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

THE STORY

In this discussion, the chapters in The Hobbit are grouped into
sections. The sections in The Hobbit correspond to the series of
adventures of Bilbo.

CHAPTERS 1-3

Bilbo sets out on his adventure with Gandalf and the dwarves.
After a near-fatal encounter with three trolls, the travelers
arrive in the haven of Rivendell.

Bilbo Baggins is a well-to-do, respectable hobbit who lives
alone in his tidy hobbit-hole. The comfortable order of his life
is disrupted one day when Gandalf the wizard and thirteen
dwarves arrive at his door. Trying to act as though nothing is
out of the ordinary, Bilbo invites them in for tea and cakes.
Bilbo's predicament is amusing to many readers, as he runs
around red-faced and flustered, answering the doorbell and
serving his uninvited guests.

This kind of humor is one aspect of Tolkien's style that some
readers dislike, finding it too childish and simple. Others
consider it delightful. It serves an important purpose, however.
You may find the existence of dwarves, wizards, and hobbits
hard to accept. Tolkien anticipates that reaction and gently
ridicules his characters, hoping to disarm you. He doesn't yet
require you to take them seriously.



NOTE: THE ORIGINS OF HOBBITS
The best information on how Tolkien developed his hobbits
comes from the author himself: "The Hobbits are just rustic
English people, made small in size because it reflects the
generally small reach of their imagination-not the small reach
of their courage or latent power." He also admitted to what
may seem a surprising literary source, the novel Babbitt by
Sinclair Lewis, an unsympathetic portrayal of an American
businessman. How does the main character in that book relate
to Tolkien's hobbits? According to Tolkien, "Babbitt has the
same bourgeois smugness that hobbits do. His world is the
same limited place."

Unlike Sinclair Lewis and Babbitt, Tolkien portrays his hobbits
in a sympathetic light. Tolkien often compared himself to
hobbits and once said, "[They were] just what I could have
liked to have been, but never was." You may wonder why
anyone would want to be like Bilbo Baggins. You will have to
wait to see what it is that makes hobbits so special to Tolkien
and hobbit fans.

Thorin, the dwarves' self-important leader, is the grandson of
Thrain, who once ruled a kingdom of dwarves under the
Lonely Mountain. One day a dragon named Smaug descended
on the mountain, killing most of the dwarves and stealing their
treasure. Now Thorin and the other twelve dwarves intend to
return to the mountain, avenge their kin, and recover the
treasure.

Gandalf has picked Bilbo to be their burglar, but the dwarves
aren't too happy with the wizard's choice. Bilbo certainly
doesn't seem very qualified for the job. He's a timid little
fellow who faints at the talk of danger. But Gandalf says that
there's more to Bilbo than even Bilbo realizes. Under Gandalf's
fierce gaze, the dwarves relent. But have they really accepted
the hobbit?

Bilbo doesn't seem to be too sure that he wants to be a burglar.
Part of him longs for adventure, but another part wants to be
left alone to enjoy his comfortable life. What do you think
makes him decide to join the dwarves?

Table of Contents


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