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Free Study Guide-The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien-Free Online Book Notes
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Chapter 2: Roast Mutton

Summary

When Bilbo awakens the next morning, he finds that all his visitors have left, after having consumed a large breakfast. He sets about clearing up the mess and washing up. After that, he has his breakfast in a leisurely fashion. Gandalf interrupts Bilbo just as he is about to have a second breakfast. The wizard points out a note addressed to Bilbo on the mantelpiece. The letter, written by the dwarves, state that they will wait for him at the Green Dragon Inn at 11 a.m. Bilbo is also promised one-fourteenth of the total profits from the adventure.

Urged on by Gandalf, Bilbo makes a hurried departure, neglecting to bring even a hat or handkerchief. He meets the dwarves as instructed and borrows a hood and cloak from Dwalin. The party then sets off on ponies; Gandalf soon joins them on a fine white horse. The group travels together for many days, out of the hobbit- lands and into the Lone-lands, where there are few people, no inns, and barely passable roads. As if to match the bleak setting, misfortune sets in upon the group. Gandalf is discovered to be missing, and the weather turns wet and dreary. When they set camp, they are unable to build fire. Worst of all, one of the ponies' bolts, and they lose most of their food.

Suddenly, the group notices a small light in the distance. Bilbo is sent to investigate and finds three trolls feasting on roast mutton. He foolishly tries to steal a purse belong to one of the trolls; although he is caught, he manages to get away when the trolls start to fight amongst themselves. The dwarves, hearing the racket, come to investigate; in the melee that ensues, all the dwarves except Thorin are captured. Thorin and Bilbo try to fight the trolls and also end up in sacks. At this point, Gandalf secretly returns and makes the trolls argue amongst themselves. The argument continues until daybreak, when all three trolls are caught by the rising sun and transformed into stone. Gandalf quickly releases Bilbo and the dwarves, who try to enter the trolls' cave to find food and provisions. Even with Gandalf's help, they are unable to open the door to the cave until Bilbo finds a key.


Once inside, the group finds food, which they eat, and treasure, which they hide until their return; they also find two beautifully jeweled swords, which Gandalf and Thorin claim, and a knife big enough to be a small sword for Bilbo. When questioned about his disappearance, Gandalf tells the others that he went ahead to check out the road and make arrangements for their stocks to be replenished at Rivendell. He also reveals how he set the trolls to arguing by using ventriloquism to imitate their voices.

Notes

This chapter introduces the start of the actual adventures and the episodic nature of the novel. After the comfort and ease of the first chapter, there is an obvious, sharp shift to the discomfort of the journey and the dangers of the road. The mood, however, does not become grim. The incident with the not-very-bright and argumentative trolls does have an element of humor, and at no point does the incident acquire disastrous overtones.

It is important to notice that even in this second chapter, Bilbo has begun his journey towards heroic stature. His desire to steal the purse from the trolls, though foolhardy, is a break from his earlier, over-cautious existence. He then willingly joins Thorin in fighting the trolls in order to set their companions free. Bilbo is also the one who is clever enough to get the key to the trolls' cave.

The characters of Gandalf and Thorin are further developed in the chapter. Gandalf begins to emerge as a mysterious figure, as he disappears and reappears without a word to anyone; he is also pictured as helpful, assisting Bilbo and the dwarves when they are in need. Thorin shows his loyalty to his companions and his bravery by launching a rescue attempt even though he has only Bilbo to aid him.

By this second chapter, the action has begun to slowly rise and the contest between good and evil is started. This first battle of the novel, between the dwarves and the trolls, is decisively won by the dwarves, representing the forces of good; the forces of evil, represented by the trolls, are squarely defeated.

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