Thu
Mar 14 2013 12:00pm

The Hobbit Reread: Chapter 16, “A Thief in the Night”

The Hobbit reread on Tor.com Welcome back to the chapter-by-chapter reread of The Hobbit. You can find past posts at the reread index, or you can catch up with our previous reread of The Lord of the Rings. As always, the discussion will contain spoilers for everything Tolkien wrote about Middle-earth (that is: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and various posthumous tidbits); if you haven’t read the book before and would like to remain unspoiled, I recommend reading along with Mark Reads first.

This week, we consider Chapter 16, “A Thief in the Night,” in which expectations of varying kinds are confounded.

 

What Happens

Time passes slowly under the besieged Mountain, as Thorin looks everywhere for the Arkenstone and Bilbo begins to plan. Then Roäc tells them that Dain and over five hundred dwarves are two days’ march from Dale. Though Roäc tries to dissuade Thorin from having these new dwarves come to the Mountain, for fear of battle, Thorin rejects his advice, saying, “With my friends behind them and winter upon them, they will perhaps be in softer mood to parley with.”

That night, Bilbo puts his plan into action. He offers to take Bombur’s turn on watch, and when Bombur goes to sleep, slips out. He is caught by the elves and brought to the Elvenking and Bard. There, he tells them about Dain and how he is “merely trying to avoid trouble for all concerned,” and gives them the Arkenstone to aid in their bargaining. At Bard’s inquiry, he admits that the Arkenstone “isn’t exactly” his to give, but he is going to go back to the dwarves anyway, despite the Elvenking’s attempt to convince him to stay.

As Bilbo leaves the camp, Gandalf tells him that he did well and makes cryptic comments about upcoming news. Bilbo makes it back to the Mountain without incident and is soon “dreaming of eggs and bacon.”

 

Comments

Just how contrary to expectations was this development at the time of publication, I wonder? It’s very contrary to my expectations now, both in an overall sense of how fantasy stories go and in the specific sense of this story, because as Bilbo says in this chapter, for all that his role is burglar, he “never really felt like one” and I, at least, never really saw him as one (this goes back to the apparent disconnect between our feelings about “burglar” as a profession and the story’s). But I have no idea how I reacted to this as a kid because I was so young. How did you all react, the first time you read it? I’m assuming that if you’re reading this post, you actually like the book, but do you know anyone who was upset by it and doesn’t like the book as a result?

Because, here’s the thing: right now I’m inclined to think that Bilbo giving the Arkenstone to Bard is what makes the book more than a pleasant travelogue with some inventive action scenes, but I’m also perfectly willing to accept that this might be the last straw for some readers, and it’s not my business to tell them they should feel otherwise. I think this is probably an intrinsic risk: the unexpected change that some people will love, will also be the disorienting turn or even betrayal that other people will loathe. (Examples from other genres: I hate The Usual Suspects and love Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion.)

I can also imagine that the ethics of Bilbo’s actions might trouble some readers. And Bilbo is a bit troubled himself—even as he picked up the Arkenstone and tried to justify it to himself as his chosen fourteenth share, “he had an uncomfortable feeling that the picking and choosing had not really been meant to include this marvellous gem, and that trouble would yet come of it.” And the very fact that he then keeps it quiet shows, perhaps more than anything, that he knows it wasn’t the right thing to do. (“How uncomfortable would it be to explain this in public” is a useful, though not foolproof, general way of assessing the propriety of actions, especially in the professional context.)

At any rate, I don’t think, and I don’t think the book thinks, that Bilbo’s theft is okay because it could later be turned to a good purpose. Instead, I think it doesn’t irreparably stain Bilbo’s character because Bilbo renounced his selfishness (and any reasonable prospect of materially profiting from it) for the greater good.

Moving from the big picture to the details:

Talking about playing against expectations, the conversation between Bilbo, the Elvenking, and Bard is kind of hilarious. No wonder the Elvenking and Bard are “gazing curiously at him” when he’s talking “in his best business manner” about carefully-kept letters and shares in profits rather than the gross and so forth, here in a military camp besieging him and his companions!

