Themes of Hobbit
‘The Hobbit’ Essay By Abhi Menon Essay Question: Write an essay in which you show how, through the use of evidence from the novel, a major character is used to bring across a theme and shape your response to it. By definition, a hero is a person of great strength, valor and swordsmanship who fights evil even in the face of insurmountable odds to defend the lives of the innocent, and those who cannot protect themselves. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy tale ‘The Hobbit’, highlights the heroic transformation in a furry-footed, complacent, hole dwelling hobbit named Bilbo Baggins.
Fantasy novels involve mythical creatures and talking animals that are still anchored firmly in reality by the author using specific reality links. Tolkien uses many methods of characterization for the protagonist Bilbo, namely physical description, mental process, and description of the character’s actions; the latter two being the most strongest. The journey of Bilbo and the Dwarves is quite adventurous and also very thematic; Tolkien’s theme of Bilbo’s self-transformation with retention of his personal morals and values is evident throughout their expedition.
As the company travels in search of material treasure, Bilbo discovers the treasures within himself: those of courage, bravery, and wisdom. In order for the reader to conceptualise Bilbo mentally, it is most necessary to have a physical description. This is specifically appropriate when reading ‘The Hobbit’ because Bilbo is not even human. However, Tolkien describes Bilbo right from the beginning as a Hobbit-a small humanoid creature. He goes onto describe Bilbo’s size, his clothes, and the hair on his feet and head. The reader learns of the Hobbit’s customs, his ability to move quietly and his generous girth.
All in all he is not an imposing character, which again lends credence to the heroic deeds that he accomplishes during the course of the journey. “They [hobbits] are (or were) a little people, about one-half of our height…Hobbits have no beards. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach. They dress in bright colours…wear no shoes, because their feet grow naturally leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly)…”(Tolkien, 1937,p. 16). Once Tolkien gives the reader a tangible image of Bilbo, he moves onto the most important form of characterization, as to what and how Bilbo thinks.
This however is not accomplished as quickly as the physical description because the human mind is a complex construct, ruled by emotions. As the story develops, Bilbo’s character becomes more defined and he transforms from a comfortable and complacent homebody to an intelligent and calculated risk taking person. This is illustrated by the fact that though Bilbo was not interested in Gandalf’s adventure, he accompanied Gandalf and the Dwarves finally, and this decision to venture into the unknown and undertake risks was the first step in his transformation.
As the narrator explains, “… people considered them [the Bagginses] very respectable, not only because most of them are rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected…” (Tolkien, 1937, p. 15). Bilbo beholds two creatures quite efficiently, the trolls and the goblins, the latter of which he rescues himself from after being left behind in their den. This exemplifies Bilbo’s autonomy and ability to function alone and the fact that fears did not disable him.
The possession of the magic ring also improved his self confidence significantly which was mimicked in the opinions held by the company in regards to Bilbo’s competency: “It is a fact that Bilbo’s reputation went up a great deal with the dwarves after this” (Tolkien, 1937, p. 98). Once in the forest Bilbo’s leadership skills become more apparent. The company owed its successful crossing of the river of Forgetfulness to his keen sight and advice. However his greatest accomplishment by far was the slaying of the spiders and the removal of the threat posed when they attacked the company.
After this valiant deed Bilbo felt heroic enough to name his sword, which is something that knights and heroes of battle do, but is not an everyday happening for a Hobbit. As the narrator relates to the reader, “Somehow the killing of a giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of a wizard or the dwarves or anyone else, made a great difference to Bilbo. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath. ‘I shall give you a name’ he said to it, ‘and I shall name you Sting’” (Tolkien, 1937, p. 54). The reader gets further glimpses of Bilbo’s courage and wisdom when he rescues the dwarves from the Woodelves after they become entangled in a compromising situation. The dwarves eventually become dependent on Bilbo’s cunning and courage without which they would have perished in the forest. Bilbo goes onto do further heroic deeds by entering the dragon’s lair on his own, finding the masses of treasure and the Arkenstone. His wisdom comes across in winning the riddle game where he outsmarts Gollum. He also uses his wits to find the way to the mountain and unlock the entrance to the cave.
Despite all acts of bravery Bilbo was still able to retain his core personal values and morals. The reader is able to empathies that he still remained righteous and humble. Bilbo discovered capabilities that had been unknown to him but did not abandon his ideals; the very theme of the novel is this preservation of personal values throughout the self-transformation. He is displeased by the notion of fighting over the treasure and after all the heroism and valor, he hid during the great battle on the mountain; here we see a little bit of the old Bilbo showing through the newer, self confident Bilbo.
When Thorin, the dwarf leader fell in battle, the Hobbit came to his side and cried showing his sympathetic and humane qualities. The last step of Bilbo’s transformation occurs during Thorin’s death when the dwarf leader begs Bilbo’s acceptance; “‘There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world’” (Tolkien, 1937, p. 273). Through this plea, Thorin acknowledges the value of the Hobbit’s way of life, even in a world of heroism by violence and danger.
By returning to his hole in Hobbiton, Bilbo felt as though he was honouring his fallen companion’s wise observation. The description of Bilbo’s transformation and his heroic actions completes J. R. R. Tolkien’s spell; and after all the experiences that the reader has shared with Bilbo, he feels like the reader’s close friend. Bilbo’s journey has transformed him and other Hobbits in Hobbiton are uneasy in his presence after seeing this profound difference. However Bilbo is not perturbed and continues to live unassumingly by penning poetry and occasionally visiting the elves.
By the anti-climatic conclusion of Bilbo’s journey he had progressed from a homebody to a hero. Throughout this journey he had remained quiet, cautious and planning his next move. The dwarves on the other hand were described to be robust battle brave heroes. Their views on Bilbo also undergo a radical transformation; as Bilbo becomes more secure and confident the dwarves grow to consider him less o f a burden and more of a comrade. Thus, Tolkien’s theme of heroism manifests, and thus, the character Bilbo Baggins of Underhill, Hobbiton, is fully developed and transformed.