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

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What are some important symbols in The Hobbit?

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sean475 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is a story about growing up, known in the literary world as a bildungsroman, despite the fact that its main character, Bilbo, is not a child or young adult when the book begins. Instead, it is the narrative structure of the book and its young adult genre that makes The Hobbit a classic example of a bildungsroman.

In light of this, it becomes much easier to see many of the symbols that are present in the book.

The Shire is a symbol of safety, home, and childhood. Bilbo is comfortable there and has little to no responsibilities; life is very easy. However, he gets pulled away from it by other forces and thrust into the rest of the world, which can be a symbol for adulthood.

The Ring, which Bilbo stumbles upon during his adventures, is a symbol for power. While this symbol gets expanded in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is still present...

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''The Hobbit'' may be seen to an extent, as the fist proper creative/imaginative manifestation of expression of  Tolkien's literary and academic powers.

Tolkien 'used' many background source materials for writing this book, and he himself acknowledged the influence of ''Beowulf'' (old English epic) and old, traditional childhood nuresery rhyme and fairy tales and such sources, also.

For example, some of the major symbols that we see among others, include

* Group of people setting out on a journey or adventure together, a bsic theme or symbol in childrens literature and many old adventure tales or ''gestes''.

* An evil and cunning dragon in a mysterious, mazelike lair (Beowulf type confrontation of evil and fearsome creature in a place of magic and strangeness)

* Stealing of treasure from the dragon, especially a cup or chalice (like Grail legend or fairy tales ) and then fighting and defeating, both like Beowulf and St George (patron saint of England)

* Light/Brightness (outside) and Darkness/Murkiness (inside the lair and undergound where goblins and other evil things etc live)

and so on.

A thorough and detailed textual reading will also yield many similar examples of symbolism borrowed or adapted from some of the old and ancient literary sources of the world.