The Hobbit Characters
by J. R. R. Tolkien

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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.
  • Thorn 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.

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Characters

Bilbo Baggins

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

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 entire section is 1,219 words.)