The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

An unlikely hero goes on a quest in search of riches, set in fantastical land.

There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s first Middle-earth novel sees a young hobbit (small human-like species), Bilbo Baggins, tasked with a quest. Along with a band of spirited dwarves and a cunning wizard, they must travel across Middle-earth with the insight of a recently found map. The destination: a mountain vault fabled to house a dragon as its guardian. With obstacles to overcome along the way, including giant spiders and a riddling goblin, this proves to be a daunting journey. A book that crosses generations, The Hobbit is an entertaining read for adults and children alike.

The Hobbit is a fantastical journey into the fictional world that Tolkien imagined, full of depth and vivid imagery that help transport you into Middle-earth. Tolkien’s clear and simple writing is accessible to younger audiences; however, the writing is still strong enough to keep older audiences enchanted. The true greatness of the novel is in the characters, they are well-written and wide ranging from a small and friendly hobbit to a goliath menacing dragon. The novel also allows the reader to experience the changes in Bilbo’s character: from a homespun and unassuming hobbit, he gains courage and bravery and displays his true value. A perfect read for lovers of fantasy; however, it is still sure to delight those that don’t typically dive into the genre.

Do you think that Bilbo’s actions in stealing and hiding the Arkenstone were right or do you think that he regretted them?

At the end of the novel Bilbo returns to Hobbiton, despite amassing some wealth and being proven a hero, why do you think Tolkien chose to do this?

Why do you think that Thorin is so against sharing the treasure?

What do you think Gandalf’s reasoning was for choosing Bilbo for the quest? Did he know what Bilbo would become?

Discuss the various species of Middle-earth, do they have distinct morality; good and evil? Do you think some species are closer to others?

There is a lack of female characters in the novel, do you think this was a conscious choice by Tolkien? Does it hinder the book?

Aspects of the novel are comedic, does this have a positive effect when reading or does it interrupt the fantasy nature of the novel?

Do the songs featured in the novel add to the plot? Do they help in building the magical world or are they unwelcome features?

The-Hobbit-Discussion-Questions.pdf

Bilbo enters the vault in the Lonely mountain, he steals a cup from the treasure and is confronted by Smaug, the dragon, who is enraged. Bilbo detects a weak spot in Smaug’s scale armour. Smaug deduces that the inhabitants of the local Lake-town have aided Bilbo and sets out to seek revenge by attempting to lay the town to ruin. Smaug’s vulnerability is reported to Bard, the main defender of Lake-town, who is able to shoot an arrow at the weak spot and slay Smaug. The band of dwarves successfully occupy the mountain, Bilbo hides the Arkenstone, a large gem of royal ancestry that Thorin seeks, in his pillow. When others, including Bard, try to claim a share of the treasure, Thorin refuses. Bilbo later tries to barter off the Arkenstone to prevent conflict but Thorin is outraged in Bilbo’s betrayal. Gandalf warns of an incoming army which causes the dwarves to join forces with the men, elves, great eagles and Beorn to ward off the goblins and wargs. They win the battle but Thorin is fatally injured and buried with the Arkenstone. Bilbo accepts a small share of the treasure and returns to Bag End.

In the first draft, Gandalf was originally called Bladorthin. While Dwarf-leader, Thorin, was going to be called Gandalf.

The book was an immediate success quickly selling all copies of the original print-run.

Tolkien altered aspects of the second edition of The Hobbit to fit in with the later written Lord of the Rings series, in particular Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum was changed to correspond with Tolkien’s development of ‘the ring’ in his later novels. Gollum is more aggressive towards Bilbo and more protective of ‘the ring’ which he was willing to gamble away in the first edition.

Through The Hobbit, Tolkien popularized the pluralisation of ‘dwarf’ from the previously used ‘dwarfs’ to his own ‘dwarves’.

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