Night-stalking hunting birds. They were evidently familiar to the Dwarves of northern Middle-earth: when Bilbo was sent to investigate a mysterious campfire on the way to Rivendell, Thorin instructed him to signal by hooting twice like a barn-owl and once like a screech-owl. Unfortunately owls were rather less familiar to Bilbo than to the Dwarves, and when he was captured by the Trolls that had made the fire, he had no way to warn Thorin and company of their danger. If Bilbo had known a little more about the hooting of owls, then, the Dwarves might have escaped capture themselves, but fortunately Gandalf was able to save them from the Trolls' larder.
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