Chapters 12–14

In this prequel to The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet life until a group of dwarves and a wizard named Gandalf enlist him in their quest for a dragon's treasure.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. esteemed
    having an illustrious reputation; respected
    "Now is the time for our esteemed Mr. Baggins, who has proved himself a good companion on our long road, and a hobbit full of courage and resource far exceeding his size, and if I may say so possessed of good luck far exceeding the usual allowance--now is the time for him to perform the service for which he was included in our Company; now is the time for him to earn his Reward."
  2. ruddy
    of a red color at the end of the color spectrum
    Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light.
    "Ruddy" is most often used to describe a person's complexion that is "inclined to a healthy reddish color" but here, the adjective describes the light shining on the treasures that had been gained through the spilling of lots of blood. In addition to the dragon, the phrase "silver red-stained" brings up the image of blood on swords--this makes the ruddy light seem dangerously evil.
  3. dire
    causing fear or dread or terror
    Above him the sleeping dragon lay, a dire menace even in his sleep.
  4. bellow
    make a loud noise, as of an animal
    The door behind them was pulled nearly to, and blocked from closing with a stone, but up the long tunnel came the dreadful echoes, from far down in the depths, of a bellowing and a trampling that made the ground beneath them tremble.
  5. cringe
    show submission or fear
    The dwarves heard the awful rumour of his flight, and they crouched against the walls of the grassy terrace cringing under boulders, hoping somehow to escape the frightful eyes of the hunting dragon.
  6. shrivel
    wither, as with a loss of moisture
    His hot breath shrivelled the grass before the door, and drove in through the crack they had left and scorched them as they lay hid.
    Compare with this similar description: "Soon he would set all the shoreland woods ablaze and wither every field and pasture." The presence of "scorch" and "ablaze" strengthens the synonymous verbs "shrivel" and "wither" so that they describe the dragon's breath doing more than just shrinking, wrinkling, and drying up.
  7. smoldering
    showing scarcely suppressed anger
    He would not forget or forgive the theft, not if a thousand years turned him to smouldering stone, but he could afford to wait.
    "Smolder" also means "burn slowly and without a flame"--both definitions fit a dragon who would hold onto his anger long after his physical flames have burned out.
  8. wrath
    belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong
    Then as is the nature of folk that are thoroughly perplexed, they began to grumble at the hobbit, blaming him for what had at first so pleased them: for bringing away a cup and stirring up Smaug's wrath so soon.
  9. calamity
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    "Truly songs and tales fall utterly short of the reality, O Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities," replied Bilbo.
  10. sneer
    express through a scornful smile
    "Lovely titles!" sneered the dragon.
    Smaug the dragon is being sarcastically disrespectful, because he doesn't actually think that "the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly" are lovely titles, since they describe activities that are not as destructive as what he can do. After Bilbo gives additional descriptions of himself, he receives more direct scorn: "These don't sound so creditable," scoffed Smaug ("sneer" and "scoff" are synonyms).
  11. infuriate
    make extremely angry
    This of course is the way to talk to dragons, if you don't want to reveal your proper name (which is wise), and don't want to infuriate them by a flat refusal (which is also very wise).
  12. rove
    move about aimlessly or without any destination
    Whenever Smaug's roving eye, seeking for him in the shadows, flashed across him, he trembled, and an unaccountable desire seized hold of him to rush out and reveal himself and tell all the truth to Smaug.
  13. grievous
    causing fear or anxiety by threatening great harm
    In fact he was in grievous danger of coming under the dragon-spell.
  14. wily
    marked by skill in deception
    And Smaug laughed aloud. He had a wicked and a wily heart, and he knew his guesses were not far out, though he suspected that the Lake-men were at the back of the plans, and that most of the plunder was meant to stop there in the town by the shore that in his young days had been called Esgaroth.
  15. overwhelming
    so strong as to be irresistible
    Bilbo of course ought to have been on his guard; but Smaug had rather an overwhelming personality.
  16. devastating
    wreaking or capable of wreaking complete destruction
    Then Smaug really did laugh--a devastating sound which shook Bilbo to the floor, while far up in the tunnel the dwarves huddled together and imagined that the hobbit had come to a sudden and a nasty end.
  17. fortified
    secured with bastions
    "I have always understood," said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, "that dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the-er-chest; but doubtless one so fortified has thought of that."
