Introduction to The Hobbit
The Hobbit, also known as There and Back Again is a popular children’s fiction written by a famous British writer, J. R. R. Tolkien. It was first published in England in 1937. However, the acclaim it won for Tolkien soon crossed borders and the novel achieved worldwide recognition to be archived as the most popular juvenile fiction. It fetched the Carnegie Medal for the writer with more honors through newspapers terming it the best children’s novel of those times. The story of the novel revolves around a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who tries to win a share from a treasure lying under the guard of a dragon. His journey makes up the rest of the story and works as a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings.
Summary of The Hobbit
The story begins with the noble hobbit, Bilbo Baggins leading a comfortable life. Bag End, his residence, is located near the hobbit village when, Gandalf, a wizard appears. He asks Bilbo to join his dwarves to look for a treasure guarded by a dragon, Smaug. Gandalf believes that Bilbo’s short stature can become an advantage to the task but the dwarves are not certain about his role. Bilbo, too, is reluctant to join their team. Gandalf, however, assures the comfort-loving Bilbo of his success. Sadly, they all find themselves in captivity at the beginning of their journey. Gandalf tricks the trolls, the capturing entities, transforming them into stones with the rising of the sun as the trolls cannot tolerate the sun rays. They take weapons from Lord Thorin and set upon the journey.
After some distance, they reach Rivendell and meet the elf lord, Elrond. Elrond instructs them on how to cross the mountain range that falls on their way to the destination. When they are on their way to get the treasure, they face a severe snowstorm and once again become captives. This time it is a goblin’s cavern when they seek shelter to ward off the storm. When Gandalf tries to help the dwarves escape the cavern, they leave Bilbo behind. He enters a tunnel and finds a gold ring. When he is about to leave, he meets Gollum, a new creature with whom Bilbo arranges a game of riddles. Bilbo wins and despite this, Gollum tries to eat Bilbo. Just then, he disappears with the help of his magic ring and flees the goblins’ cavern, racing out of the tunnel. Knowing nowhere to go, he then sees Wargs, the wolves, chasing him, while he runs to safety through some eagles and Beorn, a creature, that can transform into a bear or a man easily.
While Bilbo is running for his life, the others enter the forest of Mirkwood where the webs of spiders catch all the dwarves. There’s no one to rescue as Gandalf is away. Luckily, Bilbo reaches on time, and using his magical ring and sword, saves them from the deadly spiders. Just as they escape the spiders, they soon find themselves captured by elves. Once again, Bilbo rescues them, using his ring. Now tired of these traps, Bilbo asks them to hide in barrels through which they try to cross the river to reach the treasure. After some time, Bilbo talks to Smaug to trick him in revealing his weaker points. Bilbo also tries to take away the golden cup that the dragon sees. Before he is stopped action, Bilbo flies away, disclosing his secret to Bard, the archer, who fires on him. The weapon kills the dragon but the dragon also fires the lake to kill them. When everything settles, the people from Lake Town and other wild creatures like elves also reach the mountain to ask for their share in the treasure.
During this chaos, Thorin refuses to accept their pleas for their share. They lay siege to the mountain, refusing to let them go. Bilbo tries to negotiate with all warring parties to reconcile to his idea which makes Thorin angry. The timely arrival of Gandalf saves Bilbo who also saves himself from this mishap. Meanwhile, Wargs reach with the goblins to fight against the encircling armies which makes Beorn and eagles the opposite party. When the battle is over, Bilbo asks Gandalf to return. Although Bilbo is still living near the same village as a lonely person, he has friends among elves and wizards whose company he enjoys the most.
Major Themes in The Hobbit
- Heroism: One of the major themes of The Hobbit is heroism. Bilbo’s transformation from a timid hobbit and insecure creature to a creative and innovative companion of Gandalf and his dwarves shows that he does not fear dangerous and risky situations. When Gandalf and Thorin’s dwarves face any adversity, Bilbo is always there to rescue them through his ingenuity. He prevails in different situations and it transpires him, building his confidence and resources. During the spiders’ web incident, he saves the dwarves from death. While meeting Smaug, the dragon, he speaks to it from the position of strength and ingenuity. Even in the final battle, he prevails by making them reconcile and makes it easy for Gandalf and Thorin’s dwarves to return victorious.
