Bilbo Baggins belonged to a race of diminutive people called hobbits. They were a tidy and respectable race, and the Baggins clan was the most respectable of the hobbits. They never did anything unusual or unexpected. Above all, they never went on any adventures.
Bilbo’s mother was Belladonna Took. The Tooks were a hobbit clan whose history was marred by many unseemly adventures. Nevertheless, Bilbo seemed to be a typical respectable Baggins. His Took blood did not manifest itself until he was about 50 years old.
Gandalf, a wizard, was responsible for Bilbo’s Tookish manifestation. He inveigled Bilbo into joining a perilous expedition. Smaug, a dragon, had stolen the fabulous treasures of the dwarves. A noble dwarf named Thorin and his eleven followers wanted to get them back. Gandalf was going to assist them, at least for a while. Bilbo was going to be their professional burglar.
They had to travel from Bilbo’s house to Lonely Mountain, where Smaug was guarding the treasure. They began the journey on horseback. After passing through rural areas in the land of the hobbits, they entered lands that were unfamiliar to Bilbo. When it began to rain, Bilbo wished that he had not left his comfortable hobbit-hole.
One night Gandalf temporarily disappeared. Three trolls captured the twelve dwarves and tied them up in sacks. The trolls were planning to eat them.
Gandalf returned in the nick of time. By imitating the voices of the trolls, he managed to make them quarrel with one another for a long period of time. Gandalf knew that they had to go underground before the sun rose; otherwise they would be turned into solid rock. Gandalf managed to keep the quarrel going till morning, so the three trolls became petrified.
From the cave of the trolls, they took some gold and provisions. Gandalf and Thorin each took an excellent sword, and Bilbo took a smaller knife that he planned to use as a weapon.
They enjoyed a brief respite when they came to the Last Homely House in the valley of Rivendale. Here they stayed for fourteen days. The elves who lived here proved to be friendly and hospitable. Elrond was their master.
The swords of Thorin and Gandalf were inscribed with runes, which Elrond could read. Thorin learned that the name of his sword was Orcrist, or Goblin-cleaver. Gandalf’s sword was Glamdring, or Foe-hammer.
Elrond also found a secret inscription on the map that Thorin was using. He helped the dwarves interpret it. This information later proved to be useful.
After leaving Rivendale, they tried to cross the Misty Mountains. Bad weather forced them to seek shelter in a cave. While they were sleeping, goblins captured Bilbo, the dwarves, their ponies, and all the baggage. Thanks to a warning yell by Bilbo, Gandalf was able to escape.
The Great Goblin started questioning his captives. When he saw that Thorin had been carrying Orcrist, a sword that the goblins hated, he became furiously angry. The captives would have suffered severely, but Gandalf used his magic power to extinguish their torches. He killed the Great Goblin and rescued the captives. Gandalf managed to recover Orcrist, but the horses and provisions were permanently lost.
As the party fled from the pursuing goblins, Bilbo got lost. He found a ring that made him invisible when he wore it. It belonged to a cannibal named Gollum.
Then he had to deal with Gollum. The cannibal was not particularly hungry, so he suggested that they ask one another riddles. If Gollum won the contest, he would eat Bilbo. If Bilbo won, Gollum would show him the way out of the mountain.
Bilbo won the contest, but Gollum did not keep his promise. He went to fetch his ring so that he could become invisible and attack Bilbo without being seen. When Gollum could not find the ring, he figured that Bilbo had it and approached him in a menacing manner.
Bilbo put on the ring and became invisible. This enabled him to evade Gollum, slip past the goblins that guarded the back door of the subterranean system of tunnels, and emerge into the light of day. Since Gandalf had led the others out through this same back door, Bilbo was soon reunited with his friends. He did not tell them about the ring till later.
Now they no longer had to cross Misty Mountains. By using this back door, they had emerged on the other side.
Since the goblins would start chasing them as soon as it got dark, they traveled as fast and as far as they could. However, they arrived at a place where the goblins were planning to meet with some wolves known as wargs. The goblins and the wargs were planning to attack a nearby human settlement that night.
To escape the wargs, Gandalf and his party climbed trees. Gandalf gathered pine cones from his tree, lighted them with a blue light, and threw them at the wargs, so that their fur started burning. When the goblins came, they used the resultant flames to set fire to the trees in which Gandalf and his party had taken refuge. Fortunately, noble eagles saw them and carried them to their aerie. After the group ate and rested, the eagles carried them to a safe distance and set them down.
Gandalf then took them to the home of Beorn, who had the ability to change his skin. Sometimes he was a strong black-haired man; sometimes he was a bear. After providing generous hospitality, Beorn lent them ponies and provisions and sent them on their way.
When they reached the sinister Mirkwood Forest, they had to return the ponies that they had borrowed. At this point, Gandalf left them. Before leaving, he warned them not to leave the path that led through the forest.
In the forest, they encountered oppressive darkness, huge bats, and moths as big as a hand. A seemingly interminable dark path was interrupted only by a soporific river, the waters of which they did not dare to touch. Fortunately, there was a boat in which they could cross.
The entire group had crossed except Bombur, the heaviest dwarf. Then a deer, fleeing from hunters, came down the path. Thorin shot it as it was leaping across the stream. The deer hit Bombur, and Bombur fell into the water. They managed to rescue him with a rope before he fell asleep, but then they had to carry him. When he finally awoke, he could not remember anything that happened since the time that he left the house of Bilbo Baggins.
