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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
Table of Contents

FORM AND STRUCTURE

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are similar in structure.
Both are organized around the idea of a journey into the
unknown and back again, making the stories circular in form.
Each journey can be roughly divided into four parts: a period
2of initiation, the fulfillment of a quest, a battle or battles, and
the return home.

In the first part, the inexperienced hero of the story sets out on
a journey with a group of companions. The story progresses
from one safe haven to another, with dangerous episodes in
between. In The Hobbit, for example, Bilbo and the dwarves
set out from Bilbo's comfortable home into the Wilds. After
facing the trolls, they arrive in Rivendell, where they replenish
their supplies. They are attacked by goblins while crossing the
Misty Mountains, and at last reach the safety of Beorn's home.
From there they pass through the dangers of Mirkwood and
arrive in Lake-town. Frodo and his friends have a similar series
of adventures in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of
The Lord of the Rings.



These adventures serve as a period of initiation: through them,
Bilbo and Frodo are prepared for the tasks that still await them.
These entertaining episodes also give Tolkien an opportunity to
present characters and themes.

The safe havens serve a similar function, introducing themes
and characters. In contrast to the action of the other scenes,
they provide a "tableaux," a graphic representation of a place or
culture. This is especially true of The Lord of the Rings, with
its pictures of Rivendell, Lorien, and Fangorn Forest, just to
name a few. These places add to the sense of the history and
cultures of Middle-earth and place the plot within the
framework of this history. Many people believe that this
balance between the fast-paced action of the here and now and
the slow, grand sweep of history is part of what makes
Tolkien's books stand out as something more than just
adventure stories.

The second part of each story concerns the fulfillment of the
quest, where the hero faces his moment of truth. (Bilbo's part in
the quest is to help recover the treasure; Frodo's quest is to
destroy the Ring.) Each must confront his fears and conquer
them alone. It is at this point that the character appears as a
truly heroic figure.

The third part of the story concerns a war between the forces of
good and evil. (In The Lord of the Rings, you will notice, the
story of the quest and the story of the war are intertwined.) The
good side seems hopelessly outclassed, but somehow manages
to emerge victorious at the last minute. Tolkien has been
building to this moment from the beginning of the story. Each
preceding episode also seemed bound for disaster. Each time,
the danger has become more grim, and the hope of rescue has
steadily decreased, until the hero has only himself to rely on.
As the danger increases, so does the level of excitement until
yet another daring escape is managed.

In The Hobbit the danger and the excitement reach a peak
when the forces of good seem about to be overcome by the
forces of evil. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien builds to two
simultaneous peaks. One occurs at the point when Sauron's
forces sweep down on the small army led by Aragorn at the
gates of Mordor. The other occurs inside Mordor, as Frodo
struggles with Gollum on the edge of the Crack of Doom,
where the Ring is to be destroyed. Both the war and the quest
reach their resolution in the same instant, when the Ring is
destroyed and with it, Sauron's power.

The fourth and final part of each story serves to wind things
down. The hero returns home, looking forward to comfort. He
finds instead that his home is threatened. But he has grown
through his experiences and is able to regain what is his.

Table of Contents


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