Thorin discovers Bilbo's betrayal.
Thorin and Bilbo.
© Alan Lee.
On this day, the joint embassy representing Bard and the Elvenking returns for further parley with Dwarves, and Thorin is astounded to learn not only that they have the Arkenstone of Thrain in their possession, but that it was a member of his own party -- little Bilbo Baggins -- who gave it to them. At this point, Thorin shows us how completely in thrall he is to the "bewilderment" of the great dragon hoard by lifting Bilbo in his arms and threatening to throw the hobbit down onto the cruel rocks below. Thorin is actually ready to murder a friend over this treasure.
Fortunately, Gandalf forestalls such a tragedy by uttering one of my favorite lines in the entire book, "If you don't like my Burglar, please don't damage him. Put him down, and listen first to what he has to say!" The Wizard is a master of understatement, isn't he? And Bilbo's words are indeed most interesting, "Dear me! . . . I am sure this is all very uncomfortable. You may remember saying that I might choose my own fourteenth share? Perhaps I took it too literally - I have been told that dwarves are sometimes politer in word than in deed. The time was, all the same, when you seemed to think that I had been of some service . . . . Is this all the service of you and your family that I was promised, Thorin? Take it that I have disposed of my share as I wished, and let it go at that!" Our hobbit is indeed a very brave little fellow!
Thorin bitterly agrees to ransom the Arkenstone in exchange for Bilbo's one fourteenth share of the hoard "in silver and gold, setting aside the gems," and then parts with Bilbo in the very nastiest of terms, "May we never meet again . . . . Get down now to your friends . . . or I will throw you down . . . . Be off! . . . You have mail upon you, which was made by my folk, and is too good for you. It cannot be pierced by arrows; but if you do not hasten, I will sting your miserable feet. So be swift!" What a horrible experience for poor Bilbo!
It is very important to note that not all of the dwarves are in agreement with Thorin's terrible behavior. The Professor is careful to tell us, "More than one of the dwarves in their hearts felt shame and pity at his [Bilbo's] going." And Gandalf tells Thorin, "You are not making a very splendid figure as King under the Mountain." To top it all off, even as the embassy withdraws with the promise to return in the morning to exchange the Arkenstone for the promised one fourteenth share of the silver and gold, Thorin begins to formulate a plan to forcibly take back the Arkenstone with the help of Dáin, who is due to arrive the next morning, and speedily sends raven messengers to inform Dáin about his predicament and ask him to hurry.
This day shows us Bilbo at his finest, Thorin at his very worst, and forces gathering with the potential for a truly cataclysmic explosion. No wonder The Professor entitled this chapter "The Clouds Burst."
© Middle-earth Journeys. Images © Alan Lee.