The Plot In J.R.R. Tolkien

’s The Hobbit Essay, Research Paper

The plot in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is a captivating tale about unusual creatures, great

struggles, a flying dragon, and much, much more. The story comes alive through colorful

depictions of characters and details that capture the imagination. The plot of this novel is the

dwarves’ journey to recapture their homeland. The setting, characters, and trials throughout The

Hobbit help to fully shape this overall theme of the novel.

Throughout The Hobbit the setting is constantly changing from start to finish. There are

six different stages through which the setting evolves. The first stage takes place at the home of

Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo lives in something called a hobbit hole. These homes may look small

from the outside, but are fairly large inside. Hobbit holes are made in the side of small hills. As

Tolkien describes, “It had a perfectly round door . . . the door opened on to a tube-shaped hall

like a tunnel . . . ” (1). Down the main hall in the hobbit house are all the same rooms that a

regular home would contain. Some of the rooms in Bilbo’s home include, “ . . . bedrooms,

bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes),

kitchens, dinning rooms . . . ” (Tolkien 1). Besides just food and clothes, hobbits love gardens.

Bilbo has gardens surrounding the front and side of his house, which are tended to every day.

After traveling through Bilbo’s house the setting turns toward the Misty Mountains. The Misty

Mountains are an extensive stretch of mountains that serve as a border between Bilbo’s home and the forest of Mirkwood. The Misty Mountains is nothing to joke about. Gandalf says, “ . . .it is very necessary to tackle the Misty Mountains by the proper path, or else you will get lost inthem, and have to come back and start at the beginning again ( if you ever get back at all).”(Tolkien 46). Once the Misty Mountains have been tackled, the setting continues on to Beorn’s

house, who Gandalf states, “ . . . lives in an oak-wood and has a great wooden house . . . ”Tolkien 115). The area around Beorn’s home is decorated with beautiful flowers covered byfriendly bees. Horses and cattle are just a few of the animals that walk in his spacious yard. Upon reaching the gate to enter Beorn’s yard there is gardens and a cluster of wooden buildings. The buildings range from “ . . . barns, stables, sheds, and a long low wooden house.” (Tolkien

117). The last building is Beorn’s house, which is mainly one wide hall with a veranda on itssouthern side. Then the setting changes coarse once again and heads toward Mirkwood. Notmany people know of Mirkwood, but those who do know that, “ . . . Mirkwood is dark,dangerous, and difficult.” (Tolkien 131). The only way to ensure survival through the forest is to

stay on the path. Mirkwood is very dark and gloomy. Almost no light passes through the thickmass of trees that make up the forest. Here, at night all the inhabitants come to life. The main path through Mirkwood is a basic dirt path and is the only place in the woods free of the terrible giant spiders and other frightening inhabitants of the forest. Once out of Mirkwood forest and up a river, there is a town called Esgaroth. This town is located on a body of water called Long Lake. Long Lake is one of the longest lakes in its region and is used to import and export goods to and from Esgaroth. The town of Esgaroth is not only built on the land beside the lake, but is

also built out over the lake. Tolkien says, “It was not built on the shore, though there were a few huts and buildings there, but right out on the surface of the lake . . . ” (190). The lake is protected from the current of the river that flows into the lake “ . . . by a promontory of rock which formed a calm bay.” (Tolkien 190). Esgaroth has deteriorated some over the years because of the dragon which has made his home in the Lonely Mountains nearby. The Lonely Mountains is the final setting of our story. The land laid out before the Lonely Mountains is very

desolate. There are no trees or bushes and little grass. All of the animals and men that lived here have left the area for fear of the dragon. Into the entrance of the mountain flows the river from Long Lake. Inside the great mountain are many great rooms made by dwarves of old. Among many grand rooms there are a great feasting and a council hall and another that houses all the gold and treasures the dragon has collected over the years. The setting of The Hobbit laid down the foundation for the story. Traveling through these settings, the colorful characters bring

the story to life.

