“Hobbit” by J.R Tolkien
The “Hobbit” is a children’s novel written by J.R Tolkien and published in 1937. Tolkien was an English writer who was popular for his creative pieces that were mostly based on fantasy. The book won The New York Herald Tribune Prize for best fiction in the juvenile category and several accolades among them a Carnegie medal nomination (Bloom 15). The book is a classical literature for children and remains popular even today. The book is set in the period between the rise of fairies and the domination of men (Hardy 29). The main character is a hobbit by the name Bilbo Baggins who leaves his home to capture a treasure that is held by a dragon called Smaug. The adventure helps Bilbo to become more mature, wiser and competent. The climax of the story is the battle of the Five Armies where all the creatures and characters conflict with each other. The central themes that Tolkien brings out are heroism and individual growth. Literature critics believe that Tolkien was influenced by the experiences he went through during World War 1 (Nagel 51). Due to the phenomenal success of The Hobbit, the publisher requested for sequels. Tolkien started to work on the Lord of The Rings leading to several adjustments in the second edition of The Hobbit in order to accommodate the plot for the Lord of The Rings.
The book opens with a visit of Gandalf the wizard to Bilbo. The wizard asks Bilbo to embark on an adventure, Bilbo is not decided and he tells the wizard to leave and consult him on the next day (Marie, and Deborah Stanley 45). The wizard comes back the next day accompanied by thirteen dwarves. The dwarves begin eating and they discuss a dragon called Smaug who took away their treasure. The dwarves want Bilbo to help them steal the treasure from the dragon (Nagel 53). Shortly after starting the members of the group are captured by hungry trolls except Gandalf who was not together with them.
Gandalf tricks the rolls and they go out in the sun. They turn into stones since they are nocturnal. They take magic swords belonging to the trolls with them and Bilbo makes his own small sword. They rest at Rivendell where they are given advice by Elves. They then start crossing Misty Mountains whereby they are imprisoned by goblins (Nagel 55).Gandalf is able to lead the dwarves out through a secret passage but Bilbo is left behind accidentally. Bilbo comes across a golden ring that saved him from a Gollum who wanted to eat him. The ring has the power to turn somebody invisible.
Gandalf abandons the group in Mirkwood forest. They are caught in webs of giant spiders and Bilbo uses the ring to rescue them. They are then captured by wood elves and Bilbo rescues them again. They arrive at Lake Town, a human resident near the Lonely Mountain where the dragon lives with the dwarves’ treasure. Bilbo sneaks into the mountain and tricks the dragon who discloses that he has a weak spot on the scales near his heart. When a golden cup is stolen from the dragon by Bilbo, he is furious and comes out of the mountain to burn Lake Town. He is shot near his heart by an archer called Bard who knew the secret about his weak spot. The dragon burns Lake Town before he dies. The elves of Mirkwood and the people of Lake Town go to the lonely mountain to demand a share of the treasure as compensation. Thorin refuses to make the humans and dwarves surround the mountain trapping the dwarves. The wargs and goblins also assail the mountain, and the dwarves, humans, and elves have to fight together against them. The goblins almost win but the eagles and Beorn intervene. When the battle is over, Gandalf and Bilbo return to Hobbiton (Nagel 71).
The Main Characters of the Novel
Bilbo is the protagonist in the novel and is, therefore, the most significant character. He is the most charismatic, honorable, and appealing character (Hurtubise 20). Most of the other characters are stained by greed, but Bilbo is able to maintain courage, eagerness and common sense. Charisma is a common trait among the main characters in children’s books, and Tolkien brought out that aspect through Bilbo. He is also small in size, another character common in leading characters in children literature. Bilbo is half the size of a human being. When the novel begins, Bilbo is a typical hobbit, complacent and ambitionless.
When Bilbo is enlisted by the dwarves to help them recapture their treasure from the dragon, he develops gradually completely transforming from a careful character to a confident and brave hero. Bilbo’s strength and intelligence keeps the group of dwarves together. He is able to save them from spiders, goblins and wood elves. He is the one who finds the correct way to the mountain, and discovers the weak spot of the dragon. He is also able to bring peace among the conflicting elves, dwarves and humans (Bloom 32). Bilbo is not changed by heroism. He discovers his incredible capabilities, but does not become arrogant or conceited. He returns to Hobbit land after the quest ends which illustrates that heroism does not taint him (Piencake 63).
Gandalf is a powerful wizard who keeps his motives and powers as a secret. He does not reveal why he decides to help the dwarves to recapture the treasure while it’s obvious that the treasure is of no benefit to him (Hardy 27). He leaves the group in Mirkwood and goes to fight against the Necromancer. He is inspiring and dangerous. He fights against evil with every ounce of energy that he has, but at the same time he has knowledge about every person in middle earth. Tolkien created Gandalf differently from other wizard characters in fantasy fiction. He is more than an elderly man with a lot of power because he is highly enlightened and highly aware of events happening around him. He knows more than all the characters in the story and even the leaders.
Thorin, the leader of the dwarves is a typical greedy, brave, proud and stubborn dwarf. Initially Thorin is portrayed as hero because of his noble upbringing and birthright (Hardy 28). However as the plot develops, the heroism is shadowed by Bilbo’s deeds. When Gandalf leaves the dwarves, it’s obvious that Thorin is not a leader because of being incapable to coordinate the dwarves, makes poor decisions and has to rely on Bilbo, yet he does not treat Bilbo with respect. When the treasure is captured from Smaug the dragon, Thorin’s greed manifests itself. He would rather fight violently with the men who wanted their share of the treasure than give it to them. Tolkien used Thorin to create a leadership vacuum that is easily filled by Bilbo, and to bring out Bilbo’s best character traits.
The Hobbit is set in an imaginary Hobbiton village known as The Shire. The village is based on county villages in medieval England before modernity. However, Hobbiton is very different from real villages of the middle ages because of being fictional. For instance, its inhabitants are hobbits creatures who live in holes rather than houses and are about three feet in height (Hardy 31). Middle earth has some semblance to modern earth due to the scenery, seasons and physical features. However, the inhabitants are unreal, as well as the created world in which Bilbo and the dwarves embark on the mission to recover the treasure. In conclusion, The Hobbit is interesting to read, as Tolkien is able to use his fantasy characters to bring out themes such as heroism, greed, selfishness, racism and conflict.