The Hobbit is a simple story. For those who love an ordinary story with ordinary characters, this is a terrific book. The hobbit in the story (Bilbo) characterizes us in our safe, luxurious life, untried by perils and adventures. But this story tells of when one such hobbit gets thrown into the midst of wild adventures, risking his life time and again to help his friends.
One of the story’s titles, “There and back again”, nearly sums it up. This is a cheerful story. Yes, it has fantastic beasts and other elements, but in the end the story pivots on the themes of homeliness, adventure, courage, friendship, and burglary.
So. Let’s discuss this epic of the ordinary in an organized manner.
Plot: The plot is actually a simple one, with clear lines between good and evil. The quest is introduced at the beginning, and away they go, with various episodes of adventure as they travel–which you’ll want to keep track of, ’cause they all influence the end in one way or another (another thing I totally love about this book!). Also, watch carefully for the climax, because it is totally epic, and not the ordinary big-battle-scene climax (a perk of having a normal dude as a main character).
Characters: Bilbo Baggins (a hobbit), is a normal enough creature, who, because of his mixed heritage, struggles with his love for home and peacefulness, and his desire for adventure. A wizard, who sees the greatness in him, causes him to fall into the company of 13 dwarves. These dwarves are tight knit, and one major lesson that both they and Bilbo learn is the art of friendship. Though both are small creatures, dwarves and hobbits are strikingly dissimilar. The dwarves in their rough-and-tough way must learn to love and respect little Bilbo, and Bilbo learns what is expected from him as a friend to the dwarves.
Setting: If you haven’t figured it out yet, this story is set in a fantasy world called Middle Earth. Middle Earth is a complicated world, with many beasts of various kinds, elves (the tall, stately kind, most certainly not the Santa kind), dwarves (PLEASE don’t think Snow White), and hobbits (just read the beginning of The Hobbit if you want to know what they look like). And, of course, men. Middle Earth also has an amazingly powerful and meaningful history not touched upon in The Hobbit. If you don’t believe me, just read The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion.
Themes: I touched on the themes of homeliness, adventure and friendship already. Bilbo also learns a lot about courage as well. But the largest theme is actually Bilbo’s character arc of learning to burgle. While it may not be the finest moral lesson, it definitely isn’t a cliché character arc. At the very beginning Bilbo is hired as a burglar, and the theme is never dropped until the climax. I also find the theme of home particularly interesting (a theme, dare I say it, that is actually more obviously shown in the movies* than the book). On the surface it seems as if Bilbo is the one longing for home throughout the story. But, if you think about it, the dwarves’ quest is to return to their own home. This means that throughout the story Bilbo is helping his friends reclaim their home, even while he is giving up his own to do so.
*In my opinion, the movies aren’t worth watching. If you want to watch a story about some dwarves, it’s not half bad. But if you were expecting a hobbit to do something, you’ll be highly disappointed.
Conclusion: The Hobbit is one of my all time favorites. It’s a rare story that I don’t have any grievances with. It’s filled with personable characters, a wild world, and prevalent themes. If you forget everything else, just remember these 3 themes and watch for them throughout the story: Friendship, Home, and most importantly, Burglary.