How is Bilbo a hero in "The Hobbit"?
In addition to all the ways in which Bilbo shows heroism through action, there are also a number of more subtle ways in which he demonstrates heroic qualities. He starts the tale as a mild-mannered hobbit, afraid of the thought of moving beyond his front yard, let alone going far away on an adventure. For the early part of the campaign, he is very much a liability to Thorin and company, but by the time the party reaches the Misty Mountains, Bilbo is already beginning to establish himself as capable and, even at times, semi-confident.
He defeats Gollum in a game of riddles, often thinking two or three steps ahead in the game. At one point he gives Gollum an easy riddle in order to buy himself a little more time to think of a tricky one. This suggests he is so confident that he will get Gollum's next riddle that he is turning the battle of wits into a chess match. Further, when he meets back up with the dwarves and saves them from the spiders, he ends up taking control of the...
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Bilbo is the hero of "The Hobbit" for two reasons:
First, he is the main character of the story, the protagonist. Like the reader, Bilbo is unfamiliar with the greater world of Middle Earth, as he has always lived within the pastoral bounds of the Shire. When he goes out, rather reluctantly, into the world, the reader experiences a sense of exploration along with Bilbo. In many ways, Bilbo is the window through which the reader interacts with Middle Earth's creatures and environments, as well as the story itself.
Secondly, Bilbo overcomes many trials and adventures, and learns more about himself in the process. He battles trolls, goblins, spiders, and wolves. He outwits Golem, escapes from elves, and even faces the Smaug the Terrible. Most importantly, Bilbo is called upon repeatedly to save his new friends and assist them on their journey. On many occasions, the adventure would have failed if not for Bilbo's actions. However, Bilbo never really wanted anything to do with the Dwarves and their adventure. He would've rather stayed in his comfy hole where things are warm and familiar. Instead, Bilbo choses to put aside his anxiety and face the world, exhibiting true bravery, as well as putting himself in danger to save his friends. This, perhaps, is what makes Bilbo a hero more than anything. He is an unlikely hero, an ordinary person (in a Hobbit's sense) called upon to perform extraordinary feats. This is the most critical element of Bilbo's heroic journey and how he learns the most about himself. The fact that the reader watches Bilbo evolve into a hero makes this story truly spectacular.