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The prologue to the three-volume The Lord of the Rings series pitting various species of humanity against the evil forces of the Dark Lord Sauron, The Hobbit is a self-contained, one-volume fantasy adventure story in which a hobbit -- a diminutive figure of Middle Earth with the characteristics of a human -- partakes, at the urging of the wizard Gandalf on a quest, along with a team of dwarves, to help the latter retrieve their lost treasure. During the course of the journey, the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, encounters many peculiar forms of life, some threatening, some helpful, and eventually finds a ring that possesses magical power, mainly invisibility. Ownership of the ring is claimed by a hideous creature called Gollum, who consumes hobbits, dwarves, elves, and all the various forms of humanity Tolkien imagined. The Hobbit is the story that introduced Bilbo Baggins to readers, and he would play a major role in the subsequent Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the introductory story, Bilbo is an endearing, innocent figure who learns to survive outside of his previously insulated little world, and the ring that he finds will, of course, prove instrumental to the far more voluminous tales that followed The Hobbit's publication.
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