The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien takes on the classic heroic quest, and in this particular novel, involves an unlikely hero, a hobbit by the name of Bilbo Baggins. Baggins is approached by a wandering, and generally well-meaning, old wizard, Gandalf, to take part in a quest led by dwarves to recover a large amount of treasure hoarded by a dragon in an old dwarven kingdom known as the Lonely Mountain.
Bilbo joins the dwarves on their adventure, encountering many dangers along the way such as trolls, goblins, large spiders; at one point, the hobbit even gets into a life-or-death game of riddles with a vicious, yet cunning, creature named Gollum. Bilbo wins the contest and a mysterious gold ring that grants the wearer the power of invisibility. Bilbo uses the ring to help him escape many difficult situations, the worst of which is when he must sneak into the Lonely Mountain to investigate the dragon Smaug's lair. Bilbo's adventures both challenge and strengthen him, and eventually he returns to his cozy home a much wiser and braver hobbit.
The Hobbit is a fantasy novel by James R.R. Tolkien, which became an instant classic and worldwide bestseller. It is best known for being the prequel to The Lord of the Rings. eNotes.com has an extensive study guide, including chapter summaries, included in the links below. Here is a brief summary.
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit, one of a race of smaller humans who lives in comfort in his rural estate. One day, a wizard named Gandalf stops by and invites himself and thirteen dwarves over for a party; Bilbo is uncomfortable, but accepts the guests. It turns out that the dwarves are on a quest to reclaim their ancestral treasure from a dragon named Smaug. Gandalf invites Bilbo along for an adventure; he initially refuses, but then finds himself oddly enthralled by the idea, and goes along. The party encounters misfortune, and has adventures among trolls, friendly elves, goblins, and a very strange creature named Gollum, who loses a magic ring to Bilbo in a riddle contest. After encountering hostile wolves and giant spiders, the party is captured by hostile wood elves, who hold them captive. Bilbo helps them escape using his ring, which turns him invisible. They finally encounter Smaug, and Bilbo uses the ring to talk with the dragon in relative safety. He discovers Smaug's weakness, and the dragon attacks the river town nearby. A heroic archer named Bard manages to kill Smaug by shooting his arrow into the weak spot, after which the humans and wood elves join forces to take the treasure. Bilbo tries to negotiate, but neither side agrees. Before they come to blows, an army of goblins and Wargs (like wolves but more ferocious) attacks, and they all join forces to repel the attack. Bilbo is knocked unconscious after seeing the giant eagles arrive to help, and finds out later that the party suffered many losses, including their leader Thorin, but defeated the attackers. With the adventure over, Bilbo returns home with a share of treasure, older and wiser, and with the weight of good and bad experiences on his shoulders.
This novel famously codified the modern "fantasy" setting, an Old-English world where human and non-human characters live; these characterizations of elves, dwarves, hobbits, goblins, trolls, and dragons have entered the public consciousness as archetypes.