The Hobbit Lesson Plan - Lesson Plan

eNotes Lesson Plan

Introductory Lecture and Objectives

The Hobbit eNotes Lesson Plan content

Introductory Lecture

An enduring fantasy classic, The Hobbit tells the story of retiring, hairy-footed Bilbo Baggins, who becomes the comical hero of an epic quest. Chosen by a wizard, the hobbit leaves the comfort of his armchair to accompany a troop of dwarves across a treacherous land in hopes of reclaiming treasure from a dragon. On his journey, Bilbo travels through forests, valleys, and mountain tunnels, and he meets elves, goblins, men, and other creatures he has never before encountered. Although he chances upon a valuable object that gives him an advantage against foes, the challenges of the quest test the hobbit’s courage and intellect to their limits. By the end of the novel, Bilbo has discovered the danger of greed, the thrill of adventure, and a side of his own nature he has never before known. 

Written in 1937 by J. R. R. Tolkien, the novel pits good against evil in a vast, intricate fantasy world created from Tolkien’s imagination and scholarship. Gentle satire, witty dialogue, and evocative description make Tolkien’s creation uniquely compelling. Tolkien’s friend C. S. Lewis said that The Hobbit’s appeal lies in its depiction of “a world that seems to have been going on before we stumbled into it but which, once found by the right reader, becomes indispensable to him.” 

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in South Africa to English parents but spent his youth in England. Both of Tolkien’s parents had died by the time he was a teenager. He married his teenage sweetheart, Edith, who was also an orphan. Tolkien served briefly on the Western Front in World War I; some scholars speculate that Tolkien’s feelings while he was away at war may have inspired the hobbit’s longing for home. Tolkien came back to England ill with “trench fever,” a disease that afflicted many soldiers during World War I. While recovering, he began to write stories in which he first developed the fantasy world of The Hobbit and its sequel, The Lord of the Rings

Later, while working as a university professor, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for his own four children. He did not intend to publish it; however, a publisher friend had his own son read the book, and the boy’s positive reaction spurred publication. The novel was a quick hit with critics and readers. Its first print run of fifteen hundred copies sold out in England within three months. During the 1940s, when paper was rationed because of World War II, supply could not always meet demand for the book. Today, three-quarters of a century later, The Hobbit is still beloved by children and adults. Since the first printing, one hundred million copies have been sold, and the text has been translated into fifty languages. 

It took many more years for Tolkien to produce the sequel to The Hobbit. The enormous manuscript for The Lord of the Rings was published in three parts in 1954 and 1955. English critics received The Lord of the Rings trilogy less favorably than they had The Hobbit. The new story was too long and complex for children, and fantasy literature for adults had not yet become a popular genre in England. In the United States, Tolkien’s books were better received because fantasy stories for adult readers had developed from American science fiction. 

Tolkien’s popularity grew in the 1960s and 1970s. He is credited as the “father of fantasy,” responsible for a renewed interest in “sword and sorcery” literature that has driven the success of contemporary fantasy epics such as the Harry Potter series. Tolkien’s work recently entered a new era of fame with the production of high-profile Hollywood films based on The Lord of the Rings books and The Hobbit.

By the end of the unit the student will be able to: 

1. Identify the significance of Bilbo’s Took side versus his Baggins side. 

2. Explain why Bilbo is an unlikely choice as a participant in an adventure. 

3. Discuss how Bilbo is changed by his adventure. 

4. Identify the role of wealth in the novel. 

5. Describe the book’s various characters and discuss their morality. 

6. Discuss the ideas that the book seems to endorse (justice, generosity, and nature) and to criticize (violence, greed, and industrialization). 

7. Describe the landscape and the fantastical elements of Tolkien’s world. 

8. Identify Tolkien’s use of humor to satirize human nature.

Instructional Focus: Teaching With an eNotes Lesson Plan

This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom. 

Student Lesson Guide 

• The Lesson Guide is organized for study of the book in sections as indicated by chapters. Lesson Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace. 

• Lesson Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading each section of the book and to acquaint them generally with its content. 

• Before Lesson Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension. 

• Lesson Guide vocabulary lists include words from the book that vary in difficulty.

1. The vocabulary lists for each section are sufficiently comprehensive so that shorter lists of vocabulary words can be constructed from them. 

2. Working from the Lesson Guide vocabulary lists, the teacher also may construct vocabulary studies for individual students, choosing specific words from each section that are most appropriate for them. 