There are six major characters through The Hobbit and each one play a crucial role. The most important of these characters is Gandalf. Gandalf is described as, “ . . . an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which a white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.” (Tolkien 4). Gandalf may not look like much, but he is a very powerful wizard. Throughout the story he helps to save himself and his friends from danger and sudden death. Even though he is very helpful, he can also be “ . . .

extremely random and unpredictable . . . ” (Lion and Johnson 5). In these ways he shows how human he really is. The next major character, which Gandalf has brought into the story, is Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. A hobbit is “ . . . a short human-like person . . . ” (Gardner 1). They have hairy feet with leathery soles so they do not have to wear shoes and they are generally quite fat. Another characteristic of hobbits is that they love to eat, rest, and smoke pipes. Bilbo fits this description perfectly and that is why he is described as “ . . . the ultimate anti-hero, a reluctant adventurer from start to end.” (Acton 1). Bilbo eats at least four meals a day, which include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea time. Bilbo finds pleasure in sitting on his

front porch smoking his pipe after a meal. Even though Bilbo is not the adventuring type, he is a

key character throughout the novel. Another key character is Thorin Oakenshield. Thorin is the

lead dwarf in the party traveling to the Lonely Mountains. Thorin is a very good dwarf, but he is

also stubborn and set in his ways. Thorin is so stubborn that he won’t even share some of his

treasure with the people that have helped him the most. Among the many people that have helped Thorin one stands out among the rest and this man’s name is Bard. Bard is the captain of the guard in the town of Esgaroth on Long Lake. Bard is a very courageous man with the heart of a king. Bard is not the kind of person that would just walk out on his friends in their time of need. He stands strong and fights until the end. Tolkien says, “And they praised the courage of Bard . . . ” (250). Bard is a very good and loyal person, unlike the last two major characters of

the novel. The first of these is Gollum. Gollum is a very strange creature that resides in the lower tunnels of the Misty Mountains. Gollum spends most of his days paddling around on a lake inside and at the bottom of the Misty Mountains. Gollum is described as “ . . . a small slimy creature . . . as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face.” (Tolkien 71). Gollum hunts the fish in the lake as well as the goblins in the tunnels for food. Another creature that lives in a mountain and eats whatever it can find is Smaug. Smaug is a very

powerful and large red dragon. Smaug is the great dragon that drove dwarves out of their homes in the Lonely Mountains years before. He has resided here even since, collecting treasure and killing anything that bothered him. Many have tried to free the mountain of him but his,”flaming breath . . . , his huge wings . . . , and his armor-like hide is almost impenetrable.” (Gardner 1). Smaug is not an easy foe and should be watched closely by all that dares go near

him. The combination of the major characters and the setting in The Hobbit makes it possible for the trials in the novel to take place.

There are six primary trials in The Hobbit. Each one contains details that capture the imagination and further helps to shape the overall theme of the novel. The first trial is at the gathering of the adventures that are going on a journey to recapture the dwarves homeland. This trial is not a physical one, but a mental one for Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf, the wizard, and the dwarves in the party are trying to talk Bilbo into joining them on their adventure. Bilbo, like most hobbits, is not very adventurous. He does, however, have a side of his family that is said to have gone on adventures. As described by Tolkien, “ . . . something not entirely hobbit like

about them, and once and awhile members . . . would go and have adventures.” (3). This is Bilbo’s problem, because one minute he does not want to go on the adventure and the next minute he is starting to like the idea of it. Bilbo is very mature about the whole situation and listens to everything Gandalf and the dwarves have to say. They tell Bilbo the purpose of the adventure and why they need him. Bilbo, somewhat reluctantly, finally agrees to aid the party in

their journey. No sooner has the party of adventures left Bilbo’s home then they are confronted with their second trial and Bilbo wishes he was still in his home. The party has been traveling through the forest outside of Bilbo’s homeland when they encounter three trolls. Trolls are very large, much bigger then humans, and quite unfriendly. Trolls like to eat anything they can get their hands on, especially dwarves. When the party comes upon the trolls, they are seen and are captured. Tolkien says, “As each dwarf came up . . . pop! went a nasty smelly sack over his head, and he was down.” (39). The dwarves sit and listen as the trolls talk about how they are

going to eat them. Finally Gandalf shows up and saves the day. He gets the trolls mad at each other, which prevents them from noticing when the sun starts to rise. The reason this is important is because if trolls are outside when the sun comes up, they turn to stone. That is exactly what happens next. The trolls turn to stone and the dwarves go free. A few days’ march from where the stone trolls lie is the Misty Mountains and the party’s next trial. Upon starting to

