The Hobbit Characters
The main characters in The Hobbit are Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey, Thorin Oakenshield, Gollum, and Smaug.
- Bilbo Baggins is an initially unadventurous hobbit who becomes an unlikely hero over the course of the novel.
- Gandalf the Grey is a wizard who enlists Bilbo's help in the quest to retake the Lonely Mountain for the dwarves.
- Thorin Oakenshield is the leader of the group of thirteen dwarves and heir to the position of King under the Mountain.
- Gollum is a creature who dwells in the goblin tunnels, obsessed with a magic ring.
- Smaug is a dragon who has driven the dwarves out of the Lonely Mountain.
Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1219
Bilbo is the unlikely and initially unwilling hero of The Hobbit. He shares the qualities of most hobbits: he is small, fat, beardless, and good-natured. He loves homely comfort and simple pleasures. Before his adventures he leads a peaceful and bucolic life. He comes from the respectable, well-to-do family of the Bagginses, who “never had any adventures or did anything unexpected.”
When Bilbo is first brought along as burglar on the dwarves’ quest, he feels unsuited to the task and constantly wishes he were back among the comforts of home. Yet Bilbo grows braver over the course of the story. Already gifted with a hobbit’s innate qualities of quick-footedness and sharp-sightedness, he proves himself a clever and often valiant companion to the dwarves. He has many moments of quiet bravery: when alone in the goblin caves, he musters his courage despite his fear; in Mirkwood, he kills the spiders in order to save his friends; and at the palace of the Elvenking, he devises the plan to hide the dwarves in barrels to help them escape.
As the dwarves begin to see Bilbo as a leader, Bilbo’s self-conception also changes: “Bilbo began to feel there really was something of a bold adventurer about himself after all.” There is, however, the typical addendum following this statement, showing that despite his changes, Bilbo remains a comfort-loving hobbit: “Though he would have felt bolder still, if there had been anything to eat.” Though Bilbo still “did not like being depended on by everyone” when the dwarves are trapped by Wood-Elves, he is still thought of as a leader. When it comes to finding a way to get around Smaug, it is clear that “now [Bilbo] had become the real leader in their adventure.”
Once Bilbo returns home, he also returns to his comfort-loving tastes. When Gandalf reminds Bilbo that he is still “a little fellow in a wide world,” Bilbo laughingly says, “Thank goodness!” Being a small and simple person is enough for him; he does not need a life of heroism to feel content.
Despite his worthy qualities, Bilbo is in some ways a morally ambiguous figure. His strongest talents seem to be deceit and trickery, which are perhaps warranted when used on enemies but are questionable when used on friends. He hides from the company the existence of the ring—and his use of it—until they reach Mirkwood. He also hides the Arkenstone from the dwarves when he finds it. His greatest act of deceit comes when he secretly brings the Arkenstone to the men and elves in an effort to avoid further conflict. But in the act Bilbo also betrays his friends. Bilbo forges a resolution with the dwarves upon Thorin’s death, but he never apologizes.
Gandalf is introduced as an old man with a staff, a pointed blue hat, a gray cloak, a long white beard, and bushy eyebrows. Bilbo first knows him only as a wandering wizard who tells wonderful tales and makes dazzling fireworks. Over the course of the adventure, Gandalf reveals himself to be good-natured and wise, with a taste for the whimsical and the absurd. During the adventures of Bilbo and the dwarves, he often disappears to unknown regions, returning just in time to save the company. His manner of defending them against enemies is often sneaky and mysterious, but he is always well-meaning. The reader learns very little about his activity behind the scenes, except that it involves a council of wizards, and the driving off of a necromancer who lived in Mirkwood.
Thorin is a proud, self-important dwarf...
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with a noble lineage. He is the son of Thrain and the grandson of Thror, the King under the Mountain, to whom the treasure which they seek belonged.
Above all, Thorin is driven by his desire to reclaim his forefathers’ treasure guarded by the dragon Smaug, as well as to reclaim his ancient kingdom. In particular, he is filled with the desire for the Arkenstone of Thrain, called “the heart of the mountain,” but which Bilbo also calls “the heart of Thorin.” This desire to reclaim treasure is so strong that Thorin refuses to make peace with the men and elves who also want a share. This desire also drives him to such profound anger at Bilbo for betraying him that he ends his friendship with Bilbo. Yet, despite his shortcomings, Thorin is good at heart, stoic, and noble. He is also ultimately loyal to friends, making up with Bilbo with his dying words.
Smaug is a huge red-gold dragon whose lair is in the Lonely Mountain. For many years he has been lying on his hoard of treasure, which he stole from the dwarves after destroying their homeland. Like most dragons, Smaug guards his plunder without using it. Smaug is especially greedy, powerful, and evil; he often has dreams of “greed and violence” as he sleeps. Smaug is a wily and convincing speaker, but when Bilbo arrives, Smaug proves himself easily flattered and is tricked by Bilbo’s riddling language. Smaug is quick to anger and eager to take revenge on those who steal his gold. His only weakness is a bald patch on his belly, which Bilbo tricks him into revealing.
Elrond is a noble, beautiful, and kind half-elf, “as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard.” He is the master of Rivendell, also called the Last Homely House. He helps Bilbo and company on their quest by revealing to them the “moon letters” on their map.
Bilbo meets Gollum living in an underwater pool in the goblin caves. Gollum is “as dark as darkness,” except for two huge glowing eyes in a small face. The narrator tells us, “I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was.” He gets his name from the harsh swallowing sound he often makes, though he calls himself—and his beloved ring—“my precious.” He speaks to himself in a continuous monologue, because he has lived alone for so long. His loneliness has made him bitter and nasty. He has a love of riddles, and he guards as his greatest treasure a ring of invisibility which he calls his “birthday present.”
Beorn is a “skin-changer,” or shape-shifter, who sometimes takes the form of a bear and at other times that of a large and hairy man. Some say he is a bear descended from ancient bears; some say he is a man descended from ancient men. He keeps hives of huge bees, as well as talking cattle and horses whom he considers his children. Gandalf leads the company to Beorn’s house one by one, in order to trick Beorn into housing all of them for the night. Though gruff and plain-spoken, he is good-natured and doesn’t care for riches or gold. He fights in the Battle of the Five Armies, helping to defeat the goblins, and he eventually carries the dying Thorin from the field of battle.
Bard the Bowman
Bard is the captain of the archers of the Esgaroth, also called the Lake People. He is a descendent of Girion, lord of Dale. He kills Smaug by shooting him with an arrow in his weak spot. The Lake People want Bard crowned king instead of the Master of the Lake People.