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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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Bilbo is the small, timid hero of The Hobbit. It has been
pointed out by some readers that in his thoughts and actions he
is representative of modern man. Thus, adults are able to
identify with him and not feel so out of place in Tolkien's
heroic world of wizards and dwarves. Bilbo is also, fittingly, a
character that children can readily identify with, since The
Hobbit was written as a children's story and today is considered
by many to be a classic in that genre.

Bilbo can also be seen as an example of Everyman, reflecting
the potential greatness in us all. He's just an ordinary person.
And with his small stature and simple, timid nature, he's
certainly an unlikely hero.

Yet, despite his apparent weaknesses, Bilbo finds the strength
to become heroic. His strength seems to come from the things
he holds dear-frequent meals, a peaceful ordered life, and his
pipe-the very things that, to some, make him seem so ordinary
and laughable. And at the end of the book, these things are still
important to Bilbo, a sign that these are qualities Tolkien
wanted to emphasize. The only way Bilbo has changed is that
he has become more self-confident, more capable of taking
care of himself and of others.

But is Bilbo really an example of Everyman? In some ways
he's not your average hobbit. For one thing, he's a bachelor,
and a wealthy one at that. For another, his mother was from the
Took family, hobbits with a tendency to be more daring and
adventurous than most. This leads some readers to say that
Bilbo is a member of an elite group, a select few who are
superior to the common people. You'll have to decide for
yourself what Tolkien intended-whether Bilbo represents the
potential for greatness in even the weakest individual, or
whether Bilbo is part of an elite circle that most people can
never reach.


Gandalf is the wizard who assists Bilbo and the dwarves on
their journey. Like a typical wizard, Gandalf appears as an old
man dressed in blue robes and a tall pointed hat. Wizards are
skilled in magic, and Gandalf's specialty is fire. In the
beginning of The Hobbit, Bilbo enthusiastically recalls
Gandalf's marvelous fireworks. Later in the story, Gandalf puts
his skills to more practical use-for example, when he throws
the evil wargs into an uproar with a magical fire that clings to
their fur.

Wizards are often known for their shrewdness as well as for
their magic, and Gandalf is no exception. He defeats the trolls
not by magic but by cleverly distracting them until the sun rises
and turns them to stone.

Despite his wisdom and magical powers, however, Gandalf can
also be seen as a humorous figure. When Gandalf first meets
Bilbo, Tolkien describes him in comic terms as having long,
bushy eyebrows that stick out beyond his hat. He can be
childish at times, acting grumpy in a rainstorm, or vexed that
Elrond is the first to find the secret letters on Thorin's map.

Bilbo remembers from his childhood the wizard's fabulous
fireworks, wonderful gadgets, and thrilling stories of
adventure. just as Fafnir the dragon excited the imagination of
the young Tolkien, so Gandalf intrigues Bilbo with a dangerous
world, far removed from the hobbit's comfortable life. As the
story of The Hobbit begins, Gandalf reenters Bilbo's life and
starts the hobbit on an adventure into that dangerous world.

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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