make their way through the mountains, the group encounters a terrible storm and mush find cover. They find an empty cave on the side of the mountain and all decide to rest here. During the night, while the adventurers are all asleep, a hole in the side of the cave opens up and a band of goblins rushes through. The party is captured once again, only this time by the goblins. The goblins bring the prisoners before their king to find out what to do with them. Just as the king is about to have them killed, Gandalf casts a spell and kills some of the goblins. The dwarves now

have their chance to fight back. With swords, fists, and spells the party makes its way through the goblins. The next battle begins when, after traveling all night to distance themselves from the goblins, the adventurers come to a clearing in the woods and hear wolves howling. Tolkien says, “All of the sudden they heard a howl away down hill, a long shuddering howl.” (98). Not knowing what to do and being very afraid, the party rushes up the trees surrounding the edge of

the clearing. Gandalf decides to use some of his wizard power and shoots fire at the wolves. The wolves catch on fire and start running wildly through the woods. As the wolves are trying to save themselves, the trees catch fire. Just as the fire is at it’s worst a group of large eagles save the day. The eagles fly down and pick up each one of the adventurers from the flaming trees. Once they have everyone, the eagles take the group and place them far away from the terrible wolves. Unknowingly they are now closer to the group’s next quarrel. After being saved by the eagles and resting for a few days, the party has come to Mirkwood Forest. Their first problem is that Gandalf is not going to travel with them through the forest. Tolkien says, “Then they knew

that Gandalf was going to leave them at the very edge of Mirkwood, and they were in despair.”(135). Gandalf finally makes the group go on without him. One night, while the party is traveling through the forest they go off the path and become lost in the woods, the group

becomes separated and in deep trouble. The scattered dwarves and Bilbo Baggins fall asleep in the forest. During the night, the giant spiders discover the dwarves and Bilbo. All of the dwarves are bound and tied by these spiders. Bilbo awakens just in time to save himself from a killer spider. Bilbo finds his friends all tied up and hanging from a tree branch. He manages to climb the tree and “ . . . to haul up first one dwarf and then another and slash them free.”

(Tolkien 161). The spiders are not at all pleased about losing their supper, so they go after the group of dwarves and Bilbo. As Tolkien describes, “Then the battle began. Again and again the spiders were beaten off, and many of them were killed.” (162). Throughout the fray with the spiders, Bilbo does most of the fighting and defending, for the dwarves are sick with spider poison and are very weak. Tolkien says, “ . . . just when Bilbo felt that he could not lift his hand for a single stroke more, the spiders suddenly gave it up, and followed them no more . . . ” (164). Very relieved and also fatigued the party travels on toward the Lonely Mountains to reclaim

what is rightfully theirs. The adventures reach their destination and find their way inside. Bilbo starts creeping around and discovers the dragon, Smaug, and his treasure room. Bilbo pilfers one piece of Smaug’s treasure and has ended up making him very acrimonious. This is what has caused the last tribulation of the novel to take place. Smaug is enraged and has decided to take out his wrath on the town of Esgaroth. While the people in the town are going about their normal evening Bard, the captain of the guard, sees the great dragon approaching the town. Bard yells, “The dragon is coming or I am a fool!” (Tolkien 246). The town people have gone into a

panic and rush to boats so they can try and elude the frenzy of the dragon. Bard and his men have shot off arrow after arrow attempting to pierce through the dragon’s tough hide. The dragon, not caring about the arrows, flies right into the line of fire and uses his awful breath weapon to set the town aflame. As Tolkien describes, “Flames unquenchable sprang high into the night . . . and still no arrow hindered Smaug or hurt him more than a fly from the marshes.”

(247). All the town’s people have left except for Bard and his archers. Bard is down to his last

resort, a special black arrow. Bard fits the arrow into his bow and aims it at the dragon’s heart.

As the dragon soars above the town Bard lets his arrow fly. The arrow speeding straight and true, vanishes into the dragon’s chest. Then the dragon “ . . . shot spouting into the air, turned over and crashed down from on high in ruin.” (Tolkien 249). The dragon is finally dead and the dwarves have regained their homeland. Thus, the tale is concluded.

The chronicle of The Hobbit is an adventure to regain a long lost home. Brave dwarves and a hobbit endeavor through many treacherous lands and risk their lives in this great campaign. As stated by William S. Brockington, Jr., “Tolkien’s fantasy world provides a place where moral values exist and quests can still be achieved.” (1467). The final victory is won through the help of many companions the adventurers meet along the way. Had it not been for the setting, characters, and trials in The Hobbit the plot could have never been made possible.


Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit


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