That said, Bilbo still does a good job of persuasion, in contrast to last chapter. He acknowledges the reasonableness of Bard’s perspective (“I see your point of view”) before gently noting that he has additional information, which gives his listeners a way to change their minds without having to admit they were wrong. And, though this may not be strategic, he doesn’t get huffy when Bard assumes the worst of him (“Are you betraying your friends, or are you threatening us?”). Granted he doesn’t have a lot of persuading to do once he pulls out the Arkenstone, but it’s still notable that he gets them to listen before then.

The description of the Arkenstone here, by the way, doesn’t do a lot for me: “It was as if a globe had been filled with moonlight and hung before them in a net woven of the glint of frosty stars.” I went back and looked at the post for Chapter 13, where Bilbo takes it, and I didn’t even bother to quote it there, so it can’t have made much of an impression on me then, either. (For the record: “The great jewel shone before his feet of its own inner light, and yet, cut and fashioned by the dwarves, who had dug it from the heart of the mountain long ago, it took all light that fell upon it and changed it into ten thousand sparks of white radiance shot with glints of the rainbow.”) Possibly I am being unduly influenced by Anne of Green Gables, who in one of the formative books of my childhood declared that she found diamonds disappointing (though my engagement ring is a diamond and I love it). Or maybe you had to be there and let it cast its spell over you in person—which works even on Bard, I notice (he holds it “as though dazed” and asks Bilbo about his possession of it “with an effort”).

Miscellany:

  • The narrative uses the adjective “little” repeatedly when describing Bilbo, which emphasizes the outsized effect he is about to have and his bravery.
  • You know your plan sucks when Roäc flat-out tells you so!
  • Gandalf is extremely inscrutable in this chapter, and I clearly have much less tolerance for it than Bilbo, who finds it cheering—though, to be fair, I am not hurrying back to the Mountain for fear of being caught away.

Finally: no dwarf updates. Bilbo does think wistfully of being back in his own home (11/15).

Next week, “The Clouds Burst”; see you then.


Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at Dreamwidth and her booklog.

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38 comments
Lsana
1. Lsana
I think I did expect Bilbo to give Bard the Arkenstone throughout this chapter. I think I started suspecting he would during the conversation about Dain, and by the time Bilbo snuck out, I was sure of it.

As far as the ethics of Bilbo's actions, I remember I was upset when Bilbo took the Arkenstone in the last chapter when it seemed like he was going to keep it for himself; that struck me as a definite betrayal of Thorin. However, I wasn't bothered by him giving it to Bard. Mostly I think that was because (1) it was genuinely unselfish and done to protect his friends from their own worst instincts, and (2) I had enough faith in Bard to believe the stone would go back to its rightful owner as soon as Bard got the compensation he should have.
Scott Silver
2. hihosilver28
Not a fan of The Usual Suspects!? Huh, simply because of the twist or due to other concerns?

I really like this plot development, and for me, it makes the book. I didn't even really consider that Bilbo had taken the Arkenstone for himself, but that definitely could be read into his motives. But throughout the book, he consistently belittled and taken advantage of by the dwarves, and so when he uses the Arkenstone to prevent a massive battle and death, I viewed it as quite just.
Kit Case
3. wiredog
It was so long ago, the first time I heard the story. Read to me when I was in 1st or 2nd grade. Maybe 3rd? I remember hearing it, and this part, but nothing particularly about how I felt about Bilbo taking the Arkenstone. I do remember thinking that he was very clever.

I always thought the Arkenstone was a big diamond, like the one Queen Elizabeth has on top of that fancy club she keeps in the Tower.
Lsana
4. pilgrimsoul
Bilbo's intent is clearly good, and he refuses to stay in safety with Bard and the Elvenking and returns to his companions and Thorin's wrath--the latter somewhat redeeems his actions for me, but, yes, I was bothered although not to the extent of disliking Bilbo or the book.
James Whitehead
5. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
It didn't bother me really. Bilbo took something that eventually he knew he had no claim to. Not a great thing to do, but all little kids (Tolkien's primary audience) reading this passage could identify with Bilbo; many of them probably having done something similar.

