Introductory Lecture and Objectives

The Hobbit eNotes Lesson Plan content

Introductory Lecture

An enduring fantasy classic, The Hobbit tells the story of retiring, hairy-footed Bilbo Baggins, who becomes the comical hero of an epic quest. Chosen by a wizard, the hobbit leaves the comfort of his armchair to accompany a troop of dwarves across a treacherous land in hopes of reclaiming treasure from a dragon. On his journey, Bilbo travels through forests, valleys, and mountain tunnels, and he meets elves, goblins, men, and other creatures he has never before encountered. Although he chances upon a valuable object that gives him an advantage against foes, the challenges of the quest test the hobbit’s courage and intellect to their limits. By the end of the novel, Bilbo has discovered the danger of greed, the thrill of adventure, and a side of his own nature he has never before known. 

Written in 1937 by J. R. R. Tolkien, the novel pits good against evil in a vast, intricate fantasy world created from Tolkien’s imagination and scholarship. Gentle satire, witty dialogue, and evocative description make Tolkien’s creation uniquely compelling. Tolkien’s friend C. S. Lewis said that The Hobbit’s appeal lies in its depiction of “a world that seems to have been going on before we stumbled into it but which, once found by the right reader, becomes indispensable to him.” 

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in South Africa to English parents but spent his youth in England. Both of Tolkien’s parents had died by the time he was a teenager. He married his teenage sweetheart, Edith, who was also an orphan. Tolkien served briefly on the Western Front in World War I; some scholars speculate that Tolkien’s feelings while he was away at war may have inspired the hobbit’s longing for home. Tolkien came back to England ill with “trench fever,” a disease that afflicted many soldiers during World War I. While recovering, he began to write stories in which he first developed the fantasy world of The Hobbit and its sequel, The Lord of the Rings

Later, while working as a university professor, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for his own four children. He did not intend to publish it; however, a publisher friend had his own son read the book, and the boy’s positive reaction spurred publication. The novel was a quick hit with critics and readers. Its first print run of fifteen hundred copies sold out in England within three months. During the 1940s, when paper was rationed because of World War II, supply could not always meet demand for the book. Today, three-quarters of a century later, The Hobbit is still beloved by children and adults. Since the first printing, one hundred million copies have been sold, and the text has been translated into fifty languages. 

It took many more years for Tolkien to produce the sequel to The Hobbit. The enormous manuscript for The Lord of the Rings was published in three parts in 1954 and 1955. English critics received The Lord of the Rings trilogy less favorably than they had The Hobbit. The new story was too long and complex for children, and fantasy literature for adults had not yet become a popular genre in England. In the United States, Tolkien’s books were better received because fantasy stories for adult readers had developed from American science fiction. 

Tolkien’s popularity grew in the 1960s and 1970s. He is credited as the “father of fantasy,” responsible for a renewed interest in “sword and sorcery” literature that has driven the success of contemporary fantasy epics such as the Harry Potter series. Tolkien’s work recently entered a new era of fame with the production of high-profile Hollywood films based on The Lord of the Rings books and The Hobbit.

By the end of the unit the student will be able to: 

1. Identify the significance of Bilbo’s Took side versus his Baggins side. 

2. Explain why Bilbo is an unlikely choice as a participant in an adventure. 

3. Discuss how Bilbo is changed by his adventure. 

4. Identify the role of wealth in the novel. 

5. Describe the book’s various characters and discuss their morality. 

6. Discuss the ideas that the book seems to endorse (justice, generosity, and nature) and to criticize (violence, greed, and industrialization). 

7. Describe the landscape and the fantastical elements of Tolkien’s world. 

8. Identify Tolkien’s use of humor to satirize human nature.

Instructional Focus: Teaching With an eNotes Lesson Plan

This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom. 

Student Lesson Guide 

• The Lesson Guide is organized for study of the book in sections as indicated by chapters. Lesson Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace. 

• Lesson Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading each section of the book and to acquaint them generally with its content. 

• Before Lesson Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension. 

• Lesson Guide vocabulary lists include words from the book that vary in difficulty.

1. The vocabulary lists for each section are sufficiently comprehensive so that shorter lists of vocabulary words can be constructed from them. 

