The Hobbit: Metaphors & Similes

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  • 0:00 Highlighting Attributes
  • 0:34 The Hobbit-Hole
  • 1:19 People
  • 1:50 Smaug
  • 3:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'The Hobbit', J.R.R. Tolkien uses similes and metaphors to describe settings and characters. In this lesson, we will look at some examples of similes and metaphors from the novel.

Highlighting Attributes

What strategies do authors use to effectively describe people and surroundings so the reader feels like part of the story? In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien uses similes and metaphors. Similes and metaphors are associations between something in the story and another object that emphasizes a specific trait. The difference between the two is that similes use the words 'like' or 'as' to link the two objects, while metaphors are more direct. Let's look at some examples of similes and metaphors from the story.

The Hobbit-Hole

At the beginning of the story, Bilbo's home, the hobbit-hole, is carefully described using similes. Both of the following passages use 'like' in the comparisons.

'It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.'

'The door opened on to a tubeshaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats - the hobbit was fond of visitors.'

Using similes by comparing the door to a porthole and the hall to a tunnel allows the reader to create visualizations based on their prior familiarity with portholes and tunnels.


Tolkien not only describes places using similes, but also uses them to describe characters. In the following description, the author compares regular-sized people to elephants. The phrasing of this simile provides for characterization of a hobbit by comparison.

'There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.'


When describing Smaug, the dragon, the author uses both similes and metaphors. The following metaphor directly compares Smaug to a worm without using 'like' or 'as' to connect them.

'There was a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm called Smaug.'

The next passage uses simile as the noise Smaug makes and is compared to a hurricane using 'like' to make the comparison.

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