    Bilbo uses the adjective "fortified" to flatter Smaug (in Latin "fortis" means "strong"). The word also compares the dragon to a military defensive stronghold; this is how the word is used later in describing the dwarves' preparations for war: "So now they began to labour hard in fortifying the main entrance, and in remaking the road that led from it."
  18. impenetrable
    not admitting of passage into or through
    Truly there can nowhere be found the equal of Lord Smaug the Impenetrable.
  19. ghastly
    shockingly repellent; inspiring horror
    It was an unfortunate remark, for the dragon spouted terrific flames after him, and fast though he sped up the slope, he had not gone nearly far enough to be comfortable before the ghastly head of Smaug was thrust against the opening behind.
  20. singe
    burn superficially or lightly
    The dwarves revived him, and doctored his scorches as well as they could; but it was a long time before the hair on the back of his head and his heels grew properly again: it had all been singed and frizzled right down to the skin.
  21. dubious
    open to doubt or suspicion
    That turned the conversation, and they all began discussing dragon-slayings historical, dubious, and mythical, and the various sorts of stabs and jabs and undercuts, and the different arts, devices and stratagems by which they had been accomplished.
  22. prod
    poke or thrust abruptly
    The general opinion was that catching a dragon napping was not as easy as it sounded, and the attempt to stick one or prod one asleep was more likely to end in disaster than a bold frontal attack.
  23. foreboding
    a feeling of evil to come
    And all the while they talked and the shadows lengthened Bilbo became more and more unhappy and his foreboding grew.
  24. cunning
    marked by skill in deception
    In the silence they feared some cunning devilry of his, but they could not sit there for ever.
  25. confound
    be confusing or perplexing to
    " Confound you, Smaug, you worm!" he squeaked aloud. "Stop playing hide-and-seek! Give me a light, and then eat me if you can catch me!"
    Although Bilbo is confused about whether Smaug is home, when he shouts "Confound you!" he is actually saying "Damn you!"--a curse that is partly brought on by his fall and frustration at not knowing whether to dare to get up or breathe.
  26. fleeting
    lasting for a markedly brief time
    The mere fleeting glimpses of treasure which they had caught as they went along had rekindled all the fire of their dwarvish hearts; and when the heart of a dwarf, even the most respectable, is wakened by gold and by jewels, he grows suddenly bold, and he may become fierce.
  27. wary
    marked by keen caution and watchful prudence
    Long before the dwarves were tired of examining the treasures he became wary of it and sat down on the floor; and he began to wonder nervously what the end of it all would be.
  28. adornment
    a decoration that is added to relieve plainness
    Though all the old adornments were long mouldered or destroyed, and though all was befouled and blasted with the comings and goings of the monster, Thorin knew every passage and every turn.
  29. furtive
    secret and sly
    These were smooth, cut out of the living rock broad and fair; and up, up, the dwarves went, and they met no sign of any living thing, only furtive shadows that fled from the approach of their torches fluttering in the draughts.
  30. dominion
    control or power through legal authority
    It was quite deserted; not even wild animals seemed to have used it in all the days of Smaug's dominion.
  31. reckless
    marked by defiant disregard for danger or consequences
    Then down he swooped straight through the arrow-storm, reckless in his rage, taking no heed to turn his scaly sides towards his foes, seeking only to set their town ablaze.
  32. throes
    violent pangs of suffering
    Full on the town he fell. His last throes splintered it to sparks and gleeds.
    The definition of "throes" almost makes Smaug's death seem worthy of pity, but the impacts of the dragon on the town, while he was alive and dying, make feeling sorry for him difficult. As hinted at by the sentence structure, "gleed" is synonymous with "spark" but it is used only in British English to describe a glowing coal or ember.
  33. eminent
    standing above others in quality or position
    He has tonight earned an eminent place in the roll of the benefactors of our town; and he is worthy of many imperishable songs.
    Eminence is often captured in songs, so that even if the hero perishes in battle, he will live on in his people's memories. Ironically, the hero whom this example sentence describes is named Bard (a bard is a poet who sings of heroic deeds).
  34. recompense
    the act of making amends for service or loss or injury
    Dragon-fire and ruin! From whom should we claim the recompense of our damage, and aid for our widows and orphans?
  35. carcass
    the dead body of an animal
    But few dared to cross the cursed spot, and none dared to dive into the shivering water or recover the precious stones that fell from his rotting carcass.
Created on December 5, 2013 (updated September 11, 2018)

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