The Hobbit



The ideal guide or mentor sees the best, most noble and generous qualities that reside in a person—whether that person sees them for himself or not. The job of the mentor, then, is to help the person along just enough that he can discover his own goodness for himself. This is exactly what Gandalf does for Bilbo. In terms of Bilbo’s hero’s journey, Gandalf perfectly embodies the archetype of the guide or mentor. He is not always gentle with Bilbo or with the dwarves; sometimes he has to speak with them very gruffly, and even appears to abandon them in times of trouble, but it is all for a greater good that he can see.

Gandalf knows when to come and go. He knows that certain things will not happen appropriately if he is present all the time, and he has a sense of the big picture—the lessons they all must learn. In his wisdom, he understands that Thorin will need Bilbo. Thorin will be dazzled into stupidity by the treasure, and he will need Bilbo’s peace-loving nature to keep them all from a ridiculous disaster. In this way, Gandalf guides not only Bilbo’s path, but seems to guide the paths of everyone.

Yet it is important to note that Gandalf is not omniscient or all-powerful. While Gandalf often uses magic to get them out of sticky situations, he cannot always do this. He needs the help of the Eagles, for instance, to get them out of the mess in the trees with the Wargs. He also calls upon Elrond for help in deciphering Thorin’s map, and goes to Beorn as a “beggar” when they are all in desperate need of food and shelter. This aspect of Gandalf’s character—his willingness to ask for help—underscores the importance of friendships and alliances. In the end, Gandalf is not only Bilbo’s mentor, but also his lifelong friend.

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Essays About The Hobbit