He makes the best of a bad situation by giving the Arkenstone to the 'occupiers' to try to make sure was does not follow. He didn't do this to 'make up' for his mistake but to save his friends from certain death due to their own obstinacy, as he saw it.

Kato
Rich Bennett
6. Neuralnet
I am always a little bit mad at Bilbo after this chapter. I feel like he should have given the arkenstone to Thorin already and wonder if Thorin had found the Arkenstone maybe it would have changed his willingness to hand some treasure over to the humans to rebuild Dale and diffused this whole situation. Plus, it just seems naive of Bilbo to assume that he can give the humans/elves the arkenstone and it will make things alright.

my opinion as a kid reading for the first time was very different... I think I read it in 3rd or 4th grade and I was of the opinion at that time that Bilbo should have just kept it for himself. Finders keepers etc.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
7. Lisamarie
I wish I remembered what I thought the first time I read it. But, while it does bother me a bit that he took the Arkenstone when he knew Thorin really wanted it, I like his plan to avoid bloodshed here. It may not be the most legit thing to do, but he was making the best of a bad situation and avoid a war, and it pretty much works (until the goblins get there).

I always viewed the arkenstone as a big, colorful opal.
Steven Halter
8. stevenhalter
I was somewhat more upset when Bilbo pocketed the stone in the last chapter and when he rather deceived Bombur to get outside. When he gave over the Arkenstone to try to avoid a war I was quite a bit less upset--especially when Gandalf seemed to endorse the plan.
Bard and the Elvenking both keep coming off as not quite honorable in their own intentions.
David Levinson
9. DemetriosX
I've never really felt good about Bilbo's actions here. I was 12 the first time I read it and, I suppose naturally, it felt off to me. Ever since, that first impression has colored my feelings about it. Gandalf obviously approves, but I'm less sanguine about it.
Lsana
10. HelenS
I think I just didn't really understand that part of the negotiation at all, and this was the beginning of what I always thought of as the most boring, unintelligible part of the book rather than the Exciting Climax.
Lsana
11. armorbear1
its really very difficult to imagine about any type disaster am really get scared whenever i heard about such disaster news in nearby our area....
Alan Brown
12. AlanBrown
Well, first, since we are talking about dealing with guilty feelings here, let me disclose that I prepared for this reread by listening to the audio drama of the Hobbit, not reading the book.
But the funny thing was, as I listened, I remembered everything about the book right up to the barrel ride, encounter with Smaug under the mountain, and his death by arrow. But after that, I was in what felt like new territory. I remembered there was a big battle at the end, but had forgotten the treasure-hungry falling-out among the different groups, and Bilbo's theft of the Arkenstone.
So, I basically remembered the portions of the tale that were travel narrative or more predictably hewing to the epic traditions, but forgot all the moral ambiguity. I wonder if that forgetfulness is because I couldn't wrap my 12 year old head around moral ambiguities when I first read it.
Hmmm...
Kate Nepveu
13. katenepveu
Briefly--if anyone reading this is going to be in the vicinity of Rye Brook, NY, this coming Saturday, right now I'm scheduled to be on a panel at Lunacon at 10 a.m. on the Hobbit movie. (The schedule is still, alas, somewhat in flux.) Come say hi!
Lsana
14. Gardner Dozois
If Bilbo had stolen the Arkenstone for personal gain, or even because he had fallen under its seductive spell and couldn't bear to part with it ("My Precious!"), it would be betrayal. Since he steals it in an attempt to prevent a war and keep his friends from being killed, and gives it away for that purpose (thus not only profiting, but, as he surely must know, probably forfeiting all profit of any sort from the whole journey, since Throrin's reaction is completely predictable), it may be misguided, probably naive, but it never struck me as betrayal, and didn't make me dislike Bilbo, who is doing his best to do what he thinks is right in a difficult, almost impossible, situation. Especially as he goes back to face the music afterward, even though it's pretty clear that Bard and the Elvenking think that Thorin will probably kill him. Nor do I think that Tolkien expected you to dislike Bilbo for doing this.
Theresa Wymer
15. Tekalynn
Oh, that's easy for me to answer. I HATED it. I couldn't stand that Bilbo took the Arkenstone, and actually...