2. Working from the Lesson Guide vocabulary lists, the teacher also may construct vocabulary studies for individual students, choosing specific words from each section that are most appropriate for them. 

Essay and Discussion Questions 

The essay and discussion questions vary in degree of difficulty. 

1. Some questions require higher levels of critical thinking; others engage students with less challenging inquiry. 

2. Individual discussion questions may be assigned to students working in pairs or in small study groups; their contributions may then be added to a whole-class discussion. 

Multiple-Choice/Essay Test 

Test questions also vary in degree of difficulty. 

1. Some multiple-choice questions address the factual content of the book; others require students to employ critical thinking skills, such as analyzing; comparing and contrasting; and drawing inferences. 

2. The teacher may select specific multiple-choice questions and one or more essay questions to assess an individual student’s understanding of the book. 

3. The essay portion of the test appears on a separate page so that it may be omitted altogether in testing.

Before students read the novel, explain that themes are universal ideas developed in literature. Point out that these themes will be developed in the novel; discuss them with students as they read and/or after they finish reading: 

  • Adventure 
  • Courage 
  • Intelligence 
  • Race and lineage 
  • Wealth 
  • Greed 
  • Loyalty and friendship 
  • Good and evil 
  • Home 
  • Nature 

Talk with your students about how a motif is a recurring pattern or repeated action, element, or idea in a work of literature. As they read, have them pay attention to the following motifs: 

  • Longing for home 
  • Bilbo as a comic character 
  • Satire of human nature 
  • Darkness and light 
  • Dreams as prophecies 
  • Cultural comparison between races and peoples 
  • The dwarves’ fixation on treasure 
  • The elves’ goodness 

A symbol is a concrete object or place that has significance in a literary work because it communicates an idea. Have students discuss how the author develops the following symbols and what ideas the symbols could suggest. Have them look for other symbols on their own. 

  • Bilbo’s pocket-handkerchiefs 
  • The Arkenstone 
  • The ring 
  • Glamdring and Orcrist 
  • Bard’s black arrow

Essay and Discussion Questions

1. Why does Tolkien include songs in The Hobbit? How do they contribute to his themes and characterization? 

2. Discuss the novel’s different characters and races. What values does each represent, and how does Tolkien convey these ideas in the story? 

3. How does Tolkien portray the goblins as purely evil in chapter 5? In contrast, how does he evoke pity for Gollum in chapter 6? 

4. Analyze Gollum’s style of speaking. What is unique about it? What does it reveal about his character? 

5. What does Thorin’s style of speaking suggest about his character? 

6. Why might Tolkien have Thorin die, rather than allow him to live and enjoy his home and treasure? Is Thorin a sympathetic character? Why or why not? 

7. Why are there no female characters in The Hobbit? Do you think the book appeals equally to readers of both genders? Why or why not? 

8. Do you think all people have a conservative side and an adventurous side, as Bilbo discovers he does? Why or why not? What conflicting sides of your nature can you identify? 

9. In chapter 1, the narrator says, “[Bilbo] may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained— well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.” What does Bilbo gain in the end, if anything? How can he be happy when he is an outcast among his own people? 

10. What does the idea of “home” mean to the characters in the novel? Consider its meaning to Bilbo, the dwarves, the elves, the men, Bard, and Beorn. 

11. Which of Bilbo’s traits complement the traits of the dwarves? At what moments in their journey is it helpful that Bilbo is not a dwarf? 

12. What challenges does Bilbo face during the quest, and how do they change him? 

13. Compare Bilbo and Bard. Why does Tolkien write his story about Bilbo when Bard is the hero who kills the dragon? Would you want to read a similar story from Bard’s perspective? Why or why not? 

14. Why doesn’t Gandalf accompany Bilbo and the dwarves all the way to the Lonely Mountain? Why does the wizard’s support for Thorin’s goals change over the course of the story? 

15. Why is The Hobbit still popular today, seventy-five years after its first publication?

Chapter I: "An Unexpected Party"


audacious: recklessly bold

blundering: moving in a stumbling or confused way

confusticate: archaic to confuse; to perplex

conspirator: an accomplice; one who participates in a plot or plan

cross: irritable; mildly angry

cunning: skill; craftiness

daresay: presume; be so bold as to say

depredations: remains of destruction

discreetly: in a manner that is intentionally unnoticeable or secretive

estimable: deserving of high regard

flummoxed: confused

haughty: assuming an attitude of pride and superiority

morsel: a small piece of food

plundering: characterized by stealing through force or violence...

