From a Watsonian perspective the last scene of The Hobbit is kind of really sad, actually?
Because. Listen. So the last scene is this slightly expository "where-are-they-now" wrap-up, right? The ending goes into a summary of Bilbo's life post-adventure, and then zooms back in to a particular scene of Gandalf and Balin visiting Bag End and telling Bilbo what happened to the OTHER people who were involved in the adventure. It makes good structural sense.
BUT... From an in-universe perspective, we know that Bilbo didn't finish his book--or at least didn't stop working on it--until after the Council of Elrond, if then. In fact, as he's leaving the Shire, he tells Gandalf that he's thought of a nice ending for it: "And he lived happily ever after to the end of his days"--a line which does more or less appear in the last chapter of The Hobbit, but immediately before the actual final scene.
Therefore, there's a real case to be made that Bilbo wrote that last scene after coming to Rivendell--or, in other words, after visiting the Lonely Mountain and finding Balin had gone away and gone missing. It's even possible that he and/or Frodo (who we know to have heard about Balin's visit to the Shire) added that scene as the ending after learning about Balin's death--but in any case, we know that Bilbo knew, when working on the end of his book, that something bad had most likely happened to Balin.
Which means I can imagine Bilbo--missing his friend, wondering about his fate, maybe also living in the uncertainty of Frodo's quest and the gathering darkness--very deliberately choosing to end his book there (or else Frodo, finding the scene in his notes, choosing to insert it there as an expression of Bilbo's wishes). It means that there's maybe another reason that The Hobbit ends on that final image, one of Bilbo and Balin and Gandalf sharing talk and pipes in Bag End. They're together, prosperous, safe and well and happy...and on that note, the curtain falls.
'Thank goodness!' said Bilbo, laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.
That is where the story ends, and where the figures in it are finally left; and I think there's something to be said about the fact that that's where Bilbo drew the curtain. As if, in a way, by leaving off there, that evening is left suspended forever--so that, in these pages at least, Bilbo and Gandalf and Balin are still at ease together in Bag End, in the peace of an autumn evening in the Shire, and undisturbed by darkness.
1K notes · View notes