They ran out of food. In the forest, they saw a light created by wood elves who were enjoying themselves. Hunger drove them to leave the path and seek hospitality. However, the distrustful wood elves disappeared and moved elsewhere whenever Bilbo and the dwarves came into view.
They could not find their way back to the path. The wood elves captured Thorin and took Orcrist away from him. Huge spiders captured the other dwarves. With the help of his magic ring and his sword, Bilbo rescued the twelve dwarves who had been captured by the spiders.
The next day, the wood elves took the twelve remaining dwarves captive. Bilbo escaped notice by slipping on his ring.
Now all the dwarves were prisoners in the cavern of the king of the elves. Bilbo entered the residence without being noticed.
Bilbo learned that it was possible to leave the castle by an underground river and that empty wine barrels were regularly sent down the river to a human village called the Lake-town for refilling. While the guard was drunk, Bilbo took the keys, freed the dwarves, and packed them in wine barrels. Bilbo himself clung to a floating wine barrel. They were uncomfortable when they reached the waters near the Lake-town, but they were safe.
Thorin led the group to the village and announced that he was the King under the Mountain and had returned to claim what Smaug had stolen from his fathers. The master of the village was skeptical, but the people received them enthusiastically. After a couple weeks, they helped Thorin and his followers reach Lone Mountain.
Because of the dragon, they did not use the main entrance. They found the secret door, but it was enchanted, and they could not open it. According to the runes on Thorin’s map, it could only be opened on Durin’s Day (the dwarf New Year) at the time when the last ray of light was shining on the keyhole. Thorin had the key that could open the door, but he did not know when to use it.
As the proper moment was about to occur, Bilbo recognized the signs and called Thorin. Thorin inserted the key, and the door opened.
Bilbo entered, passed through a tunnel, and saw Smaug sleeping on the treasure. He took a large two-handled cup and brought it back to the dwarves.
When the dragon awoke, it noticed that the cup was missing. It went outside to search for the thief and noticed the camp of the dwarves. It ate six of the ponies and planned to catch more of them later. Smaug could smell the dwarves but suspected that the men of the Lake-town were behind the theft.
Bilbo ventured to approach the dragon again. This time it was only pretending to sleep. As Bilbo conversed with Smaug, he saw that the dragon had a weak spot on the hollow of its left breast. To avoid angering the dragon, Bilbo answered its questions with riddles. He later felt that he had given it too much information.
Smaug emerged from inside the mountain stronghold. He smashed the secret entrance, thereby trapping Bilbo and the dwarves. After a couple of days, they ventured through the tunnel and found that Smaug was not guarding the treasure. Bilbo was the first to investigate. He secretly took an important gem called the Arkenstone. Then the dwarves came and filled their pockets. They then left the mountain palace and hid in a safe place.
In the meantime, Smaug had attacked the Lake-town. For protection, it had been built out on the lake; but Smaug flew over the town and wreaked destruction by breathing fire on it. Archers, led by a hero named Bard, vainly attempted to kill it. The master and others fled.
A talking thrush told Bard to aim for the hollow in his left breast. With his last arrow, he killed the dragon. The dragon fell on the town and destroyed it.
The people needed a new city. Bard sent messengers to the wood elves asking them to help them build it. In addition, it was generally believed that Smaug had slain Thorin and his companions, so the men and elves planned to help themselves to the treasures in Lone Mountain.
By the time that Bard led the men and the elves to Lone Mountain, Thorin and his men had fortified it well. They refused to share any of the gold with the men, even though Smaug had stolen some of it from his people. Bard decided to besiege the residence of the dwarves without committing any other hostile act.
In an effort to make peace, Bilbo sneaked into the camp of the besieging armies and gave the Arkenstone to Bard. Thorin valued the Arkenstone above all other treasures, and he suggested that Bard use it as a bargaining chip to get the treasure to which they were entitled. Before Bilbo returned to his comrades, he happened to see Gandalf.
In the ensuing parley, Bilbo admitted that he had given the Arkenstone to Bard. With Bilbo’s consent, Thorin pretended that he would give Bilbo’s share of the treasure to the men in exchange for the Arkenstone. Actually, he expected an army of dwarves to come to his aid soon. He planned to fight for the Arkenstone.
Thorin expelled Bilbo from his residence. Gandalf saved him from a worse fate.
A dwarf named Dain arrived with a strong army. He was about to fight the besiegers, but Gandalf pointed out that an army of goblins were approaching. So the erstwhile enemies joined forces to fight the common foe. It was called the Battle of the Five Armies. Goblins and wolves fought elves, men, and dwarves.
Though Thorin had remained in his residence during the early part of the battle, he and his comrades issued forth at an opportune time and temporarily repulsed the goblins. However, Thorin was mortally wounded.
When the goblins were about to win the battle, the eagles arrived. Then Beorn arrived in the shape of a huge bear. The goblins were utterly defeated.
Thorin made peace with Bilbo before he died. Bard laid the Arkenstone on Thorin’s breast. The king of the elves laid Orcrist on his tomb. Dain became King under the Mountain. Ten of Thorin’s twelve companions survived the battle. The treasure was divided amicably. Bilbo did not want any. They had to persuade him to take a little.
Bilbo returned home in the company of Gandalf. When he arrived, he found that people thought that he was dead. His resultant legal problems lasted several years.
Many years later, Gandalf and one of the dwarves visited Bilbo. They reported that dwarves, men, and elves lived in friendship and harmony and that the area enjoyed peace and prosperity.
My source for this summary is an online version of The Hobbit presented by the Read Any Book website.
Read Any Book: The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien