Bilbo's quiet and sedate life is turned upside-down when Galdalf the Grey visits, and ropes him into becoming a burglar and part of a dwarven group who are on a quest. They are lead by Thorin Oakenshield, and are away to the Lonely Mountain to rescue their homeland (and gold) from the dragon Smaug. Bilbo is terrified to leave Bag End, as he had "settled in immovably" (Tolkein, 14). Gandalf appears to manipulate the whole situation, as the dwarves are unsure of Bilbo's qualifications as a burglar, and Bilbo is unsure of his desire to leave his comfy hobbit hole but they all set out together on an adventure.
The quest involves the drarves desire to reclaim the Kingdom of Erebor, in the Lonely Mountain. The dwarves were driven from their kingdom over a hundred years ago (when Thorin's grandfather was King Under the Mountain), when Smaug, a terrifying dragon, was drawn from the North by the dwarven hoard of treasure and took over their mountain and kingdom.
|Gandalf's map, showing a secret entrance to the Lonely Mountain|
The group begins the journey, and the closer to their destination they come, the more harrowing it becomes. They face hunger, attacks, bad weather, and strong desires to return home. In the Lone-lands the company (barring Gandalf) is captured by trolls. Gandalf and Bilbo are able to salvage the situation without any deaths, and the trolls are turned to stone by the sunrise.
After helping themselves to food and weapons discovered in the trolls camp, the company continues to Rivendell, home of the Elves, and rests. Elrond (of Lord of the Rings fame) translates the runes on the weapons, identifying Thorin and Gandalf swords as Orcist and Glamdring, magical weapons originally from the Goblin-War.
After leaving Rivendell, the group travels over the Misty Mountains and runs into trouble with Goblins. Bilbo is separated from the rest of the group, and finds a gold ring which he pockets. His subsequent encounter with Gollum and engages in a game of riddles with him. Bilbo is forced to use the rings power of invisibility to escape the underground lake and tunnels, as well as Gollum. He meets up with the dwarves as they descend from the Misty Mountains The group are pursued by Wargs (large evil wolves), are saved by giant eagles, and rendezvous at Beorn's house. Beorn is a man who can turn into a bear.
Gandalf leaves the company at the entrance to Mirkwood Forest. This seems to be a common trick of Gandalf's, leading a quest into danger and then abandoning them until much later on in the plot. Hmmmm.
|Bilbo's journey from Hobbiton to the Lonely Mountain|
Bilbo, with the help of the ring, saves the dwarves from several dangers. Firstly from giant spiders, then from the prisons of the Elvenking Thranduil (Legolas' father), where they escape by floating in barrels down the river. They end up in Laketown, where after a quick rest they continue to the Lonely Mountain. There the secret entrance is revealed and the company enter Erebor.
Bilbo is sent down to complete his job as burglar and meets Smaug. Smaug sets out to destroy Laketown, after hearing that the men there had helped the questing group. however Bard the Bowman knew of the chink in Smaug's defenses, and sent an arrow to pierce his armour and kill the dragon.
The citizens of Laketown confront Thorin, now secure as King Under the Mountain, and demand compensation for their help and damages. The Elves arrive and demand a part of the treasure too. Bilbo steals the Arkenstone (the Heart of the Mountain), and uses it to broker a peace. Just as a grudging truce is agreed to by the Dwarves, Elves and Men, they are confronted by the Wargs and Goblins. Gandalf re-appears at this point, as do the eagles and Beorn. A great battle is waged - called the Battle of the Five Armies - and with heavy losses the Men, Elves and Dwarves beat the Wargs and Goblins.
Thorin is killed during the battle. Gandalf and Bilbo return to Hobbiton, where Bilbo is very wealthy, but no longer welcome in polite society for having an adventure. Adventures are something to ashamed of and hidden in Hobbit society.
Bilbo and his ring go on to be an integral part of his nephew's adventures, as do many of the other characters encountered in The Hobbit.