The Hobbit – Chapter II – Roast Mutton
Chapter II is special to me. When I was a kid, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what to make of Chapter I, so it was Chapter II that drew me in. It’s about perfect juvenile literature. There is plenty of action and danger, but also plenty of humor, mostly of the slapstick variety. This is where the party encounters their first real danger, the trolls.
This is also a chapter where it is readily apparent that The Hobbit is a different kind of book than The Lord Of The Rings. Part of the difference is the humor. But, the trolls are named Bert, Tom and William. In other words, they just have regular old names. In The Lord Of The Rings, the humans don’t even have such common names. It’s clear that the intended audience of The Hobbit is much younger.
As an adult, one thing I particularly like about the chapter is that it lends size and scope to the work as a whole. A whole month is covered in this chapter. It is almost May at the beginning and almost June at the end. The landscape changes from towns and villages to a more desolate hilly environment. And the weather changes from pleasant to rainy. This is clearly bigger than an afternoon hike, they are on a real journey.
Chapter II is also important because the party finds the stash of elvish weapons in the trolls’ cave. These weapons will come to mean a lot later, and in The Lord Of The Rings. We get our first mention of the elves and Rivendell and both come to be very important. But, most important of all are Bilbo’s character beats. We see the internal battle between his comfort loving Baggins side and his adventure loving Took side. At this point, if asked, Bilbo would adamantly claim he is a Baggins through and through. But, he can’t help but feel the need to prove himself to the dwarves when he tries to steal from the trolls. It doesn’t go well, but he tried and its a bit of foreshadowing for what is to come later.