The Hobbit


Symbols and Themes


The hero’s journey

The Hobbit describes an archetypical journey similar to those embodied in the ancient literature which Tolkien studied and admired, such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The hero’s journey involves the growth of an essentially good man into an extraordinary man, as he discovers inner reserves of courage and ingenuity in response to challenging situations. This is the journey Bilbo undertakes throughout the novel. Part of the novel’s humor lies in the fact that, unlike Beowulf or Sir Gawain, Bilbo is particularly ordinary to begin with. He is effectively given a push by Gandalf to embark on his hero’s journey, and is all but shoved out the door of his comfortable home to risk the dangers of the road. In the beginning, Bilbo is nervous and ineffective, but he gradually comes to recognize and utilize his natural heroism for the good of all concerned.

The importance of friendship and peaceful alliances

Bilbo’s loyalty to his friends is one of his best qualities and is an important aspect of his values system. Even in the most difficult situations, such as when he considers going back into the goblin caves to look for the dwarves, he will not abandon his friends. Gandalf’s behavior also stresses the importance of friendship and of cultivating peaceful alliances throughout Middle-Earth. Even though Gandalf is a powerful wizard, he often calls upon friends to help him out of difficult spots. Elrond, for example, gives the company food and rest when they need it, and helps to decipher the runes on Thorin’s map. The Eagles and Beorn are also willing to help Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves because Gandalf has carefully maintained his alliances with them. Greed is the destructive force that stands in the way of peaceful alliance, as when Thorin is willing to go to war with men and elves in defense of the treasure. Gandalf’s understanding of the importance of alliances guides the trajectory...

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Essays About The Hobbit