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Personification in The Hobbit

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you are reading '~'The Hobbit'~' you may have noticed that sometimes things are described as though they are human, even when they are not. If this sounds familiar, and you wanted to know more about it, check out this lesson. We will dissect two solid examples of personification from '~'The Hobbit.'~'

Personification Made Easy

Personification is a complicated looking word that describes a not so complicated idea. Personification simply means giving human characteristics to nonhuman things. For example, you could say ''The sun was shining on the flower''. This is totally fine, but you could also say something like ''The flowers saluted the sun.'' Personification is not always appropriate, but in books such as The Hobbit it can help add imagery and interest to the story.

The Dancing Sun

One example of personification in The Hobbit is when our narrator describes the weather. He tells us ''The next morning was a midsummer's morning as fair and fresh as could be dreamed: blue sky and never a cloud, and the sun dancing on the water.'' This is an example of personification because the sun cannot literally dance on the water. It does not have legs. So the ''nonhuman thing'' being personified is the sun. The ''human characteristic'' is dancing. So this sentence very clearly displays a non-human being described as having human characteristics.

One of the effects of personification is that it helps us to feel a certain way about the events in a story. For example, if the narrator said ''The sun glared upon the water,'' it would totally change how we feel about the sun. The narrator could have said that the sun was shining on the water and it was uncomfortably hot, but personifying the sun makes the sentence interesting and encourages us to imagine the sun being angry. In ''The Hobbit'' the image of the sun dancing on the water leaves us with a pleasant image.

The Jumping Heart

Another example of personification in ''The Hobbit'' is when Bilbo is being pursued by the goblins. He hides near a door and tries to keep quiet. One of the goblins sees his shadow and shouts '''There is a shadow by the door. Something is outside!'' Bilbo, understandably, is stressed out by this. In fact, ''Bilbo's heart jumped into his mouth.'' Most of us have been in a situation that makes us feel this way. Can you spot the personification in this sentence? What is Bilbo's heart doing? Is that possible? When the narrator says that Bilbo's heart jumped into his mouth, it is personification. A heart cannot literally jump, but here, it is being described as having human characteristics.

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