The Hobbit-Book Review Page
Full details including a summary, video, questions, and links to other programs below!
Common Core Standard RL.9-10.5: Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
Summary of the book (with characters & setting provided)
In the fictional continent of Middle Earth, Bilbo Baggins (a relaxed & peaceful hobbit) resides at Bag End (his home located in Hobbiton) when he is asked by his friend Gandalf the Grey (a great wise wizard) to embark on a journey with him and 13 dwarves to the Lonely Mountain (a desolate mountain near Lake Town). They need someone to help them retrieve gold that once belonged to Thror (the former King under the mountain), before it was claimed by Smaug (an enormous fierce dragon) who currently sits atop the treasure in the Lonely Mountain. Thror's grandson, Thorin Oakenshield (the able-bodied, yet stubborn dwarf leader) wants to reclaim what rightfully belongs to him, and they leave Bilbo's house to set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Bilbo, having never left Hobbiton (a small village in the Shire where Bilbo & other hobbits live), is nervous yet excited to be on a daring quest to face a dragon and other possible threats. This comes to fruition when the group is captured by three trolls, who are tricked by Gandalf into staying out until the sun rises, thus turning them to stone. During their journey, the group takes rest as Rivendell (one of the many homes of the Elves) and meets Elrond (the strong-willed leader of the elves). He interprets markings & symbols on their map of the Lonely Mountain, and gives them advice of how to best enter the Mountain without being seen. This helps the dwarves, Bilbo, & Gandalf very much as they continue their journey, which requires them to pass through the Misty Mountain (located near Rivendell) first. In doing so, they are captured by goblins and are forced to escape from the mountain, yet during this endeavor, Bilbo is left behind. While trying to find a way out of the Misty Mountain, Bilbo finds a golden ring on the floor, which belongs to Gollum (a vile & disgusting creature who lives below the Misty Mountain) who Bilbo shortly thereafter encounters unexpectedly. Gollum wants to kill and eat Bilbo, so to keep himself alive he plays a game of riddles with Gollum and wins, even with the vile creature still unwilling to change his mind. When Gollum leaves to get his ring, Bilbo realizes that the ring belongs to him and uses it to make himself invisible and escape the mountain. He is finally reunited with Gandalf and the dwarves, and are now being pursued by Wargs until they are rescued by eagles large in size and a creature named Beorn (who can change from a bear to a man). Now entering Mirkwood (a dark forest and home of wood elves), the group encounters giant spiders after Gandalf has already left them unexpectedly to search for the Necromancer (an evil sorcerer who turns out to be Sauron, the forger of the one great ring in Bilbo's possession). As usual, the group of dwarves & Bilbo barely escape with their lives, while continually showing Bilbo's courage after never having experienced this type of lifestyle. Never catching a break, the group is then captured by the wood elves in the forest, but Bilbo uses the ring to help the dwarves escape by hiding them in barrels to flow down the river. They arrive in Lake Town (a village of humans near the Lonely Mountain) before having Bilbo enter the mountain to put his role as burglar to the test. After finally confronting Smaug and stealing a golden cup, Bilbo causes Smaug to fly out of the Lonely Mountain in a fit of rage and burn Lake Town. However Smaug is put to death when Bard (an uninviting yet brave bowman residing in Lake Town) learns of Smaug’s weak spot near his heart, and shoots an arrow at it. The humans, along with the wood elves, demand a cut of the treasure as compensation for all the trouble the dwarves & Bilbo have caused, and eventually trap the group inside the mountain when trying to take the gold. After being away for quite some time, Gandalf returns to save Bilbo from Thorin, who had just attacked Bilbo for trying to make peace with the elves & humans outside the mountain. Before any more quarrels can occur due to Bilbo standing up against the irrational leader Thorin, goblins & wargs are seen marching toward the Lonely Mountain, and there is a battle between them & the three other groups having to work together. Beorn arrives with eagles from earlier in the novel to secure the victory for the humans, elves, and dwarves. Thorin dies as a result of the battle, but only partially redeems himself of the greedy & selfish mistakes, especially towards Bilbo, while acknowledging Bilbo for being his own leader & valuing simple ideas of life. After the daring adventures Bilbo endures, he decides to return to his home of Bag End, even with his own people looking down on him for surrounding himself with non-hobbits such as Gandalf.
Themes of the book
Bravery: The novel presents the theme of bravery in the form of Bilbo Baggins. He grows as a character from beginning to end through J.R.R. Tolkien showing how he can be thrown into life and death situations that he never dealt with ever, and is able to think quickly to come out on top & save his friends. This contrasts with how he viewed himself at the beginning as fearful and skeptical about going on this adventure. Situations in which Bilbo showed bravery, a keen sense of his surroundings, and his forgiving nature included using his wits & the ring to outsmart Gollum & escape from the Misty Mountain, slaying the giant spider, and freeing the dwarves from captivity by the wood elves. Passing a message about Smaug revealing his weak spot, escaping from the Lonely Mountain to bring peace between the dwarves, humans, & elves, and allowing Thorin to show remorse in his final moments also present Bilbo as a brave, keen, and forgiving person. These events brought out the best in Bilbo Baggins; a form of courage he never thought he had until put to the test.
Family/Lineage: The novel presents family & lineage specifically through the character Thorin Oakenshield. While it is presented through other characters also, Thorin is the one who truly embodies this idea of the importance of lineage. His positive attributes as leader of the dwarves are constantly held back by his desire to defeat Smaug and reclaim his grandfather’s treasure. He is blind to reason and makes himself a more complicated figure than he needs to be. All of these negative attributes are due to his birthright and family line, making him the person to inherit the gold in the Lonely Mountain. He is at odds with Bilbo & even the other dwarves who question his ability to go through with any sort of action to make their journey successful. This ties into Bilbo rising up to the occasion, as discussed above, which Thorin can’t deal with, and attacks him before being stopped. His family line, and what he feels he needs to do for it & his people cause these actions. Thorin puts his dwarves at risk when not allowing the elves & humans to claim part of the treasure for their losses, resulting in his group being trapped in the Lonely Mountain. Though not an evil character, he sometimes appears to be slipping into very extreme modes of anger and hatred, but only looks to be feeling this way because of his family inheritance that was wrongfully stolen.
Lessons from the novel
Stay true to oneself: Bilbo learns how to become a leader in the most unorthodox fashion with unexpected scenarios coming his way at every turn in the novel. However his quick rise to leader and savior of the dwarves throughout the novel show that he had these qualities in him all along, and yet he never lost sight of who he was. He doesn't demand any treasure and looks to make peace among feuding groups of humans, elves, & dwarves. This life lesson is simple, yet many people in fiction & reality lose sight of it, including Thorin. However Bilbo remains a free-spirited Hobbit at heart.
Don't led greed get the better of you: As discussed throughout the interactive page, Bilbo and Thorin make up most of the contrasting ideals & characterization within the novel, and like with earlier themes & events, Thorin finds himself being the underlying figure of the more undesirable aspects of the novel. Thorin lets his greed for the treasure almost cause an all out war with humans and elves, while putting the group in danger on more than one occasion throughout the novel. The tragic irony in the novel is that Thorin isn't able to survive the battle amongst goblins & wargs to even enjoy his newfound wealth from the belly of the Lonely Mountain. However much he partially redeems himself, it doesn't make up for the fact that greed will not bring you down any desirable path in life.
Now that you've explored themes, characters, lessons, and the overall big picture of The Hobbit, here is a trailer for 3rd part finale of the film version!
Links to other pages