Okay, the very rare times I read The Hobbit, I read up until about Smaug, then cut to the Battle of Five Armies and pretend the whole Arkenstone thing NEVER HAPPENED.
T C
16. Freelancer
I'm always curious about issues like this. I read the story the author wrote, not the story I wish to force from the pages. If there is a notable portion of a story I refuse to read, I won't ever read the story again at all, rather than slice it up into another structure meeting my approval.

What Bilbo does, is done with honorable intent. Even if the immediate ethics of acquiring the Arkenstone are shady, it itsn't a tenth as shady as how he has been viewed and treated by those who should have long since accepted him as a true, full member of the band. They hadn't a qualm about invading his home and devastating his pantry, but they refuse to trust him an inch. Well, he showed them, he saved their corporate hides by taking the gem.

Young readers will generally think to themselves; he's doing something he ought not, but he isn't doing it for himself, so it's not wrong. This is surely how Tolkien intended it.
Lsana
17. Bolg
I never really gave it much thought when I first read it. I think I justified Bilbo's taking and hiding the glorious gem by thinking it hadn't been explicitly prohibited until Thorin had felt himself safe in the city Under-The-Mountain.

I certainly justified him handing it over to Bard and the Elvenking on the grounds that it was Thorin's family heirloom, certainly, but amongst the vast hoard were hundreds of items that Smaug had taken from Dale and were thus Bard's responsibility if not his family heirlooms, and also items that the Elvenking had (presumably) paid for but never received because of Smaug's assault.
Andrew Kopittke
18. mendosi
I think Freelancer has a good point, especially considering how precious Bilbo's home is to him (or, I should say, was). Maybe Bilbo should have made up an amusing ditty (like the one the Dwarves sung at the beginning) to sing as he ran towards the Elvenking, holding the Arkenstone aloft and just out of Thorin's reach.

But no, my imagination runs wild. I personally think that giving the Arkenstone away was necessary and that had Thorin come to possess it the doors to the mountain would have remained fast, especially with the Elven King outside.

And what do we think about sneaky, sneaky Gandalf, eh?
Lsana
19. Sam O'Neal
We need to remember that Tolkien already had many ideas for "The Lord of the Rings" in mind as he wrote The Hobbit. Therefore there are connections.

Bilbo's desire to possess the arkenstone is wrong, just as his desire to possess the One Ring is wrong and ultimately damaging. But the remarkable thing about Bilbo is that his moral integrity shields him against temptation and a desire to possess (unlike the dwarves), which allows him to make the right decision and let go when necessary.

In the end, Bilbo's release of the arkenstone in order to prevent bloodshed foreshadows his ability to release the One Ring (after some persuasion from Gandalf) in order to save the world.
Lsana
20. Dr. Thanatos
I am not troubled by Bilbo's actions here. I saw his taking and pocketing the arkenstone as reasonable (after all, he didn't know what it was at the time) and keeping it as part of the jewel's influence on him. The fact that he could hand it over for the greater good is indeed a parallel for what happened later.

