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J.R.R Tolkien’s creation has fascinated many fantasy readers all over the world. Inspired by writings, languages, and fantasies of Icelandic linguistic traditions the Oxford professor develops the fictional world of Middle Earth. The Hobbit is a sequel to The Lord of the Rings. Initially, the tale was written in the form of a children’s book as a bedtime story to his children. Tolkien later than decided to write the entire book based on adventures he shared with his children.
Since his publication in 1937, both children and adults adored his story. The story contains thirteen dwarves, a wizard, and a burglar that is on a quest towards the Lonely Mountains in the east to slay the dragon Smaug and retrieve the treasure it guards. Throughout the book there were multiple heroes; however, there was one hero described in J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit that is different from the stereotypical heroes that the world has grown accustomed to.
The typical heroes are normally portrayed as strong figures with high command, someone who possesses possibly supernatural powers, or the superheroes of pop culture. They’re the ones that slay and save the day. Those are the big heroes we are obsessed with and have become familiar with in movies, literature, and other media. They’re also the ones that tend to blind our vision towards smaller heroes or heroes with opposite characteristics and figures. The following sections analyze if Bilbo Baggins is the hero in motivation and attitude towards violence.
There is always a need for an incentive to do something. No matter if it is a man, dwarf, hobbit, or goblin! Nothing will go out of its way to do something without incentive. The highest reward of riches and power are the main motivations for 99% of the characters in The Hobbit. To claim power, the crown, and the title as “king” is what drives all parties to pursue the Lonely Mountain. Initially, Bilbo Baggins signs and accepts the terms and conditions of Thorin’s contract. His motive to go on this quest was to receive the reward of one fourteenth of totaled profits if they ever claim it and to bring an adventure home to brag to the other hobbits. He signs and commits to the contract:
“Thorin and Company to Burglar Bilbo greeting! For your hospitality our sincerest thanks, and for your offer of professional assistance our grateful acceptance. Terms: cash on delivery, up to and not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits (if any); all travelling expenses guaranteed in any event; funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or our representatives, if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for. Thinking it unnecessary to disturb your esteemed repose, we have proceeded in advance to make requisite preparations, and shall await your respected person at the Green Dragon Inn, Byewater, at 11 a. m. sharp. Trusting that you will be punctual, we have the honor to remain yours deeply Thorin & Co.” (Tolkien, 28).
If had not been offered, Bilbo would’ve never consider it or had the motivation nor incentive to even bother picking up his inked utensil and scribble his name. Even though we witnessed Bilbo’s initial reaction to sign the contract and go onto this adventure for wealth and fame, this doesn’t establish that Bilbo is a hero. Over the course of the book, Bilbo becomes a hero through his subconscious values of kindness and generosity. Every encounter with evil develops him into a hero. His motivation is no longer a quest for a title, but a quest for friendship through the acts of kindness and generosity. Every encounter of trouble Tolkien somehow always situates Bilbo as the rescuer. Up until the spiders, Bilbo has somewhat grown onto the dwarves through bondage. The dwarves were in the mightiest of troubles and Bilbo was outnumbered and had two choices. He had the choice to flee and leave the dwarves to be sucked dry or help out his friends from becoming an entree. Luckily for the dwarves, he subconsciously helped them out of the kindness and generosity of risking his life: “At that moment Bilbo threw. The stone struck the spider plunk on the head, and it dropped senseless off the tree, flop to the ground, with all its legs curled up” (Tolkien, 146). No matter the situation, a hero’s will always act out of the kindness and generosity in risk of their life. They know the consequences, yet sacrifice it all for what they believe in. Bilbo knew the odds weren’t in his favor. He’s as Thorin describes him: “He looks more like a grocer than a burglar!” (Kalpakgian, 2015). But at this point he’s still in the midst of formulating a connection with the dwarves, and his motivation from wealth and fame evolves into the motivation of friendship. His unraveling values subconsciously motivated him towards the action of staying and defending.
One’s attitude towards violence is a crucial aspect in determining if they are a hero. Knowing when to take a life, and when to spare one even when someone or something deserves it. 99% of the time it is naturally imbedded into the nature of any species to defend themselves against threatening or alarming situations. A character like Thorin Oakenshield will always think and act like the 99%, thinking with his sword and slaying anything that is threatening. Two different dangerous situations, one with the spiders and another with Gollum displays how Bilbo is a hero through his attitude towards violence. Outnumbered, Bilbo knew that the spiders could not have been reasoned with. Their thirst for blood couldn’t be stopped. Bilbo eardrops through the ring: “Kill ‘em, I say, kill ‘em now and hang ‘em dead for a while” (Tolkien,145). Evaluating his choices, he knew that to save his hanging friends he had to kill these disgusting creatures. In the other situation with Gollum, Bilbo takes a different approach.
Of course, his defense mechanisms react. Gollum is a threatening situation, and he points his blade; however, instead of killing the ugly skinned branch he reasons with Gollum through riddles. “He encounters the strange creeping creature Gollum, and they agree to a game of riddles. If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show him the way out of the caves. If Gollum wins, he gets to eat Bilbo,” (MacDonald, 2010). Bilbo wins the competition with a simple “What have I got in my pocket?” (Tolkien, 74), Gollum is furious of his loss and starts to question what’s in his pocket and then realizes that he has lost his ring. He accuses Bilbo of theft of his possession and starts chasing him. Bilbo slips on the ring, turning invisible he follows Gollum who’s leading the way towards the exit in search for Bilbo. After being brought to the exit of the goblin mountain, Bilbo had two choices. He could’ve slayed Gollum in cold blood where he sat frustrated in losing the hobbit or spare him.
Bilbo knew when to take a life and when not to. Gollum was just looking for his ring, there was no reason for Bilbo to kill the poor thing. Therefore, he laid down his sword and hopped over Gollum towards the exit. Have met a person like Thorin Oakenshield: “Stubborn and prone to greed: He refuses to share the dragon treasure,” (Glenn, 2016). Gollum would’ve been dead before the thought of a game of riddles. Bilbo is a hero because he’s the 1% few who understood this significant aspect of heroism.
While everyone envisions that heroes should be the mighty, powerful and armed for glory, Bilbo is the opposite yet still partakes in a lot greatness turning him into the hero of this book. Much may wonder why Bilbo is the hero if he didn’t slay the dragon. Over these sections, we’ve analyzed that Bilbo is the hero because of his motivation and act towards violence. Overtime his motivation changes into friendship, realizing that something this special could never be shared through his initial motivation of wealth and fame. The young hobbit who left the: “contentment of his modest home and its cozy comforts,” (Kalpakgian, 2015), looked forward to the times he spent with the people on the adventure. His rejection of all typical heroic stereotypes like violence, war, fame shaped him as the ideal hero of The Hobbit. Another reason as to why Bilbo is the hero is because of his act towards violence. His encounter with the spiders and Gollum shows us that Bilbo understands when it is necessary to take a life and when to spare one. Bilbo is a small hobbit with a big heart. His definition of heroism is distinctive compared to the well-known vision of a hero. He’s not just a hobbit or a burglar, he’s the hero of The Hobbit.
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