Chapter One: "An Unexpected Party"
We are introduced to hobbits and to Bilbo Baggins, a stay-at-home, utterly respectable hobbit with a secret desire for adventure. Bilbo receives a visit from Gandalf the wizard. The next Wednesday Gandalf returns for tea, bringing with him a party of thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield. Despite misgivings on both sides, on Gandalf's recommendation the dwarves hire Bilbo as Burglar on an expedition to the Lonely Mountain, where they plan to recover their ancestral treasure from the dragon Smaug. Comprehension Questions
1.What is Gandalf's reputation?
2.What kind of mark does Gandalf put on Bilbo's door?
3.How many dwarves come to tea?
4.What does Thorin wear to distinguish himself from the other dwarves? 5.What two things does Gandalf give Thorin?
6.How did the dwarves lose their treasure and kingdom?
Discussion and Essay Topics
1. What does the word hobbit make you think of? (The possibilities include rabbit, hobby, Babbit, habit and hob. The word is probably best seen as a blend of rabbit and hob, an obsolete British word meaning "a rustic, peasant" or "sprite, elf.") How does Bilbo resemble a rabbit in this chapter? When you finish the book, ask yourself if he still reminds you of one. 2. What is an adventure? Is it something that happens, or is it the way we react to what happens? Can we live without adventures? Is there any "magic" in this book? (Return to these questions as the book progresses.)
3. Explain all the meanings of "good morning" (pp. 17-19).
4. What about adventures awakens Bilbo's "Tookish" side (pp. 26-28, 30)? What causes his "Baggins" side to reemerge (pp. 30, 38)? Is the Baggins side timid or practical? Is the Tookish side heroic, curious or proud?
5. Even this early in the book, we can see some of the characteristics of dwarves. What are they? (Make sure you include proud, formal, hard- working, and devoted to treasure with a "fierce and jealous love.")
6. What are dragons like (p.35)? As you read on, think about the differences and similarities between dwarves and dragons.
Critical Commentary: Entering a Fantasy World
A fantasy novel must offer two things: an attractive fantasy world, and a point of contact between the fantasy world and our own. What readers find attractive is a matter of personal taste, but they are likely to discard a fantasy as irrelevant unless they can find a common perspective from which to assess the attractiveness. In general, these common perspectives are established in one of three ways: the main character is transported from our world into the fantasy world (like Alice to Wonderland); the main character is a native of the fantasy world with whom the reader can easily identify; or the fantasy world is fundamentally like ours, differing only in specific details. American teenagers will not automatically identify with a fussy English country squire like Bilbo, so the success of The Hobbit depends on a tension between familiar and exotic things that must be established in the first few pages. The first sentence, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit," introduces a strange creature and an apparently unattractive setting. But the next paragraphs deny this initial reaction. Hobbits love comfort in much the same way we do; they are fond of visitors, food, and clothing; they have families and relatives; some are richer than others--in short, they are very human. By the fourth paragraph hobbits seem normal, and other folk--dwarves, fairies, and Big People--are strange. From here on, adventures take place in a world beyond Bilbo's doorstep, a world which seems as strange to him as it does to us. We share not only his sense of wonder, but also the values that make him love his home.
Chapter 2: "Roast Mutton"
Thorin and Company set off...