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Quest of Erebor

This article is about the actual quest. For the chapter in Unfinished Tales, see The Quest of Erebor.
Sketch of Thrór's Map

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 neighboring 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 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 approaches Bilbo regarding this proposition on 25 April T.A. 2941, the Hobbit wants nothing to do with such sort of "adventure". However, Gandalf leaves 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 becomes clear that Gandalf has volunteered Bilbo to be a "burglar" for the Dwarves on their adventure. The Hobbit protests, and the Dwarves grumble that the soft little Hobbit does not seem suited to their adventure. Gandalf, however, is certain that Bilbo is useful, and insists that there is more to Bilbo than meets the eye. Despite his strong objections to going on the journey, Gandalf forces Bilbo out the door the next morning as the Company begins their journey.

The party travels through the Lone-lands and are 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 end up in Goblin-town and escape after Gandalf kills the Great Goblin; Bilbo, having been separated from the Dwarves, ends up finding a magic ring by Gollum's lake. After staying with Beorn for a couple of days, the Company continues through the Wilderland and into Mirkwood (at which point Gandalf leaves them to participate in the Attack on Dol Guldur), where they are captured by Elves of the Woodland Realm after escaping from spiders. Bilbo smuggles the Company into Lake-town via barrels where the Lake-men ultimately agree to give them supplies for the last stage of their quest.

When the Company finally reaches the Lonely Mountain, they enter through the secret Back Door once the last light of Durin's Day reveals its keyhole. Having been designated the "burglar" for the group, Bilbo is assigned to go inside and "burgle" something for the Dwarves. The Hobbit comes across the great Dragon lying atop the Dwarves' great treasure hoard, and ultimately steals a golden cup from the hoard. Having wrongly surmised during their conversation that Bilbo was a Lake-man, Smaug flies off in a rage to lay waste Lake-town as revenge for Bilbo's intrusion. The fire-drake almost completely destroys the town, but not before being 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.


Once the death of Smaug had reached lands beyond the immediate region, Bard, who had been anointed leader of the Lake-men, came to the Lonely Mountain to demand compensation in gold from Thorin in order for his people to 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, it led to the Battle of Five Armies, which was not only further complicated by the arrival of both a Goblin and Warg army seeking revenge for the death of the Great Goblin at the Company's hands, but also cost Thorin his own life (as well as his nephews and most immediate heirs to the throne, 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.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor"
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 · The Shire · Lone-lands · Last Bridge · Trollshaws · Troll's 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