Quest of Erebor

From Tolkien Gateway
This article is about the actual quest. For the chapter in Unfinished Tales, see The Quest of Erebor.
"Who told you, and who sent you?" — Gandalf
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"The Road Goes Ever On" by Matěj Čadil

The Quest of Erebor was the quest taken by Thorin and Company, accompanied by Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf, to reclaim the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor in the Lonely Mountain from the Dragon Smaug in T.A. 2941. It makes up the central story of The Hobbit, and also inadvertently led to the War of the Ring.


Plans for the quest were first conceived when the Dwarf lord Thorin Oakenshield, heading westward to the Blue Mountains, had a chance encounter with Gandalf the Grey at the Prancing Pony in the village of Bree on the 15 March T.A. 2941. Gandalf had long been concerned about the weak state of the North; ever since Smaug the Dragon had destroyed both the Kingdom under the Mountain and the neighbouring city of Dale in T.A. 2770, he feared that Sauron might use the desolation around the Lonely Mountain to regain the northern passes in the mountains and the old lands of Angmar. He also feared that Sauron might gain the allegiance of Smaug and use him to terrible effect. Gandalf had also become aware of Thorin's desire to mount a battle against the fire-drake Smaug, but knew it would not be enough. Thorin wanted advice, and Gandalf in turn wanted to discuss the Dragon with the Dwarf. Ultimately, the Wizard concocted a plan wherein Thorin could destroy Smaug and recover his family fortune, albeit with a "burglar" of Gandalf's own choosing. Gandalf had a feeling that a Hobbit should be involved, and he remembered Bilbo Baggins from his past visits to the Shire.[1]

When Gandalf first approached Bilbo regarding this proposition on 26 April T.A. 2941, the Hobbit wanted nothing to do with such sort of "adventure". However, Gandalf left a mark on the door of Bag End to direct the rest of the Dwarves willing to embark on the quest for meeting there the following day. It soon became clear that Gandalf had volunteered Bilbo to be a "burglar" for the Dwarves on their adventure. The Hobbit protested, and the Dwarves grumbled that the soft little Hobbit did not seem suited to their adventure. Glóin remarked that he looked "more like a grocer than a burglar". Gandalf, however, was certain that Bilbo was useful, and insisted that there was more to Bilbo than met the eye. Despite his strong objections to going on the journey, Gandalf coerced Bilbo out the door the next morning as the Company began their quest.[2] From the Dwarves' point of view, Bilbo's initial task was simply to steal gold and heirlooms from Smaug's hoard. However, Gandalf had a foreboding that Bilbo's presence would be essential in bringing about the success of the quest and the greater events that would follow.[3]

The party travelled through the Lone-lands and were saved by Gandalf from three Trolls (in a place known as Trollshaws) before stopping for a two-week respite in Rivendell. On their journey eastward through the Misty Mountains, the Company inadvertently ended up in Goblin-town and escaped after Gandalf killed the Great Goblin; Bilbo, having been separated from the Dwarves, ended up finding a magic ring by Gollum's lake. After staying with Beorn for a couple of days, the Company continued through the Wilderland and into Mirkwood (at which point Gandalf leaves them to participate in the Attack on Dol Guldur), where they were captured by Elves of the Woodland Realm after escaping from spiders. Bilbo smuggled the Company into Lake-town via barrels where the Lake-men ultimately agreed to give them supplies for the last stage of their quest.[4]

When the Company finally reached the Lonely Mountain, they entered through the secret Back Door once the last light of Durin's Day revealed its keyhole. Having been designated the "burglar" for the group, Bilbo was assigned to go inside and "burgle" something for the Dwarves. The Hobbit came across the great Dragon lying atop the Dwarves' great treasure hoard, and stole a golden cup from the hoard. On Bilbo's second visit to the Dragon's lair, Smaug was awake and started talking to Bilbo. Having guessed that the intruders were being aided by Lake-town, but wrongly suspecting that the Lake-men were behind the plot, Smaug flew off in a rage to lay Lake-town waste in revenge for Bilbo's intrusion. The fire-drake almost completely destroyed the town, but was slain with a Black Arrow by one of its residents, whose name was Bard. With the Dragon now dead, the Dwarves could once again regain domain over the Mountain and their quest was complete.[5]


After the death of Smaug, Bard, who had been revealed as the heir to the Lord of Dale, came to the Lonely Mountain to demand compensation in gold from Thorin so that his people could rebuild their lives. Thranduil, king of the Woodland Realm, also came seeking a share of the treasure. When Thorin refused to part with any of the hoard, but called for reinforcements from other dwarves, especially his cousin Dáin Ironfoot, it almost led to a battle between dwarves on one side and elves and Men on the other. But things were further complicated by the arrival of armies of Goblins and Wargs seeking revenge for the death of the Great Goblin at the Company's hands. Thus began the Battle of Five Armies, in which Thorin lost his own life (as did his nephews and nearest heirs, Fíli and Kíli). In their place, Dáin Ironfoot became the new King under the Mountain.

Years later, it would be revealed that the ring Bilbo had taken from Gollum in the Misty Mountains would in fact turn out to be the One Ring which had once belonged to Sauron, for which he now had his servants scouring all over Middle-earth. It would lead to not only the Quest of the Ring but also the War of the Ring and, ultimately, the end of the Third Age.

Portrayal in adaptations

2012-2014: The Hobbit film series:

In the prologue of the second Hobbit film, it is said that the entire Quest was to retrieve the Arkenstone, as possessing it would give Thorin the authority to unite all the Dwarven clans to march on the Erebor, and reclaim it from the Dragon Smaug.


Preceded by:
Fell Winter
Major events of Middle-earth
T.A. 2941
Followed by:
War of the Ring

Route of Thorin and Company
Bag End · Green Dragon · The Shire · Lone-lands · Last Bridge · Trollshaws · Trolls' cave · Rivendell · High Pass · Front Porch · Goblin-town · Goblin-gate · Eagle's Eyrie · Carrock · Beorn's Hall · Wilderland · Forest Gate · Elf-path · Mirkwood · Elvenking's Halls · Forest River · Lake-town · Long Lake · River Running · Desolation of the Dragon · Ravenhill · Back Door · Lonely Mountain · Great Hall of Thráin