- Coming of Age: Bilbo is mostly homebound and shy in nature. He prefers to stay in his own home but his journey to get the treasure from Smaug and the encounters he has with different creatures and situations on the way to that lonely mountain makes him come of age. Although at first, he is terrified after meeting Gandalf. In his mind, he wants to have some adventures so he finally agrees to join the dwarves even though they leave him on some dangerous occasions. His action of out-riddling Gollum and outdoing the goblins show that he has learned things to deal with untoward situations and adversities as he escapes from the cavern as well as faces the threat of Smaug. Despite this, he still feels sorry for leaving his hobbit house located near the town and looks forward to returning to a peaceful life.
- Language: Language is powerful, and significant at various points through the story of Bilbo and Gandalf when they all, having embarked upon the expedition of fetching treasure from the clutches of Smaug, encounter different situations. First, they face spiders and their webs where Bilbo comes forward to demonstrate his perseverance and boldness and does the same when dealing with the goblins. He also outwits the elves and wolves and even escapes the dragon. His out-riddling of Gollum shows that the power of language has reached its peak. Although his question of what he has in his pocket is not ingenious, it shows the witty nature that he employs when facing Smaug.
- Greed: The theme of greed is observed during Bilbo’s and Gandalf’s adventure. As both are greedy along with other minor greedy characters. Bilbo does not agree to the adventure but agrees to get the treasure of gold and jewels. Elrond, on the other hand, does not show his greedy attitude while the elves, too, demonstrate greed including Smaug, the dragon, who is almost an epitome of greed as he does not leave his treasure.
- Home: The theme of home is seen through Bilbo’s love and longing for his home in his town. However, on the other hand, Thorin and Gollum, both are homeless and have no sense of a permanent place to live. That is why Bilbo feels more secure and more stable than Thorin and Gandalf. It is also the reason that Bilbo after having won the treasure after the final battle, returns to the hole, the only refuge he has as a home.
- Courage: Courage can be seen through big creatures such as Bard, whose certainty over his victory is undeniable. However, simple creatures such as Bilbo or Thorin also demonstrate this courage. For example, Bilbo faces Smaug and Gollum and even outsmarts Gollum without fearing the act of vengeance.
- Loyalty: The novel shows the theme of loyalty based on the racial link such as the goblins going after the dwarves for seeking revenge for killing the Great Goblin, while both the dwarves and elves stay loyal to their tribes. Two dwarves, Fili and Kili, Thorin’s nephews also fight fiercely after he dies in the battle, proving their familial loyalty.
- Legacy: Legacy is significant in the story as the dwarves intend to reclaim the treasure, declaring it as their heritage. Bilbo prepares for his own legacy, knowing the advice of his father to win success in life. Bard also claims to have some heritage in the treasure.
- Luck: The theme of luck is seen when Bilbo finds a sword while he’s surrounded by goblins. He is lucky in another sense that he possesses a ring to make him invisible.
- Destiny: The thematic strand of destiny is proven as the inevitability of the war and the destiny of Bilbo to come back from the battle after escaping several conflicts and taking the treasure.
Major Characters of The Hobbit
- Bilbo Baggins: Bilbo is a hobbit and the main character and protagonist of the novel. His appearance is almost like humans as he is similar to them. However, his feelings, and thoughts about how to be the best in defeating his opponents and competitors make him slightly different. Yet, his innocent execution of all these acts wins his children’s admiration. Complacent and food-loving hobbit, Bilbo starts his journey with Gandalf after remembering his father’s teachings. His achievements from Mirkwood to the cavern of the goblins and his final battle show that humility always wins him friends, foes, and battles. Even Thorin, the dwarf leader, has to accept his significance. Though, he returns to Hobbiton to live in that same hole after winning heroism among his companions, the dwarves as well as Gandalf.
- Gandalf: A wizard in The Hobbit, Gandalf does not provide details about himself when he comes to meet Bilbo but does not mince words when detailing the task. Despite his deep attachment with the dwarves, specifically Thorin, he does not disclose the real purpose of going after the treasure. This becomes clearer when he faces the Necromancer in Mirkwood. The most surprising thing for Gandalf is his omniscience of manipulating circumstances as well as people, for he dodges when Bilbo is trapped after which he has to maneuver to save himself.
- Thorin Oakenshield: Thorin is brave, stubborn, and also very greedy. He is also seen as one of the most argumentative characters to declare a claim as their legitimate right as he does for the treasure. Yet, in comparison to Bilbo, his personality falls short as he fails to be heroic and lacks in planning and execution. Despite his leadership role, he does not seem to deserve the role as leader, as his irrationality after finding the treasure brings out his true and cruel nature which is incompatible with his role as the leader. Although he seeks an apology from Bilbo, in the end, it does seem redemptive.
