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The Quilty Reader

Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.

Chapter 2: Roast Mutton

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

"To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more."


Sometimes circumstances conspire to shove a person onto a path that they wouldn't take if they took the time to consider it more carefully. Bilbo Baggins is not a particularly impulsive hobbit, which makes his action of running out the door to catch up with the dwarfs so remarkable. If he had been given the time to think it through, to put together supplies and a jacket and his pocket hankerchiefs, is there anyone who thinks he actually would've joined the adventure?


I don't think there is a chance that he would've gone adventuring with a clear head following due consideration. Also, the homeowner in me is left wondering about those dirty dishes sitting on the table for months, molding. Earlier this year, I left 1/3 of a Dilly Bar in my trailer freezer after unplugging it and driving across the mountains leaving it behind. I still haven't been able to get the smell out. So, Bilbo, I feel for you man. You probably worried about that small scrap of egg left on the plate and the mug of tea that you left sitting on your table all the way across the damn Misty Mountains. Not to mention whatever was left in the larder after the great dwarf invasion.


A few words about Bilbo - Tolkien spends the beginning of the chapter easing Bilbo into his adventure. They are passing through familiar country that is both civilized and well-tended, and the journey really does resemble nothing more than a long and pleasant walk, albeit one that ends with making a bed on the ground at night. It doesn't take long, however, for the country and the weather to change and the company to find itself cold, wet and hungry. 


“Bother burgling and everything to do with it! I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!” It was not the last time that he wished that!"

The main bulk of this chapter is taken up by the Cockney Troll Troupe, Bill, Tom and Bert. For some reason, I can't connect the name Bert with anything but Dick Van Dyke singing Chim-Chiminee, which seems about right.


This was one of my favorite chapters growing up - I felt bad for the dwarves, and absolutely awed by the cleverness of Gandalf in keeping the trolls distracted long enough for the sun to come up and turn them to stone. 


Libriomancer posted a prompt in the discussion group:


"Why is it important that Gandalf is not present when the expedition meets the trolls in ch. 2?"


Gandalf's absence gives the dwarves and Bilbo a chance to begin to develop some mutual trust and respect. The dwarves send Bilbo to do some "burgling," and while he is less than thrilled with the idea, he does just that, and rather than following instructions to spy out the lay of the land, he wants to impress them, which causes him to get caught. Rather than leaving him to become troll-stew, the dwarves, one by one, blunder in to rescue him.


I can't decide which of the two of them is less competent, actually. Given that Bilbo is our frame narrator, we know he has no idea what he is doing. But, as a reader, I expect the dwarves to have some sense of self-preservation and/or strategy which they seem utterly to lack here. I wonder what the heck they've been doing up until leaving on this journey - are they as incapable as they appear in this chapter? They lose all the food, and then get captured by trolls. This is a bad sign, right? At this rate, they will be dragon food once they get to the Lonely Mountain - assuming they make it there at all.