Tolkien - The Hobbit - Bilbo´s development and growth of character throughout his adventures in Tolkien´s The Hobbit

Pre-University Paper 2002 11 Pages

Didactics - English - Literature, Works


Table of contents

1. Preface

2. Introduction

3. What are hobbits?

4. Bilbo Baggins
4.1. Who is Bilbo?
4.2. Bilbo’s development
4.2.1. Hobbiton - Rivendell (chapters 1-3)
4.2.2. Rivendell - Beorn’s house (chapters 4-7)
4.2.3. Beorn’s house - Lake-town (chapters 8-10)
4.2.4. Lake-town - Lonely Mountain (chapters 11-14)
4.2.5. Lonely Mountain - Hobbiton (chapters 15-19)

5. Conclusion


Declaration of independence Fehler! Textmarke nicht definiert.

1. Preface

J.R.R. Tolkien created with his works “The Hobbit“ and “The Lord of the Rings“ a completely new world. There are, for example, hobbits, dwarves, elves, men, wizards, orcs, trolls and dragons and they all live in Middle-earth. This world is so interesting that even a successful movie was made about “The Lord of the Rings”, which inspired me to read the book, about which many of my friends said that it was very good. When I had read it I could totally agree with them and when I got “The Hobbit” as a present I detected that it is good, too.

It is the prelude to “The Lord of the Rings” and the reader gets to know the world of Middle-earth with his different races and types of beings. You drop into this world and fight together with Bilbo Baggins and his friends against many enemies before you at last find the treasure. But even then the story is not over and there is still a great battle to fight. People can identify with Bilbo, they share his adventures and feel with him, so that reading bores neither children nor adults, what is another fascinating thing about the book. Although it is a children’s book adults can read it with much fun as well. I liked reading it, but a friend told me that her little son liked it, too. Of course, children read the book not with the same understanding as adults, but, what is more important, people of all ages can like it.

So it came that when I had to find a subject for my essay the week after I had read the book I had the idea to write about “The Hobbit”, because I think that it contains a lot of interesting aspects. If you take a closer look at the text, you can learn a lot of things about the little hobbit and the world he lives in. I thought it was a very good book and that it could be interesting to be engaged in a study of it. In addition it is not too extensive but clear and so I decided to write my essay about “The Hobbit”.

2. Introduction

Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” is about the hobbit Bilbo Baggins who leaves his hometown Hobbiton to help some dwarves to regain their treasure, which was stolen by the dragon Smaug a long time ago. During their journey to the Lonely Mountain, where the dragon lives, they have to manage a lot of difficult situations and when they at last arrive and the dragon is killed they are besieged. Five armies of different peoples meet and they fight a big battle until in the end Bilbo can return home.

In my essay I want to talk about the development of this hobbit and his growth of character throughout his adventures, from a comfortable little man to a hero, who is important for the fate of many people. I think that this development is very interesting, for this little man seems to be the exact opposite of a hero, but in the end you see that he is able to do great things.

3. What are hobbits?

If you want to talk about a hobbit you naturally have to know what a hobbit is, first. Hobbits are very small people, who have about half the size of a usual man and live in the Shire in Middle-earth. They have no beards, feet with “leathery soles”1 and “thick warm brown hair”1, because of which they do not have to wear shoes, curled hair and often fat stomachs. So already their outward appearance does not speak for them being heroic figures. In addition Hobbits do not like adventures or unexpected things, they live quite and peaceful, like smoking pipes, eat many times a day and live in so called hobbit-holes, comfortable holes in the ground. They “have no use for adventures”2 and see them as “nasty disturbing uncomfortable things”2, because they “make”2 them “late for dinner”2, and eating is very important for them. People who are never involved in anything unusual are popular and highly regarded because they correspond to the image of a good hobbit. They like their lives to be “ordered and predictable”3 and do not like people who disturb their order. They are typical petit bourgeois, who like to sit in their little, well-tended gardens and talk about the weather while smoking their pipes. And although there are different sorts of hobbits, of which some are more likely to have adventures you would never expect one of them to journey to the other end of Middle-earth and fight in a big battle.