- Gollum: A stranger creature Gollum lives in the cave under the Misty Mountains where he loses his ring to Bilbo. Bilbo wins the riddles game and saves himself from becoming Gollum’s meal. The grotesqueness of his face could be gauged from the fact that he is darker than the darkness Tolkien describes.
- Smaug: Smaug is the main antagonist and the final obstacle faced by Bilbo and Gandalf as they try to steal his treasure. Smaug is also the fiery dragon whose greediness lies in his desire to keep the treasure lying buried in the Lonely Mountain. This treasure belonged to the dwarves who have now come back to claim it. This flying creature, however, rejects their claim using his firepower and flying away. Smaug has sarcastic sense of humor only finds equal in Bilbo who outsmarts him by the end of the story and retrieving the treasure.
- Bard: The captain of Lake Town, this respectable figure is Bilbo’s great assistance during the battle with Smaug, the dragon. He, as the matchless archer, fires his arrow into the weak spot of Smaug that killing him.
- Beorn: Beorn is a great help to Bilbo and assists him to flee when Bilbo faces a bleak destiny ahead in the cavern of the goblins.
- Elrond: Leader of the elves, Elrond offers his assistance to Bilbo and the group. His expertise lies in his qualities of being a wise warrior
- Thror: As Thorin’s grandfather and the original owner of the treasure that he had buried under the Mountain. He is later killed by Smaug when all of his descent scatters far and wide.
- Dwarves, elves, human beings, trolls, goblins, and wargs are some other creatures mentioned in the storyline, each playing a significant role as they cross their paths with Bilbo.
Writing Style of The Hobbit
Although it seems that The Hobbit is written for children, most of it symbolizes the human quest for solutions to the riddles the universe presents, making it a favorite read to adults as well. The diction is short and direct and also very simple that fits a child’s mind. Sentence structure is also simple to suit the diction. The story is narrated in a third-person perspective which gave Tolkien freedom to navigate into the rough world of adventurism. For literary devices, he turns to personifications, similes, and metaphors.
Analysis of the Literary Devices in The Hobbit, or There and Back Again
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the life and journeys of Bilbo with Gandalf to get the treasure. The falling action occurs when Bilbo and Gandalf start their backward journey, while the rising action occurs when the battle takes place in the seventeenth chapter.
- Anaphora: The novel shows the use of anaphora in the following sentences,
i. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort I of remarkable tale. (Chapter -1)
ii. He got into the river before they could catch him; and before they could get him out again, Fili and Kili were nearly drowned. (Chapter -2)
These examples show the repetitions of “I have” and “before they could” at the start of the successive clauses.
- Antagonist: Although at one point, it seems that Gallum is the real antagonist when the story progresses, it becomes clear that Smaug, the dragon, is the antagonist as he obstructs every move of Bilbo and the dwarves to lay their hands upon the treasure.
- Asyndeton: In asyndeton, the words in a list are separated by commas, and no conjunctions are used to join the words in a list. For example,
i. Out jumped the goblins, big goblins, great ugly-looking goblins, lots of goblins, before you could say rocks and blocks. (Chapter -4)
This example shows that Tolkien has not used conjunction to join different things or ideas.
- Conflict: The novel shows both external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is going on between man and nature and man and other creatures. However, the internal conflict is going on in Bilbo’s mind about his adventures and his actions.
- Characters: The Hobbit shows both static as well as dynamic characters. The hobbit, Bilbo, is a dynamic character as he shows a considerable transformation in his behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Gandalf, Thorin, Gollum, or Smaug.
- Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when Bilbo kills a spider and becomes confident that he has the ability to deal with other such adversities.
- Deus Ex Machina: The following example shows the use of deus ex machina,
i. But most of the paths were cheats and deceptions and led nowhere or to bad ends; and most of the passes were infested by evil things and dreadful dangers. (Chapter -4)
These lines show the use of supernatural elements such as the paths that were cheats and bad ends and then evil things.
- Foreshadowing: The examples of foreshadows are as follows,
i. He knew that something unexpected might happen, and he hardly dared to hope that they would pass without fearful adventure over those great tall mountains with lonely peaks and valleys where no king ruled. (Chapter -4)
ii. Bilbo had never seen or imagined anything of the kind. They were high up in a narrow place, with a dreadful fall into a dim valley at one side of them. (Chapter -4)
The mention of the unexpected, fearful and dim valley foreshadows mysterious happenings going to confront the dwarves and the hobbit.