By the way, the description of the Arkenstone is very similar to the descriptions of the Silmarilli; given it's affect on those who behold it or even think about it, one wonders if JRRT's original intent was for this to be a Silmaril found near Thingol and Gorthaur...
Ron Avitzur
21. avitzur
I read this, and repeatedly, at a young enough age and point in my moral development that my reaction to this wasn't a judgment of Bilbo's choice, for good or ill, but I think, rather, the book informed my sense of moral behavior, that actions done without thought to personal gain excuse behavior that otherwise would be suspect. When I re-read it now, I just think 'Of couse, that is the right thing to do under the circumstance.'
alastair chadwin
22. a-j
I remember being bothered by Bilbo not telling Thorin that he had found the Arkenstone and I remember being bothered by the whole burglar thing. But the main thing I remember from first time out with The Hobbit is that all is made good by Gandalf's approval.
This was a great moment and I have a vivid memory of the tension I had been feeling while listening to this part of the story (my mother read it to me) evaporating because Gandalf suddenly appears and tells Bilbo he did the right thing.
Gandalf's reappearance is, for me, one of the highlights of the book. There is no foreshadowing at all, that I have ever noticed, that he will re-appear so his emergence from the shadows just as the chapter ends is one of my favourite moments in fiction.
Kate Nepveu
23. katenepveu
Hello, all. Thanks for the different reactions to Bilbo's actions here! I'm always fascinated by this kind of thing.

hihosilver28 @ #2, as best I could tell at the time of watching _The Usual Suspects_, the twist could not have been worked out ahead of time by the viewer, and thus is a cheat.

Neuralnet @ #6, as we'll see next chapter, Bilbo was indeed a bit naive. It's a good question whether Thorin would have been less obsessive if he had the Arkenstone in hand; I have a hunch that he would have been even more suspicious (thinking people were coming to get his precious, err, shiny), but it's only a hunch.

HelenS @ #10, AlanBrown @ #12, yeah, a lot of things when I was a kid just didn't register or went right over my head!

Gardner Dozois @ #14, but no, Bilbo doesn't steal it for good reason, he takes it because he wants it. He doesn't give it _back_ for good reason.

Sam O'Neal @ #19, yes, the picking-up of shiny things on the ground and then putting them back down again, I can't believe I forgot to say that!

Dr. Thanatos @ #20, no, Bilbo knows it was the Arkenstone. When he comes across it: "It was the Arkenstone, the Heart of the Mountain. So Bilbo guessed from Thorin’s description; but indeed there could not be two such gems, even in so marvellous a hoard, even in all the world."
Lsana
24. Dr. Thanatos
Kate,

You are, of course, correct with the quote. Note that it is the narrator who knows it was the Arkenstone. Bilbo guessed, but could not be sure; plausible deniability, don't you know... And I can argue that there were two other gems in all the world
Lsana
25. Dr. Thanatos
(continued)

two other gems in all the world like that. One of the Silmarils went into the Earth and found "it's long home" there. Who's to say that JRRT didn't have the conceit that a Silmaril found it's way under the Lonely Mountain where it cast it's spell on the hearts of those who beheld it to lust after it above all other gems and treasure?
Kate Nepveu
26. katenepveu
Dr. Thanatos, I don't think the Arkenstone looks like the Silmarils. They captured the light of the Two Trees, which significantly had a _golden_ component, and there is no hint of any warmth in the descriptions of the Arkenstone.

Also, it is WRONG WRONG WRONG that the third Silmaril should ever be found. The whole point of the damn things is that they're forever out of the reach of mere puny mortals. /bitter
Lsana
27. Dr. Thanatos
Kate,

Look at the description of the Arkenstone, then go back and look at the description of the silmarils in Silmarilion. The descriptions are quite close (and I don't remember any specific mention of color; that's something that seems quite logical but is not specified).

Given that we've commented on how JRRT's early conception of the Hobbit tried to tie it to the world he was developing of ancient myth (elvenking=Thingol, etc) I speculate that he may have been thinking of the silmarils when he came up with the idea of the Arkenstone.

The Arkenstone is unique--we hear that. We also know that the Noldor were big into creating gems. Speculation is certainly open here. I'm not saying that the Arkenstone is a Silmaril; but there are certainly interesting parallels. And the Arkenstone at the end of the book was put somewhere permanent where it would not be disturbed.

