I think there is rather a lot of hobbit in each of us. I don’t mean in appearance as the race of hobbits are half as tall as men, are round and plump, and have fuzzy, leathery feet, which help them to disappear quietly and quickly when trouble comes along. I really mean the ordinariness of them. Bilbo Baggins, lives very comfortably in his quiet hobbit hole, burrowed into a hill: The Hill, Hobbiton, The Shire. He likes to take at least two breakfasts every day, an early and a late one, and smoke a pipe of tobacco sitting at ease on the doorstep by his own round, green, front door.
Actually, that is exactly what he is doing a the beginning of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Bilbo is smoking his pipe when his ordinary day at his ordinary home is interrupted by the unexpected appearance of an old family friend: the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo is persuaded to accomplany 12 dwarves (Thorin Oakenshiled, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin, Dori, Nori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur) on a quest to reclaim stolen treasure from Smaug, the marauding dragon. Bilbo’s role is to be as “burglar,” a role that neither dwarves nor Bilbo himself believe him capable of. Only Gandalf, and his claim that there is more to the little hobbit than meets the eye, reassures the party.
Bilbo, who has lived in happy ignorance of the happenings in the rest of the world, is about to discover the evils and marvels that occupy the Wild. He encounters trolls, obtains a magic blade, which he later calls Sting, rests with the high elves in Rivendell, escapes goblins in the Misty Mountains, outwits Gollum, a vile, hissing creature, and comes across a magic ring.
You see, this ring can make the wearer invisible and Bilbo uses it (not fully understanding the power) to escape Gollum, the goblins and the underground tunnels through the mountains. This is the first time Bilbo doesn’t rely on Gandalf for rescue; though he still views himself as ordinary, Bilbo the Ring Finder has a very special part to play yet in the great events which shape his world.
He rejoins Gandalf and the dwarves. Evil wolves called Wargs pursue them, but Bilbo and his comrades are helped to safety by a group of great eagles. They visit Beorn, a creature who can shift his shape from man to bear, at his home before beginning their journey through the dark forest of Mirkwood.
Gandalf leaves the party to see to some other business involving the Necromancer just before they enter Mirkwood. Bilbo rescues the dwarves from many dangers in the forest. The dwarves call it luck but I believe that as Bilbo’s adventures unfold he become a rather different kind of hobbit. He learns to rely on himself and stops hoping for outside help. Gandalf, always seeming to know more than he reveals, was right: Bilbo was the right hobbit for the job. As his self-confidence and keen judgement increase he plays an increasingly significant part in the great events, which unfold on the journey to the Lonely Mountain, to Smaug, and to his hoard.
This is a tale that seems to grow in the telling. The characters, while seemingly lifted from fairy tales, have real motives and emotions, which are entirely compelling. Bilbo began as a somewhat unlikeable homebody and grows into the most lovable, courageous, and decent character in the story. And while, Bilbo again and again daydreams of being home by his quiet fire, smoking his pipe on the front step, or preparing a grand meal, his return home turns out to be bittersweet.
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Who’s excited for the movie this December?