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‘The Hobbit’ Story Group 12: Inside Information

Two hundred pages into the story, Bilbo Baggins finally “burglarizes” the lair of Smaug the Terrible.

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We come to it at last — the eve of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’s U.S. release date.

This chapter, as far as I can tell, will be the last the film covers. It makes sense; after all, The Hobbit’s first film went up to chapter six, so the second may cover six more chapters. That leaves seven chapters covered by a third film, evenly dividing the book into three parts.

But I might be wrong. The second Desolation of Smaug trailer seems to show Thorin, Bilbo and the rest actually together in the now-vacated Smaug’s cave. Will the film continue into chapter 13? If so, I’ll simply release another one of these next week. What do you guess?

Chapter 12: Inside Information

  1. Read chapter 12 in its entirety.
  2. There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much. (page 200) Again, this is what sets The Hobbit apart from other fiction: its heroes are not like traditional heroes, and here Tolkien directly admits it. How is this different from other stories you may have read, especially in this genre? How is it like or not like the Bible’s heroes?
  3. More imaginative suspense fills the tunnel’s dark air as Bilbo, 200 pages into the story, finally descends into the beast’s lair. If you can recall reading the story for the first time, did you expect him to confront Smaug alone? How do you feel going down with him?
  4. … You can picture him coming to the end of the tunnel, an opening of much the same size and shape as the door above. Through it peeps the hobbit’s little head. … Rising from the near side of the rocky floor there is a great glow. The glow of Smaug! To what style has Tolkien shifted? (Present tense.) Why has he done this — almost like a screenwriter?
  5. From what you can recall, did it surprise you that Bilbo simply stole a cup and fled?
  6. “What then do you propose we should do, Mr Baggins?” (page 207) Why are the dwarves seem so trusting of Bilbo now — at least when they’re not blaming him for missteps?
  7. (Do you believe the film adaptation will include both Bilbo’s journeys, or only one?)
  8. How does Bilbo think of himself as he comes to the dragon? How do you feel watching?
  9. Now for the long-delayed confrontation with Smaug. How familiar are you with dragons in fantasy literature? How is Smaug different or like those other famous dragons? What makes him so terrifying to Bilbo (and to us), besides the fact that he is large and mighty and can fly and breathe fire? That is, how does the dragon’s cunning and manipulation exploit Bilbo’s own fears, perhaps doing him far worse harm than a physical attack?
  10. “As for your share, Mr Baggins, I assure you … you shall choose your own fourteenth …” (page 216) Thorin assures Bilbo that Smaug is wrong. Knowing what we do about dwarves’ love of gold, but also sense of honor, do you believe him? Or might doubt linger in our minds about the dwarves’ intentions? What do you think Bilbo thinks?

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