The Hobbit – Chapter VI – Out Of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire

Chapter VI has always felt to me like the end of the beginning.  Up until now, Tolkien has been setting the stage, establishing the characters and putting the plot in motion.  After this chapter we will get into the real meat of the story.

There is a lot of action in this chapter.  Bilbo finds his friends, and surprises them with the help of his new magic ring.  Of course, he doesn’t tell them about the ring at this point.  It feels natural, the dwarves have a much improved opinion of their burglar after he demonstrates that he can escape from goblins on his own.  He doesn’t want them to think it was all because of the ring.  At the same time, it fits perfectly with what we will learn about the ring in the Lord of the Rings.  His reluctance to share can be seen as the ring already exerting its influence on Bilbo.

Then, the group decides they need to put distance between themselves and the goblins before nightfall.  They move as fast as they can, survive a rock slide by sheltering in the woods where they find a clearing.  It turns out the clearing is a meeting place for the evil wolves, known as wargs, and the goblins.

Soon after the group arrives at the clearing, the wargs start to gather.  The dwarves, the hobbit and Gandalf climb some trees and Gandalf starts hurling fire down upon the wolves.  These wolves are intelligent, but they can’t climb trees or control fire.  Unfortunately, goblins soon arrive, and goblins can control fire.  The goblins move the fire to the trees that our heroes are in.

Here is probably the most blatant instance of luck in the whole story.  The great eagles happen to be flying nearby.  The eagles don’t care about dwarves one way or the other, but they dislike the wargs and the goblins, so they investigate.  When they see what is happening, the eagles rescue the dwarves, the hobbit and the wizard.  Luckily for everyone, Gandalf had done a favor for the head eagle, so the eagles agree to bring the group to safety and further along on their journey.

For all the action in the chapter, there isn’t much development.  The characters remain the same.  The main plot is not advanced.  As I said at the beginning, this chapter just serves to close this section of the book, happily with a lot of excitement.


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