4. Bilbo Baggins

4.1. Who is Bilbo?

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit, who lives in his hobbit-hole, named Bag End, in Hobbiton. He is the son of Bungo Baggins, who built Bag End, and Belladonna Took, and about fifty years old when the story starts. The Bagginses are very respected in their neighbourhood because they are rich and especially because they have never been involved in anything unusual. The Tooks, the relatives of his mother, who live across The Water, are “not as respectable as the Bagginses”1 because sometimes one of them goes away and has adventures. So Bilbo has something of both sides in him, although he has never shown any sign of Tookish behaviour until the story starts. He lives a quiet, well-ordered life, and seems to be “a second edition of his solid and comfortable father”2, who totally corresponds to the image of a good hobbit.

4.2. Bilbo’s development

As the story progresses from one safe place to another, with dangerous situations between them, I want to take over this structure for my elaboration of Bilbo’s development.

4.2.1. Hobbiton - Rivendell (chapters 1-3)

At the beginning of the story Bilbo hates adventures and wants his life to stay as it is, peaceful and well ordered. You can see that plainly when Gandalf arrives at Bag End and starts a conversation about an adventure. Bilbo is annoyed of him because he does not want to talk about such a bad thing as an adventure with such a strange man. We get to know this mainly by the things Bilbo says, his actions and the comments of the narrator. There is a third person narrator, who usually follows the story through the eyes of Bilbo for he knows his thoughts and emotions, but whose knowledge is not limited to that of Bilbo, for he already knows who Bilbo is talking to, before Bilbo becomes aware of it. The narrator tells us, that Bilbo wants Gandalf “to go away”3 and that he gets “quite uncomfortable”3 when Gandalf does not move. Bilbo pretends to ignore him and begins to read “his morning letters”3, but Gandalf still stays. So Bilbo tells him directly to go away and explains that the people in his village do not want to have adventures. But already one day later Bilbo’s mind changes a bit because the Took side in him wakes up when he listens to the dwarves, who sing songs of countries far away. On the one hand Bilbo still tries to tell himself that everything is “perfectly ordinary and not in the least an adventure”1, what does not really work for he gets a fit because of his fear, when Thorin says that they “may never return”2. On the other hand he wishes “to go and see the great mountain and hear […] the waterfalls”3 and show the dwarves that he can be a good burglar. He is divided, the Baggins side is strictly against the adventure, but the Took side wants him to dare it. This division can also be seen the next morning. On the one hand Bilbo is “relieved”4, that the dwarves are gone, but on the other hand he cannot “help feeling just a trifle disappointed”3.

Nevertheless the Took side is not strong enough to make Bilbo immediately go when he finds the dwarves’ notice. He wants to protest, but Gandalf does not let him tell his objections. He tells Bilbo to run and meet the dwarves and Bilbo simply obeys. That is how he gets into this adventure.

Later, when Bilbo comes into a dangerous situation for the first time and he meets the trolls, he has already accepted his position in the group and tries to full fit it by trying to steal the troll’s purse. He has to take together all his courage, but he does not want to “go straight back to Thorin and Company emptyhanded”5, because he does not want them to think that he is not useful. But Bilbo is too inexperienced for that adventure, because he does not know that trolls’ purses squeak, and because of his, but also the dwarves’ foolishness they get caught and would be dead if there was not Gandalf to rescue them. Nevertheless Bilbo tries to help and shows courage in this scene, “he did his best”6, but actually he is no great help.

When they arrive in Rivendell and stay two weeks there, Bilbo is happy about him having left his home for the first time. He can recover from the strenuous journey and because “he loves elves”7 he loves this place where he can learn a lot about this creatures. He would like to stay there even if “a wish”8 took “him right back to his hobbit-hole without trouble”8. It is the first time that he does not wish himself back home living his well- ordered life.

4.2.2. Rivendell - Beorn’s house (chapters 4-7)

In this part of the story Bilbo is separated from the others and has to manage the dangerous situation inside of the mountain on his own. But he already is more experienced than he was at the beginning of the story and although he is afraid and first feels for his pipe and matches, which he fortunately does not have, he finally does the right thing, he draws his sword and goes on. This is an important point in his development because as he is alone he has to make his own decisions and take responsibility for himself because if he does not do it he will be caught and killed. We can see his growing independence for example when he immediately holds his sword in front of him to protect himself, when he notices Gollum, and when he masters the riddle-game.1 But he is still himself, the comfortable hobbit, who cannot help “thinking uncomfortably about eating”2. The most respectable thing in this chapter is, that Bilbo immediately notices the danger he is in, when Gollum finds out that Bilbo has his ring, and he turns and runs away, and that he has the idea to follow Gollum to the exit, because otherwise he would be hopelessly lost in the tunnels. Of course, he would not be able to do this if he the ring did not fell upon his finger and he did not find out that it makes invisible very soon, but nevertheless it shows a good deal of presence of mind. For his escape from the mountain he even gets respect from the dwarves, who until then have seen him as totally useless.