Essay and Discussion Questions 

The essay and discussion questions vary in degree of difficulty. 

1. Some questions require higher levels of critical thinking; others engage students with less challenging inquiry. 

2. Individual discussion questions may be assigned to students working in pairs or in small study groups; their contributions may then be added to a whole-class discussion. 

Multiple-Choice/Essay Test 

Test questions also vary in degree of difficulty. 

1. Some multiple-choice questions address the factual content of the book; others require students to employ critical thinking skills, such as analyzing; comparing and contrasting; and drawing inferences. 

2. The teacher may select specific multiple-choice questions and one or more essay questions to assess an individual student’s understanding of the book. 

3. The essay portion of the test appears on a separate page so that it may be omitted altogether in testing.

Before students read the novel, explain that themes are universal ideas developed in literature. Point out that these themes will be developed in the novel; discuss them with students as they read and/or after they finish reading: 

  • Adventure 
  • Courage 
  • Intelligence 
  • Race and lineage 
  • Wealth 
  • Greed 
  • Loyalty and friendship 
  • Good and evil 
  • Home 
  • Nature 

Talk with your students about how a motif is a recurring pattern or repeated action, element, or idea in a work of literature. As they read, have them pay attention to the following motifs: 

  • Longing for home 
  • Bilbo as a comic character 
  • Satire of human nature 
  • Darkness and light 
  • Dreams as prophecies 
  • Cultural comparison between races and peoples 
  • The dwarves’ fixation on treasure 
  • The elves’ goodness 

A symbol is a concrete object or place that has significance in a literary work because it communicates an idea. Have students discuss how the author develops the following symbols and what ideas the symbols could suggest. Have them look for other symbols on their own. 

  • Bilbo’s pocket-handkerchiefs 
  • The Arkenstone 
  • The ring 
  • Glamdring and Orcrist 
  • Bard’s black arrow

Essay and Discussion Questions

1. Why does Tolkien include songs in The Hobbit? How do they contribute to his themes and characterization? 

2. Discuss the novel’s different characters and races. What values does each represent, and how does Tolkien convey these ideas in the story? 

3. How does Tolkien portray the goblins as purely evil in chapter 5? In contrast, how does he evoke pity for Gollum in chapter 6? 

4. Analyze Gollum’s style of speaking. What is unique about it? What does it reveal about his character? 

5. What does Thorin’s style of speaking suggest about his character? 

6. Why might Tolkien have Thorin die, rather than allow him to live and enjoy his home and treasure? Is Thorin a sympathetic character? Why or why not? 

7. Why are there no female characters in The Hobbit? Do you think the book appeals equally to readers of both genders? Why or why not? 

8. Do you think all people have a conservative side and an adventurous side, as Bilbo discovers he does? Why or why not? What conflicting sides of your nature can you identify? 

9. In chapter 1, the narrator says, “[Bilbo] may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained— well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.” What does Bilbo gain in the end, if anything? How can he be happy when he is an outcast among his own people? 

10. What does the idea of “home” mean to the characters in the novel? Consider its meaning to Bilbo, the dwarves, the elves, the men, Bard, and Beorn. 

11. Which of Bilbo’s traits complement the traits of the dwarves? At what moments in their journey is it helpful that Bilbo is not a dwarf? 

12. What challenges does Bilbo face during the quest, and how do they change him? 

13. Compare Bilbo and Bard. Why does Tolkien write his story about Bilbo when Bard is the hero who kills the dragon? Would you want to read a similar story from Bard’s perspective? Why or why not? 

14. Why doesn’t Gandalf accompany Bilbo and the dwarves all the way to the Lonely Mountain? Why does the wizard’s support for Thorin’s goals change over the course of the story? 

15. Why is The Hobbit still popular today, seventy-five years after its first publication?

Chapter I: "An Unexpected Party"

Vocabulary 

audacious: recklessly bold 

blundering: moving in a stumbling or confused way 

confusticate: archaic to confuse; to perplex 

conspirator: an accomplice; one who participates in a plot or plan 

cross: irritable; mildly angry 

cunning: skill; craftiness 

daresay: presume; be so bold as to say 

depredations: remains of destruction 

discreetly: in a manner that is intentionally unnoticeable or secretive 

estimable: deserving of high regard 

flummoxed: confused 

haughty: assuming an attitude of pride and superiority 

morsel: a small piece of food 

plundering: characterized by stealing through...