(The entire section is 1231 words.)

Chapter II: "Roast Mutton"


blighter: British a disliked person

cavalcade: a procession of riders

commotion: a noisy disturbance

dreary: gloomy

inquisitive: inclined to ask questions

laden: loaded

outlandish: outrageous; strikingly out of the ordinary

primly: stiffly and formally

replenishing: filling up or building up again; resupplying

repose: state of rest

trifle: a small amount or degree

waylaid: waited for with evil intent

Study Questions

1. As Bilbo arrives at the Green Dragon Inn, what details does Tolkien use to suggest that the idea of Bilbo as an adventurer is improbable or comic?


(The entire section is 513 words.)

Chapter III: "A Short Rest"


cleave: to split by cutting

foe: an enemy

forded: crossed by wading

glade: an open space surrounded by woods

gruffly: roughly or sternly in manner

gullies: small valleys, usually formed by running water

heather: a low evergreen shrub

lair: a refuge or hiding place

palpitating: causing the heart to beat quickly (in context)

ravines: small canyons

remnants: remaining parts; leftovers

thrush: a small- to medium-sized songbird

Study Questions

1. At the beginning of chapter 3, Tolkien describes the landscape at length. What do his descriptions convey about the nature of his world and about...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Chapter IV: "Over Hill and Under Hill"


alliances: agreements or bonds based on mutual interests

flint: stone used in starting fires

guffawing: laughing loudly

nosebags: bags of feed hung from horses’ heads

quaff: to drink deeply

realm: territory; kingdom

shirk: to avoid work or obligation

thriven: thrived, flourished, spread

tinder: dry, flammable material used in starting fires

uncanny: strange; suggestive of the supernatural

Study Questions

1. Describe two ways in which Tolkien creates a mood of increasing gloom and suspense leading up to the goblin attack.

Tolkien creates his mood by referring to evil lurking in the...

(The entire section is 594 words.)

Chapter V: "Riddles in the Dark"


brooded: thought anxiously

giddy: dizzy

mail: armor

oddments: odds and ends; leftovers

scrabbling: groping about frantically

smote: attacked suddenly, struck

splayed: spread apart

subterranean: underground

venture: to proceed in the face of danger or uncertainty

waistcoat: a vest

Study Questions

1. Before he encounters the underground lake, Bilbo picks up a ring and remembers his pipe and his dagger. What significance does each of these three objects have for Bilbo in the moment that he discovers them?

The ring has no significance to Bilbo in the moment, but the narrator reveals that...

(The entire section is 775 words.)

Chapter VI: "Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire"


benighted: overtaken by the darkness of night

boughs: tree branches

bracken: a kind of fern

clamour (clamor): noisy shouting

eyrie (aerie): a large nest belonging to a bird of prey

famished: starved

glint: a tiny flash of light

helter-skelter: in a disorderly manner

onslaught: a fierce attack

pinnacle: a formation in the shape of a sharp peak

porter: a person who carries luggage

precipice: a steep or overhanging cliff

sorrel: a plant with edible, sour-tasting leaves

tinder-boxes: small metal boxes containing materials for starting a fire

touch and go: marked by danger, risk, or a narrow escape


(The entire section is 883 words.)

Chapter VII: "Queer Lodgings"


appalling: inspiring horror, dismay, or disgust

disused: no longer being used

earthenware: glazed ceramic dishes

furrier: a fur dealer

glowered: stared in annoyance or anger

harts: adult male deer

heed: attention

perils: dangers

perish: to suffer death or destruction

plight: an unfortunate situation

pressing: urgent

rent: torn

unimpeachable: reliable beyond a doubt

veranda: a roofed porch or balcony

Study Questions

1. At the beginning of the chapter, how does Tolkien use the eagle’s question and the hobbit’s unspoken reply to make fun of the differences between the...

(The entire section is 718 words.)

