enough for one night, if you see what I

mean. What about bed, and an early start, and all that? I will give

you a good breakfast before you go."

"Before we go, I suppose you mean," said Thorin. "Aren't you

the burglar? And isn't sitting on the door-step your job, not to

speak of getting inside the door? But I agree about bed and

breakfast. I like six eggs with my ham, when starting on a journey:

fried not poached, and mind you don't break 'em."

After all the others had ordered their breakfasts without so

much as a please (which annoyed Bilbo very much), they all got up.

The hobbit had to find room for them all, and filled all his spare-

rooms and made beds on chairs and sofas, before he got them all

stowed and went to his own little bed very tired and not altogether

happy. One thing he did make his mind up about was not to bother to

get up very early and cook everybody else's wretched breakfast. The

Tookishness was wearing off, and he was not now quite so sure that he

was going on any journey in the morning.

As he lay in bed he could hear Thorin still humming to

himself in the best bedroom next to him:

Far over the misty mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away, ere break of day,

To find our long-forgotten gold.

Bilbo went to sleep with that in his ears, and it gave him

very uncomfortable dreams. It was long after the break of day, when

he woke up.

Copyright 1937 by George Allen and Unwin Ltd.

Copyright © 1966 by J.R.R. Tolkien

Copyright © renewed 1994 by Christopher R. Tolkien, John F.R. Tolkien

and Priscilla M.A.R. Tolkien

Copyright © restored 1996 by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, assigned

1997 to the J.R.R. Tolkien Copyright Trust

All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.'

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Saphorian, July 28, 2014 (view all comments by Saphorian)
Beautiful work, loved it when first read it and often like to have a copy once again. Lent it out so many times only not to have it returned. I would love a copy to pass onto my Grand Daughter as a gift of reading to her and her children when she has her own.
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Parmathule, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by Parmathule)
The Hobbit and I go way back. I first read it the summer I turned 15, and have been reading it again and again ever since. It is not my favorite of Tolkien’s works; I prefer the more serious and, admittedly, ponderous Lord of the Rings. But this is where it all started, and it’s a wonderful tale of adventure. I read it most recently in anticipation of the premiere of Peter Jackson’s film version. Although I feel Jackson had to be the one to make this film, I will also confess to disappointment that he did not adhere more closely to his source material, which is perfect just the way it is.
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yellowearthmonkey, January 8, 2013 (view all comments by yellowearthmonkey)
My favorite story of all time. The one that began it all. No need to say more except that if you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and read The Hobbit!
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Product Details

Or There and Back Again
J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien, J.R.R.
Tolkien, J.R.R.
HMH Books for Young Readers
Boston :
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Children's 12-Up - Literature - Classics
Large type books
Fantasy - Epic
Middle earth (Imaginary place)
Fantasy fiction, English
Middle Earth
Fantasy & Magic
Baggins, Frodo (Fictitious character)
Childrens classics
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
January 1938
Grade Level:
from 7
9 x 6 x 1 in 1.48 lb
Age Level:

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The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again Used Hardcover
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Product details 352 pages HMH Books for Young Readers - English 9780395071229 Reviews:
"Review" by , "It is written with a quiet humor and the logical detail in which children take delight."
"Synopsis" by ,
"In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." So begins one of the most beloved and delightful tales in the English language. Set in the imaginary world of Middle-earth, at once a classic myth and a modern fairy tale, The Hobbit is one of literature's most enduring and well-loved novels. Presented in the standard hardcover edition using the author's original jacket design.
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