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Free Study Guide-The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien-Free Online Book Notes
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Chapter 16: A Thief in the Night

Summary

The besieged dwarves spend a lot of time piling and arranging the treasure. Thorin sets them to search for the Arkenstone, which is still missing, and promises vengeance on anybody who finds it and withholds it. Bilbo is frightened, for the stone is still in his possession; he says nothing, however, for he is formulating a plan to use the stone in some way to buy peace. For now, with Dain and his dwarves approaching, everyone must turn their attention to the inevitable battle that lies ahead. Though the ravens counsel Thorin to make peace, he refuses to do so, even though winter is nearly upon them and food will soon be impossible to find.

Bilbo decides to put his plan into action. He offers to take Bombur's turn at the watch; after Bombur goes inside to sleep, Bilbo makes his way to Bard's camp. When he meets Bard and the Elvenking, he tells them about the approach of Dain and his dwarves and offers them the Arkenstone, which they can use in bargaining with Thorin, for he values it more than all his treasure. The Elvenking and Bard are initially surprised and suspicious; they then become grateful to Bilbo and impressed with his cleverness. They offer Bilbo a place at their side, but Bilbo goes back to join his friends.


As he returns to the dwarves, he meets Gandalf, who is pleased to find Bilbo so enterprising and courageous. Back at Lonely Mountain, Bilbo awakens Bombur and goes to sleep himself.

Notes

The action in this chapter is more psychological than physical. As Thorin becomes more greedy and unreasonable, Bilbo develops into a non-greedy, wise, and peace-loving statesman. As Dain and his dwarves approach, signaling a sure start of a battle, Bilbo sneaks away to Bard's camp and gives him the Arkenstone as a bargaining tool for Thorin. The wise Bilbo has not deserted or betrayed the dwarves through his action, as proven when he returns to their side rather than staying with Bard and his men. Bilbo is simply trying to avoid the disaster and destruction of war.

The theme of overpowering greed continues to be developed in the chapter. As the dwarves, especially Thorin, are overcome by irrational greed and protect their treasure at any cost, Bilbo gives away the most precious of the treasure, the Arkenstone. He truly has no avarice, but is ruled by rationality and a desire for peace. Gandalf reappears to congratulate Bilbo on his growth and wisdom. His reappearance suggests that there may be some new twists to the adventure.

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