The Lord of the Rings

by J. R. R. Tolkien

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What do the hobbits think of Bilbo?

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The hobbit community’s perception of Bilbo changes over the course of The Hobbit (or, There and Back Again, published in 1937) and The Fellowship of the Ring (the first of the three volumes comprising The Lord of the Rings trilogy, published in 1954). When we first meet Bilbo in The Hobbit, he is mostly perceived as a respectable and quiet member of the community who shies away from adventure. Avoiding adventures is considered a good thing in the community. However, because his mother is Belladonna Took, Bilbo is always regarded with some suspicion. This is why:

There was still something not entirely hobbitlike about them (the Tooks), and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures. They discreetly disappeared, and the family hushed it up. (“An Unexpected Party”)

In other words, one side of Bilbo’s family is known for having adventures, and Bilbo has to carry some of this reputation:

Still it is probable that Bilbo, her only son, although he looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of his solid and comfortable father, got something a bit queer in his make-up from the Took side, something that only waited for a chance to come out. (“An Unexpected Party”)

As you can see from that passage, it helps that Bilbo’s father is from the more respectable Baggins clan. In Tolkien’s words, “the fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses” (“An Unexpected Party”). In other words, the other side of Bilbo’s family is considered much more respectable and less adventure-prone, so he benefits from their good reputation among the hobbit community.

However, as we know from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Bilbo does indeed end up embarking (although reluctantly at first) on a great adventure. For this reason, his reputation among the hobbit community is confirmed as a troublesome adventurer. However, Bilbo himself also comes to care less for what the community, which he also disdains, thinks of him.

For further reading, I would recommend The Hobbit (or, There and Back Again) and The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as the eNotes summaries of both.

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