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Free Study Guide-The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien-Free Online Book Notes
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Chapter 4: Over Hill and Under Hill

Summary

After their stay in Rivendell, the party starts the long climb into and through the Misty Mountains. The way is unpleasant and hard, but no troubles befall them until one day a thunderstorm starts. Fili and Kili, the two youngest dwarves, are sent to look for shelter. They come back after finding a cave, which is large, dry, and unoccupied. The party moves into the cave with the ponies. Everyone falls asleep except for Bilbo, who sees the ponies disappearing through a crack in the wall. As he gives a tremendous yell, he finds goblins swarming everywhere. Everyone except Gandalf, who has disappeared again, is taken captive and carried through the crack.

Bilbo and the dwarves are taken a long way by the goblins at a terrific pace. Finally, they arrive at a large cavern where the Great Goblin questions them and goes into a rage when he sees Thorin's sword, which the goblins know has killed hundreds of their number. Luckily for the dwarves and Bilbo, Gandalf starts his rescue at that moment. He kills the Great Goblin and creates a pillar of smoke and fire. In the ensuing confusion, the dwarves and Bilbo escape, led by Gandalf. Bilbo, unable to keep up with their pace, is carried on Dori's back. The goblins pursue them, but fall back when Gandalf and Thorin brandish their swords. Though they momentarily escape, the goblins finally catch them from behind. As Dori is grabbed by a goblin, Bilbo falls off his back, bumps his head, and loses consciousness.


Notes

The mood in this chapter is considerably darker than in the previous ones. The mountains and the thunderstorm contribute to the effect and so do the goblins, with their petty cruelties and nasty songs. Once again, the good are thrown into conflict with forces of evil, and this time the resolution is not achieved within the chapter. In fact, the chapter ends with everything in turmoil.

The reader learns a little of the characteristics of goblins and the age-old enmity between the goblins and Thorin's people. Though they do not hate dwarves any more than any other race, the goblins hold a special grudge against Thorin's people for a war in which they fought long ago. Though both dwarves and goblins live underground and can mine, tunnel, and forge, the goblins are not interested in beauty or skill. Instead, they take pleasure in creating weapons of destruction and instruments of torture. The unpleasant aspects of the goblins, introduced in this chapter, foreshadow their future behavior with the forces of good.

Not much character development takes place since the chapter is full of adventure and violence. Bilbo's usefulness to the group is stressed when, due to his wakefulness, he warns Gandalf about the goblins. At the same time, his unheroic nature is highlighted when he is unable to keep pace with his companions as they are escaping and must be carried by the dwarves.

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