- Imagery: The following examples show the use of imagery,
i. It seemed quite a fair size, but not too large and mysterious. It had a dry floor and some comfortable nooks. At one end there was room for the ponies; and there they stood (mighty glad of the change) steaming, and champing in their nosebags. Oin and Gloin wanted to light a fire at the door to dry their clothes, but Gandalf would not hear of it. (Chapter -I)
ii. Very slowly he got up and groped about on all fours, till he touched the wall of the tunnel; but neither up nor down it could he find anything: nothing at all, no sign of goblins, no sign of dwarves. His head was swimming, and he was far from certain even of the direction they had been going in when he had his fall. (Chapter -5)
These two examples show images of size, movement, and feeling.
- Metaphor: The following examples show good use of various metaphors,
i. You remember Bilbo falling like a log into sleep, as he stepped into a circle of light? The next time it had been Thorin who stepped forward, and as the lights went out he fell like a stone enchanted. (Chapter -8)
ii. Such day as there ever was in the forest was fading once more into the blackness of night, when suddenly out sprang the light of many torches all round them, like hundreds of red stars. (Chapter -9)
iii. Suddenly the cliff fell away. The shores sank. The trees ended. Then Bilbo saw a sight: The lands opened wide about him, filled with the waters of the river which broke up and wandered in a hundred winding courses, or halted in marshes and pools dotted with isles on every side: but still a strong water flowed on steadily through the midst. (Chapter -10)
These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows Bilbo compared to a heavy thing, the second shows a day compared to a night, the third shows several natural objects compared to living things.
- Mood: The Hobbit or There and Back Again, shows a very pleasant mood in the beginning but turns out magical, mysterious, tragic, and wonderful at times.
- Motif: Most important motifs of The Hobbit are language, heroism, and birth.
- Narrator: The novel is narrated in the third-person point of view, which is the author, J. R. R. Tolkien.
- Parallelism: The novel shows the use of parallelism in the following sentences,
i. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. (Chapter -1)
ii. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. (Chapter -1)
iii. For your hospitality our sincerest thanks, and for your offer of professional assistance our grateful acceptance. (Chapter -2)
These three examples show the parallel structure of the sentences.
- Personification: The novel shows examples of personifications such as,
i. The winds broke up the grey clouds, and a waning moon appeared above the hills between the flying rags. (Chapter-2)
ii. They moved to a clump of trees, and though it was drier under them, the wind shook the rain off the leaves, and the drip, drip, was most annoying. (Chapter -2)
iii. It was deep, deep, dark, such as only goblins that have taken to living in the heart of the mountains can see through. (Chapter -4)
These examples show as if winds, trees, and mountains have life and emotions of their own.
- Polysyndeton: The novel shows the use of polysyndeton in the following examples that have conjunctions instead of commas,
i. The walls echoed to the clap, snap! and the crush, smash! and to the ugly laughter of their ho, ho! my lad! (Chapter -4)
ii. It was lit by a great red fire in the middle, and by torches along the walls, and it was full of goblins. (Chapter -4)
- Protagonist: Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist of the novel as the novel starts with him going on an adventure and ends when he returns to his land for seemingly peacful life.
- Repetition: The examples of repetition are in the following sentences,
i. It was deep, deep, dark, such as only goblins that have taken to living in the heart of the mountains can see through. (Chapter -4)
ii. All he knew was that the river seemed to go on and on and on for ever, and he was hungry, and had a nasty cold in the nose, and did not like the way the Mountain seemed to frown at him and threaten him as it drew ever nearer. (Chapter -10)
These examples show the repetitions such as deep and on and on whose purpose is to stress upon the idea.
- Setting: The setting of The Hobbit is somewhere in Middle-earth.
- Simile: The following sentences are best examples of similes,
i. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. (Chapter -1)
ii. About midday, creeping behind a great stone that stood alone like a pillar, Bilbo came on what looked like rough steps going upwards. (Chapter -11)
iii. Then suddenly when their hope was lowest a red ray of the sun escaped like a finger through a rent in the cloud. (Chapter -11)
iv. A sound, too, began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring. (Chapter -12)
These sentences show use of the words “like” and “as” to demonstrate comparison such as the first shows this comparison between people, the second between a stone and Bilbo, the third shows this between the sun and a finger, and the last one shows this between the sound and noise.