Full title   The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

Author  J. R. R. Tolkien

Type of work  Novel

Genre  Fantasy, heroic quest, satire, comic epic, children’s story

Language  English

Time and place written  Roughly between 1929 and 1936 in Oxford, England; since the story was first told orally to Tolkien’s children, there is some doubt as to the exact dates of its composition.

Date of first publication   1937

Publisher  Houghton Mifflin

Narrator  The anonymous narrator is playful and humorous. He tends to speak in a comic voice with frequent asides and humorous descriptions of the characters. Bilbo, for instance, is often called Mr. Baggins or “the poor little fellow.”

Point of view  The novel is narrated in the third person, almost exclusively from Bilbo’s point of view. The narration is omniscient, which means that the narrator not only relates Bilbo’s thoughts and feelings but also comments on them.

Tone  The narrator’s tone is light and casual, and he encourages his readers not to take his story too seriously by making frequent jokes at his characters’ expense. The narrator’s tone periodically becomes darker when the company faces great danger or defeat (as in the chapters taking place in Mirkwood), but for the most part, the story is brightly and warmly narrated.

Tense  Past

Setting (time)  The Third Age of Middle-Earth, 2941–2942

Settings (place)  Various locales in the imaginary world of Middle-Earth

Protagonist  Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit

Major conflict  Bilbo’s timidity, complacency, and uncertainty work against his inner strength and heroism. As he travels and embarks on adventures, he must gradually learn to rely on his own abilities and to take the initiative to do what he feels is right.

Rising action  Gandalf visits Bilbo and orders him to act as the burglar for the dwarves’ expedition to regain Thorin’s treasure from Smaug. Bilbo reluctantly departs, and with each increasingly difficult adventure, he accepts more responsibility for the welfare of the group.

Climax  After Bilbo kills a spider in Chapter 8, he finally has enough confidence in his own abilities as a leader and hero. The Battle of the Five Armies in Chapter 17 is the climax of the expedition.

Falling action  Bilbo and Gandalf begin the journey home after regaining the treasure, resolving the differences between the dwarves, elves, and men, and defeating the Wargs and goblins. They first spend time with Beorn, then sojourn in Rivendell before returning to Hobbiton. Bilbo has a newfound appreciation for the comforts of his dwelling, but he recognizes that his view of society and his surroundings has undergone profound change.

Themes  Bilbo’s heroism; race, lineage, and character

Motifs  Contrasting worldviews, the nature and geography of Middle-Earth

Symbols  Named swords, hobbits

Foreshadowing  The description of Bilbo’s Took blood; Gandalf’s insistence that there is more to Bilbo than meets the eye; Gollum’s addresses to his mysterious “precious”; Beorn’s warnings not to leave the path in Mirkwood; the thrush’s interest in Bilbo’s description of Smaug’s weakness