But the next chapter shows again at some points that Bilbo is all the same often helpless because of his physical stature. In the mountain he had no problems, because hobbits are at home in tunnels, but outside he has a lot of them. When they have to climb into the trees, he is too small and is “scuttling about from trunk to trunk, like a rabbit that has lost its hole and has a dog after it”3, he needs the help of the dwarves or he would be caught by the wolves, and later he is nearly left behind again because the eagles do not notice him and he can catch hold of Dori’s legs only just in time.

4.2.3. Beorn’s house - Lake-town (chapters 8-10)

On this part of the journey Bilbo shows that he is able to take responsibility for himself but also for the other members of the company. Gandalf leaves them and so they have no real leader anymore, who can rescue them in difficult situations. Bilbo has now an important part in the group, because with his good eyes and his ideas he can really help them on their way. For example when they reach the enchanted river he is the only one who sees the boat lying on the other side, because he has “the sharpest eyes among them”4 and it is him, who has the idea to “throw a rope”4, without which they would not come across the river.

A few days later Bilbo has an adventure, which is very important for his self-confidence. He has lost the others once more and kills a big spider, which attacks him, “all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else”5. The narrator tells us that after that Bilbo feels “a different person, and much fiercer and bolder”1, and that can also be seen in his actions. He immediately searches for his friends and when he finds them caught by the spiders he thinks about how to rescue them and has the courage to draw the attention of more than fifty giant spiders on him and make them angry to untie the dwarves. As they are still dazed he takes over the leadership and tells them what to do, while he is still fighting the spiders with his sword, what he does very well. With the help of his ring he so rescues the life of them all and therefore he gets great respect and recognition from the dwarves, who now see them as their leader and expect “him to think of some wonderful plan for helping them”1.

In the following chapter his growth of character is shown very plainly, too. Because of his ring he is not caught by the elves, but the dwarves are and so he begins to explore the whole palace to find a plan to rescue them, while even bringing himself into danger. He finds out nearly everything about this place and so he can make a plan in the end, although it is really very difficult. He once more acts as the leader of the company and tells the others what to do and so he saves their lives again. He is very unselfishly for even when he is in danger to fall into the water he wonders “what the dwarves were feeling”2 and whether he has done everything right with their barrels.

At this point of the story Bilbo has already become a hero, because he has twice saved the lives of the dwarves, but he is still dependent on them. Without them he would not know what to do for he simply follows them and does what they want him to do and if he is on his own and there is a problem he tries to solve it, what he can already do very well. But he has no own ideas about what he wants to do or where he wants to go. The only thing he knows is, that he still values the same things as before, namely that he does not like being ”hungry”3 and having “a nasty cold in the nose”3. In this point he will always stay the man he was before.

4.2.4. Lake-town - Lonely Mountain (chapters 11-14)

When they come near to the Lonely Mountain it is Bilbo of all them who is the only one who has “spirit left”4. That shows plainly how Bilbo has changed since the beginning. When they started their journey he was the one, who did not want to go on this adventure, and now he is the only one who still wants to go on. His opinion about adventures has completely changed. But when they first do not find out how the secret door can be opened he also loses his spirits and thinks of his hobbit-hole in “the blue distance”5. But then it is again Bilbo, who solves their problem and remembers the secret runes on Thorin’s map. That shows how dependent on Bilbo the dwarves have become, without him their journey would be in vain. Bilbo is the real leader of the company, although the dwarves tell him what to do and he has to do all the dirty work for them, because they do not really honour what he does and complain about him by asking “what is our burglar doing for us?”1. And so it is again Bilbo, who has to go on and explore. The situation is very similar to that with the trolls and so the changes in Bilbo can be clearly seen. He does what the dwarves want him to do, but not because he wants to obey them, but because he has begun to trust his luck more than he used to in the old days, as he tells them. He points out that he has already earned his share of the treasure by saving their lives and that he does not go, because the dwarves want it, but because he wants it. He now has become independent from them, makes his own decisions and is able to represent his point of view. He has become self-confident.

