The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)

As a big fan of fantasy literature, I have wanted to read the critically-acclaimed, fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien’s works for a long time. Luckily, for my class on fantasy literature, we read The Hobbit.  Written in 1937, it was succeeded by Tolkien’s more renowned work, Lord of the Rings.

The Hobbit follows the story of an ordinary hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who is thrown into a series of epic adventures that include dwarves, goblins, faeries, and elves, all in the search of lost treasure guarded by Smaug, the dragon.

The Hobbit is a quintessential fantasy novel and has influenced later works of fantasy. The moment when Gandalf the wizard shows up on Bilbo’s front door and tells him he is needed for a quest is tremendously similar to the scene found in Harry Potter when Hagrid shows up at the hut to tell Harry that he is a wizard.

The Hobbit established the elements seen in fantasy literature: an atypical hero, the search for lost treasure, constant danger, and courageous characters who emerge victorious in their quest. There are a variety of imaginative creatures either fighting for the side of the good or for the side of evil. Whereas the dwarves and hobbits are depicted as inherently good creatures, the goblins and trolls are particularly nasty and malicious.

As a medieval scholar, Tolkien describes fantasy as a high form of art. He makes a good point when he says that fantasy is a very difficult genre because you are creating a whole new world in it. I agree with Tolkien, and I think The Hobbit is an excellent example of the portrayal of an enchanted world that is wildly different to our own.

One of the novel’s important themes is how an individual can be so much more than what they appear. Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who has lived an uneventful, sheltered, and relaxed life, is an unlikely hero. He doesn’t seem to be the kind of being to pursue a quest for treasure. Initially, the dwarves dismiss him as being good-for-nothing, despite Gandalf’s insistence that Bilbo is the chosen one. However, over time, Bilbo is able to prove them wrong on multiple occasions when he uses his intelligence and courage to save the day. Whether it is pure luck, or destiny, his story gives you the idea that people are not always what they seem to be.

It is interesting to note how a fantasy novel, such as The Hobbit, is great at conveying real world themes of courage, sacrifice, loyalty, and power.