(The entire section is 1231 words.)

Chapter II: "Roast Mutton"

Vocabulary 

blighter: British a disliked person 

cavalcade: a procession of riders 

commotion: a noisy disturbance 

dreary: gloomy 

inquisitive: inclined to ask questions 

laden: loaded 

outlandish: outrageous; strikingly out of the ordinary 

primly: stiffly and formally 

replenishing: filling up or building up again; resupplying 

repose: state of rest 

trifle: a small amount or degree 

waylaid: waited for with evil intent 

Study Questions

1. As Bilbo arrives at the Green Dragon Inn, what details does Tolkien use to suggest that the idea of Bilbo as an adventurer is improbable or...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Chapter III: "A Short Rest"

Vocabulary 

cleave: to split by cutting 

foe: an enemy 

forded: crossed by wading 

glade: an open space surrounded by woods 

gruffly: roughly or sternly in manner 

gullies: small valleys, usually formed by running water 

heather: a low evergreen shrub 

lair: a refuge or hiding place 

palpitating: causing the heart to beat quickly (in context) 

ravines: small canyons 

remnants: remaining parts; leftovers 

thrush: a small- to medium-sized songbird 

Study Questions

1. At the beginning of chapter 3, Tolkien describes the landscape at length. What do his descriptions convey about the nature of his...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Chapter IV: "Over Hill and Under Hill"

Vocabulary 

alliances: agreements or bonds based on mutual interests 

flint: stone used in starting fires 

guffawing: laughing loudly 

nosebags: bags of feed hung from horses’ heads 

quaff: to drink deeply 

realm: territory; kingdom 

shirk: to avoid work or obligation 

thriven: thrived, flourished, spread 

tinder: dry, flammable material used in starting fires 

uncanny: strange; suggestive of the supernatural 

Study Questions

1. Describe two ways in which Tolkien creates a mood of increasing gloom and suspense leading up to the goblin attack. 

Tolkien creates his mood by referring to evil...

(The entire section is 594 words.)

Chapter V: "Riddles in the Dark"

Vocabulary 

brooded: thought anxiously 

giddy: dizzy 

mail: armor 

oddments: odds and ends; leftovers 

scrabbling: groping about frantically 

smote: attacked suddenly, struck 

splayed: spread apart 

subterranean: underground 

venture: to proceed in the face of danger or uncertainty 

waistcoat: a vest 

Study Questions

1. Before he encounters the underground lake, Bilbo picks up a ring and remembers his pipe and his dagger. What significance does each of these three objects have for Bilbo in the moment that he discovers them? 

The ring has no significance to Bilbo in the moment, but the narrator...

(The entire section is 775 words.)

Chapter VI: "Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire"

Vocabulary 

benighted: overtaken by the darkness of night 

boughs: tree branches 

bracken: a kind of fern 

clamour (clamor): noisy shouting 

eyrie (aerie): a large nest belonging to a bird of prey 

famished: starved 

glint: a tiny flash of light 

helter-skelter: in a disorderly manner 

onslaught: a fierce attack 

pinnacle: a formation in the shape of a sharp peak 

porter: a person who carries luggage 

precipice: a steep or overhanging cliff 

sorrel: a plant with edible, sour-tasting leaves 

tinder-boxes: small metal boxes containing materials for starting a fire 

touch and go: marked by danger, risk, or a...

(The entire section is 883 words.)

Chapter VII: "Queer Lodgings"

Vocabulary 

appalling: inspiring horror, dismay, or disgust 

disused: no longer being used 

earthenware: glazed ceramic dishes 

furrier: a fur dealer 

glowered: stared in annoyance or anger 

harts: adult male deer 

heed: attention 

perils: dangers 

perish: to suffer death or destruction 

plight: an unfortunate situation 

pressing: urgent 

rent: torn 

unimpeachable: reliable beyond a doubt 

veranda: a roofed porch or balcony 

Study Questions

1. At the beginning of the chapter, how does Tolkien use the eagle’s question and the hobbit’s unspoken reply to make fun of the...

(The entire section is 718 words.)

Chapter VIII: "Flies and Spiders"

Vocabulary 

baying: barking; howling 

gloaming: twilight 

hind: a female deer 

infuriate: to make very angry 

lamenting: strongly regretting; mourning 

lichen: plantlike organisms that grow on rocks and trees 

loathsome: disgusting 

mirth: joy 

roused: awakened 

stealthily: in a manner intended to escape detection 

venison: deer meat 

Study Questions

1. Describe the setting of the Mirkwood. What does its atmosphere suggest about events that may soon occur? 

The Mirkwood is dim and stuffy with dense foliage and heavy cobwebs strung between the trees. The group walks single file into the...

