The Company Crosses the River and are captured by the Trolls
Bert, Bill and Tom the Trolls.
© Alan Lee.
"Bother burgling and everything to do with it! I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!" We should become accustomed to this sentiment because, as The Professor so dryly informs us, this is not the last time Bilbo will have such thoughts!
Indeed, it doesn't take very long for Bilbo's adventure with Gandalf and the Dwarves to hit a rather rough patch. Far into the Lone-lands, the weather turns cold and stormy, and just after they have managed to cross the swollen river, they realize that Gandalf has gone missing. They attempt to make camp, but can't get a fire started. One of the ponies bolts into the river, losing a good deal of their food and nearly drowning Fili and Kili.
In the midst of their general misery, Balin, the look-out, spies a light in the distance. After some bickering back and forth, they decide to investigate because, "After all, we have got a burglar with us." Bilbo needs to get accustomed to this sentiment, as this will be just the first of MANY occasions upon which the Dwarves will put him in the position of doing the investigating. Thorin's advice? "Come back quick, if all is well. If not, come back if you can! If you can't, hoot twice like a barn-owl and once like a screech-owl, and we will do what we can." My . . . that's comforting . . .
Thus it is that little Bilbo comes upon three very big trolls - Bert, William (Bill), and Tom - who are getting testy with each other over their monotonous diet of mutton over the last several days. Common sense tells Bilbo to leave quietly and warn the Dwarves about this imminent danger, but the Tookish side of him feels the need to enhance his status as the company's resident burglar by attempting to pick Bill's pocket.
This proves disastrous, and in short order, Bilbo finds himself grabbed up first by the neck, then by the feet, and lastly by the hair. Ouch! Fortunately for Bilbo, these trolls are contentious creatures, and it doesn't take much for a disagreement to turn into an out and out row over what's to be done with the "burrahobbit" they've captured.
Bilbo has just enough sense to crawl away from the fight and hide, but of course, the noise causes the Dwarves to begin arriving one by one to find out what has happened to their burglar. In short order, all of the Dwarves are captured and popped into sacks, and Bert, Bill, and Tom begin bickering over the fine art of cooking Dwarves - Should they be roasted, minced up and boiled, or squashed into jelly?
Luckily, at this point Gandalf quietly returns, and by mimicking the trolls' voices, he succeeds in turning their bickering into an extended series of arguments and fights (My daughters always get the giggles over, "You're a booby . . . . Booby yourself!" These trolls argue just like school kids on the playground!) until at last the sun comes up, and the trolls turn to stone.
After freeing the Dwarves, Gandalf suggests that they search for the trolls' hideout. Here, Bilbo performs his first useful act for the company by producing a key that he found on the ground during the trolls' fight. Inside the lair, they find food to replace some of the supplies they've lost, but more importantly, they also find two beautiful elven swords and Bilbo chooses an elven knife, all of which will play important roles in this adventure and the larger tale that unfolds in The Lord of the Rings.
After a good breakfast and some sleep, they bury the pots of gold from the trolls' hoard to be retrieved later, hopefully. Gandalf explains that he had left their party the evening before to scout the road ahead, whereupon he ran into two elves from Rivendell (Am I the only one who thinks these elves were probably Elladan and Elrohir?) who warned him about the three trolls. This is why he was able to return in the nick of time to forestall the roasting, mincing, boiling, and squashing. With the Wizard's part of the tale fully explained, the company continues down the road towards The Last Homely House.
© Middle-earth Journeys. Images © Alan Lee.