The Hobbit by J. R. R Tolkien
An imaginative story that is still a worldwide phenomenon, Tolkien has managed to instil some very important lessons in his book The Hobbit. It tells about a journey the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins takes to help a group of dwarves that require stealing back what was stolen from them. Probably the most significant lesson of the book is to explain how sometimes a person can recognize the talents and virtues in a friend that they themselves are not able to see.
Gandalf, the amazing wizard who is known to be the wisest of all magical creatures in the book embarks on a self-mission to bring his very able friend Bilbo on to an adventure. The story revolves around the Hobbit and his misfortunes and conquests but the real story lies within his friend who keeps pushing him to his exceeding limits. It has been shown very subtly but if one reads between the lines the lesson of the tale is crystal clear.
In the beginning, Bilbo Baggins is shown as the meekest of all creatures who uses to decline all of what Gandalf is offering. He feels afraid and is very used to the comfortable atmosphere of his home and village. Gandalf does not take no for an answer and even convinces the doubtful dwarves that this is the man that will help them achieve what is rightfully theirs. His confidence in Bilbo is perhaps what lights the spark in the little Hobbit who has serious understated self-esteem issues even though he is revered in his community and often looked upon as the leader.
There are numerous obstacles encountered throughout the journey, often life threatening or involving intricate decision making. However, as Gandalf has placed Bilbo in charge of the expedition, often the Hobbit finds himself in situations that he would not normally be brave enough to face. Gandalf defines him, explores him, exposes him and ascends him. At a certain part, Gandalf disappears leaving the dwarves and Bilbo unable to make even a small fire for them to fight off the cold. Bilbo, feebly accepting to take responsibility, goes ahead and gets himself and his group in trouble with three trolls.
At this point, there is nothing that he can do and although he escapes, the dwarves are at the brink of death, Gandalf comes to save them. This does not hammer his confidence and it shows a steady side of him that slowly keeps on developing through the story. He steals a key from the trolls that later on help his group get to their layer.
Unlike Bilbo’s confidence that slowly takes form Gandalf believes in him from the beginning. He says to the dwarves ‘ Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for you. If I say he is a burglar, a burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.’ (1: 104) It further embellishes Gandalf’s faith in his Hobbit friend.
The old themes of heroism, loyalty and valour are pronounced in the shape of Bilbo Baggins. The central ideology lies in his discovery of himself. On the contrary, it is always Gandalf’s shadow that works on his heart, acting like a stimulant. There are still parts that beg to differ of Bilbo’s bravery. When they meet the all wise elves, the elves notice Bilbo’s gentle nature and reward swords of protection to Gandalf and the Thorin who is head of the dwarves. Conversely, Bilbo’s gentle nature is again revealed when he encounters the all famous Gollum. Whilst taking the ring that belonged to Gollum, his decision to kill the despised small mortal felt wrong when he was in his invisible state (while wearing the ring). It did not seem justified to him that he takes the life of Gollum unwarned, even though it was very obvious that his nemesis wanted to kill him.
Bilbo Baggins is not a thief by occupation or by will. It is in fact Gandalf’s convincing that brings him onto a road where he begins to steal, not always by choice. Nonetheless, thievery is not at all a theme of the book. It is just a small part, even though the entire journey is based on a theft they have to make from the dragon. That too is done by Bilbo in the end.
It is important to note that even though it is not always obvious, it is Gandalf’s pure belief that brings out the best in Bilbo. He was always the timid one, unable to see anything worthwhile in himself. He could bring forth a million reasons why he was not the person for the job, to lead them into a dragon’s lair. Even when the dwarves doubt his ability to be a burglar, Gandalf defends him. It was his choice, his decision and it was his preference and recommendation that they take Bilbo because he was perfect for the choice. It makes one wonder whether he was doing it for the dwarves or his friend but it provided mutualism between them, since both parties benefited immensely from Gandalf’s foresight.
The entire discussion could be sum up with the conclusion that The Hobbit has showcased an adventure story but as mentioned above, it has lessons and teachings in it. Probably the best one is how Gandalf and Bilbo define their friendship. One, who is unwilling to put himself through any test that he is sure he will fail and the other not doubting for a minute what his friend is capable of, even though he is not that strong or that wise. It goes to show just how another person can bring the best out in their friend. Gandalf and Bilbo are that perfect example.
J. R. R. Tolkien. The Hobbit, UK: George Allen & Unwin, 1937. Print
The Hobbit by J. R. R Tolkien