(The entire section is 1017 words.)

Chapter IX: "Barrels Out of Bond"

Vocabulary 

flagons: wine jugs; pitchers 

heady: intoxicating 

hewn: carved with an ax, chisel, or other tool 

jostling: bumping into; colliding 

jutted: extended out, upward, or forward 

portcullis: iron grating raised and lowered to allow or block access to a passage 

stifling: suffocating 

surly: excessively grouchy 

turnkey: a jail guard 

vintage: the year or place in which wine was produced 

Study Questions

1. When the rest of the dwarves are captured by Wood-elves, how does the hobbit remain free? What qualities of Bilbo’s character are revealed when he decides to follow the captive dwarves into the...

(The entire section is 902 words.)

Chapter X: "A Warm Welcome"

Vocabulary 

alluding: making indirect reference to something 

buffeted: battered; attacked by repeated blows 

circuitous: having a winding course 

enmity: mutual hatred 

gammer: archaic an old woman 

ominous: suggesting or predicting evil 

quays: landings or docks built along a body of water 

vagabond: wandering; nomadic 

Study Questions

1. Listening to the conversation of the raft men, why does Bilbo conclude that he and the dwarves have been very lucky on the most recent part of their journey? 

The river on which Bilbo and the dwarves find themselves is the only way out of Mirkwood toward the...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

Chapter XI: "On the Doorstep"

Vocabulary 

desolation: a state of complete emptiness or destruction; barrenness 

lintel: the horizontal structure above a door 

marauding: roaming and raiding; rampaging 

waning: decreasing in size, extent, or degree 

Study Questions

1. The narrator describes the landscape on the way to the Lonely Mountain: 

There was little grass, and before long there was neither bush nor tree, and only broken and blackened stumps to speak of ones long vanished. They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were come at the waning of the year. 

What does this description of the landscape convey about the dragon’s use...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Chapter XII: "Inside Information:

Vocabulary 

calamities: disastrous events causing great suffering 

cartage: transportation of something by cart or other vehicle 

dire: desperately urgent 

dubious: doubtful 

gilded: covered with a thin layer of gold 

grievous: very serious 

helms: helmets 

lure: to attract; to tempt 

ruddy: reddish 

skulking: hiding or moving stealthily out of cowardice or ill-intent 

smithereens: small fragments 

smouldering (smoldering): slowly burning with much smoke and little flame 

unaccountable: unexplainable 

venture: an undertaking involving chance, risk, or danger 

wily: clever; sly 

wrath: vengeful...

(The entire section is 1727 words.)

Chapter XIII: "Not at Home"

Vocabulary 

adornments: decorations 

dominion: supreme authority 

furtive: expressive of secrecy or stealth 

pallid: colorless; pale 

steeple: a tall, pointed tower, as on a church 

Study Questions

1. Explain Bilbo’s attitude at the beginning of the chapter, and compare it to the dwarves’ attitudes. How do their respective outlooks at this stage of the quest represent a change from their attitudes at the beginning of the book? 

Bilbo feels new optimism and courage at the beginning of the chapter. “Where there’s life there’s hope!” he quotes his father as saying. He reasons that if he has already approached the dragon’s...

(The entire section is 734 words.)

Chapter XIV: "Fire and Water"

Vocabulary 

carcase (carcass): dead body, corpse 

eminent: prominent; elevated in rank 

recompense: a payment or return for something done, suffered, or given 

thatched: made of straw (of roofs) 

tidings: news 

valour (valor): courage 

Study Questions

1. What descriptive details does the author use to illustrate Smaug’s fantastic power as he attacks Lake-town? 

Smaug is frighteningly fast: “So great was his speed, they could see him as a spark of fire rushing towards them.” If he were to plunge into the Lake, the resulting steam would “cover all the land with a mist for days.” He fiery breath is fierce: “No fireworks...

(The entire section is 728 words.)

