The Hobbit Questions and Answers
by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Find a quote that shows what is characteristic or interesting regarding the main character in The Hobbit. Analyze the character and its significance for the story.

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Bilbo Baggins's most extraordinary traits are often found how he reacts to his extraordinary circumstances. A common theme for Tolkien is the idea of valor and courage coming from the most unlikely of places. One of the best passages that showcases exactly who Bilbo is comes at the very beginning of the book:

"Good morning!" he said at last. "We don't want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water." By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.

"What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!" said Gandalf. "Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won't be good till I move off.”

Bilbo's first interaction with Gandalf would no doubt be quite tense and nerve-wracking for any hobbit-folk that were listening in. For the reader, it is merely quite humorous. Gandalf is continually poking holes in the Bilbo's ingrained sense of formality. As we have gathered from the first chapter alone, the Hobbit lifestyle is one in which observation of social norms is of the utmost virtue.

They seem to have no end of negative things to say about each other, but rudeness is considered strictly taboo. Put simply, they are a gossiping people. The eccentric Gandalf has no regard for these social norms, so Bilbo is understandably flustered. He wants the wizard to go away but cannot directly be rude. It is by exploiting this disposition that Gandalf works his way into Bilbo's life.

The ultimate humor of The Hobbit is that Bilbo goes on an entire life-threatening and dangerous quest for the sake of not being rude. Though his guests are boisterous, he will not deny them. He will not have it said that a Baggins is not a good host. Of course, Bilbo changes over the course of his journey, learning worldly things and gaining a sincere lust for adventure. When he returns to the Shire, he is every bit as much an off-putting stranger to the other hobbits as Gandalf was originally to him.

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