Why did J.R.R. Tolkien title his book The Hobbit? What was his purpose?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Only J.R.R. Tolkien knew why he chose to title his novel about Hobbits The Hobbit, and he's dead. We do have comments Tolkien made to interviewers over the years, but those don't fill in that gap in our knowledge that has mystified literary critics for years, in effect, why did he title his book The Hobbit. It is entirely possible that Tolkien did not decide on a title until after he was finished with his novel. What we do know, however, is that he made a conscious effort to begin his novel with the following sentence:

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

The Hobbit is, in every sense of the word, about hobbits, and Tolkien viewed his creation in very concrete terms. While his novel, as well as the multi-volume Lord of the Rings series that followed, featured elves, dwarves, and sundry other fictional beings, it is the hobbits who serve as the stories' moral center. In a 1967 interview with the New York Times, the link to which is provided below, Tolkien had this to say about the titular character of his novel:

"Hobbits," Tolkien says, "have what you might call universal morals. I should say they are examples of natural philosophy and natural religion."

As Tolkien set about conceptualizing and drafting his novel, he knew from the beginning that it would revolve around Bilbo Baggins first and foremost. He could have titled his book Bilbo Baggins. He chose, instead, to title it after the species he would feature, rather than the name of the hobbit.

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The Hobbit

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