In the tunnel, that leads to the dragon, Bilbo does “the bravest thing he ever did”2. He has to fight a battle with himself and to face his fear. But he wins the battle and goes on. That shows how strong his character has become. It is a really heroic thing to fight down his own fear, especially if you remember how timid he was at the beginning.

4.2.5. Lonely Mountain - Hobbiton (chapters 15-19)

In this part of the story Bilbo becomes a real great hero, because he saves the life of many people by preventing the battle between the dwarves, the men and the elves, so that they can later fight united against the goblins. As he is till a peace-loving man he wants to prevent fighting and so he develops a plan. He has become very clever in things like that and “as the weariness of the days grew heavier, the beginnings of a plan had come into his little head”3. Without wanting to harm the dwarves, but only trying to help them, he outwits them and brings the Arkenstone to the enemy, who is no real enemy for him. In the conversation between Bilbo, Bard and the Elvenking we can see that Bilbo has become a great speaker. He has now a good portion of self-confidence and is able to negotiate cleverly. Even the Elvenking admits that Bilbo has become a great person by telling him “you are more worthy to wear the armour of elf-princes than many that have looked more comely in it”4, what is a big compliment, and Gandalf tells him “well done”5, too. They are both wise men and when they describe Bilbo like that, he really has to be a hero. Despite his small stature, he does great things and his physical stature only lets his deeds seem greater and so Bilbo is right, when he feels “really delighted”1 about what he has done.

In the end Bilbo is happy to have gone on this adventure, what he tells us by telling Thorin “I am glad that I have shared in your perils”2, but now it is time for him to return home again.

He finds his home and his owning for sale, but after all he has gone through it is now no problem for him to manage this situation. In his neighbourhood he from now on is called “queer”3 and is no longer respected, but he does not mind and is “quite content”3. He now lives a peaceful live again, but loves to talk about his adventures and also writes a book about them.

5. Conclusion

Throughout his adventures Bilbo has developed to a hero and has learned a lot of things. Of course the ring plays an important role for his development, because it replaces the physical strength he does not have, but it is his character that has grown and not his physical strength. He has seen a lot of the world and won a lot of friends of different races. As Gandalf says he is not the hobbit that he was4, but he has become much wiser, independent and self-confident. His opinion about adventures has completely changed just like the opinion of the other hobbits about him, but that does not interest him anymore. He is happy to have experienced this adventure, but now he is also happy to be at home again. The desire for adventures of the Took side is satisfied and Bilbo can live the ordered life again, that the Baggins side wants to have. He can sit in his garden and smoke his pipe again and remains “very happy to the end of his days”3.



Tolkien, J.R.R., The Hobbit or There And Back Again paperback edition, London, 1999


Pienciak, A.M., “PinkMonkey.com Barron’s Book Notes for The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.” PinkMonkey.com.

15 February 2002 <http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/barrons/hobbit.asp>

3414 words (without quotations)


1 Hobbit, 4

2 Hobbit, 6

3 PinkMonkey, 7

1 Hobbit,4

2 Hobbit,5

3 Hobbit, 6

1 Hobbit, 12

2 Hobbit, 17

3 Hobbit, 16

4 Hobbit, 28

5 Hobbit, 35

6 Hobbit, 39

7 Hobbit, 46

8 Hobbit, 49

1 Hobbit, 70-76

2 Hobbit, 71

3 Hobbit, 94

4 Hobbit, 134

5 Hobbit, 146

1 Hobbit, 156

2 Hobbit, 172

3 Hobbit, 177

4 Hobbit, 190

5 Hobbit, 193

1 Hobbit, 195

2 Hobbit, 200

3 Hobbit, 247

4 Hobbit, 251

5 Hobbit, 252

1 Hobbit, 252

2 Hobbit, 266

3 Hobbit, 278

4 Hobbit, 277


File size
401 KB
Catalog Number
2+ (B)
Tolkien Hobbit Bilbo´s Tolkien´s Hobbit



Title: Tolkien - The Hobbit - Bilbo´s development and growth of character throughout his adventures in Tolkien´s The Hobbit