Chapter VIII: "Flies and Spiders"


baying: barking; howling

gloaming: twilight

hind: a female deer

infuriate: to make very angry

lamenting: strongly regretting; mourning

lichen: plantlike organisms that grow on rocks and trees

loathsome: disgusting

mirth: joy

roused: awakened

stealthily: in a manner intended to escape detection

venison: deer meat

Study Questions

1. Describe the setting of the Mirkwood. What does its atmosphere suggest about events that may soon occur?

The Mirkwood is dim and stuffy with dense foliage and heavy cobwebs strung between the trees. The group walks single file into the increasing...

(The entire section is 1017 words.)

Chapter IX: "Barrels Out of Bond"


flagons: wine jugs; pitchers

heady: intoxicating

hewn: carved with an ax, chisel, or other tool

jostling: bumping into; colliding

jutted: extended out, upward, or forward

portcullis: iron grating raised and lowered to allow or block access to a passage

stifling: suffocating

surly: excessively grouchy

turnkey: a jail guard

vintage: the year or place in which wine was produced

Study Questions

1. When the rest of the dwarves are captured by Wood-elves, how does the hobbit remain free? What qualities of Bilbo’s character are revealed when he decides to follow the captive dwarves into the elves’...

(The entire section is 902 words.)

Chapter X: "A Warm Welcome"


alluding: making indirect reference to something

buffeted: battered; attacked by repeated blows

circuitous: having a winding course

enmity: mutual hatred

gammer: archaic an old woman

ominous: suggesting or predicting evil

quays: landings or docks built along a body of water

vagabond: wandering; nomadic

Study Questions

1. Listening to the conversation of the raft men, why does Bilbo conclude that he and the dwarves have been very lucky on the most recent part of their journey?

The river on which Bilbo and the dwarves find themselves is the only way out of Mirkwood toward the Lonely...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

Chapter XI: "On the Doorstep"


desolation: a state of complete emptiness or destruction; barrenness

lintel: the horizontal structure above a door

marauding: roaming and raiding; rampaging

waning: decreasing in size, extent, or degree

Study Questions

1. The narrator describes the landscape on the way to the Lonely Mountain:

There was little grass, and before long there was neither bush nor tree, and only broken and blackened stumps to speak of ones long vanished. They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were come at the waning of the year.

What does this description of the landscape convey about the dragon’s use of his...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Chapter XII: "Inside Information:


calamities: disastrous events causing great suffering

cartage: transportation of something by cart or other vehicle

dire: desperately urgent

dubious: doubtful

gilded: covered with a thin layer of gold

grievous: very serious

helms: helmets

lure: to attract; to tempt

ruddy: reddish

skulking: hiding or moving stealthily out of cowardice or ill-intent

smithereens: small fragments

smouldering (smoldering): slowly burning with much smoke and little flame

unaccountable: unexplainable

venture: an undertaking involving chance, risk, or danger

wily: clever; sly

wrath: vengeful anger


(The entire section is 1727 words.)

Chapter XIII: "Not at Home"


adornments: decorations

dominion: supreme authority

furtive: expressive of secrecy or stealth

pallid: colorless; pale

steeple: a tall, pointed tower, as on a church

Study Questions

1. Explain Bilbo’s attitude at the beginning of the chapter, and compare it to the dwarves’ attitudes. How do their respective outlooks at this stage of the quest represent a change from their attitudes at the beginning of the book?

Bilbo feels new optimism and courage at the beginning of the chapter. “Where there’s life there’s hope!” he quotes his father as saying. He reasons that if he has already approached the dragon’s lair twice...

(The entire section is 734 words.)

Chapter XIV: "Fire and Water"


carcase (carcass): dead body, corpse

eminent: prominent; elevated in rank

recompense: a payment or return for something done, suffered, or given

thatched: made of straw (of roofs)

tidings: news

valour (valor): courage

Study Questions

1. What descriptive details does the author use to illustrate Smaug’s fantastic power as he attacks Lake-town?

Smaug is frighteningly fast: “So great was his speed, they could see him as a spark of fire rushing towards them.” If he were to plunge into the Lake, the resulting steam would “cover all the land with a mist for days.” He fiery breath is fierce: “No fireworks you...

(The entire section is 728 words.)

Chapter XV: "The Gathering of the Clouds"


alighted: landed

amends: compensation for loss or injury

besieged: surrounded with armed forces

caper: to leap playfully

carrion: rotting flesh

carrion birds: birds that feed on rotting flesh

ere: before

parley: a discussion of terms between enemies

Study Questions

1. How does Tolkien continue his motif of cultural comparison between races when Balin and Bilbo talk about ravens and crows? How is Roäc the raven’s lineage significant to Balin?

