The Hobbit – Chapter IV – Over Hill and Under Hill

This is another short chapter, but it has a lot of action in it.  It starts with the thirteen dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf climbing the Misty Mountains.  It is slow going, but they start off confident and cheery.  The good mood doesn’t last long.

The main action of the chapter starts when they are caught in a terrible storm.  Tolkien describes it as a “thunder-battle.”  A thunder-battle is when two thunderstorms meet and clash with each other.  It doesn’t help anything that it is difficult to find shelter in the mountains and that there are giants hurling boulders for the fun of it during the storm.  I like the addition of the giants.  They have nothing whatever to do with this story, but their presence adds depth to the world Tolkien has created.

Being the youngest of the dwarves, Kili and Fili are sent out to look for better shelter.  They find a cave.  Gandalf is a bit suspicious, the cave is too convenient, but between the storm and the giants, everyone decides to give the cave a try.  It’s been pretty obvious from the beginning, but the lesson here is always listen to Gandalf.

Once inside the cave, they let their guard down.  And as they drop off to sleep, the dwarves and the hobbit are kidnapped by goblins.  The goblins think of the cave as their “front porch.”  Gandalf manages to escape because he heard Bilbo yell in the nick of time, but he is the only one.

I mentioned in the first chapter how much I like the fact that the dwarves start their business with a song.  In this chapter, the goblins sing as they transport the dwarves and the hobbit to their king.  It’s a nice touch.  The goblins aren’t just “bad guys” or obstacles to be overcome.  They are a people with their own culture and their own history (and Tolkien seems to know it).  I’m always amazed at how deep this world goes.

When they get before the goblin king, it does not look good.  The goblins discover Thorin’s sword from the troll cave.  It’s given name is Orcrist, but the goblins know it as Biter.  It killed many goblins in its time and the goblins hated it and anyone who carried it.  Luckily for the dwarves and the hobbit, Gandalf had followed them and he caught the goblins unaware and rescued the group.  But, during the escape, they were repeatedly attacked by the goblins.  At the very end of the chapter, Bilbo is knocked unconscious and we don’t know whether the escape is successful.

This is a great chapter for Gandalf.  His power and wisdom have been mentioned and hinted at from the beginning, but this is the first time we see him in action, and he lives up to the hype.  I said before that they should always listen to Gandalf.  But the goblins learn that no one should ever mess with Gandalf.  He’s just that impressive.

On to the next chapter.

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