The Hobbit Essay, Research Paper
When one thinks of a hero, the image that generally comes to mind is a great warrior with shield and sword, or maybe a larger than life sports figure such as Michael Jordan. Moreover, when one thinks of a heroic journey, great epics such as The Odyssey and Beowulf come to the tip of the tongue, but how often is Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit thought of as a heroic journey? In fact, many analyze the novel as a heroic journey. As defined by Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth, a true heroic journey must be done alone, must save something, must cause the hero to sacrifice, and must cause the hero to transform. These traits appear in each of the great heroic epics: Odysseus loses his men, sacrifices his wealth, saves his family, and transforms into a peace-time leader. Other epics follow the very same pattern, and so does Bilbo Baggins in Tolkien’s The Hobbit. As defined by Joseph Campbell, Bilbo completes all the stages of the heroic journey.
While Bilbo’s friends do accompany him throughout much of the novel, he completes his journey alone. Most of the time that Bilbo spends with the dwarves serves as travelling time. Baggins must become a Burglar to complete his journey, not travel around the world. Gandalf says of Bilbo, “If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes.” (31) Trolls in the woods come upon Bilbo as his first challenge in Becoming a Burglar. The reluctant hobbit’s companions send him on ahead to scout for trouble, and the trolls grab Bilbo during his first burglary attempt, and though Gandalf does eventually save the would be burglar and his friends, Bilbo attempts the journey of burglary on his own. Another example of Bilbo going alone occurs in the dark tunnels of the goblins. By accident Bilbo loses his friends and finds a way out on his own, and in the process of escaping, he commits his first act of burglary by stealing a ring and quietly sneaking up on the dwarves. Bilbo even says for the first time, “And here’s the burglar!” (98) While he may not travel alone, Bilbo does everything else on his own.
To go on a heroic journey, one must save something and also sacrifice something, both of which Bilbo Baggins clearly does. After Bilbo and the dwarves recover the treasure, a group of men from a nearby lake request payment for the kindness that the men gave to Bilbo and his companions. However, the dwarves refuse to give up any of their new found treasure, and they prepare to fight the men. Knowing the dire situation upon his friends, Baggins takes the most beautiful and precious jewel to the men, preventing a great war between the dwarves and the men.