The hero of the story. Bilbo is a hobbit, “a short, human-like person.” Commonsensical and fastidious, Bilbo leads a quiet life in his comfortable hole at Bag End and, like most hobbits, is content to stay at home. But Bilbo possesses a great deal of untapped inner strength, and when the wizard Gandalf persuades Bilbo to join a group of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their gold from a marauding dragon, Bilbo ends up playing a crucial role as the company’s burglar. Bilbo’s adventures awaken his courage and initiative and prove his relentless ability to do what needs to be done.
A wise old wizard who always seems to know more than he reveals. Gandalf has a vast command of magic and tends to show up at just the moment he is needed most. Though he helps the dwarves in their quest (not least by making Bilbo go along with them), he does not seem to have any interest in their gold. He always has another purpose or plan in mind, but he rarely reveals his private thoughts.
Read an in-depth analysis of Gandalf.
A dwarf who leads his fellow dwarves on a trip to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their treasure from Smaug. Smaug’s bounty is Thorin’s inheritance, as it belonged to Thror, Thorin’s grandfather, the great King under the Mountain. Thorin is a proud, purposeful, and sturdy warrior, if a bit stubborn at times. As the novel progresses, his inability to formulate successful plans, his greed, and his reliance on Bilbo to save him at every turn make Thorin a somewhat unappealing figure, but he is partly redeemed by the remorse he shows before he dies.
A strange, small, slimy creature who lives deep in the caves of Moria beneath the Misty Mountains. There, Gollum broods over his “precious,” a magic ring, until he accidentally loses it and Bilbo finds it. We never learn exactly what kind of creature he is. Apparently, his true shape has been too deformed by years of living in darkness to be recognizable.
The great dragon who lives in the Lonely Mountain. Years ago, Smaug heard of the treasure that the dwarves had amassed in the mountain under Thror’s reign, and he drove them away to claim the gold for himself. His flaming breath can scorch a city, his huge wings can carry him great distances, and his armorlike hide is almost impenetrable. Smaug can speak and possesses a dark, sardonic sense of humor.
The grim human who is the honorable captain of the guard in Lake Town, a human city built on Long Lake just south of the Lonely Mountain. With the help of information discovered by Bilbo and related by a thrush, Bard finds Smaug’s weak spot and kills him.
A man who can turn into a bear, Beorn helps Bilbo and the dwarves after their escape from the goblins.
The great leader of the elves at Rivendell. Elrond gives Bilbo’s group aid and helpful advice when they pass through Rivendell early in the novel. He is described in Chapter 3 as being “as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.”
An evil sorcerer and creator of the magic ring. Also called the Necromancer, Sauron is only mentioned in The Hobbit; he never actually appears.
Thorin’s grandfather. Thror mined Moria, a series of caves under the Mountain, and discovered a wealth of gold and jewels. He became King under the Mountain, but before long, the dragon Smaug came and killed or scattered all of Thror’s people. The dragon has been guarding the treasure ever since, and Thorin wants to get back what is rightfully his.
Thorin’s group, composed of Fili, Kili, Dwalin, Balin, Oin, Gloin, Ori, Dori, Nori, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur, none of whom is really developed as an individual character in the novel. The narrator describes dwarves unfavorably in Chapter 12, noting their greed and trickery. Some, however, are “decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.”
The first creatures in Middle-Earth. Immortal unless killed in battle, they are fair-faced, with beautiful voices, and have a close communion with nature, which makes them wonderful craftsmen. There are actually two different varieties of elves: the wood elves and the high elves. The wood elves reside in Mirkwood and, as a result, have more suspicious and less wise tendencies than their high relatives.
Humans appear in the settlement of Lake Town near the Lonely Mountain. Tolkien emphasizes their mortality, their lack of wisdom, their discordance with nature, and their rampant feuding, but he does not describe humans as inherently evil in the same way that he characterizes goblins and Wargs.
Short-tempered and dull-witted creatures who will eat just about anything, the trolls are based on mythological creatures taken from Old English and Anglo-Saxon poems and on figures from popular fairy tales and folklore. Tolkien has them speak with a cockney accent, the dialect of lower-class Londoners, which injects a modern joke into the fantasy epic.
Evil creatures encountered by Bilbo and company in Chapter 4. Goblins are infamous for their ability to make cruel weapons and torture devices.
Evil wolves that join forces with the Goblins at the Battle of the Five Armies in Chapters 17 and 18. The Wargs haunt and pursue Bilbo and the dwarves soon after Bilbo acquires the ring.