We know that in the final draft, the silmarili went to their long homes in earth, air, and sea, fulfilling the prophecy of Mandos back in an early chapter stating that they held the fate of Arda: earth, air, and sea. Could JRRT in the very beginning of his writing, when there was not the differentiation between First Age and Third Age, have been toying with the idea of a Silmaril having been found? Clearly this is not what he finally explicitly went with; but it's fun to speculate...

So, a big fancy gem that is unique, seems to capture the starlight, makes everyone who sees it want it...

And when you consider that there's still one son of Feanor who was never killed off, I'd like to fanfic Bilbo holding out the gem to give to Bard and all of a sudden Maglor pulls off his cloak and says "I believe I will take that now, thank you very much!"
Lsana
28. (still) Steve Morrison
@Dr. Thanatos:

Rateliff also believes Tolkien was toying with making the Arkenstone a Silmaril. I don't have time tonight to look it up, but I'll try later (if no one else who has his book does so). But as for the color: I once saw a fan speculation (IIRC on rec.arts.books.tolkien) that one of the Silmarils might have contained the golden light of Laurelin, another the silver light of Telperion, and the remaining one might have been filled with the blended light from the hour when their beams mingled. It's a rather elegant conception, and would solve the problem Kate noted about the Arkenstone's color.
Lsana
29. Lsana
Dr. Thanatos,

Interesting theory. I don't think I can accept the idea of the Arkenstone being a Silmaril, but the Noldor made other jewels. Perhaps the Arkenstone is one of them.
Lsana
30. Dr. Thanatos
And while we're going there:

"Hello. My name is Maglor. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
Lsana
31. Dr. Thanatos
Okay, one more flight of fancy on this topic before I put my overheated brain to bed:

The Elven-King, not named in this book, sets up his own kingdom suspiciously near the Lonely Mountain, where rumor has it that Thrain has found the glittering big gem that captures starlight and casts it back, and everyone who sees it wants it. When the word comes out that the Dragon guardian is dead, he shows up with an army and heads for the Mountain. To his surprise, the big gem is brought out of the big fortress by this weird little guy babbling something about contract law, burglery, and teapots. Remember the look on Elven-King's face when he sees the Arkenstone?

What if the Elven-King is not Thranduil (whose body was never found) but is really Maglor?

Watch as he grabs the Sil...uh, I mean Arkenstone, dances around on the Mountain holding it up and singing something that sounds suspiciously like "precious, precious, oh my precious"

Where's a fiery crevice when you need one?
Lsana
32. JohnnyMac
Gardner Dozois @14, "Since he steals it in attempt to prevent a war...".

I don't think that is quite correct. Bilbo takes the Arkenstone well before the armies of the Men of the Lake and the Elven King appear. He is enchanted by it in the most literal sense: "Suddenly Bilbo's arm went towards it drawn by its enchantment." (Chapter 13).

Bilbo justifies taking the Arkenstone to himself by citing his contract with the dwarves and their promises that he could pick and choose his own share. However, he is not really convinced by this argument and is uneasily aware "...that trouble would yet come of it." (Chapter 13).

I see a similarity between Bilbo's justification for taking the Arkenstone and how Smeagol rationalizes murdering his friend Deagol to get the Ring. "The murder of Deagol haunted Gollum, and he had made up a defence, repeating it to his "precious" over and over again, as he gnawed bones in the dark, until he almost believed it. It was his birthday. Deagol ought to have given the ring to him. It had obviously turned up just so as to be a present. It was his birthday present, and so on, and on." (FotR, Chapter 2). Neither of them really believe in their heart of hearts that their claim is just.

Of course, Bilbo takes possession of the Arkenstone by simply pocketing it, rather than by strangling Thorin for it.
Lsana
33. AwesomeAud
I don't really think it's out of character for Bilbo to pocket the Arkenstone and not tell anyone. After all, that's what he did with the ring. He more or less stole it from Gollum, and didn't tell his friends he had a magic ring that made him invisible until it was absolutely necessary. And in the Fellowship of the Rings, it is noted that he didn't even tell the truth then, but said that Gollum had promised him a present!

