Resuming my study of the character of Thorin as he leads Bilbo and the company of dwarves to Erebor.
Following is JRR Tolkien's map of Wilderland which can be found at the back of my edition of The Hobbit.
From the time, the dwarves and Bilbo enter Mirkwood, there is a feelng of deep foreboding and malevolence. It was dark, with thick undergrowth, tangled branches and spiders' webs. At night they were watched by countless numbers of eyes, and they walked for days succombing to hunger and thirst. The evil that pervaded Mirkwood was thought to be a consequence of the presence of the Necromancer in Dol Guldur located at the south end. The Necromancer was later discovered to be Sauron. Prior to this, Mirkwood, or the Forest of Great Fear, was known as "Greenwood the Great" - part of the primeval forest that covered much of Middle Earth in the 1st Age. Silvan or wood elves settled there in the 1st age, and the Old Forest Road was believed to have been built by dwarves who used it to carry goods between Erebor in the East and their halls in the west. After heavy losses in the Battle of Dagolad (beginning of the 3rd Age), Thrandull, king of the woodland realm at the time concentrated his people in the north and east of the forest river, leaving the old halls in Amon Lanc (Dol Guldur) abandoned. This paved the way for the necromancer to move in which caused a darkening of the ancient forestand it became a place of fear.
Now that Gandalf had left the company, Thorin takes charge fully. The assumption is that he would have had to bolster up the flagging spirits of the dwarves and Bilbo as they trudge through the forest. After days of walking, they arrive at the Enchanted River - Beorn had warned them not to drink or swim in it. With the help of Bilbo's eyesight and Fili's expertise, they are able to find and fetch a boat to assist with their crossing. As Dwalin and Bombur, who are the last to cross, arrive on the river bank, a white stag runs into them and leaps the stream. Thorin, who was prepared with bow and arrow as defense, shoots it, but as it disappears into the undergrowth on the other side of the stream, they discover Bombur has fallen into the river. After his rescue, Bombur is found to have fallen into a deep sleep, and they are forced to carry him. Enchanted streams are familiar in many Celtic legends - those who drink the water fall into fits of sleep similar to a hibernation.
As Bombur sleeps, the company hear the sound of a great hunt to the North of them - they sit, too wary to move until a white deer and fawns appear on the path ahead - the dwarves shoot indiscriminately until Thorin orders them to stop .... unfortunately not before they have used all their bows leaving them incapable of shooting for food and defending themselves.
The sighting of a white animal in Celtic tradition, was believed to be a precursor to an encounter with beings from the Otherworld eg "Faeries". If they had known this, they would have realised that despite having to trudge aliong the path for many more days, they were nearing the elven halls and the Eastern border of the forest. After seven days walking from the Enchanted River, they were beginning to run out of food and water. Moreover, they were still carrying Bombur. Bilbow was sent up a tree to see if he could see an end to the forest - but as his tree was at the bottom of a valley, he was unable to see an end to the trees and missed the fact that they were nearing the edge.
One day and evening later, they spotted the lights of an elven feast which lured them off the path. At the sight of the dwarves, the elves disappeared and the company unfortunately found they had lost their way back to the path. A second sighting got them even more lost and a third sighting in which they spotted an Elven King had disastrous results. Thorin had stepped out into the middle of the feast resulting in the lights being immediately extinguished. In the confusion, Bilbo was separated from the dwarves and he was left alone. Bilbo wakes sometime later to discover that he is being wrapped in a web by a giant spider. He is able to save himself by killing the spider with his sword (labelled by the spider as his "sting". As a result, Bilbo called his sword "Sting" from that time onwards). Determined to find the dwarves, he uses his wit and logic to trace their whereabouts. He discovers a nest of giant spiders with the dwarves hanging in bundles from their webs. The Ring comes in handy allowing an invisible Bilbo to lure the spiders away from their "dwarf pantry". After many tense moments where Bilbo displays great courage in fighting off the spiders, the dwarves are released and they battle the spiders in order to gain their freedom. Bilbo is forced to reveal the secret of the ring to the dwarves so that he can use his invisibility to once more draw the spiders away by hurling insults at them. Finally they came to a spot where elven fires had been, and the magic left there prevented the spiders from advancing on them. Bilbo's heroism in fighting the spiders and rescuing them, raised the dwarves' opinion of him immensely.
Thorin in the meantime, had been captured by the wood-elves and taken to the Halls of Thrandull where he was thrown into a dungeon. Elves had no love of dwarves and therefore he was considered an enemy.
History of the enmity between dwarves and elves:
The enmity stemmed from the story of King Thingol of Doriath who was murdered by the dwarves after refusing to pay them. The legend goes that Thingol commissioned the dwarves of Belegost to reforge Nauglamir (The Necklace of the Dwarves which had been gifted to Thingol by Hurin as payment for caring for his family). Thingol wanted the necklace to contain a silmaril, and the dwarves were able to remake the necklace for this purpose.as well as make jewellery out of Thingol's immense treasure. The nauglamir was the most beautiful of their work and they claimed it for payment for all the other work they had done for Thingol. they believed that they were entitled to it as it had originally been a gift from their people to Finrod Felagund who had perished in Nargrothrond. Hurin had found it in the ruins of Nargrothrund, and had thus brought it to Thingol. Thingol was so bewitched by the necklace that he refused to give the necklace to the dwarves - he insulted them, and sent them away unpaid. In response, the dwarves murdered him, stole the necklace and fled. Most were caught and slain which led to their kin retaliating and sacking Doriath. As the story was passed down through generations, the elves believed that the dwarves had caused the wars by stealing their treasure. The dwarves however believed that they had taken what was owed to them. The old feud had had nothing to do with Thorin or his ancestors and he was therefore indignant that he was taken prisoner to avenge ancient wrongs.
1. Bilbo: Bilbo behaves courageously with the killing of the spider, which is his first victory in combat. Naming his sword "Sting" is symbolic of his newly found courage - naming swords was symbolic of heroism. Bilbo's metamorphosis from a comfort loving, peaceable being to hero has commenced.
2. Thorin: Thorin resumes command of the company once Gandalf leaves them at the entrance to Mirkwood. In this chapter, he demonstrates that he is a leader, he is accurate with a bow and arrow, and in captivity, he does not show any fear. As mentioned above, the elves' poor opinion of the dwarves is of long standing, and Thorin is placed in a situation where he is being held accountable for actions he and his family line of ancestors had nothing to do with. He strongly resists revealing his purpose to the Elven King and as a consequence is imprisoned. The Elven King is motivated by the desire for wealth - "silver and white gems". To some extent, Thorin is too, but Thorin's purpose is to regain his inheritance.
3. The character development of the rest of the dwarves is thin. Fili helps with securing the boat at the enchanted river; Bombur lends a comedic element as he falls into the river sending him into a deep sleep. Balin and Dori are mentioned, but in general, the other dwarves are not identified individually.
4. The Elven King: The elf king is described as having a weakness for treasure and whilst he was rich, he was eager to accrue more.