The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
Although J. R. R. Tolkien drew extensively from northern European myths in developing various inhabitants of his imaginary world, Middle-earth, The Hobbit (subtitled Or, There and Back Again) focuses on a new race of beings he created. His hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins likes the snug comforts of home with no adventures to interrupt his ordinary life. The wizard Gandalf draws Bilbo out of this sheltered and complacent life by sending him on an adventure—a quest with the dwarf Thorin and his twelve companions to recover the treasure that the dragon Smaug stole. Gandalf employs Bilbo as the dwarves “burglar,” engaging him against his will to steal back Smaug’s hoard.
As the dwarves journey toward Smaug’s lair in the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo learns to live up to Gandalf’s expectations. He fails at first when he unsuccessfully tries to pick a troll’s pocket, and Gandalf has to rescue the group. When they are captured again, this time by goblins, Bilbo is separated from his companions and must rescue himself. He finds a magic ring that makes the wearer invisible and uses it to escape first from Gollum, a threatening creature he encounters, and then from the goblins. He rejoins the dwarves and Gandalf, who have also escaped. Wolves (called wargs) and goblins attack again, but the group is finally rescued by eagles and aided by Beorn, a man who can transform himself into a bear.
After Gandalf leaves the dwarves at the...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Green, William H. “The Four-Part Structure of Bilbo’s Education,” in Children’s Literature. VIII (1979), pp. 133-140.
Lee, Stuart D, and Elizabeth Solopova. The Keys of Middle-Earth. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. A handy portal into Tolkien’s medieval sources, featuring modern translations of the original texts.
Nitzsche, J. C. “The King Under the Mountain: Tolkien’s Hobbit,” in North Dakota Quarterly. XLVII (Winter, 1979), pp. 5-18.
Shippey, T. A. The Road to Middle-Earth, 1983.
West, Richard C. Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated...
(The entire section is 78 words.)