--AwesomeAud
Kate Nepveu
34. katenepveu
Dr. Thanatos, I assure you I _did_ check the description of the Silmarils last time we talked about this, though I did not quote and so you cannot be blamed for failing to read my mind. =>

At any rate, from Chapter 7, "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor":

"As three great jewels they were in form. . . . Like the crystal of diamonds it appeared, and yet was more strong than adamant . . . . Yet that crystal was . . . the house of its inner fire . . . . Feanor made of the blended light of the Trees of Valinor, which lives in them yet . . . . Therefore even in the darkness of the deepest treasury the Silmarils of their own radiance shone like the stars of Varda; and yet, as were they indeed living things, they rejoiced in light and received it and gave it back in hues more marvellous than before."

Previously (chapter 1) it is established that the light of the Trees is silver and gold. Thus, the "blended light" says to me that it is not merely silver/moonlight/white, but also golden.

I have already offered my more meta reasons for disagreeing with you and shan't belabor them.
Lsana
35. Dr. Thanatos
Kate,

Please don't take my scribblings as serious or provocative. I noted a resemblence in descriptions, and in the older writings (and the Hobbit was published early in the creative history) there may have been a connection in JRRT's mind, although as I stated above he clearly went a different route.

I never intended to seriously state that the Arkenstone was a Silmaril; I was speculating that in origin the idea of the Arkenstone was related to the idea of a Silmaril.

And the idea of the last son of Feanor disguising himself as an Elven-King so he could be near the Mountain where a suspiciously familiar sounding jewel was found, and waiting until both dwarf and dragon guardians were absent to show up with an army, is an amusing conceit that is too cute to pass up.

The point is to speculate about the creative process (was he thinking about Silmarils when he started writing about the Arkenstone?) and to have some fun in the process (in Jackson's 3rd movie Thranduil pulls off his blond wig, revealing the raven hair and fiery eyes of a son of Feanor and grabs the Arkenstone!).

So please accept my apologies for not being clearer about what I was and wasn't speculating...
Lsana
37. (still) Steve Morrison
I've consulted Rateliff's book again. One of his reasons for suspecting the Arkenstone might once have been a Silmaril is that Tolkien refers the Silmarils by names such as "earcnanstan" and variants. (These names occur in Norse and Old English texts and mean something like "holy stone" or "precious stone".) He also points out that in the early proto-Silmarillion texts, the ultimate fate of the Silmarils changed repeatedly; you can't use the 1977 Silmarillion to argue that the Silmarils were lost forever, because it hadn't been written yet! Likewise the pre-Hobbit writings only give vague descriptions of the Silmarils, which seem reasonably consistent with the Arkenstone.

I'd intended to write a more detailed summary of the relevant section of The History of The Hobbit, but I've been distracted by real-life things the last few days; sorry for my lateness in writing even this much!
Lsana
38. JohnnyMac
AwesomeAud @33, I don't think Bilbo pocketing the Ring and the Arkenstone are really comparable. He finds the Ring when he is groping blindly through the goblin tunnels. He has no idea that it belongs to anyone. The first hint he gets that it had been Gollum's is by listening to Gollum's hissing rant about "My birthday present.". By then Gollum is hunting Bilbo with the intent of killing and eating him. It seems rather late to be handing the Ring over while saying something along the lines of "Oh, is this yours?". Moreover, it is only by using the Ring (to make himself invisible) that Bilbo escapes from first Gollum and the goblins at the gate.

And as to the story Bilbo told the dwarves and wrote in his book, that the Ring was a "present" from Gollum, it is rather clear in LOTR that this was a early sign of the Ring's dark influence on him.

On the other hand, Bilbo does recognize the Arkenstone from Thorin's description. It's "enchantment" causes him to pocket it but he "...had an uncomfortable feeling...that trouble would yet come of it."

I would say that neither incident reflects on Bilbo's character so much as they show the perils of dealing with potent magical objects.

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