Bilbo lives with the tension of a growing care and respect for the dwarves and his frustration with the whole adventure. The first three paragraphs of “Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire” speak to this tension:
“He had lost hood, cloak, food, pony, his buttons and his friends.” They are friends, and they are lost.
“Where and O where can Gandalf and the dwarves have got to? I only hope to goodness they are not still back there in the power of the goblins!”
And they could be in danger. But in his wording the reader senses his frustration—where can they have got to—as if it is their fault.
And as he wonders down the slopes, farther and farther from the “back porch” of the goblins, “a very uncomfortable thought was growing inside him. He wondered whether he ought not, now he had the magic ring, to go back into the horrible, horrible, tunnels and look for his friends. He had just made up his mind that it was his duty, that he must turn back—and very miserable he felt about it—when he heard voices.”
Concern burdens Bilbo. Is this concern a heroic concern? Heroes can be miserable, I suppose. Bilbo knows the right thing to do, and it is not beyond a hero to feel the tension between the knowing and the doing. To dread what must be done, to call it duty even, is not beneath the hero. Bilbo’s tension is relieved, however. He finds the dwarves safe and sound. And the rest of the chapter offers little chance for Bilbo to play the hero, for he is saved more than once. Yet his turn and concern will surface again. Tolkien is building both a character and a case.