Gandalf, Bilbo, and Beorn leave Lonely Mountain
They came to the river that marked ….
© Alan Lee.
Bilbo is now 'weary of his adventure' and 'aching in his bones' for the homeward journey, but before he can start back to his comfy Hobbit hole there is business to attend to and farewells to be made. Firstly there is the question of the Dragon's gold. Bard has received a 14th share of the treasure from Dain (who has dealt more justly with the treasure than the unfortunate Thorin) and now Bard wants to give Bilbo the richest reward of all out of the gifts he makes out of his share (though one wonders why Bilbo share isn't coming directly from Dain, who only gives him a necklace). But Bilbo is ever the practical, down-to-earth Hobbit. Although much altered by his adventure one thing hasn't changed. He isn't seduced by the gold - too much is a trouble: 'How on earth should I have got all that treasure home without war and murder all along the way, I don't know'. In fact he's relieved. Perhaps it's as well the dwarves didn't travel with the Sackville-Bagginses! Bilbo only accepts two small chests of silver and gold, as much as one sturdy pony can carry (not to mention the mithril coat - worth more than all the Shire, even though he didn't know it - the Ring and Sting).
There is other business to finish. When parting with the Elvenking outside Mirkwood he doesn't feel comfortable unless he recompenses him for all the food and drink he consumed while an invisible 'Burglar' in his halls. So he gives him Dain's present of the silver and pearl necklace - ending up with nothing directly from the Dwarves at all except Thorin's personal gift of the Mithril coat. The Elvenking calls him 'Bilbo the Magnificent' and names him 'Elf-friend', a high honour that only readers of the whole of Tolkien's legendarium can appreciate - following in the footsteps of Hurin, Tuirin, Beren and the great men of Middle-earth history.
As well as sorting out the treasure and gifts there are goodbyes to be made. The farewell to the dwarves is made painful by the absence of Thorin (reconciled to Bilbo at the last) and Fili and Kili, Thorin's nephews, who died protecting him. Bilbo bows in homage to the Lonely Mountain where they are buried. The dwarves part with him with fittingly formal words to mark the occasion: 'If ever you visit us again, when our halls are made fair once more, then the feast shall indeed be splendid!' But Bilbo, although being in the middle of grand events, is ever the Hobbit 'If ever you are down my way, don't wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome at any time!' It's these little touches of bathos that grounds Bilbo and The Hobbit and brings it back full circle to homely Hobbit Holes, tea and comfort. For Bilbo the Magnificent tea will ever be at four, no matter how many dragons have intervened.
And so Bilbo leaves the Lonely Mountain with honour, riding beside Gandalf and Beorn and behind the Elvenking himself.
© Middle-earth Journeys. Images © Alan Lee.