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The Hobbit: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, is visited by his old wizard friend, Gandalf, and a group of dwarves who drag Bilbo away on a hunt for treasure guarded by a dragon. Read on to learn more about what happens in J.R.R. Tolkien's ''The Hobbit''.

The Hero's Journey

With so many characters, reading J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937) may appear to be difficult, but this novel is one of the most well-known and well-loved of the twentieth century. It is a classic story of a hero's adventure: Bilbo's adventure.

Bilbo follows the hero's journey, a layout outlined by Joseph Campell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949). The journey begins with a call to action: Bilbo is talked into joining Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield, and a group of dwarves on a hunt for treasure.

Gandalf and Bilbo
Gandalf

After beginning their adventure and escaping a group of trolls, Bilbo crosses the threshold into the world of the supernatural. In this case, Bilbo enters Rivendell, a land inhabited by elves.

Later, Bilbo faces a trial, and he must fight Smaug the dragon. Only after completion of this battle may Bilbo return home with his treasure.

The hero's journey can be used to describe the adventure of many main characters, including such contemporary protagonists as Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, Thomas in The Maze Runner, and Luke Skywalker.

Let's look each aspect of the hero's journey in more detail below.

Call to Action

Without Bilbo's knowledge, the wizard Gandalf has invited a group of dwarves (Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Dwalin, Fíli, Glóin, Kíli, Nori, Óin, and Ori), led by Thorin Oakenshield, to Bilbo's house for a party. It is at this party that Gandalf reveals a map that leads to a great treasure. The only problem is that the treasure is guarded by a dragon. There's also the problem of the dwarves thinking Bilbo is a burglar (thanks, Gandalf). In any event, the group sets out, with a reluctant Bilbo, to find and reclaim riches beyond their wildest dreams.

Think of the call to action as Katniss volunteering as a Hunger Games tribute in place of her sister. Like Bilbo, she has agreed to face the battle ahead in the hopes that she may return home with the prize.

Crossing the Threshold

Because he lives in Hobbiton, a small hobbit village, Bilbo leads a quiet life. The appearance of Gandalf startles many of the town's inhabitants, as they do not like strangers, particularly ones who start a commotion. Bilbo initially begins to cross the threshold into the world of the supernatural--a departure from his quiet, peaceful life--when he and the dwarves are captured by a group of trolls.

As Bilbo and the others arrive in Rivendell, the land of the elves, Bilbo officially leaves his homeland and his old life behind. He is now situated firmly in a supernatural world as well as the hero's journey. A great example of crossing the threshold is Harry Potter's first trip to the wizarding world of Diagon Alley. Harry and Hagrid pass through a literal threshold (the wall of the Leaky Cauldron pub and inn) into the supernatural world of Diagon Alley.

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