Chapter XV: "The Gathering of the Clouds"

Vocabulary 

alighted: landed 

amends: compensation for loss or injury 

besieged: surrounded with armed forces 

caper: to leap playfully 

carrion: rotting flesh 

carrion birds: birds that feed on rotting flesh 

ere: before 

parley: a discussion of terms between enemies 

Study Questions

1. How does Tolkien continue his motif of cultural comparison between races when Balin and Bilbo talk about ravens and crows? How is Roäc the raven’s lineage significant to Balin? 

Balin helps Bilbo understand the important distinction between crows and ravens. Crows are “nasty suspicious-looking creatures” who engage in...

(The entire section is 569 words.)

Chapter XVI: "A Thief in the Night"

Vocabulary 

comely: having a pleasant appearance 

sentinels: soldiers standing guard 

siege: the placing of an army around a fortified place in order to force enemy surrender 

Study Questions

1. What news and advice does Roäc bring to Thorin? How does Thorin reply? 

Roäc brings news that Dain and his army are two days away. The raven advises that even with Dain’s help, the dwarves are unlikely to defeat their foes. He also points out that even if the dwarves were victorious, they would have a difficult winter with enemies for neighbors. Thorin rejects the wisdom of the raven’s words; he hopes the approaching winter and the arrival of Dain’s...

(The entire section is 611 words.)

Chapter XVII: "The Clouds Burst"

Vocabulary 

feint: a pretense; a false movement made to deceive or distract 

flank: the side of an army formation 

forbear: to tolerate 

hauberk: a tunic of armor 

heedless: inattentive 

heirloom: something of special value passed from one generation to the next 

mattocks: digging tools similar to large axes 

ravening: prowling for prey 

redoubled: twice as great in size or amount 

scimitars: swords with curved blades 

tarry: to delay 

vanguard: the troops moving at the front of an army 

Study Questions

1. Describe in some detail Thorin’s treatment of Bilbo on learning of the hobbit’s peace...

(The entire section is 754 words.)

Chapter XVIII: "The Return Journey"

Vocabulary 

gravely: seriously; somberly 

mustering: gathering; assembling of people, especially in a military context 

yule-tide: Christmas 

Study Questions

1. When Bilbo and Thorin meet again, how have Thorin’s values changed? What apology and compliments does he pay Bilbo? 

On his deathbed, Thorin repents his greed by acknowledging that his gold is worth little to him in the afterlife. He admits that the elves’ way of valuing food, cheer, and song over wealth makes a “merrier world.” Thorin takes back his earlier harsh words and behavior toward Bilbo. He also credits Bilbo for the hobbit’s courage and wisdom and tells him, “There is more...

(The entire section is 891 words.)

Chapter XIX: "The Last Stage"

Study Questions

1. According to their songs, what do the elves of Rivendell value above wealth and power? Compare the elves’ main values with those of dwarves, hobbits, and goblins. Which values does Tolkien endorse in The Hobbit, and which does he challenge? 

The elves value merriment and the eternal beauty of nature over wealth and power. Dwarves value wealth, hobbits value comfort and certainty, and goblins value machinery and power. Tolkien endorses the values held by the elves by making them his happiest and most enchanting characters; they are his “Good People.” Bilbo’s and Thorin’s values are challenged in the story: Bilbo learns to balance his love of predictability...

(The entire section is 697 words.)

Multiple-Choice Test and Answer Key

1. All of the following are typical hobbit traits EXCEPT: 

A. physical strength 

B. hairy feet 

C. a love of food 

D. predictability 

E. a round stomach 

2. Hobbits in the Took family tend to be _______than hobbits in the Baggins family. 

A. jollier 

B. more respectable 

C. kinder 

D. more honest 

E. more generous 

3. Which of the following is an example of a character’s lineage? 

A. The Lord of the Eagles is a noble bird. 

B. Bilbo is a hobbit. 

...

(The entire section is 1125 words.)

Essay Exam Questions With Answers

1. How does Tolkien present the hobbit as an unlikely hero? Contrast the novel’s portrayal of Bilbo with the portrayals of the conventionally heroic Gandalf, Beorn, and Bard. Support your discussion with examples from the text. 

Bilbo’s retiring personality, his small size, and his mild temper make him an unlikely hero in the story of a dangerous quest. Tolkien also treats the blundering Bilbo with humor that is absent from his portrayal of the novel’s traditional heroic figures: powerful Gandalf, fierce Beorn, and purposeful Bard. 

Neither a natural leader nor a born adventurer, Bilbo likes to stay home, while the powerful, commanding Gandalf is perpetually traveling. Gandalf covers great distances in the...

(The entire section is 3364 words.)