Balin helps Bilbo understand the important distinction between crows and ravens. Crows are “nasty suspicious-looking creatures” who engage in “rude”...

(The entire section is 569 words.)

Chapter XVI: "A Thief in the Night"


comely: having a pleasant appearance

sentinels: soldiers standing guard

siege: the placing of an army around a fortified place in order to force enemy surrender

Study Questions

1. What news and advice does Roäc bring to Thorin? How does Thorin reply?

Roäc brings news that Dain and his army are two days away. The raven advises that even with Dain’s help, the dwarves are unlikely to defeat their foes. He also points out that even if the dwarves were victorious, they would have a difficult winter with enemies for neighbors. Thorin rejects the wisdom of the raven’s words; he hopes the approaching winter and the arrival of Dain’s army...

(The entire section is 611 words.)

Chapter XVII: "The Clouds Burst"


feint: a pretense; a false movement made to deceive or distract

flank: the side of an army formation

forbear: to tolerate

hauberk: a tunic of armor

heedless: inattentive

heirloom: something of special value passed from one generation to the next

mattocks: digging tools similar to large axes

ravening: prowling for prey

redoubled: twice as great in size or amount

scimitars: swords with curved blades

tarry: to delay

vanguard: the troops moving at the front of an army

Study Questions

1. Describe in some detail Thorin’s treatment of Bilbo on learning of the hobbit’s peace negotiation....

(The entire section is 754 words.)

Chapter XVIII: "The Return Journey"


gravely: seriously; somberly

mustering: gathering; assembling of people, especially in a military context

yule-tide: Christmas

Study Questions

1. When Bilbo and Thorin meet again, how have Thorin’s values changed? What apology and compliments does he pay Bilbo?

On his deathbed, Thorin repents his greed by acknowledging that his gold is worth little to him in the afterlife. He admits that the elves’ way of valuing food, cheer, and song over wealth makes a “merrier world.” Thorin takes back his earlier harsh words and behavior toward Bilbo. He also credits Bilbo for the hobbit’s courage and wisdom and tells him, “There is more in...

(The entire section is 891 words.)

Chapter XIX: "The Last Stage"

Study Questions

1. According to their songs, what do the elves of Rivendell value above wealth and power? Compare the elves’ main values with those of dwarves, hobbits, and goblins. Which values does Tolkien endorse in The Hobbit, and which does he challenge?

The elves value merriment and the eternal beauty of nature over wealth and power. Dwarves value wealth, hobbits value comfort and certainty, and goblins value machinery and power. Tolkien endorses the values held by the elves by making them his happiest and most enchanting characters; they are his “Good People.” Bilbo’s and Thorin’s values are challenged in the story: Bilbo learns to balance his love of predictability...

(The entire section is 697 words.)

Multiple-Choice Test and Answer Key

1. All of the following are typical hobbit traits EXCEPT:

A. physical strength

B. hairy feet

C. a love of food

D. predictability

E. a round stomach

2. Hobbits in the Took family tend to be _______than hobbits in the Baggins family.

A. jollier

B. more respectable

C. kinder

D. more honest

E. more generous

3. Which of the following is an example of a character’s lineage?

A. The Lord of the Eagles is a noble bird.

B. Bilbo is a hobbit.

C. Bard...

(The entire section is 1125 words.)

Essay Exam Questions With Answers

1. How does Tolkien present the hobbit as an unlikely hero? Contrast the novel’s portrayal of Bilbo with the portrayals of the conventionally heroic Gandalf, Beorn, and Bard. Support your discussion with examples from the text.

Bilbo’s retiring personality, his small size, and his mild temper make him an unlikely hero in the story of a dangerous quest. Tolkien also treats the blundering Bilbo with humor that is absent from his portrayal of the novel’s traditional heroic figures: powerful Gandalf, fierce Beorn, and purposeful Bard.

Neither a natural leader nor a born adventurer, Bilbo likes to stay home, while the powerful, commanding Gandalf is perpetually traveling. Gandalf covers great distances in the...

(The entire section is 3364 words.)